“Some things start before other things.”
For my first day of spring like weather, I wanted to read a friendly and familiar book for the evening and found myself gravitating towards Terry Pratchett. For nearly a decade, Pratchett has been one of my favorite authors and I have read nearly everything he has published. A few years ago he began writing young reader books such as Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Pied Piper influenced) and finally the Tiffany Aching series was introduced. Pratchett has a distinct flavor that I love. So when Tiffany appeared during the Harry Potter craze, the contrast was quite intriguing.
Tiffany Aching lives on a farm on the Chalk with her expansive family descended from shepherds. She is nine-years-old, somewhat plain looking, and a very practical girl. So, when the world of Fairy brushes against the “real world” and fairy creatures begin to romp through the landscape, Tiffany finds herself rapidly becoming prepared as she uses her toddler brother Wentworth as bait to smash Jenny Green-Teeth over the head with an iron skillet. If this wasn’t enough, she quickly finds an audience of hundreds of little, blue men also known as the Wee Free Men (of “daren’t go a hunting, of fear of little men” fame).
Like all of Pratchett’s novels, there’s a great deal of humor and good sense that appears along a not quite normal or predictable background. Particularly The Wee Free Men focuses on the magic of every day occurrences and that even when we realize something isn’t magic, that does not necessarily make it any less magical. From the start of The Wee Free Men, it is suggested that Tiffany Aching has the makings of a witch. One thing I have always loved about Pratchett’s witches books is the contrast to so many other fantasy books. For example, Tiffany wrongly assumes that to become a witch she’ll be going to a special school: “But the school, now, the school. There would be lessons in broomstick riding and how to sharpen your hat to a point, and magical meals, and lots of new friends” (59).
The Wee Free Men was a reread for me and I found it even more charming than the first time I read it. It’s a book with humor, guts, and a lot of truth.
“Miss Tick sniffed. ‘You could say this advice is priceless,’ she said. ‘Are you listening?’
‘Yes,’ said Tiffany.
‘Good. Now… if you trust in yourself…’
‘…and believe in your dreams…’
‘…and follow your star…’ Miss Tick went on.
‘…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Goodbye'” (51).