Pratchett's Women
September 7, 2014 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Pratchett's Women: nine essays (by Australian fantasy author Tansy Rayner Roberts) on the portrayal of women in the Discworld books

(all essays contain spoilers)

I. The Boobs, the Bad and the Broomsticks
II. Slash! Stab! A Lesson in Practical Queening
III. Werewolf Glamour & the Sexing of Dwarves
IV. His Henpecked Voice
V. The Seamstress Redemption
VI. Pole Dancers, Goblin Girls, and the Family Man
VII. A Wonderful Personality and Good Hair
VIII. Has Scythe, Will Teach School
IX. The Truth Has Got Her Boots On

An August of Tansy:
"Tehani at Fablecroft has released an e-collection of my Pratchett’s Women essays, following the development of female characters across the Discworld novels. The book contains all nine Pratchett’s Women essays that have appeared here on the blog, starting with the original “The Boobs, the Bad and the Broomsticks” which remains by far the most viewed page ever published on this blog, at over 13,000 hits. All essays have been revised for this edition.

The (unauthorised) essays cover various issues to do with feminism, invisible wives, fairy tales, fatness, gender performance, motherhood, witchcraft, romance and identity in the Discworld. The book includes one bonus essay which is exclusive to the e-edition: “Socks, Lies and the Monstrous Regiment,” which covers the extraordinary feminist achievement of that particular novel, and explores my discomfort with how my 20-something self reacted so differently to the book than I do now in my thirties. So if you’ve read all the other essays for free you might still like to get hold of the book for completion’s sake. I’m pretty sure I have not yet said EVERYTHING I have to say about Pratchett’s Discworld and the women who live there, but this is me done for now."
posted by flex (57 comments total) 128 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is actually something I've been thinking about a fair amount recently, so thank you very much for this post! Looking forward to reading these.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:40 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't overstate how much I love the Tiffany Aching books, and I'm starting to dive in to the other witch books. Aside from capturing what it's like to be a girl whose just a little too smart for her own good, they have been the best antidote to my sometimes intense bouts of homesickness and self-doubt. They are what I read and reread when I'm far from the folks and places I love, feeling a little over my head.
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:50 PM on September 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


Thank you, flex, this is exactly what I needed. I have enjoyed the Aching books, and some of the witch books, as well as the Moist books, but when I started the series from the beginning it slowed down to a slog. Helps to have some guide to reading it out of order, and what to look for.
posted by emjaybee at 5:48 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


This makes me very happy. I've been in a funk and (re)reading lots of Pratchett lately.
posted by bunderful at 6:00 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Helps to have some guide to reading it out of order

If you're so inclined, here's a map of the various sub-series. (Edited to replace link with a more up-to-date version.)

With that said, thanks to Mark Reads and this guy, I have become persuaded of the wisdom in starting from the beginning and going in chronological order from there. And if you're not following Mark, that might actually be a good way to help maintain your interest through the earlier books.

(I've read all but the latest, myself, and am now in the middle of a sequential reread, the first time I'm reading it in order from start to finish... currently I'm up to Soul Music, so about 40% of the way through.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:00 PM on September 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I've long thought that Sir pTerry has written pretty much the only believable women in fantasy, ever.

Off to read the links to see whether a woman think so, or if I'm wrong.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:04 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I so wanted to name my cat Magrat, but it just didn't suit her.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:48 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't really mean to go read that whole thing instead of making dinner, but I did and I'm not sorry. That was really good, and I am overdue for a full read-through.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:54 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I didn't intend to stop doing everything in order to read the whole thing. Damn. And I bought it so I could read the Monstrous Regiment essay, too.
posted by Peach at 6:58 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've long thought that Sir pTerry has written pretty much the only believable women in fantasy, ever.

I'm far less critical of his early female characters than the author, but, yes, if you think those are the only believable women in fantasy, you need to read more fantasy, especially that written by women.

I would start with Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold - a book about a highly believable - and remarkable, but also normal - middle aged woman.
posted by jb at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


I realised that I stated an oxymoron - remarkable and normal. What I meant is that the character is not at all Mary Sue-ish. She's really real (right now to the saddle sores, and fatigue), while still being remarkable.
posted by jb at 7:03 PM on September 7, 2014


I'm sorry, hamstrung myself with typing too fast, as usual. Most believable written by a man.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:05 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I quite liked the women in novels by Geoff Ryman, as well - especially The Warrior who Carried Life.
posted by jb at 7:07 PM on September 7, 2014


Saving these to read later. I've only now started reading the Tiffany Aching books, and loved them. I like how Pratchett writes younger characters - Tiffany and Johnny from Johnny and the Dead.

