Winter Thing

Pieter Brueghel the Elder: Hunters in the Snow (Winter)

Another waffly post, I’m afraid, but at least it’s mercifully short.

I’ve been diverting myself with a quick dip into Terry Pratchett (in a manner of speaking) in anticipation of March Magics; this last, hosted annually by Kristen of We Be Reading, is a respectful celebration of the work of Pratchett and of Diana Wynne Jones who both died during this month in, respectively, 2015 (March 12th) and 2011 (March 26th).

Now I didn’t mean to, but I found myself picking up the third Tiffany Aching book, Wintersmith, even though I’d intended to leave it till next month. It must have been due to the promised snowful in Britain — unlike North America’s recent dreadful polar vortex and a less deadly dump in much of Britain, the white stuff forecast for my part of Wales turned out however to be a bit of a damp squib.

Still, the fictional blizzards in Wintersmith proved some compensation for the relative lack of decent snow in the Usk valley (most of the snow in this view from our window was gone in less than 48 hours).

This outlook is not, I’m sure you agree, as dramatic as Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Hunters in the Snow painting, lacking as it does the hunters and the skaters (the jackdaws residing in the trees by the local church declined to fly up and provide a sense of photographic perspective), but it was inspiring enough for me to eagerly pick up Wintersmith.

I shan’t be offering a review just yet (I may possibly time it for March 12th) but instead I just want to offer up a couple of tangential thoughts. I’ve mentioned before that I’d love to believe that the Tiffany Aching series is a homage to author Joan Aiken’s feisty mite Dido Twite. The hint is not just from both heroines being singularly admirable, resourceful and young but from the similarity of the names Aiken and Aching—in Wintersmith we’re even reminded that Tiffany’s father is called Joe. Joe Aching, Joan Aiken: each one a parent to the child.

Tiffany (12 going on 13 in this instalment) and Dido (11 or 12 in Dido and Pa) also encounter particularly strong pipe tobacco, the Jolly Sailor for the former and Vosper’s Nautical Cut for the latter. Both authors of course were of an age to remember when smoking was a widespread habit, including the use of pipes, though any insistence on the use of pipeweed here may be coincidental.

You want further circumstantial evidence? How about this: one of Dido’s periodic all-purpose exclamations is the expressive ‘Croopus!‘ Now, while Tiffany rarely expostulates, she has a bunch of diminutive friends who most certainly do. And one of their frequent, if not to say characteristic, ejaculations is — ‘Crivens!

Anyway, I shall have a bit more to say (don’t I always?) in a review, so I’ll just leave it there.

Links to my reviews of the first and second Tiffany Aching books can be found here and here.

39 thoughts on “Winter Thing

  1. piotrek

    Q.E.D. !

    I’m convinced! Two great writers, two delightful heroines, perfect connection. I don’t know if Pratchett is on the record discussing his literary influences in depth, nothing about it in sources I have on hand, but this theory just has to be right.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really hoping so, Piotrek! The tone is different, as you might expect, but the more I read of Pratchett the more I can believe that he was able to make use of absolutely anything he heard of or came across as material for his Discworld fictions. A complete genius, and passionate about the right things too.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pratchett was a magpie, stealing from history and literature to create a world parallel to our own in many ways. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Tiffany was an homage to Dido. Nice detecting Chris

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t say the initial link was made by me, Lynn — I’m indebted to Dale of Earth Balm Creative for that — but the more I read of Pratchett (and particularly in the Tiffany Aching series) the more connections seem to manifest themselves! I may have to revisit this topic after the final two in the series. A magpie indeed, but what an imaginative magpie!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. earthbalm

    Tiffany Aching and Dido Twite in the same post. You know how to keep this follower reading. I believe there is something to your assertion. Thanks Chris!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Winter Thing — Calmgrove – Earth Balm Creative

    1. Snow in California! Not a correlation we expect. Thanks to the Gulf Stream we’ve a generally mild climate despite being at the same latitude as Labrador, but that doesn’t stop us getting extreme temperatures such as last year’s Beast from the East. However, if continued Arctic melt affects that great conveyor belt then such extremes will become the norm, and the permanent grasp of winter threatened in this novel will cease to be fiction. ☹️

      On a brighter (!) note I’m glad you approve my theory! Will you be joining in March Magics this year? Kristen has said she hopes to run it again, though maybe in a less structured fashion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I’m ALWAYS on for March Magics. That is not a thing I can miss!

