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Literature / The Shepherd's Crown

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Mind how you go...

The 41st and final Discworld novel, and the fifth in the Tiffany Aching subseries, published in September 2015, half a year after Terry Pratchett's death.

Following Granny Weatherwax's death, a storm is brewing over Lancre and the Chalk. Barriers have weakened and old enemies are stirring, and Tiffany, now first among witches, finds herself stretched thin between the land of her ancestors and the land of the witches, and with some very large, sensible and sturdy boots to fill. Meanwhile, a young man named Geoffrey sets out for Lancre with the unusual dream of becoming a witch, and an even more unusual goat in tow.

And with the barrier between worlds weakened, the elf lord Peaseblossom begins plotting to re-enter the world of the humans... starting with a change in management in Fairyland.


Preceded by Raising Steam. Preceded in the Tiffany Aching series by I Shall Wear Midnight.


  • Action Girl: Maggie, the daughter of Rob Anybody and Jeannie (briefly introduced as a tiny baby in A Hat Full of Sky, but here appearing as an almost-grown young woman) doesn't want to go off to be a kelda for another clan — she wants to be a warrior like her brothers.
  • The Alcoholic: Nanny Ogg has always enjoyed a good drink, but immediately after Granny Weatherwax dies she seems to have a jug of cider on her constantly. She seems to get better eventually.
  • Arc Words: "Thunder and Lightning" and Tiffany's Catchphrase of "There will be a reckoning" have been Arc Words throughout Tiffany's books, but they both become more prominent in this book than in previous ones.
  • Babies Ever After: Magrat apparently has had two more children since the birth of Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling, though none of the three is old enough to be an actual character.
  • Back for the Finale: Nearly all of the major Discworld characters, sans Samuel Vimes, Rincewind and Susan, appear at various points in the book. We see Vimes's direct influence from Snuff in giving the goblins equal rights.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The prologue and first chapter seemed to be foreshadowing Granny Weatherwax's death during the coming battle with the elves. Instead, she dies in her sleep at the beginning of Chapter 2.
    • The death of Nightshade during the final battle. Things seemed to be building to a climactic showdown between Nightshade and Lord Peasebottom. Peasebottom contemptuously kills her with a single stroke.
  • Betrayal Insurance: The Nac Mac Feegle are this for Nightshade.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tiffany manages to rally all the witches to fight against the elf invasion and find ways to adapt to her new responsibilities as the unofficial leader of the witches, but at the end of the day her friend Nightshade is dead, as is Granny Weatherwax. Also Geoffrey is never officially declared a witch, although he takes residence in Granny Weatherwax's cottage and it's a new era.
  • Book Ends: In a particularly neat way, to the Witches series in general. The first witch-centric book, Equal Rites, featured a girl who wanted to be a wizard — this book features a boy who wants to be a witch.
    • In addition, Tiffany's first and last books both end with her taking a level in badass in order to banish fairies from the Chalk.
    • In one for the Discworld series as a whole, the book makes the first (and last) reference to the engineer Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos since his appearance in The Colour of Magic.
  • The Bus Came Back: Agnes Nitt appears, for the first time since Carpe Jugulum, with the explanation that she went off to try being a singer again and has been touring the world.
  • Call-Back: Almost every previous witch-focused book is referenced repeatedly, particularly in regard to the previous invasions from the Elves and Tiffany's previous achievements. In addition, the Disc's recent developments of railways and goblin citizenship are both important again.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Geoffrey to his father, who is a Jerkass, when the latter beats him with a bleeding vixen's tail for skiving off a fox hunt. He also does this without raising his voice.
  • Cathartic Chores: The book has two principal characters doing cleaning as displacement activity.
    • Granny Weatherwax cleans when she realises she is about to die.
    • Granny Weatherwax's successor Tiffany Aching furiously cleans a house from top to bottom when she's furious with an older witch and frustrated at the Witch workload thrown at her.
  • Cats Are Magic: As in previous books, Nanny Ogg's tomcat Greebo is very intelligent and can follow spoken commands. Granny Weatherwax's cat You also shows heightened intelligence, and even speaks to Tiffany at the end of the novel. According to Neil Gaiman, Pratchett had planned additional scenes revealing that during the novel, You's body was shared with Granny Weatherwax's mind, staying a bit longer after her death to help Tiffany. However these scenes were never written, but they are still hinted at in the book. A humorous footnote refers to an Unseen University wizard who was doing research into how cats can seemingly be in two places at once, only to be found dead surrounded by purring cats.
