Mark Reads ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’: Chapter 4

In the fourth chapter of The Shepherd’s Crown, Nanny and Tiffany say goodbye, and Tiffany steps into her future. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of death, grief, and funerals.

I don’t really like funerals. I get the purpose they serve to an extent, but there are so many parts of them that confuse me or grate on my nerves. A wake or a repast is a different story, especially since those have a very well-defined purpose. But is a funeral for the mourners, or is it for the deceased? Why are the lines so blurred? I say that because these ceremonies seem to be a way to respect the dead, and yet I’ve seen some truly disrespectful shit at funerals because it comforted the mourners more than the deceased. I don’t know that I want a big, complex funeral. I certainly don’t want a priest or any sort or religious figure saying shit I wouldn’t dream of uttering myself to those who attended.

So I get Granny Weatherwax’s request. I get that she wanted this to be quiet and simple, and then… the wake. That is where the celebration could occur. I think that eulogies from key people in someone’s life are actually very emotionally important when it comes to grief. Look, we all come up with little things that we think will help, that we are certain will make sure a person rests comfortably. Tiffany has one of those moments here: she thinks that they need to put a big stone over where Granny is buried. Her logic is beautifully solid, too: Shouldn’t they protect the spot? 

But chapter four of The Shepherd’s Crown reminds us that this is Granny Weatherwax we are talking of. There’s a wake later in this chapter, but one reason the first half of this chapter was such a difficult read for me is because it feels like Pratchett’s eulogy to this character he created. What is a eulogy if not a celebration of the life of someone who you loved? Who touched you or influenced you? So Pratchett celebrates the life of Granny Weatherwax, first through the natural world. The woods come alive, and there’s a heartbreaking, gorgeous procession of animals that visit Granny’s grave to bow at her. It’s a sign or respect for the witch who cared so deeply for them, who understood their role in the world. 

I’m not one for platitudes. Boy, I heard so many of them when people I loved passed. Some of them I’ve come around on, like when people talk about how time heals. There’s a truth buried in that that is genuine. It all happens for a reason? Rage-inducing. But one of the only ones that I love unequivocally appears here: 

Then, deep inside, she knew the answer to her question: Where is Granny Weatherwax?

It was: She is here—and everywhere.

Some of it feels literal applied to this text. Her spirit or essence feels like it is lingering on during this procession. I’m still not convinced that You is just being a cat and doesn’t have a bit of Esme’s soul in her. (Death’s line about her candle burning a little bit feels too… I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW.) You can also see it as people gather near her cottage; as the residents of her steading pay their respects; as the unspoken truth sits in full view. That she was the hag o’ hags, that she was one of the finest witches of all time. 

But while death removes a person from our lives in a physical sense, we, as those who survived them, can work our own magic to see these people everywhere. It’s certainly much more obvious for Tiffany in the immediacy of this day that she sees Granny everywhere. But this is going to outlast the day of her her funeral and her wake. She’ll randomly think of her in the future because something triggered a memory. And I like thinking of that as how someone can be everywhere when they pass away. 

That being said: this is going to be a complicated thing for Tiffany, and I appreciate that Pratchett is giving her the space to have messy emotions. She misses Granny; she is sad; she deeply respects Granny; and yet. AND YET. Even though EVERY SIGN points to her taking over Esme Weatherwax’s steading, she fights it. Considering the circumstances, first of all, I get it. Like, this HUGE figure in Tiffany’s life has died, and she just completed an immensely difficult set of things for this person she knew. Like… let Tiffany take a nap! Let her grieve! Can she have a week off or something? I think that’s probably the most realistic thing for me in this whole chapter: Pratchett saying that the “day was still too raw for her.” It’s bad enough when someone you love dies. But there’s a particular exhausting cruelty when you can’t stop and just be sad because you have all these responsibilities you have to take care of. They cannot delay deciding who gets Esme’s steading. People will need a witch. That doesn’t make this any less stressful for Tiffany, though. 

Then this stressful, anxiety-inducing situation for Tiffany turns into one of the most beautiful things imaginable. I love that Mrs. Earwig is so QUICKLY shown up. Nanny Ogg criticizes her, but even that pales in comparison to what happens: Esme Weatherwax’s steading chooses Tiffany. THE BEES. THE BEES MAKING A HALO AND LANDING ON TIFFANY’S ARMS. Tiffany didn’t even do anything! Well, that’s not true. She’s been doing something: be herself. Being in service to other people. Caring about the world, even on days where she doesn’t want to. Tiffany is truly the best choice. But… is she going to believe that herself?

Mark Links Stuff

You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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