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The Illustrated Wee Free Men: A Story of Discworld [Hardcover]

Terry Pratchett , Stephen Player
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Amazon

When you have an author as good as Terry Pratchett writing for children, you expect that the result will be a novel of great invention, assured comic timing and a generally all-round highly readable fantasy tour de force. Readers of The Wee Free Men will not be disappointed. After winning the prestigious Carnegie Medal award for his previous story of Discworld for younger readers, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Pratchett has followed up with another irresistibly entertaining adventure.

Miss Perspicacia Tick, a witch of some renown, is worried about a ripple in the walls of the universe--probably another world making contact. Which is not good. This errant activity is centred on some chalk country--where traditionally good witches simply do not grow well. Fortunately, Miss Tiffany Aching of Home Farm on The Chalk, nine years old, misunderstood and yearning for excitement, wants to be a witch and has just proved herself to be of great potential by whacking a big Green Monster from the river with a huge frying pan while using her annoying younger brother as bait. Miss Tick is impressed. So, after travelling to the chalky downs at once and dispensing some stop gap advice to Tiffany about holding the fort until she gets back with more help, Miss Tick is off.

Any hesitation Tiffany may have had about the seriousness of the situation expires when the Queen of the fairies kidnaps her younger brother. With the help of a talking frog, loaned by Miss Tick, and an army of thieving, warmongering, nippy, boozy wee free men called the Nac Mac Feegle (who used to work for the Queen but rebelled), Tiffany sets off rescue her kin.

There's humour at every turn, and the situations that follow are both wonderfully dramatic and preposterously unreal. Pratchett really is the master of his genre and it's difficult to imagine a more entertaining read. (Age 10 and over) --John McLay --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-Tiffany, an extremely competent nine-year-old, takes care of her irritating brother, makes good cheese on her father's farm, and knows how to keep secrets. When monsters from Fairyland invade her world and her brother disappears, Tiffany, armed only with her courage, clear-sightedness, a manual of sheep diseases, and an iron frying pan, goes off to find him. Her search leads her to a showdown with the Fairy Queen. It is clear from the beginning that Tiffany is a witch, and a mighty powerful one. The book is full of witty dialogue and a wacky cast of characters, including a toad (formerly a lawyer). Much of the humor is supplied by the alcohol-swilling, sheep-stealing pictsies, the Wee Free Men of the title, who are six-inches high and speak in a broad Scottish brogue. (The fact that readers will not understand some of the dialect won't matter, as Tiffany doesn't understand either, and it is all part of the joke.) These terrors of the fairy world are Tiffany's allies, and she becomes their temporary leader as they help her search for the Fairy Queen. Once the story moves into Fairyland it becomes more complex, with different levels of dream states (or, rather, nightmares) and reality interweaving. Tiffany's witchcraft eschews the flamboyant tricks of wizards; it is quiet, inconspicuous magic, grounded in the earth and tempered with compassion, wisdom, and justice for common folk. Not as outrageous and perhaps not as inventive as The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (HarperCollins, 2001), The Wee Free Men has a deeper, more human interest and is likely to have wider appeal. All in all, this is a funny and thought-provoking fantasy, with powerfully visual scenes and characters that remain with readers. A glorious read.
Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-10. Pratchett turns the bogeymen of fairy tales and nightmares into reality in the latest book in his popular, comedic Discworld series. Young Tiffany Aching, incipient witch armed with a large iron frying pan, goes after the Elf Queen, who has taken Tiffany's little brother into Fairyland and who plans to use humans' dreams to conquer their world. Tiffany's companions on her quest are a talking toad, who used to be a human, and a band of fierce Wee Free Men, who are six inches tall, talk with a Scottish brogue, and are famous for "stealin' an' drinkin' an' fightin'!" The action is both manic and a little scary as the queen confronts her pursuers with a headless horseman, dreams that trap dreamers inside them, and more. In the end, Tiffany must face the Queen alone while attempting to sort out reality from nightmare. Both the humor and the danger will appeal to fans of Discworld; they will also draw readers who like J. K. Rowling's Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Sally Estes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A glorious read.” -- School Library Journal (starred review)

