Witches Abroad

Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett

Books: The Colour of Magic | The Light Fantastic | Equal Rites | Mort | Sourcery | Wyrd Sisters | Pyramids | Guards! Guards! | Faust Eric | Moving Pictures | Reaper Man | Witches Abroad | Main

Witches Abroad is a 1991 fantasy novel by the British writer Terry Pratchett, the 12th novel of the Discworld series.


All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in August 2002 by Harper Torch, ISBN# 0-06-102061-3
  • But then...it used to be so simple, once upon a time.
Because the universe was full of ignorance all around and the scientist panned through it like a prospector crouched over a mountain stream, looking for the gold of knowledge among the gravel of unreason, the sand of uncertainty and the little whiskery eight-legged swimming things of superstition. (p. 1)
  • Bad spelling can be lethal. For example, the greedy seraph of Al-Ybi was cursed by a badly-educated deity and for some days everything he touched turned to Glod, which happened to be the name of a small dwarf from a mountain community hundreds of miles away who found himself magically dragged to the kingdom and relentlessly duplicated. Some two thousand Glods later the spell wore off. These days, the people of Al-Ybi are renowned for being unusually short and bad-tempered. (p. 6)
  • It's a big responsibility, fairy godmothering. Knowing when to stop, I mean. People whose wishes get granted often don't turn out to be very nice people. So should you give them what—or what they need? (p. 10).
  • If you wanted to get anywhere in this world—and she'd decided, right at the start, that she wanted to get as far as it was possible to go—you wore names lightly, and you took power anywhere you found it. She had buried three husbands, and at least two of them had already been dead. (p. 14)
  • You can be as self-assertive as you like, I said, just so long as you do what you're told. (p. 20)
  • Granny Weatherwax didn't like maps. She felt instinctively that they sold the landscape short. (p. 27)
  • It's a strange thing about determined seekers-after-wisdom that, no matter where they happen to be, they'll always seek that wisdom which is a long way off. Wisdom is one of the few things that looks bigger the further away it is. (p. 32)
  • "Look," said Magrat desperately, "why don't I go by myself?"
"'Cos you ain't experienced at fairy godmothering," said Granny Weatherwax.
This was too much even for Magrat's generous soul.
"Well, nor are you," she said.
"That's true," Granny conceded. "But the point is...the point is...the point is we've not been experienced for a lot longer than you."
"We've got a lot of experience of not having any experience," said Nanny Ogg happily.
"That's what counts every time," said Granny. (p. 41)
  • Greebo turned upon Granny Weatherwax a yellow-eyed stare of self-satisfied malevolence, such as cats always reserve for people who don't like them, and purred. Greebo was possibly the only cat who could snigger in purr. (p. 48)
  • She heard Nanny say: "Beats me why they're always putting invisible runes on their doors. I mean, you pays some wizard to put invisible runes on your door, and how do you know you've got value for money?"
She heard Granny say: "No problem there. If you can't see 'em, you know you've got proper invisible runes." (p. 63)
  • In the dim light she could see Granny's face which seemed to be suggesting that if Magrat was at her wit's end, it was a short stroll. (p. 64)
  • "I hate mirrors," muttered the Duc.
"That's because they tell you the truth, my lad."
"It's cruel magic, then." (p. 71)
  • People are riddled by Doubt. It is the engine that drives them through their lives. It is the elastic band in the little model airplane of their soul, and they spend their time winding it up until it knots. Early morning is the worst time—there's that little moment of panic in case You have drifted away in the night and something else has moved in. This never happened to Granny Weatherwax. She went straight from fast asleep to instant operation on all six cylinders. She never needed to find herself because she always knew who was doing the looking. (p. 93)
  • Nanny's mouth spread in an evil grin.
"You know what this river's called?" she said.
"'S called the Vieux River."
"Know what that means?"
"The Old (Masculine) River," said Nanny.
"Words have sex in foreign parts," said Nanny hopefully. (p. 110)
  • All witches are very conscious of stories. They can feel stories, in the same way that a bather in a little pool can feel the unexpected trout.
Knowing how stories work is almost all the battle.
For example, when an obvious innocent sits down with three experienced card sharpers and says "How do you play this game, then?", someone is about to be shaken down until their teeth fall out. (p. 119)
  • The Yen Buddhists are the richest religious sect in the universe. They hold that the accumulation of money is a great evil and a burden to the soul. They therefore, regardless of personal hazard, see it as their unpleasant duty to acquire as much as possible in order to reduce the risk to innocent people. (p. 125)
  • "Listen, happy endings is fine if they turn out happy," said Granny, glaring at the sky. "But you can't make 'em for other people. Like the only way you could make a happy marriage is by cuttin' their heads off as soon as they say ‘I do', yes? You can't make happiness..."
Granny Weatherwax stared at the distant city.
"All you can do," she said, "is make an ending." (p. 139)
  • 'Tell me,' said Magrat, 'you said your mummy knows about the big bad wolf in the woods, didn't you?'
'That's right.'
'But nonetheless she sent you out by yourself to take those goodies to your granny?' (p. 146)
  • The only way housework could be done in this place was with a shovel or, for preference, a match. (p. 147)
  • "I wondered about that," said Nanny. "Then I thought maybe I was imagining things."
"No point in imagining anything," said Granny. "Things are bad enough as they are." (p. 150)
  • Magrat plunged on with the brave desperation of someone dancing in the light of their burning bridges. (p. 161)
