Originally, Marion Zimmer Bradley started the Sword and Sorceress series to further strong female protagonists in the sword and sorcery genre. She saw the need to change what she considered an appalling attitude toward women in these works.
Readers flocked to these anthologies and submissions to them increased. By the time of her death, she was on the 18th collection. After her death it was decided to publish three more collections. In the end, a volume 21 with Diana L. Paxson as editor was printed, and the tradition has continued from there on. (Wikipedia)
Dawn and Dusk — Dana Kramer-Rolls – Dagne, with the different colored eyes, grew up ostracised by her father, step-mother and brothers for being a freak. In the end she has to run away to protect herself. We meet her in a cabin in the woods on a cold and bitter night.
Spell of the Sparrow – Jim C. Hines – A family of two ex-thieves and a budding wizard ought to be a dream come true. But parents will be parents everywhere, and our two ex-thieving parents do not approve of Mel’s dabbling in magic. That is all about to change when poor old dad is spelled by a Cloudling.
The Woman’s Place — Susan Urbanek Linville – The continuing welfare of the tribe is of prime importance. When winter threatens to destroy all of the, grand-dame has to make a choice that will mean life or death to them all.
Kin — Naomi Kritzer – Once magic has been properly woken in a person, they become addicted to the feeling. Julia is going to have to make the choice between her magic or the saving of a child.
Child’s Play — Esther M. Friesner – Mira’s father is the richest man for miles, but that does not make a difference to either of them when Mira’s mom dies. When a new woman moves into the house, Mira knows she is in trouble. Thankfully she has her teacher on her side, a teacher willing to go the extra mile to protect this child.
Ursa — Jenn Reese – A child was placed on a mountain side to die. Saving it changes the life of Ursa and the father.
Red Caramae — Kit Wesler – Caramae sneaks into the catacombs of the wizards looking for an object of power. What she finds is more than she has bargained for.
Parri’s Blade — Cynthia McQuillin – When Soela steals away with a blade that was supposed to follow Parri on his pyre, Hamli goes after her to right the wrong. What she discovers is that grief has many ways of expressing itself.
Necessity and the Mother — Lee Martindale – In Hemfrock Donta runs the inn – The Mercenary’s Mother. It has an excellent reputation and is popular with all kinds of customers. When the city council decide that all metal in the city must be confiscated for the sake of magicks, Donta and her crew pack up and go somewhere else. What will the city council do when they discover that perhaps their decision was a bit hasty?
Sun Thief — K. A. Laity – This is a story of the sacrifice rebelling against her fate when she discovers the truth about the alleged god she is being sacrificed to.
Lostland — Rosemary Edghill – Ruana Rulane was a proper hero, the kind with a special sword and a destiny to fulfill. Not everyone wants her to keep her sword or for her to stay true to her destiny. Betrayal sends her to Lostland, from which very few people have returned.
Plowshares — Rebecca Maines – When Elisabeth loses her husband to illness, she decides to go on pilgrimage to the holy cathedral. Her journey will teach her a great deal about herself and the role of women.
Step By Step — Catherine Soto – After betrayal from their uncle, Lin Mei and her brother have taken to the roads as caravan workers. One night they are attacked by robbers.
Favor of the Goddess — Lynn Morgan Rosser – An unknown woman is hiding from the guards. She isn’t sure why she keeps on fighting them and running away, she just knows that she has to. Then the Empress is scheduled to appear on the Holy Moon.
Rose in Winter — Marie M. Loughin – Rosabel has three chances to grab happiness. Some choices are life-defining.
Kazhe’s Blade — Terry McGarry – Kazhe prefers staying drunk to stay the memory of her loss. Then the loss comes to her opening old wounds.
The Skin Trade — Heather Rose Jones – Being a Kaltaoven – skin wearer – is a quality the Marcalt of Wilentelu would like to possess. When two come to town, he uses all of his persuasive powers to give him the gift.
Multiple Choice — Leslie Fish – Magic is exacting business, but is a useful tool in discovering the truth. When the old wizard dies and leaves his cabin for the next one coming, the wizardess discovers that he is haunting it. She calls him forth and asks him a few questions.
Oulu — Aimee Kratts – Hilda Lajatur decides to quit the village she is living in so she can go to warmer areas. But not everyone in the village is happy about her choice and decide to kidnap her.
A Kind of Redemption — John P. Buentello – All I’m going to say about this story is that it is a proper ghost story.
Journey’s End — Dorothy J. Heydt – Looking for answers to her questions to the death of her husband, Cynthia goes into a cavern of the gods.
Love Potion #8½ — Marilyn A. Racette – Sometimes when customers do not wish to pay the full price, one must use imagination to change their minds.
There were three stories that I especially liked: Jim C. Hines – Spell of the Sparrow for the ingenious way mother and daughter solved their problem, Dana Kramer-Rolls – Dawn and Dusk for its retribution, and Marilyn A. Racette – Love Potion #8 1/2 for its wit.
The stories are all good. Some are quite serious: Susan Urbanek Linville – The Woman’s Place and some quite swordy (and humorous): Lee Martindale: Necessity and the Mother.
While the earliest technological items we’ve seen on the Discworld were the iconograph, Moving Pictures takes the technology a step further and uses an imp- and salamander movie camera and projector. However, certain problems occur as a result of the experimentation with new technology, as always happens when people play around with new discoveries.
Consider the case of Thomas Midgley (1889-1944). In 1921 he discovered that lead reduced the engine-knocking in a car-engine significantly and lead was introduced into gasoline. We all know what happened as a result of that. Today we are still struggling with the effects of that discovery. Later on he managed to come up with freon which has had a severe effect on the ozone layer. Why should the Discworld be any different?
Obviously, the place to find inventors on the Discworld has to be at the Unseen University or the Alchemist’s Guild (of whom Leonard of Quirm is a member). Where else could a bunch of people willing to try anything in the name of science be found. The motto of the alchemist’s guild is: All that glitters is gold. Most of their experiments tend to end in loud explosions, causing their building to be in a state of constant repair. Unfortunately for Ankh-Morpork, they have now managed to come up with Octo-cellulose, one of the major factors of the events in Moving Pictures.
