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Literature / Witches Abroad

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People think in stories. This is not always a good thing.
Stories don't care who takes part in them. All that matters if that the story gets told, that the story repeats. Or, if you prefer to think of it like this: stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the service only of the story itself.

The 12th Discworld novel and the second or third book in the "witches" theme (depending on if you count Equal Rites). The title is a pune, or play on words, on the Shakespearean phrase "witches abroad" (i.e., out on the prowl in archaic language) whereas here it's used in the modern sense — they're going to a foreign country.

It seemed like an easy job... after all, how difficult can it be to make sure that a servant girl doesn't marry a prince?

But for the witches Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick, travelling to the distant city of Genua, things are never that simple. Servant girls have to marry the prince. That's what life is all about. You don't fight a Happy Ending.

At least, up until now...

Preceded by Reaper Man, followed by Small Gods. Preceded in the Witches series by Wyrd Sisters, followed by Lords and Ladies.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: A mundane, mildly parodic example:
    "Every established kitchen has one ancient knife, its handle worn thin, its blade curved like a banana, and so inexplicably sharp that reaching into the drawer at night is like bobbing for apples in a piranha tank."
  • Abusive Parents: Granny Weatherwax mentions that her father used a stick "a fair bit" on at least one of his daughters - though it's also indicated that this wouldn't have been seen as out of place, by itself.
  • Accidental Hero: The witches manage to rescue a town which has been having a persistent vampire problem, simply by dint of Magrat opening a window at the wrong time, Granny being careless throwing out some leftover garlic sausage, and Greebo being bored and angry.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: In Lilith's Genua, thieves are beheaded on the first offence (under the logic that while cutting their hands off keeps them from stealing again, cutting their heads off keeps them from thinking of stealing again).
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: The descriptions of Greebo's human form indicate that a certain amount of badness becomes utterly irresistible. Given where female gazes tend to wander, it's a large amount. Even Granny Weatherwax is apparently not immune.
  • Amusing Injuries: In a fit of Wrong Genre Savvy, Lilith drops a house on Nanny Ogg, knowing it kills wicked witches. As Nanny is a good witch, the shock is absorbed by her reinforced hat, leaving her fine, but dazed, and briefly blind due to the fact the hat's brim is now down to her chin.
  • Animal Motif: Granny Weatherwax compares Magrat to a wet hen. Later on in the book, she's given a comparison to a small furry creature (who's life, presumably, is destined to end in a damp crunch). This gets repeated later on, during the final confrontation with the snake-like Sisters, where it turns out in Magrat's case that small furry creature is actually a mongoose.
  • Assurance Backfire: When Magrat is feeling deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable about having to pose as Emberella at the ball, and the other witches try to help...
    "Don't worry," said Granny, "We'll be there too."
    "And that's supposed to make me feel better, is it?"
  • Ascended Extra: Casanunda was first mentioned in a footnote in Reaper Man. Here, he appears as an actual character.
  • Badass Finger Snap: Lilith manages to knock out everyone present in the ballroom and wipe their memories with a snap of her fingers.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The grand ball where Emberella was supposed to meet the Duc turns into a showdown between Lady Lilith and Baron Saturday.
  • Batman Gambit: Desiderata Hollow knows that Granny Weatherwax doesn't want to travel and won't respond to begging or entreaties; instead, Hollow sends Magrat a letter telling her not to allow Weatherwax to go, and assumes that'll do the trick.
  • Being Human Sucks: For wolves and pigs, being given human intelligence is a living nightmare. Greebo, meanwhile, thinks it's mostly a blast (by and large).
  • Bested at Bowling: Granny wins back all their money (and more) from some card shark riverboat gamblers via the astute application of 'headology' and what later turns out to be many weeks of very intense practise. She also uses a little magic - not so that she wins, but to prevent her opponents from cheating (smashing a mirror,note  making an ace fall out of a man's sleeve, messing up another man's hidden mechanism for card-switching).
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Inevitably discussed, as a fairy tale classic. And inverted — the Duc is a frog who was turned into a man.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: The main villain warps reality so it'd be like fairy tales. This includes making a wolf think more like a human so it will be a better villain (talking, opening doors, showing human-like cunning and so on). The wolf suffers horribly, stuck between species, and begs for a Mercy Kill.
  • Blessed with Suck: Old Mother Dismass has a detached retina in her Second Sight, which means she can see clearly into the future and the past, but not in the present, and contributes to conversations that have either already happened or are yet to happen. This makes her something of a near-Bursar levels of Cloud Cuckoolander at times.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: Subverted, a vampire abjectly fails to get into the rooms at the inn where the three witches are staying. Magrat fails to get the point, declares the room too stuffy, and opens the heavy shutters - concussing the vampire on the other side who is trying to get in.
