By: Terry Pratchett
Meet Granny Weatherwax, the most highly regarded non-leader a coven of non-social witches could ever have. Generally, these loners don’t get involved in anything, much less royal intrigue. But then there are those times they can’t help it. As Granny Weatherwax is about to discover, though, it’s a lot harder to stir up trouble in the castle than some theatrical types would have you think. Even when you’ve got a few unexpected spells up your sleeve.
For readers curious about the origin of the name “Wyrd Sister,” it is a rather clever reference to the ancient pre-Christian triple goddess, Weird sometimes also referred to as “The Fates.” The witches of the Discworld believe everyone can influence destiny and that destiny is not a predetermined set of circumstances. An individual can actively change the course of history which is why they generally don’t believe in meddling in someone’s affairs especially when it comes to royalty. This soft rule originates from the popular opinion that magic is not for ruling but is meant to be ruled which is why there are no wizard or witch monarchs. However, the witches find their backs up against a wall and feel they have no choice but to restore their kingdom of Lancre to order themselves. Since they cannot rule, they must find a new king.
As always, Pratchett uses his wit and satire to make scathing commentary about the real world at large. The man who rightfully should sit on the throne of Lancre is a thespian, and Granny Weatherwax recognizes something quite startling about the nature of plays.
“The theater worried her. It had a magic of it’s own…It was commanded by ordinary people, who didn’t know the rules. They altered the world because it sounded better.”
This quote ties into the main theme about how history is, in many ways, fabricated. We’ve all heard the saying that history is written by the victors but we often think of history as things that happened hundreds of years ago. What if our perception of history starts with today, in this moment, right now? There are people who try to alter our perception of events as they unfold and there is something kind of terrifying about that. We miss out on the true nature of things from the very beginning. With enough skill, we can be lead to believe anything.
Not only is there commentary about how history is shaped but also about the nature of politics and how ideas are sold to us. The evil duke and dutchess want to cut down the forests and demolish people’s homes but are trying to find a way to accomplish this without enraging the peasants. Their Fool told them that words are often more powerful than force because it’s all about shaping perspective.
Fool: Chop down the forests
Dutchess: Exactly how does one go about knocking down the houses of people one does not like?
Fool: Urban clearance
Duke: I was thinking of burning them down
Fool: Hygienic urban clearance
Dutchess: But I also want us to raise taxes
Fool: You need to finance your ambitious goal for the country
While this may sound hammy, it gets the point across all the same. People can often be persuaded to do something or back an idea if a politician can make it sound appealing. Regardless of whether or not the idea is logically or ethically rational.
I thought this was a really excellent story by Pratchett. It definitely was not my favorite of the Discworld novels so far, but it is solid and meaningful. The twist at the end also got me, so I would encourage anyone interested to read this. Like always with Discworld novels.
Overall rating: 5