Another major event leading to the opportunities had at Holy Wood was the death of the door keeper. You’d think that a place needing a guard for their door, ensuring that it’s kept closed, would be a hint to stay away. But it never is, because curiosity is something that people struggle with. Some of us will always push the big red button just to see what will happen (no matter what the sign says). Once Holy Wood becomes accessible, people are drawn there like flies to honey.
Gaspode, the talking dog shows his face again. He gets to have an important part in the book, along with other dogs with suspicious names. Dibbler plays his usual scheming self and Death makes appearances as well in the book. Befuddled, eternal student, Vincent, is our main character. Poor guy. He gets completely sucked into the whole Holy Wood scene. Poor Ridicully and his wizardly gang have to join in the chaos and save the day.
You all know that Pratchett is making fun of Hollywood and the whole film industry (not just there). The glamour, hype, fame and craziness are all seen in one part or another of Moving Pictures.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Our main character William deWorde, estranged from his family, starts out by writing a newsletter for foreign dignitaries. Once the dwarves bring in a press to Ankh-Morpork William ends up with a very popular newsletter called The Times. All of a sudden William is employing a journalist, Sacharissa Cripslock, and a photographer, Otto Chriek, to get enough news.
Poor Otto. Such dedication. Being a vampire with an obsession for photography cannot be easy on one’s health. Good thing he has his vial of blood with him om every assignment. The Times are lucky to have him on their staff in their search for truth.
Competition is bound to arrive on the scene. The Guild of Engravers and Printers are producing a newsletter called the Ankh-Morpork inquirer. In it you’ll find articles on just about anything, whether it be true or not.
In the meantime, a plot against Vetinari is once again going on. The Firm (in the form of Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin) are doing their best to get him accused of murder. Part of that plot is kidnapping Vetinari, but Vetinari’s dog Mr. Wuffles, gets away. Pin and Tulip need to find Wuffles, but The Times is also on the hunt and De Worde has offered a $ 25 reward for Mr. Wuffles. As usual chaos and mayhem ensue.
Journalism is obviously the theme in The Truth. Media’s function in society should be questioned at every opportunity. There is plenty of power in deciding what the truth is and who should hear it. The intentions of the owners and journalists matter a great deal. The potential for doing great harm or great good hangs as a temptation for the best of them.
The term “Going postal” was coined by Karl Vick in his article “Violence at work tied to loss of esteem”. “Going postal” refers to an employee who becomes so disgruntled with her/his workplace that she/he ends up being violent towards co-workers.
Moist von Lipwig is a conman who has conned one too many, leading to his capture. In our lovely Ankh-Morpork prison he is on death row. Waking up after his so-called hanging, Moist discovers that he has been given a choice: Become postmaster or walk out THAT door. Looking out the door, Moist discovers that the drop is a bit too deep for his preference. Postmaster it is.
The postmaster function in Ankh-Morpork has not been filled in decades. The Post Office is overflowing with undelivered mail. There are two employees left, living in the Post Office. They are Junior Postman Tolliver Groat and his assistant Stanley Howler. Moist certainly has his work cut out for him.
Delivering the undelivered mail is only one part of Moist’s problems. Another part is getting people to use the Post Office again, seeing it as a viable option to the Clacks. The Clacks could with a certain portion of good-will be compared to the telegraph. The Grand Trunk Company owns and operated the clacks, and they do not like the fact that the Post Office is coming to life again. In addition to these problems, von Lipwig discovers that the Post Office seems to have come into a sort of life of its own. It has definite opinions and is not afraid to share them – causing some near-death experiences.
During his duties Moist meets the golem activist Adora Dearheart. She fights for the freedom of Golem from slave-contracts. Instead they buy themselves free one at a time, through getting proper work-contracts.
Golem activism or the battle against slavery and abuse of workers has been a recurring theme in Pratchett’s books. Is it possible for people to change or do we just need to change their focus. After all it was von Lipwig’s phenomenal abilities as a con-man that made it possible for him to be the kind of Postmaster that Ankh-Morpork needed. Once again Terry takes a look at the function of technology in the world. Is it a thing for the betterment of mankind?
2005: Going Postal adapted for stage by Stephen Briggs
2010: Going Postal adapted for television by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle
This time Vetinari tries to volunteer Moist for the banking business. After all, now that the postal business is up and running, we can’t have Moist with any time on his hands. You never know what he’ll do then. Moist won’t have any of it.
Sadly, life doesn’t always happen the way we would like it to. During his stint at the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork the owner’s dog, Mr. Fusspot, found von Lipwig quite likeable. When Topsy Lavish dies, she leaves 50% of the shares to her dog (who already owns 1%), making him Chairdog. Mr. Fusspot is left to Lipwig. Mrs. Lavish is a smart woman and has made sure that Moist knows the Assassin’s Guild have a contract on him if anything should happen to her dear Mr. Fusspot.
Moist van Lipwig is now in the banking business, and banking will never be the same in Ankh-Morpork. Neither will Moist.
Lovely Adela is still trying to help the golem population. She has travelled to the ancient civilization of Um to uncover 4 golden golems who have been buried a very long time. When she returns with them everyone gets a surprise, not least of all Moist’s enemies.
In Making Money Pratchett takes a look at our definition of money and people’s acceptance of monetary value. Banking gets its day in the sun and a well-needed sunning that is.
Mr. Scattering was at work as a night-guard at the Royal Art Museum when he experienced an explosion.
He did not want people to know about the gloriously glittering lady holding a large ball over her head before she vanished.
Smeems, the Candle Knave, makes his rounds every night lighting and refilling the candlesticks. His apprentice, Nutt, is stepping in for Trevor Likely, who seems to have taken ill. Nutts is a keen, gray-skinned fellow who tries to fit in at the UU.
