Life Lessons from Terry Pratchett’s Witches

I love witches, and I love the Discworld witches best of all. In his stories, Terry Pratchett taught me that witches are the people who think about the world a little differently, and that made me want to be one of them. Over the course of the Discworld series, Pratchett introduced us to many different witches, all of whom are my heroines in a variety of ways.

First and foremost, there’s the most important of the leaders that the witches don’t have – Mistress Esmerelda Weatherwax herself. A master of mental strength and skill, and a no-nonsense badass who gets the job done, Granny Weatherwax first appears in Equal Rites, but she really comes into her own from Wyrd Sisters onwards, and she’s at her most impressive fighting vampires in Carpe Jugulum. Granny Weatherwax is one of those characters you can’t believe is fictional, because she just feels too important. Before I read her, I’d never felt awe towards a character in a book. Ever since, one of my guiding principles in life is: If Granny Weatherwax saw me do this, would she give me an approving nod, or a stony, silent glare? I even took her along on my very first protest march:

Protest sign featuring Granny Weatherwax and the words 'Let's do some good'

Granny Weatherwax is impressive, but you can’t say that she has all that much fun. That’s where her best friend Nanny Ogg comes in. Nanny Ogg flies in the face of prim and proper gender stereotypes – a beloved mum and nana who loves beer, food, and sex, and makes no apology for any of it, she’s the kind of person I’d love to go for a drink with, or have standing beside me when I had to face down a particularly sadistic elf. Lords and Ladies is an excellent book through which to get acquainted with Nanny Ogg, although I’d recommend reading Witches Abroad first to get some of the context, especially as it also has some brilliant Nanny moments. While Granny Weatherwax inspires me to do what’s right no matter how difficult it may be, Nanny Ogg inspires me to stop caring what people think, and not waste a single moment being shy or worrying about calories when I could be laughing loud and living life to the full instead.

Granny and Nanny, as their nicknames suggest, are of the older witching generation, but there are plenty of younger witches with whom I identified as I was growing up. The teenage me always had a slightly complicated relationship with Agnes Nitt, star of the melodramatic Maskerade. I knew exactly what it was like to be the shy, fat girl with a secret, fantasy self who was think, glamorous, and a little bit dangerous, like a stiletto with perfect hair. Because of this, reading Agnes always had a familiarity that made me just a little bit sad. On the other hand, Agnes got to flirt with a hot vampire years before Bella did, in Carpe Jugulum – and she also had the good sense to knee said vampire in the crotch when he got too patronising.

the wee free men coverAgnes was the Discworld witch who I identified with through my teenage years, but when I was in my twenties, along came the witch I’d needed as a child; Tiffany Aching. Tiffany first appears in The Wee Free Men as a little girl who’s annoyed by the fact that girls with brown hair and brown eyes are never the heroines in fairy stories, and when I read that line, I pretty much hugged the book and whispered “I KNOW”. Tiffany learns to be a witch at the same time she’s learning how to be an adult, and honestly, I think growing up would have been a little less confusing if I’d been able to walk alongside her.

The Discworld is full of brilliant characters, but the witches are just a little bit special. If you haven’t met them already, then open one of their books and get reading – you’re bound to find someone who strikes a chord with you.

If this post makes you want to search our more amazing fictional women, why not have a look at Our Favorite Women in Books? For more about the genius behind the Discworld, read In Appreciation of Sir Terry Pratchett.

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