Follow TV Tropes


Literature / I Shall Wear Midnight

Go To
A man with no eyes. No eyes at all. Two tunnels in his head ...It's not easy being a witch, and it's certainly not all whizzing about on broomsticks, but Tiffany Aching - teen witch - is doing her best. Until something evil wakes up, something that stirs up all the old stories about nasty old witches, so that just wearing a pointy hat suddenly seems a very bad idea. Worse still, this evil ghost from the past is hunting down one witch in particular. He's hunting for Tiffany. And he's found her…

The 38th Discworld novel and the fourth in the Tiffany Aching series.

Tiffany is now pretty much a full-fledged witch, with all the responsibilities that go with it; such as helping birth babies, cutting the toe nails of old ladies, and saving Mr. Petty from a lynch mob, no matter how much he might deserve the rough music.

But people are hardly grateful; here on the Chalk, where witches are not exactly popular, there's a marked decrease in gratitude and a major increase in malice, spite and irrational accusations. Even Roland (now the new Baron, since his father's finally shuffled off this mortal... disc) is growing suspicious of her, helped to no end by the mother of his fiancee. And all are having poison drip, drip, dripped into their ears and minds by something very old, very dark and very, very angry.

The Cunning Man has returned once more, and the witch shall burn. All witches shall burn.

Not if Tiffany can help it, though.

Preceded by Unseen Academicals, followed by Snuff. Preceded in the Tiffany Aching series by Wintersmith and followed by the final Discworld novel The Shepherd's Crown.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Mr. Petty, a simple man with complicated problems who doesn't know how to deal with complicated any other way than with his fists. Supposedly his father was much the same way and he never learned any better. Tiffany hopes to rehabilitate him.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: According to Tiffany, the trick Letitia used should never have worked. Only the latter's firm belief in what she was doing allowed it to function. That and the influence of a malevolent dark power that came through a book in her library.
  • Arc Words:
    • The hare jumps into the fire.
    • "Least said, soonest mended" keeps cropping up, too.
    • "Poison goes where poison's welcome."
  • As Long as There Is Evil: The Cunning Man, although it takes him a long time to come back from each defeat.
    • This is sometimes stated as being every few centuries, and in other places it is said to have happened a few times in living memory. The older witches do think Tiffany's encounter with the Wintersmith drew the Cunning Man back this time, presumably sooner than expected after Granny Weatherwax (of course!) defeated him the last time. As it turns out, the Cunning Man's return was hastened by both Tiffany's kiss with the Wintersmith and Letitia's hex.
  • Badass Boast: The Title Drop subtly becomes this during the endgame. "When I'm old, I shall wear midnight. But not today" indicates that Tiffany no longer fears the Cunning Man, and no longer fears the possibility that he may kill her.
  • Bee People: The Feegles' resemblance to an ant colony is reinforced when the mere thought of anyone violating the integrity of their burrow instinctively enrages them all, even the foundling Wee Mad Arthur.
  • Berserk Button: Don't go near the Feegle mound with anything metal larger than a knife if you want to keep your limbs.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The nurse, Miss Spruce. Also the cook while possessed by the Cunning Man.
  • Blessed with Suck: Long Tall Short Fat Sally is a junior witch, and presumably a fairly good one for Mrs. Proust to take her along... but she's allergic to tides. Apparently they drastically change her size (with a name like that, who would guess?) and she doesn't even live near an ocean!
  • Book Ends: The Scouring faire takes place at the start and at the end of the book.
  • Brain Bleach: Used in reference to Feegles' kilts lifting up in midair or when used to fan flames.
  • Bungled Suicide: Mr. Petty, after being chased off by Tiffany, returns to his house in secret and tries to hang himself in the barn near the remains of the grandchild he'd caused his daughter to miscarry. The rope didn't break his neck, though, and Tiffany found him in time for the Feegles to cut him down.
