In the first half of the thirteenth chapter of Wintersmith, Tiffany faces the Wintersmith; Roland faces the Underworld. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Oh god, it took me like a whole page to realize what Pratchett had done here. Despite that the first chapter end with some toying on his part, this chapter opens after the events of the first chapter. You could honestly plug the first chapter after the twelfth, and it would still flow, wouldn’t it??? THIS IS EVIL, WHY WAS HE LIKE THIS. But the first line is basically telling me this is the case, right?
That was then. This is now.
And the now involves no summary of what the Wintersmith did. We know. Snow dumped down on the Chalk; many lamb die; Wentworth nearly died himself. Tiffany found her strength and her power, too, melting the snow beneath her, though now I understand that to be part of her being the “Lady.” And this picks up after that, and IT IS STILL NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. Let’s talk.
I’m so happy Roland is a part of this, and I’m glad that this is not just a good story. It’s funny. Because here, Pratchett has a lot of fun taking certain fantasy tropes to task when it comes to the concept of an underworld and the archetypes of a hero. In spirit, Roland does fit this! I really don’t doubt that. But in every other way? Well, he has very little training, and what little he got wasn’t enough to make him a threatening fighter. Which is hilarious to me because how often have all of us either seen training montages that speed up learning these skills? Pratchett does no such thing, and so Roland marches into the Underworld with a sword that’s too heavy, a shield that’s too heavy, and chainmail that is loose and ill-fitting. And what does he find?
THE FUCKING WORST THING EVER. So, little bit of my thought process as I was reading this. We find out the Underworld is just kinda gloomy, a place in-between for those who are lost, and everyone that Roland sees is just… a lost person. That’s it. No monsters! I was expecting things to be faced! Monsters to be slain! Traps to avoid! Instead, Pratchett gives me bogles.
At first he thought: It’s a skeleton. When it flashed again, it looked like a bird, a tall bird like a heron. Then it was a stick figure, like a kid would draw. Over and over again it scribbled itself against the darkness in thin, burning lines.
It scribbled itself a mouth and leaned forward for a moment, showing hundreds of needle teeth. Then it vanished.
Hi, I don’t have the receipt anymore, but can I get my money back for this? CAN I RETURN THIS BECAUSE I DON’T WANT THIS. This is so much worse! A creature that eats memories? That sees memories, hopes, and dreams as real, edible things, and doesn’t know that it’s chipping away at your identity, but consumes nonetheless? HI WHAT THE FUCK!!! Yet I’m equally as fascinated (but not nearly as horrified) by what Roland’s reaction is to this. He immediately wants to know how to kill them, and he’s told not to bother. But after crossing the river and paying the Ferryman, the topic comes up again. (I should note that it’s also cool that Roland is so straightforward about this. There’s no deceit here; he just pays what he owes.) And Roland relates the bogles to the pets that the Queen had that “fed you dreams until you died of hunger.” Whew, this bit is SO POWERFUL:
“I hate things that try to take away what you are. I want to kill those things, Mr. Anybody. I want to kill all of them. When you take away memories, you take away the person. Everything they are.”
Y’all, there is our hero. Because he sees other people suffering in the Underworld, and his response isn’t, “Well, I have a job to do.” No, he wants to LIBERATE THE ENTIRE UNDERWORLD FROM THE BOGLES. I just… love him a lot?
There’s still a job to do, but y’all: I don’t get it. WHY DOES THE SUMMER LADY LOOK LIKE TIFFANY?
I love the dual struggle here, as both Tiffany and Roland are on journeys that challenge their beliefs and their identities. Is Roland the Hero? Is Tiffany the Goddess? Who are these characters outside of this conflict? Within it? Tiffany finally enters the Wintersmith’s terrible world, to face him down and bring this to an end, but Pratchett hid some HORRIBLE surprises in this plot, too.
Anyway, lemme begin with how visceral Tiffany’s discovery of her self is early in this chapter. In the Wintersmith’s world of white and snow, she has to find her color, and she does so by remembering that she is the Land Under Wave, that she is a whole person, and that the Chalk is just as white as the snow. And so her color returns, and she uses her anger to move her through a palace. Y’all, there are so many details here that reveal exactly what this place is before Pratchett spells it out. He’s playing with the notion of a place or a person being “cold” or feeling detached from humanity. Because this palace was built for a human by someone WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HUMANS ACTUALLY WANT. They’re all approximations. Large, splendid rooms, but without furniture. The furniture that is there is most likely uncomfortable. Lots of urns. Lots of statues. A fire that runs COLD.
And an ice crown.
But even then, I figured that this gift to Tiffany, this grand but horribly misguided gesture, was all so that she’d be impressed. He wanted to Dance with her, she’d reject it, they’d fight… or something? Because there was no way she’d do this. I just hadn’t considered the lengths the Wintersmith would go to get what he wanted:
“You are safe here.”
“What from?” said Tiffany, and then, because too much time around Miss Tick does something to your conversation, even in times of stress, she changed this to: “From what?”
“Death,” said the Wintersmith. “Here you will never die.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Tiffany tries to clarify that if winter continues on the Disc, it’ll swallow everyone it touches, killing them:
“Millions of people will die!”
“But only once, you see. That is what makes it wonderful. And after that, no more death!”
I hate how much I understand this logic? But it’s right in line with what I said: the Wintersmith doesn’t get it. He can’t. He think he’s doing something wonderful, he thinks he’s done all the work needed, and he’s going to kill millions of people because he’s “become” a human.
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