The Wee Free Men, first published in 2003, is the second Story of The Discworld book for younger readers.
While Terry Pratchett's first Discworld book for children, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents had swearing translated to rat language, in this book it is in the dialect of the Nac Mac Feegle which is taken from Scots and Scottish Gaelic.
The novel contains a scene inspired by the painting called "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke", by Richard Dadd.
An illustrated edition of the novel, with pictures by Stephen Player, was published.
Tiffany Aching is a 9-year-old girl who literally sees things differently than others. While playing near the river near her home, she sees two tiny blue, kilted men who warn her of a "green heid" in the water. Suddenly a vile green monster, Jenny Greenteeth, appears in the water. Using her brother Wentworth as bait for it, Tiffany ambushes the beast and cracks it over the head with a frying pan, while Wentworth is completely unfazed, as he is unable to see either the little men or the monster and is more interested in where his next "sweetie" (gummy bear) is coming from. She goes into town to visit a travelling teacher and comes upon Miss Perspicacia Tick, a witch who has been watching her. Tiffany is told that these Wee Free Men are Pictsies, the Nac Mac Feegle,, who are rough and rowdy fae folk who speak with a Glaswegian accent. Miss Tick informs her that she is likely the witch of the wold she resides in, and gives her the toad familiar she carries as a guide before tricking Tiffany out of the tent and disappearing. Tiffany returns home to discover that the Nac Mac Feegles are not only incredibly fast and strong, but afraid of her, as she catches them stealing eggs from under a chicken and a sheep right out of the field. They believe that she is their new 'hag" (witch) who is the replacement for their previous one, Tiffany's grandmother Sarah Aching. When Wentworth is kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies, Tiffany seeks out the help of the Nac Mac Feegles to rescue him, as they are the most powerful otherworldly things she knows and they're more than willing to submit to her will, terrified by one who is not only a witch but one who can read and write. Rob Anybody, and a group of other Feegles including Big Yan and Daft Wullie take her back to their home where she meets the buzzard-aviator Hamish, the gonnagle (bard) -Feegle William, and their clan leader the Kelda. Tiffany is told that her brother has been taken by the Queen to her domain in Fairyland, and not only must she take the Feegles to rescue him, but she must also take up the reins as temporary Kelda, as the current one is about to die. A condition of becoming the Kelda is that you must marry one of the clan males; problematic for both sides as Tiffany is 9 years old and human and the Feegles are only 6 inches tall. She cleverly figures out a diplomatic way to agree to marry but not actually marry Rob Anybody which satisfies the conditions. Tiffany then goes out of the ancient mound in the field where the Feegles test her First Sight and Second Thoughts by letting her find the entrance to the queen's domain.
Once inside Fairyland, Tiffany and the Feegles face several large Grimhounds who the Feegle's gonnagle William drives away by playing his mouse pipes (bagpipes made out of mouse skins) which can be fitted with a special high pitched pipe that only dogs can hear. The Feegles and Tiffany go through various dreams created by blob people called dromes where she finds Roland, the son of the Baron of her homeland. Tiffany and Roland progress through these dreams to eventually find a dream with both Wentworth and the Queen in it. Tiffany narrowly escapes defeat at the hands of the Queen's dream-minions by having Roland release the Feegles from their entrapment in a large walnut, and they escape from that dream into one of Tiffany's own imagining, involving the Jolly Sailor wrapper on the tobacco that her grandmother used. Once in that dream, the Feegles and Wentworth are presumed to have perished at the hands of the Queen's trickery, and Tiffany escapes with Roland's unconscious body out back into the dreamscape, heading for the exit, full of regret that she couldn't save her friends. The Queen mocks her inability to save them and her insecurities, but Tiffany reconnects with her homeland's heritage through her grandmother to gain the strength to defeat the Queen at her own game of dreams in the darkest hour. The Feegles reappear with Wentworth and reveal that the trap the Queen had set wasn't nearly enough to stop them and that they and Wentworth are fine. Tiffany, Roland, Wentworth and the Feegles all return to their homeland, where the Baron mistakenly gives his son all of the credit for saving them, to which Tiffany agrees on the understanding that when Roland becomes Baron he will be a just and kind leader. At the end of the novel, Miss Tick, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg appear briefly to sum up what Tiffany already knows and tell her that they will call on her when she is ready to become a full witch.