  • Burn the Witch!: Part of the Cunning Man's backstory, as he was killed by a witch he was burning at the stake. Also, part of his M.O. as he inspires distrust in witches, generally ending with this if he isn't stopped.
  • The Bus Came Back: The return of Eskarina Smith, some 34 books and 23 years since Equal Rites.
  • Call-Back: Long Tall Short Fat Sally suffers from the same condition (growing and shrinking depending on the tidal cycle) as Tethis in The Colour of Magic.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's Pratchett, so there are a number of them. One particularly subtle one is the revelation that Daft Wullie carries matches and sometimes uses them to start fires at really inappropriate moments (such as when high up in the air on a broomstick). You think it's just another example of Daft Wullie being Daft Wullie, but at the climax of the books, his fondness for matches play a small, but vital, role.
  • Commonality Connection: Tiffany and Letitia bond over their reactions to the fairy-tale book, and the way it seemed to set out their lives based on hair colour.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cool Old Guy: The Baron, even on his deathbed, is well-loved by his people and generally a Father to His Men.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much:
    "How exactly did they commit suicide?"
    "They took a shovel to a Feegle mound, miss."
  • Cultured Badass: Wee Mad Arthur likes ballet, opera, art galleries, and fighting the Nac Mac Feegle six at a time. And winning.
  • Darker and Edgier: The book as a whole is notably darker than the other Tiffany Aching stories, a point hammered home in the second chapter — which features domestic abuse, a thirteen-year-old miscarrying and a lynch mob.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tiffany, especially when she's pushed.
    Sergeant: Am I addressing Miss Tiffany Aching?
    Tiffany: It looks to me as if you are, Brian, but you be the judge.
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: Amongst the Nac Mac Feegles' good points is the invention of the deep-fried stoat.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Feegles appear armed to the teeth with claymores, more claymores, bludgeons, axes, clubs, and at least one more claymore.
  • The Dreaded: The Cunning Man was this even back when he was alive. It's all but stated outright that his subordinates would burn women at the stake who they knew weren't witches, if the alternative was going back to the Cunning Man and reporting that they hadn't found any witches to burn.
  • Dumb Blonde: Letitia subverts it. She may come across like this, but she's actually quite sharp when she applies herself.
  • Exact Words: Tiffany really does marry Roland. To Letitia.
  • Expy: Simon from Equal Rites apparently went on to become the Stephen Hawking of the Disc, it is implied.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: It's reinforces that if the Cunning Man manages to kill even one witch in his hate, then that will start a pretty bad trend of more witches being killed in turn.
  • Eyeless Face: The Cunning Man has a curious variation of this trope: not smooth skin or empty sockets, but simply holes where his eyes should be, through which you can see what's behind his head. In Discworld, where eyes are literally the mirror of the soul, this is a very bad thing indeed.
  • Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: The Duchess is revealed to have been a dancing girl who married an aristocrat rather than the Blue Blood she claims to be. This is brought up by someone who knew her back then asking if she can still kick a man's hat off his head.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Letitia. Even Tiffany's a bit scared of the ghosts at Keepsake Manor, but Letitia helped them without a second thought.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Baron's memory of burning the stubble.
    • Petty to Tiffany: "What are you going to do when the music comes for you, eh?"
  • Freudian Excuse: The Cunning Man does have one, insufficient to justify turning into an Eldritch Abomination though it may be. When he was just a normal man (who was already a professional witchhunter), he fell in love with a witch that was going to be burned at the stake. When he finally decided at the last minute to save her, she grabbed him and he was horribly burned along with her.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse:
    • Having said the above, Eskarina Smith acknowledges the event that helped create the Cunning Man, having seen it herself, but calls him a monster regardless.
    • Tiffany and her father, Joe, discuss the abuse Mr Petty received as a child from his own father and how it led to him abusing his own daughter, Amber; however, Joe makes it clear he doesn't think the story justifies Petty's behaviour, and Tiffany understandably still thinks he's scum.