Archchancellor Ridicully is a loud wizard, in a place where wizards generally take up a lot of space. Wizards are, usually, celibate. They find their celibate thoughts challenged when the housekeeper employs lovely and empty-headed Juliet. Glenda, the other housemaid, is frustrated with Juliet’s looks and empty-headedness. Getting her to focus on one task is difficult.
Ponder Stibbons, a jr. wizard, makes it his life’s mission to protect the universe from Arch-chancellor Ridicully. Sometimes that means unpleasant duties. One of those duties is telling Ridicully that the Archancellor Preserved Bigger’s Bequest is about to engage the UU in traditional sports, the Poor Boys’ Fun. As we all know, the wizards (with the exception of Ridicully) abhor physical exercise. There will be no getting out of if if they want to keep the bequest.
A team will have to be organized and getting to learn the rules of the game will be essential for them. Unfortunately, this football-like game seems to have very few rules. With Vetinari the wizards attempt to set out some rules for the game. After all, they do want to survive. They get their own coach in the form of Mr. Nutt. The wizards even end up with their own cheerleaders.
Pratchett is fond of bringing Shakespeare into the Discworld. Unseen Academicals is no exception. This time Romeo and Juliet, in the form of Trev and Julie, gets Terry’s touch. Poor lovers. They belong to teams who absolutely hate each other.
The Grim Reaper in the form of a skeletal body in a black robe, with a scythe and speaking in CAPITAL LETTERS appears for the first time in The Colour of Magic. His job is to collect human souls. Death is the servant of Azrael, the “Death of Universes”. Opposing him are the Auditors, who want nothing more than the end of all life (it’s soooo messy).
At home Death has a servant, Albert and a daughter, Ysabelle. Kittens and swans are his favorite animals and his horse Binky is with him on each collection.
Because of his fascination with humans, Death sometimes leaves his post to seek understanding. This tends to cause problems because humans don’t like to see what they do not understand and the universe likes the souls of dead people collected. The only ones who can see Death for who he is are witches, wizards, cats and children.
In The Art of Discworld Terry tells us that he has received a number of letters from terminally ill fans in which they hope that Death will resemble the Discworld incarnation (he also says that those particular letters usually cause him to spend some time staring at the wall).
While Death appears in the previous books, Mort is the first book in which he becomes a main character.
Mort’s family specialized in distilling wine from reannual grapes. (“Reannual are plants that grow backwards in time. You sow the seed this year and they grow last year.”) These growers tended to be big, serious men, much given to introspection and close examination of the calendar. Mort (the youngest son) on the other hand, was tall, red-haired and freckled, with the sort of body that seems to be only marginally under its owner’s control; apparently built out of knees.
Hopeless as he is, Mort’s father decides to take his son to the hiring fair at Sheepridge. At this hiring fair men looking for work would stand in ragged lines in the centre of the square waiting for a tradesman to hire them as apprentices. Noone seems to want Mort, but just before the clock has struck its final strike at midnight, a prospective tradesman enters the square. It is Death and Mort can see him as he really looks. Mort is hired as an apprentice and Death and Mort ride off on Binky.
And so, Mort is off on the adventure of his life learning all sorts of useful things – like how many shades of black there are and how to walk through walls. Obviously death is a theme of all of the books in the Death series. Terry treats this subject with warmth and a light heart. Death comes to us all, after all. Poor old Death is going through a mid-life crisis, and Pratchett’s gentle mocking of the phenomenon is heartwarming.
1994: The graphic novel, Mort: The Big Comic is illustrated by Graham Higgins.
2004: BBC4 broadcast Mort in 4 parts. Adapted for radio by Robin Brooks. It is re-sent regularly.
The terrible Auditors of Reality have been at it again. To them the fact that Death seems to be developing a personality is the sin beyond sins. So, they decide to retire Death and Death is resigned to that decision. What happens when there is no longer a collector of spirits?
Back at the Unseen University Windle Poons – the oldest wizard – is waiting for his collection by Death. He knows to the minute when this is supposed to happen. But does it? Windle Poons certainly dies, but no one shows up for his spirit, so he decides to go back into his body. This tendency seems to be spreading to other people.
Now that Death has his own hourglass with sand running down, he has decided to make the most of the life left to him. High up in the Ramtops a figure on a horseback turns up. He knocks at the door of Miss Flitworth asking for help. The stranger goes by name Bill Door. The main qualification needed is the ability to use a scythe, and one might say that Bill is excellent at the job.
Back at Ankh-Morpork Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler has discovered something that he thinks will make his fortune (again). This time he has found some strange globes. When they are shaken a cloud of little white snowflakes swirl up in the liquid inside and settle on a tiny model of a famous Ankh-Morpork landmark.
And finally, magic is behaving strangely at the UU. It seems all of the Life drifting accross the Discworld is acting like water building up behind a dam when the sluice gates are shut. Needing a place to go, it manifests itself in all sorts of phenomena. The wizards decide they have to meddle with all of the strangeness.
Terry addresses fate, life, death, consumerism and relationships in Reaper Man. I’ve seen reviews that praise Reaper Man to the sky and others that despair of Pratchett’s writing this books. For my own part, I rather liked the book. It juggles the serious and the silly quite well in the jump between Flitworth and the wizards.
1996: 8-minute animated television adaptation produced by Cosgrove Hall Animation Studios of Reaper Man.
2012: Australian stage adaptation of Reaper Man by Pamela Munt
Mort and Ysabell married and had a baby – a little girl they named Sarah. At age six, Sarah, makes her teachers at Quirm College for Young Ladies extremely nervous. Strangeness tends to happen around the girl and she says the most bizarre things. But Susan didn’t really worry about what other people thought about her. And that continues through the years at school.
