"Granny Weatherwax was the most highly regarded of the leaders they [the witches] didn't have."
Esmerelda "Esme" Weatherwax (usually called Granny Weatherwax or 'Mistress Weatherwax' on formal occasions, such as when being addressed by not-yet witches (Tiffany Aching being the case in point) or Mrs. Earwig or Verence, King of Lancre (when he's being really 'King-y')) is a character from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. She was a witch and member of the Lancre coven. Granny Weatherwax wore a plain black dress, a somewhat battered black cloak and a tall, pointed witch's hat, skewered to her 'iron-hard gray bun' hairstyle with multiple hatpins. She was thin, and, while not really that tall, has such a commanding presence that she seemed tall. She gave her weight as "9 stone" in Lords and Ladies (exactly 126 pounds or approximately 57.27 kilograms). She had blue eyes and penetrating gaze.
In the triple nature of a coven (maiden, mother, and crone), Granny Weatherwax was officially the crone although she has difficulty matching the classic old hag appearance; she still has perfect skin, not a single wart and all her teeth, although she has picked up a penetrating stare and plenty of worry lines. In the books, the triple nature of the coven is always referred to as "the maiden, the mother and... the other one" in her presence. It has been suggested that she embodied all three aspects; She embodies the maiden because she has probably not known physical love as demonstrated by her ability to capture unicorns, traditionally only possible by virgins. There have however been romances in her life, notably Arch-chancellor Ridcully of Unseen University.
She is a very powerful witch, and is reckoned to be more powerful than the most well-known witch on the Discworld, Black Aliss (real name: Aliss Demurrage) who is responsible for any number of witcheries in fairy tales, such as putting a castle to sleep and getting pushed into her own oven by naughty kids. It does seem that her teacher's teacher's teacher's teacher was Black Aliss. ("I learned my craft from Nanny Gripes, who learned it from Goody Heggety, who got it from Nanna Plumb, who was taught it by Black Aliss..." – Granny, in Lords and Ladies). Although she often exhibits amazing shows of magical prowess, she prefers to use headology in place of real magic, presumably to keep herself from going the same way as Aliss.
Granny Weatherwax's reputation even extends beyond species barriers – the trolls of the Ramtops call her Aaoograha hoa ("She Who Must Be Avoided") - which is either a play on the name which Rumpole of the Bailey calls his wife "She who must be obeyed" or on the name by which Voldemort in the Harry Potter series is referred "He who must not be named" or both. The dwarf name for her, K'ez'rek d'b'duz, translates to "Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain" (Maskerade). Her death and subsequent removal from the playing field is a factor in the elves attempting to return again (The Shepherd's Crown), having not tried since she defeated them years earlier (Lords and Ladies).
Granny Weatherwax nursed her mother until the time of her death, and is a distant cousin to Galder Weatherwax, a former Archchancellor of the Unseen University. As a young woman, she was briefly romantically involved with Mustrum Ridcully. It has been hinted that she married him in an alternative reality and had several children. As a youth, she briefly called herself "Endemonidia" but only for a few hours.
She has recruited at least one apprentice in her time, Eskarina Smith, who became the first female wizard (Equal Rites); Magrat Garlick, Agnes Nitt and Tiffany Aching were officially taught by other Witches, but also learned from Granny Weatherwax from time to time.
Granny's broom is famous for being old and temperamental. It's a hand-me-down "borrowed" from her colleague Hilta (Equal Rites). It has been repaired so often that little of the original broom remains, and it often requires the user to pick up speed by running along the ground, making it the only broom on the Disc that requires bump starting. It is, however, considerably faster than most brooms once it gets going. Geoffrey Swivel is given her broom when he takes over her steading, although it has been extensively modified to suit him.
(According to to The Pratchett Portfolio) her typical saying is: 'I can't be having with that kind of thing'. Unlike most 'typical sayings' in the Folio, it is actually recorded that Granny says this, or at least Nanny Ogg says something very similar when she pretends to be Granny while briefly taking over the role of...the other one, due to Granny's temporary retirement (in Carpe Jugulum).
