Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Sir Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge: The Wee Free Men

Surprisingly, I didn't have any interest in Terry Pratchett when I was young. The only book I did read was Wintersmith, the third book in the Tiffany Aching 'series'. I use the word 'series' loosely because they're all part of the Discworld novels, albeit written for kids. The Wee Free Men happen to be the first book in the Tiffany Aching series; thankfully, the books can be read in any order, since the plots are standalone.

In The Wee Free Men, Tiffany Aching is nine years old and has to take care of her younger brother Wentworth, who by all accounts sounds like a little brat continually crying for 'sweeties'. But strange things happen and suddenly, Wentworth has be taken away by the Queen of Fairies and Tiffany has only the help of the Nac Mac Feegles, a group of unruly pictsies thrown out of fairyland for being drunk and disorderly (but according to them, it was because they rebelled against the royal rule).

Although Tiffany is the protagonist of the book and is very likeable, my favourite characters are the Nac Mac Feegle. Granted, if they really existed I'd probably spend all time in contact yelling at them to behave/stop stealing; but since they are purely fictional, they're so endearing. They claim to have "Nae King! Nae quin! Nae Laird! Nae master! We willna be fooled again!" (translation: no king, no queen, no lord, no master. We will not be fooled again) and spend most of their time fighting and stealing but have a mortal fear of lawyers. I'm just going to quote my favourite passage (it's quite long), it takes place when the Fairy Queen conjures up some lawyers to deal with the Nac Mac Feegle:

"Oh, ye are a harrrrrd wuman, Quin," said William the gonnagle, "to set the lawyers ontae us.

"See the one of the left there," whimpered a pictsie. "See, he's got a briefcase! It's a briefcase! Oh, waily, wail, a briefcase, waily..."

Reluctantly, a step at a time, presssing together in terror, the Nac Mac Feegle began to back away.
"Oh, waily waily, he's snapping the clasps," groaned Daft Wullie. "Oh waily waily waily, 'ts the sound o' Doom when a lawyer does that!"

"Mister Rob Anybody Feegle and sundry others?" said one of the figures in a dreadful voice.

"There's naebody here o' that name" shouted Rob Anybody. "We dinna know anything'!"

...interlude to the riposte....

"They've got oour names!" sobbed Daft Wulie. "They've got oour names! It's the pris'n oose for us!"

"Objection! I move for a write of habeas corpus," said a small voice. "And ener a plea of vis-ne faciem capite repletam, without prejudice."

...and they discover defense lawyers....

"Hey, they're sweatin'," said Roby Anybody. "You mean we can have lawyers on oour side as well?"

"Yes, of course," said the toad. "You can have defense lawyers."

And although the book is this funny all the time, it also deals with serious topics in a subtle manner, such as the death of a loved one, spare the rod and spoil the child, and of course, growing up. Plus, it serves as a good introduction to the Discworld, especially for younger kids.

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