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Author Topic: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3  (Read 6541 times)

Offline Nighteyes

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The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« on: March 30, 2015, 09:57:53 AM »
Debating whether to read this all in one go,or just read the allocated chapters every week. The issue with reading it in one go is that I would probably finish in a day, and my thoughts would be in one big dollop rather than split into 4 digestible parts.

Anyhow.  I am glad we chose the Wee Free Men, as when Pratchett wrote for the Young Adult audience he was at most tightly plotted.  Some of his adult books famously go on quite lengthy diversions!  Also the Wee Free Men is a great introduction to two of the most interesting themes of Pratchett's writings : Headology, and Pratchett as the feminist. 

Headology is Pratchett's own version of psychology, used foremostly by the Witches, but Commander Vimes of the City Watch, and Susan Sto Helit are also practitioners.  Headology rests on the principle that what people believe is real.   Therefore vampires can be defeated by garlic and holy symbols, a million to one chance will always work, and a Jenny Green-Teeth can only be defeated by an iron frying pan (not a branch.)   

A witch in the Discworld is not someone who uses magic (as Miss Tick explains magic is the very last resort, though we do see her scrying) but someone who uses headology.  Miss Tick wear a straw hat with flowers on, but which can turn into a pointed hat when she needs to impress that she is a witch,(with a talking familiar by her side.)   Though already I wonder if Miss Tick has fallen victim to headology, she claims she can't do 'magic' as she is on chalk, and chalk doesn't grow witches, but yet the chalk has produced Granny and Tiffany Aching as witches. Can she only not do magic on chalk, because she has always been led to believe she can't do magic on chalk?  And yes, perceptions are vital in this novel.  Mrs Snapperly is not a witch, merely an old woman who lives alone with no teeth, yet her house is burned down, and she is left to die out in the cold. Granny Aching is clearly a witch, yet she was revered and love by all in the community.   

I also think of 'headology' as operating by pure, sheer bloody minded common sense.  There is a monster in the river with eyes as big as saucers?  Well find some bait (even if it is your annoying little brother), and whack it around the head with something bigger than a saucer.  Granny Aching never does magic per se, yet she knows the remedy for every sheep ailment, and has built up an almost telepathic understanding with her sheep dogs, and knows exactly where a young lamb might have ended up on a stormy night by knowing the land like the palm of her hand.  Which is of course one of the ways that Pratchett playfully twists the traditions of the genre.  In most fantasy novels our characters collect magical items, and level up in order to defeat the evil threats to the magical kingdom,yet in the Discworld (a flat world on the back of 4 elephants on the back of a giant turtle), logic, common sense, and psychologically manipulating people will win the day.

And yes, Pratchett as a feminist.  This is a male writer who wrote fantastic female characters.  Hands up who can name a single male character so far in the book?  (The brother who wants 'toilet' and the Dad with the bad jokes?)  yet we have already met a really well drawn and intelligent 9 year old girl, and two very different witches in Miss Tick and Granny Aching.  And not a love triangle in sight. The females in his books had agency, and were living breathing and believable characters.  I tip my fedora to your, Sir Terry. 
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Offline Idlewilder

Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2015, 10:50:27 AM »
Good post, erm...Nighteyes.  ???

Regarding 'headology' and it 'operating by pure, sheer bloody minded common sense' - that certainly seems to be Pratchett's favourite mode of thinking throughout the entire series, at least when it comes down to the protagonists winning out in the end. I remember in one of the earlier books (possibly Equal Rites) he is talking about the differences between wizards and witches and - headology probably not having its 'name' at this point - says something along the lines of 'Wizards use their hearts while Witches use their heads'. I'm pretty sure Granny is the one who says it. Definitely something that comes up time and time again and really a great theme to use as the backbone for his YA sequence and Tiffany.

Anyway, more specifically onto the book: Tiffany Aching is great isn't she? Such an immediately strong and believable protagonist, having just the right tone of voice to support being the main point-of-view as well as being still a little girl. She has that inquisitive forthright nature you see in plenty of kids plus she's a witch to boot, so you just know she'll be a fascinating character to follow.

There's really not much to separate this from one of his adult books. Tiffany's young and as Nighteyes/Gariath/thehound/Dom has said his adult books tend to ramble off all the time and these have a firmer plot. Apart from that this is Discworld as usual - rich, hilarious and intensely clever.

As I'm on audiobook I'm not 100% sure where Ch.3 ends. Have we met the Feegles properly by this point?

I'll assume we've met Miss Tick properly anyway. The following scene summed her up for me and had me laughing out loud:

“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 ...'
'Yes?'
'... and believe in your dreams ...'
'Yes?'
'... and follow your star ...' Miss Tick went on.
'Yes?'
'... you'll still get beaten by people who spent THEIR time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Goodbye.”


I'll always, always have a soft spot for books featuring the Witches, but even just a few chapters in I can see why The Wee Free Men was so lauded and is such a fantastic entry point for kids (and really, anyone) to get into the Discworld.

