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The fourth Tiffany Aching Discworld book.

Tiffany is now pretty much a full fledged witch, with all the responsibilities that go with it; such as helping birth babies, cutting the toe nails of old ladies, and saving Mr. Petty from a lynch mob, no matter how much he might deserve the rough music.

But people are hardly grateful; here on the Chalk, where witches are not exactly popular, there's a marked decrease in gratitude and a major increase in malice, in spite and in irrational accusation. Even Roland (now the new Baron, since his father's finally shuffled off this mortal...disc) is growing suspicious of her, helped to no end by the mother of his fiancee. And all are having poison drip, drip, dripped into their ears and minds by something very old, very dark and very, very angry.

The Cunning Man has returned once more, and the witch shall burn. All witches shall burn.

Not if Tiffany can help it, though.


  • Abusive Parent: Mr. Petty
  • Achievements in Ignorance: According to Tiffany, the trick Letitia used should never have worked. Only the latter's firm belief in what she was doing allowed it to function. That and the influence of a malevolent dark power that came through a book in her library.
  • Arc Words: The hare jumps into the fire.
    • "Least said, soonest mended" keeps cropping up, too.
    • "Poison goes where poison's welcome."
  • As Long as There Is Evil: The Cunning Man, although it takes him a long time to come back from each defeat.
    • This is sometimes stated as being every few centuries, and in other places it is said to have happened a few times in living memory. The older witches do think Tiffany's encounter with the Wintersmith drew the Cunning Man back this time, presumably sooner than expected after Granny Weatherwax (of course!) defeated him the last time. As it turns out, the Cunning Man's return was hastened by both Tiffany's kiss with the Wintersmith and Letitia's hex.
  • Author Avatar: The old Baron, in a way.
  • Badass Boast: The Title Drop subtly becomes this during the endgame. "When I'm old, I shall wear midnight. But not today" indicates that Tiffany no longer fears the Cunning Man, no longer fears the possibility that he may kill her.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Miss Spruce.
  • Berserk Button: Don't go near the Feegle mound with anything metal larger than a knife if you want to keep your limbs.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The nurse, Miss Spruce. Also the cook while possessed by the Cunning Man.
  • Blessed with Suck: Long Tall Short Fat Sally is a junior witch, and presumably a fairly good one for Mrs. Proust to take her along... but she's allergic to tides. Apparently they drastically change her size (with a name like that, who would guess?) and she doesn't even live near an ocean!
  • Book Ends: The Scouring faire.
  • Bungled Suicide: Mr. Petty.
  • Burn the Witch
  • The Bus Came Back: The return of Eskarina Smith, some 34 books and 23 years since Equal Rites.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's Pratchett, so there are a number of them. One particularly subtle one is the revelation that Daft Wullie carries matches and sometimes uses them to start fires at really inappropriate moments (such as when high up in the air on a broomstick). You think it's just another example of Daft Wullie being Daft Wullie, but at the climax of the books, his fondness for matches play a small, but vital, role.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cool Old Guy: the Baron, even on his deathbed.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much

"How exactly did they commit suicide?"
"They took a shovel to a Feegle mound, miss."

  • Cultured Badass: Wee Mad Arthur likes ballet, opera, art galleries, and fighting the Nac Mac Feegle six at a time. And winning.
  • Darker and Edgier: The book as a whole is notably darker than the other Tiffany Aching stories, a point hammered home in the second chapter—which features domestic abuse, a thirteen-year-old miscarrying and a lynch mob.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tiffany, especially when she's pushed.

Sergeant: "Am I addressing Miss Tiffany Aching?"
Tiffany: "It looks to me as if you are, Brian, but you be the judge."

  • Deep-Fried Whatever: Amongst the Nac Mac Feegles' good points is the invention of the deep-fried stoat.
  • Dumb Blonde: Letitia subverts it.
  • Exact Words: Tiffany really does marry Roland. To Letitia.
  • Eyeless Face: The Cunning Man has a curious variation of this trope: not smooth skin or empty sockets, but simply holes where his eyes should be, through which you can see what's behind his head. In Discworld, where eyes are literally the mirror of the soul, this is a very bad thing indeed.
  • Expy: Simon from Equal Rites apparently went on to become the Stephen Hawking of the Disc, it is implied.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Letitia. Even Tiffany's a bit scared of the ghosts at Keepsake Manor, but Letitia helped them without a second thought.
  • Foreshadowing: Tiffany's hygiene trick.
    • The Baron's memory of burning the stubble.
    • Petty to Tiffany: "What are you going to do when the music comes for you, eh?"
  • Generation Xerox: It turns out that Granny Aching Sarah Grizzel and the Baron had much the same (non) relationship as Tiffany and Roland.
    • There's also a brief mention of a statue in Ankh-Morpork to Lord Alfred Rust, who bravely and heroically lost every battle he was involved with. Ronnie Rust is upholding a fine family tradition...
  • Genius Ditz: Amber and Letitia.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Preston.
  • Hate Plague: The Cunning Man's modus operandi.
  • Deadly Change-of-Heart: The Cunning Man's origin story. He was a witchfinder who fell in love with a very beautiful witch and, just before she was burnt at the stake, started to consider freeing her and running away. He was about to free her when she grabbed him and held on. She burned to death, he was horribly injured and grew a never-ending hatred of witches that became an obsession, to persist even after death.
  • Hidden Depths: Amber and Letitia. And the Duchess, and Mr Petty... almost every antagonist in this book turns out to at least have a Freudian Excuse.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Cunning Man.
  • I Just Want To Be A Witch: Letitia.
  • I Was Just Passing Through: Rob Anyboy's excuse for helping Tiffany out. Not a straight example since they aren't rivals, however she had told him repeatedly to stop following her around.
  • Idiot Ball: Roland may appear to have recaptured his from the The Wee Free Men, but it's a bit more complicated than that.
  • Insult Backfire

