In the epilogue of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany becomes who she is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Tiffany Aching might very well be my favorite Discworld character.
I mean, I’m partial to Vimes’s growth, as well as Moist’s, and I’ve loved seeing Angua change so much over the books she has been in. And I miss Gaspode. And Magrat. And I would love another Death or Susan book. But getting to see Tiffany grow from a young child into a young adult has been something special and emotional, and it’s very rare that this happens in fiction over multiple books. But here we are, at the end of I Shall Wear Midnight, and Tiffany has aged nine years in four books. (Give or take a few months.) In that time, she has come into her own in a rather beautiful way. I see her arc—and I say this fully unaware if one of the three remaining books is a Tiffany book—as one of self-acceptance. She may not have been “born” to be a witch, but she certainly grasped what it means to be one, and she did so beautifully.
Still, she struggled with her place in the world, even after she’d already accepted that she was a witch. Because being a witch in the Chalk has not been easy for Tiffany, and Pratchett opened this book with that reality. Tiffany was a part of the Chalk, but she was not a part of the Chalk. This was long before the Cunning Man ever showed up. There was an ugly history in this place, and Tiffany had to contend with it all the time. How suspicious were other people of her work? How long until someone picked up a stone? Until she heard the rough music coming for her? And yet, Tiffany did not give up. She didn’t stop being a witch, even if she craved some of the things that all the non-witches around her had.
LOOK WHERE SHE ENDED UP!!! After all this struggling, she’s now the center of her own steading. I loved that this book ended at the scouring fair, a year after the opening scenes. The interactions are like night and day. There aren’t all the uncomfortable questions, full of assumptions about Tiffany and what she is and isn’t supposed to do. She doesn’t feel isolated in a crowd, either. No, she’s immediately sought out by Amber and her new husband, William, the same young man we’d heard about before from Amber and who had stitched Letitia’s wedding gown. The glimpse we get of his life is pure joy. His work makes him happy, and thankfully, he is in a place where he is not demonized for doing work that is traditionally not done by men. You can tell because William is clearly thriving.
But I also can’t get over what he does for Tiffany and what it means for her as a character. William makes Tiffany a dress and it is black. Pratchett plays with the title of the book and the repeated motif of midnight here, but I also know that this is related to Tiffany’s previous refusal to wear a black dress as a witch. She didn’t want to seem stereotypical or to lean too much into the role. But now:
And just for a moment, because people shouldn’t get too suspicious, Tiffany stood outside herself and watched herself twirl the beautiful dress as black as a cat full of sixpences, and she thought: I shall wear midnight, and I will be good at it…
I see this as Tiffany’s acceptance of who she is, in a way that is complete and loving. She is no longer afraid to be the witch of the Chalk, and now, she has the support and respect of her steading to back her up. Well, not just her steading in general, but Preston, too! On a selfish note, it’s real cool to have a ship become canon by the end of a novel, so HELL YEAH. But I also adore how this love came to be and the fact that Preston seems so well-suited for Tiffany. They’re both clever, but not at the expense of one another. I love Preston’s sense of adventure and that he doesn’t feel he has to one-up what Tiffany does. He’s not insecure about it at all, and I bet Tiffany appreciates that.
It’s young love, but Pratchett doesn’t write it as any less meaningful than love between adults. The last lines between Tiffany and Preston are deeply romantic, but they’re also so damn real. Because the sound of love really is listening. It is a silence of acceptance and respect and care, and people who truly love others—whether that love is romantic or platonic—will listen to those they care about.
Goddamn, I loved this book.
It’s also cool to get the sizable author’s note at the end of this, too. Admittedly, I know fairly little about Terry Pratchett himself, aside from what many of y’all have told me about him in the comments and what I’ve heard from folks at the three Discworld conventions I’ve been to. So the Author’s Note was immensely helpful in grounding the experience of I Shall Wear Midnight. From this, I got the inspiration for the story of the hare that appears throughout the book. Well, not just that, but now I have a new non-fiction book on my reading list: The Leaping Hare. I know that y’all have told me before that the Chalk is closest to Pratchett’s home, and stuff like this makes me feel a bit closer to the story. I mean, it’s what I do with fiction written by other people: I ingest it, and then I find ways to relate it to my own life. This, however, makes me the tiniest bit closer to someone I’ll never get to meet. It certainly helps me understand why the Tiffany books feel so intimate, so loving, and so carefully constructed.
Boy, am I thankful that they exist.
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