For men writing great, real women characters, Curse of Chalion is way up there, but I'll also put in a nod to Toni and Candy (and their mother Elena) in Sean Stewart's Mockingbird, which I recommend endlessly.
posted by PussKillian at 7:11 PM on September 7, 2014


Um...The Curse of Chalion is by a woman (the aforesaid Bujold) - albeit, the only woman that I know who has taken the feminist planet-of-all-women-utopia and turned it on its head by writing a planet-of-all-men-that-isn't-half-bad novel. Also, Bujold writes some pretty believable men. I think it helps that she writes believable people, first and foremost.
posted by jb at 7:15 PM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Interesting that the author chose not to deal in-depth with the Tiffany Aching books or Monstrous Regiment, the works of Pratchett's that are most explicitly about women and women's roles.
posted by firechicago at 7:31 PM on September 7, 2014


I've long thought that Sir pTerry has written pretty much the only believable women in fantasy, ever.

The Paladin by CJ Cherryh is very good.

Also her Chanur books are an achingly clever feminist essay on understanding and social change, via the medium of gritty sci fi, from the viewpoint of ragingly sexist female space cats.

But, uh, much better than that probably sounds?
posted by Sebmojo at 7:39 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


> "I quite liked the women in novels by Geoff Ryman, as well - especially The Warrior who Carried Life."

My fave Ryman female character is the lead of The Child Garden, although that one's science fiction rather than fantasy.

Other male fantasy authors who do women well include Max Gladstone (especially Three Parts Dead and Full Fathom Five), Galen Beckett (especially The Magicians and Mrs. Quent), Martin Millar (especially Lonely Werewolf Girl and its sequels), and Joel Shepherd (especially Sasha and its sequels).
posted by kyrademon at 7:53 PM on September 7, 2014


And Guy Gavriel Kay, I think, but a woman's perspective on that would be far more informed, so I'd like to know.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:55 PM on September 7, 2014


one thing I love about prachett is how I can watch his opinion towards women change over the course of the series. I look forward to reading these essays!
posted by rebent at 7:58 PM on September 7, 2014


firechicago: The book has an essay on Monstrous Regiment and the Aching books are marketed at YA so it's easy to see why they would have their own category. They're so explicitly about growth too, it's hard to talk about Tiffany without seeing where he's going. And that's a long call on 'most explicitly about women' given Equal Rites. They're better at it certainly but it isn't like they're the first.

I'd love it if Tansy did do an essay or two on them, but like I said, it's easy to see why they're not included.

Tansy is also a great author, excellent podcaster, and all round fun sort of lady (given what I've seen at cons).

Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl was fucking abysmal and I'm kinda horrified to see it as a 'male author writing women well' rec.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2014


and Joel Shepherd (especially Sasha and its sequels)

Someone else read the Sasha books! I found them fascinating and full of crunchy political stuff, not all of which I agreed with, but I liked the way he was wrestling with it. I did like the gender politics, though, especially the differing ways Sasha and her sister managed their positions and their individual types of power.

flex, thanks for this post: great reading.
posted by suelac at 8:55 PM on September 7, 2014


Well I can't be having with this sort of thing. Glytha!
posted by angerbot at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to buy the ebook anywhere but Amazon?
posted by viggorlijah at 9:24 PM on September 7, 2014


Is it possible to buy the ebook anywhere but Amazon?

Smashwords
Barnes & Noble
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:30 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Derp, I do know that Bujold is a woman. Changed what I was originally going to say and didn't edit properly. Still recommend Mockingbird, though.
posted by PussKillian at 9:52 PM on September 7, 2014


Did I miss it, or is there no mention of Spike / Adora Belle?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:11 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


i_am_joe's_spleen, there is no mention. Not even in the e-book (which was quite enjoyable for $1.99).
posted by infinitewindow at 10:21 PM on September 7, 2014


I've been rationing my remaining Pratchett books and haven't read the Tiffany Aching books yet. As a result, I've stopped in the middle of both The Turtle Moves and the Folklore of Discworld because they seemed likely to reveal parts of the stories. This is another thing I'll look forward to after a few more books.
posted by Zed at 10:36 PM on September 7, 2014


I adore Sir Terry, and have been a fan since discovering The Color of Magic and realizing, as I read the following books in the Discworld series (voraciously and repeatedly) that the first one I read, which I liked, was probably the worst of the bunch. Over the years, he just kept getting better and better.

