It has been a year since Terry Pratchett died. But it is said that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken, and I like to think that in some small way, I’ve been able to help keep his memory alive. I saved the Tiffany Aching books for last, and decided to do them all in a lump, because I knew these would be the hardest. I know I can’t be the only one who loves these books above pretty much all the rest, but my god do I love these.
The Wee Free Men is the first, which introduced Tiffany Aching, a junior witch living in The Chalk, near the Ramtop Mountains. Her brother is kidnapped by the queen of the faeries. This is a problem, as you might expect. Fortunately, Tiffany is nothing if not a problem-solver, and with nothing but a frying pan, she sets out to get him back. And did I mention that she’s nine? Like, I first read this book when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, and I wanted to be Tiffany Aching when I grew up (I still do).
A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith are about Tiffany’s continuing education as a witch with a couple of senior witches, and generally these books are about the same things. Tiffany makes some grievous error, sometimes out of cockiness and sometimes out of just not knowing better. And then she does whatever it takes to fix it. She owns up to it, she takes responsibility, and she deals with it. She does her best not to involve others, either in asking them for help or in endangering them.
I Shall Wear Midnight… is another thing entirely. It is a drastic escalation from the rest of the series (this book was written right after Snuff). It’s darker and the stakes are higher and Tiffany is forced to grow up even moreso than she already is. Where the previous books featured the legendary Granny Weatherwax as Tiffany’s primary mentor, this one showcases Nanny Ogg’s talents, and how Tiffany at times wishes she had taken that path in life instead (in one scene lamenting that she learned fire and pain when she should have learned people). This is the one where Tiffany really comes into her own the most.
The Shepherd’s Crown is the book that was published posthumously, and unfinished. It, um… it shows. This book hurt, and I cried for…75% of it? Or so? It hurts because you can see so clearly where Pratchett was going with this, you can feel his intentions – but you can also see where it falls short. Where he didn’t have enough time to finish it. And it is so horribly, horribly apropos that this book is about the death of Granny Weatherwax. Just as her death leaves Tiffany and the other witches reeling, it seems like Pratchett’s death – however expected or anticipated it may have been – left his fans reeling. But now it’s been a year, and the turtle still moves, and we’re all still here, and his name is still spoken.
But the Tiffany Aching books, more than any others, informed the type of person I want to be. They’ve shaped who I am, and they continue to do so. I still aspire to be as hardworking and dedicated and caring and intelligent as she is. And for that, I owe Pratchett everything. So here, to close out this series, are the best life lessons from the Tiffany Aching books. GNU Terry Pratchett.
“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”
“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”
“All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!”
“This time it had been magic. And it didn’t stop being magic just because you found out how it was done.”
“‘We look to … the edges,’ said Mistress Weatherwax. ‘There’s a lot of edges, more than people know. Between life and death, this world and the next, night and day, right and wrong … an’ they need watchin’. We watch ’em, we guard the sum of things. And we never ask for any reward. That’s important.’”
“Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.”
“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”
“Always face what you fear. Have just enough money, never too much, and some string. Even if it’s not your fault, it’s your responsibility. Witches deal with things. Never stand between two mirrors. Never cackle. Do what you must do. Never lie, but you don’t always have to be honest. Never wish. Especially don’t wish upon a star, which is astronomically stupid. Open your eyes, and then open your eyes again.”
“It’s always surprising to be reminded that while you’re watching and thinking about people, all knowing and superior, they’re watching and thinking about you, right back at you.”
“You couldn’t say: It’s not my fault. You couldn’t say: It’s not my responsibility. You could say: I will deal with this. You didn’t have to want to. But you had to do it.”
“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”
“People aren’t just people, they are people surrounded by circumstances.”
“Every step is a first step if it’s a step in the right direction.”
“One day all of us will die but – and this is the important thing – we are not dead yet.”
“If you have let pride get the better of you, then you have already lost, but if you grab pride by the scruff of the neck and ride it like a stallion, then you may have already won.”
“It was amazing to see that all people needed to make them happy was food and drink and other people.”
“Esme Weatherwax hadn’t done nice. She’d done what was needed.”
“PRAY TELL ME, WHY WERE YOU CONTENT TO LIVE IN THIS TINY LITTLE COUNTRY WHEN, AS YOU KNOW, YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ANYTHING AND ANYBODY IN THE WORLD? “I don’t know about the world, not much; but in my part of the world I could make little miracles for ordinary people,” Granny replied sharply. “And I never wanted the world—just a part of it, a small part that I could keep safe, that I could keep away from storms. Not the ones of the sky, you understand: there are other kinds.”
“Mind how you go.”