Tiffany Aching is a character in Terry Pratchett's satirical Discworld series of fantasy novels. Pratchett said that Tiffany Aching "...started with a girl lying down by a river, on the first page of The Wee Free Men". In his youth, Pratchett was "fascinated" by a nearby chalk pit, and like Tiffany knew how to read words before being able to pronounce them. The Wee Free Men features "a lot of [his] past" in its descriptions. A lot of Tiffany's understanding of the world is based on Pratchett's own experiences. Pratchett said, "It sounds amateurish to say that characters invent themselves, and in truth they don't. That's just a short-hand phrase. Of course the author invents them. But while the creative channel is being held open, all sorts of memories and thoughts creep out, somewhat to the owner's surprise." With Tiffany, Pratchett wanted to "restate" the purpose of magic on the Discworld and the relationship between wizards, witches and others. He included ideas of responsibility and "guarding your society" as he felt it drew closer to the reality of a witch – that is, "the village herbalist, the midwife, the person who knew things". Throughout the series, Tiffany grows both as a young girl and woman and as a witch. Pratchett chose a young protagonist because when you're young "you have to learn". He chose the name "Tiffany" because it evoked anything but a powerful witch. Given Tiffany's relationship with Preston, the doctor in the final book, The Shepherd's Crown, it would have been interesting to see what Pratchett did with the historical dichotomy between doctors and the village witch but unfortunately that was not to be.
Tiffany is a trainee witch whose growth into her job forms one of the many arcs in the Discworld series. Tiffany is the main character in one series of the Discworld novels aimed at the younger audience. She begins her career at the age of 9 during The Wee Free Men, is 11 in A Hat Full of Sky, 12 and 13 in Wintersmith, almost 16 in I Shall Wear Midnight, and in her late teens in The Shepherd's Crown. She grows up along the way (not stuck in her youth, like Enid Blyton's "the Famous Five", who Pratchett parodies regularly) and over the course of the series develops her ability as a witch. Tiffany hails from the Chalk downland Rimward of the Ramtops. Her family, the Achings are the tenant farmers of Home Farm of the local Barony, the de Chumsfanleigh (pronounced "de Chuffley"). Her late grandmother, Sarah "Granny" Aching, was a shepherd, and by Ramtop standards was also a witch, although witchcraft was frowned up on the Chalk, until Tiffany's arrival. Granny Aching was a friend of the Chalk Clan of Nac Mac Feegle, (an army of tiny, blue, rowdy, drunken and vaguely Scottish Smurf-like ne'er-do-wells) and they have befriended Tiffany as their new "hag o' the hills". She has even been briefly, but accidentally, betrothed to their leader Rob Anybody. Tiffany lives on her family's farm with her father Joe and her mother, 5 older sisters and her sticky baby brother Wentworth, whose constant cries for more sweets and the fact that he has usurped her as the baby of the family, makes her dislike him intensely, However, even though she doesn't like Wentworth, she does rescue him when he is captured by the Elf Queen because he is after all her brother. She works on the farm as a dairymaid and is an expert at making cheese. In fact, one Lancre Blue cheese in particular named Horace has the peculiar habit of eating mice as well as other cheeses. She attracts little attention around the house, because she does her job well, which means nobody ever has to come and fuss over her, which in turn means nobody ever pays a lot of attention to her.
Like her grandmother, she appears to have a symbiotic, spiritual link with the hill lands on which she lives, and as such has shown herself to be strongly protective of the region and all its inhabitants. On several occasions, Tiffany has induced in herself a state oneness with the Chalk, becoming completely aware of every sensation, life-form, and object around her, including the land itself.
Tiffany's name in Nac Mac Feegle is Tir-far-thóinn or "Land Under Wave". Her grandmother also calls her 'jiggit' which means 20 in the local counting language - she is the 20th grandchild. She is pictured wearing big heavy much repaired boots which have been owned by several sisters before her and require the addition of several pairs of socks to keep them on. She wears a milky blue (what its original color was is unknown) dress in The Wee Free Men that was also previously worn by the elusive older sisters, which has been "...taken up, taken out, taken down and taken in so many times by her mother that it ought to have been taken away." She has brown hair and brown eyes, so realizes fairly early on that she is not destined to be the blonde, blue eyed princess of fairy tale fame rescued by the handsome prince. She wears two pieces of jewelry, both pendants; one a silver horse given to her by Roland which resembles the Uffington White Horse and the other a golden hare, given to her by Preston, which completes the Sun-Moon symbology.
