Lords and Ladies

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Lords and Ladies
Written by: Terry Pratchett
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: Discworld
Preceded by: Small Gods
Followed by: Men at Arms
First published: 1992
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Lords and Ladies is the 14th Discworld novel and the third or fourth in the 'witches' theme. According to Terry Pratchett, this was the moment where the character of Granny Weatherwax finally reached her full supremacy.

Following on directly from Witches Abroad, the book concerns the invasion of The Fair Folk into the Discworld via rifts opened from their home 'parasite universe', which manifest as crop circles. The malevolent elves see in magnetism and are thus vulnerable to iron, especially magnetic Thunderbolt Iron, and the main portal between their country and Lancre is shielded by a ring of magnetic standing stones, the Dancers. However, they use mind control on a group of young impressionable witches and a group of theatrical players. This results in the Dancers being removed and a full-scale invasion commencing, coinciding with King Verence's wedding to Magrat. It's up to the three witches of Lancre to defeat the malevolent elves and save the day.

Tropes used in Lords and Ladies include:
  • Achilles' Heel: The elves (and related creatures like unicorns) are vulnerable to iron, especially magnetic Thunderbolt Iron. This is because they have a sixth sense that lets them 'see' in terms of magnetic force lines, and this is so emphatically their primary sense that removing it causes Glamour Failure and pain.
  • All the Myriad Ways: Ponder tries to explain this to Ridcully, who gets the wrong end of the stick as usual: if there's an alternate version of him who married Granny, how come he was never invited to the wedding?

Ridcully: You'd think I'd think of me, wouldn't you? What a bastard!

  • Alternate Universe: Ridcully "mishears" 'parallel universe' as 'parasite universe' when Ponder tries to explain it. The narration then notes that there are indeed such things as parasite universes, and the elves' country is one of them: little scraps of reality lacking a past or a future, trying to latch onto real timelines and suck them dry. (Which also explains the elves' immortality and Creative Sterility).
  • Exclusively Evil: Elves. Naturally.
  • Animal Motifs: Bees and wasps, with the occasional sideline about cats.

Only one queen in the hive...

Magrat had always been the soft one - Who'd just fired a crossbow through the keyhole.

  • Big Damn Heroes: Ponder and the Librarian when they take out sniper-elves in the trees that were outnumbering Magrat.
  • Breast Plate: The fearsomely bosomy armor of the entirely fictional Queen Ynci was made in this mold. Unfortunately, Magrat doesn't quite have what it takes to fill it out.
  • Brick Joke: Monkey's nut. And Casanunda himself probably qualifies.
    • Unconsidered trifles. And the humorous cow.
    • The garderobe.
    • Wizards' staffs DO have knobs on the end! (note that in the UK, "knob" is a euphemism for...well, you get it.)
  • Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: The dwarfs refer to magnetism as 'the love of iron'.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Because they use a glamour on you that is the reason Mind Rape is listed, making all humans feel hopelessly inferior. Turns out, though, if you piss Magrat and Granny Weatherwax off enough, you can argue with elves. With extreme prejudice.
    • Granny Weatherwax doesn't even need to be pissed off to be immune to their Mind Rape. She just that Badass.
  • Casanunda
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the book, Jason Ogg re-shoes Death's horse Binky and keeps the old horseshoes. Later we learn that iron hurts the elves but cannot cross the boundaries of the stones into their realm (presumably due to magnetism). But Nanny takes one of Binky's horseshoes and brings it with her to an elven realm to threaten the King of the Elves, because Death can go anywhere.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Similar to the above Chekhov's Gun, Jason Ogg can shoe any animal brought to him, the only price of this skill being that he has to shoe any animal brought to him. Granny Weatherwax uses this ability to have him shoe the unicorn with silver shoes and nails, permanently freeing it from the Elf Queen's control.
  • Continuity Nod: At least two. Ridcully and Granny briefly discuss Archancellor Weatherwax from The Light Fantastic "Distant relative, never met him." Granny also mentions that there are harmless elf-descended humans on Discworld, presumably including the elves briefly mentioned in The Colour of Magic and Moving Pictures.
  • Covers Always Lie: The first American edition bizarrely managed to confuse Morris dancing with football in its synopsis.
  • Creative Sterility: The elves, as Granny demonstrates in her "The Reason You Suck" Speech:

Granny: What don't die can't live. What can't live don't change.

