Belated Friday Hoydens: The Witches of Lancre

A figurine of Nanny Ogg

A figurine of Nanny Ogg

I was reminded today of the general excellence of Nanny Ogg and consœurs, Granny Weatherwax and Magrat Garlick. Ariane’s Pratchettian collection might just beat mine – I have more of Pterry’s books, but she has more figurines (I have zero). She has an especially nice figurine of Gytha Ogg (who is the Ramtops witch that I was born to cosplay) rather like this one at the right:

For those unfamiliar with the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett (aka Pterry), these two different covers for an animated version of Wyrd Sisters (the first book in which all three appear) give a fairly good idea of their three archetypal characters (although most of the fun in reading Pratchett is how he sets up his characters as archetypes initially and then explodes that with messy human complications).

Cover art for DVD of Wyrd Sisters

Cover art for DVD of Wyrd Sisters

Cover art for Wyrd Sisters DVD

Cover art for Wyrd Sisters DVD

Here’s just a very few of my favourite quotes from some of the Witches novels:

* Witches generally act as layers-out of the dead as well as midwives; there were plenty of people in Lancre for whom Nanny Ogg’s face had been the first and last thing they’d ever seen, which had probably made the bit in the middle seem quite uneventful by comparison.

* Nanny Ogg had a pragmatic attitude to the truth; she told it if it was convenient and she couldn’t be bothered to make up something more interesting.

* She was an incredibly comfortable person to be around, partly because she had a mind so broad it could accommodate three football fields and a bowling alley.

* Above the hearth was a huge pokerwork sign saying “Mother”. No tyrant in the whole history of the world had ever achieved a domination so complete.

* “‘Tis not right, a woman going into such places by herself.” Granny nodded. She thoroughly approved of such sentiments so long as there was, of course, no suggestion that they applied to her.

* Greebo could, in fact, commit sexual harrassment simply by sitting very quietly in the next room.

* No gods anywhere play chess. They prefer simple, vicious games, where you Do Not Achieve Transcendence but Go Straight to Oblivion; A key to the understanding of all religion is that a god’s idea of amusement is Snakes and Ladders with greased rungs.

* Demons were like genies or philosophy professors — if you didn’t word things exactly right, they delighted in giving you absolutely accurate and completely misleading answers.

* The duke had a mind that ticked like a clock and, like a clock, it regularly went cuckoo.

* “Well, basically there are two sorts of opera,’ said Nanny, who also had the true witch’s ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. ‘There’s your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like “Oh oh oh, I am dyin’, oh, I am dyin’, oh, oh, oh, that’s what I’m doin'”, and there’s your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes “Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!”, although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That’s basically all of opera, really.”

* Nanny Ogg found herself embarrassed to even think about this, and this was unusual because embarrassment normally came as naturally to Nanny as altruism comes to a cat

* “It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black-and-white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that-”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes-”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things…”

Some classic Josh Kirby cover art for the novel Witches Abroad:

Witches Abroad cover art by Josh Kirby

Witches Abroad cover art by Josh Kirby

And here is Nanny with her sweet little kitten Greebo (image from the Nanny Ogg Cookbook)

find a quote about Greebo

A ball of pure fury in cat shape, who when transformed into human shape looks like a beautiful, brainless bully who has raided a leather goods store for the discerning pirate

I love how many people are inspired by the Discworld generally and by the witches in particular to create some wonderful things. Here’s some Lego work:

Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax - here are the two most powerful witches on Discworld!

Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax - here are the two most powerful witches on Discworld!

Captain Smog has an ever-growing Flickr set of Lego Discworld constructions – check it out.

There are Discworld MUD Games – this is Granny Mi’s depiction of herself on her information page:
Granny Mi seems to be my sort of witch

Granny Mi seems to be my sort of witch

These wonderful witchy women inspire mass hoydening at fan conventions:

Granny Weatherwax cleaning her ear

Discworld Convention Friday: Seamstresses Guild Party - Witch Group
(I think there’s at least one Agnes Nitt in there)

I love this page of casting suggestions for a hypothetical Discworld Witches movie, although many are clearly wrong-wrongitty-wrongo. Who would you have playing the witches?

