Pratchett for Young Readers: Translation Analysis of Selected Texts with Software for Lexical Analysis
Lengálová, K. (2009). Pratchett for Young Readers: Translation Analysis of Selected Texts with Software for Lexical Analysis (Doctoral dissertation, Masarykova univerzita, Filozofická fakulta). https://is.muni.cz/th/110219/ff_m/diplomka_final.pdf
Literary translation is tricky: the most important thing that makes it outstanding is style, which cannot be measured or indeed objectively analysed. There will always be readers who will not like a translation because it does not sound natural enough or because it sounds too natural – naturality being an example of an aspect deeply individual, depending on each reader’s social and cultural background.
However, there are now modern ways to analyse a translation, whether literary or not: software for lexical analysis. This software brings objectivity into the field of translation analysis because it allows the theoretician to calculate certain values of a text and then compare them with those of other texts of his or her choice. Texts can be analysed on the level of words, word clusters or even longer segments, and the software allows the user to ensure that the objects analysed really are objectively comparable. This method is not able to tell you whether the translation is good or not, but it allows you to get a more objective point of view. That is why I chose such approach in my thesis to analyse segments of texts from Terry Pratchett’s books, The Bromeliad and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.
I should add that the texts I chose are not just some ordinary texts. Firstly, they fall into the group of children’s literature, that is those books that were written (supposedly) with low age and relative inexperience of the readers in mind. Secondly, to keep the thesis more focused, I chose only certain parts of the texts. Both of the analysed books have a particular peculiarity: each chapter starts with an excerpt from an imaginary book that plays a role in the story. …..
New Windmills – 2004 – Resource sheets –
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
By Terry Pratchett
Activities by Alan Pearce
© Harcourt Education Limited, 2004
The following pages consist of teacher’s notes and classroom resource sheets for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.
These pages can be downloaded and printed out as required. This material may be freely copied for institutional use. However, this material is copyright and under no circumstances can copies be offered for sale. The publishers gratefully acknowledge permission to reproduce copyright material.
This is a very entertaining novel, with some extremely amusing moments. However, there are also dark moments when, for example, some of the educated rodents are killed. The novel will definitely encourage students to consider their attitude towards animals. Possible areas for study include:
Persuasive writing: Write Maurice’s speech to Bad Blintz’s town council, persuading them that rats should be treated as equals. …
Creative writing: Imagine a pet could record his or her thoughts. What would they think of their owners? …
Informative writing: Write an article for a nature magazine, about the educated rodents found in Bad Blintz. …
Independent research/information writing: Produce a leaflet about keeping rats as pets. …
Personal view: Who would you identify as the hero of the novel? …
Group discussion/presentation: Imagine you are members of the Bad Blintz town council. Debate the advantages and disadvantages of treating the educated rodents as equals. …
Collaborative drama: Dramatise significant scenes from the novel: …
Horng, W. J. (2011). 泰瑞• 普萊契的《 貓鼠奇譚》 與兒童文學再思. 臺灣大學外國語文學研究所學位論文, 1-88.
“A Story About Stories”: Rethinking Childhood and Children’s Literature in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
In this thesis, I plan to discuss Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001), an animal fantasy aimed at a child audience. Pratchett is a well-known writer of comic fantasy, and he has been hailed as a keen satirist. Consistent with Pratchett’s tendency to satirize established concepts and conventions, The Amazing Maurice targets the very genre it belongs to: children’s literature. Therefore, in this paper, I will examine how in the novel, Pratchett critiques and subverts of three aspects of the tradition of children’s literature: the first is Pratchett’s subversion of the representation of childhood in children’s animal fantasy, the second is Pratchett’s use of literary nonsense to reveal the artificiality of language and literary conventions in children’s literature, and the third is Pratchett’s exploration of the process of children’s reading and storytelling.
My discussions in the thesis are based on the premises of childhood studies, especially on its constructivist view of childhood. Constructivist scholars of childhood see childhood not as a biological, essential, and universal phenomenon, but as something constructed according to the historical and cultural context. With this concept in mind, I argue that Pratchett not only critiques the traditional construction of childhood in animal fantasy, but he also reconstructs children as being self-aware and capable of distinguishing between reality and the discourses people construct to structure it. Such a reconstruction of childhood allows Pratchett to justify presenting in a work of children’s literature a detached and critical view on the artificiality of language and literary conventions, as well as the process of children’s reading and storytelling.
