Friday, June 27 / 7:35 PM

Standing stereotypes on their heads
Today's entry contains an excerpt from a book by Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite novelists. I'll set it up: These robbers are about to take an old woman camped out in the cold for everything she's got.

"She had a blanket around her to keep out the cold. She was knitting. Stuck in the snow beside her was the largest sword the robbers had ever seen.
   Intelligent robbers would have started to count up the incongruities here.
   These, however, were the other kind, the kind for whom evolution was invented.
   The woman glanced up, nodded at them, and went on with her knitting.
   'Well now, what have we here?' said the leader. 'Are you--'
   'Hold this, will you?' said the old woman, standing up. 'Over your thumbs, young man. It won't take a moment for me to wind a fresh ball. I was hoping someone would drop by.'
   She held out a skein of wool.
The robber took it uncertainly, aware of the grins on the faces of his men. But he opened his arms with what he hoped was a suitably evil l   ittle-does-she-suspect look on his face.
   'That's right,' said the old woman, standing back. She kicked him viciously in the groin in an incredibly efficient if unladylike way, reached down as he toppled, caught up the cauldron, flung it accurately at the face of the first henchman, and picked up her knitting before he fell.
   The two surviving robbers hadn't had time to move, but then one unfroze and leapt for the sword. He staggered back under its weight, but the blade was long and reassuring.
   'Aha!' he said, and grunted as he raised the sword. 'How the hell did you carry this, old woman?'
   'It's not my sword,' she said. 'It belonged to the man over there.'
   The man risked looking sideways. A pair of feet in armoured sandals were just visible behind a rock. They were very big feet.
   But I've got a weapon, he thought. And then he thought: so did he.
   The old woman sighed and drew two knitting needles from the ball of wool. The light glinted on them, and the blanket slid away from her shoulders and fell on to the snow.
'   Well, gentlemen?' she said."

I like this not because, as the KnitDweebs would say, "Look! Look! Someone mentioned knitting in a book! See? It's okay to knit!" but because Terry Pratchett makes an interesting point here about things always being what they seem... and about knitters not necessarily being grandmotherly-types, which I absolutely love.... and more importantly, that bad things happen to people who assume they are! It's from The Last Hero and unlike most of his novels is a big hardcover picture book. I can't recommend Terry Pratchet highly enough. Start with Small Gods, it's my favourite. These books are fantasy/humour/philosophy all about a place called the Discworld, and each one usually deals with a theme while it follows the stories of your favourite characters; Small Gods is about religion. They seem simple but they're actually amazingly complex.

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