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Granny (Mistress) Esmeralda "Esme" Weatherwax, Lancre Witch
Granny Weatherwax is one of my favourite characters (like many people) from Terry Pratchett's Discworld Series. A stern, no-nonsense witch from the tiny little kingdom of Lancre, her grasp of Headology is un-paralleled. In the local Witch Trials, it is never a contest to see who would come first, only to see who will come second...
The Witches books feature her and her best friend-slash-sidekick-slash-comic-relief companion, fellow witch Nanny (Gytha) Ogg, and occasionally a younger third party (Magrat Garlick, who then took the demotion of Witch for Queen, and in later books Agnes "Perdita X" Nitt) as they rescue Lancre from itself, master the art of fairy godmothering and bring iron to the elves. They re-enact Shakespeare/s Macbeth.... in their own special way, and Esme may be the only known person to Weatherwax a vampire.
She was a main character in six Discworld novels (Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum) and had minor roles in Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith, as well as The Science of Discworld II: The Globe. She was mentioned in Mort, Thief of Timee and Going Postal and had a short story to herself: "The Sea and Little Fishes" (which is one of Terry Pratchett's best short stories, and can be read online here).
Artwork one of the classic illustrations by Paul Kidby, who drew the Discworld so well that the rest of us can only copy him. This frustrates me no end.
Other Names for Granny Weatherwax
("She Who Must Be Avoided")
("Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain")
Do you know who she is?
"I said, what about this rule about not meddling?" said Magrat.
"Ah," said Nanny. She took the girl's arm. "The thing is," she explained, "as you progress in the Craft, you'll learn there is another rule. Esme's obeyed it all her life."
"And what's that?"
"When you break rules, break 'em good and hard," said Nanny, and grinned a set of gums that were more menacing than teeth.
Quick, what do you think of Esme Weatherwax?
...Granny Weatherwax [...] walked nightly without fear in the bandit-haunted forests of the mountains all her life in the certain knowledge that the darkness held nothing more terrible than she was...
How Powerful Is Esme Weatherwax?
"I learned my craft from Nanny Gripes, who learned it from Goody Heggety, who got it from Nanna Plumb, who was taught it by Black Aliss..."
Granny Weatherwax is by far the most powerful witch around Lancre. She's only even approached in power by her sister, Lily - and she cheated and used mirror magic to reflect her power back at her (with shattering consequences).
Black Aliss (Aliss Demurrage) is historically the most powerful Discworld witch, who went ...bad at the end. She's the evil fairy and the wicked witch of all the fairytales (Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel And Gretel are all described). And yet, it is implied that Esme is more powerful...
And while Esme takes a lot of pride in being the most powerful, she also has to spend a lot of her energy holding herself back. and she doesn't show off and make a display of it. Modesty is a good thing. At least, as long as everyone knows that she could. If she chose.
Aliss "Black Aliss" DemurrageAn interesting figure, about which little is truly known, Black Aliss, born Aliss Demurrage, is a character discussed in several of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, who casts a shadow over the characters and events. Black Aliss was the witch of fairytale, legend and rumour that every Ramtops witch longed to be and feared becoming.
"Blessings be upon this house," said Granny Weatherwax. In much the same tone of voice have people said, 'Eat hot lead, Kincaid.'
What does Granny Weatherwax look like?
Paul Kidby's artwork perfectly capture the Discworld characters, so really, just go look at his illustrations! But for an independent description...
Esmeralda "Granny" Weatherwax is obviously old - her bones are starting to creak a bit - but tough as nails. The comical opposite to short and round Nanny Ogg, she's tall and thin.
She has grey hair, which used to be blonde, and piercing saphire blue eyes that can easily pin you to the ground with no need for one of her long, sharp hatpins. She's actually fairly handsome, with all her own teeth and no warts, much to her chagrin, and beautiful skin, and feet. Terry Pratchett describes her as beautiful, apart from the sharp nose.
The smith was still staring gloomily at the rain when she came back down the stairs and clapped a warty hand on his shoulder.
