In the tenth chapter of The Shepherd’s Crown, Geoffrey begins his work. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse
Having now finished this chapter, I can look back on it and see something that wasn’t apparent during my video read of it: Tiffany BARELY has to tell Geoffrey to do ANYTHING. There is very little “teaching” done here; instead, Geoffrey is sent from place to place, and while Tiffany may inform Geoffrey why he’s going there, he just… figures out what to do? With almost no guidance? What’s so striking to me is how naturally he is able to find his place in all these situations.
I say that because—and here comes a whole lot of projection on Geoffrey again!!!—I wonder if this was an intentional thing that Pratchett did. There’s a moment on video where I talk about why I think Geoffrey is able to do this. As someone who grew up in the chaos of abuse and a toxic home environment, I developed survival techniques that kept me (relatively) safe. One of them was the ability to adapt. Abuse can be frighteningly chaotic; you never know when you’ll be on the “good” side of an abuser, even if you’re doing things you know they want. Even then, you could still be doing the right thing the wrong way because the goal posts shift dramatically and frequently. Because it was never about doing the “right” thing; that’s always an excuse for an exploitation of power.
So, some of us figure out how to adapt on a razor edge: We can change our mannerisms, our behavior, the outward appearance of our mood, in order to accommodate someone who can harm us. Again: survival technique. If I could suddenly placate my abuser, then I could temporarily reduce the chances of being harmed. Long term, of course, I was still being harmed, but in the short-term? I was “safe.” Given what we’ve seen of Geoffrey’s father in the first chapter, it’s clear that Geoffrey was a constant target of his father, that practically nothing he did ever satisfied him. He wasn’t loved, and he certainly wasn’t treated the same way his brothers were. And I think I was right to point out that part of the reason Geoffrey was a target was because he did not perform masculinity as was expected of him.
Thus, it was INTENSELY rewarding to see Geoffrey get the chance to be himself, to shed the expectations that he has to be “manly,” and to do this WHILE HELPING PEOPLE. Now, I don’t know if Tiffany is also going to take on Nancy and Becky as apprentices, but I find that idea super, super satisfying, especially since all three of these potential new witches are at varying levels of skills, and they all have vastly different talents. Even in this chapter, though, it was pleasing to see how much less work Tiffany had to do, so I think it would be practical of her to have more than one witch assisting her in the two steadings.
In Geoffrey’s case specifically, though, he is able to do things and reach people that Tiffany has not. That scene in the pub is fucking MAGICAL, y’all. Pratchett takes a bunch of characters who are, by and large, “typical” men. They would consider themselves manly, and they behave as men are expected to. Here, that means that they are not very outwardly emotional in terms of expressing themselves. You don’t share your “feelings” with other men! No, you drink in silence, or you crack jokes, but everything under the surface of that veneer? You keep it buried. Yet Geoffrey wins these men over through kindness and generosity, and then he gets them talking, and he discovers that many of these older men feel listless and forgotten. Their lives were once full of purpose and meaning, and now that they are retired or are not working full time, their lives have changed. One misses his wife, who was one of the only people he had to talk to (or be talked at). And I relate to that one for… well, obvious reasons. It is very hard to want to talk to someone who is no longer here. (For what it’s worth, I still talk to him. Maybe he can’t hear me anymore, but it feels like a connection.) Another one of these men admits something CRUSHING:
“And now? My job is to lift my feet while she sweeps around me. It’s our home and I love her, but somehow I’m always in the way.”
Geoffrey’s solution is absurd on the surface. Like, even him saying “man shed” feels so silly, but I think what he’s trying to do is give these men an outlet. They want to feel connected to their past and their skills, yes, but above all? They need something to do. And maybe he can’t break them out of the mindset that they should be helping around the house (SERIOUSLY, YOU SHOULD BE SPLITTING DUTIES), but I imagine many of these wives will be overjoyed to have their husbands out of the house. Maybe that tension and that little bit of resentment is born from that!
But Geoffrey isn’t just great with the men; he’s fantastic with women, too. AND ANIMALS. Everyone seems to like him, which helps to lessen Tiffany’s concern that people will not enjoy an “unknown man” doing the work of a witch. Rather, Geoffrey finds a way to relate to practically everyone; his kindness appears to be infectious! There’s that line where Pratchett says:
…and the houses lit up as soon as he came in, so cheerfully alive.
That’s an incredible skill, and as Nanny notes very shortly after this, his heart is in the right place. I love the way that she gives her blessing, too. She admits that there will always be people who think Geoffrey should not be a part of this, but Tiffany should do what she thinks is right. And this feels so beautifully right, you know? Look no further than the entire sequence in which Tiffany tries to “introduce” Geoffrey to the Feegles, only to discover that he met them a long time ago. The Feegles are intensely protective of Tiffany, and it’s one of my favorite things about them. But it also means that they don’t just trust ANYONE. Someone has to truly be pure of heart and good for the Feegles to accept, and they ALREADY DID IT. This whole bit just made my heart swell so much???
“Jeannie sez as ye ha’ this yon laddie here, and he is a treasure. And ye knows how we Feegles are with treasure—we just ha’ to pick it up.”
Which is something Jeannie echoes later in the chapter, too, when she tells Tiffany to treasure Geoffrey. There are not many people like him in the world, who think about others so strenuously, who consider how their actions might harm others so effortlessly, who care so DEEPLY about the world.
Oh, Geoffrey. I truly think he’ll end up as one of my favorite characters in this whole damn series!
As for Mephistopheles… yeah, what the hell is going on here? He seems like both a DEMON but also he is so pure and good with Geoffrey? Why Geoffrey specifically? Why does he seem like an agent of chaos and power when Geoffrey isn’t around? What is going on there???
Anyway, I cannot wait to read about Tiffany and Geoffrey in Ankh-Morpork. I’m glad we’re going to get something set there in this last book (HATED TYPING THAT), and I’m also thrilled about seeing Preston again. And Geoffrey? On his first broomstick??? IT’S ALL SO OVERWHELMING.
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