P.S. For anyone wondering about Discworld reading order, there’s no one place to start, but many of the later books make more sense if you’ve read some earlier ones first. Here’s one suggested reading order:

A recommended reading order for Discworld novels, done as a colour coded diagram
[link to larger image]

A recommended reading order for Discworld novels

L-space has some more accessible text versions too.

Categories: fun & hobbies

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12 replies

  1. I love that last quote. I’ve only read Maurice etc (to my eldest lad and we adored it) but I must get my hands on some others and now I know where to start, cheers.

  2. P.S. Although The Colour of Magic and Equal Rites are listed as starter novels above, in my view and it’s one shared by many, Pratchett had not quite found his unique voice yet. The first few novels have so much parody of popular fantasy literature that if you aren’t aware of what’s being parodied some of it seems pointless. By the time of Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters,Guards! Guards! and Mort, the style is more what is considered classic Discworld. Unless you are indeed an aficionado of a broad range of postwar fantasy writing I would recommend reading those first before coming back to TCOM, TLF and ER, which definitely need to be read at some point, because one simply cannot go without the first sightings of The Luggage, Twoflower or the downstairs workings of Unseen University forever.

  3. I just love that there’s no required reading order but here’s a handy diagram someone prepared earlier! Reading this post has brought back vivid memories of supplementing my studies in 3rd year psychology with a host of pterry novels to keep me entertained. I thought I’d read most of them but I see from above diagram I’ve missed a few. Currently in the bookshelf is ‘where’s my cow?’ which my SIL gave my daughter as a birthday present but I may just have to invest in some more.

  4. My 8 year old came out of his bedroom last night carrying “Where’s my cow?” and very apologetically explained to me that he knew I like Terry Pratchett but that he didn’t think this one was very good. I gather he’d figured out that there was a whole bunch of jokes in there he wasn’t getting on account of not having a blue clue what “Bugrit, millennium hand an’ shrimp” and the like were about. I guess he’ll just have to read all the Watch books 🙂

    (He liked “Where’s my cow?” just fine when I first got it back when it was newly published and read it aloud to him.)
    .-= mimbles´s last blog ..But wait! There’s more… =-.

  5. The chart isn’t quite up to date any more – there’s another two books out since. In the “Industrial Revolution” section, there’s Making Money, while there’s another sort-of-Rincewind book (I’d be more likely to class it with Moving Pictures, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather, The Last Continent, and to a lesser extent The Last Hero as a “Wizards” book) called Unseen Academicals which has just come out recently.

    I’d agree with Tigtog regarding The Colour of Magic as a bad place to start – that one is very much a collection of short stories which suffers from what I call “first book syndrome”. Pterry hadn’t found his own voice in that one, but was instead echoing various other voices. I started my reading with The Light Fantastic, and that’s the book which starts to get into the swing of things with regard to authorial voice and style.

    Oh dear. Now I’m dropping back into afper [1] mode. Ah well, with regard to the casting page, please remember that the newsgroup it was sourced from has been running for well over ten years, and the Casting Thread postdated the creation of the group by less than twenty-four hours. As a result, there are probably suggestions for actors on the list who have long since retired, either from the stage, the screen, or the mortal plane.

    [1] I got my internet “start” as it were on You have been warned.

  6. I have cosplayed Nanny Ogg at Swancon a few years ago. The only person at the time that I could find that ‘fit’ Granny Weatherwax was my husband…

  7. I was a bit quick on the draw and had already bought Equal Rites by the time I came back here and read all of your comments, but I will keep the caveats in mind. I just remembered we have also read Only You Can Save Mankind .

    • I have a particular soft spot for Equal Rites. For a few reasons it wouldn’t normally be my top recommendation as a starter, but I reckon you should be just fine with it.

  8. And Su, make sure you join the Witches of Discworld Appreciation Society on Facebook.

  9. I’ll always have a soft spot for Granny Weatherwax. Susan (Death’s granddaughter) is also a wonderful hoyden from the series.

  10. Am afraid I could never get into the witches, I’m a Watch girl through and through.


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