A Discworld novel.
Publication year: 1991
Page count: 374
Desirata Hollow is a fairy godmother and pretty good at it, too. However, she’s never been good at planning ahead and even though she knows the moment she dies, she isn’t well prepared for it. She leaves her wand and vague instructions to Magrat Garlick in the hopes that the young witch will make a good fairy godmother to at least one young princess, Ella. Desirata also leaves strict instructions for Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax not to interfere, hoping that when they find out, they will help Magrat.
Of course, the three witches are soon riding their broomsticks to the distant Genua with the intension of preventing Ella from marrying the prince. On the way, they realize that someone is making fairy tales to come literally true which isn’t a good thing at all. And more horrifyingly, they encounter foreign foods and customs which infuriate Granny especially. Also, Magrat is able to use the wand to change anything into pumpkins.
Witches abroad focuses on the nature of stories and how they affect people and vice versa. Granny also encounters someone from her past. They also muse about happy endings and how they can’t be forced on people from outside. The story is woven around the Cinderella story but if not inverted, at least turned sideways. Lots of other fairy tales make an appearance, too.
About half of the book is the witches’ journey to Genua and it had some of the funniest scenes in any Discworld book I’ve yet read; Granny taking revenge on some card sharks and Greebo, Nanny’s cat, eating a vampire while the witches are oblivious to the whole thing.
Witches are my favorite Discworld characters and they’re in fine form in this book.
“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”
“The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays.”
“The Yen Buddhists are the richest religious sect in the universe. They hold that the accumulation of money is a great evil and a burden to the soul. They therefore, regardless of personal hazard, see it as their unpleasant duty to acquire as much as possible in order to reduce the risk to innocent people.”
“And the people from the city – not the ones who lived in the big white mansions and went to balls in fine coaches, but the other ones. They were the ones that stories are never about. Stories are not, on the whole, interested in swineherds who remain swineherds and poor and humble shoemakers whose destiny is to die slightly poorer and much humbler.
These people were the ones who made the magical kingdom work, who cooked its meals and swept its floors and carted its nightly soil and were its faces in the crowd and whose wishes and dreams, undemanding as they were, were of no consequence. The invisibles.”