  • Brick Joke: Nanny remarks about foreign turns of phrase, saying that "bum" means "hobo" in some regions. Later, Granny dons a stolen dress with a bustle, and refers to it as an extra bu... hobo. There's also the conclusion of one which starts in an earlier book, as shown by Call Back below.
  • Bullying a Dragon: One stupid sod once threw a rock at Granny Weatherwax. She did nothing. But the man's farm was flattened by some trolls who just happened to be in the area.
  • Call-Back: To Equal Rites, in which Esk stands between two mirrors, marvels at her reflections stretching to infinity... and one of them waves at her. This becomes a major plot point in this book.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Granny completely and repeatedly failing to tell the alligator sandwich joke, with such punchlines as "And don't take too long about it!"
  • Chekhov's Gag: Old Mother Dismass's wonky Second Sight, used for comic relief in the witches' first conversation, also turns out to be why Granny can play Cripple Mister Onion well enough to hustle the card sharps.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the book Magrat explains a bit about the judo-like martial arts she's studying; namely that it's based around using your enemy's power against them. While the other witches don't seem impressed by it at the time, during the climax, Granny defeats Mrs Gogol, who is threatening her with a Voodoo Doll, by thrusting her hand into a blazing torch up to the elbow, causing the doll to burst into flames while her arm is unscathed. She even glances at Magrat before doing so as a subtle acknowledgement.
    • Nanny's willow-reinforced hat with integrated pockets protects her from a falling farmhouse, and contains the first-aid supplies she uses to stitch up Granny's mirror-cuts at the end.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Somewhere between here and Dramatically Missing The Point, but Lilly tries dropping a house on the trio because everyone knows a house dropped on a witch instantly kills 'em stone dead... except that's pretty much true with anyone, who isn't wearing a reinforced hat, at least.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When the witches get locked up by the Duc and Lilith, Nanny remarks that she's an experienced prisoner, referring to the time she was thrown in a dungeon by the Duke and Duchess in Wyrd Sisters.
    • This isn't the first time Death has received a compliment on the quality of his "mask". In The Light Fantastic his was at a (different) party when he is summoned by the wizards, and comments that it's going to go downhill at midnight, because:
    Death: That's when they think I'll be taking my mask off.
  • Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: Averted. It's stated that small animals think clear, precise thoughts ('Eat. Run away. Mate. Kill.' etc.), but larger ones have multi-layered minds and human heads are so full of diverse thoughts and ideas that actually 'reading' them is nearly impossible. Therefore, most of Granny's telepathic scanning involves sensing the general shape of others' minds, although she is able to pick up on the pervading fear in Genua because everyone was thinking roughly the same thing at the same time.
  • Dances and Balls: Given the blatant Cinderella references, of course.
  • Dangerous Interrogative: During their nastiest argument, Magrat insults Granny Weatherwax, who then politely but firmly asks her to repeat herself. The narration notes that asking someone to repeat something both parties know full well the offended heard the first time around is "Defcon 3" in argument terms.
  • Dead-End Room: Soon after the book's climax, both Esme and Lilith are separately trapped in the space between mirrors, and Death politely informs them that they cannot escape until they "find the real one". Lilith gets trapped forever, frantically searching for the real Lilith amongst all her reflections. Esme has to ask if this is some sort of trick question, because it's so obvious the real her is standing right there.
  • Deconstruction: Of the happy ending and several fairy tales.
  • Delusions of Doghood: Granny's ability to leave you in human shape but make you think you're a frog is discussed in this book. The Big Bad Wolf is a sad inversion; he's a wolf that Lilith tried to give human thoughts for the sake of the story, but it drove him mad. Lilith side-stepped this problem with the Sisters. They just look human, but still think snake.
  • Devour the Dragon: Lily eventually feels that she needs her magic for more important things than keeping the Duc human.
  • Duc!: Given a whole new level, since "Duc" is pronounced like "duck".
  • Do Wrong, Right: Granny Weatherwax is extremely irritated with Lilith not just because she is doing evil, but because she isn’t trying to enjoy it, while Granny knows if she were the evil one, she could do much better.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Desiderata Hollow failed to stop Lilith's plans involving Ella. However, she, using a bit of Reverse Psychology, sends Magrat, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg, and together they do it.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Nanny Ogg tries doing this on discovering the Duc pond, to Granny Weatherwax, who has no known sense of humour.
