Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this for the Free Space for Halloween Bingo
She gave the guards a nod as she went through. It didn’t occur to either of them to stop her because witches, like beekeepers and big gorillas, went where they liked.
Part of the Discworld but also the Witches series, Granny, Nanny, and Magrat run and steal the show. I would describe this as kind of a Monty Python take on Macbeth and Hamlet (with a little bit of King Lear, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, and probably splashes of more I missed). If you're a reader of the Discworld, you'll be ready for the little bit chaotic, humor, brick wall bleakness, and underlining too true takes on humanity.
A kingdom is made up of all sorts of things. Ideas. Loyalties. Memories. It all sort of exists together. And then all these things create some kind of life. Not a body kind of life, more like a living idea. Made up of everything that’s alive and what they’re thinking. And what the people before them thought.”
We start off with the murder of a King, who becomes a ghost, our three witches taking a baby from soldiers, the new mad King and his reveling in her evilness wife, and a wise fool. Even though the witches normally try to stay out of things, Granny decides that she needs to set things to rights and have the true heir on the throne. I enjoyed the first half, which was more Macbeth, than the magically fast forward 15 years Hamlet like second.
The duke smiled out over the forest. “It works,” he said. “The people mutter against the witches. How do you do it, Fool?”
“Jokes, nuncle. And gossip. People are halfway ready to believe it anyway. Everyone respects the witches. The point is that no one actually likes them very much.”
Shining through and underlining all these seemingly chaotic going-ons, are some excellent hot takes on propaganda and how history is recorded, by who, why they are writing events and figures the way they are, and how this influences and shapes future attitudes. This is an aspect of history that I don't think is talked about enough, questioning the motives behind historical recorders.
“But I’m his Fool,” said the Fool. “A Fool has to be loyal to his master. Right up until he dies. I’m afraid it’s tradition. Tradition is very important.”
“But you don’t even like being a Fool!”
“I hate it. But that’s got nothing to do with it. If I’ve got to be a Fool, I’ll do it properly.”
“That’s really stupid,”said Magrat.
“Foolish, I’d prefer.”
Granny is the immediate stand-out in this but the Fool is the dark horse. In all this spoofing, he has some of the most thought provoking quotes; they bordered on dystopian at times. I couldn't help reading this through a current political climate lens and it hurt at times reading the scenes with the Fool, the new King, and his wife. Even when we get the second part of the witches work to change things, it doesn't end up quite to their preference but maybe for the best? This would be a great book club selection as I highlighted the heck out of this and could have endless discussions about it.
I've mentioned before how humor is a tough one for me, so that hurt my overall enjoyment along with the frenetic/chaotic tone pushing against my more structured self. Many friends have said this is one of their favorites from the disc world and I can see why, the three witches will delight you, I felt the second half let them down a bit. Even though things may not have worked out exactly like Granny wanted, I leave you with some inspiration from her,
Granny Weatherwax was often angry. She considered it one of her strong points. Genuine anger was one of the world’s great creative forces. But you had to learn how to control it. That didn’t mean you let it trickle away. It meant you dammed it, carefully, let it develop a working head, let it drown whole valleys of the mind and then, just when the whole structure was about to collapse, opened a tiny pipeline at the base and let the iron-hard stream of wrath power the turbines of revenge.
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