The Shepherd's Crown is the 41st and last book written by Sir Terry Pratchett before his death in March 2015. It is the fifth novel in the Discworld series to be based on the character of Tiffany Aching, and was published in the UK on 27 August 2015 by Random House publishers, and in the United States on 1 September 2015.
In early June 2015 the custodian of the late author's works, his daughter Rhianna Pratchett, announced that it would be the last Discworld novel, and that no further works or books of unfinished work would be authorised for publication.
Tiffany Aching is so busy running her steading and taking care of the people of the Chalk that Jeannie, the Kelda of the Nac Mac Feegle, is worried that she is overdoing it. When Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany's mentor, dies, she leaves everything to her apprentice Tiffany which adds even more work to her life. After an initial conflict with Letice Earwig (pronounced 'Ah-wij'), one of the senior witches who thinks she should be the heir to Granny, Tiffany becomes the first among equals of the witches - not that the witches would ever admit to having a leader. She tries to balance running both steadings, flying back and forth between the two places, You, Granny's old cat sitting astride her broomstick, clearly at home with her new mistress.
Geoffrey, the third son of Lord Swivel, is well educated, a vegetarian and a pacifist. This does not sit well with his father, especially since he is a spare wheel in the family, the father has a son and heir and a spare in case something happens to the heir. He doesn't need a third son who spends his time immersed in books instead of blood sports and takes no interest in Geoffrey, especially when Geoffrey displays his contempt for his father's hunting practices which he considers barbaric. After a confrontation with his father, Geoffrey hooks his goat, Mephistopheles, to his cart and heads towards Lancre, intending to become a witch.
Meanwhile, in the domain of the Elves, Peaseblossom senses that the passing of Granny Weatherwax has weakened the barriers between the realms. When a goblin shows the Faerie Court what the humans are capable of with iron and the status that goblins have achieved, Peaseblossom usurps Nightshade, the Queen of the Elves, intending to reenter the human world and reestablish the Elves' power. He orders his henchmen to rip off her wings and throw her out of the Elf Kingdom.
Tiffany, spread thin tending to the Chalk and Granny Weatherwax's old steading, decides to employ Geoffrey as a 'backhouse boy' or general dogs' body to help her out and starts teaching him the basics of caring for the people in the area - the first step to becoming a witch. He and his goat get on well with everybody, and Tiffany dubs him a calm-weaver after he defuses a number of potential problems. He befriends some of the old retired men who have time on their hands and are bored stiff. Intending to help the old men have some autonomy from their wives, he introduces the idea of sheds (Discworld's 'man caves').
Nightshade is found by the Feegle who has been stationed on the Chalk to guard the gateway to fairyland. The Feegles restrain her until Tiffany arrives and takes her in on her family farm. While there, she decides to carry as a talisman the shepherd's crown, a fossilised Echinoid, that had been in the Aching family for many generations. Tiffany attempts to teach Nightshade what it is to be human and the motivations of kindness.
The Elves make forays into the world and it becomes obvious that they are preparing to attack the human world and regain control, so Tiffany calls a meeting of all the witches and develops a plan to fend off the invasion by the Elves. Geoffrey marshals the old men, and assembles a fighting force. Tiffany attempts to enlist the help of the Elf King but is initially rebuffed. After Tiffany sees how Geoffrey has mobilized the old men and given them a purpose by building sheds, she gets the Feegles to build the Elf King his own shed on the edge of his domain in the hope that it will earn his allegiance (what man can resist a shed of his own).
The Elves break through at two stone circles: up in Lancre and down in the Chalk. In Lancre, they are met by the assembled witches with help from Geoffrey, his goat and the old men and they are defeated. In the Chalk, they are met by Miss Tick, Letitia, Tiffany, and the Nac Mac Feegle. Nightshade, with her glamour restored, fights for Tiffany, whom she now considers a friend, until she is killed by Peaseblossom. The Elves seem to have the upper hand until Tiffany, wearing the shepherd's crown, calls the power of the Chalk to bring a storm and commands the ghosts of her grandmother's sheepdogs, Thunder and Lightning. She summons the King of the Elves, who kills Peaseblossom, and she banishes the Elves from the Land.