  • Character Death: Granny Weatherwax in the beginning of the book, the Queen of the Elves at the end.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The elves lost badly in their previous two invasions when they had surprise on their side and were fighting 1 to 3 witches. This time there are a dozen witches, an army of Feegles, and a group of old men using specialized anti-elf weapons waiting for them. The only reason any of the invading elves survive is that they are allowed to retreat, in Lancre; and their king intercedes in the Chalk.
    • There's also the fight between Peaseblossom and The King of the Elves: the latter essentially walks up to the former and smacks him hard enough to kill him instantly.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Nanny Ogg tells Tiffany this when the latter hesitates about filling Granny Weatherwax's shoes.
  • Darker and Edgier: This book is missing quite a bit of Terry Pratchett's usual witty humor. It reads very much as a goodbye. The fact that a prominent figure both in this series and his main Discworld series dies in the very first part of the book, and acts considerably less like herself, says a lot.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: For protesting against a fox hunt and skiving off on it, Geoffrey gets a beating from his father and a dead vixen's blood smeared all over his face. For good reason, Geoffrey calls his father out for doing this and leaves home without another word.
  • The Dreaded: Tiffany has become this to the elves; when she is deposed, the Queen curses Lord Peaseblossom to feel the wrath of Tiffany Aching.
  • End of an Age: On the one hand, Granny Weatherwax dies. And, for the Elves, so does their Queen. On the other hand, Tiffany becomes the hag o' hags, the witches of the Disc are united under her, and the Elves are rendered unlikely to ever invade again (what with the iron railways everywhere and the fact that their one remaining ruler is somewhat lazy and apathetic).
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Discussed regarding Nightshade. Tiffany decides to try and teach her to be a better person, but knows to keep the Nac Mac Feegle around as Betrayal Insurance.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Granny Weatherwax receives knowledge of her impending death via The Call, she treats it more as an annoyance than anything else (apparently the following day was going to be a pleasant one). Rather than panicking or trying to avoid her fate, she spends the following hours preparing her own funeral, doing a few final chores and writing a farewell letter to her friends.
  • Fallen Princess: The elf queen, Nightshade.
  • Familiar: Granny's cat You becomes one for Tiffany. Geoffrey's goat Mephistopheles also works in this capacity, being capable of feats well beyond the intelligence of a normal goat, and crosses over into Attack Animal when needed.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Geoffrey is a rare male example. Animals and people alike tend to like him, and he's a strict vegetarian.
    • this is another, rather subtle Bookend, given the earlier running joke about Mustrum Ridcully being an inversion of the “Radagast the Brown” type of magician
  • Foil: Geoffrey to most witch candidates. Witches operate on using their heads, Brutal Honesty, and Good Is Not Soft so as to correct the wrongs in their home turf; Geoffrey is a Friend to All Living Things and master at Politeness Judo, who wants to be a witch so as to have witch's freedom to be who he is. This earns him the unusual niche of being a "calm-weaver" or "peace-weaver" (itself a pun on what people usually call a male witch, a "warlock").
  • Gag Penis: Tiffany observes in passing that the...essentials of the Elf King are rather large.
    • Also a Call-Back to Nanny Ogg’s discussion of this subject in Lords and Ladies; Granny has no opinions, having already had her enjoyment of maypole dancing ruined by folklore...
  • Given Name Reveal: The Queen of the Elves, who has only been called "the Queen" in her previous appearances, here reveals her real name: Nightshade.
  • Good Feels Good: Tiffany deliberately invokes this trope in the attept to redeem Nightshade. It works... and then she dies trying to defend Tiffany from Lord Peaseblossom.
  • Grand Finale: To the Discworld series, and to Tiffany Aching's story.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Revealed about Geoffrey's Politeness Judo. In fact, a bartender offers him a job when he breaks up a fight between two drunkards without getting injured.
  • Hidden Depths: Mrs. Earwig, who in previous books have been mainly used as a foil to Granny Weatherwax and an example of how not to approach witchcraft, turns out to have more to her when she is the only witch totally immune to the elves' glamour. This is foreshadowed earlier in the book when the other witches criticize her for writing fairy stories, as it could make problems like the elves worse, and she finds the whole idea of anyone not having a clear sense of the difference between fantasy and reality preposterous.
