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The Pursuit of Happyness

I never thought of witches and fairy godmothers as the same until I read about Lilith. Terry Prachett’s portrayal of the legendary fairy godmother as the villain, very similar to the role of the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, completely recreates the traditional view of fairy tale happy endings.
In many ways, Lilith is more like the White Witch than she is like the good fairy godmother of the classic Cinderella tale. She can seem nice and sweet, but it’s only a cover for her truly evil intentions. Just as the White Witch was able to lure Edmund into doing what she wanted by acting nice and giving him sweets, so Lilith was able to take over the kingdom in the name of ‘happiness.” Just as in Narnia under the White Witch’s reign, all the residents of Genua see that she is evil, but are afraid to stand up to her. Both women act as if they have the right to impose their ideas and rules on all the people, no matter what the negative effects are. In her pursuit of the perfectly happy kingdom, Lilith oppresses the people.
In Prachett’s world, the Fairy Godmother is no longer the glorious savior that puts everything right. Instead, she is the Witch that oppresses the kingdom under the guise of doing good.

False Magnificence

Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad restructures fairy tales with the purpose of critiquing them.  Pratchett uses familiar characters, settings, and scenarios in unfamiliar and unexpected ways in order to bring to light the more forgotten sssand naturally accepted portions of these bedtime stories.  In particular, she focuses on the magic of godmothers and their questionably good works.

In one instance, Pratchett revisits the Cinderella scene where a poor, deprived girl suddenly receives magnificent gifts; only, the gifts must be taken away first.  When Magrat, Ella’s other godmother, comes across Ella, the girl is already set to go to the ball.  She has a coach, footmen, and a spectacular dress that is “up in the big front room, on a stand so it doesn’t get creased.” (227)  Ella has everything she could possibly need, but that is not how the story is supposed to go.  In order for the overpowering story to run correctly, this girl of the cinders must first be impoverished.  Prachett uses her unsuspecting characters to carry out this plan.  They turn the coach into a pumpkin, intoxicated the coachmen, and Magrat attended to the wardrobe, “[taking] the knife and beg[inning] to cut the dress into pieces.” (240)  Due to this interference, supposed to prevent the princess from attending the ball and grant her real wish, Lily, the “good” witch, has a chance to regale the now deprived girl with all these wondrous items.  The story runs happily along the right course, but only as a result of damage.  In order for a happy ending to occur, some destruction must be involved.

Another portion of Pratchett’s novel describes this amazing magical city in detail.  It is large, beautiful, ornate, and peaceful: “even the cobblestones ha[ve] a polished look.”  Magrat comments that “it makes you wish you’d clean your sandals.” (183)  In order words, it appears perfect in every way.  It follows exactly the description of a fairy tale kingdom; however, it is obvious that something is very wrong.  When the three witches first arrive at Genua, they are almost not let into the city.  The corporal guarding the entrance gate claims that they are “not one hundred percent clean” and that “one of them’s got messy hair.” (181)  For a city appearing so wonderful and welcoming, it certainly puts limitations on the people living there and how they look.  Later on in the novel, Granny Witherwax comes across another flaw in the perfection.  Those who thieve in Genua lose not their hands but their entire heads, and those who do not live up to the standards of their job description or proposed personality go missing entirely.  Clearly, in order for its citizens to gain such fairy tale lives they must first sacrifice for the good of the story.

Pratchett’s twisted stories bring to the foreground the ridiculousness of happy endings.  They show the falsities behind the make-believe and make readers realize how wrong their opinions of lives well-lived can be.


Pratchett’s character of Lilith has qualities that are not usually suited to fit a fairy godmother. She is very stubborn and it must be her way or the high way. Similar to Pratchett’s Lilith is C.S. Lewis’ White Queen. They both manipulate other character’s in order to maintain their order. For instance, the White Queen had fed Edward truffles to get Edward to give her information about his siblings. While Lilth just disregards other godmothers and does what ever she pleases. They each control their land using different tactics. The White Witch uses spies within the forest to determine if there are invaders in her land. Lilth spies by looking through a wall of mirrors to look in on all of the different worlds.