  • Due to the Dead: After the woodcutter kills the Big Bad Wolf, Granny Weatherwax makes sure he buries the remains, rather than just chucking them in the soup. He has no idea why, but Granny Weatherwax isn't the sort you argue with.
  • Dystopian Edict: Everyone in Genua has to abide by fairy tale prototypes.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: There is a mention of people from monasteries in the mountains coming to seek wisdom from Mrs. Cosmopolite of Ankh-Morpork, which features much more in Thief of Time.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The dwarfs the coven encounter are more upset that they'll lose out on a seam of gold and don't give a figgin about the miners trapped in there with it. In Thud!, leaving another dwarf to die in a cave-in is a taboo in dwarf society worthy of getting a curse set on the perpetrator.
  • Eating the Enemy: One unfortunate vampire in bat form is devoured by Greebo the tomcat before he can feed on the protagonists.
    "Vampires have risen from the dead, the grave and the crypt, but have never managed it from the cat."
  • "El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Niño":
    Nanny: Hotel Nova Canciesnote . That means New, er, Cancies in foreign.
  • El Spanish "-o": Nanny's approach to foreign languages. She can generally bludgeon her way through anyway.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: In-Universe. Many of Lily's 'stories' end this way, at least the ones that have happy endings.invoked
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • It's mentioned that the Assassins' Guild has pulled out of Genua under Lily's rule because "some things sicken even jackals".
    • Baron Saturday invokes this, too. He never denies having been, at times, a cruel ruler, but he never forced the people to act like they'd be grateful about it.
  • Evil Counterpart: Lilith to Granny Weatherwax.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Subverted, to Granny's immense rage. Lily spent her whole life convinced that she was the good sister who was putting the needs of others over her own, and, so convinced of her own martyrdom, thus made herself a very understated and sinister foe. To Granny, who knew for a fact who was the good sister and who was the bad, this is almost a greater sin than any of Lily's actual wrongdoing, because Granny would have at least enjoyed it, making whole banquets of her surroundings and being bad enough to even top the legendary Black Aliss, who (when in Lily's role) could keep multiple stories going at once in the same place.
  • Exact Words: The mirror puzzle. Those trapped within can get out "when you find the one that's real". Death never says they have to find the real reflection.
  • Eyelash Fluttering: This is one of the things Nanny Ogg advises Magrat to do at the ball:
    Nanny: Well, what you do is, you tap men with your fan - got your fan? - and say things like "La, sir!" It helps to giggle, too. And flutter your eyelashes a bit. And pout.
  • Eyes Never Lie: On the Discworld your true nature shows through your eyes, and Lilith can make the Duc look perfectly human except for his eyes.
  • Fairy Devilmother: Lilth is an evil fairy godmother who thinks she's a good fairy godmother because she gives people fairy tale lives, whether they want them or not.
  • Fairy Godmother: Magrat is tasked with this role, but can never get it quite right. In the end she decides it's not that great anyway and leaves it.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Genua is New Orleans + Disneyworld with a slight dusting of 18th century Revolutionary France, but on the way they also pass through areas based on Spain (the Running of the Bulls, or the Thing With the Bulls here) and the Hammer Horror version of Transylvania - what would later be named as Überwald. According to Terry Pratchett:
    "... Genua is a 'sort of' New Orleans with a 'sort of' Magic Kingdom grafted on top of it. It had its genesis some years ago when I drove from Orlando to New Orleans and formed some opinions about both places: in one, you go there and Fun is manufactured and presented to you, in the other you just eat and drink a lot and fun happens."
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The Discworld itself is already one, but under Lilith, Genua is a Fairytale Kitchen Sink.
  • Fatal Family Photo: No actual photo, but the same basic idea. When the footmen and coach driver first appear, they're discussing their families, with particular attention to one of them who is just married and still in the first bloom of love. Death follows swiftly.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Lilith regards normal crimes such as theft or murder to be irritating distractions which are easily dealt with, compared to the serious monstrosity that is someone not following the stories.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Granny Weatherwax wanted to be the irresponsible evil one, but because her elder sister, Lilly, beat her to the punch on that she felt forced to be the responsible good one. When both sisters are witches, you can see how this complicates family relationships.
  • Forced Transformation:
    • Lilith has performed several transformations in the backstory, including a version of the classic Bewitched Amphibians. In the story itself, she turns the footmen, who we spent a while getting to know and sympathize with, into beetles. And steps on them.