Sometimes the gods listen to the words people say. Imp Y Celyn (Buddy) said to his dad: “You don’t know anything! You’re just a stupid old man. But I’m giving my life to music! One day soon everyone will say I was the greatest musician in the world.” In retrospect, perhaps not the wisest words, but they do make for a good story. When he chances upon a pawn shop guitar and becomes possessed by it, rock and roll enters the Discworld. This means some serious hip-rolling and swooning fans. Imp’s band “Music With Rocks In” acquires a manager in Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler. He tries to do what any good manager would, cash in on the band while keeping them in the dark.
Death has decided to go on another of his walkabouts. Unfortunately, for Susan Sto Helit (Death’s granddaughter) that means leaving boarding school to carry on the family business. Having Death for a grandfather does not make for an easy life and Susan struggles to stay on top of the job. Chaos and mayhem ensue.
Part of the theme of this book is music groups and their managers in all their glory. The generation gap is also something that is experienced at the Unseen University. Ridicully’s thoughts on the younger wizards’ fascination with the new fad is typical. Idealism vs. rationality is a struggle Susan has to face. To let or not to let people die.
1996: An animated mini-series adaptation of Soul Music was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films for Channel 4.
“”Something” began when the Guild of Assassins enrolled Mister Teatime, who saw things differently from other people, and one of the ways that he saw things differently from other people was in seeing other people as things (later, Lord Downey of the Guild said, “We took pity on him because he’d lost both parents at an early age. I think that, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit more about that”).”
At the Unseen University the wizards are standing before a nailed shut door, wondering if they should open it – despite the sign that read “Do not, under any circumstances, open this door”. But curiosity is one of the prevailing “talents” of wizards. Ridicully is one of the more curious ones. The door is opened, and what do they find? Bloody Stupid Johnson has been at it again. A wise person would have closed the door again at this moment, but alas. There are not many wise wizards in Ankh-Morpork.
Susan Sto-Helit is enjoying a quit evening at the home she is governessing at. As usual she has put the fear of something into her employer while the children adore her. All of a sudden images formed in her mind. “A red ball … The sharp smell of snow … And then they were gone, and instead there were …
She knows right then that trouble is afoot, and its name is most likely DEATH. As you can see from the picture, DEATH does make a lovely Hogfather – travelling to all the children calling HO, HO, HO in his own unique style.
Absurdity, chaos and laughter are only some words to describe Hogfather. When the assassin Teatime is sent to kill the Hogfather, you just know you have to buckle up for a crazy ride. Christmas and all of its stranger sides (consumerism and altruism) are all examined. This is the ultimate Christmas story, one that might make you want to believe in Santa Claus again.
2006: Hogfather adapted by Vadim Jean as a two part TV-serial for SKY
Nanny Ogg is called to a birthing – a very unusual one. Some years later Jeremy Clockson was enjoying dismantling and putting a clock back together again. He’d grown up as a child-prodigy at the Guild of Clockmakers since he was a few days old. Then Lady Myria LeJean with her two troll body-guards steps into his shop. Something about her bothers Jeremy. She wants him to build the most accurate clock in the world.
Miss Susan is a very strict and popular teacher with her pupils. Her main concern is to get her pupils to see things for what they are. But her popularity stems mainly for the class-trips she takes her students on – quite unusual ones that should not be possible. Her view on parents was that there ought to be an exam before they were allowed children. When the Death of Rats comes by to tell her that Death needs her help dealing with the Auditors, she sets off to do her duty.
The Order of Wen or the History Monks have a duty to see that tomorrow happens. One of the novices, Ludd, is causing problems. As a baby, he’d been raised by the Guild of Thieves. Then the monk Soto had stumbled upon Ludd and send him to the temple. There all sorts of unusual things happened our young Ludd. To solve the Master of Novices’ problems, Ludd is placed with another troublemaker – the sweeper Lu Tze. Both Ludd and Lu Tze are surprised by the other.
Going along for a ride with Pratchett is bound to be an insane experience and Thief of Time is no exception to the rule. His way of dealing with events of the day – and usually themes that are relevant no matter when or where one lives (like education, family, duty, propaganda, differences and prejudice) is admirable. It’s the warmth in his work that makes Pratchett so worthwhile to me.
Witches (usually women) are a force to be reckoned with on the Discworld. Nowhere near as flashy as the wizards (usually men), these women often rule their villages with an iron fist and a whole lot of headology. Pratchett describes headology as:
a witch’s way of magically setting fire to a log of wood consists of staring at the log until it burns up from pure embarrassment. As a result it is less energy intensive, which means that a witch can do more than a technically equally powerful wizard. (Discworld Wiki)
Now, imagine headology turned on people. That might frighten a few into behaving who might not otherwise behave.
The strongest headologist of the “good” witches is Granny (Esmeralda) Weatherwax. Her sister, Lilith (below), happens to be one of the “bad” ones. In a world supposedly without a hierarchy, Granny is the unspoken ruler of the witches. In the village of Lancre there is absolutely no doubt she is the boss. That is until an attempted rebellion be some wannabe witches (below). Granny is a dream of a witch. In the trio of Lancre her role is the role of the Crone (although noone would actually call her a “Crone” to her face – no one with their senses intact). Granny’s special ability is to see reality clearer than the rest. Pratchett explains that this is a manner of seeing the world that does not lie to itself including an ability to question not only the world but oneself again and again and again. Young Tiffany Aching seems to be following in Granny’s “footsteps” in this regard (below). What one needs to realize about Granny Weatherwax is that she is always there for you when you need her. Her one weak spot is her cat: “gerrofoutofityoubugger!” (generally called “You”). Considering who the owner of “You” is, I find it easy to believe that she is the only creature who has gotten the better of Greebo. While younger and much smaller than Greebo “You” terrifies him – inasmuch as he is able to be terrified of anything/anyone.
Greebo belongs to Nanny Ogg. Nanny is probably the only person alive who thinks of Greebo as a big softy.
To Nanny Ogg he was merely a larger version of the fluffy kitten he had once been. To everyone else he was a scarred ball of inventive malignancy.
Nanny is the Mother of the threesome in Lancre. Now there is a lady I wouldn’t mind meeting. Her sense of humour is broadminded, raunchy and hilarious. At the same time she rules her brood and their spouses with something akin to terror with a dash of love mixed in. They adore her yet fear her – at least her daughters in law. Nanny Ogg saves Granny from herself when that is needed and functions as Granny’s grounding rod. Not only that but Nanny lightens the mood when Granny feels overwhelmed or as if the people around her are too stupid for their own good. While Granny is the one who scares people Nanny is the one who woos them – until it is time to stop wooing. Nanny’s final job in the trio of witches is to prod Magrat in the direction Nanny feels Magrat ought to go without being as truthful about it as Granny tends to be.
Magrat Garlick is an interesting character. She happens to be the “Maiden” of the Lancre coven. At first glance Magrat is a young ditz with a heart of gold and a great belief in crystals and folk wisdom.
Witches aren’t like that. We live in harmony with the great cycles of Nature, and do no harm to anyone, and it’s wicked of them to say we don’t. We ought to fill their bones with hot lead.
But as you see, Magrat has another side as well – like we all do. In Lords and Ladies that side shows up in all its glory.
Unlike Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, Magrat is not very good at headology. Her forte lies in research and development of herbs and cures (and her crystals of course). She struggles with her self-confidence, but Granny and Nanny make up for that by having an abundance of confidence in themselves. It can’t be easy being the youngest witch when the two older ones in your coven have such strong personalities.
Young Tiffany Aching down down on the Chalk (mountain) is a whole different type of character. She has to take over the responsibility for her mountains when her grandmother (the local witch) dies. The only possible candidate is Tiffany Aching. At 9 her ability to ask uncomfortable questions and her quest for knowledge points to her potential as a great witch down the line. But Tiffany isn’t really worried about the whole witch thing nor is she caught up in the need to be one. Instead she happens to have the gift of making cheese. I know, strange gift for a witch one might say. But witches are practical people who prize such abilities over other more wizard-like gifts. In fact, Tiffany excels so much that one of her cheeses has come alive and become and excellent mouser. Its name is Horace. She is friends with the Nac Mac Feegles, a feat not managed by many.
These four witches are my favorite ones. There are many more that make appearances in Pratchett’s Witches’ series, but Granny, Nanny, Magrat and Tiffany get into so many incredibly weird and funny situations that its impossible not to have them as favorites. The Witches’ series consists of Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight. As usual Wikipedia gives detailed information about these women, Pratchett’s page is a given source and L-Space has fun details.
EQUAL RITES (1987)
As I stated at the beginning of this post most witches are women and most wizards are men. There are exceptions. Some of those exceptions start with mistaken identity.
Up in the Ramtops a wizard comes awalking using his staff as a guide to where he is going. Bad Ass, the village, is his lucky destination. A child is being born, the eight son of an eight son.
Drum Billet, our wizard, knows he is about to die. Wizards and witches get to have that knowledge. He gives his staff to the son of the smith and dies. One problem. The eight son of the eight son just happens to be a girl, Eskarina Smith. A wizard girl. Oops.
Good thing for young Eskarina Smith (Esk to her friends) that Granny Weatherwax was the midwife that saw her into the world. When Eskarina is 7 her mother decides to send her along with her brothers to Granny. Strange things seem to be happening around the girl whenever she is upset.
When they get to Granny’s, Granny Weatherwax is lying on her bed looking quite dead. Being a witch she wasn’t, she was only out borrowing. Eskarina feels Granny’s undeadness and goes downstairs waiting for Granny to return (while her brothers run off terrified). When she hears loud noises upstairs, even she becomes terrified, runs off, falls down and is met by the staff (yes! the staff came to her).
Granny knows something has to be done, and right away. She decides to take her to the wizards school in Ankh-Morpork, the Unseen University, and enroll the young Eskarina. But getting the girl into this all-male school is going to prove more difficult than Granny had thought.
“The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weazel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: “When shall we three meet again.”
Here we have the Discworld’s version of MacBeth‘s witches. The mother, the crone and the other one. Or as other people know them, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Maigrat.
King Verence of Lancre is making a discovery. He is about to become a ghost, unable to stop the kidnapping of his child. By a freak accident the child ends up in the arms of Granny Weatherwax and she decides to take a hand in playing with the future and sends the baby off with a troupe of actors.
Fifteen years later.
Words have power. In the “good old days” the jester was the only person at a king’s court who could speak his mind without fear of the consequences (supposedly). These days we have the media. But words have power. We might remember an event or something about the people involved, but as the story gets told and re-told our perception of the event changes. Pratchett’s way of pointing a light at our perceptions and prejudices is a wonder.
1997: Wyrd Sisters was produced as a two-part animated television series, produced by Cosgrove Hall.
WITCHES ABROAD (1991)
“This is a story about stories.
Or what it really means to be a fairy godmother.
But it’s also, particularly, about reflections and mirrors.”
On the Ramtops there was only one witch who was not attending the Sabbat. Desiderata Hollow was making her will. Desiderata is a fairy godmother to princess Emberella. The other one was Lilith (who just happens to be Granny’s sister).
In Genua, the magical kingdom, Lady Lilith de Tempscire loved the idea of travelling through mirrors. After speaking to Desiderata she was glad that there would only be her and the voodoo woman left to fight over Emberellas’s future.
At Lancre the fairy godmother wand is delivered into the hands of Magrat. The note from Desiderata reads:
“I niver had time to Trane a replaysment so youll have to Do. You must goe to the City of Genua. I would of done thys myself only cannot by reason of bein dead. Ella Saturday muste NOTTE marry the prins. PS This is important. PSPS The those 2 Olde Biddys they are Notte to come with Youe, they will onlie Ruine everythin. PSPSPS It has tendincy to resett to pumpkins but you wil gett the hange of it in noe time.”
