Discworld: The Wee Free Men
The 30th book in the Discworld series, the second for young adults and first in the Tiffany Aching apprentice witch series.The Chalk has a problem. It is an isolated agricultural community near the highly magical region of the Discworld known as the Ramtops. And it has no witches. Not even one.That means it is about to have Elves.
Ain't tha' the truth!Be quiet.But Miss Tick, professional witch finder (that is to say, a witch who finds witches and teaches them how they are witches, not the other kind), is on the case. The problem is that you can't be a witch on chalk. Witching needs good strong stone, but her elbow says there's one there already, and she would not be much of a witch if she ignored her own elbow.
Crivens! Whut aboot us, ye daftie!I was getting to you. Put the bottle down, please.Tiffany Aching is the witch. A 9-year-old girl and granddaughter of the late Granny Aching, the best shepherd the hills ever knew and quite possibly a witch herself, not that anyone, possibly even her, knew it. When a monster appears in the local river, she gets annoyed and, using her brother as bait, hits it in the face with a frying pan.When she sets out to learn more about the monster, she meets Miss Tick, who tells her to wait while she goes to fetch help. She leaves her talking toad to serve as Tiffany's advisor and goes off to get Granny Weatherwax.Then Tiffany's baby brother Wentworth goes missing, and The Queen of the Elves is to blame. It is at this point that certain people
Us, ye ken.make themselves known.Noteworthy for being the first Discworld book not to feature Death. As a character, anyway.Also available in an illustrated edition (art by Stephen Player) that includes original Bonus Material, such as the transcript of the trial that led to the Toad being turned into a toad.Preceded by Night Watch, followed by Monstrous Regiment. The next book in the Tiffany Aching series is A Hat Full of Sky.
This book provides examples of:
- All Witches Have Cats: One of the pieces of "evidence" used against the old woman whose fate inspires Tiffany.
- Army of Lawyers: The Elf Queen summons one; the one thing the Nac Mac Feegle are scared of.
- Badass Bookworm: Tiffany in a nutshell. She read the dictionary cover to cover (although it was not a pronunciation dictionary) because "she didn't know you weren't supposed to."
- Bewitched Amphibians: The Toad, though it takes it a while to remember it was once a lawyer, for the most time it's not sure whether it was transformed or enchanted to believe it had been transformed.
- Blatant Lies: The two egg-stealing Feegles claim that they thought the eggs were stones, so needed to be removed for the hen's comfort.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Pretty much all the male Feegles.
- Book Ends: The novel begins with Miss Tick scrying on Tiffany in a dish of inky water, and the image draws back to reveal the Chalk dotted with sheep and sheepdogs streaking across the grass like comets. An identical pull-back view of the Chalk occurs in the very last paragraph.
- Brown Note: Gonnagles specialize in this, either through hypersonic noise that causes excruciating pain to anything that can hear it or intentionally and phenomenally bad poetry.
- Burn the Witch!: Tiffany is inspired to become a witch after what happened to a little old lady who was falsely suspected of being a witch. Tiffany's reason for becoming a witch? To make sure it doesn't happen again.
- Canis Latinicus: Toad defeats a group of elf-made lawyers through this.
- Actually, it might be a subversion; it's actually very accurate Latin. It's the message that's doggerel. It's the precise Latin for Nac Mac Feegle battle cries.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late
- Closer to Earth: Feegle keldas are almost the only ones with even a drop of common sense.
- Cool Old Guy: The only exception to the Closer to Earth rule above is William the gonnagle, who is easily the oldest and the most sensible Feegle after the kelda dies.
- Covers Always Spoil: Technically the case, but so subtle that you wouldn't notice. It's mentioned that the Feegles' swords glow blue in the presence of lawyers. On the cover, the Feegles standing around the Toad have glowing swords.
- Delicious Distraction: This is how the dromes catch their prey, and also how to keep Wentworth, Tiffany's young, annoying brother, quiet.
- Everybody "Lives": And thus Death doesn't have to show up. However: A. There are some things worse than dying, and B. The Nac Mac Feegle sincerely believe that they are currently in the afterlife (since the world is so full of good food, good drink, fun enemies, and lovely landscapes—i.e., places to fight—it must be heaven), and falling in battle is to be transported to the land of the living.
- The Fair Folk: As seen in Lords and Ladies... unfortunately.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Roland gets all the credit for the rescue. At least he tries to tell the truth.
- Foreshadowing: The cover. Look at the frog and the swords of Feegles closest to him.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Tiffany wields one against Jenny Green-Teeth.
