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Discworld: Lords and Ladies

Lords and Ladies is the 14th Discworld novel and the third or fourth in the 'witches' theme. According to Terry Pratchett, this was the moment where the character of Granny Weatherwax finally reached her full supremacy.

Following on directly from Witches Abroad, the book concerns the invasion of The Fair Folk into the Discworld via rifts opened from their home 'parasite universe', which manifest as crop circles. The malevolent elves see in magnetism and are thus vulnerable to iron, especially magnetic Thunderbolt Iron, and the main portal between their country and Lancre is shielded by a ring of magnetic standing stones, the Dancers. However, they use mind control on a group of young impressionable witches and a group of theatrical players. This results in the Dancers being removed and a full-scale invasion commencing, coinciding with King Verence's wedding to Magrat. It's up to the three witches of Lancre to defeat the malevolent elves and save the day.

Preceded by Small Gods, followed by Men at Arms. Preceded in the Witches series by Witches Abroad, followed by Maskerade.

Contains examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: The elves (and related creatures like unicorns) are vulnerable to iron, especially magnetic Thunderbolt Iron. This is because they have a sixth sense that lets them 'see' in terms of magnetic force lines, and this is so emphatically their primary sense that removing it causes Glamour Failure and pain.
  • Alien Blood: The elves have green blood, presumably based on copper rather than iron.
  • Alpha Bitch: 'Diamanda', who has the ego and pretentiousness to think that she knows better than all other Lancre witches because she read a few books and was stupid enough to fall for the Elf Queen's promises of power.
  • Alternate Universe: Ridcully "mishears" 'parallel universe' as 'parasite universe' when Ponder tries to explain it. The narration then notes that there are indeed such things as parasite universes, and the elves' country is one of them: little scraps of reality lacking a past or a future, trying to latch onto real timelines and suck them dry. (Which also explains the elves' immortality and Creative Sterility).
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Elves. Naturally.
  • Animal Motifs: Bees and wasps, with the occasional sideline about cats.
    Only one queen in the hive...
  • An Axe to Grind: Magrat, after upping a level or ten in badassery, hefts an axe and merrily chops elves.
  • Badass: Granny Weatherwax really comes into her own here, as does Magrat, what with her elf-chopping rampage and tackling of the Elf Queen.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Magrat. Holy shit, Magrat.
    Magrat had always been the soft one -
    - Who'd just fired a crossbow through the keyhole.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ponder and the Librarian when they take out sniper-elves in the trees that were outnumbering Magrat.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Nanny Ogg's observation at dinner with Casanunda is an example of this trope. "She peered at the label. 'Chateau Maison? Chat-eau... that's foreign for cat's water, you know, but that's only their way, I know it ain't real cat's water." Chateau is French for "castle" (or something similar), chat is French for "cat" and eau is French for "water."
  • Bond One-Liner: Magrat manages one after ambushing an elf with a chair and pushing into the hole of a garderobe: note 
    Not just high, but stinking.
  • Breast Plate: The fearsomely bosomy armor of the entirely fictional Queen Ynci was made in this mold. Unfortunately, Magrat doesn't ''quite'' have what it takes to fill it out.
  • Brick Joke: Monkey's nut. And Casanunda himself probably qualifies.
    • Unconsidered trifles. And the humorous cow.
    • The garderobe.
    • Wizards' staffs DO have knobs on the end! (note that in the UK, "knob" is a euphemism for... well, you get it.)
    • Shawn, pondering the odds against Magrat, muses that nobody really sings "wack-fo-la-diddle-di-do-sing-too-rah-li-ay" while setting out to defeat fey evil. Not long after, the Lancre Morris Men sing this exact phrase while fighting the elves, with the WACK as a literal attack command.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The dwarfs refer to magnetism as 'the love of iron'.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Because they use a glamour on you that is the reason Mind Rape is listed, making all humans feel hopelessly inferior. Turns out, though, if you piss Magrat and Granny Weatherwax off enough, you can argue with elves. With extreme prejudice.
    • Granny Weatherwax doesn't even need to be pissed off to be immune to their Mind Rape. She just that Bad Ass. It's later revealed that this used to be the defining characteristic, and original purpose, of witches.