Wee Mad Arthur: " are a bunch of thieving drunken reprobates with no respect for the law whatsoever!"
Rob Anybody: "Would you no' mind adding the words drunk and disorderly? We wouldnae want to be sold short here."

  • Irony: 'Cunning Man' is actually a fairly old term for a 'wise man', in essence a type of male not-quite witch.
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: Letitia's mother used to be a Music Hall girl in her youth.
  • Karma Houdini: Mr. Petty - He beat Amber bad enough for her to miscarry and to require the Kelda to step in and heal her. Yet after Tiffany saves his life (twice), nothing more is said about punishment. His wife even takes him back with no reservations. Tiffany lampshades the fundamental wrongness of this, but that's as far as she goes.
    • Also it should be noted that the second time Tiffany saved his life, it was by cutting him down after he tried to hang himself. The circumstances convinced Tiffany of his remorse, which is probably the primary reason he's allowed to stay in the community.
  • Karmic Death: the drunken cook, who fell into the cellar and broke her neck — right after she called on the earth to swallow Tiffany up. With the Cunning Man's Hate Plague in effect, no wonder everyone suspected poor Tiffany.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Cunning Man.
  • King on His Deathbed: He provides the Arc Words (see below) and proceeds to die. Tiffany promptly gets accused of murdering him.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To the comic poem 'Warning', a.k.a 'When I am an old woman I shall wear purple', by Jenny Joseph.
  • Little No: When Tiffany asks if the Duchess is going to start talking about spinning-wheels next, the Duchess takes her at her word and orders every spinning-wheel in the castle destroyed. Roland mentions that his mother had one, and that no-one is to touch it. When she doesn't take the hint...
    • Keep in mind that Roland may or may not have retained, and perhaps expanded on, the skills he learned in the last book.
  • Love Redeems: Subverted in the Cunning Man's backstory - subverted hard.
  • Mediation Backfire: Discussed and defied by the Feegles - "Any man who interferes with the arguin' of women is gonnae find himself with both of them jumpin' up and doon on him in a matter of seconds".
  • Mood Whiplash: The transition from the first to second chapters...
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, Tiffany considers the Cunning Man's murder of the canary to place him irrevocably beyond humanity.

"No mercy," she said aloud, "no redemption. You forced a man to kill his harmless songbird, and somehow I think that was the greatest crime of them all."