    • Later on, with a reluctant Nanny Ogg, the witches agree to do this with Greebo, her one-eyed cat. Greebo handles it fairly well, since he retains his catlike instincts and ferocity. He can also get all the milk he likes from the kitchen.
  • Foreshadowing: Desiderata's comment to Death:
    "That's the thing about Weatherwaxes, see. They don't know how to be beaten. But one of 'em's going to have to learn."
  • Forging the Will: Lampshaded. When being told the story of how the old Baron of Genua died, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg both make the Genre Savvy assumption that the one now in control, the Duc, has control because of a will discovered shortly after the Baron's death with the ink still wet.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: The travel segments, which consist of Nanny speaking in "Foreign" (e.g. "Garkon? Mucho vino aveck zei, grassy ass.") Her translation of Cassanunda's serenade inverts this.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Whenever a story comes to an end or is somehow subverted, everything then proceeds as it normally would. Granny even points this out to Lily when the latter demands to know what she's doing - "It's just life, happening by itself."
  • Genre Savvy: Lily is very familiar with the way stories work, and she's not afraid to abuse that knowledge. Of course, the same is true of Esme and Nanny.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Parodied, of course. The shoe fits Nanny just as well. She then points out it'd probably fit quite a lot of people in Genua as well, so Lilith probably knows exactly which girl she's looking for in the first place.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Taken to its most extreme. Granny is a good witch who greatly appreciates free will. Lily is a bad witch who believes she should make everybody follow stories.
  • Going to See the Elephant: Mentioned by name as the last line in the book: "Foreign" is a odd place where they do things wrong, speak funny lingo and eat strange food, so our heroes can't wait to get back home. Still, in the end, they take the time to enjoy the sights: "But they went the long way round, and saw the elephant."
  • The Good Guys Always Win: Invoked. Lily is confident of her victory because she knows good always triumphs over wickedness; unfortunately for her, she's wrong about which part she plays.
  • Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: Granny vs. Lilith. The personalities are a bit unusual for the roles they take in this battle, and Lily thinks she is the good one.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Lilith's lair overlooking the city has twin mirrors around her, giving an infinite but gently curving string of reflections. Breaking one mirror at the end causes a dangerous reaction as damage goes up, then back down, the line of reflections.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Lilith turns Genua into a sparkling clean city full of blankly smiling citizens by dint of torture and execution.
  • Happy Ending: This is what Lily wants, but to get the stories to work she will murder and ruin people's lives. Played straight in the end, as the city is released from her grip and everyone can relax.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Downplayed; the version here is well-researched but, like most Discworld things, a hodgepodge and mixture of real world examples.
  • Hot in Human Form: Played straight with Greebo, but averted with the animals that Lilith transforms. May be because Lilith's magic forces animals to become something that's against their nature, while the witches' transformation works with his nature (and it's noted that, despite how he might appear to humans, Greebo is already very attractive by cat standards).
  • How Many Fingers?: After Nanny Ogg gets a farm-house dropped on her head, Granny Weatherwax asks her "How many fingers am I holding up?" Nanny can't see any fingers, because the force of the falling house rammed her hat down over her eyes.
  • Humanity Ensues: Greebo, and the mice which are transformed into footmen. Also Emberella's "evil stepsisters," which Lilith made from snakes, and an unfortunate wolf which was sort of turned into a human...
    • Inverted by Granny, who has been known to make people who cross her think they're frogs. She considers this an important distinction - for one thing, it wears off, and crucially, it doesn't do any permanent harm (also, she thinks it's funny).
  • Human Resources: Stories use people to perpetuate themselves. Anybody who fits a certain set of characteristics may find themselves absorbed into a story and forced to act in whatever role is given to them, even if it ends with them being devoured by a wolf or marrying a frog.
  • Hustling the Mark: Nanny Ogg loses her broomstick playing Cripple Mr. Onion with some young men on a riverboat, so Granny Weatherwax puts on her best "dottering old grandma" act and wins it back with some strategic Headology. Only using magic to disable their cheating aids.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Describing her sister's childhood, Granny Weatherwax decries her as 'wanton'. Gytha Ogg, who she's known since they were kids, points out she was as well (and, let's face it, still is). Granny naturally says that it's different.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: The Duc wears sunglasses to conceal that he has the eyes of a frog.
  • Insistent Terminology: Baron Saturday states he was killed twelve years ago, but Death, who is the leading authority on such matters, tells him he isn’t dead. He just stopped living.
  • Instant Waking Skills: Thanks to her strong sense of self, Granny Weatherwax can skip all the little questions most people have to ask themselves on waking up (like "Who am I?", "Where am I?", and "Was I sleeping next to someone I don't recognize?") and get right to the actual getting out of bed.
