In episode four, vaudevillian Elly Squires – aka Clara Cupcakes – joins us to discuss one of her first Discworld books, and the start of the witches series proper: Wyrd Sisters! The sixth Discworld novel, published in 1988, it’s the second book to feature Granny Weatherwax – but the first to introduce her fellow witches, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick.
Seasoned witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are adjusting to life in a coven with recently graduated apprentice Magrat Garlick when the king of their tiny country of Lancre is murdered, and his baby son escapes into their arms. The murderer, Duke Felmet, is crowned the new, much crueller king, but with the rightful heir off being raised by a troupe of travelling actors, Granny, Nanny and Magrat must contend with rumour, theatre and their own clashing personalities if they are to change their kingdom’s story…
The witches are one of Pratchett’s most beloved groups of characters, and pre-date both the City Watch and the modern faculty of Unseen University – so it’s surprising to see them spring so fully-formed from their first novel! We loved meeting them all over again. We’d love to hear what you think of Wyrd Sisters – if you’re joining this episode’s discussion on social media, please use the hashtag #Pratchat4 so we can all find each other’s thoughts! (Big thanks to listener Jodie for this brilliant idea.)
Our next book, discussed in our March 8th episode, will be 1989’s standalone Discworld novel, Pyramids – and joining us to talk about assassins, gods and a very different tiny kingdom will be comedian Richard McKenzie! We’ll be recording on February 19th, so get your questions in before then if you’d like us to answer them on the podcast! You can use the hashtag #Pratchat5 to ask them via social media.
Show Notes and Errata:
- Elly can be found on Twitter as her alter-ego @claracupcakes. She’s touring her hit 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, The Worst, to various festivals around Australia and the world, including Fringe World in Perth and the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland. Keep an eye out for her tour dates on Facebook or (if you’re not afraid of Russian hackers) at claracupcakes.com.
- Footrot Flats is as much remembered for the 1986 animated movie Footrot Flats: The Dog’s
TailTale, which was a box office smash in New Zealand and Australia and gave the world Dave Dobbyn’s number one hit single “Slice of Heaven”.
- Alice in The Vicar of Dibley was portrayed by Emma Chambers, also known for her role as Honey in Notting Hill. Sadly, Emma died at the age of 53 only a couple of weeks after this episode was released, on February 21st 2018.
- Maggie Smith famously played Hogwarts professor Minerva McGonagall in all eight Harry Potter films, while Tilda Swinton was the villainous White Witch in three films based on C S Lewis’ Narnia books. Anjelica Huston played the Grand High Witch in 1990’s film version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Miriam Margoyles is also a Hogwarts alumnus, playing Professor Pomona Sprout in two of the Potter films.
- Willow meets the disappointingly non-magical “Daughters of Gaea” in the season four Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” – previously mentioned in our second episode!
- While we couldn’t confirm the existence of a town named Fuck, there are places in the UK named Marsh Gibbon, Lickfold, Great Snoring, Crapstone and Shitterton. There’s a town named Fucking in Lower Austria; their street signs were stolen so often by English-speaking tourists they had to start bolting them down.
- “The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All”, usually referred to as “The Hedgehog Song”, is the infamous folk song sung by Nanny Ogg whenever she’s had a few. Wyrd Sisters is the first time it is mentioned.
- For those playing at home, the name of the demon summoned in Nanny Ogg’s wash basin is WxrtHltl-jwlpklz. The Superman character Ben mentions is Mister Mxyzptlk, an “imp from the fifth dimension”. Ben did not pronounce his name correctly either.
- The woman who gives Poirot his pin in the television series is Mme. Vergine Mesnard, who appears in only one Poirot case, set at a very early point in his career, when he was still a policeman in Belgium. She does not give him a pin in the original short story.
- If you’re interested in the story behind Dutton’s remarks about African gangs, here’s a good article from The Big Smoke Australia. (“The Big Smoke” is Australian slang for city.)
- Our musings about the Librarian disagree with fan consensus, which is that his status as a member of the Unseen University faculty means he must be a wizard (and, quite possibly, the Wizard Formerly Known As Horace Worblehat). We’re sticking with our assessment for now, but we may revisit this in future episodes.
- You can hear examples of the “real Shakespearean accent”, known as the Original Pronunciation (OP), in this video from the Open University featuring father and son duo David and Ben Crystal.
- History records that Rasputin survived being poisoned and shot, but was then shot again before his body was dumped in the river. He didn’t get out. (Anastasia trumps history, of course.)