… In contrast, Pratchett’s text incorporates childhood play within a festival of tales. Whilst traditional mythic structures have been utilised by both authors to frame their carnivalesque interpretations, Pratchett has constructed a carnival space inscribing metafictive strategies which focus on humorous inversions, mirror images, and intertextual reflexivity embedded in his celebration of plots. His opening page alerts readers to this artifice of plotting by invoking five plot connections: one is encoded in the chapter peritext, Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure;iii the second quotes Browning’s text, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn; two characters then debate their view of the narrative’s direction; whilst a fifth voice, the narrator, begins the official tale. The author humorously and consistently encodes intertextual referencing and metafictive mirroring devices to establish carnival space in this narrative.
Because this text features linguistic playfulness, Pratchett also builds complex contrapuntal plots wherein each emergent narrative strand is embedded in its predecessor: First, the peritext, framed to indicate the narrative’s structural direction, establishes a mise en abyme device that heads each chapter of the larger narrative and parodies the event expectations of traditional quest structures. Beatrix Potter’s text The Adventures of Peter Rabbit is a prominent intertext in Pratchett’s Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure. Pratchett’s use of this peritext structure also encodes both parodic and ironic perspectives and suggests a superior view of childhood naivety in its use of mimetic and intertextual signification even as quest codes are subverted.
Ratty Rupert was the bravest rat that ever was. Everyone in Furry Bottom said so. (2002, p.79)
Mr Bunnsy realised that he was a fat rabbit in a dark wood and wished he wasn’t a rabbit, or at least not a fat one … (2002, p.132)
The same intertext also re-emerges as a didactic masterplot which models utopian society: its gradual philosophical integration is treasured as a training manual by which the educated rodents may consider equal participation in human society. This anthropomorphic approach mirrors childhood struggles with rules of conduct, though at a deeper interrogative level the author examines the Western humanist ideologies that sustain civilised spaces whilst simultaneously offering an intersubjective view of quest representation. Pratchett humorously signifies an emerging rodent consciousness that examines and revises past behavioural patterns to derive a new estimate of societal responsibilities. In this narrative strand, the quest transition from rodent to Changeling interrogates cultural codes of social behaviour, but Pratchett also intends this construct as a comedic subplot which mirrors theories of emergent consciousness within human subjects. The author images child subjectivity even as he promotes this anthropomorphic self-reflection, with all its incumbent failures, as a social condition of growth.
In opening scenes that disclose his feline protagonist’s narrative intention, Pratchett intertextually mirrors the structure of Browning’s popular children’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn. Browning’s narration begins with a rat plague, and event focus is placed upon the piper’s response to a failed contractual agreement that deprives the town of its children and mirrors the piper’s deprivation of just payment. Pratchett’s Maurice enacts a carnival pastiche: even as the text openly images and enacts authorial plotting, the author’s intertextual allusion adapts another fairytale, Puss-inBoots. At one level, Maurice’s plan provides selected towns with a problematic rat population, offers the piper solution at a negotiated price, and retrieves the rat troupe downstream, ready for a new venture. At another level, the plotting inscribes a game enacted by players: child piper, anthropomorphised rodents, and entrepreneurial conductor, which directs narrative awareness to the performative actions of writers and the game of plotting fiction. In Pratchett’s narrative playground, Maurice and his team soon encounter a Bad Blintz that already has its own deceitful schemes. Here the author’s counterpoint weaves plotters and plots that introduce a carnival space of narrative patterns.
Pratchett’s third intertextual strategy centres upon …. (p. 144-145)
Cheetham, Dominic: The Amazing Maurice in Japanese and German: A Contrastive Study of Domestication Strategies and Ideology in Translation
Cheetham, David. ‘The Amazing Maurice in Japanese and German: A Contrastive Study of Domestication Strategies and Ideology in Translation’ English Language and Literature. Vol 53, 2017. pp 29-63.
……… In some cultures and languages, Terry Pratchett is a great success, in others his books go largely unnoticed and quickly fall out of print. This paper compares translations of Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents （2001） as published in Germany （Maurice, der Kater, trans. Brandhorst, 2005）, where the book has an on-going popularity, and Japan （天才ネコモーリスとその仲間たち, trans. Tominaga, 2004）, where it is almost unknown. The paper discusses domestication or cultural accommodation in translation with respect to non-conventional text types.