With this bit of headology, Desiderata guarantees that Nanny (with Greebo) and Granny decide to accompany Magrat on her journey to Genua. As the threesome moves through the lands on their way to Genua, they manage to upset quite a few people. In typical tourist style they are loud and obnoxious and wonder why these people cannot speak properly. But there is also magic battle and voodoo fun to be had.
1999: Witches Abroad stage adaptation by Aaron Birkes played at Aberystwyth Arts Centre Theatre
LORDS AND LADIES (1992)
Magrat, Nanny (with Greebo) and Granny are back in Lancre after being absent for eight months. That worried Magrat. Was the kind-of-agreement between her and Verence still up and running.
Upon her return, Magrat was informed by King Verence that they were to be married at midsummer and that all of the arrangements have been made. No proposal, just a statement. He is the King you see, and Magrat a subject.
A stone circle up in the mountains of Lancre keeps the Dancers in. That is if they are not let out. When people forget about the Dancers, it is an easy matter to lure them into the stone circle, leaving them quite dead.
Esme Weatherwax and Nanny Grogg come to the Dancers and discover that someone has been dancing. Diamanda, Perdita and that girl with the red hair decided that they should teach themselves witching in the absence of the older ladies. About six of them have been going up into the mountains every full moon dancing. When Granny goes borrowing she discovers that there is some kind of mind loose in the kingdom – Elf.
Mustrum Ridicully of the Unseen University worrying about baldness and thinking back to the good old days when he went walking with Esme. When he is invited to the wedding of King Verence and Magrat, Ridicully decides it is time to up into the mountains. With him go the Librarian and the Reader in Invisible Writings, Ponder Stibbons.
1995: Lords and Ladies stage adaptation by Irana Brown
2005: Lords and Ladies German feature length fanfilm. I’ve only been able to find the link to the trailer. So if anyone has a link to the full-length movie, please send.
In his dedication Pratchett writes:
“My thanks to the people who showed me that opera was stranger than I could imagine.”
Mr. Goatberger, the publisher, has been sent the manuscript to a book. It wasn’t even on proper paper, and he was filled with apprehension. Then he started reading, kept on reading, and called in his assistant, Mr. Cropper. He began dreaming “the dream of all those who publish books, which was to have so much gold in your pockets that you would have to employ two people just to hold your trousers up.”
Agnes Nitt has come to the Opera House to audition for a part. She might not be the greatest looker, but she has a voice to kill for. When the time comes to select the players, Agnes gets stuck singing for the goodlooking Christine.
Gytha Ogg gets a letter addressed to “The Lancre Witch”, bringing Granny’s temper up a bit. Nanny’s book “The Joye of Snacks” has become a hit, and it turns out the publisher has been a bit complacent about paying Nanny her dues. In fact, he owes her about four or five thousand dollars. They decide to take a trip to Ankh-Morpork and stir up the town a little. That, and convince Agnes to come back to Lancre as the maiden witch. They bring Greebo, Nanny’s cat of terror. His part in this story is amazing.
Reading Maskerade with the Phantom of the Opera playing in my head at the same time was great fun. Terry Pratchett has really nailed it this time.
If you want and incredibly detailed and extensive analysis of Maskerade, I recommend Bewitching Writing by Dorte Andersen at Aalborg University. It seems I’m not the only fan of Terry.
1998: Stephen Briggs stage adaptation of Maskerade.
2006: A stage adaptation of Maskerade by Hana Burešová and Štěpán Otčenášek (partly using adaptation by Stephen Briggs) premiered in Divadlo v Dlouhé, Prague. Pratchett attended the closing performance five years later.
CARPE JUGULUM (1998)
Into the country of Lancre comes an army. An army made up of very small blue men, no higher than six inches tall. Little blue men nobody messes with. Men whose favorite pasttime is fighting anything and anyone.
Not too far from Lancre, four vampires come accross an invitation to the name ceremony of the child of Queen Magrat and King Verence. It is a dangerous thing to invite vampires into your home, whether that be house or kingdom. Sort of gives them free rein. Count Magpyr, his wife and their two children enter Lancre with their servant Igor.
Granny Weatherwax gets called away to a birthing that is in trouble. When she gets there, she has to decide who to save, mother or child. Very few people could make such a choice without trying to share the responsibitility with someone. Flying back towards the castle she notices mist is on its way from Uberwald.
The dwarf Casuanunda is having to resort to highway robbery. But robbing that black coach is not very tempting when he sees how another highway robber is treated. Instead he goes on to Lancre where he has a few aquaintances.
In this novel Pratchett plays with the idea of split personality, references vampire movies of the day, pyramid schemes and good and evil through the Phoenix vs. vampire myths. Pratchett managed to give this novel a slightly creepy feel.
THE WEE FREE MEN (2003) (Skrellingene – 2004) – Locus YA winner 2004
We now leave Lancre behind (for the most part) and enter the world of the Chalk and Tiffany Aching. She is nine years old when we meet her for the first time in The Wee Free Men.
My first meeting with Tiffany (or Petronella in Norwegian) was in Norwegian. I thought I would introduce my youngest to Pratchett and this new book on the market seemed like the thing to read. Was it ever.
When we meet her she is lying by the river tickling the trout on their backs. She liked hearing them laugh. With her on this expedition was her brother Wentworth (Steingrim in Norwegian). Like all little kids he was messy and sticky but easy to be around.
I’m sure you remember the little blue men in Carpe Jugulum. Here they come again, trying to fish. For some reason Tiffany was able to see them. Only witches should be able to see the blue terrors.
Grandma Aching has just died and Tiffany thinks that she might have been a witch. The little blue men turn out to be the Nac mac Feegle. Since Grandma died they are on the lookout for a new “hag”. Since Tiffany sees them and is able to control them (somewhat) the Nac mac Feegle tell Tiffany that she is their hag.
They need help for their Kelda (mom). She is ill. Tiffany comes with them to their hole in the ground and checks out things for the boys. Sadly, the Kelda is dying (of old age) and Tiffany needs to be there for the boys until a new Kelda can be found.