  • Casanunda
  • Cat-apult: A witch takes out an elf by stuffing a particularly ill-tempered cat into a box and having the victim open it, upon which the cat "went off like a claymore mine".
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the book, Jason Ogg re-shoes Death's horse Binky and keeps the old horseshoes. Later we learn that iron hurts the elves but cannot cross the boundaries of the stones into their realm (presumably due to magnetism). But Nanny takes one of Binky's horseshoes and brings it with her to an elven realm to threaten the King of the Elves, because Death can go (almost) anywhere.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Similar to the above Chekhov's Gun, Jason Ogg can shoe any animal brought to him, the only price of this skill being that he has to shoe any animal brought to him. Granny Weatherwax uses this ability to have him shoe the unicorn with silver shoes and nails, permanently freeing it from the Elf Queen's control.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: Such a circle is preventing the elves from returning to the Discworld. They're made of naturally magnetic iron, which messes with the elves' vision because of their weakness to it.
  • Consummate Liar: Casanunda's card proclaims him to be an Outrageous Liar. When the wizards ask if this is true, he replies "No".
  • Continuity Lock-Out: Invoked in an author's note before the main action starts, saying that while most Discworld novels are more or less standalone books, making sense of this one requires knowing a little bit of backstory. The author's note then, helpfully, recaps the pertinent events from the previous two books before moving on.
  • Continuity Nod: At least two. Ridcully and Granny briefly discuss Archancellor Weatherwax from The Light Fantastic "Distant relative, never met him." Granny also mentions that there are harmless elf-descended humans on Discworld, presumably including the elves briefly mentioned in The Colour of Magic and Moving Pictures.
  • Covers Always Lie: The first American edition bizarrely managed to confuse Morris dancing with football in its synopsis.
  • Creative Sterility: The elves, as Granny demonstrates in her "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Granny: What don't die can't live. What can't live don't change.
  • Crop Circles: A rash of these presages the elves' arrival. As usual for the series, they don't limit themselves to fields of grain, but crop up among cabbages, beans, cress grown on a flannel, and even Archchancellor Ridcully's "crop" of hair.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Magrat - which seems to happen in every book that she's a proper member of the witches... Also, possibly Ponder Stibbons.
    • The Lancre Morris men too.
  • Dance Battler: the Stick and Bucket Dance? Yeah, there's a reason that "kill" is one of the commands.
  • Decoy Hiding Place: Magrat hides under the bed to make an elf think she hid in the garderobe.
  • Delicious Distraction: How Pewsey is tricked to interrupt the witch contest.
  • Destined Bystander: Agnes Nitt, who would go on to be one of the main characters in Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum, appears for the first time in this book, in a minor role as one of Diamanda's followers.
  • Dreadful Musician: Taken to new levels with Nanny Ogg. As it turns out, when she sings during her annual bath, the already unnatural notes she hits are amplified by the washtub to the point of being a village-wide Brown Note. Even animals know to be afraid of it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Elf Queen comes pretty close. From what Nanny Ogg says, the King is far closer to this. He even looks the part.
    • The king is an expy of the Horned God. Old God, but not the same Old God.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Played around with both Verence and Magrat.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Ponder tries to explain this to Ridcully, who gets the wrong end of the stick as usual: if there's an alternate version of him who married Granny, how come he was never invited to the wedding?
    Ridcully: You'd think I'd think of me, wouldn't you? What a bastard!
  • Eye Scream: At one point, an elf peeking through a keyhole gets a crossbow bolt to the eye.
  • The Fair Folk: See the page for that trope for the quote in which this book deconstructs the idea. "No-one ever said elves are nice..."
  • Fish out of Water: Poor Ponder does not adapt well to being in the countryside.
  • From The Latin Intro Ducere:
    Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror. The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes, look behind words that have changed their meaning. No one ever said elves are nice.
  • Freud Was Right: In-universe. "Magrat says a broomstick is one of them sexual metaphor things." (Footnote: Although this is a phallusy.)
  • Gag Penis: The Elf King's lair is below the Long Man, two round and one long earth mound, along with an inscription that says "I Have A Great Big Tonker." It isn't exaggerating.