The Hedgehog Song

                  When reading Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad the good and evil characters were flipped on their heads and then spun around in circles until they have no idea what role they were supposed to fill. One of the major points Pratchett is trying to point out is the fact that you shouldn’t try and make a square peg fit in a round hole, but instead you should find the hole that fits the square peg best.

                The heroines of the novel are the Nanny, Granny, and Magrat, who are a group of witches, each with very distinct personalities with different views on how to approach traditional roles. Nanny’s view on the matter is the most moderate of the three wherein she recognizes the merit in keeping the tradition, but is progressive in her own way such as choosing to wear red boots. Nanny is the one who moderates the arguments that occur between Magrat and Granny. Magrat who is very progressive in doesn’t understand why witches have the traditions that they do, this can be seen her choosing to wear pants instead of the normal black skirts. Then there is Granny who preaches about the proper way of acting and holding strong to traditions such as wearing three vests and never wearing red. Towards the end of the novel Magrat and Granny give in somewhat showing that there is validity to both perspectives.

                 These witches have to deal with various story plots getting in their way when they are on their way to make sure Ella does not marry the prince. This is completely different from what people have come to expect when referring to fairy tales. By having the complete opposite occur causes the reader to stop and re-evaluate everything that is going on. This is exactly what Pratchett wants, he wants his readers to understand that everything cannot always fall into those cookie cutter molds and that deviation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However forcing someone/something to be something they aren’t has proved to have mostly harmful effects. The prime example for this being the wolf that was stuck between man and beast because Lilith wanted to make the story fit where there was no story to be found.

                The novel is not a promotion for the stereotypical happy ending, but a message saying that people should be able to pursue what they believe to be right and be able to achieve what they consider to be a relatively happy ending. As can be seen with the three main witches there is no “right” way to live out one’s own story.

discworldTerry Pratchett’s “Witches Abroad” plays with the morals and plot line of many common fairy-tales, redirecting the reader to think about potentially different outcomes of these stories that have been so engrained into our minds.  Pratchett’s light tone and spoofing plot keeps the reader interested and upbeat.  Throughout the text, Pratchett plays with many different fairy-tales, but spends a lot of time altering the familiar story of Cinderella.

When the witches finally arrived at Genua, Magrat journeys to meet her fairy godchild, Ella.  Ella is destined to attend the masked ball, however, Granny Weatherwax does not approve of this as she knows that, “that is how the story is supposed to go”(Pratchett 262).  Instead of allowing Ella to attend the ball, she attempts to make Magrat look as similar to Ella as possible and put her in Ella’s place at the ball.  Magrat tried very hard to embrace her new role, “A day before, even the mere thought of having five hundred people staring at her would have melted Magrat like butter in a furnace.  But now she stared back, smiled, and raised her chin haughtily.” (Pratchett 265)  Although Magrat fulfilled her duties, Ella still ended up arriving at the ball, contrary to Granny’s wishes.  As the tale continues on, eventually Nanny grabs the glass slipper from the Prince and proves that she can change the story by denying his wish to hunt for the perfect foot to fit the shoe and instead put it on her own foot.  Instead she comments that there are, “hundreds of size five-and-a-half narrow fit”(Pratchett 298).  Pratchett has an interesting way of constantly narrating that the witches are aware of the fact that they are taking place in a common fairy-tale, and therefore they make a noticeable effort to try to change the outcome of the story.  This allows for the reader to feel connected with the characters and the book overall.

Classically, the heroine, Ella, succeeds and becomes the ruler of Genua but her actions following her thronement are contrary to the ordinary Cinderella story.  She decides that she is going to end the “ball” tradition since she hates them and instead attend the Mardi Gras parade.  Similarly to the traditional Cinderella, the “wicked witch is defeated, the ragged princess comes into her own, and the kingdom is restored”(Pratchett 326).  Pratchett decided to keep this part of the Cinderella story accurate which is interesting, because so far he has changed the outcomes of his fairy-tales to make the reader think.  However, he kept this extremely common fairytale true to self with its ending and therefore moral. 