I don't think anyone is better at creating and fleshing out characters than Pratchett. The extraordinary creative imagination that gave birth to the Discworld also populated it with such singular personalities that you cannot help but become immersed in their lives.

I frequently reread the Discworld novels, and as I do I predictably go through various stages of thinking that each of his series is superior to the other. Surely his Guardsman stories are the best--no wait, it is definitely the witches--oh, crap, I forgot how fun the Wizards are!

It was tough enough before Pterry decided to throw a curve into the mix and, throwing caution to the wind, introduce two new series to piggyback on top of his successfully established ones. So NOW I have to factor in the delightfully wily Moist Von Lipzig along with junior witch/cheese maker extraordinaire Tiffany Aching into my equations, too. Which, of course, makes it even harder to decide. But really, you can enjoy them all on their own terms, so there's no need to favor one over the others anyway.

I don't usually separate out only the women characters as a group, because to me all of the characters are so strong individually, and then again it seems like a more natural dividing line is between the various series. Obviously, though, gender becomes an issue with the witches and the wizards, because magic is divided by gender in the Discworld novels.

So, in that sense, Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully's counterpart would ostensibly be Granny Weatherwax--but really, she has no equal. She is, literally and figuratively in the series, an indomitable force of nature. And Nanny Ogg is just an all-around delight who I feel could run rings around any of the wizards in Unseen University herself (Probably while singing The Wizard's Staff has a Knob on the End all the while).

Which brings us to Tiffany Aching. I like Tiffany, who manages to marry strong magical ability to an eminently pragmatic sensibility (much in the way Granny Weatherwax does) while also having a touch of Nanny Ogg to her character (her ties to her family and the Chalk and her relationship with the Nac MacFeegles).

But I'm always a little surprised at how popular Tiffany is, because to my mind she is not by any means Pratchett's strongest character, or even his strongest female character. I know she is marketed specifically to the YA audience, which accounts for some of her popularity, but she's strong enough to stand in with the other witches in the Discworld canon, too, and it's not like any of Pratchett's other work is really unsuitable for young adults, either.

So I hope that the essays linked in this FPP will encourage those who are only familiar with the Tiffany Aching series to explore more of the Discworld, so they can meet the other characters and fall in love with them, too.
posted by misha at 10:45 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm still trying to figure out what a strawberry wobbler is. I suppose I should give in and buy the Joy of Snacks.
posted by maxwelton at 11:09 PM on September 7, 2014


I'm still trying to figure out what a strawberry wobbler is. I suppose I should give in and buy the Joy of Snacks.

You may not want to know...
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:48 PM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed these far more than I thought I would do, which is high praise. I would like to see her take on some of the newer books as well, where Pratchett revisits some of the themes from earlier work in new settings. Unseen Academicals in particular has several female characters which read as more updated and interesting versions of earlier Pratchett efforts.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:07 AM on September 8, 2014


Did I miss it, or is there no mention of Spike / Adora Belle?

Well, if Spike has been left out, I’m not buying it. One of my favo(u)rite characters in all the Discworld novels. Well, her and Moist.

“Oh, it’s you. Not dead? Good."
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:23 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I take such delight in Pratchett's witch books. I've tried my hand at other Discworld books, but, while they've been fine and all, they just don't have the same charm for me. I think it helps that where I grew up resembles Lancre in many ways, but, really, it's the witches - such a diverse set of characters, each delightful in her own way, bouncing off each other like some kind of narrative pinball machine.

Anyway, I remember reading that Nanny Ogg might actually be more powerful than Granny Weatherwax, and that's an idea I've really taken to. Over the years, I've come to find Nanny Ogg and her means of having power and wielding influence and being a matriarch absolutely fascinating, especially when juxtaposed to the more immediately impressive Weatherwax school of headology.
posted by erlking at 7:17 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, even Granny respects Nanny and notes she has a special kind of magic all her own.
posted by misha at 7:38 AM on September 8, 2014


Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl was fucking abysmal and I'm kinda horrified to see it as a 'male author writing women well' rec.

