We’re back and ready to watch some Entertainment that will unfortunately serve as catnip to the Lords and Ladies.
Ridcully and his coach crew arrive at the bridge to Lancre, and the troll that guards it makes the mistake of upsetting the Librarian. They head into town and run into Shawn, to whom they hand off the post. Verence shows up for the helpful book he ordered for him and Magrat, but a spelling error means he actually ordered a book on martial arts. Jason Ogg’s crew of players wake up, having slept by the dancers all night. They head back into town and all go home. As all the preparations for the royal wedding begin, Magrat is busy coming to terms with the fact that she has no interest in being queen. She goes to see Diamanda and finds that Granny has ordered iron to be placed around her to keep the elves away. Magrat thinks it’s nonsense and insists the iron be got rid of. She goes to speak to Verence about all of this, but finds that he’s not in his room—she also finds that Verence doesn’t sleep in the royal bed, preferring to sleep at the door, just as he did when he was a fool. She also finds a folded piece of paper.
Outside, everyone is setting up and Nanny gets a little wooed by Casanunda, and Granny runs into Ridcully for the first time in decades (since she refused his marriage proposal). He uses magic to bring them to the troll bridge and talk about their affair in youth. Ridcully begins talking about Ponder Stibbons and his theories about parallel realities where possibilities came to pass, and suddenly Granny realizes that she’s not about to die—she’s just keying into a life she didn’t live. She insists they head back to the castle, so she can get things sorted. In the meanwhile, everyone’s trying to get Magrat to come out of her room for the Entertainment, but she refuses. Nanny insists that Verence leave it to her, but Magrat won’t explain why she’s upset. Nanny goes for her dinner with Casanunda. A unicorn shows up in Granny and Ridcully’s path, and since the wizard can’t magic them back to town, they’re forced to run and jump into the river.
Magrat tries on her wedding dress, thinking angrily about how she was wronged. Nanny enjoys her meal with Casanunda, and he enjoys it too despite the lack of naughty business. Granny and Ridcully emerge at a weir downstream and head back to town again; they get lost, but Granny presses on. Diamanda wakes and slips out of her room. Shawn hears a noise and goes to investigate and finds Diamanda at the door of the elf prisoner’s dungeon cell; she tells him to take off his iron chainmail and he refuses and runs. Magrat hears singing and opens the door only to have Shawn run in and tell her that elves are coming for them. He suggests that she stay locked in her room while he leaves with the key and goes to find help. Magrat agrees, but realizes that if Shawn is caught with the key, it could get taken from him. There’s a scream and then scrabbling at the door with the key. The elves burst into the room only to find Magrat outside, climbing the keep wall in her wedding gown. She gets into a guest bedroom, hides under a bed after putting the garderobe lid up, and when the elf goes to check, she hits it over the head with a chair and sends it down the chute. She continues on her way through the castle and comes across a royal portrait she never saw, of Queen Ynci the Short-Tempered, one of Lancre’s founders. She comes across Greebo, who is terrified, and takes him with her, dispatches another elf, and throws herself into the armory.
Granny finally realizes that they’re being “mazed” and that’s why they’re not getting out of the woods. Granny fights with Ridcully, who now has enough power back to get himself to town. She tells him he has to go, then tricks him into it and waits for the elf queen. Magrat finds the armor of Queen Ynci and puts it on. The elves have Shawn tell her to come out and she does, proceeding to lay waste to the lot with a bunch of iron weaponry and Greebo angrily deployed from a box. The one that’s left alive is chained up in the armory. They come across Diamanda, and Magrat tears up her wedding dress to stitch the girl up and bandage her wounds. Then she gets on an elven horse and goes to fight for the kingdom (against Shawn’s protests). At the center of town she begins to have doubts and goes to the home of Weaver the thatcher, asking where Verence is. Weaver explains what happened during the Entertainment, how the elves showed up, and how they don’t know where the king is. Magrat decides to head where it all happened: the Dancers.
