Esmerelda “Esme” Weatherwax, most commonly known as Granny, is one of the most compelling characters in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
More than that, she’s one of my favorite characters in all of fiction*.
While there are a multitude of witches in Discworld, Granny is known to be the best, the most powerful, the one everyone else looks to. Not that she’d lay such a claim.
“Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?’
‘Oh no!’ said Miss Level, looking shocked. ‘Witches are all equal. We don’t have things like head witches. That’s quite against the spirit of witchcraft.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Tiffany.
‘Besides,’ Miss Level added, ‘Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing.”
She’s strong and forthright and comfortable in her heavy, hobnailed boots.
“She strode across the moors as if distance was a personal insult.”
In a religious debate, she cuts to the heart of it.
“Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
True witchcraft isn’t power, flashy displays, feats of wonder. It’s looking after a neighbor who has no one else. It’s speaking up for those who can’t do so for themselves. It’s making sure the soup pot is full and the table is cleaned up and ready for tea. It’s doing the messy work. It’s choosing good and right when it’s not easy, when you’re not beloved and might well be scorned or feared.
“For a witch stands on the very edge of everything, between the light and the dark, between life and death, making choices, making decisions so that others may pretend no decisions have even been needed. Sometimes they need to help some poor soul through the final hours, help them to find the door, not to get lost in the dark.”
Without question, she possesses true magical prowess. It’s just never been her first recourse. She relies on headology, stubbornness, and kindness masked by practicality.
“We look to the edges,’ said Mistress Weatherwax. ‘There’s a lot of edges, more than people know. Between life and death, this world and the next, night and day, right and wrong … an’ they need watchin’. We watch ’em, we guard the sum of things. And we never ask for any reward. That’s important.”
She has an unshakable empathy and selflessness I try to emulate.
“I don’t know about the world, not much; but in my part of the world I could make little miracles for ordinary people,” Granny replied sharply. “And I never wanted the world—just a part of it, a small part that I could keep safe, that I could keep away from storms. Not the ones of the sky, you understand: there are other kinds.”
And when I worry about what others think, when I fear I’m not enough, I recall Granny’s strength and certainty.
“Esme Weatherwax hadn’t done nice. She’d done what was needed.”
Ta, Granny. Mind how you go.
*so much so I named my feisty, smart, adorable one-eyed kitty after her