  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Magrat - which seems to happen in every book that she's a proper member of the witches.... Also, possibly Ponder Stibbons.
  • Dance Battler: the Stick and Bucket Dance? Yeah, there's a reason that "kill" is one of the commands.
  • Decoy Hiding Place: Magrat hides under the bed to make an elf think she hid in the garderobe.
  • Delicious Distraction: How Pewsey is tricked to interrupt the witch contest.
  • Dreadful Musician: Taken to new levels with Nanny Ogg. As it turns out, when she sings during her annual bath, the already unnatural notes she hits are amplified by the washtub to the point of being a village-wide Brown Note. Even animals know to be afraid of it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Elf Queen comes pretty close. From what Nanny Ogg says, the King is far closer to this. He even looks the part.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Played around with both Verence and Magrat.
  • Eye Scream: At one point, an elf peeking through a keyhole gets a crossbow bolt to the eye.
  • The Fair Folk: See the page for that trope for the quote in which this book deconstructs the idea. "No-one ever said elves are nice..."
  • Fish Out of Water: Poor Ponder does not adapt well to being in the countryside.
  • Gag Penis: The Elf King's lair is below the Long Man, two round and one long earth mound, along with an inscription that says "I Have A Great Big Tonker." It isn't exaggerating.
    • A reference to the real-world "Long Man of Wilmington" and/or the Cerne Abbas Giant, both chalk figures rather than mounds, but with the same impressive measurements.
  • The Generalissimo: Referenced in the narration.

Some people are born to kingship. Some achieve kingship, or at least Arch-Generalissimo-Father-of-His-Countryship. ...

Shoot the dictator and prevent the war? But the dictator is merely the tip of the whole festering boil of social pus from which dictators emerge; shoot one, and there'll be another one along in a minute. Shoot him too? Why not shoot everyone and invade Poland?

  • Humanoid Abomination
  • If I Had a Nickel: Ridcully says that if he had a penny for every time he'd been kicked out of the tavern in Lancre, he'd have $5.38.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Parodied.
  • Ironic Name: The Carters' daughters, as is traditional, are all named after virtues (Hope, Patience, Chastity), but then Mr and Mrs Carter got a bit confused and named all the sons after vices (Bestiality, Covetousness, Anger). None of the children live up to their names.
  • Kick The Helpless Baby Bunnies: Some bored elves amuse themselves for a time with an ant hill and a nest of baby rabbits.
  • King in the Mountain: The king of the elves.
    • You actually have to pass another sleeping king and his warriors to get that far.
  • Lack of Empathy: Granny explicitly says that elves have no empathy (though she has problems with the word). "They're cruel for fun, and they can't understand things like mercy. They can't understand that anything apart from themselves might have feelings."
  • Lady in Red: The Queen of the Elves (or, at least, this is the image she projects through glamour).
  • If You Know What I Mean: "It's his poor wife I feel sorry for." - Weaver in reply to Carpenter's "I don't think much of my part, it's too small." (When referring to his part in a play.)
  • Magic Feather: Queen Ynci's armor. Apparently, there never was a Queen Ynci, but Granny and Nanny decide not to tell that to Magrat even after all the fuss has died down.
  • Meaningful Echo: I ATE'NT DEAD.
  • Meaningful Name: Parodied. The last names of the members of the Lancre Morris Men are professions, but never their professions (Carter is a baker, Carpenter is a tailor, and so on.)
    • Double Subverted with Tinker the tinker, who's mentioned only once, in the denouement.
  • Mind Rape: ELVES.
  • Nice Hat: Ridcully's pointy hat is not particularly magical (the wizards learned their lesson with that after Sourcery) but it does contain emergency whiskey (or probably stronger), endless storage compartments and a crossbow, all of which prove useful.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Mrs Scorbic the cook, who hates fruits and vegetables, is named after ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
  • Noodle Incident: "We are not doing the Stick and Bucket Dance! I still get twinges in my knee!"
  • Nude Nature Dance: A group of wannabe witches dance nude around an ancient stone circle, inviting The Fair Folk into Lancre.
  • Opposites Theme Naming: There's a character whose mother got a bit confused about the tradition of naming daughters after virtues. Her daughters had names like Charity (a miser), Hope (chronically depressed), and Chastity (a lady of negotiable affection). She named her sons after vices, such as Anger (a kind and non-violent man), Bestiality (very kind to animals), and Deviousness (an honest and straightforward chap).
  • Our Elves Are Better Terrifying
  • Outscare the Enemy: Nanny Ogg rallying the villagers against the invading elves.

"Well," she said, "it's like this. If you go out there you may have to face elves. But if you stops here, you definitely have to face me. Now, elves is worse than me, I'll admit. But I'm persistent."