This book acquaints readers with the endearing young character, Tiffany Aching, as she learns she has inherited the role and responsibility of being the local Chalk country witch. It's a thankless duty that falls squarely on her two small shoulders, but fortunately, she is not alone. Joining Tiffany along her chosen path (whether she likes it or not), are the feisty faerie clan, the Nac Mac Feegle. Not your average faeries of romantic folklore, the favorite pastimes of these little blue men include drinking, fighting, and thieving. It is in the company of these remarkably loyal companions that their "big wee hag" Tiffany discovers the gifts that make her special. "There was a small part of Tiffany's brain that wasn't too certain about the name Tiffany. She was nine years old and felt that Tiffany was going to be a hard name to live up to. Besides, she'd decided only last week that she wanted to be a witch when she grew up, and she was certain that Tiffany just wouldn't work. People would laugh." Terry Pratchett's writing intertwines fantasy and humour in a way that makes his books irresistibly pleasurable reads. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the American Library Association Notable Children's Books award for both The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, which are now included together in this one book. Fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson would certainly enjoy the magic realism of the Tiffany Aching series. For younger readers who may find this level of reading too advanced to tackle on their own, they may enjoy being read to from The Illustrated Wee Free Men, which features beautiful illustrations creeping throughout almost every page.
Miss Perspicacia Tick's name gives an obvious clue to her profession (Miss Tick - Mystic). Her first name is Italian for 'perspicacity' which means 'the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.' - appropriate given that she needs insight to identify potential witches.
She 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. Later 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.
The line, "I can't do,' said Miss Tick ... 'But I can teach!" is a reference to the old saw which says: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach". The British government changed the line to say, "Those who can, teach." as an advertising slogan to try and get people to train as teachers.
"Jenny Green-Teeth." comes from Lancashire folk tales about a spirit or boggart who lived underwater named "Jenny Green-Teeth". Her presence was indicated by the growth of duckweed, which thrives in still fresh water. Like many legends of the fairy world, her existence is used to explain natural occurrences. In this case, Jenny Green-Teeth specializes in drowning people, so any accidental drowning of a child can't be the result of an inattentive family member but has been caused by malevolent fairy people.
Miss Tick's familial is a toad which is one of the clues Tiffany uses to determine that Miss Tick is a witch. In European folklore and folk-belief of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, familiar spirits (sometimes referred to simply as "familiars" or "animal guides") were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic - cats were common but toads were as well.
Tiffany says to Miss Tick's familiar "'You're very yellow for a toad.' 'I've been a bit ill,' said the toad." Pratchett loves puns, which in this case the reader, rather than Pratchett creates. Clearly the familiar is a "yellow sick toad", a pun of "yellow brick road" from The Wizard of Oz.
Keeping with the Wizard of Oz references, Miss Tick mentions that pointed witch hats are hard to come by, "[...] especially ones strong enough to withstand falling farmhouses." This is a reference to the Wicked Witch of the East meeting her end under Dorothy's falling farmhouse after it is swept away by the tornado.
On the way home from talking to Miss Tick, Tiffany "[...] climbed to the top of Arken Hill [...]"
The legends concerning Arken Hill are similar to those of Dragon Hill, Oxfordshire (where some people claim St George fought the dragon) and Silbury Hill, Wiltshire (alleged burial site of a knight in gold armour. Both hills are flat topped, like Arken Hill, and believed to be man-made.
Pratchett pokes fun at the various fairy tales: Red Riding Hood unable to tell the difference between her grandmother and a wolf; Cinderella, where the Prince chooses his bride based on shoe size; Jack and the Beanstock who can't tell that a cow is worth more than a handful of beans and then steals some poor giant's fortune; Hansel and Gretel, who think they can just walk around eating peoples houses and not expect consequences. The idea of an oven big enough to push a witch into.
The little brother being stolen by the Elf Queen is another common folklore motif from earlier times; the child being taken by the fairies, or exchanged with an evil fairy child - a changeling. The baby might be well looked after by the fairies/elves or kept as a servant. In the Scottish ballad, Tam Lin, the Fairy Queen steals Tam Lin to pay her tithe to the devil. Again, as with Jenny Greenteeth, the disappearance of the child it not due to it wandering off unattended 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.