Comparing translations between European languages is relatively common, as linguistic and cultural similarities make divergent translation choices easily amenable to discussion （Cheetham, Translating 67-8）, and which conventionally makes divergence a point of criticism. However, comparing translations between languages and cultures as different as German and Japanese requires a more nuanced approach than the conventional tactic of direct comparison. For this study I focus mainly on the domestication and foreignisation strategies used in the two translations, and only focus on changes made to a text which are not required by the linguistic systems of the language of translation. Thus, where a translation could have been closer to the original English, but where the translator has chosen to make a change, I shall treat that change as significant. Where changes are either required by the language or are within normal variation of expression, then such changes will not be treated as significant. The underlying assumption is not that translated texts should aim for equivalence with the original, but rather that deviations, where not linguistically motivated, are choices, probably driven by a combination of artistic preference, and both conscious and unconscious cultureideological pressures. As an example, the opening to the English, German and Japanese texts, respectively, read:
They chased the dogs and bit the cats, they –– （9）
Sie jagten die Hunde und bissen die Katzen, sie … （7）
The German text is almost word for word the same as the English. It is easy to assume that this similarity is a simple result of the closeness of the English and German languages. However, this would be an over simplification. The critical literature is full of examples where European translators of children’s literature have chosen to introduce textual deviations, even though linguistic equivalence was possible （see Cheetham, Translating 67-8） and as such, the lack of change here is significant; the translator chose equivalence. Naturally, this choice, though significant, is less significant than active change, which necessarily requires more linguistic effort compared to no change.
The Japanese text is markedly different to the English original. The single word “Rats!” has at least four direct possibilities in Japanese; three are different ways of scripting the word, ‘ネズミ’, ‘ねずみ’,‘鼠’ （all read ‘nezumi’） and one a phonetic representation of the English loan-word, ‘ ラット’ （ratto）. All four options result in different nuance or reading experience. However, the translator has rejected all of these in favour of expanding a simple, one-word exclamation, to a full descriptive sentence. The point is not whether this is a good or bad choice, but rather that it is a choice, an active adaptation, which, by necessity, must have some underlying motivation.
The second part of this example is roughly the same for both German and Japanese, with the exception that the Japanese translation repeats the word ネズ ミ. This repetition makes no difference in meaning, though it does stress that it is the rats which are doing the chasing. Within the Japanese language it is quite normal to drop those sentence subjects which are self-evident, so this inclusion is especially significant as it is both a change from the English and a deviation from common Japanese usage. Again, the point is not whether this is a good or bad choice, but rather that this is necessarily a motivated choice, and as such a suitable object for analysis…………………….
Terry Pratchett was interviewed* by Sue Lawley on the BBC radio show, “Desert Island” in 1997. One of the reasons I adore Pratchett’s writing is that it seems to be much like the man appears, down-to-earth and philosophical. Listening to him speak is fun. The entirety of his voice draws me in.
Topics covered by Sue and Terry were “Is the Discworld series literature?” Stephen Fry and I disagree on that. Perhaps you can guess what opinion is held by whom. Pratchett explains what The Discworld encompasses and the two talk about his fans and critics. We get to know everything from childhood experiences, work experiences and how long it took for Pratchett to make enough money for him to work full-time as an author. His interactions with his fans have been frequent and also quite personal. Terry never seemed to become arrogant.
Interspersed in the interview, are clips of Pratchett’s music choices and explanations of why these scores appeal to him. While writing this post I took the opportunity to listen to some of them:
- Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’un artiste … en cinq parties
- Steeleye Span: Thomas The Rhymer
- Bernard Miles: The Ride of the Rhinegold Stakes (Based on Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries)
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le Nozze de Figaro: Voi che sapete
- Jim Steinman (performed by Meatloaf): Bat Out of Hell
- Kitarō – The Silk Road: The Rise And Fall Of Civilizations: Theme
- Icehouse: Primitive Man: Great Southern Land
- Antonio Vivaldi: Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni)
- Emile Massal: Food Plants of the South Seas
Vulnerability is not a trait I see mentioned in connection with Esmerelda Weatherwax (“Granny”, “Mistress” or “Esme). The Weatherwax sisters were born with strong magical powers. Because of her older sister’s tendency to make lives about fairy-tales, Esme had learned to be wary of the effects of power on herself and others. That has made her defensive and preachy about how to use magic, and she is often incapable of acknowledging the depth of other Witches’ abilities or admitting that she might be wrong or not know the answer. Yet Granny loves magic and being a Witch and goes out of her way to help people with what they need (not necessarily what they want). To her being a Witch is all about hard work, abstinence and treating magic like a friend you need to be wary of.