  • Insanity Immunity: It's implied that Mrs. Earwig's immunity to glamour may be because of her narcissism and/or sociopathy, as the glamour appears to work by activating shame.
    • In fact, Nightshade, the (deposed) Elf Queen herself states that it doesn't work because Mrs. Earwig is missing something and then completely sincerely asks if Mrs. Earwig is sure she is human and not an elf.
  • Iron Lady: Witches tend to have to qualify for this trope in order to be witches. Mrs. Earwig (Ah-wij) even references the Trope Codifier:
    "This lady is NOT for turning!"
  • I Want Grandkids: Tiffany's mother says this, though she has plenty of grandkids already.
  • Killed Off for Real: Granny Weatherwax has met with Death for the final time.
  • Magic Knight: Magrat goes screaming into battle with an axe in one hand and a fireball in the other.
  • Mail-Order Bride: Briefly referenced as available from the Biggerwoods catalogue.
  • Married to the Job: This has caused Tiffany and Preston's relationship to stall. She has her responsibilities in her steading in the Chalk, and he has his responsibilities to his patients in Ankh-Morpork (which is over five hundred miles away), so their relationship consists of letters and some very infrequent visits. There is hope that when Preston's studies are complete, he'll be able to go back home and be a doctor there, which will make a closer relationship possible.
  • Meaningful Name: Mephistopheles the goat. He's Smarter Than You Look and not a goat to cross.
  • Misery Builds Character:
    • Anyone who decides to commit to the path of becoming a witch learns this. The elder witches do warn the younger ones about the fact that being a witch is more about dealing with people and using your head rather than performing spells. Even Nanny Ogg, who reacts to the idea of Geoffrey potentially being a witch pretty nonplussed, suggests assigning him of the muckier jobs to really test his interest.
    • Nightshade as a result of being a Fallen Princess Took a Level in Kindness and stands up for Tiffany against Peaseblossom.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When three elves try to kidnap the little baby girl that's been named after Tiffany, Tiffany goes into a rage and kills all three of them with fire. Afterwards, she's horrified at what she's done, and fears that this is the first sign of her going dark. (Nanny Ogg, however, tells her that it would have been a lot worse if she'd killed them and enjoyed it.)
  • Namesake Gag: The shed was invented by Heimlich von Sheddenhausen.
  • Noble Fugitive: Nightshade is a variant; the other elves turned on her and kicked her out of Fairyland for being "too soft."
  • No-Sell: The elves' glamour doesn't work on Mrs. Earwig. The other witches can resist it, but she doesn't even notice it.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the Queen finds out the Goblin she's captured is an Ankh-Morpork citizen. It doesn't last, but only because she wrongly thinks he's lying. Even amoral raiders from another reality know not to piss off Vetinari.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Continuing from Lords and Ladies, this is the Elf King's standard M.O. As the world progresses more and iron becomes more prevalent, it becomes increasingly inhospitable to Elves. The King believes he can simply wait it out, because all iron rusts eventually, and is content to remain where he is until that time.
  • Passing the Torch: As the logical conclusion of her character arc, Tiffany is made the successor of Granny Weatherwax and Granny Aching, as she inherits the cottage and steading of the former and the titular shepherd's crown of the latter. At the end of the book, ghost-like remnants of both women appear to bow to her.
  • Pet the Dog: Tiffany pays out of her pocket in "obs" to get Geoffrey a broomstick. The dwarves even make adjustments for him being a guy.
  • Politeness Judo: Geoffrey's power. It doesn't work on his father, but it works on every other man.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Nightshade is undergoing a slow Heel–Face Turn thanks to Tiffany — and ends up defending Tiffany from Lord Peaseblossom, which costs her her life.
  • The Runt at the End:
    • Mephistopheles was one.
    • Baby Tiffany seems to become this, until adult Tiffany puts her foot down with the parents.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Peaseblossom responds to Nightshade's speech about how elves can be better than they are by casually killing her. To add insult to injury, it's implied that it wasn't even because he was angry with her, but just to hurt Tiffany.
  • Slave Race: Goblins seem to have been this for the elves to some degree, at least until the start of the goblin civil rights movement in Snuff. Fairyland origins would certainly explain the strange abilities some goblins have been shown to possess.
  • Smug Snake: Lord Peaseblossom seems to think he's a Magnificent Bastard, but is really more this trope.