Afterwards, Tiffany realized that she can't do everything on her own so decides to devote herself to the Chalk. She recommends that Geoffrey be given Granny Weatherwax's steading, and builds herself a caravan home on the site of Granny Aching's shepherd's hut, using the wheels from Granny's old caravan.
Popular References Edit
There are many references pointing back to other novels in the Discworld series. It is like Pratchett knows this is his final novel and wants to do a final tour of his other books to remind his readers and make connections.
Tiffany comments that Fairyland is not like the version described in The Goode Childe's Booke of Faerie Tales. The title of this book and comments both here and in other Pratchett novels such as The Wee Free Men, suggest that this book follows in the tradition of the sanitized fairy tales made popular in the 1940s to 1960s and later by Disney where the scary parts were removed from Grimms' and Anderson's tales and replaced with something more acceptable to puritanical adults (The Golden Book of Fairy Tales published in 1958 and compiled by Adrienne Segur is such an example). In the Wee Free Men, Pratchett references the painting by Richard Dadd, The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke in one of the scenes so he may have been thinking of the painting again in this novel. Co-incidentally, Freddy Mercury of Queen was also inspired by this painting and it formed the basis of Queen's song The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke on the album Queen II
Tiffany notices young Feegles are following her on her rounds and collecting samples of the strongest substance known to man, toenail clippings from the elderly. Initially the reader is led to believe this is an example (like the teeth held by the Tooth Fairy) of controlling someone by getting a piece of them. However by the end of the novel it becomes clear that they are being used as crescent-shaped boomerang weapons.
Only the Nac mac Feegle children would learn their alphabet with "A is for Axe to chop off your head" instead of "A is for Apple". Again Pratchett is pushing the limits on the sanitized children's world of books and learning vs a more realistic (certainly for the the Feegles) one. The Golden Book of Fairys and Enid Blyton vs the Original Grimms fairy tales. Or the original Hogfather/Father Christmas vs the accepted and popularized one.
The fact that Tiffany's 'young man' is a doctor while she is a witch is very symbolic in Roundworld as the development of the profession of doctors (male) was what essentially drove witches (female) underground and changed their image from the wise old woman who looked after the village folk to that of an evil sorceress.
Lord Swivel has a very appropriate name given that a previous lord has lost the family fortune and the present one has regained it. In case the reader misses this obvious reference, Pratchett states it outright when he says, "Young Harold had wheeled and dealed, and yes, swivelled and swindled until he had restored the family fortune." Whether the family name is based on a real Roundworld family is unknown but there are plenty of Lords of the Manor to draw from in present day and historical England. Another literary Swivel on the Disc is the Ankh-Morpork Times' literary critic Tuppence Swivel. If he is a relative, he would be a black sheep in the family as far as Harold is concerned since literature and Harold do not mix.
Mephistopheles is the name of Geoffrey's goat. Geoffrey Swivel who is very book learned got the name from a book, perhaps from Discworld's equivalent of Faust. On Roundworld the demon Mephistopheles appears to Faust, in both book and opera, to offer him the Standard Contract - his soul. This is another reference back to the earlier Pratchett work, Eric in which a Faustian bargain is made with Eric.
The novel also plays with the common folk tale number three; Mephistopheles is the third baby goat and the runt of the litter. Geoffrey is the third son and the spare wheel. The baby Tiffany names after herself is the last triplet born and a girl. Folk tales use three as the basis for most stories; Goldilocks and the Three Bears, three Billy Goats Gruff, three wishes, three tasks to perform, three brothers sent on a quest (the third and youngest the one who succeeds), the Three Sillies, etc.