    • A reference to the real-world "Long Man of Wilmington" and/or the Cerne Abbas Giant, both chalk figures rather than mounds, but with the same impressive measurements.
  • The Generalissimo: Referenced in the narration.
    Some people are born to kingship. Some achieve kingship, or at least Arch-Generalissimo-Father-of-His-Countryship...
  • Genius Loci
  • Glamour Failure: Literal, when Magrat defeats the Queen and sees her real self, not the image she projects - a rather small and pathetic figure of alien proportions.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: When proper fighting finally breaks out, Jason Ogg lays into a group of Elves with the first thing that came to hand: Another Elf.
  • Groin Attack: Implied to have been suffered by a Mr. Thrum during a previous Stick and Bucket Dance.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Here codified.
    Shoot the dictator and prevent the war? But the dictator is merely the tip of the whole festering boil of social pus from which dictators emerge; shoot one, and there'll be another one along in a minute. Shoot him too? Why not shoot everyone and invade Poland?
  • Humanoid Abomination
  • If I Had a Nickel: Ridcully says that if he had a penny for every time he'd been kicked out of the tavern in Lancre, he'd have $5.38.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Parodied.
  • I Regret Nothing: Granny tells Nanny Ogg that 'Whatever happens. I ain't never regretted anything. Never regretted one single thing.'
  • Ironic Name: The Carters' daughters, as is traditional, are all named after virtues (Hope, Patience, Chastity), but then Mr and Mrs Carter got a bit confused and named all the sons after vices (Bestiality, Covetousness, Anger). None of the children live up to their names.
  • Kick The Helpless Baby Bunnies: Some bored elves amuse themselves for a time with an ant hill and a nest of baby rabbits.
  • King in the Mountain: The king of the elves.
    • You actually have to pass another sleeping king and his warriors to get that far.
  • Lack of Empathy: Granny explicitly says that elves have no empathy (though she has problems with the word). "They're cruel for fun, and they can't understand things like mercy. They can't understand that anything apart from themselves might have feelings."
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: "It's his poor wife I feel sorry for." - Weaver in reply to Carpenter's "I don't think much of my part, it's too small." (When referring to his part in a play.)
  • Magic Feather: Queen Ynci's armor. Apparently, there never was a Queen Ynci, but Granny and Nanny decide not to tell that to Magrat even after all the fuss has died down.
  • Mama Bear: The vixen that sent Greebo fleeing in terror when he chased her into the den where her litter was hidden.
  • May-December Romance: Nanny and Cassanunda, although since Dwarves age more slowly they disagree on which is which.
  • Meaningful Echo: I ATE'NT DEAD.
  • Meaningful Name: Parodied. The last names of the members of the Lancre Morris Men are professions, but never their professions (Carter is a baker, Carpenter is a tailor, and so on.)
    • Double Subverted with Tinker the tinker, who's mentioned only twice, once fleetingly and again in the denouement.
  • Medical Monarch: Nanny Ogg says kings are a bit magical because they can cure dandruff.
  • Mind Rape: A feature of the Elves' glamour.
  • My Card: Casanunda's proclaims him to be 'World's Second Greatest Lover', 'Finest Swordsman', 'Soldier of Fortune','Outrageous Liar', and 'Stepladders Repaired'.
  • Nice Hat: Ridcully's pointy hat is not particularly magical (the wizards learned their lesson with that after Sourcery) but it does contain emergency whiskey (or probably stronger), endless storage compartments and a crossbow, all of which prove useful.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Magrat, determined to free the kingdom from "old wives tales", removes the iron bars surrounding the ill Diamanda. Oops.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Elf Queen hits Magrat with the full force of her glamour, stripping away the witch's ego... and revealing the iron-hard core beneath.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Mrs. Scorbic the cook, who hates fruits and vegetables, is named after ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). And "ascorbic" translates from Latin to "not-scurvy", so...
    • The members of the Lancre Morris Men all have surnames that are occupations, but not their occupations ("Carter the tailor", "Baker the carter" and so on). Subverted with Tinker the tinker.
    • Also the members of the Carter family, see Ironic Name above.
  • Noodle Incident: "We are not doing the Stick and Bucket Dance! I still get twinges in my knee!"