  • Generation Xerox:
    • It turns out that Sarah Grizzel (Granny Aching before she got married) and the Baron had much the same (non) relationship as Tiffany and Roland.
    • There's also a brief mention of a statue in Ankh-Morpork to Lord Alfred Rust, who bravely and heroically lost every battle he was involved with. Ronnie Rust is upholding a fine family tradition...
  • Groin Attack: A favorite of the Feegles when fighting "bigjobs," generally involving Feegles shooting up your pants leg. "Once a man gets a Feegle up his troosers, his time of trial and tribulation is only just beginning."
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: Preston has some trouble setting the stubble alight off-camera. Luckily, Daft Wullie showed up with matches, and the other Feegles and a breeze conjured by old-Tiffany helped aerate the building flames.
  • Hate Plague: The Cunning Man's modus operandi.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Subverted; Tiffany attempts to use this to explain away why in the traditional wedding formula that she uses the bride is called "whore", but Letitia doesn't buy it.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Tripled, even. Apart from the original witch trio (Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat) turning up at the funeral, there are also three witches that fit the description coming from Ankh-Morpork, and Tiffany, Amber and Letitia seem to make a coven of their own on the Chalk.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: The Cunning Man's origin story. He was a witchfinder who fell in love with a very beautiful witch and, just before she was burnt at the stake, started to consider freeing her and running away. He was about to free her when she grabbed him and held on. She burned to death, he was horribly injured and grew a never-ending hatred of witches that became an obsession, to persist even after death.
  • Hidden Depths: Amber and Letitia. And the Duchess, and Mr Petty... almost every antagonist in this book turns out to at least have a Freudian Excuse.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Cunning Man was originally an ordinary, if terrible, man. After he was killed by a witch he fell in love with as she was being burned at the stake by his compatriots, he became a spirit of severe infectious hatred.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Letitia wants to be a witch.
  • I Was Just Passing Through: Rob Anybody's excuse for helping Tiffany out. Not a straight example since they aren't rivals, however she had told him repeatedly to stop following her around.
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: Letitia's mother used to be a Music Hall girl in her youth.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Roland may appear to have recaptured his from the The Wee Free Men, but it's a bit more complicated than that. Once he's free from Letitita's hex, he gets back in charge.
    • Letitia casting a spell in a fit of jealousy towards Tiffany. It allows the Cunning Man to return.
  • Insult Backfire
    Wee Mad Arthur: ... ye are a bunch of thieving drunken reprobates with no respect for the law whatsoever!
    Rob Anybody: Would you no' mind adding the words drunk and disorderly? We wouldnae want to be sold short here.
  • Irony: 'Cunning Man' is actually a fairly old term for a 'wise man', in essence a type of male not-quite witch.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Averted. It doesn't rain at the Baron's funeral, which Tiffany approves of; she feels that rain at funerals makes people too gloomy and less able to accept death as a necessary part of life.
  • It Only Works Once: The Cunning Man has been defeated before, but each witch to encounter him must come up with her own plan for doing so. He won't fall for the same trick twice - he's a cunning man, after all.
  • Karma Houdini: Mr. Petty - He beat Amber bad enough for her to miscarry and to require the Kelda to step in and heal her. Yet after Tiffany saves his life (twice), nothing more is said about punishment. His wife even takes him back with no reservations. Tiffany decides to let it stand because his actions after he convinces her he genuinely wants to make amends (although her father's quiet comment that the villagers were going to be watching the situation in their own quiet way probably helped).
  • Karmic Death: The drunken cook, who fell into the cellar and broke her neck — right after she called on the earth to swallow Tiffany up. With the Cunning Man's Hate Plague in effect, no wonder everyone suspected poor Tiffany.
  • Kill It with Fire: How the Cunning Man was created and how he was defeated by Tiffany.
  • King on His Deathbed: The Baron's dying words provides the Arc Words. Tiffany promptly gets accused of murdering him.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To the comic poem 'Warning', a.k.a 'When I am an old woman I shall wear purple', by Jenny Joseph.