I hope others are enjoying it this much!
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2015, 07:48:40 PM »
Yes, I'm loving this book so far!
When I first started reading it, I I had to adjust to the narration. It's not that I don't like it, I just rarely see a book written like this. I feel like I'm laying in my bed late at night, and my grandfather is sitting next to me reading the story. hell, I can imagine reading it to my kids one day.
The wee free men are very interesting. They certainly make me smile. The only complaint I have would be the dialect, which is a bit hard to read for me. Of course, they are supposed to be a bit hard to understand, so it makes sense.
As I was reading chapter 3, it started to get on my nerves how Tiffany would always randomly start thinking of her Granny, and we would get some random backstory that, from what I can tell, has no relevance to the plot. But then I realized. The author is trying to show me that this is how Tiffany deals with situations that frighten her. I still find it a bit annoying, but at least I see the purpose now.
I think my favorite thing so far has been the conversation between Miss Tick and Tiffany. For one, it shows how smart Tiffany is. That, plus the fact that it cracked me up, made for a fantastic scene. Also, that sign is a brilliant way to get someone to enter your class. I definitely would've gone in.
I like the fact that anything people have made up is real. That stories had to come from somewhere. I kind of wish that were true. I would love to go into one of my favorite book worlds.
This book definitely looks promising, and I can't wait until next week!

Offline xiagan

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2015, 08:04:57 PM »
This book definitely looks promising, and I can't wait until next week!
Glad you are enjoying this! :)

What I have done in the past when I just had to read on, was typing my comments to that section in a document on my laptop and read on. That way I had all my thoughts from that point and could post them when the thread opened. :)
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2015, 12:30:36 AM »
I was planning to touch more on the flashback sequences next week, but for me they are central to the story. Yes. You are right they are showing Tiffany drawing upon memories of her grandmother to teach her what she should do. I also think this is a novel about grief. Poor Tiffany never mourned her grandmother as that is not what people from the 'chalk' do but two years later the grief has hit her as she is now in the type of trying situation her grandmother would have resolved for her. Sometimes the loss of someone only sucker punches you months later when you are put in a situation they would have once helped you out of.  I think the flashbacks are key to showing that Tiffany is grieving and coming to terms with the loss of her grandma as well as accepting it is her destiny to carry on her role.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2015, 05:31:02 AM »
I may have missed this, but did it say how her grandmother died? I knew she wasn't there, but I wasn't sure if she was dead or not. Also, if not, do we find out?

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2015, 03:40:02 PM »
Not yet. Her death is explained later on and it is quite a traumatic memory for poor Tiffany.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2015, 01:10:20 AM »
I agree with pretty much everything @ultamentkiller said - the conversational tone was a bit unexpected to begin with, but it's been good fun so far. Made me laugh several times already, which is more than most "funny" books ever manage :)
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Offline JMack

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2015, 05:51:34 PM »
So many great quotes already, and, yes, most of them from the conversation between Tiffany and Miss Tick.

My daughter is 26. I just ordered the book to be sent to her from Amazon, because she will love it, and because I can't read it to her at bedtime at this point.  :-[

I love books like this. Loved Going Postal. Loved Making Money. Probably will love this more.  :)
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2015, 06:29:57 PM »
So many great quotes already, and, yes, most of them from the conversation between Tiffany and Miss Tick.

My daughter is 26. I just ordered the book to be sent to her from Amazon, because she will love it, and because I can't read it to her at bedtime at this point.  :-[

I love books like this. Loved Going Postal. Loved Making Money. Probably will love this more.  :)

You are in for such a treat. The Moist Lipwig books are great  but are just the tip of the iceberg with Pterry.

What are your thoughts on headology and how well drawn the female characters are, J-Mack?
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Offline JMack

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2015, 07:11:55 PM »
So many great quotes already, and, yes, most of them from the conversation between Tiffany and Miss Tick.

My daughter is 26. I just ordered the book to be sent to her from Amazon, because she will love it, and because I can't read it to her at bedtime at this point.  :-[

I love books like this. Loved Going Postal. Loved Making Money. Probably will love this more.  :)

You are in for such a treat. The Moist Lipwig books are great  but are just the tip of the iceberg with Pterry.

What are your thoughts on headology and how well drawn the female characters are, J-Mack?

Well, headology is a nice scheme for world-building and having access to any storyline Terry might have wanted. I find the distinction very interesting between Fantasy that depends on our RW "western" stories (PTerry, Piers Anthony [not a name often mentioned here], Goldman, Tolkien, J. Williams) and those that want to carve out new territory (Mirror Empire, Malazan, Sanderson to name a few). It's personal taste, but I find the "traditional" richer if really well done. But that doesn't mean I don't find the explorers fascinating.

But the "traditional" taps into our archetypes most directly. I've never read Bruno Bettleheim's The Uses of Enchantment, though I'm interested by what I understand the premise to be. It sat on my TBR for a very long time, until a bookshelf thinning some years ago. But the idea is that the original Grimm stories and those like them address the terrors and reality of life in the form of story, and that this is important. Contrast this to more sanitized children's movies and literature. (Han Christian Anderson is delightful, but I don't recall him being dangerous.)