  • Insult Misfire:
    Lily: Look at the three of you. Bursting with inefficient good intentions. The maiden, the mother and the crone.
    Nanny Ogg: Who are you calling a maiden?
    Magrat: Who are you calling a mother?
    Granny glowered briefly like the person who has discovered there is only one straw left and everyone else has drawn a long one.
  • Internal Reveal: If the reader's paying attention, then right from the off it's made clear the villain is Granny Weatherwax's sister. Esme herself suspects as much early on, she just doesn't know for certain until a while in.
  • Invisible Writing: Parodied when the witches come upon a dwarf mine, identified by invisible runes. Magrat states she can't see them, which Nanny Ogg points out is how you know you got your money's worth with invisible runes.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: The witches are described as the maiden, the mother and the crone. Nanny and Magrat take offense to the first two, leaving Granny stuck with the last.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Granny says this of commercial airliners.
  • Jerkass Ball: Granny Weatherwax, never a display of warm sunshine to begin with, is incredibly nasty on the way to Genua, because she knows who's waiting there for her. It leads to her giving voice to a lot of things she's often thought about Magrat but never said.
  • Knight Templar: Lady Lilith is devoted to bringing happy endings to the people of Genua, whether they want them or not.
  • Ladyella: Spoofed with Emberella. Both she and Magrat thinks it just makes her sound like an umbrella.
  • Language Equals Thought: The dwarves, being the supreme miners of Discworld, have hundreds of words for "rock" that sound maddeningly specific to humans (like "rock dropping on your helmet from above") but no single word that just means "rock."
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When Emberella meets Mrs Gogol, she introduces herself to the girl with "I am your... friend, child."
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After the witches get drunk on absinthe and get involved "the Thing With the Bulls", up to and including Magrat snatching the rose from the lead bull, "No one ever talked about the Thing With the Bulls ever, ever again. At least, not in front of the men."
  • Light Is Not Good: Lily dresses all in white and thinks of herself as a creator of happy endings. Granny dressed up in white to get into the ball, and her exact level of goodness fluctuates.
  • Liminal Being: Mrs. Gogol explicitly describes her as "between" in her invocations.
  • Liminal Time:
    • Granny regards the half moon as the truly magical moon
    • The last day of Carnival is between the living and the dead, and so Lilith is vulnerable.
    • At the end, Death tells both Lilith and Granny that the answer to "am I dead?" is between yes and no.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Ella isn't told that she's the Baron's and Mrs. Gogol's daughter, first because Lily wants her to be pliable, and later because Mrs. Gogol agrees not to interfere with her life.
  • Lunacy: This book introduces the Discworld concept that the most magical phase of the moon is not the full moon, nor a mystical crescent, but a half moon — the Balance Between Good and Evil.
  • Magic Mirror: It's specified that using one mirror for magic is fine, but Lily stands between two of them...
  • Magic Poker Equation: Downplayed with Granny's attempt to win back the witches' traveling money (and Nanny Ogg's broomstick) from some card sharps. To begin with it's clear that she's playing skilfully however the cards fall; she bluffs well with bad hands and folds early when her opponent has a good one. But the trope is played straight with the final bet, when she beats the second-best possible hand in the game with the first-best.
  • Magic Wand: Standard issue for a Fairy Godmother. Interestingly, you actually control it by twisting the rings in the handle to change the settings; Magrat only ever manages to transform things into pumpkins because she keeps trying to control it mentally.
  • Mama Bear: Subverted. Mrs. Gogol wants revenge on Lilith for what the latter did to her daughter Ella and to the Baron. Granny Weatherwax forces her to not do it because Genua's had enough magical interference.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Duc may rule Genua, but Lady Lilith is the real power behind the throne (and the one responsible for enforcing fairy-tale tropes).
  • Meaningful Name: The Baron Saturday, obviously, but Mrs Gogol and her familiar, Legba, both of whom are named after Loa as well.
  • Mercy Kill: The Big Bad Wolf willingly goes to the woodcutter's axe because Lily forced it to think human thoughts with a wolf's mind, a terrible thing to do to a simple predator. (This revelation to the witches is also something of a Moral Event Horizon for Lilith.)
  • Moving Buildings: Mrs. Gogol's home in the swamp grows four legs and walks around as needed. It's a reference to Baba Yaga's house on chicken legs, but because it's in a swamp Mrs. Gogol's house has duck legs instead.