  • Little "No": When Tiffany asks if the Duchess is going to start talking about spinning-wheels next, the Duchess takes her at her word and orders every spinning-wheel in the castle destroyed. Roland mentions that his mother had one, and that no-one is to touch it. When she doesn't take the hint...
  • Love Redeems: Subverted in the Cunning Man's back story. He was originally an Omnian witch-finder that fell in love with a witch, but she decided to take him with her when his order burned her at the stake.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Mr. Aching talks with Tiffany about Mr. Petty's abusiveness, and attributes much of the man's anger at Amber (without excusing it) to this trope.
  • Mediation Backfire: Discussed and defied by the Feegles - "Any man who interferes in the arguin' of women is gonnae find both of them jumping up and doon on him in a matter o' seconds."
  • Mood Whiplash: The transition from the first to second chapters.
    • Also, this happens within the Feegles' storyline. They've always been the funny Plucky Comic Relief characters in this series... but then their mound is threatened, and suddenly it's all really not funny anymore.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, Tiffany considers the Cunning Man's murder of the canary to place him irrevocably beyond humanity.
    "No mercy," she said aloud, "no redemption. You forced a man to kill his harmless songbird, and somehow I think that was the greatest crime of them all."
  • Morality Pet: Invoked in the Tanty, where they give the truly irredeemable criminals canaries to look after. Macintosh killing his is seen as a true Moral Event Horizon by all concerned.
  • Mundane Utility: Tiffany can clean her hands by holding one of them over a fire and moving the heat to a poker she holds in the other.
  • My Beloved Smother: The Duchess towards Letitia.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Tiffany marries Letitia and Roland in a folk ceremony the night before the official wedding.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tiffany's actions from Wintersmith are still haunting her in this book. It's revealed that her kissing the Winter awakened the Cunning Man again, making it her problem.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: By possessing a body, the Cunning Man changes from an incorporeal spirit of malice that can make even good friends turn against each other, to a single, physical entity that can be destroyed (temporarily).
  • Nice to the Waiter: If someone is a loyal servant to Letitia's family they will be taken care of in old age.
    • Ironically, the Duchess isn't nice at all to anyone beneath her social status, but damn if she's not going to care for everybody in her employment, regardless. Apparently, the reason why they need hundreds of servants is because a fair number of them are in fact needed to tend to those servants too old to work.
    • In a literal example, it's why Tiffany (reluctantly) adds some of the Feegles' relish to her mutton sandwich, even knowing that it contains snails.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never expressly stated what Macintosh actually did. But given whatever it was was enough to be considered disturbing by the standards of policemen and a witch, this is probably for the best.
  • No-Sell: A number of characters, including all of the castle guards luckily, prove completely unaffected by the Cunning Man's Hate Plague.
  • Not a Mask: Mrs. Proust sells stereotypically warty and hideous witch masks and gloves, and appears to be wearing a full set. Then Tiffany realizes that the masks she sells are copies of her own face.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The Author's Note tells us that the bit about the hare is, if not necessarily entirely true, at any rate genuine folklore.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Played for drama. Of course the stupid, useless, eavesdropping bigot of a nurse would have to come barging in right after Tiffany's demonstration of how she was taking away the Baron's pain involving magical heat transfer, the fireplace, and a just-heated red-hot poker...
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Preston admits to this.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Wee Mad Arthur, a Nac Mac Feegle raised by gnomes.
  • Off with His Head!: Mavis the headless ghost is apparently insistent that people know she's a subversion; she lost her head in a freak scythe accident on the stairs, not from an execution.
  • Omni Glot: Amber, who the kelda Jeannie says has the instinctive ability to understand the meaning behind words. She even understands the secret language of the keldas and begins to learn some of the kelda soothings, something not seen before in a human.
  • One-Gender Race: Referenced in a Chalk-country folk belief that all hares are female.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. The castle guard sergeant, Brian Roberts, is a different individual from the Brian Tiffany met in a previous book.