Pratchett chose to spend the most time on Cinderella because it is the most common fairy-tale and well known by all readers.  It is very easy to poke fun at and alter since readers are well aware of what is “supposed” to happen, readers are therefore intrigued to see a different outcome.

Cinderella is arguably the greatest of all the fairy tales.  Cinderella is the princess all little girls want to be, and Prince Charming is the man every girl and woman wants.  Because it is the most loved fairy tale story, Terry Prachett chooses it to poke fun at.  He takes what the world knows about Cinderella and changes some of it, tweaking some of the beloved plot points like the glass slipper, the “perfect” prince, and the dress that all girls would kill to wear to prom.

Witches Abroad address many fairy tales, but it all centers around the Cinderella story. The thing that makes this evident is when Desiderata says, “Ella Saturday muste NOTTE marry the prins” (34.)  Though her spelling is wrong the message is clear, there will be no traditional ending to the story.  Ella is the Cinderella in the story and is being forced to marry the not so perfect prince.  The prince in the story is actually a frog, making him out to be the frog prince, instead of Prince Charming.  Lilith is the witch who is manipulating the story to make it Cinderella.  She is trying to make everything perfect like the story the world knows, but Nanny, Granny, and Magrat are trying to change it so the world doesn’t become a boring story.  These three witches are working on behalf of Pratchett, who wants to spice up the monotonous fairy tale we all know.  Pratchett keeps the shape of the story so it is recognizable to the reader, but then changes it when the three witches are trying to “save the world” from Lilith’s plan.

The world Pratchett creates is a world the reader can relate to, but still is different in the respect that it is a secondary world.  He takes everything known about traditional fairy tales and makes the reader question if it is right.  With all his stories he makes you question the norms in fairy tales.  While Magrat told Ella she did not have to marry the prince Ella questioned it, because in the town Lilith had created, that was the way things are done.  In choosing Cinderella, Pratchett pries on the yearnings of young girls who want to meet and marry a charming prince, therefore cracking the biggest fairy tale there is.  Pratchett makes the move from children’s fairy tale to adult’s tale in order to give adults, mainly adult women realistic expectations about their prince.  This is one of the most important things he changes in the story.  Duc, the princely figure, is a pawn in Lilith’s game, but unfortunately for Ella’s sake is not attractive or charming in any way.  It is telling women that there is no prince charming and these well known fairy tales are just that fairy tales, and not something to be longing for.

Pratchett use of the well-loved Cinderella as the central fairy tale to use is particularly directed to those who can’t differentiate between real world and fantasy.  In doing so he leaves the reader questions like, “ Was the prince really so charming?”cinderella

They had no pictures on this book...

They had no pictures on this book...

In Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett the character of Lilith is the evil witch and villainess in the story. She has a lot of qualities about her that set her far apart from witches we have read about in the past, such as the White Witch in C.S. Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia. First off, Lilith watches the witches’ journey through a mirror in her hall of mirrors. She begins attacking them throughout their journey with incidents similar to story tales we are familiar with. One example was when Granny Weatherwax found herself underneath a house, “Granny Weatherwax turned and found herself looking at a crumbling, unpainted front door. Magrat nearly walked into the backdoor of the same grey, bleached wood” (Pratchett 165). This incident was closely related to that of the Wizard of Oz. Not only did we see things occur similar to that story tale, but also Cinderella was a major one, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Dracula, and Lord of The Rings. Pratchett put his own spin on things by recreating old story tales and incorporating them into his book for a humor aspect. Although, the house similar to that of Wizard of Oz, that Lilith directed towards Nanny Og missed her, because the willow reinforcing in her witches hat saves her. During the part of the book where the ball was occurring, the coach was turned into a pumpkin. However, Lilith took it upon herself to reverse things different from that of Cinderella and turn the coach they had as a pumpkin back into a coach, and the mice back into horses and coachmen. Instead of doing things the traditional way, she does them in reverse. The White Witch was always just using magic to make people miserable, where as Lilith was trying to make their lives more difficult, and trick them, and ruin their plans. Lilith also has the witches thrown into dungeons, where as in the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch would have just turned them into stone, or had them killed. The last major difference was the demise of Lilith. Her and Granny end up in the mirror universe and have to find their real self within all the reflections. Granny immediately finds hers, but Lilith is unable to find hers. She is doomed for the rest of time and is trapped, and Granny escapes. That is definitely nothing like what happened with the White Witch. Overall, the White Witch and Lilith were hardly similar witches.