- Justified: Jenny can only be seriously injured by Cold Iron. Tiffany was instinctively aware of this.
- Gender Rarity Value: The 99% male Nac Mac Feegle follow the leadership of the Kelda, their one female. Of course, she is their mother.
- Glamour Failure: Dromes can't make people that talk coherently.
- Headless Horseman: One of the Queen of the Elves' minions.
- Hero of Another Story: Miss Tick spends most of the novel off-page, seeking out Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg and convincing them to follow her in order to begin Tiffany's training.
- Insane Troll Logic: Tiffany's younger brother wants candy. He's surrounded by piles of it. He's sitting in the middle of them all, crying, every piece untouched. Why? Because if he takes one then he's not taking all the others. To be fair, Wentworth is three.
- This is also a shout-out to Buridan's Ass
- It's All About Me: A rare heroic version. It doesn't matter to Tiffany if she loves her brother or not. The important thing is that he's hers. And look out when she expands her borders from "family" to "country".
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The dromes' specialty.
- Master of Illusion/Dream Weaver: Dromes, and the Queen even more.
- Meaningful Name: In the Feegle language, Tiffany's name means "Land Under Wave" (and has a lot more vowels in it).
- And it's real Irish, or at least very similar to it. Open to correction if it's a particular variant.
- Miscarriage of Justice: Exactly what happened to the old, mentally ill woman who had the misfortune to look like a witch. The Feegles claim to be constant victims of this...
- Moby Schtick: The Jolly-Sailor-and-the-whale story is told by Granny Aching, and enforced upon the Queen when she takes on the form of the whale.
- Overly Long Name: Not-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Jock Jock.
- Reality Ensues: Grimhounds are huge black dogs with eyes like fire and teeth like razor blades. Tiffany lures one out of the snow and into the real world. Turns out that outside of a dream, having a mouth full of razor blades doesn't tend to work very well.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Queen loves dishing these out at Tiffany. They all manage to work... until Tiffany's had enough, and shows why you do NOT mess with a witch on her home territory.
- Shout-Out: The Feegles' battle cries refer variously to Braveheart, Highlander, and 12 Angry Men (it makes sense in context).
- The use of weaponized bad poetry may be a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (It's also a reference to the supposed powers of Celtic bards.)
- "William the Gonnagle" is a reference to legendarily bad Scottish poet William McGonnagle.
- The Feegles are a bunch of tiny blue men with a single woman...
- Tiffany's speculations about the "witch school" include mention of broomstick-riding lessons, and "Are ye a hag or no'?" is a Feeglish translation of a line from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Although Terry says that if the witch school is a reference, it's to The Worst Witch, which also has broomstick lessons.
- The ballroom drome-dream resembles a scene from Labyrinth, while the not-quite-voice ("Fwa waa fwah waa wha?") of Tiffany's dance partner is reminiscent of how adult speech is rendered in the various Peanuts animated features.
- A queen who lures children in with sweets rules over a land where it's always snowing and time doesn't pass at the same rate as the regular world, just like in The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Feegle swords glow blue in the presence of... lawyers.
- Shown Their Work: The Feegles' speech is nearly all authentic Scottish English. The sole exception is "offski", which comes from Billy Connoly's parody of "D.I.V.O.R.C.E."
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Tiffany to the Queen.
- The Smurfette Principle: Justified: turns out Feegles are Eusocial just like bees. See Shout-Out above.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Granny and Nanny, not to mention the Feegles - but Tiffany bears up pretty well, considering.
- Straying Baby: Wentworth gets into trouble this way.
- Took a Level in Badass: Tiffany.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Tiffany likes cheese. Enough so to briefly hesitate when the dromes create some in her dream.
- Wentworth is obsessed with candy, though given that he's a young child that's hardly surprising.
- Training the Gift of Magic: Tiffany is recognised as having the right stuff to become a witch, despite some assumptions about her home environment, and her training begins.
- Twice Told Tale: To Childe Rowland and Burde Helen, though in this case Roland is the one captured by the Elves, and it's the girl who has to rescue him.
- Upper-Class Twit: Roland, the Baron's son. He gets to be a lot less of a twit in the later books when he's free of the influence of Fairyland.
- Violent Glaswegian: Every last male Nac Mac Feegle.
- Why Did It Have To Be Lawyers: The Feegles' only weak spot, apart from an inability to get out of pubs.
Nae King! Nae Quin! Nae Laird! Nae Master! We Willnae be fooled again!