Thank you. That book is appalling. I made my sister read it so I'd have someone to share my misery.

I have to admit, Angua never stood out much to me or was a favorite of mine, and the essays that mention her help explain why - if she does get a point of view in a book, it's quickly dropped.

I've read most, if not all, of the Discworld books but haven't spent much time rereading them. This post makes me want to round up all the witch books and read them again.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:43 AM on September 8, 2014


Unseen Academicals in particular has several female characters which read as more updated and interesting versions of earlier Pratchett efforts

Unseen Academicals is really uneven but it always hovers near my favorite list cause of Glenda Sugarbean realizing you can't live other people's lives FOR them and just because you think something is trivial (fashion, sports, etc) doesn't mean it's stupid.
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


(and yeah I thought no Adora Belle was interesting, her take on having to treat Golems *as Golems*, not as interchangeable with humans or other beings, was really interesting. Although her slap slap kiss relationship with Moist is a little cliche I think we all agree Moist really needs to be slapped from time to time.

Come to think about it, are Moist and Adora the only real romance-y novel-y couple in the series?)
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, there was Cohen and Bethan, they were a sorta couple.

As a big fan, I love reading what people here love about Pratchett, how they see his work, his characters, his books. Great fun to read, thanks.
posted by marienbad at 8:33 AM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Come to think about it, are Moist and Adora the only real romance-y novel-y couple in the series?)

Well, there's Commander Vimes and Lady Sybil. And Verence and Magrat. But most of the time, romance is just vaguely hinted at, which I really like. I loved the end of Pyramids, where we're left to wonder about the whole set of relationships between Teppic, Ptraci, and Chidder, and whether or not Teppic even decides to stay in Djelibeybi.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2014


Did I miss it, or is there no mention of Spike / Adora Belle?

Nope, none -- but that's only, I suspect, that she hasn't read them yet or written it up.

The books that basically don't have female characters even in the background are also either glossed over (The Colour of Magic) or ignored (Faust Eric.)


As to the rest, she explicitly mentions that The Truth is the book that brought her back to Discworld and led her to rereading. The only books mentioned after that are Thief of Time, Night Watch, Thud! and Snuff. The first is the apparent close of the Susan Sto Helit books, and the last three are Sam Vimes.

This leave out the whole Most Von Lipwig books (where Adora Belle appears), Monstrous Regiment, Unseen Academicals, and the Tiffany Aching series, which were referred to only in passing, such as Esk returning in I Shall Wear Midnight.
posted by eriko at 11:32 AM on September 8, 2014


Although her slap slap kiss relationship with Moist is a little cliche I think we all agree Moist really needs to be slapped from time to time.

Venetari does. Of course, it's obvious to me that Venetari is grooming Moist to be the next Patrician. He came up an assassin, why not groom a conman for the seat?
posted by eriko at 11:36 AM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I remember reading that Nanny Ogg might actually be more powerful than Granny Weatherwax, and that's an idea I've really taken to.

It's almost certainly true. Remember headology. You don't have to actually have power. You just have to believe that the person has power. Everybody believes Granny Weatherwax is the most power witch. Nanny Ogg knows who is.

And Nanny Ogg ain't telling.
posted by eriko at 11:40 AM on September 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm very curious why both the people above hated Lonely Werewolf Girl so much. I thought it was so much fun! Yeah the writing was a little stilted, but that's for comic effect, Pratchett himself does it sometimes too.

I could never get in to the Tiffany Aching books, although I loved the pre-Tiffany Witches. I wish Magrat and Agnes could have stayed around rather than needing to go on to the next generation quite so fast.

Spike should definitely be included!
posted by Henrietta Stackpole at 11:43 AM on September 8, 2014


Eriko: True, but while Esme excels at headology, it’s hardly her only trick. Granny Weatherwax demonstrates a wide range of abilities over the course of the series (including the Aching books), and anything she does, she does exceedingly well. Well, except growing warts. But other than that, I’ll be firmly in the Mistress Weatherwax camp. She’s one scary lady (though I’ll grant that Nanny Ogg is, beyond any doubt, one bad mother). Together, they are unstoppable, as the board of the Anhk-Morpork Opera discovered.
posted by bouvin at 12:42 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I read the novels out of order, and continue to read them out of order, as needed.

