The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching)

by Terry Pratchett

Paperback, 2006



Call number

PB Pra

Call number

PB Pra

Local notes

PB Pra




HarperCollins (2006), 375 pages


A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

375 p.; 6.68 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member SeditiousBroom
I discounted Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men when it first hit bookshelves. The reviews said it was aimed at teens. I may love almost all the novels based in The Disc World, but I didn't much feel like reading something that would likely make me feel patronized. Hat Full of Sky, the sequel,
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received the same treatment from me.

Then I saw mister Pratchett in person during his tour for the third Tiffany Aching book, Wintersmith. Forget that the coldest season is practically my deity. Leave aside that I cry when I see snow for the first time each year. I sat in an audience while a man with a frail, nervous body; big, brown hat; very little ego; and scalpel wit effortlessly made me laugh over and over again. He talked of the book, his process of writing, reached up the aisle, and liberally applied a flamethrower to my muse. She has been all but unstoppable since.

Wintersmith was such a joy that I read it four times in as many months. I read the other two books in the series. I ordered hardback copies.

I'm reading The Wee Free Men again this week. I can see that it really is meant for young readers. Yet, just because the book's setting is a fantasy world, most words are easily read, and the more complex phrases are explained doesn't mean that the book is simple. Not by a long shot.

She leaned down, and centuries bent with her.

"The secret is not to dream," she whispered. "The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I'm going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine."

I'll never be like this again, she thought, as she saw the terror in the Queen's face. I'll never again feel as tall as the sky and as old as the hills and as strong as the sea. I've been given something for a while, and the price of it is that I have to give it back.

Those few paragraphs in particular ram a spear through my chest every time, and they are not alone in their potency. Each of the three books, especially Wintersmith, make me laugh very often and fight back tears at least once or twice per read. I find a few of mister Pratchett's books to be funnier. Many of his plots are less obvious. However, nothing of his that I have read is more powerful. I love this series.
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LibraryThing member pwaites
The Wee Free Men is the first book in Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, a YA series that’s sort of a sub-series of the Discworld books. They can be read independently or as an introduction into the larger world.

In the Wee Free Men, Tiffany is a nine year old girl who wants to be a witch.
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Why does she want to be a witch? Because an old woman who was suspected of being a witch was turned out of her home and died of the cold. Tiffany’s decided that she will be a witch so that this will never happen again. This tells you a lot about the sort of person Tiffany is. She’s brave, compassionate, and intelligent. She read the dictionary cover to cover because no one told her she wasn’t supposed to. If you were to ask me to list my favorite protagonists, Tiffany would probably be near the top of the list.

Tiffany’s younger brother is kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies. Tiffany didn’t particularly love her brother, even though she feels like she should, but he’s hers. And it’s up to her to rescue him, although she has the help of the Nac Mac Feegle, a tribe of boisterous six inch tall blue warriors.

“I know nothing about her. Just some books, and some stories she tried to tell me, and things I didn’t understand, and I remember big red soft hands and that smell. I never knew who she really was. I mean, she must have been nine too, once.”

Interwoven with this story is Tiffany’s memories of her grandmother, Granny Achings, who died around two years ago. Tiffany looked up to her grandmother but felt that she was never quite able to communicate with her. As much as The Wee Free Men is a story about fairies, it is also a story about Tiffany’s loss and grief.

“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”

The Wee Free Men is also about Tiffany’s sense of responsibility to her land, the Chalk, and people. Granny Achings was a shepherd of the Chalk in more ways than one. She watched the boundaries and looked after those who had no one else to speak for them. The Wee Free Men is about Tiffany taking this responsibility onto herself.

“The thing about witchcraft,” said Mistress Weatherwax, “is that it’s not like school at all. First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin’ out how you passed it. It’s a bit like life in that respect.”

The Wee Free Men is the beginning of Tiffany’s story. The other books follow her as she grows older and accepts ever more responsibility. In short, The Wee Free Men is the start of Tiffany becoming a witch. I think I prefer the later books in the series, but The Wee Free Men is a good beginning.

I would recommend The Wee Free Men to someone looking for YA fantasy with a strong female lead and no romance.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
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LibraryThing member Eat_Read_Knit
Tiffany Aching wants to be a witch when she grows up - but in the meantime she puts her incipient skills to good use rescuing her small and very sticky brother from the clutches of The Queen, aided only by a toad, a frying pan and a band of tiny, blue-skinned barbarian pictsies.

I wasn't sure
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whether I'd like the Tiffany Aching books, given that I don't read a lot of YA lit. Beyond the fact that the main protagonists (well, the human ones) are children and the relative simplicity of the verbal puns, there's not a lot of difference between this and the adult Discworld books.

Tiffany is an excellent character whose self-awareness grows a lot through the course of the book. I adored the Nac Mac Feegle, who hurtle with riotous abandon through the pages leaving chaos (but nothing that isn't nailed down) being them.