Granny suffered from robustly healthy teeth, which she considered a big drawback in a witch. She really envied Nanny Annaple, the witch over the mountain, who managed to lose all her teeth by the time she was twenty and had real crone-credibility. It meant you ate a lot of soup, but you also got a lot of respect. And then there was warts. Without any effort Nanny managed to get a face like a sockful of marbles, while Granny had tried every reputable wart-causer and failed to raise even the obligatory nose wart.
She wears black, like any proper witch, and has a pointy hat, and a great many layers of clothing. She does get to dress up in an opera gown in Maskerade though, and carries it off very well.
Granny wasn't sure she approved of silk, she'd heard it came out of a caterpillar's bottom, but black velvet had a powerful attraction. Loyalty won.
"I'll be off, then," she said at last. She turned and strode off towards the kitchen entrance. As she did so her cloak swirled out, and Esk saw that it was now lined with red. A dark, winy red, but red nevertheless. On Granny, who had never been known to wear any visible clothing that was other than a serviceable black, it was quite shocking.
Witches hats are described in Hat Full of Sky - normal ones, that is, not specially- reinforced-with-liquor-Nanny-Ogg ones!
The old witch walked across the room and tugged the cloth off the thing in the corner. It turned out to be a big wooden spike, just about the size of a pointy hat on a tall stand. A hat was being constructed on it, with thin strips of willow and pins and stiff black cloth.
'I make my own,' she said. 'Every year. There's no hat like the hat you make yourself. Take my advice. I stiffens the calico and makes it waterproof with special jollop. It's amazing what you can put into a hat you make yourself. But you didn't come to talk about hats.'
A Hat Full of Sky
Her boots are huge, sturdy things that set off sparks from cobblestones.
Granny Weatherwax stretched out her legs and looked at her boots. They were good strong boots, with hobnails and crescent-shaped scads; you couldn't believe a cobbler had made them, someone had laid down a sole and built up from there.
Cooks and scullery maids darted for cover as the old woman pounded along the slippery flagstones, leapt up the stairs to the courtyard and skidded out into the lane, her shawl flying out behind her and her boots striking sparks from the cobbles. Once out into the open she hitched up her skirts and broke into a full gallop, turning the corner into the main square in a screeching two-boot drift that left a long white scratch across the stones.
Jewelry - don't be silly. Granny doesn't approve of such frippery. She has sensible and very long hatpins and a ... well, okay, a crescent shaped brooch to pin her cloak together. But it's only crescent-shaped because that's a very good shape for holdng a cloak together, not because it is in anyway witchy.
I Aten't Dead
Book One: Equal Rites - The early version of Granny Weatherwax
"They say there's dwarf mines under the Ramtops," she said inconsequentially. "My, but them little buggers is in for a surprise."
-- Granny reflects on Esk's methods of lighting a fire.
Equal Rites was one of the very early Discworld books (the third, in fact), and a lot of the story is no longer 'standard' Discworld canon. Basically it involved a Wizard, and passing on his very magical and plot-moving staff to the an eighth son of an eighth son and carelessly forgetting to check its sex. Predictably, it's a girl, and she (Esk) goes off to take the very traditionally male Unseen University by storm.
Esk comes from Lancre, and grows up there, and is encouraged along the path of making the Wizards very sorry about the situation (i.e. by going to claim her birthright) by old Granny Weatherwax. Even in the earliest books, there was a healthy rivalry and mutual peering-down-of-noses between the rural female witches and the Wizards... anyway, Granny Weatherwax gets her to the University and then helps sneak her in as a servant when the wizards laugh in their faces.
It was published in 1987 - the year of my birth- and is obviously about equal rights. Eskarina turns up again in the latest book I Shall Wear Midnight.
I Shall Wear Midnight
"Truly original...Discworld is more complicated and satisfactory than oz...Has the energy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the inventiveness of Alice in Wonderland...Brilliant!" -- A . S. Byatt --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
Wyrd Sisters - Book Two: In which the coven is introduced properly and her character is established
Wyrd Sisters is the first 'real' Witches book. Here we meet the Lancre coven - Granny, Nanny and Magrat - in a comic parody of Macbeth.
