In the nineteenth chapter of The Shepherd’s Crown, the pieces settle, and Tiffany makes her choice. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
There is so much joy in this chapter.
I appreciate that when I look at the whole narrative structure of The Shepherd’s Crown. This book opened with one of the most—if not the most—devastating things in the entire series. Granny Weatherwax’s death hung over the events that unfolded afterwards, and while there were definitely pockets of humor and happiness, this was often a tense read. The elves are so fucked up! Having that threat looming in the background certainly inspired a relentless dread in me. And while there’s certainly talk in the text about how this victory is probably not permanent, Pratchett still allows the joy of the victory to seep out of the pages. The Feegles are overjoyed that they not only won, but that they got to fight in the first place. The younger Feegles are proud of what they accomplished. Geoffrey’s men found a new meaning in their lives, and this passage in particular hit me really hard:
“They say that old men forget, but we won’t. Not by a long chalk. We thought we were old—but today we found we were still young.”
I said on video that it was hard not seeing Pratchett in that, too, especially since he had to be writing this post-diagnosis, well aware of his own mortality. (Which is not to suggest he’d never thought of it before. I think you can trace a very stark awareness of this all the way to the beginning of the series. You can’t create a character like Death without doing some introspection, you know?) Because this doesn’t feel like a book accepting that there is a decline in quality or energy as you age. No, it feels incredibly youthful, and there’s something fitting about the idea that Pratchett’s last book was one of his young adult Discworldnovels. (Or, at the very least, about one of the youngest recurring characters; I think this book still counts as young adult, but that label really doesn’t matter in the long run.) This book is life-affirming, in part because of Tiffany’s choices and her acceptance of herself, but also because of the beautiful arc that was given to Geoffrey.
More on Geoffrey in a bit. Let me first talk about Tiffany, who has had to go through an exhausting experience here. It’s still impressive to me that she managed two steadings at the same time, but it’s just as impressive that she gives up the Lancre steading, too. There’s a value in saying no; there’s a value in accepting that she can’t do everything; but there’s a beauty in how this decision reflects Tiffany’s acceptance of herself. Her home is the Chalk, and while she certainly excelled in Lancre, it’s not the same. It’s not who she is. And look, she would always be compared to Granny Weatherwax; hell, even in a recent chapter, Tiffany was still struggling with this! But back in the Chalk, her people accept her as their hag. She’s their witch, and in the Chalk, she can grow in the community, amidst people who get her, who she gets, and with the Land under her feet.
This is who Tiffany has become, and I love that she’s proud of that.
As someone who was abused as a kid, who has related to the story of Geoffrey so much, I also have to praise this ending for his character. Pratchett took what Geoffrey suffered, and he made that Geoffrey’s power. Geoffrey’s ability as a calm-weaver is one of the coolest things in the entire series, and it means a lot to me because of how it is framed. Geoffrey tried for years to make his father proud and to be a good son, but it was a battle he would always lose. The text even says that calm-weaving would never work on Lord Swivel! Instead, Pratchett gives Geoffrey an incredible gift: he comes back for his mother, and he is undeniably in possession of more power than his father could ever dream of having. It’s that flipping of the power dynamic that feels so meaningful to me, since abuse is so heavily rooted in the act of wielding power over another person.
Look at Geoffrey Swivel now. His Royal Ambassadorship. He returns home to inform his father that he’s been chosen to be the first to try out a new chicken run that won’t hurt any foxes. This arc came full circle, y’all! But not just for Geoffrey; I was so happy that Geoffrey’s mother was also given a chance to stand up to her husband. She felt inspired, y’all, and THIS IS WHAT LORD SWIVEL DESERVES. That, plus the beautiful kick in the rump from Mephistopheles, which felt like the cherry on top of this petty sundae.
Geoffrey did it, y’all. The first male witch, the first calm-weaver, the one who will now run the Lancre steading.
Incredible. I’M SO HAPPY.
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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