  • Morality Pet: Invoked in the Tanty, where they give the truly irredeemable criminals canaries to look after. Macintosh killing his is seen as a true Moral Event Horizon by all concerned.
  • Mundane Utility: Tiffany can clean her hands by holding one of them over a fire and moving the heat to a poker she holds in the other.
  • My Beloved Smother: The Duchess towards Letitia.
  • My Own Private I Do: Tiffany marries Letitia and Roland in a folk ceremony the night before the official wedding.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tiffany's actions from Wintersmith are still haunting her in this book.
  • Nice to the Waiter: If someone is a loyal servant to Letitia's family they will be taken care of in old age.
    • Ironically, the Duchess isn't nice at all to anyone beneath her social status, but damn if she's not going to care for everybody in her employment, regardless. Apparently the reason why they need hundreds of servants is because a fair number of them are in fact needed to tend to those servants too old to work.
    • In a literal example, it's why Tiffany (reluctantly) adds some of the Feegles' relish to her mutton sandwich, even knowing that it contains snails.
  • Not a Mask: Mrs. Proust sells stereotypically warty and hideous witch masks and gloves, and appears to be wearing a full set. Then Tiffany realizes that the masks she sells are copies of her own face.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The Author's Note tells us that the bit about the hare is, if not necessarily entirely true, at any rate genuine folklore.
    • Oddly enough there's something very similar said about horses to explain why they'd run into burning barns effectively to their deaths.
  • Not So Different: Tiffany and Letitia get the positive version, as they bond over their reactions to the fairy-tale book, and the way it seemed to set out their lives based on hair colour.
  • Not What It Looks Like: played for drama. Of course the stupid, useless, eavesdropping bigot of a nurse would have to come barging in right after Tiffany's demonstration of how she was taking away the Baron's pain involving magical heat transfer, the fireplace, and a just-heated red-hot poker...
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Preston admits to this.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Wee Mad Arthur, a Nac Mac Feegle raised by gnomes.
  • Older and Wiser: Esk.
  • Omniglot: Amber.
  • One-Gender Race: Referenced in a Chalk-country folk belief that all hares are female.
  • Prophecy Twist: Not exactly a prophecy, but Tiffany says she'll marry her former beau. Which she does, but in the sense that she officiates a primeval ceremony wedding Roland to Letitia, not in the sense that she becomes his wife instead.
  • Retcon: When Wee Mad Arthur was introduced, he had all the basic characteristics of a Feegle except the criminal tendencies, but was referred to as a gnome, presumably because he showed up before the idea of the Feegles really took form. In this book, it turns out that he was a foundling, raised by a family of gnomes.
  • Running Gag: Broomsticks being towed by a string, continuing from Wintersmith, and the idea of witches "dancing around without your drawers on".
  • Sequel Hook: Eskarina vaguely mentions her son in the epilogue. Though this is the last Tiffany Aching book, this could be a hint of another appearance for Eskarina in a future Discworld novel.
  • Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: The Cunning Man's origin story.
  • Ship Sinking: Tiffany and Roland. Despite what the last three books seemed to be setting up, it turns out being two outcasts who've been put through hell by fairies isn't quite enough to build a relationship on.
  • Shout-Out: Long Tall Short Fat Sally is a reference to the Little Richard song "Long Tall Sally". Also she suffers from the same condition as Tethys in The Colour of Magic.
    • She is also a shout out to the Larry Williams song "Short Fat Fanny".
  • Stalker with a Crush: The Cunning Man, towards witches.
  • Stop Helping Me!: Tiffany tries to get the Feegles to stop, repeatedly. Eventually she hits upon the idea of explaining that it's like a battle which she has to fight for herself.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Invoked, discussed, defied and ultimately subverted with the opinions of the various characters on what the exact nature of Tiffany's and Roland's friendship is, was or could ever have been. Tiffany all but names the trope when considering the issue herself.

"And where they had gone wrong was in believing, somewhere in their minds, that because two things were different, they must therefore be alike.".

  • Take That: Against those that use the word Ass instead of Arse. This is a belief that Terry has held for a long time but this is the first time it came up in a book.
  • Taking You with Me: How the original Cunning Man died. Now, the only way to get rid of the Cunning Man once he takes over a body is to kill that vessel. In another dark twist of this, it's the witches role to kill Tiffany if the Cunning Man possesses her.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Tripled, even. Apart from the original witch trio (Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat) turning up at the funeral, there are also three witches that fit the description coming from Ankh-Morpork, and Tiffany, Amber and Letitia seem to make a coven of their own on the Chalk.
  • The Talk: Given to Letitia, first by Tiffany, later by Nanny Ogg to make sure everything got through, and then some.
  • That Came Out Wrong: And Tiffany wasn't even planning to say it in the first place! She still ends up marrying Roland, Letitia.
  • This Is Something She's Got To Do Herself: While the other witches would help Tiffany with the Cunning Man if she asked them, doing so would be admitting to the whole world that she was too weak to help herself.
  • Too Clever by Half: Preston has trouble keeping a job for this reason.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Eskarina.
  • The Unchosen One: Tiffany, according to Eskarina: "I said you weren't born with a talent for witchcraft: it didn't come easily; you worked hard at it because you wanted it. You forced the world to give it to you, no matter the price, and the price is and will always be, high. [ ... ] People say you don't find witchcraft; witchcraft finds you. But you've found it, even if at the time you didn't know what it was you were finding, and you grabbed it by its scrawny neck and made it work for you."
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Tiffany to Roland
  • Vague Age: Eskarina, apparently deliberately invoked to avoid continuity issues. On the other hand, all the other wizards in Discworld have pretty Vague Age, even Ponder Stibbons. Why should Eskarina be any different? And then there's the whole bit about the time travel.
  • Wicked Witch: Played with, as ever. Here we have Mrs Proust, a witch so naturally hideous and warty that the Boffo warts, masks and gloves are basically copied from her face and hands. The Cunning Man is the embodiment of humanity's belief in this trope.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Tiffany and the other witches she trained with have had to become this.
  • Woman in White: Zig zags with Letitia.
  • You Keep Using That Word: Roland doesn't seem to be aware that "fortuitously" means "coincidentally."