Wyrd Sisters (Discworld Book 6) by Terry Pratchett (read in 2015)
Published by marco on
Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.
This story is the Discworld take on Hamlet, more or less. It features Nanny Ogg, Grannie Weatherwax and Magret as the witches three. Duke Felmet of Lancre kills his cousin the King in order to take over the throne. The kingdom is not happy about this. By the kingdom, I mean not necessarily the people—though they feel it too—but the actual kingdom, the ground, the trees, the sky. The kingdom as a being is dissatisfied. The King’s son Tomjon survives, to Felmet’s chagrin and he bends his considerable powers to finding him.
All to no avail, as the child is whisked off to Ankh Morpork with a troupe of traveling actors. He grows up to be a highly influential actor with an unparalleled power to mesmerize. His adoptive father owns the troupe, his best friend is the dwarf Hwel, an at-time very gifted playwright. Also in the mix is the suspiciously eloquent court Fool, who helps the witches wrest the kingdom from Felmet, which involves flying around the kingdom very quickly on a broom.
“Most people aren’t. They live their lives as a sort of temporal blur around the point where their body actually is—anticipating the future, or holding onto the past. They’re usually so busy thinking about what happens next that the only time they ever find out what is happening now is when they come to look back on it. Most people are like this. They learn how to fear because they can actually tell, down at the subconscious level, what is going to happen next. It’s already happening to them.”
“The Fool’s bells tinkled as he sorted through his cards. Without thinking, he said: “Oh, a sub-sect of the Turnwise Klatch philosophical system of Sumtin, noted for its simple austerity and the offer of personal tranquillity and wholeness achieved through meditation and breathing techniques; an interesting aspect is the asking of apparently nonsensical questions in order to widen the doors of perception.””
““Oh, obvious,” said Granny. “I’ll grant you it’s obvious. Trouble is, just because things are obvious doesn’t mean they’re true.””
““If I’d had to buy you, you wouldn’t be worth the price.””
“No, things like crowns had a troublesome effect on clever folk; it was best to leave all the reigning to the kind of people whose eyebrows met in the middle when they tried to think.”
“Kings and such are killing one another the whole time. Their kingdoms just make the best of it. How come this one takes offense all of a sudden?” “It’s been here a long time,” said Granny. “So’s everywhere,” said Nanny, and added, with the air of a lifetime student, “Everywhere’s been where it is ever since it was first put there. It’s called geography.””
“He stiffened. “You’re wondering whether I really would cut your throat,” panted Magrat. “I don’t know either. Think of the fun we could have together, finding out.””
“She’d thought him weak under a thin shell of strength, but it went a lot further than that. Somewhere deep inside his mind, somewhere beyond the event horizon of rationality, the sheer pressure of insanity had hammered his madness into something harder than diamond.”
““You tell me history is what people are told?” said the duchess. The Fool looked around the throne room and found King Gruneberry the Good (906-967). “Was he?” he said, pointing. “Who knows, now? What was he good at? But he will be Gruneberry the Good until the end of the world.” The duke was leaning forward in his throne, his eyes gleaming. “I want to be a good ruler,” he said. “I want people to like me. I would like people to remember me fondly.””
““But that’s just people’s perception,” she said. “Isn’t it?” “Oh, yes,” said Granny, “of course it is. It all is. What difference does that make?””
“As she plunged down toward the forest roof in a long shallow dive she reflected that there was possibly something complimentary in the way Granny Weatherwax resolutely refused to consider other people’s problems. It implied that, in her considerable opinion, they were quite capable of sorting them out by themselves.”
“Somewhere in the middle of it Nanny Ogg floated, taking the occasional pull from a hip flask as a preventative against the chill. And thus it was that Granny, her hat and iron-gray hair dripping with moisture, her boots shedding lumps of ice, heard the distant and muffled sound of a voice enthusiastically explaining to the invisible sky that the hedgehog had less to worry over than just about any other mammal.”
“For the first time a flicker of doubt invaded Granny Weatherwax’s mind, puzzled to find itself in such unfamiliar surroundings.”
“Hwel looked unsteadily into his mug. Drunkenness had this to be said for it, it stopped the flow of inspirations.”
“Words were indeed insubstantial. They were as soft as water, but they were also as powerful as water and now they were rushing over the audience, eroding the levees of veracity, and carrying away the past.”