In the second half of the tenth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany is dealt yet another shocking twist, and I am truly, truly unprepared for this book. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse
Hi, could this book give me a break? Could it stop punching me in the heart every other page? Clearly, it can’t because what the fuck is happening!!!! I still think the Eskarina reveal was the most shocking thing to happen so far, but Letitia??? HOLY SHIT, I did not call that at all. By any means. NOT A WHIFF OF IT. See, I went into this expecting a long conversation between the Toad and Tiffany about what her possible legal options were. Could the Baron actually kick her or her parents off the land when the Achings had been on the Chalk way before the Baron’s family were? What about all the accusations? The evidence? This is what I anticipated! So it was a surprise to me when Letitia burst into the room, crying and sobbing. Her regret… not as surprising, even though I didn’t initially understand why she was so sad. Oh, I thought I did, and as the child of a mother who seems a whole lot like the Duchess, I learned how to apologize on behalf of my mother to other people very well and at a young age. That was my assumption: Letitia knew how awful her mother could be. Who possibly knew this better? She was embarrassed by what had transpired, and she knew that Tiffany did not deserve it.
But then Pratchett, through Tiffany, started to seed doubt in me. I immediately picked up on how odd it was that he didn’t tell us what spill words Tiffany had heard. He’d done so in every instance before, so why hide them here? What was so interesting about them to Tiffany? Even worse, any potential conversation explaining them was interrupted by the arrival of the Duchess, who IMMEDIATELY assumes that Tiffany is responsible for her harmed daughter, and I am deeply, deeply tired by how awful the Duchess is. I’m supposed to be!! Can you imagine how Roland feels? Oh god, I can actually imagine how Letitia feels because I’ve been in her shoes! I’m the intensely emotional, ready-to-cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat-or-a-mean-word-or-a-puppy son of a mother who bossed and berated her way through every situation. (If you’ve forgotten some of the stories I have told over the years, let me just summarize her in one general anecdote: she is consistently mean and rude and unreasonable to all wait staff and every retail worker she has ever met. That’s where a lot of that apologizing has come in handy.)
So, before we get to Letitia and her secret, I want to talk about the INCREDIBLE thing that Tiffany appears to be doing in the second half of this chapter. I now believe the line about pulling a thread is clearly a reference to Letitia, but it’s gotten be thinking about what she does with Roland and the Duchess here. Maybe she really didn’t intend to invoke the spinning wheel imagery, but I think Tiffany is deliberately seeding mistrust in Roland, albeit very casually and subtly. I bet Tiffany knew the mention of one would set the Duchess off, and she also knew that Roland’s mother’s spinning wheel was very important to him. By bringing this up, Roland takes a very definitive stance against the Duchess. It’s a short moment, and it’s certainly not the toppling of a regime, but that quiet, “No,” was so damn powerful, y’all. I feel like that’s why she also brings up her father, in order to remind Roland of the relationship his father had with hers. How different is he willing to be? Is he willing to throw away an entire arrangement for someone who, frankly, does not even treat him that well?
Maybe. Maybe not. But even Tiffany’s treatment of Brian has an inkling of the same thing. She’s much, much more direct with him, reminding the sergeant of all the things she does as a witch that will go undone as long as she’s locked up. That’s one thing Brian is much more open about than any of the other characters wrapped up in this drama. He knows precisely how helpful Tiffany is, and he knows she serves a very needed purpose within the Chalk. So, turning the other way while she goes about her duties in the evening and overnight? Yes, it’s a win for Tiffany, but it’s also a small defeat against the Cunning Man and the Duchess, both of who despise what they think witchcraft is. (Because neither of them actually know anything about witches, do they?0
Anyway, let’s get to Letitia, because I’m so BLOWN AWAY by this reveal. It makes so much sense! It’s fascinating to me, too, because Pratchett allows us to see Roland’s relationship from another angle. Previously, most of what we learned was through the lens of Tiffany, who expressed things like bitterness, anger, some wishful thinking, and a mature acceptance that her relationship with him had changed forever. But now, we get a taste for what this was like from Letitia’s point of view. The magic done to Tiffany that began to turn people against her? Yeah, Letitia did it because:
“I just wanted Roland not to like you so much.”
And lord, in an instant, Letitia becomes a different character. I think I pitied her before and empathized with the dynamic she had with her mother. But this? Oh, y’all, my heart BREAKS. She just wanted the person she loved to love her back equally, and this is too real for me to read, please stop calling me out, Terry Pratchett. HOW DARE YOU. But it should be noted how much more kind and sympathetic Tiffany becomes, going so far as to vocalize the same thought she had earlier about realizing who she was to Roland. They were forced together, they were different, and they mistakenly believed that this made them the same type of person, which they were not. There is no chance that Roland will ever like her as much as he did, and Letitia is so damn RELIEVED to hear that. And for a moment, Tiffany suddenly doubts that Letitia is a witch, and maybe she instead just stumbled on a powerful bit of magic which—
She waved it vaguely in the air, and it left a light blue line after it.
“Like this?” she said. For quite a while, there was no sound apart from the occasional hoot of an owl and, for the really good of hearing, the rustling of bats.
IS LETITIA ACTUALLY AN UNTRAINED WITCH??? Oh my god, she is, isn’t she??? HELP ME, THIS BOOK WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE.
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