Geoffrey studies the philosophers Ly Tin Wheedle, Orinjcrates, Xeno and Ibid and the inventors Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos as well as Leonard of Quirm. The Great Discworld philosopher, Ly Tin Wheedle, has a vaguely Chinese Roundworld style name so he is likely based loosely on Confucius. His name has been variously described as a pun on "lighten widdle" or "lie then weedle". Orinjcrates is obviously a reference to Socrates but his name pronounced phonetically is "Orange Crates". Xeno means 'foreign or foreigner", Ibid simply means "from the same source as the previous reference" - in other worlds he is a bit of a plagarist. Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos has many connotations; two obvous ones continue the James Bond references that Pratchett has used many times, the movies Goldeneye and Goldfinger (Dactylos means 'finger' in Greek). Leonard of Quirm is an obvious reference to Leonardo da Vinci. So Pratchett is giving us the finger with Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos.
Langus is like Daedelus who flies too close to the sun in Greek Mythology. This is likely a reference to Lingus as in the Irish national airline Aer Lingus. His father Pilotus draws obvious comparisons to an Aer Lingus 'pilot'.
Death says to Granny Weatherwax, "Your candle...will flicker for some time before it goes out" foreshadowing that her soul will be transferred into her cat 'You' to help in the coming war with the Elves.
Readers of Snuff will remember that Ham-on-Rye is the home of St. Onan's Theological College. Ham-on-Rye, a play on English place names that combine the town's name with the river beside which it is located (such as Hay on Wye) and the kind of bacon sandwich Vimes loves but can't eat because his wife forbids it. The Rye is a river in Ireland, a tributary of the Liffey. Another reference from Pratchett to earlier works in his final book.
The footnote regarding Agnes Nitt/Perdita making a fool of herself doing the 'devil among the Pictsies' is a reference to the Scottish Country dance, "The Devil among the Tailors".
After Granny Weatherwax dies, Pratchett travels around the Disc to get the reactions of established characters, again going back to characters and events in previous books. From Equal Rites we get - Eskarina Smith's rag-rug on the bed and a very brief cameo from Eskarina who was a girl who wanted to become a wizard, paralleling Geoffrey who is a boy who wants to become a witch. There is also the mention of Esk's son - details of which will never now be known.
In Wee Free Men, the reader is told that Miss Tick had "twice been thrown in ponds". This was a real Roundworld test for whether a woman was a witch. If she floated she was a witch and was burned at the stake. If she sank, she was not a witch but drowned instead and went off to "heaven" - a better place in the eyes of the church who administered the test. In The Shepherd's Crown, Miss Tick is practicing swimming and holding her breath and also untying knots for the eventuality that she will get another ducking as a witch.
When Tiffany delivers the triplets and names the girl after herself, there is the hint that this unwanted child will eventually take over from her when she too reaches the stage that Granny Weatherwax has reached.
The white cat You appears out of nowhere at Tiffany's side and the comment is made that cats seem to be able to be in more than one place at once. Pratchett has referenced the thought experiment by Erwin Schrodinger in Lords and Ladies in regard to Greebo. The thought experiment which is known as Schrodinger's cat argues that a cat locked in a box may be alive or it may be dead, its actual state only determined when you look in the box. In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat. It has been argued that the appearance of You at Tiffany's side and Pratchett's footnote comments is a reference back to Schrodinger and perhaps to the invisibility concepts in Schrödinger's Hat.
Mrs. Letice Earwig whose name is pronounced 'Ah-wij' resonates with the Monty Python sketch which Pratchett has used before about the man whose name is 'Throat Warbler Mangrove' but it pronounced 'Raymond Luxury Yacht' which itself is a takeoff on British names like Featherstonehaugh and Cholmondeley that are pronounced Fanshawe and Chumley respectively, nothing like they are spelled. Alternately, with the pronunciation 'Ah-wij" she or her husband (witches don't normally take their husbands' names) could be from Quirm. Pratchett plays with this trend to give upper class names, strange pronunciations in his remarks on the Baron Roland the Chumsfanleigh, whose name is pronounced 'Chuffley'.