Personality[edit | edit source]
Granny Weatherwax has a near-unshakeable belief in her own abilities, which has thus far proved accurate, and an extreme distrust of stories. She was intended by nature to be a "wicked witch" but, at an early age, realised she had to be "the good one" to balance her sister, Lily (or Lilith, as she prefers to be known). Ironically Lily, who became a fairy godmother, was convinced she was the good one, because she gave people what she thought they wanted. Granny Weatherwax gives people what they know they really need. As Pratchett would put it, being Good and Right doesn't make you Nice, and she isn't. She prefers to be respected. No one, with the possible exception of Nanny Ogg and Tiffany Aching, genuinely likes Granny Weatherwax. But when she is needed, she always appears and does what is required of her, because that is Right. Granny appreciates practicality and hard work over the bells and whistles of so-called "magick". She intensely dislikes witches such as Letice Earwig who dabble in chants, pendants and crystals. However, after learning about her from Tiffany Aching, she claimed she would have liked to meet her Granny Aching, who never claimed to be anything more than a shepherd despite commanding all the respect and power of a witch.
Granny Weatherwax feels little need for personal possessions and keeps most of them in a single wooden box. This box is known to contain a few keepsakes, including a bundle of letters (some, or all, of which are believed to be from a young Mustrum Ridcully) and a phoenix feather in a glass bottle. Aside from these, her only other notable possessions are a clock that she inherited from her mother and a silver tea service (later melted down to make horseshoes for a unicorn during the events of Lords and Ladies).
In an apparent test to unearth her softer side, Tiffany Aching made her the reluctant custodian of a small white kitten, for which Granny has so far managed to show affection in a completely unaffectionate manner. In keeping with her personality, she christened it "You", as in "Hey You, get off the shelves!" or "Come inside, You!" You was recently discovered sleeping on Granny's head, underneath her hat. She claims it keeps her head warm. You is the only known cat on the Discworld to have intimidated Nanny Ogg's battle-scarred, possibly demonic tom Greebo, who hides in fear whenever You is in the same room; this suggests she may be compatible with Granny Weatherwax in temperament after all.
It has been said that Granny Weatherwax bears some similarity to Sam Vimes. Both are effectively 'good' characters who exert a rigid control over the darkness inside themselves, which they secretly fear.
(The name and personality of Granny Weatherwax are possibly a reference to "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" by Katherine Anne Porter)
Headology[edit | edit source]
Despite her power, Granny Weatherwax rarely uses magical power in any immediately recognizable form. Instead, she prefers to use headology, a sort of folk-psychology which can be summed up as "if people think you're a witch, you might as well be one". For instance, Granny could, if she wished, curse people. However it is simpler for her to say she's cursed them, and let them assume she's responsible for the next bit of bad luck that happens to befall them; given her reputation this tends to cause such people to flee the country entirely.
Headology bears some similarities to psychology in that it requires the user to hold a deep seated understanding of the workings of the human mind in order to be used successfully. However, headology tends to differ from psychology in that it usually involves approaching a problem from an entirely different angle.
It has been said that the difference between headology and psychiatry is that, were you to approach either with a belief that you were being chased by a monster, a psychiatrist will convince you that there are no monsters coming after you, whereas a headologist will hand you a bat and a chair to stand on.
Power[edit | edit source]
Because of her reluctance to openly use magic, other Discworld characters have, at various times, accused Granny Weatherwax of 'working by trickery alone', and of 'having little or no real power' (An accusation she shares with Lu-Tze). Both statements are wholly inaccurate. Though preferring not to use magic, Granny Weatherwax has, on several occasions, been seen to display several 'conventional' forms of power in abundance; including psychokinesis (Lords and Ladies), as well as a number of 'less conventional' forms of power; including the ability to fade into the background of a room, to defer physical injury to a later point in time (Witches Abroad, Maskerade), and to make people believe they have been turned into animals such as frogs (the ability to do it for real is in her repertoire, but why go to that much trouble?) During a duel with the Archchancellor of UU (Equal Rites, an early work not necessarily consistent with the later ones), Granny was shown to turn into a great number of different creatures. GURPS Discworld suggests that the apparent transformations of both parties were only special effects, as Discworld spellcasters would not so carelessly tinker with their own morphic fields; regardless, Granny Weatherwax was shown to be a match for the Archchancellor. In Wyrd Sisters she unleashed considerably explosive magic on a cart after losing her temper for nearly being run over by it, and sent the entire nation of Lancre forward in time fifteen years so that the exiled heir to the throne would be of age to liberate the country from its henpecked usurper sooner rather than later, albeit with considerable effort and after much manipulation by Nanny Ogg.
