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Literature / A Hat Full of Sky

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A real witch can ride a broomstick, cast spells and make a proper shamble out of nothing. Eleven-year-old Tiffany Aching can't. A real witch never casually steps out of her body, leaving it empty. Tiffany does. And there's something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can't die. Now she's got to fight back and learn to be a real witch really quickly, with the help of arch-witch Mistress Weatherwax and the truly amazing Miss Level... "Crivens! And us!" Oh, yes. And the Nac Mac Feegle the rowdiest, toughest, smelliest bunch of fairies ever to be thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk at two in the afternoon. They'll fight anything. And even they might not be enough...

The 32nd Discworld book, the third written for young adults, and second in the Tiffany Aching series.

Time has rolled on and Tiffany Aching has grown older and cleverer, but perhaps not more sensible. As far as her parents are concerned, she is off to earn a little money and see a bit of the world as an assistant to a far more experienced lady, Miss Level. And that is one-hundred percent correct. She is also going to learn witchcraft.

In addition to the politics of witches to worry about, there's the continuing support of the Nac Mac Feegle, and a mysterious force known as a hiver which is drawn to Tiffany's power, and it'll take all the effort of the Feegles, all the cunning of Granny Weatherwax, and all of Tiffany's own strength, to outwit it...

Preceded by Monstrous Regiment, followed by Going Postal. Preceded in the Tiffany Aching series by The Wee Free Men, followed by Wintersmith.

