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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Granny Weatherwax - Bad Ass Witch and Crone

Granny Weatherwax was not an advertisement for witchcraft. Oh, she was one of the best at it, no doubt about that. At a certain kind, certainly. But a girl starting out in life might well say to herself, is this it? You worked hard and denied yourself things and what you got at the end of it was hard work and self-denial. The Sea and Little Fishes, Terry Pratchett

Granny Weatherwax is one of my favourite characters, alongside Sam Vimes. Perhaps inevitably, as they're very similar in a lot of ways.

The Witches

The magic practised by the Discworld witches is vastly different from the magic of the wizards of the Unseen University. While the wizard's magic is all flashes and bangs, witches see magic as knowing things other people don't know. This usually boils down to experience, common sense and a brand of psychology known as headology.

Pratchett's witches are closely based on British folklore, with a blatant reference to the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Each coven is made up of three members; the maiden, the mother and the crone - a sneaky reinterpretation of the classic Triple Goddess found in pagan religions.

As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?’ There was a pause. Finally, another voice said in far more ordinary tones: ‘Well I can do next Tuesday.’ Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett

The Crone

Esmerelda "Esme" Weatherwax, known to most as Granny Weatherwax, is the crone of the Lancre coven, the country she resides in. And to explain my title - the village Granny lives in is called Bad Ass, named after a stubborn donkey who refused to move, which I'll never fail to find hilarious.

There is a strong ying-yang nature to Granny; she's described as a terrifyingly good witch and often draws the distinction between what is good and what is nice. Granny is not evil, but she's certainly not nice.

A witch going bad is a recognised phenomenon and is known as 'cackling.' This is why witches have a propensity for dropping in on one another for tea and to check for signs of cackling in the other.

One of Granny's key powers is her ability to borrow. She is able to possess the minds of animals and see through their eyes. This means her own body becomes dormant, she is often found this way with a small cardboard sign with the words "I Aten't Dead." This prevents the unnecessary embarrassment of waking up while being mourned.

Dangerous Driver

But perhaps one of my favourite aspects of Granny which speaks to her character in a hilariously dark way is the fact she's the most dangerous driver in the skies of the Discworld.

Granny saw every flight simply as a straight line from A to B and was unable to get alongside the idea that other users of the air might have any rights whatsoever; the flight migration patterns of an entire continent had been changed because of that simple fact. High-speed evolution among local birds had developed a generation that flew on their backs, so that they could keep a watchful eye on the skies...Granny's implicit belief that everything should get out of her way extended to other witches, very tall trees and, on occasion, mountains. Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett

Final Thoughts

Stars don’t care what you wish, and magic don’t make things better, and no one doesn’t get burned who sticks their hand in a fire. If you want to amount to anything as a witch, Magrat Garlick, you got to learn three things. What’s real, what’s not real, and what’s the difference. Granny Weatherwax, Witches Abroad

Granny pops up on almost every list of favourite Discworld characters. This delights and baffles me as a cranky old woman isn't often a popular character. But I think every one of us has probably met a Granny. That has always been one of Pratchett's strengths - we know these characters in our bones, because they're so real.

Before you go, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the post over on Jo Writes Stuff, where she examines Granny Weatherwax as an example of a strong female character.

If you're excited to read more in this series of Discworld characters, subscribe to the blog to make sure you don't miss any! On Friday, we'll be moving on to my favourite personification of death of all time.

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