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E. A. Lovitt
- Published on Amazon.com
The witches of Ramtop Mountains are my favorite Discworld characters. I'm surprised no one has yet published "The Wit and Wisdom of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg." They answer all of the important questions of philosophy while getting clobbered by falling houses, chastening fairy godmothers, dueling with assorted wizards, fairies, and vampires, and generally restoring peace to the little villages of the Ramtops, Bad Ass included. They are the moral bedrock (in Nanny Ogg's case, moral 'bedspring') of Pratchett's sane and funny philosophy of life.
Old Granny Weatherwax usually succeeds at whatever task she sets for herself. However the local blacksmith has sired the eighth daughter of an eighth son (himself). A dying wizard staggers into the smithy and bequeaths his staff to a baby who he assumes to be an eighth son of an eighth son.
Right count. Wrong sex.
Granny tries to rectify the matter by destroying the staff, but it indignantly refuses to be destroyed either by force or by witchcraft. Finally she hides it in the smithy and life returns to normal in the little Ramtop mountain village of Bad Ass--at least until Eskarina is seven.
As Pratchett puts it, "Magic has a habit of lying low, like a rake in the grass." When young Eskarina sasses her father in the smithy, he slaps her, and then is knocked cold by the suddenly active staff.
Granny realizes that the wizard's magic had taken hold of Eskarina after all. Still, she's a stubborn old woman with an unshakeable moral center. Wizard's magic is not for females, but who's to say Eskarina can't be trained up as a witch?
Thus begins one of the funniest apprenticeships in fantasy. Eskarina and Granny Weatherwax both have firm ideas on what a witch should and should not do. Granny wants to teach 'headology' to Esk, who scorns any technique that doesn't involve flashes of light and/or bad smells. She wants to learn 'real' magic.
After a near-death experience with a magical technique called 'borrowing' Granny finally girds up her many layers of flannelette and sets off for the Unseen University with her subdued (but not for long) apprentice. Possibly the wizards can teach Esk how to control her wild magic before it destroys her, and maybe Discworld along with her.
There is a musty old rule barring females from the Unseen University, but how long is that going to stop a determined Esk ("Why is that little girl squinting at me?") and an even more determined Granny Weatherwax?
This book is where Granny Weatherwax , Nanny Ogg , and Magrat Garlick first come together as a coven. You could think of this book as the fantasy version of Shakespeare's "MacBeth" (with a bit of "Hamlet" thrown in), as written from the viewpoint of the witches.
You could, but Pratchett would soon disabuse you of that notion. He's much funnier than the Bard, and Yorick (as in `Alas, poor') plays a leading role in his version. With bells on. Here is the Cast of Main Characters:
First Witch: everyone knows witches don't have leaders, but Granny Weatherwax is Discworld's most powerful witch, even though her broom requires a running start. On chilly mornings, it might even need a cliff-side take-off.
Second Witch: Nanny Ogg is the jolly witch who knows all the verses to "A Wizard's Staff Has a Knob on the End." Her tomcat, Greebo has inserted himself into the gene pool of every feline born in Lancre.
Third Witch: Magrat Garlick is the youngest witch of the coven. She is known as a bit of a wet hen, with a fondness for occult jewelry, scented candles, and other New Age paraphernalia.
Court Jester: Yorick is alive and jingling, and his name is Verence. (Death plays the role of the skull in Pratchett's version--Talk about type-casting).
Good King: The King of Lancre, a tiny mountainous principality on Discworld. He is murdered by his successor and spends most of this book as a ghost.
Wicked King: Lord Felmet dispatches the true king, and reigns in his stead. He has trouble scouring the blood off of his hands, even with sandpaper.
Wicked Queen: The former Lady Felmet could give Lady MacBeth a reign for her money. In fact, I'd bet on Lady Felmet.
Tomjon: True heir to Lancre's throne, currently an apprentice actor. At birth, he was granted three gifts by the aforesaid witches.
If you know your Bard (played here by the dwarf, Hwel), you can pretty much guess at the plot of "Wyrd Sisters." Just add time travel, a seven-foot-tall skeleton that speaks in CAPITAL LETTERS, and a wizard-turned-orangutan.
When witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and Nanny's cat Greebo journey abroad, the resulting travel guide is a Pratchettesque version of 'Dave Barry Does Oz in Drag.'
And speaking of Oz and witches, it's a good idea to be wearing a wicker-reinforced pointy hat if a house does happen to fall on your head. Even Dorothy and Glinda the Good might shy away from stealing the red boots of the witch that the farmhouse did to land on. This particular witch writes home:
"PS the privies here are DESGUSTING, they have them INDORES, so much for HIGEINE."
Genua, the witches' destination, resembles a Dismal Swamp version of Disney World. You'll be humming Disney tunes all the way through "Witches Abroad," when you're not humming tunes from "The Wizard of Oz," or laughing hysterically. You won't be able to stop yourself.
This book is even dedicated to song, or more precisely to all those people "who, after the publication of 'Wyrd Sisters,' deluged the author with their version of the words of 'The Hedgehog Song.' Deary deary me..."
Along with the above-mentioned Wyrd Sisters, this tale has a fairy godmother who believes in, nay _orchestrates_ happy endings even if it means chopping off the hands and heads of folks who are inclined to be grumpy. (Doesn't that sound like something Walt Disney might have done?) So when Granny, Nanny, Magrat, and Greebo make a splash landing in Genua, already tempery after a journey involving grandma-munching wolves, falling farmhouses, and larcenous riverboat gamblers---well, there's bound to be a confrontation.
If you'd like to read the Discworld witch books in order of publication, they are: "Equal Rites" (1987), "Wyrd Sisters" (1988), "Witches Abroad" (1991), "Lords and Ladies" (1992), "Maskerade" (1995), and "Carpe Jugulum" (1998). A second, separate series starring young witch Tiffany Aching and featuring Granny Weatherwax includes: "The Wee Free Men" (2003); "A Hat Full of Sky" (2004); "Wintersmith" (2006); and "I Shall Wear Midnight" (2010).