The Sea and Little Fishes is a short story by Terry Pratchett, written in 1998. It is set in his Discworld universe, and features Lancre witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. It was originally published in a sampler alongside a story called "The Wood Boy" by Raymond E. Feist, and later in a collection called Legends. It was also published in A Blink of the Screen.
The story established a basis for various elements of the novel A Hat Full of Sky, but is not required to understand that novel.
A coalition of witches, led by self-appointed organiser Lettice Earwig asks Granny Weatherwax not to participate in the annual Lancre Witch Trials, on account of her always winning. She agrees, becoming disconcertingly nice, apparently owing to the realisation that, while she always does the right thing, few people actually like her. Her niceness, however, throws people completely off-balance, proving that people expect Granny Weatherwax to be Granny Weatherwax. As dairy farmer William Poorchick says, "She's got no right to go around being cheerful at people!" Boffo is the science of meeting expectations which witches use a lot, creating an impression of what people want to see rather than what is actually there. Missing expectations by a mile can be quite startling, especially if it is Granny Weatherwax doing the missing. Not surprising, Granny still "wins" - showing up Lettice in the process.
The title has confused people; Pratchett has since explained that Granny is the sea, and the other witches are the fishes (at one point Nanny says that calling Granny full of pride is like calling the sea full of water; water is what the sea is).
It is based on the "ancient phrase" The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim, which Pratchett made up at some point before the story, and finally used in Night Watch.
It originally featured a scene where Granny Weatherwax retreated to a set of caves and meditated about her role in life after being told to stay away, which was cut after it was decided that it was too bulky and added little to the story. A version of the scene was later used in Carpe Jugulum.
Pratchett's use of the Lancre Witch Trials is a play on a number of words and concepts: It combine such events as Sheep dog Trials where there is a competition between people and their dogs (or in this case, between witches like a 'school sports day'). It then adds the traditional idea of a 'trial before judge and jury (or Inquisition) for being a witch. Finally it connotes the concept of being tested until you can prove that you have reformed your ways or demonstrated your worth 'being placed on trial'. In the latter, Granny demonstrates to the people, the other witches, and like it or not, to Lettice that her way is the best way for her character to behave.