In the second part of the twelfth chapter of I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany teaches Letitia an important lesson, but then is taunted by evil. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of sex
Oh, Letitia. To be quite frank: I cannot recall the number of kids I knew who had little to know sex education and, because of that, genuinely did not understand that sex might lead to pregnancy. Or what sex actually was. And let me include myself in that, as I had no formal sex education either, since it was not allowed in my school district due to strict rules about what was and was not appropriate to teach. I’ve told this story in some form or another over the years, but in seventh grade, all images depicting anything of sex or genitalia or “adult” was literally cut out of our textbooks. There would be squares missing or sometimes entire pages. Our science teacher, responsible for teaching that year’s course on “health,” which included sex education, was forbidden from showing us how to put on a condom. I also internalized so many myths about sex myself, and don’t even get me started on how all of this did not include any education on how anyone under the LGBT or queer umbrellas was supposed to have sex. The only mention of that was, “Don’t have it, you’ll die.”
So, I did not find it ludicrous at all that Letitia, just days from being married, did not know what was supposed to happen on her honeymoon. Though I gotta laugh at her response once Tiffany told her:
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m pretty certain,” said Tiffany.
“Well, er, it sounds reasonably straightforward. Of course, I suppose boys know all about this sort of thing… Why are you laughing?”
“It’s a matter of opinion,” said Tiffany.
BECAUSE OH GODS, DO BOYS OFTEN NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT OTHER BODIES OR THEIR OWN, FOR THAT MATTER. I don’t know how similar this is as a cultural phenomenon in the UK, but what little sex education there is here is often gendered in entirely unnecessary ways. The first time I got it was in fifth grade and for some reason, the boys were separated from the girls and taught by a male teacher and vice versa. One of my friend’s teachers actually suggested that he not share what he learned with the girls, which he promptly ignored at recess that day. And that’s not even quite what Pratchett is getting at, since there’s an expectation (here in the US) that boys are inherently sexual beings who just can’t control their urges and are therefore more “in touch” with their sexual sides. Not in every context, mind you, but it’s wild how much is excused of the sexuality of men and scandalized when it concerns women. (Again: don’t even get me started on queerness.)
So, I don’t think it’s a stretch of logic that Pratchett has the Cunning Man’s return during this scene. My guess is that it’s intentional, too, that as Tiffany is helping Letitia with a perfectly natural line of inquiry, the Cunning Man tries to derail Tiffany. Witches don’t help! They sow sorrow and misery wherever they go. Except… they don’t, of course, but so much of what Tiffany seems to be fighting with in the middle of this chapter is the toxic line of thinking that the Cunning Man spews. This really felt like a struggle on her behalf, as if she was trying not to believe the horrible things he was saying about her. But y’all… the wedding. He’s gonna come out during the wedding, isn’t he??? I noticed during my second read-through for this review that the Cunning Man stopped communicating once he realized that Letitia and Tiffany were discussing a wedding. Honestly, is there a better place for him to show up and wreak havoc? All those people, gathered in one place, and to celebrate the Baron marrying… a witch. Because I don’t doubt that the Cunning Man knows that Letitia is a witch, too. He’s gotta know, right???
I’m also wondering what Pratchett’s intent was for the long scene in which Tiffany grills Wee Mad Arthur on the Feegles. In particular, there’s a rather stunning section in which Tiffany wants to know if a Feegle has ever actually killed a human. Obviously, it’s related to the fact that the Feegle mound was nearly disturbed because of Roland, and I do like that Pratchett writes the Feegles as naturally distrustful. Look, I get why they don’t believe everything is just gonna be fine! However, I think the clue to why this is here is near the end:
And Tiffany was a witch. “I must tell you something, Wee Mad Arthur,” she said, “and you must understand what I say. You have come home, Wee Mad Arthur.”
Part of me wonders if the Feegles will have to fight some big battle, but I think this was mostly important because of Wee Mad Arthur, an outsider, finding his place. What does that mean for the other outsiders? (i.e. Tiffany and Roland.) Will they find their place, too? Wee Mad Arthur never fit in with his family or on the Watch, but with the Feegles? It’s second nature for him. Or first nature, actually! These people are his home.
Anyway, I’m so eager to see where this is going because, once again, I still feel so deeply unprepared for this book. I admit to being surprised by the tapestries being a window for the Cunning Man. Is it because Tiffany has such a personal, emotional connection to them? Perhaps, and I say that because Tiffany is so reluctant to set them on fire. Did the Cunning Man know that, and that’s why he chose it? He knew that Tiffany would hesitate? UGH I DON’T KNOW. I’m not ready for this!
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