    • Not quite as much of a noodle incident after we get to see a bit of it used on the Elves, who like watching dancing... right up to the point where the dancers start beating them with the sticks.
  • No Sell: The castle beekeeper sees through the Elves' glamour immediately and kills them on sight, comparing them to wasps.
  • Nude Nature Dance: A group of wannabe witches dance nude around an ancient stone circle, inviting The Fair Folk into Lancre.
  • Opposites Theme Naming: There's a character whose mother got a bit confused about the tradition of naming daughters after virtues. Her daughters had names like Charity (a miser), Hope (chronically depressed), and Chastity (a lady of negotiable affection). She named her sons after vices, such as Anger (a kind and non-violent man), Bestiality (very kind to animals), and Deviousness (an honest and straightforward chap).
  • Our Elves Are Terrifying
  • Outscare the Enemy: Nanny Ogg rallying the villagers against the invading elves.
    "Well," she said, "it's like this. If you go out there you may have to face elves. But if you stops here, you definitely have to face me. Now, elves is worse than me, I'll admit. But I'm persistent."
  • Poor Communication Kills: a rare intentional variant on part of our Author - if Granny had told Magrat the real deal about the Elves, a lot of amusing plot turns could have been avoided. After Magrat "leaves witching" Granny is so pridefully determined to keep her out of what's happening that she keeps her out of the loop even when there's an elf in the dungeon and Magrat is treating an elf-shot wound. She blames it on Magrat that she would "get the wrong idea" about the Elves, but she doesn't try to tell her the truth even when Magrat knows the elves are involved (hence leaving her woefully unprepared).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Granny Weatherwax verbally eviscerates the Elf Queen. The Queen tries to fire back... and Granny just laughs in her face.
    • She also does similar to Diamanda when she finds the girl up by the standing stones. She fairly quickly tells her I Am Not Left-Handed and if she is still going to be stupid at playing witchcraft, Granny will teach her what it really means to be a witch.
  • Remonstrating With A Gun: When Magrat gets ahold of an axe.
  • Riddle Me This: The Two Doors riddle is discussed and deconstructed pretty thoroughly by Stibbons, Ridcully, and Casanunda.
    Casanunda: "Simple. You go up to the smaller guard and say 'Tell me which door leads to freedom if you don't want to see the colour of your kidneys.'"
    Stibbons: "But you haven't got a sword!"
    Casanunda: "Yes I have, I stole it from the guard while he was considering the question."
  • Rousing Speech: Shawn attempts one, and unknowingly fails. His mum steps in and motivates the mob with carrot and stick.
    • We never hear exactly what was said, but from the description it's pretty clear he butchered the "Saint Crispin's Day" speech from Henry V. Not only that, but he tried to use it on a fairly cynical group who spotted the depressing issues with a speech about a doomed Last Stand.
  • Rubber-Band History: Following on from the Hitler example, "in fifty years', twenty years', ten years' time, history will be back on track."
    • Usually.
  • Schrödinger's Cat: Referenced when Magrat gives an elf a box with Greebo in it...
    "... in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious."
  • Shout-Out: At one point, when discussing alternate timelines, the book mentions that conventional directions are useless and suggests some alternatives including "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," "There and Back Again," and "Beyond the Fields we Know" (Lord Dunsany, father of fantasy). Also, as in Wyrd Sisters, the play segment contains Shakespearean references (in this case to A Midsummer Night's Dream).
    • There are also numerous references to folk songs about fairies, particularly "Tam Lin" and "Thomas the Rhymer".
    • "There are indeed such things as parallel universes, although parallel is hardly the right word: universes swoop and spiral around one another like some mad weaving machine or a squadron of Yossarians with middle-ear trouble."
    • The universe doesn't much care if you step on a butterfly.
    • Not to mention Jane's All the World's Siege Weapons. Apparently Fred T. Jane was a siege weapon enthusiast on the Disc...
    • The line about the Librarian taking revenge, "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, especially simian ones. They are not all that subtle" is a parody of the line from The Lord of the Rings about Gandalf: "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards because they are subtle and quick to anger".
