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The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett
Member Name: angiepanj
The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett
Date: 03/02/04, updated on 03/02/04 (86 review reads)
Advantages: very funny, kind of vaguely educational
Disadvantages: too short, may cause fits of explosive laughter
Although in many of Terry Pratchett?s recent novels, there is an overall feeling that the author is in it for the money, and no longer taking the care he used to in his earlier books, the Wee Free Men proves that the master of comic fantasy still has the ability to take an over done theme and make it funny. Very, very funny. I began reading this in the car on a journey up to Hampshire from Cornwall. My boyfriend kept turning up the radio as he found
my sniggering so distracting (I kept reading bits out to him to and they really don?t work out of context, so that could have been the problem rather than the sniggering).
For those of you who have not yet been introduced to Terry Pratchett and the Discworld novels, the story takes place on a very unusual world. The Discworld is just that- an alternative reality in which the world really is flat, and in which it travels through space on the back of four elephants, who stand on top of a giant space turtle (gender unknown), which swims its way through the universe to an unknown destination. The story is based in a
small village, somewhere on the surface of the Disc.
For old Pratchett addicts, the story ties in with the three witches stories, although Granny Weatherwax and co. only make a token appearance at the end. The book centres on the tale of a girl living on a farm, whose brother gets stolen away by the fairies. The girl (whose name is Tiffany), is in many ways a typical farm girl, very good at cheese, lots of fellow feeling for the land, and very practical in nature. Like any practical girl, when at first her
brother is threatened by a monster with big, pointy teeth, having been warned by a local clan of pictsies, she hatches a plan involving using her brother as bait to catch it, and then hitting the monster when it comes close enough with a cast iron frying pan. The aforementioned monster sinks into the depths of the small stream from whence it came and the triumphant girl returns ho
me with her very sticky, runny-nosed brother.
This kind of thinking soon brings her to the attention of a wandering witch, who takes it upon herself to teach Tiffany witchery. It also results in the girl being made the Kelda (a kind of queen) of the pictsies who depend on her for her sensible mind, having very little common sense of their own, although they are very good at drinking, fighting, and erm... that other thing.
Tiff learns from the travelling witch that the sudden onslaught of monsters and general fey folk are signs that the fairies are trying to break in to her world to take things over and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Her small sticky brother gets stolen, and the feud between Tiffany and the Queen of the Fairies is on. Queue lots of raucous singing by the Pictsies (who in the best traditions of Pratchett are true Pictsies- very Scottish with lots of
blue tattoos and ginger hair, and a typical Celtic fiery temperament), lots of fighting and drinking of sheep lineament, queue magic circles and Tiffany realising that witching mostly involves knowing exactly who and where you are at all times, lots of hard staring and that if you hit things very hard with a pan they tend to go away.
There is also a talking toad whose purpose is not revealed until the very end of the story, but he manages to fit in very satisfactorily.
The story is as well written as all of Pratchett?s books tend to be, his characters are all just that- they have more than enough personality, and then some. There are the usual amusing foot notes, explaining bits of Discworld behaviour which the reader may not be entirely familiar with, and adding even more humour to an already hilarious story. The scenery is well drawn (except in the Fairy world where it?s not meant to be- read it and you?ll see what I mean), and ties in many folklore tales and legends in the usual Pratchett parody. There are no screaming wussy heroines in this book- th
e women are much more scary and practical than the men. The only downfall of the book, is that it was just too short. Like many of the best Pratchett novels, I wished that it had lasted for much longer than it did.
All in all, I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in witches, fantasy, folklore, laughter, reading.... actually I'd recommend it to anyone!