The book has an essay on Monstrous Regiment.
posted by Peach at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2014


"Cockforest," a new word that I have learned by reading these essays. Thank you, Tansy.
posted by LMGM at 2:01 PM on September 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Granny Weatherwax demonstrates a wide range of abilities over the course of the series (including the Aching books), and anything she does, she does exceedingly well.

Yes, but it's built on Granny's complete faith that she is in fact the best witch on the disk. This is exactly why Nanny Ogg would make damn sure that Granny Weatherwax was always seen as being the best. Because she'd be nothing if that faith was truly shaken, and then Nanny Ogg would have to do all the work.

The other factor: There are times where you see Granny Weatherwax wondering if a plan would work -- only to herself, of course. You *never* see, other than in the past*, Nanny Ogg anything but absolutely certain she could handle it. Ever. About the only time you see her dead serious is when Wen the Eternally Surprised finally arrives at the right for Nanny Ogg, and she just grabs the tools, even the ones she never wants to use, and goes to work. But while she's serious, she is still absolutely certain that she is the one for the job.

If it came to a test of wills? It would be a long test, it would be a hard test, and it would probably make Lancre uninhabitable for decades afterwards, but the person would win is Nanny Ogg. Granny Weatherwax may be sure, but Nanny Ogg simply has no understanding of what not being sure is, which means at some point Granny Wetherwax might question herself, but Nanny Ogg never will.

Oh, in "The sea and little fishes", Nanny Ogg admits her family has a truly incredible amount of magical talent, but they just don't like working hard. But then again, maybe she was just making Granny Weatherwax sure.**


* Mistress Ogg was uncertain. Mother Ogg was certain. Nanny Ogg is a fundamental theorem of certainty.

** Oh, and I'm pretty sure Sir Terry is on record that he think Nanny Ogg is the more powerful witch as well.
posted by eriko at 3:19 PM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


This made me decide that the reading for my upcoming travel (three conventions, three weekends, aaagh) is going to be Re-Reading Discworld In Publication Order. I read most of them as they came out, but I haven't done much re-reading due to one thing and another.

I wonder how much I'll want to slap some of the protagonists I used to identify with, now that I'm much more Granny Weatherwax than Mort.
posted by egypturnash at 4:19 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Reading The Sea and Little Fishes was an utter revelation for me, in terms that I'd never once identified with Weatherwax (I come up Vimes, most of the time) until I read it on the way to work one day. I hated that job, I really did, and I was at the end of my tether and mired in Imposter Syndrome bullshit and feeling so very very alone. And I read it and it was like some goddamn Zen koan or something. Granny Weatherwax does question herself, constantly. She's the counterpoint to Vimes - waiting to see if she'll go bad, and checking herself all the way down. Knowing she could, knowing how it would go. Knowing that Nanny Ogg is her braking mechanism, is her insurance because as much as Weatherwax knows she's the best witch on the disc, Nanny Ogg has a life behind and around her.

Go and read it, it's amazing.

(we've previously ascertained that I'm married to a young male version of Nanny Ogg, so it works on a lot of levels for me)

Derail about Lonely Werewolf Girl: oh god the shithouse writing, IDC if it's for effect it was bad and awful from start to finish and Kalix is a two-note, beginner RPG, fanfic morass of tropes managing to lack any actual character, and the plot just spirals out of control, and it's not even fun to read. Which by all rights it should be. It's like someone decided to take Order of the Phoenix Harry, make him a girl werewolf, and ramp up the angst. I like YA, I like angst, I fucking love badass bullshit girl and lady characters, but LWG was just terrible.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:30 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Glenda Sugarbean! Of course!
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:53 PM on September 8, 2014


Granny Weatherwax is the best, I think it's really indisputable. Nanny Ogg is the natural --- she is the more deeply connected to the primeval, the elementary forces of the world, in a way that Granny isn't and never can be (cf. the Long Man, Oggish). But Granny Weatherwax studies, because she has the will to power. Talent can take you far, but talent plus preparation, that way true greatness lies. In the end Granny wants it more than Nanny.
posted by Diablevert at 11:31 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It now occurs to me that part of the dynamic is that Granny Weatherwax is Superman and Nanny Ogg is Batman. One reason Weatherwax keeps Ogg close is because Weatherwax knows that if she loses it and runs out of control, Ogg's the only one who could stop her.

