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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett I plan to use this book in the future as a strategic "weapon" for introducing my (future, hypothetical) daughter to the world of Terry Pratchett's imagination. Yes, I see it as a 'gateway drug' to addiction to Sir Terry's writing. And that's the addiction I'm happy to perpetuate.After all, this book introduces Tiffany Aching whom I love to pieces and want to adopt to be my level-headed and practical little sister."Yes! I'm me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!This book is written to be accessible to kids and adults alike - since Pratchett does not stoop to the condescending and patronizing attitude that can easily plague the story written for ...ahem... younger members of society. No, you see, Pratchett seems to believe that intelligent young characters, as well as intelligent young readers, obviously, are perfectly capable of following stories with several layers of complexity in them."Zoology, eh? That's a big word, isn't it?""No, actually it isn't," said Tiffany. "Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short."This book is also quite accessible to those who are just starting their journey into the superficially magical but actually very firmly grounded in reality and not afraid to deal with uncomfortable issues and ask uncomfortable questions world that Pratchett created. And please don't be fooled that the action takes place on a flat planet traveling through space on the back of four elephants standing on a back of a giant space turtle - the issues he writes about are quite applicable to the lives of people on a giant blue-green ball hurtling through space while circling along the hot yellow Sun.In The Wee Free Men, nine-year-old Tiffany Aching, a budding witch in a country that does not take kindly to witchcraft, has her first encounters with the supernatural world of Discworld. Intelligent and reasonable and practical, she takes it quite in stride - and so when her world is threatened by the invasion of monsters from the not-so-nice fairy tales, she firmly stands her ground, armed with little but a frying pan, analytical reasoning, common sense and Third Thoughts ("And Tiffany thought: No, that was a Third Thought. I’m thinking about how I think about what I’m thinking. At least, I think so.") and supported by a rowdy clan of the Mac Nag Feegle (the titular Wee Free Men) - a race of blue-skinned six-inch-tall pesky warriors who speak in vaguely Scottish dialect and are terrified of the evil also known as Lawyers.“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. “There. Happy now? That’s what Miss Tick thinks. But it’s happening faster than she expected. All the monsters are coming back.”“Why?”“There’s no one to stop them.”There was silence for a moment.“There’s me,” said Tiffany. In this book, Pratchett creates equally memorable settings that are polar opposites of each other. On one hand, we have The Chalk - a land of green hills that are suited for shepherding and populated by sturdy rural folk that do not take kindly to things like witchcrafting. “Ordinary fortune-tellers tell you what you want to happen; witches tell you what’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. Strangely enough, witches tend to be more accurate but less popular.” In fact, they'd prefer to burn witches for little less than the suspicion of being one. You see, most people there, unlike Tiffany, do not stop to *think* about what they're doing and *why* they're doing it. But Tiffany is not the one to go along with the crowd thinking without stopping to think for herself and question her motives and reasons.On the other side of Tiffany's reality, there is the Fairie, a surreal dream-like place -- and when I say dream-like, I'm referring not to the warm fluffy place of children's book but the dreams from which you wake up screaming and covered in sweat. “This is a dream, after all, Tiffany told herself. It doesn’t have to make sense, or be nice. It’s a dream, not a daydream. People who say things like “May all your dreams come true” should try living in one for five minutes.”But nothing in this fantastical and yet horrifying world is ever prepared for Tiffany with her logical mind and common sense and fierce desire to protect anything that is *hers*."Yes! I'm *me*! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!"The best thing about Tiffany Aching, a budding witch in the country that does not approve of witchcraft, is her propensity to question things and information that others take for granted. She bases her conclusions on evidence, and is able to think and reason intelligently. Not too many young literary heroines have actually shown this ability (even though some of them claim they have!). For this alone, I want to give her a huge bear hug and invite her to sleepovers with my (future, hypothetical) daughter."And all the stories had, somewhere, the witch. The wicked old witch.And Tiffany had thought, Where’s the evidence?The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you had no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch.If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about “a handsome prince” ... was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called him handsome? As for “a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long” ... well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories didn’t want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told...Anyway, she preferred the witches to the smug handsome princes and especially to the stupid smirking princesses, who didn’t have the sense of a beetle... She couldn’t be the prince, and she’d never be a princess, and she didn’t want to be a woodcutter, so she’d be the witch and know things."Yes, this is my favorite thing about Tiffany - she wants to be a witch because she wants to know things. Just think about it - how awesome is it? Isn't it the opposite of what popular culture tries to teach young girls - to be pretty princesses just waiting for the Prince Charming???“Open your eyes and then open your eyes again.”“The thing about witchcraft,” said Mistress Weatherwax, “is that it’s not like school at all. First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin’ out how you passed it. It’s a bit like life in that respect.”Tiffany has a highly logical and practical mind. She stops to think about things. She is reasonable and level-headed. She is fiercely protective of the things she loves. And she is awesome. She is the role model every young girl should have. She is what I hope to be on a daily basis (and unfortunately, I keep miserably failing at that). Oh, and did I mention that she is wickedly smart (“She’d read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren’t supposed to”) and has a strong sense of justice and fairness? After all, her worldview was influenced by her legendary shepherdess grandmother, perhaps a bit a a witch herself (who, I think, could be a soul sister of Granny Weatherwax), and Tiffany has internalized her grandmother's philosophy quite well:“Them as can do has to do for them as can't. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices."From her first action of smacking the supernatural invader with a frying pan (after carefully and thoroughly planning out her defense, of course) to her final act of saving her little corner of the universe, Tiffany manages to be an awesome role model for girls everywhere - sharp, intelligent, critically thinking, resourceful and never in the need of saving - as well as remaining a very believable nine-year-old girl, both selfish and selfless at the same time, both brave and frightened, sweet and prickly, and curious, determined and fiercely protective of what's hers. And she can stretch the definition of *HERS* pretty far - the knack that her world should be thankful for."All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!"At the end of her adventure, Tiffany does something that not that many heroines of books aimed at younger people do - she genuinely grows up, gains some maturity that is amazing and yet sad at the same time - sad because it's always a part of the emotions I feel when realizing that someone is slowly losing their childhood innocence bit by bit, changing from a child to someone with *responsibility* (and your age, really, has little bearing on whether you are an adult, after all). She no longer is just a little girl - she is a girl armed with knowledge and power (with which, of course, apparently comes great responsibility) - and she takes it on with the same quiet resignation and determination as she does anything else.“I’ll never be like this again, she thought, as she saw the terror in the Queen’s face. I’ll never again feel as tall as the sky and as old as the hills and as strong as the sea. I’ve been given something for a while, and the price of it is that I have to give it back.And the reward is giving it back, too. No human could live like this. You could spend a day looking at a flower to see how wonderful it is, and that wouldn’t get the milking done. No wonder we dream our way through our lives. To be awake, and see it all as it really is…no one could stand that for long.”