In the ninth chapter of Wintersmith, Tiffany has a disturbing interaction. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
This is INCREDIBLE. The story, the writing itself, the character growth… lord, this book is really coming together, and I’m having so much fun reading it. Let’s start with one of my favorite images conjured by Practhett’s words in this chapter:
Once the forest had been pretty. Now it was hateful. Dark trunks against snowdrifts, a striped world of black and white, bars against the light. She longed for horizons.
You know, I wouldn’t have understood this years and years ago, but I’ve now been through a few brutal winters, and this has such an incredible power in it. But it has to; Pratchett is building this up as a means of creating suspense. He has to slowly increase the intensity of winter in this part of the Disc so that Tiffany is pushed out of town. Here, he uses “hateful” to describe the forest; he plants an image in our mind of an endless stretch of white, one that exists because of how heavy the snowfall is. So much of Wintersmith is about contrasts. It’s why Tiffany’s powers of Summer are so significant, too. In the midst of such a horrific blast of winter, she is finally able to conjure up a sign of life and of spring. That acorn split, and from it grew an oak. A tree grewat an accelerated pace because of Tiffany! It’s a powerful accomplishment, and I’m hoping it leads to more so that Tiffany can fight back against the Wintersmith. (Oh god, I’m still haunted by the first chapter. Is that what’s going to happen, or will it be something else???)
But there’s something else to celebrate in the interim. I can’t believe it’s finally happening, yet he we are, after she was first introduced in A Hat Full of Sky, and SHE IS CHANGING. She’s doing it in her own way, but I consider it an achievement on the part of Pratchett that this comes off so well. It helps that this doesn’t ignore Annagramma’s troubled history. Indeed, this book in particular has addressed Mrs. Earwig’s flawed teaching in a satisfying way, and Annagramma is very aware of her own shortcomings, even if she still does mess up. But she turns her know-it-all nature into her witchcraft, and it’s a brilliant change for her. Annagramma learns in her own way, but it’s actually happening, you know?
Tiffany went around the villages with Annagramma a few times and knew that she would make it, eventually. She’d got built-in Boffo. She was tall and arrogant and acted as if she knew everything even when she didn’t have a clue. That would get her a long way. People listened to her.
I’m also now realizing that this is a bit of foreshadowing for what Annagramma eventually does to become the witch she needs to be for her steading. BOFFO. Oh my god???
Let’s get to that later, though, because I did want to talk about the format of time here. This is the only chapter where Pratchett intersperses Tiffany’s POV with italic asides about the progress of winter. It’s such a simple thing to do, but it works so well! By rapidly switching scenes/POV, it allows us to feel like Pratchett is pushing the narrative forward quicker. Thus, we get a sense for the severity of the Wintersmith’s obsession with Tiffany with each update. The weather gets worse, and every living thing tries to adapt to it, from wolves to humans to trees.
But then two stories converge, and this book gets REALLY UNNERVING. The Wintersmith’s transformation into a human has been creepy enough, but his internal monologue about the meaning of humanity is… a lot, isn’t it? So we get that internal view here, and it helps us to see the Wintersmith as an imitator, as someone who thinks they know what it means to be human, but is still terribly missing the mark. But it’s not just creepy, is it? Because despite all this, the Wintersmith does get close to the complicated beauty of humanity:
To smell the trees! To feel the pull of the ground! To be solid! To feel the darkness behind your eyes and know it was you! To be—and know yourself to be—a man!
I made this remark on video, but what if this helped the Wintersmith to understand humans better? It doesn’t seem to be happening, at least not yet. I mean, he refers to humans as “nothing more really than a bag of dirty water on legs.” (I’m still so mad that this is technically correct. I KEEP LAUGHING WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT.) The Wintersmith clearly still thinks that Tiffany will be thrilled that he’s a man now, and that is also ONE HUNDRED PERCENT NOT TIFFANY’S REACTION. He might be starting to appreciate humanity and the unique experience that comes with it, but will he respect humans? Is he going to respect the fact that Tiffany doesn’t actually want him?
I am certain we will find out very soon, perhaps the next chapter. I say that because the final long sequence of this chapter escalates matters so quickly that I’m still reeling. (ANNAGRAMMA. I CAN’T.) Tiffany is now being physically affected by winter in a way she hasn’t before. She’s so sleepy that Granny struggled to keep her awake multiple times, and she’s urged to go home and get as far away from the mountains as possible, but oh my god. I DID NOT EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN. I mean, I’m proud of Tiffany, and y’all, Granny complimented her. I KNEW SHE COULD DO THIS, so that is not what I’m referring to. I am, of course, talking about the INCREDIBLE moment when the Wintersmith and Tiffany collide. Pratchett packs so much into this scene, too! We’ve got the people of Annagramma’s steading around Miss Treason’s grave, desperate for the kind of help that she gave. Tiffany does her best to help them, but in the end, it isn’t her job. That belongs to Annagramma, and there’s only so much Tiffany can do.
WHICH IS WHY THIS IS SO PERFECT. The Wintersmith arrives, having taken a coach to find Tiffany, and it’s HORRIFYING. He really believed that he could just continue the Dance with her now that he was “human”! Tiffany’s reaction to this instilled fear in me, too. She doesn’t usually freeze up in the face of conflict like this, but this truly is frightening. So yeah, it was an absolutely treat when Annagramma burst out of her cottage, wearing ALL OF THE BOFFO GEAR AT ONCE to save Tiffany with a flying ball of fire. One thing I really love about this is how selfless it is; Annagramma does something risky and scary to help someone else, and it comes off as a huge step in the right direction for her. It’s also funny as hell because the image of this young woman in all these stereotypically witchy accessories is TOO MUCH. She bought it all, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. But I can! It makes perfect since that she’d just try everything at once the first time around!
She saved Tiffany. She gave Tiffany her broom. THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS IN THE WHOLE BOOK.
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