When Tiffany’s baby brother disappears, she now has allies in her search for him. The search brings Tiffany and the mac Feegles into a strange world where Tiffany’s hag-hood is proven.
My youngest son laughed his head off and was really spooked at times. An excellent children’s book in my opinion. They won’t get all the references, but who cares, I probably don’t either. What’s really great about the Tiffany Aching series, is that we get a look at Tiffany’s growth from the beginning. Terry has created a wonderful character in our young Tiffany.
There is a possible film adaptation of The Wee Free Men by Rhianna Pratchett (Terry’s daughter) in the inning.
More laughter came for my son in “A Hat Full of Sky“. Those Nac mac Feegle names are genius. I read them in Norwegian (in one of our dialects of course) and I couldn’t help myself. I giggled along. Pratchett has so many of those giggle moments and then all of a sudden a belly-laugh comes along. All part of his godhood status for me I guess.
Tiffany is now an apprentice to Miss Level. On their way there, Tiffany and Miss Tick are attacked by a hiver (powerful, dangerous creature). At the cottage of Miss Level, Tiffany discovers that Miss Level is in fact two-bodied and that there is a ghost cleaning her house. During her stay Tiffany has to fight the Hiver, but fortunately she does not have to battle alone all of the time. Help is to be found in many places.
We get a great look at the life of an eleven year old torn out of her old life, having to go to boarding school (so to speak). Everything is new. Not everyone is nice. On top of that she has the macNeegle and the Hiver. Growing up must come quickly then. Pratchett does an excellent job at looking at the development of Tiffany’s identity. She emerges as someone who has integrity and the willingness to question herself. She’s actually a pretty good role-model for young people.
By now I think we’ve seen that Tiffany is not the kind of girl who is ruffled by just anything. It takes a bit more than normal to get her uncomfortable. Being wooed by the Wintersmith is one of those things. In “Wintersmith” Tiffany does a foolish thing. At the dark morris dance welcoming winter, Tiffany finds herself drawn into the dance. Ooops. Wrong person.
This means the Wintersmith (who brings winter) meets Tiffany rather than the Summer Lady and is enchanted by her. Double oooops.
All of a sudden green stuff sprouts underneath Tiffany’s feet and the Cornucopia appears. Tiffany seems to have taken on at least one of the Summer Lady’s abilities. Her friends Roland, macFeegles and Granny Weatherwax have to help Tiffany get out of her new bind.
While her new teacher, miss Treason, is kind of creepy Tiffany manages to learn a lot from her, not least all which color of cheese she does not like.
I’ve seen from commentaries that some people think Wintersmith too childish. Sometimes I wonder if I’m reading the same books as other people or if I’m expecting different things from the books. I find all of the characters delightful, even crazy old Treason. Terry’s writing is up to its usual standard and as a brainwashed cultmember of the Pratchettian cult I’m sold.
OK. Now we come to the last book in the Witches and Tiffany series: I Shall Wear Midnight. For some reason I found it poignant. You know how sometimes you get a feeling of being thankful that you’ve read a book? Well, Midnight and Snuffare both Pratchett books that gave me that quiet feeling. I was moved.
Tiffany is now grown up (15) and is working the Chalk as its only witch in a climate of growing suspicion and hate.
When the Baron of the county dies, she is accused of killing him. Tiffany travels to Ankh-Morpork to inform Roland of his father’s death. As usual the macFeegles follow Tiffany into town.
Tiffany’s fight this time is against the Cunning Man. Once again we get a battle between the almost good against the practically evil.
My love for this book could also be due to its darker tone. This darker tone fits the books well.
Rincewind is one of the funnest and funniest characters of the Discworld. In spite of the
Rincewind is a self-acknowledged coward whose running abilities fit with his cowardice.
He was not the brightest student at the Unseen University. In fact the other wizards claimed that Rincewind is “the magical equivalent to the number zero”. He does have one magical formula in his head – one of the Eight Great Spells. Unfortunately, the formula must never be used.
Rincewind is both the luckiest and unluckiest of characters. Lady Luck is kind of on his side, and Rincewind’s ability to frustrate all of Death’s plans are next to none. In fact, Rincewind’s hourglass of life is the only one that is not hourglass shaped.
Rincewind’s constant companion is the Luggage, a pearwood chest that walks and acts as Rincewind’s bodyguard. During his many unexpected trips to fairly unusual places, Rincewind has great need of this protection.
The first of the Discworld books is The Colour of Magic. In it Terry Pratchett set out to make fun of the many cliches in fantasy and science fiction. When I first started reading The Colour of Magic, I hadn’t gotten that part of it. But when I went back to it with this necessary knowledge, I laughed (well, giggled) a whole lot.
“In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part …”
Right off the tone is set. I must have been terribly dense not to have seen the humour my first time through, but there you are – once an airhead always an airhead.
And so we get our first look at A’Tuin, upon whom the Discworld rests. Now that Pratchett has shown us the glory of his world, it is time for him to give us the story of Rincewind – one of many.
Rincewind meets Twoflower in the Broken Drum. Twoflower is a tourist from the Counterweight Continent. Noticing the stranger’s language problem, Rincewind helps the man and is hired as Twoflower’s guide. Recognizing potential trouble, Rincewind tries to flee the city, but is caught by the Patrician who orders him to protect Twoflower.
Through a series of mishaps, Rincewind and Twoflower end up having to flee Ankh-Morpork. From there their journey takes them into and out of the embrace of Death time and again. They are hunted by trolls, bears, demons, dragons and believers.
A graphic novel, illustrated by Steven Ross and adapted by Scott Rockwell, was published by Corgi in 1992.
The Mob Film Company and Sky One have produced a two-part adaptation, combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic broadcast over Easter 2008.
In 1986 Piranha Games published The Colour of Magic as a text adventure game developed by Delta 4.
A video game titled Discworld: The Colour of Magic was released on mobile phones in 2006.
The Light Fantastic begins where The Colour of Magic left off. Rincewind and Twoflower are once again trying to survive one of their stunts.