  • Surprise Multiple Birth: Tiffany helps deliver a woman's babies: two boys, which thrills the family, and an unexpected girl, which does not. Seeing the beginnings of The Un-Favourite, Tiffany plans regular visits to ensure the daughter won't be neglected.
  • Take Up My Sword: Granny Weatherwax leaves her cottage and items to Tiffany, so that she doubles as a witch of Lancre and a witch of the Chalk. Eventually Tiffany realizes she can't be in both places for the long-term, sets up Geoffrey in Granny Weatherwax's cabin as well as two other apprentices, and builds a home for herself in the Chalk.
  • Thanatos Gambit: It's one of the things Pratchett never got around to write, and there are only hints of it in the book such as it is; Granny Weatherwax used her skill at Borrowing to put part of herself in You, so that she could keep an eye on Tiffany after she was gone. The biggest hint to this that remains in the book, is the reaction the King of the Elves has to the cat; he reacts with surprise and blurts out "You!" Death also mentions that she's been granted special dispensation to carry out her plans for a short while after death, but it's never spelled out.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: The successful repair of Granny's broomstick essentially consists of replacing every component at once. Everyone still thinks of the result as the same broomstick.
  • This Is Reality: This is the standard argument used to see if girls who want to be witches are up to the job, namely that it's less about using magic and more about using your head.
  • Together in Death: A sort of non-romantic variant- at the end of the book, Tiffany sees what she thinks is the spirits of Granny Aching and Granny Weatherwax walking together, watching over her. Granny Weatherwax had previously wished that she could have had the chance to meet Tiffany's grandmother; one assumes the two incredible old women would have had a lot to discuss.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Lord Peaseblossom declares himself the new King after deposing the Queen, then kills her out of spite when she defends Tiffany. The real King kills him with one blow for this.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • It should come as no surprise that Tiffany, who's been Taking a Level in Badass at least once per book, really takes a spectacular one in this book... but she's not the only one.
    • Magrat, in her first substantial role in a Discworld book for ages, has really grown into her role as both Queen and witch, and in this book she leads a large group of witches into battle.
    • Petulia Gristle, who manages to weaponize her "pig-boring" ability.
    • Hodgesaargh the falconer, who since last we saw him seems to have mastered the trick of having the dangerous birds of prey attack someone other than him.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • Nightshade as Tiffany teaches her about kindness and compassion.
    • Ms. Earwig following the events of the book.
  • Tough Act to Follow: In-universe example, with Tiffany having to take up the mantle after Granny Weatherwax. She naturally finds the task daunting.
  • The Un-Favourite: Geoffrey is this to his father, if not his mother, because he likes reading and not bloodsports. Tiffany Robinson becomes this almost instantly just for being a girl.
  • Virtuous Vegetarianism: Geoffrey in is one of the most saintly characters on the Discworld, and a big part of getting that across is his utter rejection of any animal cruelty. And unlike, say, Magrat, whose vegetarianism is mostly used to present her as a Soapbox Sadie, Geoffrey doesn't lecture anyone else about their diet (although he comes down heavily on Beastly Blood Sports), he just never eats meat himself.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: Witch Petulia Gristle has the secret of pig-boring. She can slaughter a pig humanely by talking to it in such a low, monotone, voice about such tediously trivial things that it loses the will to live. She weaponises this skill by applying it to Elves.
  • Where There's a Will, There's a Sticky Note: Granny Weatherwax has written her will, in the form of a short note to Nanny Ogg, on the back of her "I ATEN'T DEAD" card. Which has been altered, with words crossed out and added so that it now reads "I PROBABLY IS DEAD."
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: A lot of characters tell an unusually-doubtful Tiffany this in this book, including but not limited to Nanny Ogg, Jeannie, and even her parents. Occasionally with traces of Don't Say Such Stupid Things!.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Geoffrey is the youngest of three sons, and the one who breaks away from their overbearing father. Though his two older brothers are not portrayed as evil or bullying, and they seem to really admire him for taking the stand he does.
    • This triplet motif recurs. Mephistopheles the intelligent goat is the disregarded runt of a litter who has to be hand-reared to stand a chance at life. Tiffany Robinson is the surprise sister to what is initially thought of as twin sons. She is the disregarded runt in that litter and needs Tiffany Aching's active intervention to thrive. But Geoffrey and Mephistopheles grow in strength to overshadow their siblings. And any neglected younger sister named after the most powerful witch on the Disc and "god-mothered" by her is, as the book hints, going to grow up to be something special.