Tiffany Aching, wise beyond her nine years, sets out to find her missing brother, Wentworth. Like all older siblings, she feels displaced by the younger boy. She feels resentment for his presence, his demands, his constantly runny nose. She's already defended Wentworth against a mysterious attacker who rose from the local river to snatch him away. Still, he mysteriously disappears and Tiffany sets off on a self-assigned quest to bring him home. He is, for all his faults, hers.
A nine-year-old girl on a quest is vulnerable. Tiffany, however, doesn't lack allies and support. The first is inexplicable, the second is indefinable. Her allies are a horde of small, blue-tattooed warriors - the Pictsies, the Nac Mac Feegle. Their traditions run to brawling, sheep-stealing and taking a "wee nip" when opportunity presents itself. They're expressive - in Pratchett's hands that means hilarious bits of dialogue, reasoning, philosophy and common sense. Above all, is their insistence on freedom. They've known a monarch, and they detest her. They also fear the power of the written word and lawyers. They're not alone in that.
Tiffany's support is in the memory of her gran. Granny Aching lived alone on the Chalk. She was quiet, but powerful. As a shepherdess, she knew the ways of sheep and nature. She could confront powerful people, achieving success with minimal effort. No curse can match the potency of a quietly spoken expression: "There'll be a reckoning". Granny's at the edge of much of Tiffany's thinking. She instills in Tiffany a sense of value: "Speak out for those with no voice". Is her memory enough to give Tiffany strength against the Pictsies' arch enemy, the "Quin"?
As usual, Pratchett delivers more than he promises. This is sold as a "children's book", but memories of The Who's great song will be running through adults' heads as they read the Nac Mac Feegle's fervent chant. Like any Pratchett book, The Wee, Free Men contains many strata of ideas beckoning your further inquiry. The first time you read this book, it will be for the adventure, the novelty and the fun. The second time will be to delve more deeply into Pictsish. See how deftly Pratchett confronts us with "real world" issues seeking resolution. Pratchett is almost unique in his incorporating science in his stories, and is unmatched in this ability. His depiction of the origins of chalk is a wondrous read. Not limited to physical science, he probes cogent human questions. Buy this for your children, but when they've put it aside for the first time [and they will return to it later], steal away with it to a quiet corner. You'll discover both a place to escape and a rigorous reality confronting you. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa]
on June 17, 2003
The Wee Free Men are scared--the lines between the world are getting thin and the Queen that they once served is ready to break through. Only a witch can help--but the only witch available is nine-year-old Tiffany. Tiffany Aching doesn't know magic and she doesn't have a pointed hat, but she's decided she will be a witch some day. With the arrival of the Queen and the kidnapping of Tiffany's brother, some day arrives more quickly than Tiffany had anticipated.
Tiffany sets off on an adventure in a dream world--a world where your dreams can hurt you, and where other being's dreams can hurt you even more. The Queen is the mistress of dreams--and nightmares. In her kingdom, and increasingly in the mundane world that Tiffany comes from, nightmare monsters are loose. Even the wee free men cannot stand against them.
Author Terry Pratchett starts with a simple fairy tale--the poor shepherd girl facing the evil Queen, and dresses it with multiple layers of meaning. At the simplest level, WEE FREE MEN is an adventure that twists many of the established rules of the fairy tale (the witches are the goodguys, the beautiful Queen is evil, and the baron's son is purely incompetent). Dig deeper and every detail had weight. The Wee Men are funny with their Scottish accents and willingness to fight, but they are also a bit sad and more especially, a good example for all of us. Like us, they've been fooled before. Unlike most of us, they are willing to fight to prevent it from happening again.
Tiffany, armed with her frying pan and with instructions to open her eyes, then open them again, is unusually clever for a nine-year-old, but then she is the hero. With the example of her grandmother behind her, there is little that Tiffany cannot do if she can keep her mind on it--and keep from being swept up in other people's dreams.