(Superman's thinking about mind control rather than getting carried away with his power, and it's the other way around with Weatherwax; Batman has explicitly put thought and effort into countermeasures, but I don't think Ogg thinks about it...)
posted by Zed at 1:18 PM on September 9, 2014


That analogy does not make a lick of sense. I don't think it really maps well to the Discworld mythos in any case, but inasmuch as you want to try and draw the analogy, it still doesn't make sense. Superman cannot help being Superman; his power is intrinsic to his being, and alien, as he is. Batman chooses to be Batman; he has no power except was he has bought himself and what he has taught himself.

Magic, in Patchett's world is a natural force which some few gifted people have the capacity to tap into. (It occurs to me now in indulging in this utterly inane and punctilious tangent that Patchett is actually rather vague and incoherent about the nature of magic in this regard in the books.) But even if you have the capacity, tapping into that force successfully requires effort, will, study, training, and this is so for all magic wielders. You might make a case, based on the evidence in the books, that Nanny Ogg has a greater natural capacity for magic, inasmuch as she is the Mother, with an intuitive understand of and affinity for sex and birth, and ancestral, blood-borne connection to the prehistoric world where those forces had yet to be civilised, channelled. But you cannot make a case, based on the evidence in the books, that Ogg has put in more effort, more will, more study and training into becoming a good witch, than Granny. Consistently, throughout the witches books, when new boundaries are broken, when new feats of magic heretofore thought impossible are performed, it is Granny who does them, Granny who takes the damn near scientific approach to trying to better understand and expand the limits of magic. There are realms where Nanny is superior to Granny --- sex and birth, as I mentioned above. But the whole breadth of magic? We're told and shown, over and over, that it's Granny who has most fully explored and indeed stretched those boundaries. Borrowing, fairyland, the mirror realm, blood magic --- in all of these Granny is the master. And she is because she has troubled to become so, because she has struggled and taught herself to understand them and to apply that understanding. In this eternal tutelage she is far more akin to the Great Detective than the uber-mensch. The evidence of Carpe Juggulum alone should be enough to put to rest this notion. Nanny wavers and nearly succumbs to the vampire's magic; granny overcomes them, turns them to her will through the power of her blood.


[sigh.]

.....sometimes I wish metafilter did have inline images, because if anyone ever deserved to have a gif of Tina Fey snarling "nnnnnnnnerds!" appended to their comment it's me right now.
posted by Diablevert at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I was cherry-picking only the aspect I referred to--one being a failsafe for the other--and ignoring the smorgasbord of other connotations, my fellow nnnnnnnnerd!
posted by Zed at 2:48 PM on September 9, 2014


The two of them are powerful in completely different ways, and their approaches are what I like best about the witches, because they all have this one common thing, magic, and of course there are some other commonalities like living in small villages and being Known by everyone and all that.

But whereas Nanny Ogg bends and adapts, networks and ingratiates--there are Oggs EVERYWHERE and she controls this vast network, because she is the indisputed CEO--Granny Weatherwax stands alone.

The magic didn't choose her, she chose the magic. She sat on an elder witch's doorstep until finally the woman gave in and trained her, because she had supreme confidence in her abilities. Granny knows she is the best. There are no head witches, of course, but if there were, Granny knows she is the best.

But she also knows that "With great power comes great responsibility" and so she questions herself all the time--am I slipping into that darkness? Am I justified in doing what I am doing, or am I doing it because I can?"

So, though she stands alone, paradoxically Nanny Ogg is her best friend, because in addition to being her equal in magic, no one is more grounded than Nanny. Nanny is not going to be needy or clingy or anything, but she will keep Granny on an even keel.

Nanny is delightfully amoral in some ways, she drinks and swears and half of her vocabulary is just sexual innuendoes, so it seems like she does whatever the hell she wants. But Nanny is never going to get carried away by Dark Magic or anything. She's put down so many roots there is no way she is going to budge.

So Nanny is ALSO the best, but her witchery takes nothing away from Granny's witchery, it just adds to it. She gives Granny a completely different perspective, so that Granny also stays grounded.
posted by misha at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


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