  • Mundane Solution: When faced with a problem she isn't physically strong enough to handle, Nanny just asks Cassanunda for help. She reflects to herself that neither of the other witches would have even considered it (Granny is too proud, Magrat is too much of a Straw Feminist).
  • Mythology Gag: Greebo dons a ginger cat mask for the ball, remarking that he'd always wanted to be ginger. This may well be this trope, as the ROC edition of Wyrd Sisters had erroneously depicted Greebo as ginger, not gray.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Lily and Esme both find themselves inside the mirror, and are faced with a billion reflections of themselves. Death is there to let them know what the challenge is.
    "When can I get out?"
    When you find the one that's real.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Greebo as a human is described as, among other things, "a pirate who just raided a ship carrying leather goods for the discerning customer."
  • Nonsense Classification: The dwarf classification of rocks starts out well, but goes a bit weird near the end: "igneous rock, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, rock underfoot, rock dropping on your helmet from above, and rock which looked interesting and which they could have sworn they left here yesterday".
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Granny knows well that she could have become like Lily. One of the biggest reasons she's so irritable about it is because she also knows that she would have done it so much better.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: At the final confrontation, Granny Weatherwax, a figure of general terror to all who know her, tries with surprising softness to reach out to her sister one last time, with the admittance it's not coming easy to her. Lilith rejects it.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Mrs. Gogol has a zombie servant she calls Saturday. He turns out to be her lover, the late Baron of Genua.
  • Palantir Ploy: Lilith can use her magic mirrors to scry through any reflective surface in the world. Subverted, as her inability to find what she wants to look at through any method other than manually scrolling through all available reflective surfaces makes it a bit Awesome, but Impractical.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The dress Granny steals to infiltrate the ball.
  • Possession Implies Mastery: Averted; Magrat never works out how to use the wand she received from Desiderata and is unable to ever do more than transform things into pumpkins. She's still able to get some use out of it, first freeing some dwarves trapped in a cave-in by turning the rocks to pumpkin and later sabotaging the coach meant to take Ella to the ball by, ironically, turning it into a pumpkin.
  • Power Perversion Potential: After learning the Duc's secret, Nanny spends some time speculating about the length of his tongue.
  • Prince Charming: Subverted with the Duc, despite Lily trying to make him seem that way.
  • Public Execution: Some countries cut off a thief's hand so he won't steal again. Lady Lilith cuts off his head so he won't think about stealing again. This is also a good example of the reaction of the public showing the nature of the society; after years of Lilith's rule, the public don't react at all, they just have a dead-eyed stare.
  • Red Riding Hood Replica: The witches find a young girl in a red hood taking a basket of goodies to her grandmother. After spending some time with the Bratty Half-Pint, Magrat starts to understand why her mother lets her walk alone through a forest known to contain wolves. Due to the book's theme of "rural myth", Nanny Ogg says the same thing happened near Skund and they never even found the granny. It's also mentioned that when Nanny herself was younger, she also wore a red hood while taking baskets of goodies to her grandmother, who lived next door. The "wolf" in this case being "old Sumpkins the lodger".
  • Reverse Psychology: Desiderata orders Magrat to keep Granny and Nanny out of the whole business, just to make absolutely sure they'll come along without hesitation.
  • Running Gag: "Nice mask." Thank you.
  • Secret Test of Character: At the end of the book, Granny and Lilith become trapped (separately) in a limbo full of mirrors after the magical explosion that "kills" them. Death is there, and he tells Lilith that to get back to the land of the living, she needs to find her real self amongst the mirrors, and Lilith starts desperately looking. When Granny's turn comes and Death tells her the same challenge... Granny points out that she's standing right there. Guess who leaves the limbo.
  • Self-Proclaimed Liar: Casanunda claims to be a world-famous liar. When Nanny asks whether that's true, he repsonds: "No."
  • Separated by a Common Language: As the witches are from Fantasy North England and visiting Fantasy Louisiana. A discussion of how words means different things in foreign parts results in Granny Weatherwax being under the impression that "hobo" is Genuan for "backside" (she's grasped that it's synonymous with "bum", but...)
  • Shout-Out:
    • The early part of the witches' journey is a parody of The Lord of the Rings and derivative works, with the 'invisible dwarf runes' on the door in the mountains ("I can't see 'em." "That's how you know you've got your money's worth, with invisible runes.") and the boat passage on the underground river — at one point a slimy creature on a raft appears and says "'Ullo... it'sss my birthday..." The "invisible runes" part even includes "She struck the door and spake thusly: "Open up, you little sods!" We also get dwarf bread, the Discworld equivalent to elven Lembas: one bite will keep you going for days, because suddenly there's any number of things you'd rather eat. "Your boots, for example. Mountains. Raw sheep. Your own foot." The last one ends up becoming a Running Gag whenever dwarfs feature in the story for the rest of the series.
