Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, and my own demons

My three favourite Pratchett characters are Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax and Susan Sto Helit. To Pratchett fans, I think the similarities between the three characters are clear. They’re all cynics who understand themselves and human nature. They don’t fight battles head on, they use “headology” instead (link has spoilers). Yes, even straight as an arrow Vimes will manipulate humans, trolls, and dwarfs as far as he can to get what he needs.

All the three characters are constantly pulled down by either sheer human stupidity or by their own cynicism but they continue power on. They try to do what’s Right.

“Granny was an old-fashioned witch. She didn’t do good for people, she did right by them.”

Vimes is straight as an arrow but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Granny Weatherwax is called for deaths not births. Susan is compelled to fill in for Death because she’s sucked in by forces beyond her control. None of them choose to get into these situations. They just step up and do the thankless jobs just because of their moral compass.

“The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.”

All three are also loners who rarely spoil for a direct fight. Oh, they will fight direct battles when they have to but only if they can’t achieve their goal through subterfuge. Vimes relies on Carrot, Colon and Nobbs. Granny Weatherwax teams up with Nanny Ogg and to some extent Magrat. Susan steps out of the shadows when no other option remains. These characters understand the power of letting your enemies destroy themselves. They know better than giving in to the impulse to destroy another.

“Once you had a good excuse, you opened the door to bad excuses.”

They all recognize the darkness inside them. They know they are not, in the strictest sense of the word, normal.

“The Weatherwax women have always had one foot in shadow. It’s in the blood. And most of their power comes from denying it.”

The world around has complete faith in them.

“Given then, a contest between an invisible and very powerful quasidemonic thing of pure vengeance on one hand, and the commander on the other, where would you wager, say… one dollar?”

“I wouldn’t sir, that looks like one that would go to the judges.”

But they constantly doubt themselves. Because of this doubt each of the characters is forced to look his or her darkness in the face and admit that it has no power over them. Vimes does it in Thud. Granny Weatherwax does this multiple times but most notably in Lords and Ladies and later in Carpe Jugulum. Susan figures out in Hogfather that she’d better accept the supernatural side of herself and get on with things. It’s not easy, but it needs to be done.

“The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.”

Fictional character or real person, it’s these lies that are our demons. The three demons that haunt us the most: inability to see the truth for what it is, inability to trust what we see, inability to draw courage from within ourselves instead of either succumbing to the darkness or relying on external support to fight it. These characters I love so much – Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax and Susan Sto Helit – they come up against the same demons and they succeed in exorcising them. That’s what makes them my heroes.

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