We tried a new bed time story lately, and I’ve just got to share something about it here.
First of all, if J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter series offends your religious sensibilities, please don’t read these Terry Pratchett books, and try again tomorrow on the blog.
However, if you’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter series,and especially, if you’ve enjoyed them not so much for the fast-paced adventure and hair raising descriptions of magical creatures and battles, but for the quirky characters, humor, and nuggets of wisdom passed on by Dumbledore in the last few pages of each book – I’ve got something for you.
Meet Tiffany Aching. She’s nine years old when the first book (The Wee Free Men) begins. She lives on a rural sheep farm with her family and spends a lot of time making cheese and watching her little brother. She is the witch, the hag-o-the-hills, in the making. Tiffany is a practical girl who thinks a lot. She’s an astute nine year old, but still definitely a youngster. She also fends off the magical creatures and even the deceptive and wicked Queen of Fairyland with nothing more than her common sense, love of the land, and a cast iron skillet. There are more nuggets of curious wisdom in this first book than in the whole Potter series (no offense to Harry – I do love those books – just saying).
Tiffany’s wonderful foil throughout her adventures are the Nac Mac Feegle, otherwise known as the Wee Free Men. They are a class of fairies unto themselves. Six inches tall with dark blue skin, bright red hair and beards, dressed in kilts and carrying long swords. Feegles are the rogues of the fairy world, whose misadventures are written phonetically in such a strange and hilarious brogue accent that it brought the whole family to uproarious laughter – even the three year old. They are scoundrels with hearts of gold. I can’t begin to sum them up. They are not the stuff of beautiful and sweet fairy tales. I wouldn’t read them aloud to a tender hearted four year old (I rely on some of this reading flying over Levon’s head for now), but now that Lulah is stepping into a different level of understanding of the world, and a different level of thought and humor, the Feegles really hit the spot.
As with Harry Potter, the Tiffany Aching series becomes more complex and mature as our heroine ages. In The Wee Free Men Tiffany is nine, and Lulah did not find the monsters and situations overwhelming. We went on into the next book, A Hat Full of Sky just because she was so enthusiastic (Tiffany is eleven and leaving home to get some more advanced training in the way of being a witch). It was a little more intense. Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight follow Tiffany into her teenage years. We won’t go further until Lulah is older, too.
Terry Pratchett wrote these books. They are part of his HUGE series, Discworld. He has written eighty-something books, and has been knighted for his contribution to good reading. His writing is very smart, funny, and tender in turns. It’s good clean fun (well, as much as you can call a Feegle clean, anyway). If you haven’t already, please check him out.
One of the things I love about these books, besides the good entertainment, is that they promote a sense of place, and the place, in this case, is a rural countryside. That’s a rare find these days. Tiffany’s family has always lived on the land she lives on. She feels the land in her bones, and draws strength from that. Her goodness and power aren’t connected to wands and spells. She learns that magic doesn’t stop being magic just because you know how it’s done. Inspiring.
I’ll leave you with an empowering passage:
“She leaned down and the centuries bent with her.
“The secret is not to dream,” she whispered. “The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I’m going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine.”
I’ll never be like this again, she thought, as she saw the terror in the Queen’s face. I’ll never again feel as tall as the sky and as old as the hills and as strong as the sea. I’ve been given something for a while, and the price of it is that I have to give it back.
And the reward of it is giving it back, too. No human could live like this. You could spend a day looking at a flower to see how wonderful it is, and that wouldn’t get the milking done. No wonder we dream our way through our lives. To be awake, and see it all as it really is…no one could stand that for long.”