Back at the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork something really strange is happening. One of the extremely dangerous magic books is beginning to leak and the wizards are terrified of the consequences. When the leakage causes the UU to be flooded they realise something has to be done.
The book with the Eight Great Spells decides to take matters into its own pages, and rescues Rincewind and Twoflower from their predicament. That does not mean that Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage are out of trouble. Indeed, druids, mercenaries, Cohen the Barbarian, Death, the Four Horsemen, trolls, crazed villagers, a magical shop, Things all have to be encountered before they can go home.
If you’ve read a bit of English litterature from the pre-1986 era, you’ll probably recognize the references made in The Light Fantastic. But even without that knowledge, it’s easy to see that Pratchett makes fun of religion, philosophy, insurance and myths.
A graphic novel illustrated by Steven Ross and Joe Bennet, was published by Corgi in 1993.
The books are full of references. If you go to L-Space you’ll find annotations, quotations, essays and all sorts of goodies on all of the Discworld books.
A sourcerer is the eight son of an eight son of an eight son. A wizard squared. A source of magic.
Isplore (father of the sourceror) refuses to go with Death when it comes. Instead he decides to steer his son’s destiny by imbuing his wizard’s staff with his spirit. Poor little Coin. His future has already been decided for him by his father.
Back at the Unseen University a new Archchancellor is to be “elected”. Rincewind and the Librarian are working with the books in the library. The books and shelves are restless. As he leaves the library, he notices a couple of other disturbing event. Ravens are cawing and all the vermin is leaving the Unseen University. Rincewind tries to warn the bursar, who unsurprisingly does not believe him.
When he is unable to get the administration to believe that something is afoot, Rincewind does his usual desperate disappearing act. He and the librarian withdraw to the Mended Drum (used to be the Broken Drum).
Parents! What can you do about parents? No matter how much you fight them, somehow they find a way to impose their will. In Sourcery, you’ll see quite a bit of Ipsilore trying to do just that to Coin. Holding all that power is quite a challenge for a boy trying to find his way in the world. His choices will make or break the Discworld.
“Death fancied that he heard, very briefly, the sound of running feet and a voice saying, no a voice thinking oshitoshitoshit, I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna DIE!” When he focuses his gaze, all he says is: “OH, … IT’S HIM”. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Death’s favorite non-dier – in fact the only one – Rincewind.
In Ankh-Morpork, something invisible is running through the town, yelling at the top of its voice. The wizards try the Rite of AshkEnte (calling on Death) to find an answer. He tells them that Rincewind is caught in the Dungeon Dimensions, trying to get back home. The likelihood of that happening is a million to one. Hello! This is Rincewind we’re talking about.
What happens then. Well, Rincewind wakes up in a regular human sort of room caught in a magic circle. In fact, he is caught by a pimply teen-aged boy with a fake beard. This kid wants to have mastery of the kingdoms of the world, meet the most beautiful woman who has ever lived and wants to live forever.
He is about to get all wishes fulfilled, but not in the way he expected and both Eric and Rincewind may end up regretting that the conjurations was performed. What Eric Thursley will end up knowing all too much about is deception, bureaucracy and stupidity.
As the gods are playing games, with Fate winning as usual, the Lady turns up. She wants to play Mighty Empires with Fate, letting the dice roll deciding whether fate of luck will rule this time.
Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of UU is called to see the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. A Pointless Albatross has turned up with a message from the mysterious Agatean Empire, requesting the “Great Wizzard”. Vetinari wants Ridicully to send the Great Wizzard to the Counterweight Continent by tea-time, leaving the Archchancellor six hours to figure out who this wizzard is and get him on his way. Oh dear.
We all know who this “Great Wizzard” is, and Rincewind ends up in the Agatean Empire. Unfortunately Rincewind’s wizardly talents seem to have grown in the telling and he seems sadly wanting for the role Agatean people want him to fill. He is supposed to step in as a leader of the revolution. Well, the Agatean people are in for a surprise and so is Rincewind. Of all the people Rincewind should meet on the Counterweight Continent, Cohen the Barbarian and his compatriots turn up.
It’s winter and cold season in Ankh-Morpork. At the Unseen University the Librarian has caught a bug. Each time he sneezes, he changes shape – into anything. The wizards are at a loss, and the only one who has been able to communicate effectively with the Librarian is, you guessed it, Rincewind.
Rincewind, however, is somewhere else. At the moment he is digging a hole – more or less looking for opals. The other opal miners know him as Strewth. When Strewth uncovers something that looks like a giant opal, the other opal-miners cheer. Then the opal cracks open and lots of little feet appear.
Back at the Unseen University the wizards are their usual bumbling selves looking for Rincewind. Searching has uncovered a window to somewhere delightful. A beach with clear blue water and lies behind a window in the room of the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography. Since they are wizards they climb through. When Mrs. Whitlow arrives with sandwiches, she closes the window and they are all stuck. Now they have to find their way back, somehow, back to the future.
Rincewind/Strewth and the luggage are off on their adventures. One of the funniest ones is a shearing episode with our talented Rincewind. There is also a delightful one that reminds me an incredibly of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The last installment in the Rincewind series is The Last Hero. My copy has been illustrated by Paul Kidby and is beautiful in a Discworldian manner. Vetinari receives a message from the Agatean Empire.
Cohen the Barbarian has set out on a quest with the Silver Horde. “Fingers” Mazda stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, and was chained to a rock to be torn open daily by a giant eagle as punishment. As the last heroes remaining on the Disc, the Silver Horde seek to return fire to the gods with interest, in the form of a large sled packed with explosive Agatean Thunder Clay. They plan to blow up the gods at their mountain home, Cori Celesti.
Vetinari organises an effort to stop the Horde and Leonard of Quirm (Vetinari’s tame inventor) to design the Discworld’s second known spacecraft to slingshot under the Discworld and back around the top, landing on Cori Celesti. Rincewind, Carrot and the Librarian are slung off to save the world.