The Feegles are Pictsies which is a pun on 'pixie' and 'Picts' (inhabitants of Scotland in Iron Age times). The Feegles' blue colour suggest Smurffs. The language they speak is a mix of Glaswegian slang, Gaelic and pseudo - Scots such as is portrayed in Braveheart and Rob Roy. They bear a striking resemblance to the stereotypical football hooligan, headbutting anything that gets in the way. They are known as the 'Wee Free Men' hence the title. "Wee Free" is a reference to the Scottish Protestant Church.
The line 'yan, tan, TETHERA!' 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 version of the Roundworld counting system's origin says that it came with itinerant shepherds from Romania in the19th 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 and Uberwald. Granny Aching's pet name for Tiffany, 'Little Jiggit' means the number 20 in this system. Tiffany was her twentieth grandchild.
The Feegles say 'It's a' gang agley.' which means 'its all gone badly'. It is used in the famous Robbie Burns poem, To a Mouse: "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley,"
The Headless Horseman has been a motif of European folklore since at least the Middle Ages. He is traditionally depicted as a man upon horseback who is missing his head altogether or who is carrying his head in his arms and who is searching for it. The most famous myth arises from the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," written in 1820 by Washington Irving but there is a Scottish legend as well which ties in with "Scottish theme" of the book.
A 'bogle' is Scots for a ghost or apparition.
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 meaning "one".
"Ach, see you, pussycat, scunner that y'are! .....Here's a giftie from the t' wee burdies, yah schemie!" translates as follows:
'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 line, "[...] it means our kelda is weakenin' fast, [...]" 'Kelda' is a Scots word derived from the Old Norse 'kelda', meaning origin or source (in the spring/well sense). So the Kelda is the clan's mother.
The Feegles don't tell anyone their names for fear of the name being written down and used to identify them. Pratchett explains the way the written word can be used against you; writs, summons, warrants for arrest, wanted posters all very common in the Roundworld as well. He ends with the line "See their swords? They glow blue in the presence of lawyers." This idea comes from JRR Tolkein's The Lord of The Rings books, in which various weapons glow blue in the presence of Orcs and other evil creatures.
The "odd carvings in the chalk" are common in the South Downs and Wiltshire area where there are large expanses of chalk. The Cerne Abbas Giant (also known as the Rude Man), the Long Man of Wilmington and the Uffington and Westbury White Horses to name a few. Pratchett uses this in Lords and Ladies as well.
The lady "Onna black horse" is another reference to the ballad of 'Tam Lin'. The Elf Queen in that ballad rides a black steed.
The section where the "Grimhounds!" pursue Tiffany is a reference to the various Hellhound/Devil Dog legends in Britain and around the world. The most famous is obviously Cerberus, the giant three headed (usually) dog that guards the gates of Hades in Greek mythology. The "grim" part of the name and the reference to them haunting graveyards comes from the Kirk Grim, which hangs around churchyards to protect the dead buried there from evil spirits or the devil so to see them is a portent of death: presumably if they're visible to you, then you need their protection because you are or will soon be dead. This is appropriate given that Tiffany and the Feegles are about to enter the world of the dead to challenge the Elf Queen. There are many Devil Dog legends in Sussex, most of them not surprisingly on the wilds of the Downs and they have been used widely in literature from Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hounds of the Baskervilles" to JK Rowlings' Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban".
Tiffany asks the Feegles if they"live in one of the mounds?' and adds "I thought they were, you know, the graves of ancient chieftains?" In folklore, Bronze Age Burial Mounds are supposed to be the homes of fairy folk. On the Discworld they are both.
The Feegle playing the "mouse pipes" (bagpipes made of a mouse skin) is a gonnagle called William. The toad explains that, rather than make up heroic battle songs he makes up poems to scare the enemy. Once he starts to recite, the enemy's ears explode." This is a reference to William Topaz McGonagall, Scotland's Worst Poet (some consider him to be the world's worst poet).
William McGonagall's most famous poem is probably The Tay Bridge Disaster which recounts the events of the evening of 28 December 1879, when, during a severe gale, the Tay Rail Bridge near Dundee collapsed as a train was passing over it. The first verse reads:
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
Tiffany's name translated into the language of the Feegles is Tir-far-Thiónn. In Gaelic, 'Tir' is 'Land' and 'Tonn' is supposedly 'Wave' so perhaps Pratchett is playing on the Irish legend of the Gaelic Atlantis, 'Land under the sea'. This line comes back to her when she is 'dying' at the end of the novel.
