We’re back and trying to figure out other ways to say Lords and Ladies, lest we summon them…
Magrat leaves the palace upon hearing about the witch duel; Granny is sitting opposite Diamanda, both of them staring into the sun. Granny wins the duel because Pewsey falls and cries and Granny goes to help him—she stopped staring at the sun, but the contest was about who the best witch was, and the better witch is surely the one who would look to see what was wrong with a crying child. The wizards are on the road to Lancre and Ridcully tells Ponder a story about how he almost married a girl from there when he was very young. They’re held up by Casanunda, and Ridcully is so impressed (and bored) that he invites the dwarf in for the ride. Magrat goes into the garden and talks briefly to the royal falconer and then to Mr. Brooks the royal beekeeper. Granny is having flashes of déjà vu that don’t belong to her when Nanny shows up at her door with the three girls Diamanda had been teaching witchcraft to. Granny challenges them to knock her hat off her head, which none of them can do, so she sends them back to their friend. She tells Nanny that she wasn’t chosen to be a witch; she chose it herself.
Nanny is in bed, thinking about the Elves being back, and decides to get up and go walking with a flatiron for protection. Diamanda goes back to the Dancers alone, but Granny is waiting there for her. She tells Diamanda that she has to leave this place or she’ll go up against her. Diamanda darts between the Dancers and Granny has to follow; they wind up in the Elven dimension and the queen is there with her soldiers. Granny works to keep the queen out of Diamanda’s mind, so the queen tells her people to kill them and leaves. Granny pulls her “old lady” act and knocks the two elves; she and Diamanda run for the stones as the elves begin to fire arrows at them on horseback; Granny borrows one of the horses’ minds to confuse it and the plan works, but Diamanda has already been caught by an arrow. Granny picks her up and they’re almost to the entrance, but still about to be killed when Nanny arrives with her flatiron. Then they’re all back in the world and trying to figure out what to do with one elf and a wounded, unconscious Diamanda. They each pick up one and head to the castle, where they demand that Shawn let them in.
Magrat and Verence are discussing the possibility of making Nanny the kingdom’s poet laureate when the two witches arrive and Granny tells Magrat to help Diamanda with her wound. Magrat sends Shawn to her cottage to retrieve her books. The bandits who took Casanunda’s horse try to rob the wizards, but their chieftain is turned into a pumpkin by Ridcully; the bandits wind up paying them. Granny takes Verence down to the dungeon to see the elf and explain what they are to him. As she’s talking about it, she gets confused and asks after “the children.” Then she comes back to herself and insists that there’s nothing to worry about. Nanny and Granny leave Diamanda with Magrat, but Granny knows they have to be vigilant because the Queen of the Fairies has found her way in. Jason Ogg and his fellows are rehearsing the royal play for the marriage festivities and can’t find anywhere to do so without getting interrupted, so they go up toward the Dancers. Later on, they’re all drinking and Jason knows something is wrong, but the whole crew fall asleep. Magrat prepares uneasily for her wedding, Nanny bathes, and Granny borrows, none of them aware of what’s happened to the lads.
You know, I forgot that this book does drag here a bit in the middle. It’s still thoroughly enjoyable to read because the narration is zippy as always—it’s just that nothing much is… happening.
Having said that, the bit about language and elves (“Elves are terrific. They beget terror.”) is just about one of the most perfect asides in any fantasy novel I’ve ever read, so, you know, even when there’s not much happening, that doesn’t mean you’re not learning a thing or two.
We get a ton of foreshadowing and a lot of little near-vignettes about the witches themselves. Nanny’s bath time is not the sort of thing you can readily forget, not that you’d want to. Granny’s confusion about this other life that she keeps getting glimpses of, one where she made different choices, is plaguing her. Magrat keeps learning about what queens do and being mortified by how passive and dull the whole ordeal is. And sure, you want to shake both her and Verence for not saying what they’re thinking and being obtuse about the wedding, but that’s how you know it’s realistic, because who knows how to be frank about those sorts of things?
We’re getting further foreshadowing with Ridcully talking about the girl he took a shine to in Lancre when he was young, and there’s something particularly satisfying in knowing that Esme just didn’t care enough to take him up on his offer. Not only because she’s Granny Weatherwax and her power over herself is absolute, but also because Ridcully deserves that sort of reaction. He’s the sort of fellow who is wonderful to read about in a book, but if I ever met him on the street, I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as amused.
There’s something to be said about this book for continuing to build Lancre into its own identifiable corner of the Discworld. We know quite a bit about Ankh-Morpork, of course, and a few others cities besides, but all the little bits within this story seem intended to shape Lancre into a place that feels a bit more specific, rather than ‘generic kingdom with witches.’ There’s the Dancers, the Ramtops, the fact that its castle is genuinely too big for the area it belongs to, the way the people there react to royalty and witchcraft and epic change with little more than a shrug. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Granny Weatherwax genuinely does think of the kingdom as hers, by rights and knowledge.
Jason and his crew of acting laymen are a direct riff on the players of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which makes sense because they’re the usual band to sendup when you want to have any sort of fun with the concept of local theater. I remember doing a production in high school where the “players” utterly stole the show out from everyone else; when they’re cast right, the whole concept is a great testament to the truth that bad theater can often be as enjoyable and enlightening an experience as good theater. (For example, there are other things I could tell you about that production of Midsummer that make for party stories. Or standup. I played Peaseblossom, which is already a whole sentence that loads itself.)
Asides and little thoughts:
- The logic puzzle Ponder talks about in the carriage is the same one given to Sarah in the movie Labyrinth, and it’s a pretty common one, but it always gives me a giggle when it pops up.
- There’s a bit where we’re told that Granny does “a last-minute check to make sure she hadn’t absentmindedly taken all her clothes off, or something” before opening her door, and I feel like that’s an incredibly accurate depiction of generalized anxiety. Did I forget my keys? My wallet? My phone? Maybe all my clothes?
Nanny Ogg had a pragmatic attitude to the truth; she told it if it was convenient and she couldn’t be bothered to make up something more interesting.
From somewhere in the distance came the scream of Hodgesaargh as nature got close to him.
Now the universes swung into line. They ceased their boiling spaghetti dance and, to pass through this chicane of history, charged forward neck and neck in their race across the rubber sheet of incontinent Time.
Magenta-shading-to-Violet shaded to pink.
And we’re stupid, and the memory plays tricks, and we remember the elves for their beauty and the way they move, and forget what they were. We’re like mice saying, “Say what you like, cats have got real style.”
The chieftain had been turned into a pumpkin although, in accordance with the rules of universal humor, he still had his hat on.
We’re off next week for the holiday, and then back and reading up to “Then she kicked the bowl of milk so hard that it sprayed across the street.”