I might be making WEE GREEN MEN sound like some sort of philosophy text and nothing could be farther from the truth. It's filled with Pratchett humor and insights, an exciting adventure, and emotional complexities. One small word of warning--although the Nac Mac Feegle (the wee men) appear in Discworld stories, Tiffany's world resembles our own a lot more than it does the Discworld of Ankh Morpork and the Great God Om.
on February 12, 2007
Miss Perspicacia Tick is a full-time witch with a Gold Swimming Certificate from the Quirm College for Young Ladies. As the book opens, she has just discovered a ripple in the walls of the world - this, she suspects,is being caused by another world making contact. The point of contact appears to be in an area called the Chalk - she thinks she should go and investigate, but her elbow (which is rarely wrong) tells her there is already a witch living there.
Tiffany Aching, the book's heroine, is nine years old and lives on a farm in the Chalk. She has six older sisters, one younger brother (the permanently sticky Wentworth) and is very good with cheese. Throughout the book, it's clear she idolised her Granny Aching, who died when Tiffany was seven. Granny was a shepherdess, an expert on sheep, very fond of Jolly Sailor tobacco and - Tiffany suspects - a witch. Remembering how Granny always said it was important to speak up for those who have no voice, Tiffany has decided she wants to be a witch as well.
As it turns out, Tiffany is the witch Miss Tick's elbow sensed and has the gifts of First Sight and Second Thoughts. Miss Tick is also correct about two worlds colliding - Fairyland, ruled by the Queen, is running into the Discworld. Fairyland is where dreams come true, which isn't quite as pleasant as you might think - nightmares, after all, also count as dreams. Worse yet, after having "rescued" Wentworth from Jenny Green-Teeth, thanks to an expertly delivered frying-pan to the face, Wentworth is kidnapped by the Queen. Tiffany feels it's up to herto rescue him and bring him home.
The stars of the book, however, are the Wee Free Men. Also known as the Nac Mac Feegle, they were thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk, disorderly and rebelloius. A Pictsie race, they are covered in tattoos, have blue skin and red hair and wear little other than kilts and swords. Extremely strong and fast, they enjoy stealing, fighting and drinking - Granny Aching's Special Sheep Linament is a particular favourite. They don't like telling anyone their names, think writing is magical and are frightened only of lawyers. Luckily for Tiffany, they join her raid on Fairyland. Rob Anybody Feegle, the Big Man O' The Clan, is especially brave, while Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock is notable for his willingness to use poetry in tight situations. The Toad (Miss Tick's familiar) - who is reasonably sure he was once human - also offers Tiffany a great deal of advice on her travels. His current condition is the result of having crossed a Fairy Godmother.
"The Wee Free Men", a "Story of Discworld" rather than a "Discworld Novel", won the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel in 2004. If you've enjoyed anything from the ordinary Discworld series, you'll certainly enjoy this !
on June 16, 2004
This is the story of Tiffany Aching, a 9-year-old farmers' daughter, living in a green, hilly, full-of-sheep countryside named the Chalk (DW). One day when she's walking by the river with her capricious baby brother Wentworth, she's attacked by Jenny Green-Teeth, a monster with long teeth and eyes as wide as eight-inch soup plates. Nightmares are invading the land.
Not long after, Wentworth is kidnapped by the Queen of FairyLand. Following the advice of Miss Tick, a witch she met at the village fair, and her talking toad, and with the help of the Nac Mac Feegles, the blue-skinned little pictsies with the strong Scottish accent, she arms herself with a frying pan and her Granny's book on Diseases of the Sheep, and sets off in searched of her brother.
Beside being extremely funny and packed with action, The Wee Free Men is also a really sweet book, full of Tiffany's fond memories of Granny Aching, who was a famous shepherd of the Chalk, and a kind of witch in her own way. It's a story both for adults and children, telling you to look at the World around you, and teaching you, in a light way, the respect of Nature or other moral values. This might well be my favourite Discworld book, I absolutely loved it!
Pratchett has created Tiffany in Dreamland - a Discworld version of the girl on a quest. Could this turn out to become a new timeless classic like Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass? Why ever not. Alice's adventures have infiltrated everyday English culture and language with their images and proverbial sayings. So might the Nac Mac Feegle, the Wee Free Men, enrich our mind's eye and add to our vocabulary with expressions like "Crivens "! Whatever its long-term influence, this wonderful story is highly entertaining for everybody. Its expressive ironic humour as well as its underlying wisdom reach far beyond the Discworld fans.