Granny Weatherwax's 'borrowing note' has been amended to say "I is probably dead". Since it doesn't say "I am dead!" this is another hint that she has temporarily transferred to You to help in the upcoming war with the elves.
The animals all sitting together whether predator or prey, around Granny Weatherwax's grave resonates with Isaiah 11:6 in the Bible which reads: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” This passage confers a 'godlike' stature on Granny Weatherwax which is confirmed with the statements of the others in Pratchett's tour around Discworld immediately after her death.
Stackpole's play "Much Ado About Everything" is an very obvious play on Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" both the play and the author's name.
Agnes sings the Columbine Lament which in Roundworld is a piano piece by John Thompson not a piece for voice. Pratchett probably chose this title to remind readers of the massacre at Columbine High School in the USA and its subsequent copy-cat school mass murders over the intervening years, including the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary which occurred shortly before he wrote this book.
Big Yan says, "Alas, poor Granny, I knew her well" which is a reference to Shakespeares Hamlet in which Hamlet says, "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him Horatio" (the common misconception being that the line is "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well"). To which Tiffany, replies, "No you didn't".
Big Yan!'" is a reference to Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly who is known as "The Big Yin". Yan in the 'Yan, Tan, Tethera counting system of Northumberland and Scotland meaning "one".
The goblin formerly known as 'Of the Dew the Sunlight' is now called 'Of the Lathe the Swarf'. Swarf is the curlicue or chip of iron filing that comes off the lathe when turning metal. The scene involving him and the Elf Queen recalls the sentiments expressed by the deep down Dwarfs in Raising Steam where they long for the old days and comment that "some goblins/dwarfs (are) almost not goblins/dwarfs now. Almost Human"
The Jolly Sailor tobacco reminds Tiffany and the reader of Granny Aching and the story about turning the wrapper upside down to make a picture of a naked girl in The Wee Free Men.
The various flowers, herbs and plants in Granny Weatherwax's garden are references and puns on various Roundworld things, some theories below might be a stretch but knowing Pratchett,if this isn't the reference there is another one; 'rotating spinach' refers to the fact that to maintain your garden's health you should rotate your green vegetables around the garden, Doubting Plums' might be a reference to 'Doubting Thomas' from the Bible (sugar plums and Tomatoes both slang for Breasts), 'Ginny Come Nither' is likely based on a combination of the expression come hither and the song Ginny Come Lately written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld and popularized in 1962 by Brian Hyland (which in turn takes its name from Johnny Come Lately - meaning an upstart), 'Twirlabout' likely takes its name from Whirlabout a type of butterfly or simply refers to turning around in a circle, 'Tickle my Fancy Root' is obviously based on the phrase tickle my fancy as in appeal to someone,'Jack-go-to-bed-and-never-get-up' is based on the plant Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon (also called showy goatsbeard), 'Daisy-upsy-daisy' is obviously based on the flower Daisy and the phrase, upsy daisy, associated with telling little children to get up again and 'Old man's root' might be based on the plant Old Man's Saltbush. 'Love Lies Ooozing' is obviously the annual flower Aramanthus with the common name Love lies Bleeding and it is also a song by Elton John. 'Jack by Moonlight' could be a play on Jack O'Lantern or a contrast to the Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon. Maiden's Respite is likely a play on Maiden's Rest (Active rest being a bit of an oxymoron).
The bartender, Darling Dove, looks at Geoffrey 'mournfully' - another one of Pratchett's puns that is easy to miss (mourning doves are a type of bird).
Tiffany goes through all the list of reasons why her patients deny responsibility for their actions "It's not my fault - I didn't know, etc". These excuses resonate very strongly in the USA legal system where everyone sues everyone else because "It's not my fault, I didn't know the coffee was hot and burned me, etc."
A geas (pronounced gesh), in Irish folklore and Feegle tradition is an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person. Obviously Daft Wullie's 'flock of big burdies' are 'geese'.