Terry's Pratchett's profoundly irreverent novels are consistent number one bestsellers in England, where they have catapulted him into the highest echelons of parody next to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.
Meet Granny Weatherwx, the most highly regarded non-leader a coven of non-social witches could ever have. Generally, these loners don't get involved in anything, mush less royal intrigue. but then there are those times they can't help it. As Granny Weatherwzx is about to discover, though, it's a lot harder to stir up trouble in the castle than some theatrical types would have you think. Even when you've got a few unexpected spells up your sleave.
Wiches Abroad - Book Three: In which old family grudges emerge, the coven goes on holiday, and fairytales and foreigners abound
Be careful what you wish for...
Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills--which unforunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it's up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn't marry the Prince.
But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who'll stop at nothing to achieve a proper "happy ending"--even if it means destroying a kingdom.
Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don't have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly regarded of the leaders they didn't have.
Lords and Ladies - Book Four: In which the elves return, Margat becomes Queen (invoking Granny''s scorn) and Granny goes Borrowing
Although they may feature witches and wizards, vampires and dwarves, along with the occasional odd human, Terry Pratchett's bestselling Discworld novels are grounded firmly in the modern world. Taking humorous aim at all our foibles, each novel reveals our true character and nature.
It's a dreamy midsummer's night in the Kingdom of Lancre. But music and romance aren't the only things filling the air. Magic and mischief are afoot, threatening to spoil the royal wedding of King Verence and his favorite witch, Magrat Garlick. Invaded by some Fairie Trash, soon it won't be only champagne that's flowing through the streets ...
Maskerade - Book Five: In which Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax decide to replace Magrat and go travelling to Ankh-Morpork, watch some opera, and get caught up
A day ago the future had looked aching and desolate, and now it looked full of surprises and terror and bad things happening to people... If she had anything to do with it anyway.
-- Granny Weatherwax commits optimism
There's a Ghost in the Opera House of Ankh-Morpork. It wears a bone-white mask and terrorizes the entire company, including the immortal Enrico Basilica, who eats continuously even when he's singing. Mostly spaghetti with tomato sauce.
What better way to flush out a ghost than with a witch? Enter the Opera's newest diva, Perdita X. Nitt, a wannabe witch with such an astonishing range that she can sing harmony with herself. And does.
To further complicate matters (and why not?) there is a backstage cat who occasionally becomes a person just because it's so easy. Not to mention Granny Weatherwax's old friend, Death, whose scythe arm is sore from too much use. And who has been known to don a mask...
Carpe Jugulum - Book Six: In which vampires come to Lancre and try to outstare Granny.
A sound that had been on the edge of hearing was getting louder. It had a rhythmic, almost tinny sound.
The crowd parted. Granny Weatherwax walked forward, slowly stirring.
"No milk in this place," she said, "Not to be wondered at, really. I sliced a bit of lemon, but it's not always the same, I always think."
She laid the spoon in the saucer with a clink that echoed around the hall, and gave the Count a smile.
"Am I too late?" she said.
"You wanted to know where I'd put my self," said Granny, "I didn't go anywhere. I just put it in something alive, and you took it. You invited me in. I'm in every muscle in your body, and I'm in your head, oh yes. I was in the blood, Count. In the blood. I ain't been vampired. You've been Weatherwaxed. All of you. And you've always listened to your blood, haven't you?"
King Verence gets a little carried away with his upcoming nuptials and invites every royal name in the book - including a family of rather progressive vampires. Vampires need inviting to come in - and when a king invites the vampires, they've got their teeth into the whole country.