Tiffany Aching, the heroine of the story, inquisitive and mature for her nine years, views herself as an apprentice witch. She has the tools: a cast-iron frying pan, a piece of string, an unusual book of recipes, and, above all, the memory of her very special granny. To rescue her brother, Tiffany has to enter a fairyland, full of strange and dangerous creatures, all controlled by an evil "Quin". Fortunately, she has inherited "first sights and second thoughts" - a powerful combination for a budding witch. These are essential talents for her to distinguish between reality and dreams: "to see what is really there" and what is imagination created within a dream. "Follow your dream", Miss Tick's advice to Tiffany, builds up to a real challenge when Tiffany, after fighting wild animals and dream-creating dromes finally confronts the Queen. She has to peel off layer after layer of their dreams to escape from being taken over by them, then use her own dreaming power to find a way back to her own reality.
Tiffany's quest wouldn't have a chance at being successful - and would be a lot less funny -without the Nac Mac Feegle. What a hilarious bunch of little guys in kilts (only one girl and the ageing kelda) they are: full of mischief, fighting spirit and a wonderful version of Scottish. Wouldn't you like those around to do the chores around the house! But you would need some witching power - otherwise they would go back to their nasty tricks, like stealing eggs or making the sheep disappear. Their language and vivid expressions are a treat in themselves. Turning up in a black suit with a bow tie, one of them explains sheepishly: "The dream wouldnae let us in unless we wuz properly dressed..."
Pratchett has created a real gem of a Discworld story here - fast moving, imaginative and highly entertaining for young and old. It would not be Pratchett if he did not find a way to weave in some educational messages and real-life round-world wisdoms. [Friederike Knabe]
on October 26, 2003
Terry Pratchett does not dumb down his books for children, so they are all also great reads for adults. WFM is no exception. OK, the Nac Mac Feegle have had some of their language simplified since Carpe Jugulum but that is about as far as any dumbing down goes.
Somehow, rather than thinking of this as a children's Discworld book, I can't help feeling that it is actually just another book in the series which is based in an area of the Disc which hasn't been used before. It must be fairly close to Bad Ass and Lancre because Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax appear at the end but otherwise it is a new bit of the Disc which PTerry hasn't brought to our notice in the past.
Tiffany is suitably "witchy" and has proper family values (i.e. she doesn't like her brother but he's *her* brother!). Miss Tick is suitably out of place on the Chalk.
Great book, great story, hope the character appear again!
on June 1, 2004
The walls of the worlds are coming together and monster will soon walk the land. But the event is happening in a region without a witch. One witch journeys to teach a possible hopeful to hold things together while she goes for more serious help. But nine-year-old Tiffany Aching is made of better stuff than suspected.
Right from the start Tiffany shows her promise as she manages to befriend the nastiest elves around and even gets them to help with her chores. But then Tiffany's brother goes missing so she and the Mac Nac Feegle (the six-inch, blue tattooed Pictsies of Scottish relation) set off to hunt him down and steal him back.
The story is fast moving, well told and an absolute must for fans of Granny Weatherwax. This is the first book of Tiffany and the Mac Nac Feegle and I hope there will be plenty more. The Scottish allusions and brogues are done to a T. The "logic" of Pratchett's Diskworld and magic system never waver. Very well done.
on November 7, 2012
This is the first Pratchett book I ever read, and I enjoyed it so much that I proceeded to read all of his other Discworld books. Tiffany is a character that I could relate to very well when I was in my teens, and I have enjoyed growing up with her. The Wee Free Men provide a great deal of comedic relief, and for this reason more than any other this is my go-to book if I've had a bad week. It always makes me laugh. Pratchett pulls you right into the story and I just lose myself in his world.
on August 4, 2005
My three kids, husband and I loved it. The narration was superb and the story a fun trip. We laughed throughout the CD and have recommended it to anyone who stood still. Because I like a story to unfold as I read or listen to it, I will only say that the heroine is a young girl and the Wee Free Men are the heros and they make a great team. Enjoy!
on April 14, 2009
Disc World, little blue men, a girl named Tiffany Aching who makes cheeses,good ones too. What more can you want in a Terry Pratchett story? This story is supposed to be for children but is a good read for grown-ups too. I know cus I am one yea wee dafty. This is a great story. Go out and read it afore I get out my mouse pipes and play.