This book provides examples of

  • Alpha Bitch: Annagramma. As stereotypical as any character gets in the Discworld.
  • Anaphora: The Hiver doubles this up with Rule of Three at the climax:
    "You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds, and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!"
  • And I Must Scream: Tiffany is still aware, and is trapped in her own mind while the Hiver is possessing her. She manages to retain some control over herself, but was weakening before the Feegles came to her aid.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Professor's Bustle's treatise of hivers and how to trap them turns into one in the last chapter, where he boasts of having captured a hiver in his mind and how it is not affecting his personality at all - why, his mind is as superhumanly powerful as ever! The last paragraph mentions that his colleagues are trying to beat down the door because of what he did to the Archchancellor and the College Council, and after that it dissolves into random letters.
  • Badass Boast: Granny Weatherwax gets one, as usual, when the hiver is coming for Tiffany at the Witch Trials in one last desperate attempt to possess her.
    Tiffany: But I could turn into something terrible!
    Granny Weatherwax: Then you'll face me. You'll face me, on my ground. But that won't happen, will it?
  • Badass Cape: Deconstructed, then Reconstructed at the end. The sheer, shimmering, midnight-black cape that hiver-Tiffany acquires from Zakzak can billow and flutter dramatically like nobody's business, but it's completely useless for keeping you warm and dry, and far too fragile for a working witch to wear. A billowy cape is useless for all practical purposes, but it looks really cool. While part of being a witch is putting practical matters first, part of being a human being is caring at least a little about impractical things like coolness.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The hiver takes over Tiffany's body and actions, making her do and say terrible things to all around her. Yet inside, Tiffany is fighting back; her hands freeze when the hiver tries to erase messages for help and she manages to sneak pleas for help inside the hiver's words. When the Feegles go inside her mind to rescue her, they're terrified to see that her "sun" is almost set — Tiffany's mental safe-spot is her Granny's shepherd hut and the hills of the Chalk, with sunset fast approaching. When Tiffany's inner self finally awakes, her entire mental Chalk rises up to throw the hiver out.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Poorly-made wishes are a reoccurring theme in the book. Tiffany notes how the Feegles, who are a little too eager to please, may try to carry out any task she asks for aloud, regardless of their ability (or lack thereof) to properly do the task. Granny Weatherwax observes that in any story about getting Three Wishes "that knows about the way of the world", the third wish will be to undo any damage caused by the first two wishes. In fact, the hiver does most of the damage it does by making its host give in to their darker impulses and desires, regardless of the consequences.
  • Brainy Brunette: Tiffany.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: Referenced repeatedly, including the "don't ask a tightrope walker how he keeps his balance" example. This is basically how making a shamble works (and other parts of witchcraft).
  • Central Theme: Identity. What makes you, "you" really? If you have villainous thoughts, does that make you a villian, and vice-versa? And when everything you know is the product of someone else, how can you be your own person?
    • Tiffany has to answer all these questions to defeat the Hiver. The question about who Tiffany is answered in The Wee Free Men, but here, that part of her identity is the only reason why the Hiver can't completely destroy her soul. The question about whether having villainous thoughts makes you a villain is brought up because when the Hiver was in Tiffany's body, it acted on her worst instincts, and did heinous things. This leaves post-possession Tiffany wondering what that makes her. She decides that even if she has villainous qualities, she refuses to let them define her. The final question comes when Tiffany has to help the Hiver die, but the Hiver can't do that, because it's a parasite that can only live the lives of other beings. Tiffany points out that everybody's experiences are only made up of the experiences of other beings, but, by choosing which of those lives you follow and which you leave behind, you become your own person.
  • Character Filibuster: Granny Weatherwax's rant about how "the soul and center" of witchcraft is "helpin' people when life is on the edge". She herself realizes it went a bit longer than she planned.
  • Close-Knit Community: The Chalk. Tiffany mentions they always look after each other because her grandmother expected it.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Or of Witchcraft, oddly. At the Witch Trials there's scores of witches present, and when something bad happens they all shout, rush about and don't do anything useful at all.
  • Continuity Nod: Some of the things Granny Weatherwax did in previous books are mentioned as rumours about her. In addition, the book—especially the Witch Trial sequence—is as much a sequel to the short story "The Sea and Little Fishes" as to The Wee Free Men.
    • Mr. Zakzak, who sells supplies to witches, has a selection of witch hats, and the Safety is advertised as "guaranteed to survive 80 percent of falling farmhouses". While in the surface a Shout-Out to The Wizard of Oz, it's also a callback to Witches Abroad, where a farmhouse fell on Nanny Ogg. Both she and her hat survived, and she mentioned that she would send the makers of the hat a letter about the experience so they could advertise that it stopped 100% of falling farmhouses.
  • The Dividual: Subverted with Miss Level, who really is one person sharing two bodies.
  • Dead-End Room: Tiffany helps the hiver through the Door of Death. She then has a little difficulty finding her way back, since the Door is supposed to be one way only. Played for Laughs with the Nac Mac Feegle, who find it much easier to enter a pub than to leave it.
  • Door Jam: At the end of the book, young witch Tiffany Aching leads the Hiver (a sort of serial-possessing entity) through the portal into Death, only to discover the door has closed behind her. This presents her with the problem of opening it again, while dealing with all the dangers of Death alone.
  • Double Meaning: Chapter seven is named "The Matter of Brian". You'd think its title means "the topic of Brian", but after you've finished it and read about Hiver!Tiffany transmogrifying Brian into a frog, then explaining to his employer that a pink balloon appeared in the room because his remaining matter had to become something, you realize that, unfortunately for him, it also means "the part of Brian which occupies space and possesses mass".