Carpe Jugulum is the 23rd Discworld novel, and with it this durable series continues its juggernaut procession onward. Pratchett is an author who inspires such devotions that his fans will fall on the novel with cries of joy. Nonfans, perhaps, will want to know what all the fuss is about; and that's something difficult to put into a few words. The best thing to do for those completely new to Pratchett is to sample him for themselves, and this novel is as good a place to start as any. But fans have a more precise question. They know that Discworld novels come in one of two varieties: the quite good and the brilliant. So, for instance, where Hogfather and Maskerade were quite good, Feet of Clay and Jingo were brilliant. While true fans wouldn't want to do without the former, they absolutely live for the latter. And with Carpe Jugulum, Pratchett has hit the jackpot again. This novel is one of the brilliant ones.
The plot is a version of an earlier Discworld novel, Lords and Ladies, with the predatory elves of that novel being replaced here by suave and deadly vampires, and the tiny kingdom of Lancre being defended by its witches. But plot is the least of Pratchett's appeal, and Carpe Jugulum is loaded with marvelous characters (not least the witches themselves, about whom we learn a deal more), comic touches and scenes of genius, and even some of the renowned down-to-earth Pratchett wisdom (about the inner ethical conflicts we all face and the wrongness of treating people as things). Pratchett's vampires are elegant Bela Lugosi types, and they come up against an unlikely but engaging alliance of witches; blue-skinned pixies like Rob Roy Smurfs; a doubting priest with a boil on his face; and a magical house-size Phoenix in a seamless, completely absorbing, and feel-good-about-the-universe mixture. Highly recommended. --Adam Roberts, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Granny Weatherwax disapproved of magic for domestic purposes, but she was annoyed. She also wanted her tea. She threw a couple of logs into the fireplace and glared at them until they burst into flame out of sheer embarrassment.
Which Is Your Favourite Witch?
The theater worried [Granny]. It had a magic of its own, one that didn’t belong to her, one that wasn’t in her control. It changed the world, and said things were otherwise than they were. And it was worse than that. It was magic that didn’t belong to magical people. It was commanded by ordinary people, who didn’t know the rules. They altered the world because it sounded better.
Esme Weatherwax on Video! - Some animated Discworld excerpts...
Some of the Witches books were animated, and you can see some clips of Granny Weatherwax here - she's the tall, thin one. Granny Weatherwax was voiced by Annette Crosbie.
"'Tis not right, a woman going into such places by herself," Granny nodded. She thoroughly approved of such sentiments so long as there was, of course, no suggestion that they applied to her.
Granny Weatherwax and Death
Witches see the edge of things, and they know when they are going to die.
Granny challenges Death to a game of poker, when he comes for a dying child, and Death cheats:
Granny picked up the pack of cards and shuffled it, not looking at her hands, and smiling at Death all the time. She dealt five cards each, and reached down…
A bony hand grasped hers.
BUT FIRST, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX – WE WILL EXCHANGE CARDS.
He picked up the two piles and transposed them, and then nodded at Granny.
Granny looked at her cards, and threw them down.
FOUR QUEENS. HMM. THAT IS VERY HIGH.
Death looked down at his cards, and then into Granny’s steady, blue-eyed gaze.
Neither moved for some time.
Then Death laid his hand on the table.
I LOSE, he said, ALL I HAVE IS FOUR ONES.
He looked into Granny’s eyes for a moment. There was a blue glow in the depth of his eye sockets. Maybe, for the merest fraction of a second, barely noticeable to even the closest observation, one winked off.
Granny nodded, and extended a hand.
She prided herself on the ability to judge people by their gaze and their handshake, which in this case was a rather chilly one.
“Take the cow,” she said.
IT IS A VALUABLE CREATURE.
“Who knows what the child will become?”
"But you read a lot of books, I'm thinking. Hard to have faith, ain't it, when you've read too many books?"
".......you stupid man!"
"I do happen to be king, you know," said Verence reproachfully.
"You stupid king, your majesty."
She had never mastered the talent for apologizing, but she appreciated it in other people.
"I knows all about folk songs. Hah! You think you're listenin' to a nice song about- about cuckoos and fiddlers and nightingales and whatnot, and then it turns out to be about - about something else entirely. You can't trust folk songs. They always sneak up on you."
"I Still Aten't Dead"
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