The line, "She would hand him over to Lord Lankin?" is a reference to a villainous child murderer in a traditional English folk ballad popularized by Steeleye Span on their album The Commoner's Crown. The reader will remember that Lankin in 'Lords and Ladies' was a sadistic member of the Faery Queen's Court and entourage. Steeleye Span was Pratchett's favorite band.
The Goblin, Of the Lathe the Swarf, says "In this new world, little things like swarf - and goblins - do matter." This resonates with the "Black Lives Matter" movement which was formed in the USA in 2013, when Pratchett was writing this novel, by African Americans trying to stop the systemic racism against Blacks (like Goblins only recently emerging from slavery).
The Baron's Arms pub where 'men would arrive proudly carrying a huge cucumber or any other humorously shaped or suggestive vegetable' is another shout out in Pratchett's 'farewell tour' of previous Discworld novels. In this case the reference is to The Truth in which William de Worde's newspaper the Ankh-Morpork Times runs a regular feature involving rude vegetables. The whole genre is derived from the kinds of features found in small community newspapers - particularly around fall fair time.
Mrs. Parsley, the pub owner's wife"turned a blind ear and would certainly put up with language such as 'bugger', it being considered nothing more than a colourful expression, used plentifully in this context as 'How are you, you old bugger?' and, more carefully 'Bugger me!"' Pratchett plays with language usage between different parts of the English speaking world in this line. In Discworld, he imparts a more American use to the word 'bugger' than in his home country of England. In North America the first phrase quoted would be like saying "How are you, you old character?" The line is often used in connection with children - "You little bugger" meaning "you little scamp". The etymology of the word originally had to do with homosexual relations but in North America it is long forgotten. In England that is not the case and it is an expletive (getting milder over the years). "Bugger me" means to have anal sexual intercourse. You would not call a child a "little bugger" unless you wanted to be flattened by his father.
Reynard the Fox is a literary cycle of allegorical French, Dutch, English and German fables concerned with Reynard, an anthropomorphic red fox and trickster figure 'Renard' means 'fox' in French and likely Quirmian.
Mr. Tidder drinks his young daughter's urine and his leg gets better. Urine therapy or urotherapy goes back to Biblical days and is still practiced today in Roundworld, particularly among 'new age types'. It is ascribed as a cure all for everything from cancer to sore throats and coughs (actress Sarah Miles drank her own urine for over 30 years to prevent allergies), to athletes foot (Madonna peed on her feet in the shower to prevent this) to callouses (baseball player Moses Alou peed on his hands and said it saved him from having to use batting gloves. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support any of this.
The Queen of the Elves calls down Thunder and Lightning on Peasebottom which sounds like the kind of spell a witch or sorcerer would invoke until the reader remembers from A Hat Full of Sky that Thunder and Lightning were Granny Aching's sheep dogs who played an active role in stopping the Elves and protecting Tiffany throughout the series.
When Geoffrey tells Tiffany that he wants to be a witch, Nanny Ogg suggests Tiffany make him a 'backhouse boy'. In England a backhouse is a small building at the rear of a house used as a wash house or storage shed. In North America, Geoffrey's goat would use a 'backhouse', also called a privy or 'outhouse'.
Peaseblossom says, "What fools these mortals be!" This line is uttered by the mischievous fairy Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck, unlike Peaseblossom is simply mischievous not evil.
Geoffrey's uncle from Uberwald is called Heimlich Sheddenhausen. This is Pratchett playing with pseudo-German words. 'Shed' in German is really 'Schuppen' and 'hausen' is 'hang out'. So Geoffey's uncle, the inventor of men's sheds or 'man caves' has a name that reflects this.
Nanny Ogg calls Mephistopheles "The Mince of Darkness" an obvious play on "prince of darkness" comes from John Milton's poem Paradise Lost in which Satan is referred to by that name. Milton's use of the term originated in the latin 'princeps tenebrarum' from the 4th century Acts of Pilate.
Hiddlins is a Scottish word for 'secrets' (from 'hide') so in this sense Rob is worried that Jeannie hasn't taught Maggie the secrets of being a woman.