Tiffany begins her witching career at nine, after being scouted by the "witch finder" Miss Tick. Both Miss Tick, and the Nac Mac Feegles realize Tiffany's innate powers when she whacks the river boggart Jenny Greentooth over the head with a cast iron frying pan when she tries to steal and drown Tiffany's brother Wentworth who Tiffany has used as bait to attract the boggart. She goes with the Nac Mac Feegles to meet their Kelda (their Queen and mother of their clan - a sort of queen bee) who is dying and tells her that she must become the new (albeit temporary) Kelda. As Kelda, Tiffany is seen by the Nac Mac Feegle as their responsibility, and there is no time in Tiffany's life afterwards that they do not (in)discreetly watched her. She leads the Feegles on a journey into Fairyland to rescue Wentworth and Roland, the young son of the local Baron, from the Queen of the Elves (known as the Quin by the Nac Mac Feegles). For this she earns the respect of Granny Weatherwax, a not insignificant achievement in itself. Although at the time she is too young to be a witch, Granny gives her an imaginary invisible hat to boost her confidence. Such is the power of belief on the Disc that it is actually capable of keeping off the rain.
Two years later she travels to Lancre to be formally apprenticed to the witch Miss Level, and later to Miss Pullunder and Miss Eumenides Treason, (the first apprentice not to leave in terror after one night). While training in Lancre, she attends a "coven" of young witches "led" by Annagramma Hawkin ("led" basically meaning that Annagramma had the tallest hat, sharpest voice and was bossy). Tiffany and fellow coven members Lucy Warbeck and Petulia Gristle eventually become competent witches whereas Annagramma finds that her training, under the tutelage of the arrogant and superficial Letice Earwig, has not been nearly enough to prepare her for the reality of witching life. Her onetime coven "subordinates" agree to help her get on her feet. While in Lancre, her mind is taken over by a Hiver, a primeval being with no body or substance that takes over the mind of those who are powerful and eventually destroys them. At first Tiffany doesn't realize what has happened, until it is too late for her to take action. The Hiver inside Tiffany's mind causes her to abuse her powers of magic creating chaos. Tiffany discovers that the Hiver doesn't understand humans, it just wants to seek shelter from the world because it senses everything - suffering from a kind of sensory overload. Tiffany names the Hiver, Arthur (giving it an identity) and teaches it how to die which is its ultimate goal. She leads it to the doorway to death and shows it the way across the desert to death. She comes back from the underworld with the help of Granny Weatherwax to the astonishment of the other witches who have gathered for the Lancre Witch Trials, thus reinforcing Granny's reputation as the powerful witch as well as establishing her self as the new up and coming power in the witch world.
At the age of thirteen, while studying under Miss Treason, Tiffany accidentally attracts the romantic interests of the Wintersmith (a gestalt entity of minds from the dawn of time) when she joins the Autumn Morris Dance or Dark Morris (against the orders of Miss Treason) to ring the change from Summer and welcome Winter. She assumes the role of the Summer Lady. She is at first ambivalent towards the Wintersmith, unnerved by the attention, but also somewhat flattered that she has caught the eye of a godlike being. While making his advances, the Wintersmith even attempts to create a human body out of snow and miscellaneous elements by using a recipe from a children's song. Tiffany, after some advice from Nanny Ogg about the power a young woman has over a suitor, manages to control the Wintersmith for a time, but eventually he gains the upper hand and brings a record-breaking early spring snowfall and bitter cold to the Chalk which threatens the new lambs. Tiffany melts him using a trick taught to her by Granny Weatherwax, fulfilling her temporary role as the Summer Lady and allowing the real one, brought from the Underworld by Roland, to resume her regular role. After Miss Treason's death, she is briefly apprenticed to Nanny Ogg before returning to the Chalk and taking up her position as the Witch of the Chalkland.