So I bring this mindset to headology, for what it's worth. PTerry gets to address real world stuff in humor and headology. Love it.

OK, the ladies. It is the flaw of my beloved Tolkien that the ladies barely get their due. But at least he respects them. Others on this site have read my increasing annoyance with Sebastian de Castille in Traitor's Blade over his female characters. Yesterday, went to see Kingsman, which was a hoot, but did anyone notice how the girl agent, who is our hero's equal, is shunted off to down the satellite, act frightened, and talk mom out of throttling the helpless little girl? What's up with that? She doesn't even call 'bullshit'.

So, on topic. PTerry's ladies in this book so far are great. I haven't read all that many Pratchett books, but I can't think of a poorly rendered woman character. Love Granny especially. Love Miss Tick for being smart and limited, i.e. realistic.

My feelings for Tiffany... love her, absolutely. Frying pan, well there's me, etc. She's also a wonderful version of what I see as a "type" in YA and children's literature: the plucky girl (boy). Lucy in Lion Witch Wardrobe is her ancestor, though there was Dorothy before her. I think this is often the lesson of YA books: you don't have to be popular or pretty to be the best you can be.

Meanwhile, she's not perfect. She is a little prideful, let's say. There's a perfect line, can't remember fully, and the narrator says: "And that tells you more about Tiffany Aching then she'd prefer that you know." Lovely.

I actually think there's more I could say here, and say better, but am running out of time.
Fortunate for you all. ;D

« Last Edit: April 04, 2015, 07:13:43 PM by Jmacyk »
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Offline Idlewilder

Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2015, 10:26:57 PM »

I like the fact that anything people have made up is real. That stories had to come from somewhere. I kind of wish that were true. I would love to go into one of my favorite book worlds.


It's really interesting you should point that out as the importance of stories is probably the theme Pterry returns to more than anything and seems to be what the Discworld is all about when you boil it right down. It's probably most prevalent in the Witches novels, but the blur between fiction and reality is something he was obviously really fond of exploring.
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Offline Lejays17

Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2015, 01:25:59 AM »
The Tiffany Aching books are some of my favourites of all the books by Terry Pratchett.  :)

My impressions of the first few chapters:

* Tiffany is a very self-sufficient young girl - she's soley in charge of all of the farm's cheesemaking for a start.
* She thinks an awful lot about things, and is a very logical person (Jenny Green-Teeth was described as having eyes as big as soup-plates, so she measured the soup-plate to find out how big that actually was  :))
* Getting an education from the travelling teachers - how is one refunded a half-an-egg??
* Any of the conversations between Tiffany and Miss Tick - I got the impression that Miss Tick really didn't like Tiffany's questioning what Miss Tick said.  She wouldn't get that very often, I think.


Looking forward to next week's chapters!
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Offline Saraband

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2015, 09:41:36 AM »
Much has already been said with which I agree, so I will keep from repeating all the praise that this novel clearly deserves. I have been enjoying it, reading during those 'dead moments' at work, and it certainly has been a great antidote for boredom and frustration.

Tiffany is delightful. There's a quote which I love and provides a marvelous piece of insight into her personality, and is a lesson in characterization for any aspiring writer.

Quote
"I would like a question answered today," said Tiffany.
"Provided it's not the one about how you get baby hedgehogs," said the man.
"No," said Tiffany patiently. "It's about zoology."
"Zoology, eh? That's a big word, isn't it."
"No, actually it isn't," said Tiffany. "Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short."

Looking forward to see how the story develops  :)
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Offline Arry

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Re: The Wee Free Men - Week 1 Chapters 1 -3
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2015, 01:13:55 PM »
Excellent discussion opening @Nighteyes! You put my book club months to shame :)

Lots of excellent points about the characters in this book. I think its great to have stories kids can read where females dominate and are not "girly" stories or stories that have the main girl either crushing on a boy or waiting for him to come save her.  And I don't mean that I have a problem with books that don't have female characters, to be honest if its a good story I really don't tend to notice or mind.

I just think its nice to offer a balance and have a story for kids where the genders could be reversed and the story would still work because the gender is just a fact and has no impact on the story. It seems like these stories more often feature male characters and providing the opposite is wonderful for both boys and girls to read. Let them all see the wonderfully strong and intelligent girls have the adventure.

Quote
"Zoology, eh? That's a big word, isn't it."
"No, actually it isn't," said Tiffany. "Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short."


That is probably my favorite quote as well.

I also appreciate the female characters, and honestly kind of wish that I had a road trip planned with my boys, because I'd be curious to get their reaction to the book.

Not yet. Her death is explained later on and it is quite a traumatic memory for poor Tiffany.

Good to know :) I figured I hadn't missed it (that would be a major thing to miss!) But did wonder a bit
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