Poet and writer Sally Evans joins Liz and Ben as they rejoin Tiffany Aching for a trip up into the mountains to meet the next generation of witches in A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett’s 32nd Discworld novel, first published in 2004.
Note that while this episode discusses a book for younger readers, it does contain swearing and we discuss concepts only appearing metaphorically in the book, including puberty and (briefly) masturbation. Parents may wish to listen first before listening with their big wee ones.
Tiffany Aching’s life is all change: she’s off into the mountains to apprentice with Miss Level, a research witch who even other witches find a bit weird. She’s left behind her home, her family, and everything she’s ever known. Even the Nac Mac Feegle – the drinking, fighting pictsies who’ve become her fierce protectors since she was briefly their Queen – aren’t coming with her. Tiffany soon finds that fitting in among other new witches, and learning the craft, are far harder than anything she’s done before. And that’s before the one bit of magic she knows brings her to the attention of a hiver – a bodiless, mindless, invisible creature looking for someone with power to inhabit…
While a certain other magical young person was attending a school of magic and magic (as the copyright lawyers insist we call it), Pratchett’s own Tiffany Aching sets out on a very different journey of discovery. While only 11, she must grapple with her own burgeoning powers (barely under her control), new social dynamics, the affections of someone who is merely less annoying than he used to be, and all the perils of growing up, including the monster in your own head…
Is this book too grown up for 11-year-olds? Are we on the money about the metaphors? How great would it be to have an ondageist? Is it just the younger Earwig devotee witches who are into appearances, or are the hats and black dresses of other witches a sign that it’s important to all of them? Are the Feegles still fun, or has Tiffany already outgrown them? Er…so to speak. Phew! So many questions this month. Use the hashtag #Pratchat43 on social media to join the conversation!
Guest Dr Sally Evans (she/her) is a poet and researcher based in Melbourne, Australia. As part of her PhD, Sally created four chapbook-length sequences of poetry, including a modern reworking of The Odyssey by Homer, and giving Fifty Shades of Grey the blackout poetry treatment. You can hear Sally talk Mad Max: Fury Road on the apocalyptic fiction podcast Catastropod, hosted by previous Pratchat guest Marlee Jane Ward, and follow her on Twitter at @SalacticaActual.
Next episode we fulfil our stupidest promise: yes, two and half years after we discussed The Colour of Magic, and around 35 years after its first publication, we finally resolve Pratchett’s most literal cliffhanger. Join us as we read the second ever Discworld novel, 1986’s The Light Fantastic! Send us your questions using the hashtag #Pratchat44, or get them in via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll find the full notes and errata for this episode on our web site.
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