Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Witches Abroad" by Terry Pratchett

OK, who let Terry Pratchett go to Disney World? This Discworld novel, #12, has two main threads. In a magical kingdom surrounded by swamp, an Evil fairy godmother is forcing everybody to be clean, happy, and consistent with the archetypes of fairy tales. By forcing everyone to follow the fairy tale script and posing as the Good fairy godmother, she's hoping to gain power.

Back closer to Ankh-Morpork, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and a younger witch, Magrat, get wind of these happenings and set off to right them. Armed with a magic wand that only turns things into pumpkins, and Granny's "headology" brand of witching, they set forth into foreign lands. Pratchett does his best Twain impression, seeing how Granny et. al. view the foreign lands, the foreign people, and not being able to speak "foreign." Nanny writes postcards home such as:

We had some stuff it was chewy you'll never guess it was snails, and not bad and Esme had three helpins before she found out and then had a Row with the cook and Magrat was sick all night just at the thought of it and had the dire rear. Thinking of you your loving MUM. PS the privies here are DESGUSTING, they have them INDORES, so much for HIGEINE.
As usual they muddle through somehow, and hilarity ensues. Magrat learns that real female empowerment mean more than wearing trousers and taking subscriptions to self-defense pamphlets by Grand Master Lobsang Dibbler. Granny Weatherwax owns up to some unpleasant past history and realizes that foreign places may not be intrinsically evil. Nanny Ogg reveals that there may be more underneath her witches hat than a harmless old Mum.

This is straight-up enjoyable Discworld. It's light and enjoyable, yet still makes you think. Certainly it made me think that my suspicion that something about the Disney empire just isn't right is well-founded. Of course, it makes sense: Discworld is pretty much the anti-Disney fantasy empire. Ankh-Morpork is squalid, filthy, corrupt and you can walk across its river, assuming it doesn't eat your shoes off first. Compare that to the impossibly squeaky-clean image that Disney projects, and ask yourself which one is more fantastic.

By the way, I'm sure you've heard of Terry's diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer's. Please consider joining the Match it for Pratchett campaign. He's donated about a million dollars to Alzheimer's research. If all his fans chip in even a little bit, we can surely double that. Thanks!

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