The "jolly sailor wrappers remind Granny Aching about the story of the sailor whose "got a bo-ut for chasin' the great white whale fish on the salt sea. He's always chasing it, all round the world. It's called Mopey.'" this is an obvious pun on the classic Herman Melville novel 'Moby-Dick; or, The Whale'. At the time whales were considered to be fish, not mammals, which Tiffany points out toward the end of the novel when she is inside the dream involving the whale.
"What kind of place is it where you never grown up" is an obvious reference to Peter Pan and Neverland in James Barrie's novel and the subsequent movies and plays.
The gonnagle "spoke differently too, [...]". While the other Nac Mac Feegle sound like people doing Rab C. Nesbitt impressions (Nesbitt is a well-known Scots character (of the dirty, foul-mouthed, sexist drunkard kind) from a BBC comedy series), William has the sort of exaggerated Ayrshire burr you might hear folk put on when reciting Robert Burns (the famous Scots poet, who wrote 'Auld Lang Syne'). He talks softly and rolls his "Rs" to an extreme.
Rob Anybody says, "We'll dance the FiveHundredAndTwelvesome Reel to the tune o' 'The Devil Among The Lawyers'"
Reels are either Foursome, Eightsome and Twelvesome Reels, involving exchanges of partners between two, four or six couples respectively. 512 would involve 256 couples so would take a lot of energy to complete. The record for the largest Scottish reel is 1,453 participants, achieved by five schools at an event organized by the Nairn Associated Schools Group (UK), in Nairn, Scotland, UK, to celebrate the Highland Year of Culture, where they simultaneously achieved the record for "Largest Dashing White Sergeant dance", as that was their dance of choice.
"The Devil Among The Lawyers" is possibly a reference to Burns' poem The Deil's Awa' Wi' The Exciseman, or else to 'The Devil Among The Tailors', a well-known folk-dance tune (supposedly the original tune for an Eightsome Reel).
Trilithon' is the term for any group of three stones arranged so that one sits flat atop the other two. The mention of stones arranged in circles suggests Stonehenge and the Avebury circle (which is not far from Silbury Hill) among the many henges of Britain. Although they seem to have been erected for much the same reason as the Dancers in Lancre, there is no mention of them being magnetic, because the frying pan gets through without trouble.
The Nac Mac Feegles have various battle cries; all of which except the last one below are said individually rather than as a group. This is in keeping with the traditional approach taken by the Scots in battle, which led to their downfall at Culloden, to fight as individuals and independent clans (often an on mass assault) rather than to have an overall battle plan.
"They can tak' oour lives, but they cannae tak' oour troousers!" This is a parody of "They can take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom", from the movie Braveheart.
"Bang went saxpence!" reflects the alleged stinginess of the Scots. It comes from a Punch cartoon in which a Scotsman complains about the expense of London. "Mun, a had na' been the-erre abune Twa Hoours when- Bang went Saxpence!!!"
"Ye'll tak' the high road an' I'll tak' yer wallet!" is based on the refrain of 'The Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond': "Ye tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road" and again reflects the supposed greedy money oriented nature of the Scots but is also likely a reference to the general lawless state of the lowlands of Scotland during the era of the Border Reivers 1300 to 1600 where taking more than your wallet was a common occurrence on either the high or low road. After all the Nac Mac Feegles are sheep and cattle rustlers and thieves of the first order, like the border reivers. The most common lyrics to the song stem from the time of the Jacobite uprising and Bonnie Prince Charlie who is referenced in the song. The common interpretations involve death - one being that the high road was the main road that captured Jacobites were paraded down on their way to London to be executed and the low road being the one they were brought back along in their coffin.
"There can only be one t'ousand!" is based on the "There can be only one" quote from Highlander, rendered meaningless by Pratchett when it becomes 1000 instead of 1.
"Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willnae be fooled again!" echoes the sentiments of The Who's song 'Won't get fooled again'. Pratchett uses this sentiment over and over in his novels. It is the only battle cry that the Nac Mac Feegles yell together.
The land of the Fairies, Portal entrance through the Standing Stones and the fact that it is winter there always under the Quin (Queen), bears a strong resemblance to the CS Lewis series of the Land of Narnia, the Wardrobe portal entrance and the fact that it is always winter under the domain of the White Witch.
William the Gonnagle plays "The King Underrrr Waterrrr" to drive the Grimhounds away. The likely reference is to the Jacobite toast to Bonnie Prince Charlie who was exiled in France, "The King Over the Water".