Hey! Wait a Minute….

Just 176 pages into Terry Pratchett’s satirical novel you have already had déjà vu with a few of the situations that have arisen in the story. A pumpkin and Prince Charming? A little girl in a red cape, a sleeping castle and a house that almost crushes a witch? It all sounds a little familiar (as it should), since Terry Pratchett has included some of the world’s common fairy tale stories in his satire — but with twists. In Pratchett’s world, stories change and develop into completely different plotlines because the characters and the situations lead the stories in completely different directions. In the author’s world, the characters are not as important, as long as the story gets told. In this satirical novel Practhett’s gives you some new endings to the familiar and cliché fairy tale endings we are all used to.

You read about a lot of different fairy tales in this book, but it makes you think about things more deeply and not take all the usual ideas for granted. Was the Big Bad Wolf, really a “Big Bad Wolf?” In this version of  “Little Red Ridding Hood,” no he is not. Yes, he was going to kill the grandmother, but if he was tried, he could plead insanity and would win. I’m going to back up a little bit and explain Pratchetts version from the beginning. You have the three main characters known as witches, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick and Granny Weatherwax who encounter a little girl in a red cloak. They proceed to have a conversation with the little girl, and you quickly realize that Nanny Org and Granny know where this girl is going, that while the plots seem similar, the ending will change. The story will evolve into something new. When the older women arrive at the cottage they see the living condition of this sickly grandmother and promise to clean her house if she goes and hides. They then proceed to wait for the wolf and as it attacks they hit him with a pan, knocking him out.

In this version Granny reads the wolf’s mind and discovers that this wolf was trying to be human. Someone made this wolf think it was a person, ” she said. ” they made it think it was a person and then they didn’t think anymore about it” (152). The wolf was stuck in between species, it couldn’t act like a wolf and it couldn’t manage being a humans (153). When the wolf regains consciousness, it asks to be killed, so the old women oblige and call a nearby woodcutter to kill it. As yet another twist to the version we know, they warn the woodcutter that he should take great care in wanting to help the grandmother, otherwise who knows might happen. These two elements from the familiar Little Red Ridding Hood, are drastically changed, from you feeling bad for the wolf and to not liking the woodcutter who was originally the hero.

Another twist is the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz. Shortly after leaving the “Little Red Ridding Hood” scene, they find a yellow brick road and begin to walk on it, shortly after a farmhouse falls on Nanny Ogg (165). After checking to make sure she is okay, they witches begin to hear singing. ” I can hear something,” said Magrat. “Sounds like Dingdong, Dingdong’ ” ( 168). Sounds familiar doesn’t it? And, quickly you get another twist, learning that what we thought were the cute little people of Oz are actually dwarfs. They quickly ask if the wicked witch is dead, now at this point in the story you, as a reader know that Nanny Ogg is not a wicked witch. And while she might be old and annoying, she is not evil. When this point is made, the dwarf then asks for her boots, which happen to be red boots, just like those in the original version of Wizard of Oz.

 Pratchett takes on these fairy tales with a new twist that shocks readers and changes yet again what our perceptions of fairy tales are. He enforces that all these stories still continue to happen, repeating until the necessary ending is complete.  He mocks them and shows that with a bit of changing, here and there – they can be foolish tales. So the next time you read a fairy tale – or ANY story, think twice about what is really going on, you never know what version you will get.


witches abroad

The Witches Abroad have a lot in common with other fairy tales and secondary world we have read about and discussed.  They save grandmothers, similar to the story of Little Red Riding Hood. They fight off Gollum-like creatures with paddles.  They wake up sleeping palaces. They also have an adversary that goes by Lilith.  And although one is an extreme version of the other they are similar characters.

