I’ve always had a soft spot for the stern.
They have the discipline I lack, they’re objective where I’m soppy – and they may not smile much, but will always tell it like it is.
My favourite teachers at school and university were the ones that, even though I dreaded their grading pen, always made me work a little harder and, in consequence, discover I could do better. The same applied to bosses who made no effort to be friends with everybody but were as demanding as they were fair.
And then I met Esmeralda “Esme” Weatherwax.
One of Terry Pratchett‘s fantastic creations, Granny Weatherwax is the old lady all teenagers will mumble against for being too old-fashioned and a scowler.
Not that she cares.
Tremendously self-assured and fearless (which isn’t too difficult as everyone fears her, be it robber or troll), Granny is an all-round badass witch who prides herself for being, above anything, sensible. “We do right, we don’t do nice,” is her reply to anyone with romantic notions about the true role of true a witch.
If “doing right” sounds straightforward enough, it is not the same – and, quite often, the exact opposite – of doing what’s easy.
How many times have we, with the best possible intentions, taken a detour of doing the right thing because the alternatives were (it seemed to us at the time) kinder? White lies, big lies, settling, [fill in the rest with your own experience]. We sugar-coat. We smile when we want to be angry or cry or run away because we’re too afraid of hurting or offending other people.
Not Granny. If the truth needs telling, she’ll be the first to do it.
In Witches Abroad, she hints at the burden it is not to do what we want, not to be able to act selfishly because you’re the one who has to do the right thing. In Lords and Ladies, we discover she chose the loneliness of witchcraft over a beau she had as a young woman and with whom she could have had a family with.
People tend to mistake strictness for lack of heart, but she always does her best to do right (not nice) by everyone and everything.
While Nanny Ogg is, I believe, what everyone of us hopes to be when we grow old (cheerful, shameless, and with healthily excessive intakes of alcohol), there’s a part of me that sees Granny as future-old-lady-Marta: a blue-eyed know-it-all with an eyebrow raised by default.
I’ll do my best to do what is right – without being as callous. Hopefully.
(Illustrations: Paul Kidby)