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Witches Abroad is the twelfth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, originally published in 1991. It is the third witches story.

Publisher's Summary[]

Plot summary[]

It features Granny Weatherwax (introduced in Equal Rites), and her two associate witches, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick (introduced in Wyrd Sisters). They visit Genua, on the other side of the continent, where they confront Granny's sister, Lily Weatherwax, who is manipulating people using the power of stories.

throughout the novel, the three witches are tormented by a mystical being named teva.

The plot contains references to many fairy tales and fantasy novels, including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and The Frog Prince. There are also brief references to Gollum, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The characters themselves recognize and acknowledge that other stories are influencing the plot.

Another main theme is that of Voodoo. One of the characters is a voodoo witch named Erzulie Gogol (Erzulie is the name of a voodoo goddess, Gogol a Russian author who wrote about "Dead Souls" ), and a zombie named Baron Saturday (which is an obvious reference to Baron Samedi).

Popular References and Annotations:[]

The Title is a play on the two slightly different meanings of the word 'abroad'. In one sense it reads like a ominous warning: "Witches are at large tonight!", and in a more literal sense it means: "Witches oversea, on a journey to foreign countries". In the book, both senses are true, of course...

Page 7 - "'Hurrah, I've discovered Boyle's Third Law.'"

In fact there is only one single 'Boyle's law' not three. Boyle's Law states that if temperature is kept constant, the volume and pressure of a gas are inversely related.

Page 7 - "Like finding that bloody butterfly whose flapping wings cause all these storms we've been having lately [...]"

This is a reference to the butterfly effect which rests on the notion that the world is deeply interconnected, such that one small occurrence can influence a much larger complex system. The effect is named after an allegory for chaos theory; it evokes the idea that a small butterfly flapping its wings could, hypothetically, cause a typhoon. called the Butterfly effect: a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a storm because in Chaos theory results are not proportional to causes.

Page 9 - The three urban legends Terry mentions briefly in the footnote are all quite well-known, and can be found in any decent collection of such stories, but just in case not everyone is familiar with them:

The first story is about a family whose grandmother dies on vacation. In order to avoid bureaucratic hassle they decide to strap her to the roof-rack of the car, and cross the border back to their own country. During a rest-room stop, somebody steals the car, grandmother and all.

The second story is that of the people who return home after a night out, and find their dog choking to death in front of the door. They race him to the vet, who discovers that the dog is choking on a human finger he must have bitten off a burglar.

The third story is that of a man and woman having sex in the back seat of a car, when some serious accident happens and they become trapped. In order to free them from their predicament, the car has to be cut open with a torch, after which the woman supposedly comments: "My husband will be furious, it was his car".

Much more information about these and countless other urban legends can be found in Jan Harold Brunvand's books. If you're on the net, you may want to check out alt.folklore.urban.

Page 9 - "She had called upon Mister Safe Way, Lady Bon Anna, Hotaloga Andrews and Stride Wide Man."

Safeway is the name of a supermarket chain. Pratchett says: "I needed some good names that sounded genuinely voodoo. Now, one of the names of one of the classic gods is Carrefour. It's also the name of a supermarket chain in my part of the world, and I used to grin every time I drove past. Hence, by DW logic, Safeway. Bon Anna I'm pretty sure is a genuine voodoo goddess. The other two are entirely made up but out of, er, the right sort of verbal components."

Page 11 - "Desiderata Hollow was making her will."

'Desiderata' is Latin for desired (ie; those things that are desired) It is the name of a popular prose poem, written by Max Ehrman in 1927 which became immensely popular in the 1960s and 70s. It begins, Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence and continues with advice about life and how to deal with it. In 1972, National Lampoon released "Deteriorata" as a takeoff on it.

Page 15 - "'Wish I was going to Genua,' she said."

Pratchett commented that "This may or may not already be an annotation somewhere, but Genua is a 'sort of' New Orleans with a 'sort of' Magic Kingdom grafted on top of it. It had its genesis some years ago when I drove from Orlando to New Orleans and formed some opinions about both places: in one, you go there and Fun is manufactured and presented to you, in the other you just eat and drink a lot and fun happens."

Page 15 - "'Mr Chert the troll down at the sawmill does a very good deal on coffins [...]'"

'Chert' is a dark-coloured, flintlike quartz. All Discworld trolls (except the sea trolls which are made of water) have names based on rock types.

Page 16 - "Her name was Lady Lilith de Tempscire, [...]" Tempscire is a French transliteration of Weatherwax. Temp - weather. Cire - wax. Although you are more likely to use the word Météo for weather.

Page 17 - "[...] at least two of those present tonight were wearing Granny Weatherwax's famous goose-grease-and-sage chest liniment."

Goose grease, smeared on the chest (particularly children's chests), was an early cure-all for coughs and colds. The goose fat was supposed to penetrate the skin and enter the lining of the lungs, thus easing the nasty cough. Channel swimmers also used to use goose grease to keep out the cold in the era before wet suits.

Page 18 - "'Tempers Fuggit. Means that was then and this is now,' said Nanny." The actual Latin phrase is "tempus fugit": "time flies". "Tempers fuggit" would mean "the temperature escapes or flees"

[p. 24] "As Nanny Ogg would put it, when it's teatime in Genua it's Tuesday over here..."

This refers to an old nonsense song by J. Kendis and Lew Brown, which goes:

When it's night-time in Italy, it's Wednesday over here.

Oh! the onions in Sicily make people cry in California.

Why does a fly? When does a bee?

How does a wasp sit down to have his tea?

If you talk to an Eskimo, his breath will freeze your ear.

When it's night-time in Italy, it's Wednesday over here



Erzulie Gogol[]

Witch/cook in Genua


  • Witches Abroad (1991) by Terry Pratchett also appeared as:
    • Translation: Total verhext [German] (1994) (Totally bewitched)
    • Translation: Heksen in de lucht [Dutch] (1995)
    • Translation: Mécomptes de fées? [French] (1998)
    • Translation: Quando as bruxas viajam [Portuguese] (2008)
    • Translation: Vége a mesének [Hungarian] (2011)
    • Translation: Total verhext [German] (2012)
    • Translation: Häxor i faggorna (Swedish)

External links[]