He is Britain's most successful living writer. He is a bald wrinkly. And a feminist?

Terry Pratchett has been publishing Discworld novels since the mid eighties and is currently working on the 28th installment. He shows no signs of slowing down and has even increased his output by adding Discworld themed books for "children off all ages".

While I was soaking in the bathtub on a saturday with a terrible hangover, I re-read Pratchett's funny and distorted The Wee Free Men with its triumvirate of leading ladies and slowly but surely it dawned on me: Terry Pratchett is a feminist!

But, having a significant other with a masters in anglistics who also likes the odd Disworld novel, I asked her for her opinion, just to be told that I'm pretty slow in these things and that it should have dawned on me 7 years ago. Oh well. So, here I recollected the strong, intelligent and all quite sensible ladies, mostly with a strong matriarchic touch, that Pratchett likes to feature in his novels. Let's begin.

In early discworld (which T. Pratchett considers every novel before Sourcery), we have The Lady, a powerful goddess; Esk, a feminist sorceress; Granny Weatherwax, Lancre's most powerful witch and secret ruler of this little country.

In the later pratchett, we have Nanny Ogg, a witch very, er, comfortable with her sexuality; Sybil Ramkin, a dragonbreeder with a no nonsense attitude to life in general; Theda Withel, the gorgeous and highly competitive actress; Angua von Uberwald and Cheery Littlebottom, the two feminist stalwarts of the City Watch; Susan, the gothic grand daughter of Death and so on and so on. These are just a small number of the strong, intelligent and dominant females which are characterizing the stories of Discworld. It is not that Discworld is missing male protagonists, on the contrary, there's more of them that you could shake a stick at. It just seems that they are being continously outwitted and shown the right way by the benevolent ladies in the background, who always seem much more life savvy and calmer than the hotheaded males. May be Pratchett like to paint his males a bit more stereotypical than it is good for them.

To find comparisons, one would have to venture into the realm of feminist fiction: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon instantly come to mind, as all of them are bestselling authors, writing entertaining fiction with dominant female characters. I unfortunately couldn't find any references to Pratchett's penchant for his female characters or whether his wife has anything to do with it, but it certainly seems to have broadened his appeal to both sexes. Quite a feat, as women are still a significant minority when it comes to buying and reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels, so who knows?

Maybe it's a clever marketing ploy schemed up by a hard core chauvinistic pig?


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