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Tiffany rips off her Horse necklace to add it to a shamble. It later reappears on her neck with no explanation.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: The German translator translated the strong Scottish dialect of the Wee Free Men as perfectly fine high German. Since the second book begins with a glossary the same has been omitted from the German translation, save for a short paragraph about the Special Sheep Liniment, as well as a short sentence containing a new pun that wasn't there in the original.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The hiver has been around practically since the universe began. It was aware of everything at once in its natural form. The universe was a much smaller place back then, but the hiver still sees and hears everything. This is, suffice to say, traumatic, and so it hops into living minds, which have much smaller, weaker senses. It gains some degree of insulation against the quantity of the universe, and in exchange it allows its victim to essentially act as pure id. It is better at being you than you are.
  • Evil Costume Switch: When Tiffany is possessed by the Hiver, she's inspired to raid the local witch shop, buy a cape, a tall hat, and several pieces of occult jewelry.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Hiver is noted to be dangerous for any spellcaster or wizard not because of its intelligence, but because it has no intelligence and therefore is Too Dumb to Fool with any countermeasures designed to stop smarter beings.
  • Exact Words: Miss Level, having trouble controlling her second self when it no longer has a body attached to it, complains that it's as impossible as not picturing a pink rhinoceros when someone's mentioned one. Granny Weatherwax manages to get her to buck up and start getting the hang of it by telling her with the utmost sincerity that she, Granny, is not picturing a pink rhinoceros. Then, near the end of the novel, we get this exchange:
    Tiffany: You don't know what a rhinoceros looks like, do you?
    Granny: (happily) That's right!
  • Fat Comic Relief: Averted. At first, it seems like Petulia is going to be this trope. However, instead of making her a punchline, Pratchett made Petulia a person. Despite her insignificance to the plot, when she is talked about or present, she is treated with respect. And she comes to her own at the end of the book, when she overcomes her fear of being criticized, steps up to Annagramma, and wins the Witch Trials.
  • Foreshadowing: When I am old, I Shall Wear Midnight.
  • Geas: Rob Anybody is put under a Geas by his wife Jeannie to protect Tiffany Aching. It becomes a Running Gag that Daft Wullie keeps thinking Rob means an actual goose. Of course as Sourcery points out, there are actual birds named geas on Discworld.
    Rob: 'Tis a heavy thing, ta be under a geas.
    Wullie: Well, they're big birds.
  • Healing Herb: Played for laughs. Tiffany learns the Doctrine of Signatures from Miss Level, based on a real-life medieval idea that God placed a "signature" on every plant that indicated its medical use, to those who could read it properly. This being Discworld, the signatures are literal, and with a special magnifying glass, you can read them on the stems. Sadly, plants are terrible spellers, but Miss Level has worked out a great many cures this way, such as goldenrod being good for jaundice, which turns skin yellow.
  • Homage: The Hiver shares many characteristics with the Brollochan, a similar possessing spirit depending for its sensory input on forcibly occupying the bodies of living things, in Alan Garner's The Moon of Gomrath.
  • I Have to Go Iron My Dog: When Roland comes to see Tiffany off, Miss Tick mentions seeing a very nice example of a... big stone.
  • Implied Death Threat: Hiver!Tiffany delivers this to her broomstick:
    • "I am not going to learn you, you are going to learn me. Or the next lesson will involve an axe!"
  • Irony:
    • Annagramma always uses the word "literally"... but she never uses it literally.
    • When he invited a parasite which destroys the minds of all its hosts inside his brain, Dr. Sensibility Bustle didn't demonstrate a lot of sensibility.
  • Man in a Kilt: All the male Feegles.
  • Mind over Matter: When Ms Level loses one of her bodies, all that extra "her" remains, and the result basically looks like telekinesis.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: Tiffany is the Downs inside her own mind.
  • Mortality Grey Area: The parasitic entities known as Hivers were formed in the first few seconds of Creation, and are stated to not be alive, but to merely have "the shape of life". They exist as formless, mindless essences driven purely by instinct and base emotion, and possess neither thought nor intelligence... unless they can hijack that of a living being.
  • Mundane Utility: In the first chapter, Tiffany astral projects to see herself clearly, because her mirror is broken. Unfortunately, this leads to the Hiver becoming aware of her existence, and when she does it again (though it isn't for a mundane utility this time), the parasite exploits her vacant body and possesses her.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jeanie's original decision to not let Rob and the Feegles go help Tiffany. While she changes her mind later (see below), it prevents the Feegles from warning her about the hiver, and by the time they get to Miss Level's place, she's already been possessed by it.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The hiver's only emotion, as it turns out, is fear; it describes its entire existence as an And I Must Scream situation after it becomes self-aware. It also doesn't actually want to hurt its hosts, it just grants all their hidden desires, unable to understand why they're hidden, and with no regard for self-preservation.
  • The Obstructive Love Interest: Subverted with Jeannie the kelda. She's initially jealous of Tiffany, because Jeannie's brand-new husband, Rob Anybody Feegle, has known Tiffany longer than he's known Jeannie, was briefly engaged to her (long story), and is itching to leave behind his home and duties there because he knows Tiffany is in danger. Rob understands Jeannie's stress, and promises that if she asks him, he'll stay with his clan and be the Big Man. Jennie thanks him, then lays a geas on him to go and find Tiffany and protect her, because the Chalk needs its witch. Jeannie and Tiffany end up becoming fast friends.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Rob Anybody's worries about the hiver chasing Tiffany cause him to lose interest in hunting, stealing, and fighting. When he refuses a drop of Special Sheep Liniment, the other Feegles are briefly convinced he's dead.
  • Opinion Flip Flop: Petulia is shown to do this, changing her opinion on sheep when Tiffany mentions how proud the Chalk folks are of their flocks. Tiffany wonders if it would be that easy to convince Petulia that the sky is green.
