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Literature / Wintersmith

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At nine, Tiffany Aching defeated the cruel Queen of Fairyland. At eleven, she battled an ancient body-stealing evil. At thirteen, Tiffany faces a new challenge: a boy. And boys can be a bit of a problem when you're thirteen...But the Wintersmith isn't "exactly" a boy. He is Winter itself-snow, gales, icicles-all of it. When he has a crush on Tiffany, he may make her roses out of ice, but his nature is blizzards and avalanches. And he wants Tiffany to stay in his gleaming, frozen world. Forever. Tiffany will need all her cunning to make it to Spring. She'll also need her friends, from junior witches to the legendary Granny Weatherwax. "Crivens!" Tiffany will need the Wee Free Men too! She'll have the help of the bravest, toughest, smelliest pictsies ever to be banished from Fairyland-whether she wants it or not. It's going to be a cold, cold season, because if Tiffany doesn't survive until Spring...Spring won't come.

The 35th Discworld novel and the third in the Tiffany Aching theme.

It's been two years since the previous Tiffany Aching book. Tiffany has moved on to study under a new witch - this time Miss Treason, who is ancient (she claims to be 113 years old) and creepy as heck. Miss Treason takes Tiffany to see the Dark Morris, a tradition to welcome the winter. Tiffany, unfortunately, feels compelled to step in and join the dance, attracting the attention of the titular Wintersmith, the embodiment of Winter itself, in the process.

This is the only Discworld novel to have its own soundtrack, produced by English folk band Steeleye Span.

Preceded by Thud!, followed by Making Money. Preceded in the Tiffany Aching series by A Hat Full of Sky, followed by I Shall Wear Midnight.