Like Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany has mastered the art of Borrowing, though at first she does not recognise it as such and merely uses it as a means of viewing herself when she is without a mirror. This ability to step outside herself is what makes her vulnerable to infestation by the "Hiver" in A Hat Full of Sky. The vacancy of her body draws the Hiver to possess her and use her power to cause harm and cause chaos. In Wintersmith she demonstrates a high level of skill in the art of magical self-concealment, and also learns how to absorb heat from any available source (including the sun) and channel it out into the world, without being touched by it herself. She starts this process with a mantra, in which she states that she willingly chooses to undertake the dangerous action, and is prepared to accept full responsibility for all its consequences. Like Granny, she has great difficulty in constructing the magical devices known as 'shambles', though unlike Granny, she overcomes this obstacle. Tiffany also demonstrates an affinity for fire, which she considers a friend (most Witches do not consider fire to have good associations for them in view of its history involving burning them alive).
As a witch, Tiffany possesses First Sight, the ability to see 'what is really there' (as opposed to second sight, which shows people what they think ought to be there). She also possesses Second Thoughts, which are defined as 'the thoughts you think about the way you think'. Whilst other witches are said to have this trait as well, Tiffany also recognizes some of her thoughts as Third Thoughts (the thoughts you think about the way you think about the way you think), and Fourth Thoughts (the thoughts you think about the way you think about the way you think about the way you think). Not surprisingly, all these thoughts sometimes cause Tiffany to walk into door frames.
As the witch of the Chalk she also has powers and authority not unlike a Justice of the Peace; she is able to perform binding marriage ceremonies, (which she does for Roland and Leticia) and judge and deal out punishment(s) to the deserving.
In I Shall Wear Midnight she demonstrates an ability to exert an influence over events throughout the timeline with the help of Eskarina Smith, the main character of Equal Rites, who uses her time traveling abilities to facilitate a meeting between Tiffany and her older self.
Tiffany has also read the entire dictionary, although she sometimes has difficulty with pronunciation. She has an innate talent with languages - a side effect of her possession by the Hiver. The occupation of her mind by the creature that collects minds has left her with shadows of those memories, including a deceased, didactic wizard named Sensibility Bustle, who translates any foreign word inside her head upon hearing or seeing it. In addition, Tiffany is able to hear "Spill Words", the words almost spoken but left unsaid, a skill she learned from Mrs. Proust, a skill often mistaken for the ability to read minds.
Initially it appears that the Baron's son Roland and Tiffany will marry as he clearly has a strong affection for Tiffany and is willing to play the Hero and go to the underworld to return the Summer Lady to Discworld and thereby help Tiffany. Tiffany herself denies having any affection for Roland, but there are many signs that she does have feelings for him, even though she will not admit them. However, both eventually recognize that the fact that they are different from everybody else does not mean they have anything in common, and Roland marries a local noblewoman (and latent witch) Letitia Keepsake. Tiffany develops a new love interest with Preston who is a guard for the baron. Preston aspires to study medicine at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital in the city of Ankh-Morpork, under Dr. John Lawn, and then start a medical practice of his own up in the Chalk. In The Shepherd's Crown, Tiffany is still romantically attached to Preston, who has become a surgeon, though, given their devotion to their jobs, they rarely have time to see each other. She visits him in Ankh-Morpork, and they write letters.
In The Shepherd's Crown, when Tiffany is in her late teens, Granny Weatherwax dies, leaving a note recommending that Tiffany take over her steading. Initially she is opposed by Letice Earwig, a much more senior albeit flaky witch. She quickly establishes that she deserves the role of head witch, (if witches ever had leaders). She splits her time between Granny's cottage and steading and the Chalk steading, but after she and the other witches defeat the Elves, she leaves the steading to the care of Geoffrey, a man she had been training to become a witch. She builds herself a caravan up on the chalk out of the materials of Granny Aching's hut and devotes herself to her own steading, the Chalk just like her grandmother.
- The Wee Free Men - 2003
- A Hat Full of Sky - 2004
- Wintersmith - 2006
- I Shall Wear Midnight - 2010
- The Shepherd's Crown - 2015