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Day 14 can't be havin' with all this

I realise that yesterday I really talked as much about Neil Gaiman as I did about Door. It's pretty likely I'll do similar with Pratchett. Their characters are very much a product their creators.

Day Fourteen: Favorite older female character

Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax of the Discworld series.

So where yesterday I made the point that Gaiman fundamentally seems to write an insider mindset (albeit usually one with something unusual or of the outside in them already), of low initial ability or understanding but great potential, that falls into an outsider world, Pratchett is the opposite. All his POV characters are firmly outsiders, usually accompanied by a small band of similar outsiders, and usually with some form of authority over the wider society. They are all competent; even the incompetent ones have their niche where they excell. He doesn't do that coming-of-age journey, even in his coming-of-age stories. In fact, it's hard to say that many of his main characters even have arcs. I'm sure there are some, but on the whole, circumstances change, challenges are met, insight and power is acquired, (and the author becomes more sophisticated in drawing the characters) but one of the chief characteristics of most of his characters is being very firmly themselves throughout it all. Which, naturally, usually proves to be the key to their dilemma.

Granny is one of the pinnacle characters of this type, in terms of authority and power of self-ness, matched only by Vimes and Vetinari. And Vetinari's a slightly off-set example. (Death would also count if he were human, and other characters may carry as much power as she does but don't have the same narrative position in any series.) Granny is in fact now so powerful that she's been semi-retired to the mentor figure in the coming-of-age already-of-age journey of Tiffany Aching.

Granny is ... well, listen, if you need to be told who Granny Weatherwax is, you're better off reading her entry on the Discworld wiki. Suffice it to say she is the best witch on the disc, and knows it. Her authority and power come much more from sheer force of will than any especial magical ability (and it's implied that Tiffany is of similar constitution). She also epitomizes Good Is Not Nice (tv tropes link; you will find her in the "literature" folder, or you could just go whole hog to the Discworld witches character page and get the full rundown).

Not only is Granny never anything but herself, it's clearly never occurred to her to be anything but herself. She is enigmatic, smug, forceful, shameless, competitive, eternally right (or just about to be), impatient and as rigid as a crowbar, and about as versatile. She sees humanity for exactly what it is – small-minded, fearful and recalcitrant – and has an enormous reserve of compassion for people hidden very, very far down. In one of the early witches books, we learn that she had an older sister who went off and became a fairy godmother, going bad (or "cackling", in their terms) in the process. Granny resents this, as it forced her to become "the good one" to balance things out, and she is convinced she could have been very much better at being a bad witch than her sister. You could argue that the compassion would ultimately stop her from becoming evil, but I actually agree with her – her compassion, that which allows her to care for people so well in the way they need (and rarely the way they want), would equip her to absolutely terrorise them. Far more than anyone just questing for power could do.

Therefore Granny is, in many ways, entirely the sum of her choices; an embodiment of personhood and agency that the world doesn't have a chance against. Which, when needed, she deploys on behalf of those weaker than herself in those things, which is to say, everyone. But other than that, I choose her because she is just so much fun to watch in action. She's tied with Vetinari (and kind of Carrot as well) as my favourite characters in the Discworld; I wish we could see a meeting between the two, but I can't really see it happening, sadly.

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And we're nearly halfway through, so I'm taking the weekend off to work on other stuff. Back with regular programming Monday, or maybe Tuesday, depending.

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January 2016
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