The dialogue of the broom makers selecting the best 'stick' for Geoffrey resonates very strongly with Olivander selecting a wand for Harry Potter in JK Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." A 'bodge' is a 'repair'. When they return to pick up the 'repaired' broom, Mrs. Proust comments that it even has a cup for holding your drink, which prompts a quizzical look from Shrucker the broom maker. The cup is really the broom equivalent of the cut out section of a modern bicycle seat, designed to minimize chaffing on the rider's sensitive parts as they contact the seat/broom. The fuzzy cubes with spots are obviously Discworld's equivalent of fuzzy dice which were popularized in young men's hot rods in Roundworld along with big stereos sytems (in-carriage entertainment)
"Ach, stickit yer trakkans" in mock Scottish means "Oh stick it you derogatory term for an elf) Trakkans appears to be taken from the game World of Warcraft.
The Nac mac Feegles go out to face the Elfish threat (the Queen with their battle cries;
Nac Mac Feegle wha hae!" is a parody of Robert Burns's line "Scots wha hae!" , which was supposedly the opening line of Robert the Bruce's address to his men at Bannockburn in 1314 (although this is highly unlikely). The original stanza is "Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has aften led, Welcome tae your gory bed, Or tae Victorie!" However the short phrase is also a generic Scottish battle-cry, probably eliding to "Scots Wha-hey" - more-or-less "Scots, get on with it".
"Gae awa' wi' ye, yer bogle" means get away you ghost or spirit.
"Gi'e you sich a guid kickin'" is obviously give you such a good kicking.
"Nae King! Nae quin! We willna' be fooled agin!" which comes from the title of the song by the Who "Won't Get Fooled Again". There is also the flavour of James I and "No Bishop, No King".
Wee Dangerous Spike says "Dinnae fash yersel'" which is Scottish for 'don't worry yourself'.
Frank and Martin, who want to work on the flumes are taking part in a late 1900s, early 20th century logging method, especially in the western USA and Canada where there were no roads but plenty of water and logs had to be transported long distances to the ocean, rivers or road for transport to market. Flumes were initially built as a box but that was modified to a 'V' shape because the logs didn't jam as easily (the Discworld log herders are positioned to stop jams) but rather floated free when the water backed up. The longest flume was over 100 kms (62 miles) long and went from the Sierra Nevada Mountains across canyons and gorges to the lumber yard in Sanger, California.
The Discworld lumberjacks performing their duties better when wearing womens' clothing and singing while they work has been used before in Snuff and is an obvious reference to the famous Monty Pythons sketch. The lumberjacks even get the 'Biggerwoods mail-order catalogue. In Britain, Littlewoods is a popular mail-order company specializing in women's clothing from lingerie up to outerwear.
Frank and Martin's mad descent down the flume is much like a log flume ride at Disneyland or any amusement park and in fact those rides were based on the old logging flumes.
The town of Stank whose slogan is "We're stinking in Stank" carries on the tradition of small towns the world over that are trying to market themselves to the tourist industry by capitalizing on a funny name. In Canada, Biggar Saskatchewan has the slogan, "New York may be big but we are Biggar" festooned on Tee-shirts etc.
The activities of the Elves on their raids reflect common old folk stories about 'the fairy folk' in myths and legends, not the versions of helpful elves found in Peter Pan, Disney and Grimm's "Shoemaker and the Elves".
Pratchett first used the counting system 'yan, tan, TETHERA!' in Wee Free Men. It comes from an old Gaelic counting system based on 20 like the unit "score", which was used throughout the country from early times and is still used today in parts of Northumbria and Scotland for counting sheep and stitches in knitting. One to ten, with regional variations on the words goes: 'Yan, tan, tethera, methera, pip, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera, dick.' In Discworld the counting system has come from some migrant shepherds from Uberwald who left it behind them when they moved on. Another less popular version of the Roundworld counting system's origin says that it came with itinerant shepherds from Romania in the 19th Century, who were brought in to Yorkshire to be shepherds there. This is likely the version Pratchett is playing with as there are many links between the old Iron Curtain Slavic countries and Uberwald, not the least of which is vampires in both Transylvania (Romania) and Uberwald. Granny Aching's pet name for Tiffany, 'Little Jiggit' means the number 20 in this system. Tiffany was her twentieth grandchild.
