In the eighth chapter of The Shepherd’s Crown, the men of the Chalk reflect on Tiffany; Baron Roland makes a mistake; Peaseblossom makes his move. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
It’s so fascinating to contrast how the men in The Baron’s Arms speak of Tiffany and their concerns versus how Roland does it. I feel like Pratchett was also playing with expectations here, too. It would have been pretty believable if the men at The Baron’s Arms had been tactless and crude while drinking on a Saturday night. We’ve all seen that happen. People get carried away, the alcohol washes away their filters, and pretty soon, folks are saying what they really feel, but with no kindness or sympathy. And it would have been believable if Roland had come to Tiffany and had been more thoughtful about how to convey people’s concerns. I don’t know if that’s just me reading into this or an intentional thing, but it was really interesting to see the two scenes back-to-back!
It’s probably more likely that there’s character-specific stuff here that Pratchett was working off of. First of all, I just adored how quiet and respectful the scene was in The Baron’s Arms. It spoke to the greater sense of respect these people have had for the Achings over the years and how that’s translated to a respect and a pride for Tiffany Aching. You’ll notice me stop and wonder aloud on video where this scene was going, and it was a pleasant surprise to see the conversation about the Baron twist into one about what Tiffany does for all of them. I just remember how reluctant everyone was to discuss witchcraft all the way back in the early Tiffany books. THEY’VE CHANGED SO MUCH. And with that comes this almost territorial pride of Tiffany. Maybe they don’t mess with witches in the Chalk, but Tiffany is their witch. She is born of the Chalk, she understands the Land and the value of sheep, and they all trust that she will continue to do right by them. Because she already has! That’s another reason that this was so pleasing to read; we got to see Tiffany’s effect on the people of the Chalk from their perspective.
So of course they’re going to want her to stay on the Chalk and not choose to go to Lancre. I respected that Joe Aching said that his daughter probably wasn’t quite ready to settle down, either. Thus, it was frustrating when Roland, in his attempt to start to talk to Tiffany about the looming choice before her, did not approach things with the same sort of understanding. Oh, he tried, and there’s this bit early on in his scene where he is very aware that while he is the Baron and owns the lands, “this farm was the Achings’. It always had been, and it always would be.”
And yet… he really fumbles it here when he does two things: He invokes this ownership, and then he tries to tell Tiffany to do her job.
“I am your baron,” he said, “and I ask that you look to your responsibilities, do your duty.”
Oh. Oh, no, honey, THIS WAS THE WORST THING TO SAY. She knows you’re her baron; she also HAS BEEN DOING HER DUTY. That’s her entire problem right now. SHE IS DOING HER DUTY TOO MUCH. Oh, Roland!!! Like, I also understand that he has no idea what’s going on in her life, but this was still a presumptuous thing to say to her. Even then: still not actually what the problem was! Were people vocalizing concerns that she was too busy? Where in that does it say she wasn’t doing her duty?
I also ended up being right about Peaseblossom! And I was so uncertain about vocalizing that theory, too! Clearly, my weird Of the Lathe the Swarf theory was DEFINITELY wrong, but this was absolutely the time for Peaseblossom to make his move. I commented on this on video, but Pratchett really knocks it out of the park when it comes to portraying all this. I love the freaky body horror of the Queens transformation and how much loyalty plays into this. “The allegiance of elves is spiderweb thin and the currency of Fairlyland is glamour,” wrote Pratchett. So how does that look? What does it mean when the elves change their allegiance?
It’s a physical, visceral thing, and like everything with the elves in these books, it was FUCKING TERRIFYING. But I think this had to be so physical, too, especially when you consider how much glamour works to twist appearance, both for the benefit of the elves and as part of how they torment and manipulate others. Here, the Queen literally shrinks in size as the elves’ allegiance is transferred to Peaseblossom, who grows more powerful in response. But Peaseblossom has more that he wishes to do to punish the Queen for what he sees as a disservice and a failure. It’s not enough that she lost her glamour; no, he orders that after she is toyed with (that phrasing is so unnerving, isn’t it?), her wings are to be torn off. He doesn’t just want to make an example of her; he also wants to maim her in a way that cuts at the very identity of the fairy folk. Because what’s a fairy without their wings?
Mark Links Stuff
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