When King Verence is assassinated by Duke Felmet, and his baby heir comes to the three Witches, he is accompanied by a crown. A crown that has been worn by many kings and calls out to be worn again. Granny’s wariness comes in handy when she tries it on.
It seemed to fit. Granny drew herself up proudly, and waved a hand imperiously in the general direction of the hearth.
“Jolly well do this,” she said. She beckoned arrogantly at the grandfather clock. “Chop his head off, what ho,” she commanded. She smiled grimly.
And froze as she heard the screams, and the thunder of horses, and the deadly whisper of arrows and the damp, solid sound of spears in flesh. … There were times when she lay among the dead, or hanging from the branch of a tree; but always there were hands that would pick her up again, and place her on a velvet cushion.
Granny very carefully lifted the crown off her head – it was an effort, it didn’t like it much – and laid it on the table.
Granny’s best, and possibly only, friend is Gytha Ogg (“Nanny”). Nanny and Esme are about the same age, probably in their 50’s. Where Granny has remained unmarried, Nanny has had 15 children, many grand-children, has been married three times and had several lovers. She is the Matron of her large family and possibly even the village of Lancre. Due to the entire village being invited to her house, Nanny misses Lancre protesting the lack of a king that cares for it.
Nanny Ogg got around the Hogswatchnight tradition by inviting the whole village in, and the air in the room was already beyond the reach of pollution controls. Granny navigated through the press of bodies by the sound of a cracked voice explaining to the world at large that, compared to an unbelievable variety of other animals, the hedgehog was quite fortunate.
Gytha is adored by her children, feared by her daughters-in-law and accorded wary respect by Granny. Part of that respect comes from the power Nanny can wield when she feels like it, and because she leashes Esme in whenever cackling and condiments threaten. She also supports Granny when she decides to do something incredibly dangerous and magical.
“I reckon fifteen’d be a nice round number,” said Granny. “That means the lad will be eighteen at the finish. We just do the spell, go and fetch him, he can manifest his destiny, and everything will be nice and neat.”
You have to remember that Granny did not believe in destiny but she did believe in retaining the image of Witches as untouchable by King, Queen and everyperson. Duke Felmet had just humiliated her and she was not having anything to do with that.
Magrat Garlick, the youngest witch in Lancre, and a protege of both Nanny and Granny was a bit worried about Granny’s simplistic explanation. After all, the two had previously lectured her about the futility of a concept like destiny. However, her confidence in her abilities and looks and likability was extremely low. Her fairy godmother wish for TomJohn is that “He will make friends easily,“. If nothing else, Magrat becomes more confident in her magic abilities during the course of Wyrd Sisters. One turning point came soon after an argument the three Witches had. Nanny Ogg is captured by Duke Felmet’s guards. Her son, Shawn, a guard, approaches Magrat.
Magrat stood absolutely still. She had thought she was angry before, but now she was furious. She was wet and cold and hungry and this person – once upon a time, she heard herself thinking – she would have burst into tears at this point.
One person who is very interested in Magrat is the much abused Fool, Verence Beldame. The Fool comes with Castle Lancre and according to the Fool’s oath he owes his loyalty to his employer, even when those employers are Duke and Duchess Felmet. As far as unhappy careers go, the Fool has one of the sadder ones. His male relatives all seem to have been Fools. Grandfather Fool certainly was. Talk about abusive upbringing.
The Fool recalled with a shudder how, at the age of six, he’d timidly approached the old man after supper with a joke he’d made up. It was about a duck.
It had earned him the biggest thrashing of his life, which even then must have presented the old joker with a bit of a challenge.
His stint at the Fools’ Academy was not much better. Forced to hide his intelligence, terrified of the Duke’s obvious madness and the Duchess’ insatiable power hunger, and his own loneliness, he and Magrat seem destined to become a couple. When the Duke’s demands and Magrat’s Witch status come into conflict, the Fool’s low self-esteem and terror get in his way. And no wonder.
Duke and Duchess Felmet had killed King Verence. Duke Felmet did not object to ordering people killed and/or watching the killing. But doing the cousin-killing tipped him over the edge of madness.