  • Poltergeist: Inverted. Ms Level's cottage is "haunted" by a spirit of obsessive tidiness, which she dubs an ondageist.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Part of Granny's rant. "That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center! The... soul... and... center!"
  • Quiet Cry for Help: When Tiffany is possessed by the Hiver, she occasionally lets out quiet pleas for help in the middle of sentences.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Tiffany's attempt at making a shamble (sort of a witch's Swiss Army Knife). Makes one... fails. Makes another one... fails. On her third attempt, she fails again, and realises that it was stupid to rely on the rule of three, since things don't happen like that in reality.
    • The Hiver doubles this up with Anaphora at the climax:
    "You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds, and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!"
  • Russian Reversal: Hiver!Tiffany tells her broomstick "I am not going to learn you, you are going to learn me", then says that or else, the next lesson would involve an axe. Its days of aerial acrobatics were over after that.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Jeannie's story of a pictsie clan that drove off a rival clan's raiders by animating a scarecrow, fooling their enemies into retreating before the 'bigjob' could spot them.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The Feegles happen to have a small fortune in gold from the burial mound where they live. So, when they're in disguise as a human, they manage to get their way and avoid suspicious "bigjobs" from asking too many questions by throwing money around.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: When the hiver possesses Tiffany, Oswald the ondageist immediately flees from Miss Level's house. His return is part of the proof that Tiffany has been successfully exorcised.
  • Shout-Out: Petulia performs her magical "pig trick" at the Witch Trials, but uses a sausage instead of a pig. In the fantasy film Willow, a stage-magic pig trick is performed using a baby instead of a pig.
    • The Hiver might have stepped across the worlds from Cheshire, England. An extremely similar entity is used by Alan Garner to possess a young Witch in The Moon of Gomrath. Garner's Alderly Edge is also set in a part of England where the Cheshire Plain starts to get hillier and become mountainous: it is also populated with stolid country folk who would not be out of place in Lancre and The Chalk.
    • The Kelda's ability to access the Genetic Memory of her female ancestors is straight out of Dune, but unlike the Bene Gesserit, she doesn't need access to male ancestral memories to expand this ability into calculating the future as well, since here it's explicitly magic and she can also communicate through time with her own descendants as well.
  • Shrinking Violet: Petulia Gristle, who can't seem to speak without an "um..." somewhere in her sentences. She's also so timid that she'll turn her opinions around in order to keep out of conflict with anyone. You could tell her the sky is green and she'd agree with you.
    • By the end of the book, Petulia has grown enough to tell Annagramma to shut up and stop ordering people around.
    • Subverted later on, laying foundation for her Character Development in Wintersmith:
      "Um...that was very kind of you," said Tiffany, but her treacherous Second Thoughts thought: And what would you have done if it had attacked us? She had a momentary picture of Petulia standing in front of some horrible raging thing, but it wasn't as funny as she'd first thought. Petulia would stand in front of it, shaking with terror, her useless amulets clattering, scared almost out of her mind...but not backing away. She'd thought there might be people facing something horrible here, and she'd come anyway.
  • Sin Invites Possession: Tiffany makes an error based on inexperience and a certain vanity. Untutored as to the pitfalls, she treats astral travel and going out of body as unremarkable and neglects to take safety precautions to prevent anything else from getting in while the back door is open and unlocked. She pops out of her body to check herself out, as if she is looking at herself in a full-length mirror; whilst checking her appearance, the Hiver takes occupation of her body.
  • Split at Birth: Ms. Level is a single person with two bodies. Notably the feegles are unfazed by this: apparently they once visited a world where everyone had five bodies each, specialized for different jobs.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The Feegles were thrown out of Fairyland for rebelling against the Elf Queen, "and no' fer being totally pished at three in th' afternoon, whatever any scunner might say!"
  • Synchronized Swarming: The ending features this, with Tiffany dancing with a swarm of bees in the shape of a witch.
  • Take That!: Anagramma and Mrs. Earwig are a pretty obvious satirization of Wicca, in particular, the emphasis on ceremonial procedures and/or aesthetics over practical magic for mundane purposes.
    Tiffany: Magic with a K? Magikkkk?
    Annagramma: That's deliberate. Mrs. Earwig says that if we are to make any progress at all we must distinguish the higher MagiK from the everyday sort.
  • Take That, Critics!: Annagramma's completely wrongheaded criticism of Miss Level ("A complete amateur. Hasn't really got a clue.") is a paraphrase of the critic Tom Paulin, who once said of Pterry: "A complete amateur... doesn't even write in chapters... hasn't a clue." The latter is often printed on the covers of Pterry's books, usually under a large number of rave reviews.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Quite literally. At the end, Tiffany has to help the hiver learn how to die.
  • Title Drop: Regarding Granny Aching's lack of a witch hat. Also one for a later book in the series.
  • Totem Pole Trench: The Feegles' tattie-bogle is a scarecrow made of stolen clothes, boots, and beards made to stagger around and talk by the efforts of the Feegles as part of their PLN to rescue Tiffany.
  • Underestimating Badassery: When the Feegles explain to Miss Level about how hivers are drawn to powerful minds, she's baffled as to why it would want Tiffany — why, she can't even make a shamble! Once the hiver takes over, however, it rapidly becomes clear that, uninhibited by things like morality and concern for consequences, Tiffany has the potential to be extremely powerful indeed — and also extremely dangerous, both to herself and to everyone else.
  • Understatement: In the afterward, Pratchett mentions that Witch Trials exist in this world too, but are not fun.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Rob Anybody's complaint when the Feegles are pretending to be a human—"I talk to my knees but they dinna listen to me."—is almost but not quite the first line of a famous song from Paint Your Wagon. The fact that the song is completely inappropriate to the context just makes it funnier.
  • You Keep Using That Word: Near the end of the book, Tiffany finally gets around to chiding Annagramma for abusing the word "literally".