Title: Equal Rites.
Author: Sir Terry Pratchett.
Genre: Fiction, adventure, fantasy, humour, satire, feminism.
Publication Date: January 15, 1987.
Summary: A dying wizard tries to pass his staff on to the eighth son of an eighth son. When it is revealed that the he is a girl named Esk, the news of the female wizard sends the citizens of Discworld into a tail-spin. It is then up to an old witch, Granny Weatherwax, to deliver Esk, who is unable to properly control her strong powers even with the protection and aid of her staff, to Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork. And once there, there is also the small question of getting in as the first female wizard ever.
My rating: 7/10.
♥ Then it comes into view overhead, bigger than the biggest, most unpleasantly armed starcruiser in the imagination of a three-ring filmmaker: a turtle, ten thousand miles long. It is Great A’Tuin, one of the rare astrochelonians from a universe where things are less as they are and more like people imagine them to be, and it carries on its meteor-pocked shell four giant elephants who bear on their enormous shoulders the great round wheel of the Discworld.
Asd the viewpoint swings around, the whole of the world can be seen by the light of its tiny orbiting sun. There are continents, archipelagos, seas, deserts, mountain ranges and even a tiny central ice cap. The inhabitants of this place, it is obvious, won’t have any truck with global theories. Their world, bounded by an encircling ocean that falls forever into space in one long waterfall, is as round and flat as a geological pizza, although without the anchovies.
A world like that, which exists only because the gods enjoy a joke, must be a place where magic can survive. And sex too, of course.
♥ The wizard looked down at the cat and realized for the first time how odd it looked now.
The living often don’t appreciate how complicated the world looks when you are dead, because while death frees the mind from the straitjacket of three dimensions it also cuts it away from Time, which is only another dimension. So while the cat that rubbed up against his invisible legs was undoubtedly the same cat that he had seen a few minutes before, it was also quite clearly a tiny kitten and a fat, half-blind old moggy and every stage in between. All at once. Since it had started off small it looked like a white, cat-shaped carrot a description that will have to do until people invent proper four-dimensional adjectives.
♥ “Do you know how wizards like to be buried?”
Granny Weatherwax paused at the bottom of the stairs.
♥ In fact, the witch began to relax and started to think the magic had not taken hold after all.
But magic has a habit of lying low, like a rake in the grass.
♥ It’s a horrible feeling to find things in your head and not know how they fitted.
♥ She arrived back at the cottage in the pale shank of the night. Her body, at least, was rested after its slumber in the hay, and Granny had hoped to spend a few hours in the rocking chair, putting her thoughts in order. This was the time, when night wasn’t quite over but day hadn’t begun, when thoughts stood out bright and clear and without disguise.
♥ In the Ramtops witches were accorded a status similar to that which other cultures gave to nuns, or tax collectors, or cesspit cleaners. That is to say, they were respected, sometimes admired, generally applauded for doing a job which logically had to be done, but people never felt quite comfortable in the same room with them.
♥ “I said a man’s life once,” said Granny. “Special medicine twice a day. Boiled water with a bit of berry juice in it. Told him I’d bought it from the dwarves. That’s the biggest part of doct’rin, really. Most people’ll get over most things if they put their minds to it, you just have to give them an interest.”
She patted Esk’s hand as nicely as possible. “You’re a bit young for this,” she said, “but as you grow older you’ll find most people don’t set foot outside their own heads much. You too,” she added gnomically.
♥ In fact she was already feeling slightly panicky. Her promise to accompany Esk to Unseen University had been made without thinking, and Granny, who picked up what little she knew of the rest of the Disc from rumor and the pages of her Almanack, was convinced that they were heading into earthquakes, tidal waves, plagues and massacres, many of them diuerse or even worse. But she was determined to see it through. A witch relied too much on words ever to go back on them.
♥ Animal minds are simple, and therefore sharp. Animals never spend time dividing experience into little bits and speculating about all the bits they’ve missed. The whole panoply of the universe has been neatly expressed to them as things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c ) run away from, and (d) rocks. This frees the mind from unnecessary thoughts and gives it a cutting edge where it matters. Your normal animal, in fact, never tries to walk and chew gum at the same time.
♥ What always annoyed the enemies of the Zoon tribe was not simply their honesty, which was infuriatingly absolute, but their total directness of approach. The Zoons had never heard about a euphemism, and wouldn’t understand what to do with it if they had one, except that they would certainly have called it “a nice way of saying something nasty.”
Their rigid adherence to the truth was apparently not enjoined on them by a god, as is usually the case, but appeared to have a genetic base. The average Zoon could no more tell a lie than breathe underwater and, in fact, the very concept was enough to upset them considerably; telling a Lie meant no less than totally altering the universe.
♥ He tried hinting that she should obey the unwritten rules of Zoon life and stay afloat, but a hint was to Esk what a mosquito bite was to the average rhino because she was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.
♥ Esk, of course, had not been trained, and it is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of history.
♥ The fact is that the minds of wizards can give thoughts a shape. Witches normally work with what actually exists in the world, but a wizard can, if he’s good enough, put flesh on his imagination. This wouldn’t cause any trouble if it wasn’t for the fact that the little circle of candlelight loosely called “the universe of time and space” is adrift in something much more unpleasant and unpredictable. Strange Things circle and grunt outside the flimsy stockades of normality; there are weird hootings and howlings in the deep crevices at the edge of Time. There are things so horrible that even the dark is afraid of them.
