Publication year: 1988
Narrator: Celia Imrie
Running Time: 10 hrs and 27 minutes
The tiny kingdom of Lancre has three witches: Gytha ”Nanny” Ogg, Esmeralda ”Granny” Weatherwax, and the young Magrat Garlick. Granny is one of the most experienced witches alive and ”most highly regarded of the leaders, of [whom the witches] don’t have”. She’s grouchy and doesn’t have any family. She’ also very powerful but prefers to use headology rather than magic. She doesn’t approve of much. In contrast, Nanny has a large family and she rules them ruthlessly. She’s more easygoing and Granny’s best friend. Magrat is a new witch who is trying very hard to impress the other witches. She even suggested that they should form a coven. She believes in crystals and other New Age stuff, to the other witches’ annoyance.
On a dark and stormy night, a man appears and gives them an infant and a crown. Even the witches have heard that their king has died. A bit later, a group of soldiers come to threaten the witches for the child. The witches don’t give in and instead most of the men flee. The witches decide to hide the kid and what would be a better place than group of traveling actors? The witches see the show (a first time for both Granny and Nanny) and in the end give the kid to the childless actors. The witches even give the kid three gifts, fairy godmother style. Little Tomjohn’s childhood is interesting, to say the least.
Meanwhile, in the castle, king Verence’s ghost is trying to get used to being dead. Apparently, his cousin Duke Felmet and his ambitious and determined wife have killed him and taken over the small land, and it’s Verence’s destiny to haunt the castle until his heir takes it back. Verence’s mood isn’t lifted when he finds out that the castle is haunted by a variety of the earlier owners, some of the Verence’s ancestors.
Duke Felmet is actually not happy with the situation. He’s haunted by what he has done and is trapped in a loveless marriage. He blames the trees. There are a lot of trees in Lancre.
Felmet has a new fool who is quite a tragic figure. His past is pretty horrible in the awful school for fools. He also didn’t choose his profession; his grandfather just made him continue the family tradition.
Obviously, MacBeth has inspired this book. There’s also a Hamlet-like ghost. Hwel, the dwarven script writer for the troupe, channels Shakespeare and tries out various wordings.
There’s a lot of things going on in the book. According to Granny and the Fool words are dangerous things because they can change how people view things and remember the past, no matter what really happened. Pratchett explores this through the actors and the Fool.
“The past is what people remember, and memories are words. Who knows how a king behaved a thousand years ago? There is only recollection, and stories.” the Fool
“Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things. Well-known fact.” Granny Weatherwax
One of my favorite Discworld books!
This is the first time I’ve listened a Pratchett book and I really enjoyed Imrie’s reading. She has individual voices to all witches and most of the supporting cast, too. Death has a very echoy voice and I would swear that he has a male voice but there’s no mention of a male voice actor.