The Lilith of Lewis’s world is a greedy prideful woman, and the ancestor of the Pevensie’s enemy the White Witch. She is said, in one story, to have wanted Adam’s beauty for her own.  So she jumps him against his will.  In this way Adam unwillingly fathers many demons and spirits, called the “plague of humankind”. With Jadis, The White Witch, being among these.  Another account has Lilith as Adam’s first wife, but was deemed unsuitable for Eden, so she was sent away.  But she came back to visit him every once in a while, after he and Eve had sinned.

This Lilith knows that she is evil, and doesn’t try to go against it.  Pratchett’s Lilith, on the other hand seems unconvinced.  This Lilith is Granny Weatherwax’s sister who used to go by Lily.  While everyone else in her world, including her sister, knows that she has “turned to the bad” she doesn’t believe it.  She still thinks that she is a good fairy godmother.  Although the rest of the witches see that her greed has led her astray.  Lilith goes far too deep into the magic, trying to control it.  She even uses mirrors like steroids to boost her powers.

Although one Lilith is an extreme version of the other (Lewis’s Lilith being the ultimate manipulator and bad guy, while Pratchett’s is misguided but still greedy) both are essentially bad.  They are greedy and a little power hungry.  They want what they should not and eventually must suffer the consequences.


At the very beginning of the novel, Terry Pratchett asserts that Witches Abroad is “a story about stories” and “also, particularly, about reflections and mirrors” (5).  Stories and mirrors play a unique role in his novel, because when put together they serve as a “mettyfor” for power and its effects (112).  This can be seen by observing Lilith, as her dedication to both mirrors and stories begins to destroy both herself and the kingdom around her.

Pratchett states that if you “Know about mirrors then you nearly know everything” (6), alluding to the ability of the evil stepmother in Snow White to find out just about anything she wanted to by simply asking her mirror.  He establishes early on that mirrors are dangerous, using our association of mirrors with the evil stepmother to instill a fear them in the audience.  He further manipulates this association by using it to characterize Lilith: her obsession with mirrors makes us suspicious of her before we even see her doing any wrong.  By doing this, Pratchett also gives us a discreet example of the power of stories because we have already judged a character based not on this story but on Snow White, an entirely different story.

Pratchett does not dwell on the Snow White version of mirrors for long, however.  Where Snow White’s mirror serves mostly to symbolize vanity, Pratchett uses his mirrors as a metaphor for power and how it destroys those who wield it.  He states that “A mirror can suck up a piece of soul” (5), and that “if images can steal a bit of you, then images of images can amplify you, feeding you back on yourself, giving you power” (51).  Thus the audience realizes that while mirrors can make a person more powerful, the more power someone has the more likely they are to lose bits of themselves in the mirrors until they are gradually dehumanized.  And by showing us Lilith’s almost constant use of mirrors, one has to wonder: to what extent has this happened to her?

Lilith has certainly gained a lot of power.  We see that she has set up some kind of dictatorship in Genua, where people are punished for “crimes against narrative expectation” (85).  As well as her power with mirrors, she has also used her mastery of stories to make herself more powerful, since her ability to use stories to gain power has enabled her to gain even more power by removing obstacles to the stories that she is setting in motion.  This idea of using power to obtain power parallels Lilith’s use of mirrors to multiply herself and increase her strength.  Also, her use of mirrors and other reflective surfaces to spy on others is basically the fairy tale version of having a secret police to keep a firm grip on the people and stories she controls.

The effect power has on Lilith is to turn her love of happy endings into a destructive fanaticism.  She is completely out of control, and though she is trying to make Genua a happy and peaceful place, she is doing just the opposite.  We have yet to see what the final result of Lilith’s power is, but given what evidence we already have of the dangerous power of mirrors and stories, it’s fairly easy to guess that things are going to get rather messy.

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