Similarly to the last section, not much is happening here until toward the end as the elves show up and start causing trouble. But we’re still spending time with each witch of the coven separately; Granny is reconnecting with Ridcully; Nanny is on her fancy dinner date with Casanunda; Magrat is fuming over everyone manipulating her. Each of them is accompanied by a counterpart who has something to say over the current state of their life; Ridcully wanting to reminisce over the past and what might have been between him and Esme; Casanunda learning new things about desire as he watches Nanny eat; and Greebo (and Shawn afterward) bearing witness to Magrat’s come-to-Ynci moment of actualization. It’s fun having them all in different corners to examine each witch a little better.
Magrat’s transformation into a Boudicca-style warrior is an effective culmination of everything that Pratchett has been doing with the character since her introduction. Magrat’s struggles are often bound up in the fact that’s she’s a thoroughly wistful person who wants to believe in slightly soppy and impossible things. She’s an optimist where the rest of her coven are realists (even if they both go about the realism very differently). But there’s still an advantage to her perspective, despite how silly it can sometimes seem—because optimism unfulfilled can beget a fierce drive to right things. That’s what we witness as she dons armor and gets on an elven horse and decides that she’s going to take back this kingdom.
There are clear opposing modes of thought between Nanny and Granny here that also bear some closer examination. While the two aren’t at odds before being thrown into very different evenings (albeit both with potential paramours), Granny’s insistence throughout Ridcully’s starry-eyed musings is perfectly clear—this doesn’t matter because it’s personal. Personal things aren’t important. Ridcully begs to differ on that front, but it doesn’t matter because Granny doesn’t agree, and we all know that no one changes her mind.
On the other side of this, the whole town is in the throes of elven influence, and here’s Nanny, having a feast with a potential lover because she wants to and she’s never done it, so why not? And that would seem to suggest that the personal is very important. But I think the real point is that neither of these perspectives are inherently correct; they’re just true for Nanny and Granny in these moments. Sometimes the personal is what’s important, and sometimes it’s not, and some people will boil that down to a philosophy, which is all well and good. You do you, as we say.
The argument between Granny and Ridcully is actually about the pointlessness of wondering over what might have been. The concept of infinite parallel realities where every possibility occurred is fun to think over in theory, of course. But mulling it over to distraction is a waste of time when you’ve got a real life and real problems that need tending to in the present. There’s no practicality in that, and we all know Esme Weatherwax won’t stand for it.
Asides and little thoughts:
- “Well, you know what they say. You can’t cross the same river twice, Archchancellor.” “Why not? This is a bridge.” You know what, Ridcully? …Fair.
- Magrat is thinking that Diamanda is gorgeous and also willing to stand up to Granny, and that she can’t wait for the young woman to get better and wake up so she can “envy her properly,” and I’m like, Magrat, honey, there’s a different option here…
- I kept thinking, Schrodinger’s Cat is being brought up an awful lot, why—and forgot the payoff with Greebo and the elf. Also, the idea of the elves having green-blue blood because their blood obviously can’t be iron-based (which was also true in Star Trek with the Vulcans, a fun parallel there).
The Bursar giggled, because he was on the upcurve of whatever switchback his mind was currently riding.
Let’s be clear. Many authorities have tried to describe a hangover. Dancing elephants and so on are often employed for this purpose. The descriptions never work. They always smack of, hoho, here’s one for the lads, let’s have some hangover machismo, hoho, landlord, another nineteen pints of lager, hey, we supped some stuff last night, hoho…
Rdicully had never liked horses, animals which seemed to him to have only the weakest possible grip on sanity.
Nanny Ogg appreciated fine wine in her very own way. It would never have occurred to Casanunda that anyone would top up white wine with port merely because she’d reached the end of the bottle.
Hope showed in his voice like a toe peeking out from under a crinoline.
Magrat went on, like some clockwork toy that won’t change direction until it bumps into something.
Next week we finish the book!