As children my sister and I would borrow as many books as we could from the library at a time – most of them already read by the time we arrived home. One of these beloved library reads introduced me to the brilliant Tiffany Aching.
Tiffany is the heroine of Sir Terry Pratchett’s hilarious Discworld series for children, starring in The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight, and The Shepherd’s Crown. The series follows her growth from childhood to adulthood as Tiffany learns the art of witchcraft. At first, she worries about her capability; she gets sick flying on a broomstick and prefers to wear blue and green instead of black. Nevertheless, Tiffany learns to become one of the world’s most powerful witches.
Tiffany is a practical heroine, solving her varied adventures with an analytical approach. She invades fairyland to rescue the baron’s son armed only with a frying pan, fights an invisible creature which invades her mind, and brings spring to a never-ending winter. Mostly, though, she tends to the sick, helps with births, and makes good cheese. After all, someone has to milk the goat, to clean the floor, to sit up with the dead and cry for them, and to cut the old man’s toenails when no one else will. Tiffany often gets little thanks for her work. Her daily responsibilities as a witch focus on care, which is still regarded as undervalued women’s work today. By performing these duties Tiffany reminds us that caring responsibilities have great value, and are the heart and soul of all good magic.
Tiffany also demonstrates to girls the importance of anger. It is a motivating force, as her anger over injustice drives her to help correct the unfairness she sees around her. For example, Tiffany wants to become a witch because she is angry that some boys saw an old woman living alone with lots of cats and called her a witch and threw rocks at her. Tiffany channels her anger into useful and responsible action. This may be criticizing a baron for charging tenants too high rent or hitting a monster with a frying pan because it has invaded her family’s farm. Her anger is essential to help solve injustice or neglect or abuse, showing the need to challenge these situations and not meekly accept them.
I have read and re-read these books many times over, and she continues to inspire me. Tiffany’s strong sense of duty, practical common sense, independence, bravery, and kindness make her a truly inspirational heroine.
Girl Museum Inc.