    • Magrat overhears the King of the Elves talking to the Queen and recalls it to be "something about meeting by moonlight". This is a reference to Oberon's line from A Midsummer Night's Dream "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania", Oberon and Titania being the King and Queen of the Elves.
    • When the wizards query the fact that Casanunda's card only declares him to the world's second greatest lover, he replies "I try harder". This is a reference to Avis Rent-a-car, who used this as a slogan in an advertising campaign that acknowledged that they were only the second largest car hire firm in the UK at the time.
    • Shawn Ogg utterly fails to inspire the townsfolk with a mangled version of the St. Crispin's Day speech.
    • "And from the empty hillside, only the silence of the elves."
  • Sleepwalking: The Bursar has gotten so used to Ridcully's shouts waking him up in the morning that he's begun sleepdressing a few minutes before the daily cry of "Bursar!!!".
  • Something That Begins with "Boring": The wizards play this during their carriage ride to Lancre.
  • Speak of the Devil: Nanny is unwilling to say the true name of the elves unless she is in a blacksmith's forge surrounded by iron. The euphemistic names used otherwise include "The Fair Folk", "The Lords and Ladies" and "The Gentry".
    • Unfortunately, apparently due to the stretching of the already-stretched fabric of the universe, using even those terms - near the Dancers - can be bad...
  • Staring Contest: Granny and Diamanda get into a staring contest with the sun. Nanny cheats in Granny's favor, naturally.
  • Swallow the Key: Ridcully and Ponder can't get more money to pay for the coach ride because the Bursar swallowed the key to the UU safe.
  • The Talk: Nanny Ogg attempts to give this to Magrat. Verence tries to order a book on marital arts, but gets one on martial arts instead, which at least gives Shawn Ogg something to do on guard duty. Verence eventually gets his information from Casanunda and an interesting song sung by Nanny Ogg. They must have worked it all out in the end, because by Carpe Jugulum, Magrat has a baby daughter.
    • The fun is in the fact that Nanny eventually gives up on the talk because Magrat is being helplessly naive about the subject she's hinting at, but it turns out Magrat was doing it deliberately to get Nanny to go away.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: In this case, it's actually hematite (at one point it's mentioned that it's reddish in color).
  • Took a Level in Badass: Magrat.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Jason Ogg, said to be part of the power of his office: as long as he is willing to shoe anything, he will have the ability to shoe anything. He's shoed an ant, Death's horse, and a unicorn.
  • Unchosen One: Granny wasn't chosen to become a witch, she decided to be one and didn't give up until someone agreed to train her.
  • Unicorn: Like the elves, the book uses the vicious version of old, portraying it as essentially a maddened, wild stallion with a big bloody horn it can use to spear people.
    • And they can be subdued by virgins.
  • Virgin Power: Allows Granny to tame the unicorn.
  • What Could Have Been: in-universe. Ridcully keeps wondering this in regard to himself and Granny. He says something like, "We'd have all kinds of grandchildren by now." She shoots him down:
    Granny: What about the fire?
    Ridcully: What fire?
    Granny: Swept through our house just after we were married. Killed us both.
    Ridcully: What fire? I don't know anything about any fire?
    Granny: Of course not! It didn't happen. But the point is, it might have happened. You can't say 'if this didn't happen then that would have happened' because you don't know everything that might have happened. You might think something'd be good, but for all you know it could have turned out horrible. You can't say 'If only I'd...' because you could be wishing for anything. The point is, you'll never know. You've gone past. So there's no use thinking about it. So I don't.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To A Midsummer Night's Dream, carrying on the Shakespearean theme from Wyrd Sisters.
  • You Keep Using That Word: After the Lancre Morris Men discover that "Rude Mechanicals" is a phrase used to describe amateur thespians like themselves, one of them thinks this means he has to periodically shout rude words.
    • Doubly amusing, in that the ones he thinks to shout aren't particularly rude.
    • Many of the descriptive terms that now make the average person think elves must be good ("terrific", "glamorous", etc) originally meant something scary ("instill terror", "use glamor-magic against you", etc).

The Lord of the IslesLiterature of the 1990sLosing Christina
Small GodsLiterature/DiscworldMen at Arms

alternative title(s): Lords And Ladies
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