He’d scrubbed and scrubbed, but it seemed to have no effect. Eventually, he’d gone down to the dungeons and borrowed one of the torturer’s wire brushes, and scrubbed and scrubbed with that, too. That had no effect, either. It made it worse. The harder he scrubbed, the more blood there was. He was afraid he might go mad …
Duchess Felmet did not mind ordering or doing murder herself. If she became aware of mistakes, she tended to over-react. Torture, killing and mayhem were her favorite tools and she liked that part of herself. So, it is easy to understand why the Fool would hesitate to fight them. His grandfather had taught him at a young age to obey orders.
The missing heir, TomJohn, is adopted by the Vitolliers, owners of a travelling theatre troupe. Considering the forces of nature that Granny and Nanny are and their own earlier loss of a girl child, the Vitolliers had no chance to refuse to take him in. When we meet them fifteen years later, we see that the choice in parents was a good one. TomJohn’s other Godmother gifts have come in handy for the troupe. Nanny wished him a good memory and Granny wished him “Let him be whoever he thinks he is”.
I have read Wyrd Sisters many times. Each reading helps me love it a little more and teaches me more about myself and the world.
Andersson, Lorraine; Which witch is which? A feminist analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witches; University of Halmstad, Faculty of Humanities, 2006-06-03 (Thesis for a Masters of Arts in English)
Apostolova, Gergana; Existence and Demiurgy in Terry Pratchett’s Works; E-magazine LiterNet, 12.02.2005, № 2 (63)
Bjarkadóttir, Valgerður Guðrún; Teaching Literature in the Tenth Grade. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Novels as an Introduction to Classic English Literature; Thesis for an MA degree in English; University of Iceland, Humanities, English department 2009-02-01
Boulding, Lucas; “I can’t be having with that”: The Ethical Implications of Professional Witchcraft in Pratchett’s Fiction; Gender Forum Issue 52 (2015)
Homolková, Eva; An Analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters; Masaryk University in Brno, Faculty of Arts, Department of English and American Studies, 2009
Lawless, Daphne Antonia; Weird Sisters and Wild Women: The Changing Depiction of Witches in Literature, from Shakespeare to Science Fiction; Victoria University of Wellington, Master of Arts in English Literature, 1999
Miller, Jenna; Terry Pratchett’s Literary Tryst with Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Postmodernist Reading with a Humanist Guide; Honors College, University of South Florida, 2011
Roberts, Tansy Rainer: Pratchett’s Women: The Boobs, the Bad and the Broomsticks; tansyrr.com, 2011
Williams, L. Kaitlin; Change the Story, Change the World: Gendered Magic and Educational Ideology in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld; Appalachian State University, 2015;
- Bulgarian: Тери Пратчет; Посестрими в занаята; Translator: Елена Паскалева; София: Издателска къща Вузев, 2001 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Posestrimi v zanaiata; Translator: Elena Paskaleva; Sofia, Vuzev, 2001
- Czech: Soudné sestry; Translator: Jan Kantůrek; Praha: Talpress, 1995 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Croatian: Vile suđenice; Translator: Drago Štajduhar; Split: Marjan Tisak, 2004 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Dutch: De plaagzusters; Translator: Venugopalan Ittekot; Amsterdam, MYNX, 1993 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Finnish: Noitasiskokset; Translator: Margit Salmenoja; Hämeenlinna: Karisto Oy, 1993 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- French: Trois soeurcières; Translator: Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 1993
- Paris, Pocket, 2011 (Cover artist: Marc Simonetti)
- German: MacBest; Andreas Brandhorst Thomas Krüger; München : Wilhelm Heyne, 1990 (Dt. Erstausg)
- Greek: Τέρι Πράτσετ; Οι στρίγγλες; Translated by: Άννα Παπασταύρου; Αθήνα: Ψυχογιός, 2005
- Hungarian: Vészbanyák; Translator: Anikó Sohár; Debrecen, Cherubion, 2000 (cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Italian: Sorellanza stregonesca; Translator: Antonella Pieretti; Milano, TEA, 1992
- Japanese: Sannin no Majo; Translator: Norito Kuga; Tokyo: H. Kawaguchi/Sanyusha, 1997
- Norwegian: Sære søstre; Translator: Per Malde; Oslo, Tiden, 2001 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Polish: Trzy wiedźmy; Translator: Piotr W Cholewa; Prószyński Media.; Edipresse Polska, 1998 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Portugese: Estranhas irmãs; Translator: Roberto DeNice; São Paulo/Brasil, Conrad Livros, 2003 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- As três bruxas; Translator: Paula Reis; Lisboa, Editorial Caminho, 1991