Tiffany is warned by William the Gonnagle not to eat anything in the Quin's domain; "If ye eats anythin' in the dream, ye'll never wanta' leave it." Many legends (including Childe Rowland) and folk songs mention that eating fairy food is a sure way to get trapped in Elfhame/Fairyland forever. Fairies are always offering the unlucky visitor meat and drink in the hope of keeping them trapped.
Not as big as Medium sized Jock but bigger than Wee Jock Jock composes a poem to drive away the flying fairies in the true McGonnagall tradition "..oooooiiiiiit is with grreat lamentation and much worrying dismay, [...]" His mentor, old William is extremely proud of him, exclaiming that it is some of the worst bad poetry he has ever hear. This is the very sort of thing McGonagall wrote with the extra long "oooooo" bit drawing on Spike Milligan's William McGonagall: The Truth At Last.
When Tiffany sees the boy, Roland, on the white horse he says, "'This is my forest!, I command you to do what I say!" This whole scene is another reference to the ballad of 'Tam Lin', Fair Janet is told she can recognise Tam when she goes to rescue him, as he is the only rider on a white horse. Pratchett uses Tam Lin in Lords and Ladies as well. Roland's name suggests the ballad Childe Rowland about a young boy who has to rescue his sister Burd Ellen (and the brothers who had previously failed in their rescue attempts) from the King of Elfland. Naturally Pratchett's version of Rowland is worse than useless. Pratchett claims to have not had this ballad in mind saying "I chose Roland because it's a) old b) a solid kind of name, suggesting the kind of boy he is and c) probably, because I used to live next door to a Roland when I was a kid. 'Childe Rowland and Burd Ellen doesn't mean anything to me, I'm afraid, but it's eerie, innit? I think I might start pretending I had that in mind all along:-" However, there are to many similarities to believe that he wasn't at least subconsciously thinking of Childe Rowland, after all it is a well know English ballad. Tiffany cuts Roland's head off to break the spell/dream, whereas in Childe Rowland, Rowland cuts everyone's head off except Ellen's in order to break the spell on her.
The ballroom scene is reminiscent of a similar scene in the movie Labyrinth.
"cailey" is a take off on the Scots Gaelic word for a party and is spelt "ceilidh" in the Roundworld.
"and no birds sang" is a likely a reference to the old saw that there are no birds on a battlefield or in the aftermath of war because nothing remains alive in the carnage or alternately they have been eaten by the starving populace. Canadian author Farley Mowatt used this as the title of his autobiography about his WW II experiences in Italy.
Crivens is not a Scottish or Feegle swear word. It means roughly, "good grief".
Roland is captured when he meets a "fine lady on a horse with bells all over its harness and she galloped past [him] when [he] was out hunting and she was laughing, [...]" This is another Tam Lin reference. Tam Lin was captured while hunting, although the circumstances were different. When Thomas the Rhymer met the Queen "At ilka tett of her horse's mane/Hung fifty siller bells and nine"
Tiffany figures out that the key to getting the Nac Mac Feegles into the space she is in is "to crack the nut" which is a double entendre because they are literally trapped inside the nut but the term is also used to describe solving a problem.
The Sneebs character is based on a character in Richard Dadd's painting The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke who fits the above description and sits looking cross-eyed before a miniature man preparing to crack a hazelnut with a hammer. The hazelnut is only slightly bigger than the head of the cross-eyed character. 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
The Feegles drink the poisonous paraffin and comment to each other, '...things ha' come to a pretty pass, ye ken if people are going to leave stuff like that aroound whre innocent people could accidentally smash the door doon and lever the bars aside and take the big chain off'f the cupboard and pick the lock and drink it!" This is clearly foreshadows the appearance of the lawyers as this kind of logic seems to play a large part in today's Roundworld court cases where no one takes responsibility for their actions but blames "faulty parenting" or "poor toilet training" or "the system" or "being drunk at the time". Lawyers use the argument of a "justifiable temptation" to rationalize deviant behavior to gain acquittals for their clients and unfortunately psychiatry does the same thing. The Queen of the Elves plays with this theme as well when she tells Tiffany that it is not her fault that she is "so cold and heartless"..."It's probably to do with your parents. They probably never gave you enough time.... You should be proud of not being more than deeply introverted and socially maladjusted." The theme continues when the lawyers arrive and start reading a list of charges against Rob Anybody, to which he replies, " We was misunderstood when we was wee bairns!"
