In the eleventh chapter of The Shepherd’s Crown, Tiffany takes Geoffrey to Ankh-Morpork for a fitting. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse.
I love this, y’all. I LOVE THIS SO VERY MUCH. One of the things that has kept Mark Reads being so damn satisfying is this: when y’all get me to read something, and within that fictional narrative is a truth that feels intimate. I don’t think it’s a challenge for ANYONE in this community to see how much I relate to the character of Geoffrey. Fiction has this incredible means of being honest about the world around us in ways that certainly feel like magic, and this whole chapter?
Oh, it’s so very, very magical.
Tiffany and Geoffrey are changing the world, both in ways they are aware of and ways they aren’t. Yet it’s so satisfying to me that this reality is nestled within a very personal story: This is about Tiffany helping a teenage boy realize a dream that, prior to this moment, had basically been impossible for anyone else. There were no young boys who pursued being a witch, or at least not any that we knew. Something tells me there have actually been a lot more kids like Geoffrey, who knew at a young age that they were destined for something different. Geoffrey, then, is opening up possibilities for others, even if he isn’t aware of that. No, for him, it’s about doing what he’s passionate about, even if other people don’t initially understand that.
And that happens multiple times here. Initially, I mistakenly believed that Dave just accepted that Geoffrey was there for a broomstick and knew exactly what wood to craft a wand out of. I loved how Tiffany chose to respond to this:
“No,” said Tiffany, the witch in her making her answer for Geoffrey. “My friend here is a calm-weaver.”
Just like that, she is very clear in her rejection of Dave’s claim. Not only that, but she doesn’t need to say that Geoffrey is a witch; it’s in the words she leaves out that Dave is able to read more. Geoffrey “helps” Tiffany, and that’s all Dave needs (well, and the broomstick itself, but more on that in a bit) to understand that Tiffany is not fucking around. Geoffrey needs a broomstick. And doesn’t Ridcully have one, too? Who is to deny that Geoffrey own a broomstick when the Archchancellor of Unseen University has one???
It also helps that Tiffany produces Granny Weatherwax’s broomstick to be “repaired” for Geoffrey. I don’t think he understands at all how significant this is, BUT I SURE DO. What better way to usher in a new era of witchcraft than by this passing of the torch? From a practical standpoint, it was also brilliant of Tiffany, since this wins over Dave and Shrucker, who normally wouldn’t “repair” a broomstick for someone’s first one. They would prefer to sell a new broomstick that they built. Tiffany, however, makes Dave and Shrucker part of this transformation. They get to get their hands on Esme Weatherwax’s famed stick; they get to adapt it for someone else; they are now forever part of Geoffrey’s journey towards becoming a witch. Beyond that, though, Tiffany still does something wonderful: She removes Shrucker’s back pain, which had been so bad that it made it difficult for him to do anything. That’s the thing about Tiffany, though; she’s so thoughtful in her actions, and she knew that getting to work on Granny’s broomstick wasn’t quite enough to seal the deal.
So, while Geoffrey goes off with Mrs. Proust’s son, Derek (I WOULD READ A SHORT STORY OF THEIR DAY TOGETHER IN A HEARTBREAT), Tiffany has a heartwarming conversation with Mrs. Proust about her future. I do think it’s been such a privilege to watch Tiffany come to age (and I feel comfortable now stating that she must be about nineteen in this book), and part of that has involved the reader getting to see Tiffany come into herself, to accept who she is. As uncomfortable and awkward as the conversation is at times, Tiffany is quite frank with Mrs. Proust about how she feels about Preston—that she very much likes him and wishes to live in the same town as him—while also being honest about why neither of them live close to the other. Preston and Tiffany have vastly different skill sets, but they both exceed at them, so much so that, to put this in Preston’s words, it would be criminal if they didn’t use them to help other people out. But it’s more than that, too. Both of them are obviously happy doing what they do! So how can they possibly navigate this when they both OBVIOUSLY desire one another.
I love Mrs. Proust’s answer so much:
“So don’t worry so much. Think yourself lucky and don’t run ahead of the world. There is a saying, don’t push the river.”
They both still have an intense attraction and affinity for one another, and that’s clear from the scene at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital, too. Seriously, I really enjoyed seeing Tiffany be affectionate with Preston. I don’t think Mrs. Proust was saying that this isn’t a frustrating situation. She was merely asking Tiffany to consider this from another angle. Tiffany either is in love or is falling in love, and the other person treats her wonderfully. Preston makes her happy. So does her life as a witch! At some point down the road, Tiffany will have to cross a bridge, and these two will need to make some sort of decision. For now, though, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the ride down the river.
Which leads me my favorite thing in this whole chapter. I’d like to think that Geoffrey fits in this metaphor, but in a different sense. He’s on a boat that’s floating down the river, too, but his journey is part escape. Pratchett doesn’t let us forget that, and that gave me one of just the very best passages he’s ever written:
“I don’t know,” said Geoffrey. “Just a knack, I suppose.”
And Tiffany thought: When Geoffrey’s not anxious, he radiates calmness, which probably means he sees more things and finds more things than other people do. It makes him open to new things too. Yes, it’s a knack all right.
But it’s knack that has revealed itself after Geoffrey was free from his father. It doesn’t mean he’s conquered his anxiety; we have seen numerous examples of it. Part of how it manifests in him is that Geoffrey, like a lot of abused people, seems to crave validation from others. He wants to be seen as useful, as needed, as wanted, by others. It’s no shock that that’s the case, especially when he grew up in an environment like he did. One thing Tiffany has done exceptionally well, and which I’ll forever love about her, is that she has made sure that Geoffrey felt needed and useful, and she’s done so in a way that’s not toxic or unfair to him. He now has access to something he didn’t before: true freedom of choice. He can follow his own desires and impulses, and he does so without the fear of violence or rejection.
And thus, he radiates calmness. He’s a calm-weaver. And it is a fucking beautiful thing to see this narrative play out in a book.
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