  • Alpha Bitch: Annagramma, though Tiffany is actually quite a bit well more liked and respected. However, she's not all bad such as when she instantly launches a fireball at the Wintersmith when she thinks he's attacking Tiffany.
  • Ambiguous Gender: One of the snowman-building kids is so heavily wrapped up in coats, scarf and bobble hat that it's anyone's guess if there's a girl or a boy underneath it all.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Horace the cheese.
  • Anti-Intellectualism: Apparently somewhat of a driving force behind hostility to witches; after all, "witch" basically means "someone who knows more than you". This process feeds on itself — the stupider a region's inhabitants get, the more suspicious they are of witches (and intelligence in general), so they keep on driving them out and decreasing the average local intellect. The inhabitants of Dogbend are now so stupid that, in Miss Tick's opinion, they'll soon be throwing rocks at pigs for being too smart, but this also makes them incredibly easy to fool — she's planted a book called Magavenatio Obtusis in the town, and they follow its instructions to the letter, meaning that whenever she's caught they give her a hot meal and a comfortable room for the night, stuff two sixpences in her boots and then dump her in the river with easily-untied ropes round her arms and legs.
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  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Awfully Wee Billy's description of the kelda's prophetic dreams:
    "She saw a green tree growing in a land o' ice! She saw a ring o' iron! She saw a man with a nail in his heart! She saw a plague o' chickens and a cheese that walks like a man!"
  • Badass Bookworm: Tiffany and Roland.
  • Bag of Holding: The Cornucopia. Also Bigger on the Inside, if you happen to be a kitten or Feegle.
  • Batman Gambit: Granny manipulates the situation so that Mrs Earwig gets her student into Miss Treason's steading. If it works out, fine; but if she's dreadful it will show how poor a teacher Mrs. Earwig is, requiring Tiffany's help for Annagramma to shape up, thus proving that Granny's witchcraft is superior.
  • Berserk Button: Roland snaps when his horrible aunts threaten to bother his sick father, and later on in the Underworld, Daft Wullie reminding him of them makes him furious enough to fight his way out.
  • Blind Seer: Miss Treason.
  • Brick Joke: Daft Wullie repeatedly thinking a Geas is a bird is the return of a running gag from Sourcery (which, incidentally, ended by revealing that there is an actual bird on the Discworld called a geas).
    • Nanny Ogg's remarks after the Cornucopia buries her in ham sandwiches are a double example: not only does she complain about the lack of mustard, which Miss Treason had done posthumously, but she also says she'll have to make a whole lot of soup. Her recipe for Leftover Sandwiches Soup was mentioned earlier, when all the witches at the going-away party were squirreling away free grub.
  • Call-Back: The Feegles have to dress up as a human again, first seen in A Hat Full of Sky. Big Yan refuses to be a knee this time.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: More Old Woman, but after leading a private campaign of defiance against his usurping, embezzling aunts for most of the book, Roland finally stops even pretending to be polite when they threaten to involve his sick father.
    • There is a more minor one towards the end, where Tiffany chastises Granny Weatherwax for her entry under The Chessmaster below.
  • The Cameo: Tolliver Groat and the goddess Anoia, from the contemporaneously-written Going Postal.
  • The Chessmaster: Granny, by letting Mrs. Earwig's choice win the cottage but Granny's way of witchcraft win the war. Even better, she had set this up well before the story begins by ensuring that the only contender to the spot is Tiffany, the only young witch guaranteed to turn it down if offered since she already had her own territory.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Tiffany's horse necklace.
  • Clown Car Base: Cornucopia.
  • Continuity Nod: The Dark Morris, as Pterry mentioned in the author's note, first came up in Reaper Man, and is now an important plot point.
    • Granny Weatherwax demonstrates the heat/pain-moving trick she was last seen using in Carpe Jugulum.
    • At the end of the book, Rob Anybody is seen reading "Where's My Cow?" to his children.
    • Way back in Lords and Ladies, there's a passing reference to how some of the cheeses at an inn put up a bit of a struggle when the elves invaded Lancre. This seemed like a joke, but Horace the cheese (who is Tiffany's rendition of a Lancre Blue) implies otherwise.
    • Possibly Dibbler has gone into book promotion, as the blurbs on the romance novel the Feegles leave for Tiffany are exactly the same as the ones he came up with for a chick-click in Moving Pictures. note 
    • Anoia, the goddess of things stuck in drawers, makes a personal appearance for the first time in the series, and it's revealed that she used to be Lela, the ancient volcano goddess spoken of by Anghammarad in Going Postal (the first book in which she played a significant role), who smoked all the time because the god of rain had rained on her lava. ("That's men for you, dear. They rain on your lava.") Even thousands of years later, she still constantly smokes.
  • Cool Old Lady: Nanny Ogg.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Granny, of all people, albeit reluctantly, with You the kitten.
  • Dan Browned: In-story example, when Tiffany reads a romance novel that purports to take place on a sheep farm, and is more concerned with the writer's wrong-headed belief that The Simple Life Is Simple.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Miss Treason.
  • David vs. Goliath: You and Greebo.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Wintersmith builds himself a human body based on an old rhyme about "the things that make up a man", but fails to understand that the last three parts, which he couldn't find because they aren't physical elements, are the most important:
    Strength enough to build a home,
    Time enough to hold a child,
    Love enough to break a heart