  • Papa Wolf: Rob Anybody nearly goes berserk when he finds some of Roland's guards near the Feegle mound with shovels.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Tiffany Aching is described as looking "damn good" wearing midnight.
  • Prone to Tears: Letitia starts as this when Tiffany confronts her for creating a spell to turn Roland and the nearby village against a witch. Tiffany alternates between getting annoyed, trying to calm her down, and telling her off for being reckless.
  • Prophecy Twist: Not exactly a prophecy, but Tiffany says she'll marry her former beau. Which she does, but in the sense that she officiates a primeval ceremony which weds Roland to Letitia, not in the sense that she becomes his wife instead.
  • Rain of Blood: Keepsake Hall used to suffer from these, until the ghost of the first duke was persuaded to confine his hauntings to a little-used lavatory.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: The Cunning Man, knowing that Macintosh's stolen body needs to eat and drink, stops at a pond so his host can drink murky water and eat frogs.
  • Rejected by the Empathic Weapon: Once Wee Mad Arthur finds out that the Cunning Man missed the detail of controlling how weeds get picked with the shovels, he milks it for all its worth by attempting to hack the Wintersmith replica into pieces so he can condescendingly lord it over the Cunning Man's face without getting retribution that wouldn't destroy anything that would come in handy. Unfortunately for him, this leads to him getting retribution through a different outlet—the replica, which bonks his face with the shovel, much to his confusion (and pain), until the Wintersmith elaborates that a living thing will never exist in the replica, but spontaneous bouts of momentum usually will, since it essentially works like a clock.
  • Resurrected Murderer: In life, The Cunning Man was a sadistic witch-finder who would hunt and have witches burnt alive. He met his end when he ended up burned alive with one of his victims. The Cunning Man is now a malevolent spirit who continues to kill witches.
  • Retcon: When Wee Mad Arthur was introduced, he had all the basic characteristics of a Feegle except the criminal tendencies, but was referred to as a gnome, presumably because he showed up before the idea of the Feegles really took form. In this book, it turns out that he was a foundling, raised by a family of gnomes.
  • Retroactive Preparation: Eskarina claims to have bought the cupcakes from a reliable baker tomorrow.
  • Running Gag: Broomsticks being towed by a string, continuing from Wintersmith, and the idea of witches "dancing around without your drawers on".
  • Sequel Hook: Eskarina vaguely mentions her son in the epilogue. However with Pratchett's death and his daughter affirming she will not continue the series this is now a moot point.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: The Cunning Man's origin story.
  • Ship Sinking: Tiffany and Roland. Despite what the last three books seemed to be setting up, it turns out being two outcasts who've been put through hell by fairies isn't quite enough to build a relationship on. Roland even admits that he doesn't see Tiffany that way, and she reinforces they are friends.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Tiffany basically is Social Services for the entire Chalk. And, being a sixteen year old girl (although a very experienced one), she suffers from some naivety, such as not knowing how properly to deal with the situation of the Petty family.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg show up, Granny gives an explanation of how they're only there to support Verence and Magrat's royal visit, which Nanny Ogg immediately undercuts by specifically denying that their visit has anything to do with the Cunning Man. Played with, as Tiffany notes that she knows by now Nanny is cunning enough to only make a thoughtless remark like that after thinking very carefully about what effect it will have.
  • Stalker with a Crush: One way to describe the Cunning Man, towards witches. His hatred is so powerful but attractive that it comes around the other end of the multiverse as love.
  • Stealth Pun: Tiffany grows out of the frying pan (which she used at 9) and into the fire (her favorite element, as a mature witch with a steading).
  • Strangled by the Red String: Invoked, discussed, defied and ultimately subverted with the opinions of the various characters on what the exact nature of Tiffany's and Roland's friendship is, was or could ever have been. Tiffany all but names the trope when considering the issue herself.
