Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Witches Abroad”

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #15 Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

While I’m not completely out from under the weather, I’m a bit more lucid, so hopefully I can write a better review than the last two have been.

Witches Abroad occurs in Pratchett’s Discworld, which I’ve waxed on about before.  (The link should give you a basic gist of Discworld.)  One of Discworld’s reoccurring characters is Granny Weatherwax and her “coven”, but don’t tell her I called it that.  Granny is a no-nonsense witch.  She believes all a witch really needs is a good black peaked hat.  A wart or two on the face helps, but the hat is where the real “magic” is.  Granny doesn’t believe in using magic for most things in life; instead, she relies on what she calls “headology”, which is her version of psychology.  She usually passes out colored water for those that are ill that seek her help; just knowing a witch gave them a remedy is enough to convince people to get well again.    She hangs with Nanny Ogg and Magrat (nope, not a typo, much to Magrat’s chagrin).  Nanny Ogg’s is a grandma that you could go down to the bar with on a Saturday night and pick up men.  She’s the supreme matriarch of her family, but loves a good amount of alcohol and a bawdy song.  She also has a rapscallion cat, named Greebo, who plays a small part in this story.  Magrat can be seen as the traditional white witch of the bunch; she’s a hopeless optimist that believes magic can solve everything.

When a fairy godmother in the area dies, she sends her wand and her final instructions in the god mothering business to Magrat.  She tells Magrat to get to the kingdom and stop the girl from marrying the prince.  She also tells Magrat not to bring those other two old biddies (using “headology”, of course, because she knew it was the only way she could convince Granny and Nanny to go would be to tell them that they can’t).  The three witches set out for their trip, arguing all along the way, of course.  They find that they must stop the other fairy godmother who believes that all life should be a fairy tale.  She currently ruling over the kingdom and has strict laws about how the citizens in fairy tales should behave.  The castle cook must be fat and constantly covered in flour, for example.

The book dovetailed perfectly with my on-again-off-again book, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a modern collection of short stories with a fairy tale vibe.  Fairy tales have been having a comeback lately, with two Snow White movies due out soon and two TV shows.  I love being an armchair sociologist, so I’ve been fascinated by the past recent years trying to figure out why something in our collective subconscious was drawn to superhero movies.  And what is now pulling us towards fairy tales?  The two genres do have their similarities, namely being a conflict between good vs. evil, but what has changed that makes us favor magic, which underlines most fairy tales, instead of strength, with physical strength underling most superhero movies?  Or is the attraction because the two genres have been blending recently?  Stills from the Kristen Stewart Snow White show the fairest of them all comes in armor.  Thor in the new Avengers movie, while having the strength of a god and the body, still has a mythology background (yes, I think mythology can fit into the fairy tale genre quite easily). So far my only theory has been that those of us raised on Disney’s white-washed fairy tales are entering into that Holy Grail of demographics, the 18-34 age range, are meshing with the nostalgia trend (can we, collectively, all agree to let the 80’s lie in peace already?) to create a perfect storm for a fairy tale resurgence.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #03: Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad is the 12th Discworld novel by Sir Terry Pratchett. The thing about Discworld is that you don’t necessarily have to read his books in order. They all take place in the same world, and all the characters pop up and make cameos in each other’s stories, but it doesn’t really matter. But of course, along with having that thing where I can’t quit things, I also have that thing where I have to read things in order. One would think being at #12 would be an accomplishment, and one would normally be right, but Sir “I am a prolific genius” Pratchett has 39 books in his wacky, absurd fantasy world, a world that takes place on a planet that is flat (really literally flat), and which “travels through space on the back of four elephants, which themselves stand on the shell of Great A’Tuin, the sky turtle.” And I have 27 books (and counting*) to go.

*Despite having been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007, he continues to faithfully churn out (well-received) books.

Witches Abroad features the fan-favorite set of characters The Witches, and while they’re not as funny as the Night Watch, say, they still make me laugh quite a lot. The entire novel is basically a deconstruction of fairy-tales. Three witches have to prevent the princess from marrying the prince, and defeat the fairy-godmother, preventing stories from taking over the world — and they’re the good guys. First there’s Granny Weatherwax, a formidable witch who is more akin to a force of nature than an old woman; Nanny Ogg, who is kind of horny; and Magrat Garlick, who is often described as being a “wet hen.”

The pacing is typical Pratchett. There are no chapters, and the characters are thrown headlong into the action. Like many Discworld novels, Witches Abroad is a wacky landslide of inappropriate humor and clever words that gradually spirals into genuine emotion. It was a bit slow to start, and it didn’t get quite real enough at the end, but otherwise, very enjoyable read. Pratchett is good at symmetry, and fittingly enough for a story about the power of stories**, he understands how to work them.

**This book is also about mirrors and sisters and cats and zombies, and there are some dwarves and other assorted fairy-tales to be found as well. There’s even a Gollum-parody near the beginning.

And now, as is traditional with a Discworld book review, here are wacky quotes:

“Nanny Ogg […] had a tendency to come out with what Magrat thought of as double-intenders, although in Nanny Ogg’s case they were generally single entendres, and proud of it.”

“Despite many threats, Granny Weatherwax had never turned anyone into a frog. The way she saw it, there was a technically less cruel but cheaper and much more satisfying thing you could do. You could leave them human and make them think they were a frog, which also provided much innocent entertainment for passers-by.”

“Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because — what with trolls and dwarfs and so on — speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.”

“‘Baths is unhygienic,’ Granny declared. ‘You know I’ve never agreed with baths. Sittin’ around in your own dirt like that.'”

“Magrat was annoyed. She was also frightened, which made her even more annoyed. It was hard for people when Magrat was annoyed. It was like being attacked by damp tissue.”

“She hated everything that predestined people, that fooled them, that made them slightly less than human.”

“You can’t go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it’s just a cage.”

[Link to original review here.]

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