  • Asking someone to repeat a phrase you'd not only heard very clearly but were also exceedingly angry about was around Defcon II in the lexicon of squabble. (p. 162)
  • "Haven't you got any romance in your soul?" said Magrat plaintively.
"No," said Granny. "I ain't. And stars don't care what you wish, and magic don't make things better, and no one doesn't get burned who sticks their hand in a fire. If you want to amount to anything as a witch, Magrat Garlick, you got to learn three things. What's real, what's not real, and what's the difference—" (p. 163)
  • Genua had once controlled the river mouth and taxed its traffic in a way that couldn't be called piracy because it was done by the city government. (p. 176)
  • "Baths is unhygienic," Granny declared. "You know I've never agreed with baths. Sittin' around in your own dirt like that." (p. 184)
  • Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because—what with trolls and dwarfs and so on—speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green. (p. 201)
  • Nanny Ogg quite liked cooking, provided there were other people around to do things like chop up the vegetables and wash the dishes afterwards. (pp. 203-204)
  • "This is Greebo. Between you and me, he's a fiend from hell."
"Well, he's a cat," said Mrs. Gogol, generously. "It's only to be expected." (p. 210)
  • Emberella, thought Magrat. I'm fairy godmothering a girl who sounds like something you put up in the rain. (p. 213)
  • Magrat was annoyed. She was also frightened, which made her even more annoyed. It was hard for people when Magrat was annoyed. It was like being attacked by damp tissue. (p. 229)
  • "I ain't against adventure, in moderation," said Granny, "but not when I'm eatin'." (p. 247)
  • "Anyway, it'll be int'resting to see if it works."
"Yes, but it's wrong," said Granny.
"Not for these parts, it seems," said Nanny.
"Besides," said Magrat virtuously, "it can't be bad if we're doing it. We're the good ones."
"Oh yes, so we is," said Granny, "and there was me forgetting it for a minute there." (p. 252)
  • The footman, recognizing instantly the boundless bad manners of the well-bred, backed away quickly. (p. 262)
  • This one was quite likely looting towns when he should have been learning to read. (p. 267)
  • For wolves and pigs and bears, thinking that they're human is a tragedy. For a cat, it's an experience. (p. 268).
  • Apart from being as well-adapted a parasite as the oak bracket fungus, Lady Volentia D'Arrangement was, by and large, a blameless sort of person. (p. 272)
  • Nanny Ogg looked him up and down or, at least, down and further down.
"You're a dwarf," she said. (p. 278)
  • The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays. (p. 282)
  • She hated everything that predestined people, that fooled them, that made them slightly less than human. (p. 291)
  • He'd never told people they ought to be happy, and imposed a kind of happiness on them. The invisible people knew that happiness is not the natural state of mankind, and is never achieved from the outside in. (p. 293)
  • Greebo wasn't a happy cat. People had made a fuss just because he'd dragged a roast turkey off the table. (p. 294)
  • You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage. (p. 305)
  • Don't you talk to me about progress. Progress just means bad things happen faster. (p. 305)
  • Greebo's technique was unscientific and wouldn't have stood a chance against any decent swordsmanship, but on his side was the fact that it is almost impossible to develop decent swordsmanship when you seem to have run into a food mixer that is biting your ear off. (p. 312)
  • Magic's far too important to be used for rulin' people. (p. 316)
  • "We're her godmothers," said Granny.
"That's right," said Nanny Ogg.
"We've got a wand, too," said Magrat.
"But you hate godmothers, Mistress Weatherwax," said Mrs. Gogol.
"We're the other kind," said Granny. "We're the kind that gives people what they know they really need, not what we think they ought to want." (p. 317)
  • "I don't want to hurt you, Mistress Weatherwax," said Mrs. Gogol.
"That's good," said Granny. "I don't want you to hurt me either." (p. 319)
  • The nobles of Genua had enough experience to know what it means when a ruler says something is not compulsory. (p. 325).
  • Death put down his drink and stepped forward.
Baron Saturday straightened up.
"I am ready to go with you," he said.
Death shrugged. Ready or not, he seemed to indicate, was all the same to him. (p. 325)
  • Granny stepped forward, her eyes two sapphires of bitterness. "I'm goin' to give you the hidin' our Mam never gave you, Lily Weatherwax. Not with magic, not with headology, not with a stick like our Dad had, aye, and he used a fair bit as I recall—but with skin. And not because you was the bad one. Not because you meddled with stories. Everyone has a path they got to tread. But because, and I wants you to understand this prop'ly, after you went I had to be the good one. You had all the fun. An' there's no way I can make you pay for that, Lily, but I'm surely goin' to give it a try..."
"But…I…I… I'm the good one," Lily murmured, her face pale with shock. "I'm the good one. I can't lose. I'm the godmother. You're the wicked witch…"
"Good? Good? Feeding people to stories? Twisting people's lives? That's good, is it?" said Granny. "You mean you didn't even have fun? If I'd been as bad as you, I'd have been a whole lot worse. Better at it than you've ever dreamed of." (pp. 337-338)
  • "I could make some new gods and get everyone to believe in 'em real good. How about that?" said Mrs. Gogol. Nanny shook her head.
"I shouldn't think Esme'd want that. She's not keen on gods. She thinks they're a waste of space." (p. 343)
  • "Good and bad is tricky," she said. "I ain't too certain about where people stand. P'raps what matters is which way you face." (pp. 348-349)
  • It was no longer the full-nosed roaring of a forty-winks catnapper, but the well-paced growling of someone who wanted to make a night of it.
Wikipedia has an article about: