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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Great Fictional Characters: Tiffany Aching

Continuing with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2015

T is for Tiffany Aching.

Happy St George's Day! Now, to my knowledge, Tiffany has never battled with a dragon, but she's had her fair share of scary monsters to contend with- and I'm not just talking about the sheep on the Chalk.

In The Wee Free Men, she rescues her brother, Wentworth, from Jenny Green-Teeth (with a frying pan, no less) and then later, when he is kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies, she marches off to Fairyland to get him back. From the start, Tiffany always rises to the occasion—even if it's not necessarily what she wants to do. She may not like her little brother that much, but she's his big sister, after all, and that means it's her job to make sure he's okay and to bring him home.

“All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!

I have a duty!

Fresh from that adventure, and having set her mind on becoming a witch, she goes to apprentice with Miss Level and soon lands in trouble again- this time with a hiver. A hiver is a strange parasitic entity that takes over the mind until the body is no use to it- often because that body is no longer breathing... Tiffany eventually manages to banish it from her body, but that's not enough. Knowing it will continue to search for a body to inhabit, she resolves to get rid of it entirely, though not without the compassion of a true witch, the support of a great one, and learning some valuable lessons:

“Always face what you fear. Have just enough money, never too much, and some string. Even if it’s not your fault, it’s your responsibility. Witches deal with things. Never stand between two mirrors. Never cackle. Do what you must do. Never lie, but you don’t always have to be honest. Never wish. Especially don’t wish upon a star, which is astronomically stupid. Open your eyes, and then open your eyes again.”  

Older and wiser, (or possibly not) Tiffany moves on to train with another witch, Miss Treason. Miss Treason takes her to see the Dark Morris, a secret version that balances out the one everyone is familiar with by saying goodbye to the Summer Lady and letting the Wintersmith take his turn on Earth. Entranced by the dancing, Tiffany can't help herself and joins in, drawing the attention of the Wintersmith himself. Intrigued, the Wintersmith pursues Tiffany with the amorous intent and enthusiasm of a teenage boy, his "gifts" becoming more dramatic and dangerous as the season progresses. Tiffany must keep her frozen beau at bay long enough to find the real Summer Lady and complete the Dance of the Seasons before the Wintersmith's love- quite literally- smothers her and the Chalk community she watches over.

"You could say it was unfair, and that was true, but the universe didn’t care because it didn’t know what “fair” meant. That was the big problem about being a witch. It was up to you. It was always up to you.”  

Her most recent adventure, and the one I'm re-reading at the moment, sees her pitting herself against probably the most dangerous opponent yet- the Cunning Man. From being respected and feared (in a healthy way), witches suddenly start finding themselves mocked, accused and even resented. Tiffany learns this is down to the Cunning Man, a demonic spirit of pure hatred, able to corrupt other minds with suspicion and anger. He has it in for witches, big time, and Tiffany is on his hit list. She needs to stop him and the stakes are high: if she fails, the other witches will step in and do whatever is necessary to restore the normal order- even if it means killing her...

“Everybody needs a witch, but sometimes they just don't know it.”  

Tiffany's pretty awesome because she uses her head more than her magic, runs toward her fear instead of away from it and, instead of letting the grown-ups deal with the hard stuff, rolls up her sleeves and gets stuck in. She's not afraid of who she is:

“Yes! I'm me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don't understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That's the kind of person I am!”  

What do you think of Tiffany? Let me know in the comments x

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