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An Intro to Terry Pratchett, by Guest Columnist Michele Fry

Terry Pratchett. Ever since starting to read the lit blogs, it's a name I've heard over and over. For some time now I've needed a tutorial on this writer, and I know that others would appreciate it, too. I've asked Michele Fry, of Scholar's Blog in the UK, to write this guest column. Thanks, Michele!

Terry Pratchett is the astonishingly popular author-creator of the Discworld™ series; reportedly 1% of every book sold in the UK is written by Pratchett—that’s all books, not just fantasy ones. He has also written some non-Discworld books as well, of which more later. First a brief explanation of Discworld for those who are unfamiliar with it. As suggested by its name, this is a flat world carried on the back of four large elephants, which are themselves standing upon the back of the giant, space-faring world turtle, Great A’Tuin, which endlessly swims through space.

For readers new to Discworld, a good starting place is Pratchett’s marvellous “Discworld for children” trilogy featuring the apprentice witch, Tiffany Aching: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and the forthcoming Wintersmith.

Tiffany is the kind of child who, reading in her book of stories that Jenny Greenteeth has eyes the size of soup plates, measures a soup plate to check the size; she knows the meanings of lots of words (no one has ever told her that you’re not meant to read the dictionary like a novel); she’s the kind of child who, hearing stories about the “wicked old witch”, wonders “Where’s the evidence?” In The Wee Free Men Tiffany encounters Jenny Greenteeth and this leads her to taking on the Queen of the Faeries herself (and this being Terry Pratchett, we’re not talking Tinkerbell fairies !); she also finds herself temporarily the Kelda (leader) of the Wee Free Men (aka the Nac Mac Feegle), 4 inch high blue men with an over-aggressive attitude (they love fighting, stealing and drinking, preferably all at once !), but astonishing loyalty. In the sequel, A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany goes to stay with Miss Level to learn to be a witch. Unfortunately, just before she leaves the Chalk (where she lives), she attracts the attention of a “hiver” a bodiless creature that likes to inhabit minds until the minds’ owners go mad and die. The manner in which Tiffany chooses to deal with this frightening and threatening creature is remarkably mature and unselfish, and the book itself is a compelling look at the power of storytelling (something which Pratchett discusses again and again in his books).

Other books by Terry Pratchett that are written for children but serve as a good introduction to his books for readers of all ages is The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, a Discworld parody of the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and non-Discworld books that include the Bromeliad trilogy (Truckers, Diggers and Wings) about a race of Nomes (beings akin to Lilliputians, but with far more advanced technology, and the YA Johnny Maxwell trilogy (Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb), featuring the sensitive and thoughtful teen Johnny Maxwell and his friends.

Michele is an independent scholar (i.e., not attached to a university) based in Oxford. She writes and reads every day—sometimes she reads an entire book in one day, sometimes she doesn't, but she rarely averages less than four books a week. She did a degree in English and History in the late 90s as a mature student, but has loved these subjects since her school days. She has been writing and publishing articles about fantasy fiction (for children and for adults) ever since completing her degree in 2001. She has been a fan of fantasy fiction since the age of 8 when a teacher read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to her class. Her favourite authors include J R R Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Juliet E McKenna, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman and Geraldine McCaughrean.

You can find some of her thoughts and comments about Terry Pratchett’s books on her blog as follows:
Personal isn’t the same as important
The Matter of Elves
Dragons and Turtles: Myth and Fantasy
Inspiring Criticism

Comments

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Hi there! Just wanted to say hi to Michele and Susan!!

Thank you for this, Michele and Susan.

I bashfully admit I haven't read any Terry P. because I don't know where to begin. He has SO many books! I'll be printing this post out and taking it to the library.

HI to Kelly... Have fun Pooja ! And thanks very much Susan, for making me such a flattering offer in the first place !

I can back up the fact that "Wintersmith" is fabulous. My favorite in the series yet. Can't wait for the movie of "The Wee Free Men" to come out soon.

Greetings, everyone. Pooja, I didn't know where to start either. Isn't this a great help? Hi, Kelly--have you read any Pratchett? And, Fuse, good to know that the new one is excelente. I better read Wee Free Men before the movie.

I haven't read any Pratchett either. It's nice have a suggestion of where to start. I have to read "The Wee Free Men" anyway, because Tiffany is on my Cool Girls list. And I feel a certain responsibility to actually read about all of the girls, someday... This post is a neat, cross-blog idea, well-executed.

OK I'm insanely jealous of Fuse having read Wintersmith already... I'm going to go and sulk ! ;-D

Same here about Pratchett -- where to start? What to read? Thanks for the excellent post. Neat idea.

Hi! I've read all except 5 of the Discworld books, and both of the books about Tiffany and those adorable and hilarious MacFeegles. Terry Pratchett's my favourite fantasy author and I think everyone should read him! He's got me literally crying my eyes out laughing. I think any of his books is a good place to start, thanks for writing this article and spreading the word... not that I didn't think it needed to be spread? :o)

- Krissi from South Africa

Krissi, thank you for visiting. You're giving us more reasons to read Terry Pratchett! I have "Wee Free Men" from the library and hope to read it soon; it will be my first of his books.

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