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: An interesting case as the candidate himself objects: Reaching the Underworld, Roland is reluctant to kiss the Summer Lady who is deeply asleep. Rob Anybody insists that the narrative traditions demand for the Hero to wake up the unconscious maiden with a kiss. Luckily, a little peck on the cheek does the job.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Roland has to fight these in the Underworld to fulfill his role as the Hero.
  • Elemental Powers: The Wintersmith and the Summer Lady.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: Roland de Chumsfanleigh "(pronounced Chuffley - it's not his fault)".
  • Endless Winter: The eponymous Wintersmith creates an unnaturally long winter (although his opposite number, the Summer Lady, would have created an endless summer). Tiffany tries to balance nature again.
  • Evil Uncle: Distaff Counterpart with Roland's aunts, who definitely qualify.
  • Fallen Princess: Annagramma, partially.
  • Faux Horrific: There are few things Feegles fear more than such feminine tricks as "the foldin' o' the arms an' the pursin' o' the lips an' the tappin' o' the feets!"
  • The Ferryman: A archetypal version shows up in the Underworld to take Roland and the Feegles across the river of the dead to look for the Summer Lady. He seems to strongly resemble Death and even uses the same unique manner of speech.
  • Fertile Feet: Trope Namer.
  • 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.
  • Giving Up on Logic: When Daft Wullie claims that Horace the cheese told him his name, Rob Anybody just shrugs it off by saying "I wouldna argue with a cheese."
  • Good Is Not Nice: Most witches, but especially Miss Treason and Granny.
  • Grim Up North and The Savage South: Although the Discworld doesn't strictly have a concept of north and south, the corresponding tropes are invoked when we see the places where winter and summer never die.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: People keep asking Tiffany questions about Roland that she'd rather not answer.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tiffany's father nearly throws himself onto the bonfire when there's nothing else left to burn, as he's convinced Tiffany and Wentworth will both freeze to death if her frost-to-fire spell fails. Subverted by the other Chalk shepherds, who are wise enough to grab him first.
  • Hidden Depths: In relation to the other books in the series. We hadn't seen much of Roland beyond the first book where he was spoiled, bratty and kind of useless. This book shows that he was just out of his depth with the elf queen, and that he can be brave, knowledgable, resourceful and a hero in his own right
  • Hilarity Sues: The Feegles, though they're not just light relief, either...
  • How We Got Here: The first scene of the story takes place at what is basically thirty pages from the end of the book. However, it's stated that this is more sort of like something that could happen rather than something that absolutely definitely will. It doesn't turn out quite like it, but it mostly does.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Wintersmith becomes more human over time, but it's not really supposed to. Note the 'it.' Thus, it never quite makes it.
  • In Medias Res: Played with. The first chapter has Tiffany, in full witch mode, fighting tooth and nail to keep her family, their precious livestock and the rest of the townsfolk alive as the Wintersmith freezes the world, all the while internally blaming herself for everything that is happening. It then ends with a paragraph explaining that none of this has happened yet, and that the future is fluid and, depending on how events play out, it may never happen at all. It doesn't, although it does come pretty close.
  • Invisibility: There's a trick witches can pull on others where they drastically tone down their presence and become unnoticeable. They're still there, and you can still see them, but you tend to be absolutely sure they're not and completely overlook them. Tiffany learns it by observing Granny Weatherwax and some of the younger witches are jealous about it.
  • It Was a Gift
  • Keep the Reward: Played with. After Tiffany and Anagramma spend the night watching over a corpse in a farmhouse, Anagramma instinctively refuses breakfast. Tiffany tells her that it's important for the family to give them something in return and that refusing it would be an insult. When Summer offers Tiffany a reward for stopping the Wintersmith's rampage, Tiffany does refuse, since she was cleaning up her own mistake (and also as an insult).
  • Light Is Not Good: The Summer Lady.
    • In particular her disturbingly inhuman eyes (remember the Discworld rule that no supernatural being can hide the nature of its eyes) are explained as being those of snakes, because the place where summer never dies is in the heart of snake-infested deserts.
  • Living Legend: Miss Treason is in line for this, albeit for a few people.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Tiffany and the Wintersmith.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: Girl-shaped icebergs, rather.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: This book gives a second canonical glimpse of "Far Überwald", a place where Winter is rather severe and you do need to wrap up warm when venturing out.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Rob Anybody spelling "marmalade". Not very well, but Granny Weatherwax admits it was "a heroic effort".
  • Must Make Amends: Granny Weatherwax invokes this trope by name, telling Tiffany that she has to deal with the mess she caused.
  • My Girl Back Home: Roland is a rare male example.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Tiffany is repeatedly reminded that this entire trouble was caused her feet wanting to dance and not thinking first.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The people of Miss Treason's steading are so used to her Boffo that they see her demons, skulls, and terrifying trappings as marks of a good witch. Annagramma has trouble fitting in due to this, and the townspeople only fully accept her when they see her (supposedly) turn into a grotesque monster.
