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The Wee Free Men (2003)

by Terry Pratchett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Discworld: Tiffany Aching (1), Discworld: Young Adult (2), Discworld (30)

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10,442254639 (4.2)460
A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland.
Recently added byoverfiend0a, Fatula, dsadma13, rivercityluffy, adze117, BooksMcG, private library
  1. 100
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    bibliovermis: The sequel. Just as good as the first!
  2. 90
    Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For rising YA readers who like smart mouths and smarter brains, because Polly (age 19) is going to find and rescue her brother. Or else.
  3. 70
    Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (simchaboston)
  4. 51
    Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (Nikkles)
  5. 20
    Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Nikkles)
  6. 20
    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For middle-grade readers interested in fairyland, and the dangers inherent there.
  7. 20
    The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett (midnightblues)
    midnightblues: Well worth reading the full series.
  8. 00
    Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For middle-grade readers interested in solitary children and immersive worlds: Because there's a whole horizon in front of Summer (age 11), and it just keeps getting bigger.

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» See also 460 mentions

English (242)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Polish (1)  All languages (253)
Showing 1-5 of 242 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this book. I love his logical, no nonsense female characters (it very much appeals to my mathematician side). Although I don't have my own children I have plenty of friends who I am considering buying this book for when their children get to the right age for it. I am looking forward to the other stories in the Tiffany Aching arc. ( )
  Fatula | Sep 25, 2023 |
In the country of Chalk nine year old Tiffany Aching is lying on her stomach gazing into a river as she tickles a trout. Close to her is her sticky little brother Wentworth. Her thoughts are interrupted by the sight of a little man, six inches high, standing up in a little round boat in the river and headed in her direction.

"He had a mass of untidy red hair into which a few feathers and bits of cloth had been woven. He had a red beard, which was pretty much as bad as his hair. The rest of him that wasn’t covered with blue tattoos was covered with a tiny kilt. And he was waving his fist at her and shouting:

'Crivins! Gang awa’ oot o’ here, ye daft wee hinny! ‘Ware the green heid'!”

Startled by this strange sight Tiffany is then aware of a strange shaking of everything around her. Things look blurry, and the water in front of her begins to bubble and turns darker and greener. She steps back from the riverbank just before a green, toothy, long armed monster shoots up out of the water screaming. Tiffany runs to collect her brother. She hustles back to her farm with him.

Puzzled and angered by this experience, back in the farmhouse Tiffany consults the few books on the shelf that her mother calls Granny Aching’s Library. On the shelf are an almanac, a dictionary, Diseases of the Sheep, Flowers of the Chalk, and the one she wants to consult: The Goode Childe’s Booke pf Faerie Tales, “so old that it belonged to an age when there were far more e’s around.” She finds the description that she wants and puts her plan into action. Armed with the largest frying pan in the kitchen, a bag of sweets, her sticky little brother, and the string she always carries in her pocket, they head back to the river.

Staking the bag of candy to the ground close to the riverbank with its top knotted tightly with her string, she sets Wentworth down to work on the knot while she hides behind a bush with the frying pan and waits for the monster to emerge. And when it does:

She ran out from her hiding place with the frying pan swinging like a bat. The screaming monster,
leaping out of the water, met the frying pan with a clang.

It was a good clang, with the oiyoiyoiyioioiooinnnnngggggg that is the mark of a clang well done.

The creature hung there for a moment, a few teeth and bits of green weed splashing into the water, then slid down slowly and sank with some massive bubbles.

The water cleared and was once again the same old river, shallow and icy cold and floored with pebbles.

“Wanna wanna sweeties!” screamed Wentworth, who never noticed anything else in the presence of sweets.

Tiffany undid the string and gave them to him, He ate them far too quickly, as he always did with sweets. She waited until he was sick, then went back home in a thoughtful state of mind.

In the reeds, quite low down small voices whispered:
“Crivens, Wee Bobby, did yer no’ see that?”
“Aye. We’d better offski an’ tell the Big Man we’ve found the hag.”

Thus, begins young Tiffany’s education to being a witch. In Discworld this does not mean attending a school but learning through experience and trial. She does get, for the price of an egg and two carrots, a lesson from Miss Tick a peripatetic Witch who has set up a tent with the other wandering teachers who have come to Tiffany’s village.

"They went from village to village delivering short lessons on many subjects. They kept apart from the other travelers and were quite mysterious in their ragged robes and strange square hats. They used long words like corrugated iron. They lived rough lives, surviving on what food they could earn from giving lessons to anyone who would listen. When no one would listen, they lived on baked hedgehog. They went to sleep under the stars, which the math teachers would count, the astronomy teachers would measure, and the literature teachers would name. The geography teachers got lost in the woods and fell into bear traps.

People were usually quite pleased to see them. They taught children enough to shut them up, which was the main thing, after all. But they always had to be driven out of the villages by nightfall in case they stole chickens."