“Just the package to appeal to those who admire not just a brave heart but a quick comeback as well.” -- Horn Book Magazine (starred review)

“The Carnegie Medal-winner’s fans will not be disappointed.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The humor and the danger will appeal to Discworld fans and also readers who relish J. K. Rowling’s Harry.” -- ALA Booklist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Terry Pratchett is one of the world's most popular authors. His acclaimed novels are bestsellers in the United States and the United Kingdom, and have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. In January 2009, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Pratchett a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his services to literature. Sir Terry lives in England.



Stephen Player has illustrated more than one hundred books. Originally from Great Britain, he now lives in San Francisco.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

A Clang Well Done

Some things start before other things.

It was a summer shower but didn't appear to know it, and it was pouring rain as fast as a winter storm.

Miss Perspicacia Tick sat in what little shelter a raggedy hedge could give her and explored the universe. She didn't notice the rain. Witches dried out quickly.

The exploring of the universe was being done with a couple of twigs tied together with string, a stone with a hole in it, an egg, one of Miss Tick's stockings which also had a hole in it, a pin, a piece of paper and a tiny stub of pencil. Unlike wizards, witches learn to make do with a little.

The items had been tied and twisted together to make a . . . device. It moved oddly when she prodded it. One of the sticks seemed to pass right through the egg, for example, and came out the other side without leaving a mark.

'Yes,' she said quietly, as rain poured off the rim of her hat. 'There it is. A definite ripple in the walls of the world. Very worrying. There's probably another world making contact. That's never good. I ought to go there. But . . . according to my left elbow, there's a witch there already . . .'

'She'll sort it out, then,' said a small and, for now, mysterious voice from somewhere near her feet.

'No, it can't be right. That's chalk country over that way,' said Miss Tick. 'You can't grow a good witch on chalk. The stuff's barely harder than clay. You need good hard rock to grow a witch, believe me.' Miss Tick shook her head, sending raindrops flying. 'But my elbows are generally very reliable.'

'Why talk about it? Let's go and see,' said the voice. 'We're not doing very well around here, are we?'

That was true. The lowlands weren't good to witches. Miss Tick was making pennies by doing bits of medicine and misfortune-telling, and slept in barns most nights. She'd twice been thrown in ponds.

'I can't barge in,' she said. 'Not on another witch's territory. That never, ever works. But . . .' she paused, 'witches don't just turn up out of nowhere. Let's have a look . . .'

She pulled a cracked saucer out of her pocket, and tipped into it the rainwater that had collected on her hat. Then she took a bottle of ink out of another pocket and poured in just enough to turn the water black.

She cupped it in her hands to keep the raindrops out, and listened to her eyes.

Tiffany Aching was lying on her stomach by the river, tickling trout. She liked to hear them laugh. It came up in bubbles.

A little way away, where the river bank became a sort of pebble beach, her brother Wentworth was messing around with a stick, and almost certainly making himself sticky.

Anything could make Wentworth sticky. Washed and dried and left in the middle of a clean floor for five minutes, Wentworth would be sticky. It didn't seem to come from anywhere. He just got sticky. But he was an easy child to mind, provided you stopped him eating frogs.

There was a small part of Tiffany's brain that wasn't too certain about the name Tiffany. She was nine years old and felt that Tiffany was going to be a hard name to live up to. Besides, she'd decided only last week that she wanted to be a witch when she grew up, and she was certain Tiffany just wouldn't work. People would laugh.

Another and larger part of Tiffany's brain was thinking of the word 'susurrus'. It was a word that not many people have thought about, ever. As her fingers rubbed the trout under its chin she rolled the word round and round in her head.

Susurrus . . . according to her grandmother's dictionary, it meant 'a low soft sound, as of whispering or muttering'. Tiffany liked the taste of the word. It made her think of mysterious people in long cloaks whispering important secrets behind a door: susurrususssurrusss . . .

