I finally managed to read the first proper Witches novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Wyrd Sisters. This was another Shakespearean-inspired one, with heavy Macbeth undertones. Except, of course, it’s a comedy!
Duke Felmet killed a king to gain the throne of Lancre, and now has a few problems. For one thing, he can’t seem to get the blood off his hands. And for another, there are three witches in the neighborhood. Magrat is a well-meaning witch who thought it would be a good idea to form a coven with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. They don’t quite understand her interest in talismans and rituals (because it’s really headology that counts), but they join anyway. The dead king’s baby son falls into their hands and they promptly pack him off with adoptive parents in a traveling theatre company. Meanwhile the dead king is still hanging around as a ghost, there’s a Fool remarkably interested in Magrat, and the land doesn’t like its new ruler.
The witches are in fine form here. This is the first with all three of them, but they’re already fully-defined. Granny wasn’t quite there yet in her earlier book, Equal Rites, but she’s excellent here, with a will of iron–or harder. Nanny is garrulous, irreverent and fun-loving, but don’t ever cross her (or invite her to sing). Magrat, well…she tries so hard. She wants to be a proper witch, with all the ceremony and theatrics, and doesn’t quite seem to realize it’s just not meant to be.
It may be the little touches I like best here. The ghost king is thoroughly annoyed by all the other ghosts floating through his castle–it’s so crowded, and some are just blobs who have really let themselves go. There’s a mystic stone out on a hill that’s so bashful it hides if anyone comes by. There are frequent Macbeth quotes, as well as other Shakespeare references; the theatre company puts on a wide variety of identifiable albeit re-named plays.
And Death of course has a cameo, and he’s wonderful. He’s much better at the role than the actor assigned to be Death in the play, and he’s very disturbed when a living character goes mad and decides to become a ghost (because…that’s just not allowed).
There’s a cartoon miniseries, which naturally is going straight into my Netflix queue. Has anyone seen it? Is it any good?
I think this would be a great place for someone to start the Discworld series. It’s independent of earlier ones, introduces major characters, and is brilliantly funny. It begins the Witches plotline, which spans several books that are more interconnected than most of Discworld. It worked out for me, even though I read them in reverse order…but you might be better off going front-to-back!
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5 thoughts on “Enter Three Witches”
Definitely re-read! You always get more the second time through.
My favourite discworld book so far!! Great review xx
This is one of my favorites. A great review!
It has been many years as this is one of the first Discworld novels I read, but I still remember loving it. I think its high time I re-read it 😀
This was definitely a fun one, and my guess is I’d get even more Shakespeare references on a re-read.