This is a gloriously effervescent story, which has me really looking forward to A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith.
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LibraryThing member Nicole_13
I want to be Tiffany Aching when I grow up.

She is smart, outspoken, and brave with a selfishness that reads more like undying loyalty. In short, she is everything that kid me would have idolized. Did I mention that she wants to be a witch? Or that she's friends with the coolest pictsies around?

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loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone young, old, female, or male and everyone else in between. So, go pick up a copy, lose yourself in the Chalk, and have loads of fun mimicking the voices of the Wee Free Men.
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LibraryThing member dmturner
One of my favorite YA books in one of my favorite YA series by one of my favorite fantasy authors, Terry Pratchett. I just re-read it for the third or fourth time. It's the first in the Tiffany Aching books. In this book, Tiffany, aged nine, becomes the kelda of a clan of pictsies and must rescue
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her unattractive little brother Wentworth (and the Baron's son Roland while she's at it) from the Queen of the Fairies. Nominally set in the Discworld but really in the chalk hills of some ancient Britain, the book is a delight. As with Pratchett's best work, it's terribly funny at the same time as it's serious and sweet, and contains some marvelous truths.

“The thing about witchcraft,” said Mistress Weatherwax, “is that it’s not like school at all. First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin’ out how you passed it. It’s a bit like life in that respect.”
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LibraryThing member mposey82
The first in the Tiffany Aching series. Where to begin. I continue to enjoy the children's works by Pratchett. With Tiffany he continues to give complex flawed characters that are often absent from the target audience of this literature. What I love most about Tiffany is that while she is smart,
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self reliant and ready to think on her feet she is annoyed by her kid brother, doesn't enjoy her chores, thinks petty thoughts and in general is a real person. Also how do you resist any story with the nac mac feegle
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LibraryThing member auntieknickers
Terry Pratchett's books are divided, on his website, among adult books, young adult books, and children's books, among which is [book: The Wee Free Men]. If [book: The Wee Free Men] is any indication, one would be well advised to ignore these distinctions and just read all the books. It's true that
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the protagonist is a nine-year-old girl, but so what? This is an amazing mixture of high fantasy and hilarious comedy the like of which I've never read before. Fortunately there are two more books featuring Tiffany Aching for me to look forward to, as well as a large number of other Pratchett works. Adults may even enjoy this book more than children, as they will "get" more of the literary and other allusions, but no sane person could fail to chuckle at "Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock." Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member XxSweetieTartxX
There is something about The Wee Fee Men that makes you want to read it over and over again. Perhaps it's how Tiffany actually acts like a nine year old child. Most authors under estimate the intelligence that a child can hold. Terry Pratchett has captured the very being of a child perfectly.
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Confident, curious, and intelligent Tiffany is so real that you can feel like she's sitting right next to you or that you've known her for your entire life. Like she's actually real. The thing the makes her real, is yes, how confident and curious she is like most children. But it's how she second guesses her self in her heart of hearts. How she fights with her self wanting to do what is right. How she looks up to someone like all children do hoping to find some kind of direction in life. How she is so selfish like every child is that she refuses to give up her little brother, which she knows she does not love and fights against the all powerful Queen anyway because he is hers.

Another thing I love about Terry Pratchett is how well he covered Witch craft. How with JK Rowling it's about the magic in magic. How everything has to have stars to make it more magical. How the food magically appears on table and they learn from professors. While Terry Pratchett, weaved magic as it truly is. Not about the magic in magic, but the magic in being. The magic in the disc, in the nature, in the you. How a wand is just a stick, in how the real magic is not from the wand but from you. Tiffany learns not from professors but from the cryptic messages of nature and the wiser witches around her. She stumbles and learns. She needs no classroom to teach her what "is already in her bones." She learns from her mistakes and from observing nature and her elders. To Tiffany the world is her classroom, nature her teacher, and experience her test.

Terry Pratchett has created a wonderful, imaginative story for children, in which every chapter teaches you a new lesson. In every character gives you a new friend, in every word makes any child or adult from nine to ninety just put down the book and just think.
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LibraryThing member phoebesmum
A YA Discworld adventure. Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching is the dairymaid on her parents’ farm, but what she really wants to be is a witch. When creatures from the scarier end of the fairytale spectrum start turning up in the surrounding countryside, she promptly arms herself with a frying pan,
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uses her annoying baby brother as bait, and thumps the monster on the head. But then her brother vanishes, kidnapped by the fairy queen, and it’s up to Tiffany, with the help of exiles from Fairyland the Nac Mac Feegle, to cross the border and bring him back. Which, frying pan in hand, she duly does.