- Translator: Mário Dias Correia/Francisca Rodrigues; Lisboa, Temas e Debates, 2005
- As três bruxas; Translator: Paula Reis; Lisboa, Editorial Caminho, 1991
- Russian: Терри Пратчетта; Вещие сестрички; Translator: В. Вольфсон; Moscow, ЭКСМО, 2001
- Veshchie sestrichki; Translator: V. Volʹfson; St. Petersburg, Domino, 2005
- Serbian: Teri Pračet; Sestre po metli; Translator: Dejan Papić; Beograd: Laguna, 2000 (coverartist: Josh Kirby)
- Slovenian: Tri vešče; Translator: Saša Požek; Tržič, Učila International, 2009
- Spanish: Brujerías; Translator: Cristina Macía Orío; Barcelona, Editorial Martínez Roca, 1992
- Swedish: Häxkonster; Translator: Olle Sahlin; Stockholm, B. Wahlströms, 1993
- Turkish: Ucube kocakarilar; Translator: Niran Elçi; Istanbul: İthaki Yayınları, 2002
WYRD SISTERS – THE MUSICAL
by Guy Turner
In 1993 I was living in Yeovil, Somerset. One evening there was ‘An Evening with Terry Practchett’ at one of the local secondary schools, and as I was already playing with the idea of adapting Wyrd Sisters as a musical, I went along.
Needless to say Terry was a most entertaining speaker, and at the end I asked him if he would consider allowing me to adapt the book. He clearly doubted that I would go through with it, but he agreed. His fee for this was one bottle of white wine and two tickets for one of the performances. The agreement was that there would be one production only, and after that any further development would have to be discussed with him and his agent.
Over the next eighteen months I worked on the adaptation. Firstly I pasted a copy of every page the book into a scrapbook and highlighted all the plot points and all the good jokes that should not be missed out. In some cases there were good jokes in scenes for which there was not room in a 150 minute show, so I had to move them to other scenes.
Once the script was done I set to writing the songs (sixteen) and incidental music, completing this by Christmas 1994.
I was working at Yeovil College, which had lots of talented 16-18 year old students and a terrific performing arts department, and, having persuaded a colleague who was an inspiration director to come on board, we managed to cast a superb team of forty or so students to take part – quite the best cast I could have hoped for. Members of the cast also took on production roles – Tomjon designed the set, and Granny Weatherwax designed the costumes. We all worked full time on the show for the first half of July 1995 and the show was staged in Yeovil College Hall from 12th to 15th July.
Terry and Lyn Pratchett came to the opening night. I met them in the carpark and as I was taking them through to the hall I mentioned that Wendy, the girl playing Granny Weatherwax, was really quite ill, but was determined not to miss performing that night. As we met the cast, Terry checked out the costumes, and, without being introduced, went straight to Wendy and said how sorry he was she was not feeling well (Wendy performed brilliantly, but went straight from that performance to hospital and an understudy played Granny for the subsequent performances.) Terry spent a lot of time chatting to all the cast, and putting up with photographs – he was very kind to all of us, and very interested in the process of adaptation and production.
As the show was done in a smallish space (with only piano, harpsichord and percussion as the band), the cast did not need to be miked up. However, we did use a microphone (with massive reverb naturally) for Death. At the end of the bows, Death crossed the stage, looked into the audience, pointed at Terry and said, ‘YOU!’ After a pause, he then introduced Terry to the audience, for his own round of applause.
This production was the only one – there was no prospect of publication, and I moved on to other projects. I still have the script and score, and the DVD is in the Practchett archive. But adapting and performing the show was one of the most enjoyable things I have done. Many of the songs have ‘escaped’ into other shows.
There is something about Wyrd Sisters – all the Discworld books are hilarious and wonderful, but as well as being the first book to become a musical, it was also the first to be adapted for radio, the first cartoon, and indeed the first of Stephen Briggs’s well known stage adaptations. Quite a record.
And meeting Terry was a real treat – fiercely intelligent, very funny, with no ego, and a genuine interest in everyone he met.