She is also highly adept at 'Borrowing' – the art of overlaying her mind on the mind of another creature so that she can see through its eyes and steer its actions without it being aware of her presence — and can tune her mind to the point that she can sense the underlying mood of her surroundings (including the mood of plants, animals and the earth) and the presence of 'stories' that are trying to play themselves out. She has even borrowed a beehive, considered one of the most difficult minds to borrow due to it being spread over many bodies, and even borrows the mind of the Unseen University itself (in Lords And Ladies and Equal Rites, respectively). In Wyrd Sisters, her second appearance, she makes contact with the very mind of Lancre itself. However, while her mind is out Borrowing, her body falls into a catatonic, almost death-like trance; it is revealed in Lords And Ladies that in order to prevent embarrassing accidents (such as when Esk sees her in one in Equal Rites), she has taken to wearing a placard reading "I Ate'nt Dead" when she does so.
She has even been known to be able to detect the memories of Granny Weatherwaxes living in alternative realities, but only at points in time when the walls between her world and other worlds are particularly thin.
Limitations[edit | edit source]
Knowing what is Right is the bedrock of Granny Weatherwax and it is this that keeps her from using her considerable psychic and occult abilities and has, thus far, been the primary limiting factor on her power. As she explains in Maskerade, if she was a bad witch she could break people's bones where they stood and manipulate their minds at will, but she can't be that bad witch. She knows what's Right. This, of course, has not stopped her from becoming increasingly powerful, to the point where she even managed to not only resist the fatal embrace of a vampire's bite, but also reverse the curse, causing her assailant to become weaker from within while craving tea and biscuits.
In addition to the limitations imposed by her morality, it has been previously stated that there are some forms of magic that Granny Weatherwax cannot do, either through inability or aversion. These forms include some of those most commonly associated with Wizardry, including pyrokinesis (Equal Rites).
She has, however, ignited a log by glaring at it until it combusted out of pure embarrassment. She also claimed it was impossible to catch a sword in your hand without being hurt but did just that shortly afterwards (although there was an element of trickery involved; she moved the wound through time). It has been stated that when Granny says a task is impossible, she means it is impossible for anyone but herself.
The only thing which repeatedly defeats Granny is her flying broomstick. It refuses to start smoothly, despite dwarfs replacing both handle and sticks. She maintains, however, that it "will be Right as Rain with a bit of work" [sic].
Granny's relationship with the written word is strained, bordering on combative. This is not an unusual situation on the Discworld, where spelling and punctuation are variously regarded as optional extras or creative arts.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
Granny Weatherwax is one of Terry Pratchett's most prolific recurring characters. She has starred in six Discworld novels (Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum), has acted as a significant supporting character in A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and The Shepherd's Crown, and was referenced in three others (she appeared briefly in The Wee Free Men and was anonymously referenced in Thief of Time as well as Going Postal, and referenced in Mort). She also appeared in the short story "The Sea and Little Fishes" and in The Science of Discworld II: The Globe.
In the 1995 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Wyrd Sisters Granny Weatherwax was played by: Sheila Hancock.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- According to Equal Rites, Granny Weatherwax, amongst other things, makes her own liquor for medicinal purposes, (she has her own Still), her "triple-distilled white mountain Peach brandy" is well known even in the town of Ohulan Cutash, (a town fifteen miles away from Bad Ass), and its regarded as "much better than beer".
[edit | edit source]
- Granny Weatherwax, In Discworld Wiki