  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Granny Weatherwax verbally eviscerates the Elf Queen. The Queen tries to fire back... and Granny just laughs in her face.
  • Remonstrating with a Gun: When Magrat gets ahold of an axe.
  • Rousing Speech: Shawn attempts one, and unknowingly fails. His mum steps in and motivates the mob with carrot and stick.
  • Rubber Band History: Following on from the Hitler example, "in fifty years', twenty years', ten years' time, history will be back on track."
    • Usually.
  • Shout-Out: At one point, when discussing alternate timelines, the book mentions that conventional directions are useless and suggests some alternatives including "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," "There and Back Again," and "Beyond the Fields we Know" (Lord Dunsany, father of fantasy). Also, as in Wyrd Sisters, the play segment contains Shakespearean references (in this case to A Midsummer Night's Dream).
    • There are also numerous references to folk songs about fairies, particularly "Tam Lin" and "Thomas the Rhymer".
    • "There are indeed such things as parallel universes, although parallel is hardly the right word: universes swoop and spiral around one another like some mad weaving machine or a squadron of Yossarians with middle-ear trouble."
    • Not to mention Jane's All the World's Siege Weapons. Apparently Fred T. Jane was a siege weapon enthusiast on the Disc...
    • The line about the Librarian taking revenge, "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, especially simian ones. They are not all that subtle" is a parody of the line from The Lord of the Rings about Gandalf: "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards because they are subtle and quick to anger".
    • Magrat overhears the King of the Elves talking to the Queen and recalls it to be "something about meeting by moonlight". This is a reference to Oberon's line from A Midsummer Night's Dream "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania", Oberon and Titania being the King and Queen of the Elves.
  • Something That Begins With Boring (The wizards play this during their carriage ride to Lancre)
  • Speak of the Devil: Nanny is unwilling to say the true name of the elves unless she is in a blacksmith's forge surrounded by iron. The euphemistic names used otherwise include "The Fair Folk", "The Lords and Ladies" and "The Gentry".
    • Unfortunately, apparently due to the stretching of the already-stretched fabric of the universe, using even those terms - near the Dancers - can be bad...
  • Staring Contest: Granny and Diamanda get into a staring contest with the sun. Nanny cheats in Granny's favor, naturally.
  • The Talk: Nanny Ogg attempts to give this to Magrat. Verence gets his information from Casanunda and an interesting song sung by Nanny Ogg. They must have worked it all out in the end, because by Carpe Jugulum, Magrat has a baby daughter.
    • Though it seems to have taken them a while. Maskerade mentions that Nanny came upon an "instructive" book that Verence ordered, and drew moustaches on all of the illustrations. Later she hears that Verence has been asking people where he can find a couple of false moustaches...
    • He attempts to order book on marital arts in Lords and Ladies, but unfortunately the 'i' is incorrectly placed... gives Shawn something to do on guard duty, though.
    • The fun is in the fact that Nanny eventually gives up on the talk because Magrat is being helplessly naive about the subject she's hinting at, but it turns out Magrat was doing it deliberately to get Nanny to go away.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: In this case, it's actually magnetite.
    • Or Hematite, at one point it's mentioned that it's reddish in color.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Magrat.
  • Unicorn: Like the elves, the book uses the vicious version of old, portraying it as essentially a maddened, wild stallion with a big bloody horn it can use to spear people.
    • And they can be subdued by virgins.
  • What Could Have Been: Not about the book itself, but Ridcully keeps wondering this in regard to himself and Granny. He says something like, "We'd have all kinds of grandchildren by now." She shoots him down:

Granny: What about the fire?
Ridcully: What fire?
Granny: Swept through our house just after we were married. Killed us both.
Ridcully: What fire? I don't know anything about any fire?
Granny: Of course not! It didn't happen. But the point is, it might have happened. You can't say 'if this didn't happen then that would have happened' because you don't know everything that might have happened. You might think something'd be good, but for all you know it could have turned out horrible. You can't say 'If only I'd...' because you could be wishing for anything. The point is, you'll never know. You've gone past. So there's no use thinking about it. So I don't.

  • Whole-Plot Reference: To A Midsummer Night's Dream, carrying on the Shakespearean theme from Wyrd Sisters.
  • You Keep Using That Word: After the Lancre Morris Men discover that "Rude Mechanicals" is a phrase used to describe amateur thespians like themselves, one of them thinks this means he has to periodically shout rude words.
    • Many of the descriptive terms that now make the average person think elves must be good ("terrific", "glamorous", etc) originally meant something scary ("instil terror", "use glamor-magic against you", etc).