Equal Rites

Current edition cover... one of several

This will be Inklings’ first review of Terry Pratchett’s work, with several more to follow. As you can probably guess, I’m a huge fan, and I’m excited to do this series. So, let’s go to it.

Equal Rites is book 3 in the Discworld canon. These books need not necessarily be read in order. I picked it up because I wanted to read some of the earlier pieces and had read The Colour of Magic (1) and The Light Fantastic (2) – these two have also been made into a film/miniseries, available on Netflix, casting Sean Astin and Tim Curry, and it portrays the two books impressively. The film and/or the books are a great introduction to Discworld, but not necessary to follow and thoroughly enjoy Equal Rites.

In Equal Rites, we meet the world’s first female wizard. Not a witch: a wizard. You see, in Discworld, they are very different. When a wizard chooses her father’s eighth child to inherit his staff, he assumed the eighth is a son, but Esk is a girl. Still, the staff and wizarding power are hers. She spends a great deal of time (not knowing she is a wizard) with Granny Weatherwax, the local witch. Granny is not a particular fan of wizards, but thinks Esk could make a decent witch. However, it becomes apparent that Esk must become a wizard, so they embark on a journey to Ankh-Morpork to Unseen University, where wizards study and train new wizards.

But Esk cannot be a wizard… women simply aren’t wizards. But there are dark, evil magic forces bearing down on Unseen University, and Esk may be the only person (ahem… wizard) that sees them.

I loved this novel. It is a master of character. Each character is set deeply in his/her own dialect, thought structure, set of mannerisms, and belief system. It makes each one very distinctive- one of Sir Terry Pratchett’s most notable strengths. We quickly begin to identify each character by their speech and behaviors as naturally as people we know.

Thematically, Sir Terry Pratchett’s work is always interesting and involved.

Feminism: He has an interesting approach to feminism. It’s generally pro-feminist with the simple assertion that women will be what they will be, just like men, and it’s silly to force them to be what they are not or refuse to “allow” them to be what they are. The stronger power that makes us who we are will prevail, no matter what you do. Besides, you might need them. Women aren’t so bad after all.

Education: There are so many kinds of education, just as there are multiple intelligences. People may have different uses for it, but you’d probably just as well make it available so everyone can get the education they need. Otherwise, you may have problems.

The Universe: I’ll let you see this theory yourself. Suffice it to say, there are numerous potential universe structures. He resolves them most creatively.

Knowledge: Never, ever assume you know everything. Better yet, never assume anything, either.

Semantics and Society: Be careful with them. We do odd things that may limit our understanding of the world and of people. For example, women become witches and men wizards. But a witch is not a female wizard. They do different things and have completely different worldviews. What if a woman actually is a wizard? Now, you’re stuck. We create “feminine” terms, but then we get confused and change the actual definition, so that if you’re a woman you’re also something completely unrelated to whatever the masculine “equivalent” might be. Moreover, the same behavior in a man vs. a woman is often interpreted differently. Men and women express themselves differently. They are raised differently. This may not be as practical as we thought.

Discworld is great for students (high school, perhaps junior high), because he has numerous opportunities for class in each book. Equal Rites could open debates on feminism, the notion of destiny and free will, identity, logic, physics (thinly veiled- they don’t study “physics” in Discworld, but magic), psychology, and philosophy. Equal Rites even debates the nature and requirements of education: whom should receive it? What kind? How long?

Inklings highly recommends Equal Rites. It’s hilarious. It’s brilliant. It’ll make you think, but only as hard as you want to. Because much of his work is catered to (and marketed to) adults, this is a great choice for “grown-ups.” The writing is hardly juvenile, but advanced and clever with dry humour.  He delivers absurdity with deadpan logic that can’t fail to please.

Inklings Recommended

Ages 13(ish) and up

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