    • Mrs. Gogol's hut can move about on duck feet, as a wetlands-adapted variant of Baba Yaga's chicken-legged hut in Russian folklore. (Or the similar dwelling of Sheelba of the Eyeless Face in the Lankhmar stories.)
    • Nanny Ogg gets a house dropped on her head by a tornado, then dwarfs wander up and ask for her shoes, all while on a yellow brick road, a la The Wizard of Oz. Notably, Nanny Ogg is wearing red shoes, although they are not magical; their main quality is the ability to have a cart run over them and the feet inside to remain unscathed. Cover art also shows she has stripy stockings like the witch in the movie.
    Nanny kicked her red boots together idly.
    "Well, I suppose there's no place like home," she said.
    • Being a Discworld book, there's plenty of references and Shout Outs, but especially this one, being a journey across many places and a story about stories. One of the nicer little ones is "They flew on through a maze of twisty little canyons, all alike."
    • Standing outside the Duc's chamber, Nanny recollects a story similar to The Bluebeard legend.
    • When Casanunda is pressed about being the world's greatest lover, he eventually replies, "Well, maybe I'm only #2, but I try harder," a reference to a well-known campaign for Avis Rent-a-Car.
    • When she sets out to take down the card sharps, Granny declares the money's just a way of keeping score.
    • Naturally, given the mention of godmothers, Sir Pterry couldn't resist sneaking in a few references to the Godfather, such as Lilly fuming about not being shown respect, and Granny making her an offer she "can't refuse".
    • In their confrontation, Lilith asks Granny if she's supposed to "put on [her] red shoes and dance the night away".
    • The line "Knowing how stories work is almost all the battle" references the (in)famous line from the 1980s G.I. Joe cartoon.
  • Skewed Priorities: A group of dwarfs the trio run into have a serious problem when one of their mineshafts collapses. They might lose a whole seam! ... oh, and a bunch of miners are trapped too, including the king's son, but the seam! This is because dwarfs regard the miners as (eventually) replaceable, whereas gold-bearing rock is a finite commodity.
  • Stealth Pun: There's a couple of puns where the first two witches give an outright pun or Shout-Out but Nanny Ogg delivers the stealth pun.
    • When stuck in a The Wizard of Oz parody, the witches are calling out each other's behaviour.
    "What some people need", said Magrat, [...], 'is a bit more heart."
    "What some people need", said Granny Weatherwax, [...], "is a lot more brain."
    What I need, thought Nanny Ogg fervently, is a drink. Dutch Courage - just what the Wizard gave the Lion in the book.
    • The three of them are deliberating on the idea of a transport system built on broomsticks. Their ideas for names are puns on well know real world airlines but Nanny Ogg gets cut off before she finishes hers: "Vir-". However, note she is looking from Granny to Magrat and being rather coquettish. Consider Magrat's role in The Hecate Sisters trio. Virgin.
    • One that can be difficult to spot without reading it aloud, but "Genuan" could be considered a play on "genuine."
    • "Samedi Nuit Mort": Samedi = Saturday; Nuit = Night; Mort = Dead. Think Terry got a chuckle from Saturday Night Live?
    • In the scene with the vampire, while he's given his final blow by Greebo, he's first stunned by Magrat opening the shutters. Magrat's last name happens to be Garlick, a very slight variation on something known for being a weakness of vampires. Could be a coincidence, but then again, this is Discworld we're talking about.
  • Subverted Punchline: Granny Weatherwax repeatedly attempts to tell a (fairly well known) joke about a man ordering an alligator sandwich, but never gets the punchline right (and it's never given in the book either, leaving the reader to figure out that a man who orders an alligator sandwich and wants it fast, tells the cook to be quick about it, etc. is telling them to "make it snappy!").
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: 'Begging from house to house .. Not coming directly here by any manner o' means'
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: After burying the late Desiderata Hollow, who'd had keen Second Sight, Hurker opens an unaddressed envelope she'd left on the table. The enclosed message's first words are "I'm watching you, Albert Hurker."
  • Tautological Templar: Everything Lady Lilith does, including torture, imprisonment, and execution, is justified because she's "the good guy".