By chance (or perhaps geekiness) I discovered the little known fact that a musical had been made for Wyrd Sisters. Through a little digging, I discovered Mr. Turner’s email-address, and asked him if he was “the Guy Turner” who had written this musical. He was, and, lo and behold, Mr. Turner agreed to write about his experience. I am beyond thrilled to be able to share this with you.
A GIGANTIC thanks to Mr. Turner.
Andersson posits the idea that Pratchett’s stories about the Witches of the Diskworld upholds patriarchy rather than fights misogyny. Is she correct about this? Yes and no. Her paper also has this dual quality of feminism and misogynism in the same work. Why do I make this claim?
We are all, everywhere in the world (although there may be exceptions), products of societies that have patriarchy at its lowest and most readily available levels. Our languages are littered with words that promote patriarchy and demote matriarchy. In English I have not even been able to find a word for women that is not a derivative of words for males. Our rituals and cultures are built on men and women who both keep status quo running. Take the colors pink and blue for children. Due to this, and due to Pratchett belonging to the group holding White Male Privilege, it would be odd if his Witches and Wizards were not colored by Pratchett’s own privilege.
Andersson’s article shows this same tendency. I am very much like Granny Weatherwax, and I am a woman, white and in my 50’s. Yet Andersson claims that Pratchett’s portrayal of her builds on a male view of the world. Pratchett certainly points out how our society supports patriarchy. What might be an interesting experiment could be to change genders on all of the characters in one of the Witches’ stories. Perhaps Wyrd Sisters would be a good story for that. Then we could see what happened to us as readers and to the characters of the story and if, in fact, Pratchett had fallen into his own “trap”.
Andersson, Lorraine; Which witch is which? A feminist analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witches; University of Halmstad, Faculty of Humanities, 2006-06-03 (Thesis for a Masters of Arts in English)
“Terry Pratchett, writer of humorous, satirical fantasy, is very popular in Britain. His Discworld series, which encompasses over 30 novels, has witches as protagonists in one of the major sub-series, currently covering eight novels. His first “witch” novel, Equal Rites, in which he pits organised, misogynist wizards against disorganised witches, led him to being accused of feminist writing. This work investigates this claim by first outlining the development of the historical witch stereotype or discourse and how that relates to the modern, feminist views of witches. Then Pratchett’s treatment of his major witch characters is examined and analysed in terms of feminist and poststructuralist literary theory. It appears that, while giving the impression of supporting feminism and the feminist views of witches, Pratchett’s witches actually reinforce the patriarchal view of women.”
Terry Pratchett’s Literary Tryst with Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Postmodernist Reading with a Humanist Guide, 2011
Once again, I am viewing literature through the eyes of my ASD. My personal autism has latched on to Terry Pratchett as a great vehicle for learning. Most fantasy and science fiction stories will do, but if Pratchett is added to theory, my brain tries harder to understand information. In school, I got excellent grades when it came to analyzing certain texts through rote. But rote only goes a certain distance in understanding a subject.
These articles, that I am linking to, have both confirmed and changed my views of Wyrd Sisters. People are such odd creatures, and we seem to need to put meaning into stories that may, or may not, have been intended by the author. Asperger certainly gives me a starting point for interpreting stories that many seem to lack.
What Jenna Miller has done for me, is help me understand the theory behind postmodernism a little more. By using Terry Pratchett and Shakespeare as her keys, she open locks that would be a much more sluggish without.
Miller, Jenna; Terry Pratchett’s Literary Tryst with Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Postmodernist Reading with a Humanist Guide; University of South Florida, Outstanding Honors Theses, Paper 19, 2011
Humanism and postmodernism reach a common ground in Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters, and from this common ground, Pratchett launches an expedition to further chart the intricacies of the postmodern and humanist tendencies in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In fact, during the 1980s, “approaches to Shakespeare’s histories were strongly influenced by…deconstruction, Althusserian Marxism, and the various theories of postmodernism,” which serve to “facilitate new perspectives on those earlier paradigm shifts…of early modern historical thinking” (Holderness 2). Kenneth Bartlett, however, cautions that “the critical [postmodern] readings do not really address what the European Renaissance mind was intending to say” (Bartlett). Instead, the postmodern readings are meant to address “what first European and later American readers were searching for in their ideological quest for a new culture order and relevance” (Bartlett). Maurice Hunt clarifies that sense that postmodernism describes the intensification of modern disorder and fragmentation, it echoes the sentiments of Jacobeans” (Hunt 4). Hunt’s clarification exposes that while the postmodernists and the Jacobeans arrived at their disorder from distinctly unique cultural perspectives, and therefore cannot be directly correlated, they should be compared and appreciated for similar experience. Terry Pratchett, as a postmodernist, parodies the disorder found Jacobean England as exposed through Shakespeare’s own cultural experience, as well as exposes his experience with the cultural disorder of his own time period in Wyrd Sisters to display how two different time periods can arrive at the same cultural issues. Such issues arise in both cultures from the concepts of religion, magic and the supernatural, the nature of the individual and guilt, as well as cultural truths and expectations.
