Another installment of the adventures of Granny Weatherwax. This time, she’s left her home to travel the world and glare at foreigners. She and Nanny Ogg decide to ‘help’ Magrat to be a Fairy Godmother, with interesting results. This book examines fairy tales and the power of story in shaping how people interpret their lives.
Magrat inherits the magic wand of Fairy Godmothering and has to travel to far-away Genua to perform her duties to her god child, who is basically Cinderella. Granny and Nanny invite themselves along to interfere. Most places in Discworld have a real-world equivalent, so Genua is a kind of New Orleans fairy tale bayou. There’s an enchanted frog prince, an evil stepmother, crocodiles, Baba Yaga’s chicken-footed house, Baron Samedi, and gumbo. All the usual fairy tale elements, Discworld style. All the familiar shapes in the puzzle but none fit quite how you expect.
The fairy tale bits are a framework for Sir Terry to examine how what we tell ourselves about Good vs Evil determines how we view our choices. Is Granny Weatherwax the Good witch or the Evil one? How do you tell the difference? Is being good making people happy against their will or is it letting them make their own choices and living with the consequences?
Granny is a complex and almost unlimitedly powerful character in the Discworld. Her journey throughout the books is always about how she chooses to use, or not use, her power. She always struggles to allow people to make mistakes when she literally could solve everything for them. In this particular story, we learn about how she chooses between Good and Evil.
There’s a wonderful moment when Granny reveals her anger that because her counterpart turned out Evil , she had to be the Good one. It wouldn’t have been her first choice. I think she constantly battles the urge to just let herself go full Evil Witch. I find her to be endlessly interesting as a character with perfect self-knowledge that still struggles with how to exist in her world. She knows exactly who she is and how she fits but she has to constantly choose to do the right thing.