  • Not So Different: Annagramma snubs Tiffany and her own steading constantly, but when she looks down on some shepherds and notes that Tiffany is the daughter of one herself, Tiffany has finally had enough. She figures out through the observation skills that Annagramma doesn't use that not only is Annagramma's father not a major land owner, he's not even a farmer. He's just a farmhand. Annagramma is even more of a nobody than her.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: How the Baron's guards prefer to avoid carrying out the aunts' more-objectionable orders.
  • Orphean Rescue: Invoked almost by name.
  • Pride: Annagramma's biggest failing. Beneath the rather large amount of arrogance/snobbery she's more lost than anything.
  • Punny Name: Annagramma, whose ideas of what a witch is supposed to be and do are (initially) completely mixed-up.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: Parodied: the Nac Mac Feegle help Roland visit the (or rather, an) underworld and explain "This one used tae be called Limbo, ye ken, 'cuz the door was verra low."
  • Rejected Apology: Tiffany insists that she's really very sorry about interfering with the dance, but Granny tells her that an apology won't cut it, she's got to put it right.
  • Running Gag: After You accidentally summons a massive flock of chickens from inside the Cornucopia, the word Werk (the sound the chickens make) is randomly inserted into the narrative for quite a while after.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Miss Tick.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When the Wintersmith possesses a snowman to interrogate some kids about the rhyme in Ankh-Morpork, one of them asks if he's going to take them flying. Unsurprisingly, no.
    • Mrs. Treason's use of two ravens as her eyes and ears is a clear reference to Odin. They're also a continuity nod: Discworld's Odin/Zeus analogue Blind Io kept two ravens for a while, but there was an unfortunate incident with one of Io's floating eye balls and he got rid of them. The Folklore of Discworld tells us they are the same two birds as Miss Treason's pair.
    • The traveling librarians, who get stranded in the freezing snow without even thinking of burning their wagonloads of books to keep warm, could be a reference to the keepers of the Vavilov Institute's seed bank, who rode out the famine during the WWII Siege of Leningrad while guarding a storehouse of precious (and edible) seeds. Knowing their country would need every last seed to restore agricultural productivity after the war's end, nine of these dedicated Soviet botanists died of starvation rather than consume or abandon their irreplaceable specimens.
    • Annagramma hurls a fireball at the Wintersmith's pseudo-body, a feat that's more typical of Discworld wizards than Discworld witches. Considering that she's wearing the full set of green Boffo witch mask and hands when she does so, it is a feat one might expect of a very famous non-Discworld witch.
    • Tiffany contemplates the awful reality of a very high (ice) statue of herself, created in tribute to her. She notes, with resignation, the head and shoulders are already dripping with the tribute of bird-poo. Later, wearing a dressing-gown, she goes in search of a cup of tea
  • Snowlem: The Wintersmith's attempts to create a man ends up with this. He has the various elements (Iron enough to make a nail, etc.), but they are stuck together haphazardly into a mostly-snow body.
  • Soulful Plant Story: The witch Tiffany Aching evokes the power of the Summer Lady in the middle of an unseasonal winter. She notes that her imperfectly-understood powers have awakened an acorn and caused it to germinate. She feels vaguely guilty about it and eventually decides to bury it in leaf mulch, hoping it would give it a chance to survive. A while later, the older witch Granny Weatherwax shows up and notices the green shoot in the middle of the snow. She sculpts a protective wall of snow around it to shield it from the winter weather. This plot also relates to the symbolism of the rest of the novel.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The Wintersmith.
  • The Talk : Delivered by Nanny Ogg. Sort of. Tiffany keeps on expecting it, and eventually bluntly tells Nanny Ogg that having grown up on a farm with a bunch of older sisters she knows about sex already. It turns out Nanny Ogg knows that, and gives her a talk on relationships instead.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Roland learns pretty fast once he finds out he's the Designated Hero. And figures out that his imaginary sword can hurt the creatures of the underworld.
    • Annagramma gets one too, her use of wizard magic comes into play when she directly fireballs the Wintersmith, and she manages to get Tiffany evacuated despite her being in complete shock.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Death really dislikes the Nac Mac Feegle. The Ferryman hates them even more.
  • Translator Microbes: The remains of Dr. Bustle in Tiffany's head translate any language for her.
  • Tsundere: Nanny Ogg suggests that Tiffany be this to the wintersmith to keep him friendly, but not make any promises.
  • Unequal Rites: The steading plot is a proxy fight between Granny Weatherwax and Mrs. Earwig's philosophies of witchcraft. Of particular interest is that Annagramma has mastered a few wizard spells despite being very much a witch; the other young witches are suitably impressed at the technical skill, but don't see any point to fireball spells (witch conflicts traditionally favoring Cruel Mercy).
  • Unwitting Pawn: Annagramma and Mrs. Earwig, and - to her serious annoyance - Tiffany.
  • Utility Magic: Discussed, the problem with wielding a force capable of doing anything is telling it what not to do. Otherwise trying to remove dirt from the floor will cause it to strip the floorboards.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?
  • Will They or Won't They?: Tiffany and Roland.
  • The Worf Effect: Greebo of all things suffers it, courtesy of You, the kitten.
  • World of Silence: Tiffany receives visions of the Wintersmith's version of this (and the Summer Lady's), seeing what happens when there is no balance to nature.


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