    "And where they had gone wrong was in believing, somewhere in their minds, that because two things were different, they must therefore be alike."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Letitia has a fit of paranoia that Tiffany will steal Roland from her, and creates a spell to turn Roland against Tiffany, as well as cloud everyone's mind about what's going on with their sudden hate. When Tiffany finds out and dismantles the spell, she tells off Letitia for multiple things: 1) She used magic without considering long-term consequences or seeking proper instruction from a master witch because you need some headology on hand; 2)Letitia just cast a spell on people without their consent or awareness, which was designed to manipulate their emotions; and 3) She didn't consider simply talking to Roland or Tiffany about any awkward feelings. Understandably, Letitia cries constant Tears of Remorse, much to Tiffany's annoyance.
  • Take Our Word for It: The reader is never told exactly what Macintosh did to end up on death row, only shown the reactions of various characters learning the details.
  • Take That!: Against those that use the word Ass instead of Arse. This is a belief that Terry has held for a long time but this is the first time it came up in a book.
  • Taking You with Me: How the original Cunning Man died. Now, the only way to get rid of the Cunning Man once he takes over a body is to kill that vessel. In another dark twist of this, it's the witches' role to kill Tiffany if the Cunning Man possesses her.
  • The Talk: Given to Letitia, first by Tiffany, later by Nanny Ogg to make sure everything got through, and then some.
  • That Came Out Wrong: And Tiffany wasn't even planning to say it in the first place! She still ends up marrying Roland, though... to Letitia.
  • This Is Something She's Got To Do Herself: While the other witches would help Tiffany with the Cunning Man if she asked them, doing so would be admitting to the whole world that she was too weak to help herself.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Some soldiers come very close to this after being ordered to dig up the burial mound home of the local Nac Mac Feegle tribe. Only the timely intervention of Tiffany Aching prevents a massacre.
  • Too Clever by Half: Preston has trouble keeping a job for this reason.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Eskarina, who we last saw as a young girl just enrolling in the Unseen University, is now grown-up and capable of time travel within certain limits.
    • Curiously, she was born in Bad Ass, but had to leave it in order to take a level...
    • Letitia starts as a simpering, constantly weeping Spoiled Brat, and it's partly her fault the Cunning Man returns. After Tiffany tells her off as well as Get A Hold Of Yourself Man, Letitita helps trap the Cunning Man in a book press, buying them time to escape. Later, she participates in an impromptu wedding ceremony with Roland, and Tiffany officiates, with only mild hesitation about the use of "knave" and "whore".
  • The Unchosen One: Tiffany, according to Eskarina: "I said you weren't born with a talent for witchcraft: it didn't come easily; you worked hard at it because you wanted it. You forced the world to give it to you, no matter the price, and the price is and will always be, high. [...] People say you don't find witchcraft; witchcraft finds you. But you've found it, even if at the time you didn't know what it was you were finding, and you grabbed it by its scrawny neck and made it work for you."
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Tiffany to Roland, but they both agree it won't work out. All in all, Tiffany isn't jealous of Letitia marrying Roland and in fact remonstrates her for acting on such fear.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: When Tiffany tells Preston her plan to defeat the Cunning Man, she whispers it so the Cunning Man won't hear, and the audience doesn't get to hear it either.
  • Unwanted Assistance: In-universe. Tiffany tries to get the Feegles to stop, repeatedly. Eventually she hits upon the idea of explaining that it's like a battle which she has to fight for herself.
  • Vague Age: Eskarina, apparently deliberately invoked to avoid continuity issues. On the other hand, all the other wizards in Discworld have pretty Vague Age, even Ponder Stibbons. Why should Eskarina be any different? And then there's the whole bit about the time travel.
  • Wicked Witch: Played with, as ever. Here we have Mrs Proust, a witch so naturally hideous and warty that the Boffo warts, masks and gloves are basically copied from her face and hands. The Cunning Man is the embodiment of humanity's belief in this trope.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Tiffany and the other witches she trained with have had to become this.