Pratchett’s postmodern vision both critiques and echoes Shakespeare’s early postmodernity and highlights the individual as the focal point where postmodernism and humanism intersect. William Holman and Hugh Harmon explain postmodernism as indicative of existentialism, alienation, solipsism, historical discontinuity and asocial individualism, while Jonathan Dollimore explains how “Marxist humanism has affirmed a faith in Man, the individual” (Holman & Harmon 370; Dollimore 480). Humanists maintain an “attitude that tends to exalt the human element, as opposed to the supernatural, divine elements,” and this promotion of the human individual over the supernatural or divine is focal to the study of Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters: Pratchett, as a humanist and an atheist, denies divine order in reverence to the individual (Holman, Harmon 233). This humanist perspective even arises in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Graham Holderness notes that “historiographers long ago began to identify…a transitional space between two great epistemological ‘breaks’ in historical theory- that of the Reformation” and of “Italian humanism” (Holderness 2). This schism exposes not only where Shakespeare draws his historical reference from, but also where he is heading culturally when he writes Macbeth in the early seventeenth century. This fraction that Shakespeare straddles explains, in part, the cultural disorder between religion and humanism found in Macbeth. While Pratchett straddles no cultural schism, he incorporates much of the humanism in Macbeth into Wyrd Sisters, as well as tackling the cultural disorder expressed through postmodernism.
Pratchett’s postmodern viewpoint, as well as his humanist opinions, denies the legitimacy of Shakespeare’s Christian worldview found in Macbeth, thus complicating the dictation on the soul, which is integral to the support structure of Macbeth (Smith 1). Macbeth’s Christian framework is manipulated into ambiguity in Pratchett’s parody. Michael Martin explains that this manipulation of religious uncertainty found in Wyrd Sisters is indicative not only of the postmodernists, but also the existentialists as well (Martin 7). While Pratchett shows personal certainty in regards to his humanist views on the soul, his actual textual discussion of the soul in Wyrd Sisters, unlike in Macbeth, remains ambivalent. Pratchett conducts this subtle discussion of the soul by utilizing the personification of Death itself who comes to all those who die, regardless of religious affiliation. Pratchett’s discussion of the soul, which contains not only postmodern ambivalence but humanist optimism, is exemplified and explained when Pratchett introduces King Verence immediately following his murder by Duke Felmet. King Verence discovers that “while someone he was certainly inclined to think of as himself was sitting up, something very much like his body remained on the floor” (Pratchett 5). This passage indicates two significant things. One is that King Verence is a ghost from the moment he enters the text. The second is the distinction Verence makes between his “self” and his “body”. King Verence’s “self” is his soul, which he makes a distinction as being separate from his body. Death comes to King Verence to provide inadvertent textual explanations of the soul when he rather hesitantly explains to King Verence, “I’m afraid, you’re due to become a ghost” (Pratchett 7). Since Death explicitly states that King Verence is specifically due to become a ghost, the text is implying that not everyone shares this fate. Death continues to explain that “ghosts inhabit a world between the living and the dead,” but Death fails to ever delineate what actually occurs when one reaches the land of the dead (Pratchett 8). Considering that Wyrd Sisters is a parody of Macbeth, and that Macbeth is so laced with concern on what happens to the soul after death, it is significant that Wyrd Sisters remains ambivalent on what occurs after death as it further distances the novel from Christian theory. Pratchett’s omission also further drives the novel towards the religious ambivalence of the postmodernists, using the absolute certainty of the afterlife in Macbeth as a foil to further illuminate his postmodern uncertainty, while simultaneously recalling his humanist perspective.