        It snows in California! Just mostly in the mountains. I live close to them, but on the valley floor, so snow is rare — but it has shown up periodically. I am next door to Paradise (now burned by the Camp Fire), and they always get some snow. We depend on a good snow pack in the mountains for our water. This is not to deny what’s happening weather-wise, just the effects so far for us have been mainly a slight increase, but within normal parameters.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Of course, I’m aware California isn’t wall-to-wall desert and/or beaches and that you have mountains and vineyards and forest, but the stereotype always springs uppermost to mind! Hope you weren’t adversely affected by the awful fires we saw in the news, however, that was truly horrific.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I was not personally affected — we didn’t lose anything — but our city is very different now! We’re still trying to find housing for a lot of people. The effects will last a long time.

            I’ve been living in foresty, farmlandy California for so long I forget about the LA parts! I think I’m pretty fortunate. 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I’m so pleased for you, Jean. We have also been fortunate, having managed to avoid the worst of natural extremes such as flooding or coastal erosion that some communities have suffered in recent years.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. earthbalm

    Have to add that you’ve inspired me. I’ll begin re-reading The Wee Free Men tonight and then progress through the ‘Aching’ set. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. earthbalm

        The first time I read the series, I began with ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ and it is my favourite TP book. I’m looking forward to the sequence build up.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. earthbalm

    Thanks for posting this. It was my birthday yesterday (the day you posted) and beginning a re-reading of ‘The Wee Free Men’ was such a fantastic end to the day. It’s such a ‘spiritual’ novel. I smiled at the mention of the evolution of the Aching surname (and Aiken was present by its absence, if ye ken). Love the recurring idea that because you know how something works, it doesn’t make it any less magical.
    Cheers Chris!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many happy returns for yesterday, Dale, a nice bit of serendipity for you! Yes, I too had noticed that Aiken was conspicuous by its absence in the discussion of the various forms the name could take—sure that’s significant, as I noted in my Wee Free review. 🙂

      Interestingly, the point you made about Pratchett’s idea about how magic works is something obliquely referred to in my review of The Lorax.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s very possible I did, Dale, though I can’t remember when it might have been—definitely there’s something in the ‘second’ Earthsea trilogy, probably ‘Tales’, where this question of keeping the balance by not doing too much magic (and that only with understanding of consequences) is more explicit. An ecological message for our own world, I expect, though one barely heeded by profiteers, if at all.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: A Hat Full of Sky – Earth Balm Creative

    1. Thanks for the link and kind comments, Dale, so happy to be the cause of your revisiting this series!

      By the way, I responded to your post about Hokusai but it may have disappeared into your spam comment folder. (Don’t worry if it’s been digested by Akismet, it was a bit waffly, a bit like this post!)


  8. Your idea of a link between Joan Aiken and this trilogy makes sense to me. Having recently read TWWC it occurs to me that Tiffany comes from shepherding folk, the natural enemies of wolves. I read the Wee Free Men ages ago, but doesn’t Tiffany (and her little blue friends) take on some wolves too in the Queen’s domain in that book?

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Some options here, Jo: the Greek-derived ‘pentalogy’ seems standard but, on the analogy of the first four Earthsea books being originally referred to as a Quartet I guess Latin-derived Quintet would be acceptable. (Pentad just refers to any group of five things.)

            Liked by 1 person

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