The line, "The elvish had begun to leave the building" hearkens back to Soul Music and is an obvious reference to the old line "Elvis has left the building"; a line used by the announcer at the end of an Elvis Presley show to disperse the audience hoping for another encore. In this case it also means that the evil usually associated with Elves is being replaced by humanity in the Queen.
Rob Anybody says, "A puir bairn has nae reason tae dread Feegles" which is a reference to the folk stories about the fairies stealing a baby and exchanged it with an evil fairy child - a changeling. The real baby might be well looked after by the fairies/elves or kept as a servant. This harkens back to the event of Tiffany's first novel, The Wee Free Men, where her brother Wentworth is stolen by the Elf Queen and Roland is wooed away to fairy land. In this novel the little baby girl, Tiffany is stolen by the Elves but it appears they have a more sinister end in mind for her. In each case, the disappearance of the child it not due to it wandering off unattended or to an inattentive parent but to external evil forces. Similarly, when a child is changed, the problem is not with the parents' inability to find out what is causing the problem in behavior or health but is because it is no longer the same child - it is a changeling. Not much has changed over the centuries, with individuals refusing to take responsibility for their actions and blaming others.
Pratchett often refers to shoemakers in the same breath as elves; an obvious reference to the story of the "Die Wichtelmänner" by the Brother's Grimm in their fairy tale compendium. "Die Wichtelmänner" translates as 'gnomes' but in her translation of 1884 Margaret Hunt chose 'The Elves'.
The references to Tiffany going to the dark side of witchcraft with 'poison apples, spinning wheels, and a too small stove' is an obvious reference to the Grimm's Fairy tales, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel.
Tiffany tells the King of the Elves that she is the maiden and the hag - two of the three aspects of witches, the third being the mother.
The King of the Elves aspect resonates with Pan; cloven hooves, horns, strong smell (like a male goat).
Upon seeing the white cat, he King of the Elves says, "You!" Clearly he is not simply referring to the cat's name but is recognizing in it the aspects of Granny Weatherwax, more evidence that she has transferred her soul to the cat to deal with the elves and help Tiffany.
Tiffany mixes up some 'reciprocal greens' to help Nightshade sleep and let her body cure to which Pratchett comments in a footnote pun, "the end certainly justified the greens" - the kind of dreadful pun that Pratchett loves to mix in with his more complex and clever ones. The clever one is the first one of the pair; 'reciprocal greens' is a play on an electromagnetic principle called "Green's reciprocal theory". It is also a common term used on golf courses where many courses have a reciprocal greens fee agreement between visiting club members.
Tiffany thinks, "A princess doesn't have to be blond and blue-eyed and have a shoe size smaller than her age" - a reference to the fairy tale, Cinderella.
Mushi are supernatural creatures in the Japanese Anime manga series, Mushishi but whether this is Pratchett's reference or not is unknown.
The witch whose name is Long Tall Short Fat Sally is another of Pratchett's plays on names like the Nac Mac Feegles - this one combining all the physical attributes into the Little Richard song popularized again by the Beatles, "Long Tall Sally" plus some.
Magret mentions that Leititia has handled a screaming skeleton with teddy bear, and a headless ghost with pumpkin; the latter a reference to Washington Irving's story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow but headless ghosts are common motif in folk lore from the middle ages on.
Mr. Sideway's reference to the 'Stick and Bucket Dance' as performed by the Lancre Morris Men recalls the use of that dance by Jason Ogg and the others to stop the Elves in Lords and Ladies.
"Gnome defence" is a play on 'zone defence' used in team sports.