  • The Tell: Granny absent-mindedly twiddling her little finger in her ear moments before she utterly destroys somebody. First shows up, appropriately enough, in a card game (with Nanny explaining its significance to Magrat), then reappears a few times later, most dramatically during her showdown with Mrs Gogol.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: Granny Weatherwax and Magrat put Nanny in the middle.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Lilith tries to order people's lives according to fairy-tale logic, twisting events so that they unfold according to the time-honoured patterns of stories. She thinks she's making the world a better place and giving people their happy ending, but really everyone would have been happier if she'd left them alone.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: "Tempscire," Lilith's new last name, is "Weatherwax" in French.
  • Title Drop:
    "They must have witches here," said Magrat. "Everywhere has witches. You've got to have witches abroad. You find witches everywhere."
  • Toros y Flamenco: One of the towns that they stop off at is a bit like Iberian-y, including the bull run. Well, until the witches get involved. It's a flower festival for subsequent years.
  • Tortured Monster: The wolf, which was once a normal wolf but was twisted by Lilith's magic, making it intelligent, dangerous, and horrified by its own existence. Granny, noted by an outside observer to be bubbling with rage, arranges a Mercy Kill and a decent burial.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Lily.
  • Translation by Volume: This trope is Granny Weatherwax's default form of communication when dealing with foreigners during the witches' travels.
  • Trampled Underfoot: Deliberately invoked on some coachmen by Lily, who turns them into beetles and stomps on them for failing her. Also the fate of the Duc, when he reverts to frog form and fatally encounters Baron Saturday's descending foot.
  • Twice-Told Tale:
    • Many of the jokes don't make sense if you don't know "Cinderella" due to the Whole-Plot Reference that Lily is using. Good thing everyone does, isn't it?
    • Part of the book's theme is the idea that fairytale stories repeat themselves, wear a groove in the world and then subvert reality so that, for example, "it is now actually impossible for the third and youngest son of a king to set out on a quest that has claimed his two older brothers, and not succeed." Lily's power comes from manipulating the stories to her own ends. Even when, as in the case of the stories she's using for her main plot, she's actually got at least one of them backwards.
    • Black Aliss, a famous Wicked Witch, was also responsible for the Discworld versions of several fairytales, including Hansel and Gretel and Sleeping Beauty. Some overlap with Fractured Fairy Tale, because she also turned people into gingerbread and had a house made of frogs.
  • Unfinished Business: The book applies this to voodoo zombies, stating that the process won't work on anybody who doesn't have a strong motivation to return to the world of the living. Saturday's goal is to destroy those who murdered him and usurped his authority, and see his daughter, Ella, restored to her birthright.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Mrs Gogol the voodoo witch has a black cockerel called Legba, which she claims to be a dark and terrible spirit. He isn't... there is something strange about him. He's a great deal smarter than a cockerel should be, and is one of a very small selection of beings in the entire series to scare Greebo, who in the same book corners and toys with a bull and eats a vampire (in bat-form). note  As Granny somewhat cryptically remarks, "exactly what it is I may never decide."
  • Upper-Class Twit: The Lady Violentia De Arrangement, who the narration asserts may be a human fungal parasite (if not as well adapted) but still doesn't quite deserve what happens to her, which is getting Mugged for Disguise by Granny.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Lilith feels fully justified in using totalitarian methods to create a fairy tale kingdom.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: The witches stay in a town which is plagued by a vampire. The local inn serves garlic bread with garlic sausage and garlic.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Discussed When Lilith imprisons the witches instead of killing them outright, Nanny Ogg muses on this and Magrat replies:
    "The good are innocent and create justice. The bad are guilty, which is why they invent mercy."
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: One of the questions mentioned in the description of Granny's Instant Waking Skills, that people who lack them may have to ask themselves, is "What am I doing with a policeman's helmet?"
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Magrat, as the kind of person who believes wisdom from foreign places is better, takes up martial arts, but she isn't very good at it. It doesn't help that she ordered her lessons from "Grandmaster Lobsang Dibbler" of Ankh-Morpork.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Subverted to hell when Nanny Ogg intentionally makes it strike a bit earlier than scheduled.
  • Wicked Toymaker: Inverted. The toymaker is by no means evil, but he does not whistle and sing as he works or tell children stories, and that is a very serious crime indeed in Genua (think DisneyWorld as a dystopia turned up to eleven).
  • Women's Mysteries: Granny, Nanny and Magrat originate one of these, when their unwitting actions disrupt the Thing With The Bulls and humiliate all the young men engaged in it. At least, the town never holds one again, and nobody talks about it in front of the men anymore.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Lilith thinks she's the kind fairy godmother who's giving everyone a happy ending, to the point where she invokes happy fairytale endings at sword-point. You'll live happily ever after or else.