Most people don’t know this and this is just as well because the world could not really operate if everyone stayed in bed with the blankets over their head, which is what would happen if people knew what horrors lay a shadow’s width away.
The problem is people interested in magic and mysticism spend a lot of time loitering on the very edge of the light, as it were, which gets them noticed by the creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions who then try to use them in their indefatigable efforts to break into this particular Reality.
♥ “He’s wrong.”
“No, I could tell he was telling the truth. You know, Granny, you can tell how--”
“Foolish child. All you could tell was that he thought he was telling the truth. The world isn’t always as people see it.”
♥ An observer on some suitable high point, let’s say for the sake of argument a wisp of cirro-stratus on the edge of space, would remark on how lovingly the light spreads across the land, how it leaps forward on the plains and slows down when it encounters high ground, how beautifully it…
Actually, there are some kinds of observers who, faced with all this beauty, will whine that you can’t have heavy light and certainly wouldn’t be able to see it, even if you could. To which one can only reply, so how come you’re standing on a cloud?
So much for cynicism.
♥ She had found them lodgings in The Shades, an ancient part of the city whose inhabitants were largely nocturnal and never inquired about one another's business because curiosity not only killed the cat but threw it in the river with weights tied to its feet. The lodgings were on the top floor next to the well-guarded premises of a respectable dealer in stolen property because, as Granny had heard, good fences make good neighbors.
The Shades, in brief, were an abode of discredited gods and unlicensed thieves, ladies of the night and peddlers in exotic goods, alchemists of the mind and strolling mummers; in short, all the grease on civilization's axle.
♥ She turned the vest over and read the nametape carefully sewn inside. “Hmm. Granpone the White. He’s going to be Granpone the Gray if he doesn’t take better care of his laundry. Aye tell you, girl, a white magician is just a black magician with a good housekeeper.”
♥ She stood up and beamed at Granny, and with an almost perceptible click wound her voice up several social classes.
♥ Granny had nothing against fortune-telling provided it was done badly by people with no talent for it. It was a different matter if people who ought to know better did it, though. She considered that the future was a frail enough thing at best, and if people looked at it hard they changed it. Granny had some quite complex theories about space and time and why they shouldn’t be tinkered with, but fortunately good fortune-tellers were rare and anyway people preferred bad fortune-tellers, who could be relied upon for the correct dose of uplift and optimism.
Granny knew all about bad fortune-telling. It was harder than the real thing. You needed a good imagination.
♥ It is well known that stone can think, because the whole of electronics is based on that fact, but in some universes men spend ages looking for other intelligences in the sky without once looked under their feet. That is because they've got the time-span all wrong. From stone’s point of view the universe is hardly created and mountain ranges are bouncing up and down like organ-stops while continents zip backward and forward in general high spirits, crashing into each other from the sheer joy of momentum and getting their rocks off. It is going to be quite some time before stone notices its disfiguring little skin disease and starts to scratch, which is just as well.
♥ She gazed out across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork and reasoned like this: writing was only the words that people said, squeezed between layers of paper until they were fossilized (fossils were well known on the Discworld, great spiraled shells and badly constructed creatures that were left over from the time when the Creator hadn’t really decided what He wanted to make and was, as it were, just idly messing around with the Pleistocene). And the words people said were just shadows of real things. But some things were too big to be really trapped in words, and even the words were too powerful to be completely tamed by writing.
So it followed that some writing was actually trying to become things. Esk’s thoughts became confused things at this point, but she was certain that the really magic words were the ones that pulsed angrily, trying to escape and become real.
♥ Simon talked on, about the world being made up on tiny things whose presence could only be determined by the fact that they were not there, little spinning balls of nothingness that magic could shunt together to make stars and butterflies and diamonds. Everything was made of of emptiness.
♥ “You can’t get any wetter than you are now. Anyway, you walk wrong for rain.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You go all hunched up, you fight it, that's not the way. You should-- well,, move between the drops.” And, indeed, Granny seemed to be merely damp.
♥ “Maybe. I remember a fat little boy. Rather unpleasant.”
“That might have been me. I seem to recall a rather bossy girl, but it was a long time ago. A long time ago.”
“I didn’t have white hair in those days,” said Granny.
“Everything was a different color in those days.”
“It didn’t rain so much in the summer time.”
“The sunsets were redder.”
“There were more old people. The world was full of them,” said the wizard.
“Yes, I know. And now it’s full of young people. Funny, really. I mean, you’d expect it to be the other way round.”
“They even had a better kind of air. It was easier to breathe,” said Cutangle.
♥ “Where’s the precedent?”
“The what?” asked Granny, sharply.
“It’s never happened before.”
“Lots of things have never happened before. We’re only born once.”
♥ (There should be a word for words that sound like things would sound like if they made a noise, he thought. The word “glisten” does indeed gleam oilily, and if there was ever a word that sounded exactly the way sparks look as they creep across burned paper, or the way the lights of cities would creep across the world if the whole of human civilization was crammed into one night, then you couldn’t do better than “corescate.”)