"Lord Lankin" is a reference to a villainous child murderer in a traditional English folk ballad popularized by Steeleye Span on their album The Commoner's Crown. Lankin in 'Lords and Ladies' and this novel is a sadistic member of the Faery Queen's Court and entourage. Steeleye Span was Pratchett's favorite band.
Nightshade in her glamour is 'terrific' which Pratchett had explained earlier has the same root as 'terrify' but the former crossed over to mean something good at the beginning of the 20th Century. The origin is the Latin terrificus meaning 'causing terror'.
Nightshade tells Tiffany that Letice Earwig is unaffected by the glamour and asks if she is sure she is not an elf. She comments that Letice seems to be missing something. Clearly that something is 'empathy' which Elves lack as well. She is so completely self-absorbed that she is impervious to the Elven Glamour, which creates human self-doubt and worthlessness.
Scunner' is a Scots word for something or someone to which/whom you've taken a strong dislike. A 'schemie' is a pejorative Scots term for someone who lives in a housing estate (a Housing Scheme) built as replacement for slums, but rapidly becoming slums themselves.
The little china shepherdess on Tiffany's shelf is a reference back to The Wee Free Men when Tiffany gave it to her grandmother. Tiffany agonized throughout that novel about not crying at her grandmother's death and of giving her the shepherdess (clearly a Royal Doulton type of figurine) which bears no resemblance to a real shepherd. At one point the china figurine is smashed to pieces in one of her dreams. At the end of that novel, her grandmother appears dressed as the figurine shepherdess (with her own big boots on) which is vindication for Tiffany that her grandmother really did care for the gift and therefore did love her. She has kept it as a memento of her grandmother ever since.
Captain Makepeace (whose name alone deserves mention- the military leader whose name implies peace) says " We shall fight them on the mountains, we shall fight them on the rocks....We shall never surrender" is a reference to Winston Churchill's famous speech (one of the defining speeches of the Second World War) - "We shall fight on the beaches". Pratchett's version includes, "Down in the Valley" a reference to the old American folk song of the same name.
Mrs. Earwig says, "This lady is not for turning" which is a reference to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's speech in 1980 at the Conservative Party conference. It became a Thatcher motif. Thatcher took the line from Christopher Fry's 1948 play, The Lady's not for Burning. The play', set in the Middle Ages involves a war-weary soldier who wants to die, and an accused witch who wants to live - an appropriate reference in and of itself for this novel.
The falcons, Lady Elizabeth and Lady Jane are clearly references to Queen Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey her rival.
The old men singing, 'There was a young lady from Quirm' are following in the risque limerick fashion of soldiers everywhere.
Pratchett's reference to the Shepherd's crown not being a royal one makes it a 'Commoner's crown' a subtle reference to his favourite band, Steeleye Span, from which he takes Long Lankin.
"One small step for a Feegle lassie - but a giant step for all Feegle womenfolk!" is an obvious reference to Neil Armstrong's words when he became the first man to step onto the moon, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - a line he used in Night Watch, another shout out to a previous work.
Captain Makepiece says, "We happy few, we extremely elderly few" is another reference to the St. Crispan's Day Speech from Shakespeare's Henry V which Pratchett also used in Thud! - one more reference in Pratchett's tour of Discworld.
The chicken run to protect Lord Swivel's chickens from the foxes also resonates with the movie Chicken Run.
Mr Slack mentions hearing stories of lumberjacks who like to dress up in women's clothing; a reference to the Monty Python Lumberjack Song .
The book received positive reviews, with the Telegraph and Den of Geek awarding it 5/5 while the Guardian said "This is not a perfect example of Pratchett’s genius, but it is a moving one." In the first 3 days of release, it sold 52,846 copies, more than double Jeffrey Archer's Mightier than the Sword which was the second best selling book that week. It topped the chart the second week with 27,386 copies sold, generating £318,576 in revenue.
Rhianna Pratchett, Sir Terry's daughter, finished writing The Shepherd's Crown following her father's passing. She stated that she would not be continuing the series, nor would she permit anybody else to continue her father's legacy, calling it "sacred" to him.