In the first half of the sixth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany heads for Ankh Morpork, but meets THE WORST THING IMAGINABLE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Hi, NO THANK YOU.
This chapter has such a jarring change in tone, but the end of the split of this chapter leads me to believe that, once again, Pratchett is being very, very intentional about how this story unfolds. There’s a creeping sensation here that Pratchett has built both directly—by having the text outright state that something is coming—and through more subtle means, the latter of which I’ll talk about at the end. And yet, “The Coming of the Cunning Man” undeniably starts off with a lot of humor. The image of the Feegles hanging off the back of Tiffany’s broomstick, thrilled by the experience, dropping off and bouncing off the ground (and only damaging the ground, mind you), is pretty hilarious. Same with Tiffany trying to convince Daft Wullie that maybe he should not set the broom on fire while he is flying on it. It’s such a great scene that feels perfectly Feegle-ish, if you will.
And thus, this is how Tiffany ends up crash landing on the parcel express that runs from Lancre to Ankh-Morpork, and things get… very weird. Which I know is an understatement. And I didn’t think this would be the case! Mr. Carpetlayer is a fascinating character for two reasons, both of which play into themes we’ve already seen across the novel. First, given what we saw between Tiffany and the Baron, Mr. Carpetlayer is a character in pain, and Tiffany sees this. And because she is a witch, and because she deals in the messy parts of humanity, she knows she can do something. And I also wonder if she was thinking of this in terms of what she could do because she was responsible for damaging the coach. Not the sole reason, of course, but just being aware of it? Okay, maybe that’s a reach, but I was thinking of that given the conversation that Tiffany and Mr. Carpetlayer have after she helps him.
That part, though, highlights the other major theme addressed through this character. Tiffany’s own perception of her role exists here: she sees a person in pain, and she believes she can help him. But what happens once she doeshelp someone? That’s precisely what her mother brought up at the end of the last chapter. Things are changing, and people are talking. There’s a hint of what’s to come when Mr. Carpetlayer wonders if Tiffany will turn him into something “unnatural,” and he can’t even explain why he believes this might be a possibility. He just heard it, and, in his words:
“It’s just sort of… you know, what everybody knows.”
This “popular” knowledge is based on stereotypes of witches, of course, but Mr. Carpetlayer isn’t thinking of it that way. No, when he’s confronted with the fact that Tiffany is very much a witch and nothing like he thought, he does a common thing himself:
“Still, I expect those were wicked old… you know, with, like, hooked noses, warts, and evil black dresses—not nice girls like you. Yes, that’s just the sort of thing they would do!”
Mr. Carpetlayer creates a dichotomy. Instead of accepting that his perception of witches is wrong or flawed, he creates the category of “good” witches and “bad” witches, and clearly, Tiffany is the former. We see this same dichotomy at the end of this split, despite that Tiffany tries real hard to course correct him. But he doesn’t want to confront the truth in front of him, and that’s a common thing across the Discworld series: humans create their own stories in the face of a real story. Whatever fits their view of the world is more powerful than what makes them uncomfortable, what challenges them.
The Cunning Man
Look, I could be wrong that the chapter’s title is not referring to this thing, but I’m operating under the assumption that I have now met The Cunning Man and the thing that is apparently coming to the Chalk. Right? But I don’t know what the HELL The Cunning Man is. It’s a man with HOLES where eyes should be? Who hates both Tiffany and witches? I don’t know, he kinda reminded me of the way Miss Spruce spoke to Tiffany. He mistrusted her, assumed she was from a “miserable and stinking hell,” and then turned on the Feegles, too. And then there’s the hare and the fire??? What the hell does all of this have to do with one another??? And what about this:
The man in black glared at her again and hissed, ”You are the witch. You are the one. Wherever you go, I will find you.”
What the hell does this mean? Why is this being coming after Tiffany specifically? And look, I can see how Pratchett is tying this back to Tiffany’s words to the Baron and how often she stated that she is a witch. But why target her? WHAT HAVE Y’ALL DONE TO ME.
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now OUT! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.