"[...] ye bloustie ol' callyack that ye are!" is another Feegle line that has its roots in Scots Gaelic; in this case "Callyack" is probably meant to represent the Gaelic 'cailleach', (pronounced 'kyle-yak') which means 'old woman'.
Tiffany agonized throughout the 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 the dreams. So at the end of the novel, her grandmother's appearance dressed as the figurine shepherdess (with her own big boots on) is vindication for Tiffany that her grandmother really did care for the gift and therefore did love her.
"Every Nac Mac Feegle sword suddenly glowed blue" - clearly the lawyers are arriving.
Pratchett ridicules the legal profession, the courts and the process in the court room scene wtih the lawyers. The toad suddenly remembers that ‘[. . . ] once I was a lawyer.’ - Confirmation of the foreshadowing throughout the book as well as of the book cover because the swords of the Feegles around him are all glowing blue. He jumps into the fray with his lawyereze and enters a plea of "Vis-ne faciem capite repleta"means ("Would you like a face that is full of head?") and then says the case must be adjourned on the basis of "Potest-ne mater tua suere, amice." which is Latin for "Can your mother sew, friend?"
The key battle cry or perhaps it is lawyer language raised by the Nac Mac Feegles is "Twelve hundred angry men!" and comes from the film title Twelve Angry Men starring Henry Fonda as one of the jurors in a murder trial.
"We ha' the law on oour side!" The phrase, "We have the law on our side" has been used so often that it is a cliché.
"The law's made to tak' care o' raskills!" is a quote from The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot, where Mr. Tulliver says, "the law's made to take care o' raskills. (in this case "take care of" means "deal with them"). The Feegles seem to be using it to mean "protect them" a common refrain in the Roundworld as well.
"The Queen... changed shape madly in Tiffany's arms." is a common theme in folk tales and songs. The hero(ine) has to keep a tight grip on the villain(ess) whatever form (s)he takes. Tam Lin for example has to hold onto Fair Janet in his battle with the Queen of Elfland.
- [p. 298] "The broomsticks descended." Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg fly to the Chalk, but it is unclear whether it is Magrat or Agnes, who has been left behind in Lancre? Clearly Pratchett is signalling Tiffany's transition to the role of witch because she is assuming the role of the maiden which either Agnes or Magrat would have filled. (Traditionally the three witches are the maiden, the mother (Nanny Ogg) and the old crone (Granny Weatherwax).
Miss Tick says, "Come sisters we must away" to which Nanny Ogg replies, "There's no need for that sort of talk....That's theatre talk". This is a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth - a line spoken by the witches.
The line, '[...] that big heap o' jobbies that just left [...]' is a reference to the modern Scots slang term 'Jobbies' for "shit".
The final words in the book"For ever and ever, wold without end." comes from the prayer, 'Glory to the Father" ('Gloria Patri'): "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen." Pratchett uses 'wold' instead of 'world' though because a 'wold' is an area of high, open, uncultivated land or moor, like where Tiffany's grandmother is buried and where she tended her sheep..
- Волният народец (Bulgarian)
- Svobodnej národ (Czech)
- De små blå mænd (Danish)
- De Vrijgemaakte Ortjes (Dutch)
- Tillud vabamehed (Estonian)
- Vapaat pikkumiehet (Finnish)
- Les ch'tits hommes libres (French)
- Kleine freie Männer (German)
- Χιλιάδες Νάνοι κι ένα τηγάνι (Greek)
- בני החורין הקטנים (hebrew)
- L' intrepida Tiffany e i piccoli uomini liberi (Italian)
- Mazie brīvie ķipari (Latvian)
- Mažieji laisvūnai (Lithuanian)
- Skrellingene (Norwegian)
- Wolni Ciutludzie (Polish)
- Scoţiduşii liberi (Romanian)
- Вольный народец (Russian)
- Små Blå Män (Swedish)
In January 2006, director Sam Raimi signed up to make a movie based on this novel, from a script by Pamela Pettler, the writer of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Sony Pictures Entertainment have recently acquired the rights to the book. The producers are Josh Donen, Vince Geradis, and Ralph Vicinanza. In June 2008, Terry Pratchett confirmed that the film was likely cancelled. In a June 2008 interview, Pratchett said "I saw a script that I frankly thought was awful. It seemed to be Wee Free Men in name only. It had all the hallmarks of something that had been good, and then the studio had got involved. It probably won't get made."