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Through another Looking Glass
on January 5, 2004
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]