Miss Tick, who came wearing a square teacher hat as disguise since the local Baron has ordered all witches to be burned, reveals her true identity to Tiffany, and gives her some brief information about witchcraft. The first rule is don’t use magic unless it’s really necessary. It can be unpredictable and difficult to control. Instead, be aware of what’s going on about you, don’t get lost in your own thoughts, be prepared, and trust in yourself. Miss Tick knows Tiffany is on the path to becoming a witch because she saw the monster Jenny Green-Teeth and intuitively knew to use an iron frying pan to defeat it. Iron is an anathema to creatures of Jenny’s sort. In addition to this advice, Miss Tick leaves her familiar, an enchanted talking toad, behind when she leaves town to guide Tiffany in her upcoming challenge.

"Another world is colliding with this one," said the toad. "All the monsters are coming back."
"Why?" said Tiffany.
"There's no one to stop them.
There was silence for a moment.
Then Tiffany said, "There's me."

The toad will not be Tiffany’s only ally. She has impressed the Nac Mac Feegle, the Wee Free Men of the book’s title, a great force of pictsies—no, that’s not a misspelling. They are not pixies; they are pictsies. They dwell in an old burial mound in Chalk. They believe that they are in heaven. What Pratchett does is resurrect the ancient Picts, a people of northern Scotland, so named by the Romans because they covered themselves with blue tattoos and given them a second fictional life in his Discworld a place suffused with both magic and humor. They are six inches tall, covered in blue tattoos and red kilts that I can only imagine Sir Walter Scott would approve of. They speak a broad lowland Scots, and are given to fighting, drinking, stealing, and a fierce hatred of their former tyrant, the Queen of the Faries.
It’s against this wicked Queen and her horrid grimhounds and dromes, creatures that entrap their victims is the worst possible realistic nightmares that Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegle must contend to save Chalk. ( )
  MaowangVater | Sep 14, 2023 |
A fun frolic through an engaging fantasy world. The characters are all quicker of wit than you or me, even when they are in mortal danger. This is the story of a young witch in the making and how she comes to discover that she is both a witch and a grown up. Her allies in her quest are a band of 'Pictsies' known as Nac Mac Feegle (or Wee Free Men), who will fight and drink nigh anything and speak in a brogue so thick it's often easier to skip past it and rely on the context to understand their meaning. It all comes together for great fun, perhaps even a 5 star read for the right crowd. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |

This late entry in the DiscWorld series is also the start of the Tiffany Aching subseries. Tiffany is a 9-year-old girl who wants to be a witch when she grows up. In this book, she meets the 'wee free men,' also know as Nac Mac Feegles -- a race of 6" tall pictsies who love to fight, steal and drink and can move very, very fast.

I liked the Feegles and Tiffany but this young-adult/children's entry in the series lacked much of the social satire that I love so much in the other DiscWorld books. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Thoroughly enjoyable. I listened to the talking book narrated by Steven B. He's so good. I wanted to start this series because the end of it is Shepard's Crown, and I'm keen to learn what happens in it, but I ant to read up to it through the Tiffany Aching series. As a character, Tiffany reminds me a lot of Sarah Seagull: independent, thinks for herself, and has pretty good intuition about people and relationships. I was also pleased to be running into Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax. (I hadn't met Miss Tick before). I especially appreciated his descriptions of Tiffany's (and Grandma Aching's) relationship to the land - the Chalk - as creatures f their native clay, and as shepards not just of their sheep but on the whole biome / landscape. A bit druidic in nature. I also love how Pratchett thinks about witches and witchcraft: it's much less about actual magic and casting spells as it is about changing the way you think about the world, the people in it, and how to handle situations. He give us at least two examples, in how Granny Aching handles the Baron's sheep-killing dog, and how she handles the tinker that beats his donkey. I also love how Granny Aching never says a word about being a witch to anyone, but clearly is taking care of the land and her people all the time with her quiet power.

The Wee Free Men were also delightful - a wonderful culture of rambunctious, argumentative, magical wee men that fight and drink and can do just about anything that needs doing. A perfect vehicle for the Pratchett sense of humor.

Looking forward to reading more in this series. I gave my hard copy of this book to Sophie Wimmer - an 8 year old girl - in the hopes that I can win over one other Pratchett fan in the family. ( )
  jsmick | Apr 9, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 242 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Terry Pratchettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aljinovic, BorisSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bartocci, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brandhorst, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Briggs, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gall, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidby, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Player, StephenIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Some things start before other things.
No wonder we dream our way through our lives. To be awake, and see it all as it really is ... no one could stand that for long.
Now ... if you trust in yourself ... and believe in your dreams ... and follow your star ... you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.
“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!”
“Zoology, eh? That's a big word, isn't it."

"No, actually it isn't," said Tiffany. "Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.”
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland.

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