Three unlikely couples are moving about, but those aren’t the Lords and Ladies we’re talking about…
Jason and the lads wake from their enchanted performance and perform the stick and bucket dance to try and head the elves off. The inn is trashed, so Nanny and Casanunda head to her house to fetch her broomstick. They go to the forge first, where nanny grabs a crowbar and a horseshoe. Elves flying on yarrow sticks chase them, but Casanunda strikes one with the iron crowbar, warning them off. They back off further as Nanny brings them to the Long Man; she and Casanunda head into the Lancre caves to reach the elves by a different direction, and they come upon the king of the elves. Nanny tells him he has to stop his wife, or she’ll have everyone bury this place. He says he’ll consider. Magrat is feeling less sure about her donning Queen Ynci’s armor, but she runs into Ponder and the Librarian and the Bursar, who fill her in on how the Entertainment brought the elves to their realm. Magrat resolves to stop them, despite being the only one around. The wizards decide to follow her.
Ridcully arrives at the castle to find that most of the population of Lancre has taken refuge within its walls. Nanny also arrives, and Shawn fills her in on what’s been happening and where Magrat went. Shawn reckons he can get the people going with a rousing speech and then they’ll all agree to fight the elves. (The speech doesn’t work, but Nanny’s threat one Shawn is out of earshot does it.) Magrat arrives where the Dancers were, and Lancre and the elven land are fighting each other for the space. Granny sits in the elf queen’s tent, arguing with her; she plans to marry Verence, and then the land will have to accept her. She alters her appearance to look like an idealized version of Magrat. Magrat waits ready to stop the elves, but she’s all alone until Ponder and crew show up to lend a hand. The elf court mount their horses, intending to ride to the castle and go through with the wedding, but Magrat stands in their way, and then Shawn and Nanny and the villagers show up too. The elf queen freezes everyone to the spot and tries to belittle Granny for her ignorance, her age, her belief that she can stand her ground. There’s a trading of mental and physical slaps.
Granny’s bees arrive on the scene, covering Granny. Magrat finds she can move and tackles the elf queen, who pours worthlessness into Magrat mind, but Magrat finds an inner strength and starts fighting back. Just as she’s about to land a blow with an axe, the elf king arrives. He offers the queen his hand and they vanish. The elves vanish, it’s morning, and Nanny tells everyone that they’ve got to put the Dancers back first. Ponder and the Librarian and Bursar start taking care of that, but Granny appears to be dead. Nanny and Magrat go to Granny’s special box and open it—it turns out to only contain her will, odds and ends, and a bundle of letters. There’s one addressed to Nanny. Magrat finally admits that the reason she got so cross was because she found out the Granny sent Verence a letter telling him to marry Magrat and set up the wedding all on his own as they were traveling back from Genua. Nanny points out that winding her up like this was the whole reason Magrat finally decided to stop the elf queen. Nanny then opens the letter Granny left her: it reads I ATE’NT DEAD.
Magrat and Nanny rush back to the castle and break a window so the bees can get in—she finally managed to Borrow them. Granny wakes up and tells Magrat it’s time to have the wedding. The guests are scattered, they’ll need to use a wizard as a priest and the Librarian as Best Man, the dress is gone and Magrat’s still in armor, but it’s time to get it done. The castle is ransacked, so Verence has no kingly clothes, but his Fool’s outfit is tucked away in a chest and Granny insists that he wear it. The wedding happens, and Granny and Nanny leave the festivities, talking about how Magrat is queen now, and doesn’t realize that Queen Ynci was a made up figure created by a recent king. They come across the unicorn, furious for being left in a world it doesn’t understand. Granny catches it and leads it to town using a strand of her hair tied around his neck to lead it. They bring the unicorn to Jason to shoe, but he’s mortified that they would ask him to kill it with iron. That isn’t the intention; Granny has Nanny bring her old silver family tea set to melt down for shoes. Once the job is done, she sends the unicorn on its way. Nanny goes off with Casanunda, and Granny goes for a walk with Ridcully. They talk about the reality where they did live happily ever after, for a definition of the phrase.
I dunno, I think there’s something very powerful here in the acknowledgment that people need to see themselves in stories in order to believe in themselves. The previous king ultimately made up Ynci to give the people of Lancre something to be proud of, but she winds up serving a completely different purpose—in a line of queens that Magrat can’t relate to at all, she suddenly comes across one who acts.
She needed to know that she could be different and still valuable, and she didn’t have any examples of that—none of the queens were like her, but importantly, none of the witches she knows are like her either. Magrat’s evolution as a character is bound up in feeling entirely alone about what she deems important. This is the place where she finally gets to find something that aligns with her sense of self, and it allows her to take on an elf queen with her fists.
Though I have to say, the way that elves make people feel like nothing is… a really good stand-in for clinical depression. Just, pretty much a verbatim description of what it feels like to be depressed. Which then made me wonder if people used to blame things like depression on elves and fairies and their influence—it would stand to reason, when you look at the sort of things we know people did blame on fae folk throughout history.
The wedding comes together with no pomp and as little circumstance as possible. Which is good because that was all Magrat ever really wanted in the first place. She gets to marry her Fool, and no one has to suffer through the meet-and-greet of hundreds of diplomatic guests. It all ends with Nanny stealing a bowl of custard for fun and Granny lassoing a unicorn with her hair. The reversal of having a much older woman be the virgin who handles a unicorn is great here because the use of that trope tends to have a transparent skeeviness to it; here’s the most attractive woman we could find, only she can ride bareback on this magical horse. Uh-huh. I’d rather have Granny, thanks.
And it ends with Esme and Ridcully talking about the life they didn’t live and making peace with it. Which, I’m sure the idea of “every possibility has occurred via alternate realities, so you can rest assured that one version of you is a rock star” isn’t very comforting for most people, but I’ve always thought it was? Sure, you’re not living that sweet rock star life, but that version existing somewhere in the multiverse does take a bit of the pressure off. And Hwel’s going to write a play about the life you’re currently living here anyhow, so things can’t be all bad.
Asides and little thoughts:
- Look, I’m just saying that Casanunda being happy to spend the evening with Nanny, but less keen on the fact that there’s a broomstick involved can’t help but reading like he’s less keen on having certain toys around, given general jokes around “sexual metaphor things” as Nanny puts it.
- The Monks of Cool footnotes is one of my favorites because this summation of coolness is so correct; it’s not about trends or being in the know, it’s about making choices on what you like and how you want to present yourself, and then being confident in that choice.
- Aw, Mr Ixolite gets a mention for being the world’s most polite banshee.
- And they bring up “Oggham” as a variation on Ogham, which is an actual runic language that you find mostly in Ireland, and shows up in lots of marginalia. (A few friends and I have a matching tattoo in Ogham, in fact.)
“Oh, they’d smash the world if they thought it’d make a pretty noise,” said Nanny.
There was one of those pauses known as the delayed drop while the dwarf worked out the topography of the situation.
The words rose unbidden into his head, from somewhere in the back pocket of his genes.
It must be hard for humans, forever floundering through inconvenient geography. Humans are always slightly lost. It’s a basic characteristic. It explains a lot about them.
“This is a lovely party,” said the Bursar to a chair, “I wish I was here.”
We’re taking a break for the remainder of 2021! But we’ll be back in January with Men at Arms, and reading up to “Or hear anything.”