She'd read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren't supposed to.

As she thought this, she realized that the happy trout had swum away. But something else was in the water, only a few inches from her face.

It was a round basket, no bigger than half a coconut shell, coated with something to block up the holes and make it float. A little man, only six inches high, was standing up in it. He had a mass of untidy red hair, into which a few feathers, beads and bits of cloth had been woven. He had a red beard, which was pretty much as bad as the hair. The rest of him that wasn't covered with blue tattoos was covered with a tiny kilt. And he was waving a fist at her, and shouting:

'Crivens! Gang awa' oot o' here, ye daft wee hinny! 'Ware the green heid!'

And with that he pulled at a piece of string that was hanging over the side of his boat and a second red-headed man surfaced, gulping air.

'Nae time for fishin'!' said the first man, hauling him aboard. 'The green heid's coming!'

'Crivens!' said the swimmer, water pouring off him. 'Let's offski!'

And with that he grabbed one very small oar and, with rapid back and forth movements, made the basket speed away.

'Excuse me!' Tiffany shouted. 'Are you fairies?'

But there was no answer. The little round boat had disappeared in the reeds.

Probably not, Tiffany decided.

Then, to her dark delight, there was a susurrus. There was no wind, but the leaves on the alder bushes by the river bank began to shake and rustle. So did the reeds. They didn't bend, they just blurred. Everything blurred, as if something had picked up the world and was shaking it. The air fizzed. People whispered behind closed doors . . .

The water began to bubble, just under the bank. It wasn't very deep here - it would only have reached Tiffany's knees if she'd paddled - but it was suddenly darker and greener and, somehow, much deeper . . .

She took a couple of steps backwards just before long skinny arms fountained out of the water and clawed madly at the bank where she had been. For a moment she saw a thin face with long sharp teeth, huge round eyes and dripping green hair like waterweed, and then the thing plunged back into the depths.

By the time the water closed over it Tiffany was already running along the bank to the little beach where Wentworth was making frog pies. She snatched up the child just as a stream of bubbles came around the curve in the bank. Once again the water boiled, the green-haired creature shot up, and the long arms clawed at the mud. Then it screamed, and dropped back into the water.

'I wanna go-a toy-lut!' screamed Wentworth.

Tiffany ignored him. She was watching the river with a thoughtful expression.

I'm not scared at all, she thought. How strange. I ought to be scared, but I'm just angry. I mean, I can feel the scared, like a red-hot ball, but the angry isn't letting it out . . .

'Wenny wanna wanna wanna go-a toy-lut!' Wentworth shrieked.

'Go on, then,' said Tiffany, absent-mindedly. The ripples were still sloshing against the bank.

There was no point in telling anyone about this. Everyone would just say 'What an imagination the child has' if they were feeling in a good mood, or 'Don't tell stories!' if they weren't.

She was still very angry. How dare a monster turn up in the river? Especially one so . . . so . . . ridiculous! Who did it think she was? --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

Dream-spinning dromes, grimhounds, and the Queen of Fairyland have stolen Tiffany Aching's brother, and she's not going to take it lying down. So, she uses her first sight, second thoughts, and new friendship with the local Nac Mac Feegle--a.k.a. Wee Free Men--to bring about a reckoning. One has to wonder who had more fun with this project--Terry Pratchett, as writer of yet another delightful tale in his bestselling Discworld series, or Stephen Briggs, as narrator. Both are masters of the high art of wordplay. Pratchett introduces us to a thesaurus full of odd and clever utterances. And Briggs reads the prose with rhythmic glee and suspenseful understanding. He has a great time handling the hearty brogues of the many and mighty Wee Free Men. This tale is especially recommended for all girls who wonder why boy characters like Harry Potter seem to get all the magical action. Tiffany Aching is a wise and perceptive 9-year-old heroine who can take care herself just fine, thanks. B.P. © AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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