I enjoyed this rather more than I have done some of the later adult Discworld books: it has all the action and humour, and a little less moralising. Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegle are wonderful characters, well worth a series of their own, and it’s good to get a walk-on by Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.

Part of Pratchett’s Fairyland owes an acknowledged debt to the Richard Dadd painting 'The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke', which is enough in itself to give small children nightmares. And large ones, come to that.
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LibraryThing member kittyjay
Tiffany Aching has spent her whole life in Chalk, under the wise tutelage of her grandmother, a revered shepherdess and possible witch - so when strange things start happening, Tiffany is determined to protect her home with the help of the Wee Free Men.

Although set in Discworld - and later,
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familiar faces popping up, such as Granny Weatherwax and everybody's favorite, Death - the Tiffany Aching series was written as young adult. It doesn't quite have the same laugh-out-loud humor as the best of Discworld, but makes up for it with the other things Terry Pratchett does so well (which is, of course, everything).

Tiffany is perfect: precocious, inquisitive, a bit of a know-it-all, and with just enough common sense and petulant child to make her believable. She isn't the Tragic Heroine Who Stands Against All Odds that make up so many young adult novels, or even the Mostly Smart Heroine Because Everyone Says She Is But Someone Manages to Be an Idiot for the Entire Plot that makes up the other ones. She is, instead, a bright kid with a good head on her shoulders, but not a lot of experience.

The Nac Mac Feegles are laugh-out-loud hilarious (based on the Celts, including dying their skin blue with woad, they will pick a fight with anything and anyone and are deeply suspicious of the written word, witches, and lawyers), and the imagination of Pratchett soars. His main gift, however, is by making the plot utterly imaginative and crafting the resolution to make sense within it - which sounds simple enough, or at least something they surely teach writers, but most usually take wild imagination to mean that a completely improbable coincidence will crop up and save the day at the last minute.

If you're a fan of Discworld, you will love it. And if you haven't read Discworld, this will make you want to pick up some more Pratchett.
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LibraryThing member Nikkles
I waited a long time to read this book. I love Terry Pratchett and I thought . . . "A children's book I shant like it! He'll have to simplify!" But I was wrong, silly me I should have known better. If you already like Terry Pratchett there is nothing not to like here. If you are new to Terry
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Pratchett and Discworld, this isn't a bad place to start. You wont be too confused and you'll get in on the fun. Plus, if you don't like the wee free men your crazy! My inner monologue has not yet recovered. Crivens!
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LibraryThing member timj
The creation of a tribe of miniature aggressive Scots is very amusing. In fact there are a lot of chuckles throughout.
LibraryThing member woollymammoth
I have to admit I don't really like the 'children's discworld books' they lack the humour of the adult ones for me.
LibraryThing member reading_fox
Tiffany Aching granddaughter of Granny Aching, The Sheperdess on all the downs and Chalk, pays attention to things around her and wonders about the morals of nursery tales. So should you. Although everyone knows that witchs need granite to grow, adn that Chalk is too soft, they forget about the
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flint inside.....

Way darker than the younger designation suggests an entertaining tale, picking up on several threads from other works, and introducing new characters.
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LibraryThing member aemurray
I picked this after reading Wintersmith. I enjoyed it, it was a fairly quick read. Wintersmith is actually better.
LibraryThing member saucyhp
Fantastic! I thought the Nac Mac Feegle were great characters, I couldn't stop laughing!
LibraryThing member Homechicken
This book was great. Terry Pratchett is an amazing author. We rented the book-on-CD version of A Hat Full of Sky and listened to it on a whim, and from that point, I knew I had to get the entire series in print version.

This story is of Tiffany Aching and how she discovers that she is a witch. She
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goes in to the land of the Fairies and rescues her younger brother along with the Baron's missing son, armed with only a frying pan and a book about sheep illnesses. Masterful!
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LibraryThing member Jennyonfire
I started this book yesterday and am almost finished. It is fun, exciting and a wonderful change of pace from the last book I read. The Wee Free men have the largest, bravest hearts. I can't wait to finish the series!
LibraryThing member gercmbyrne
Form his children's range, a brilliant Tiffany Aching book, incorporating the Witches of Lancre and with teh wonderful Wee Free Men, the fightin' drinkin' thieving little buggers themselves!
LibraryThing member mashcan
Pratchett is always a good read. This is a funnier one. Pratchett is always a little touching, a little philosophical, a decent plot, and a lot funny.
LibraryThing member sara_k
Wee Free Men is less punny but just as funny as Pratchett's other Discworld books. Set aside from Ankh-Morpork in the sheep herding Chalk the story revolves around young Tiffany. Tiffany is 9 and I find that Terry Pratchett has accurately depicted the maturity and thinking patterns of 9 year olds
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(they are often underestimated).

Terrible monsters are appearing in the Chalk and Tiffany may be the only person who can stop them. The Wee Free Men are Pictsies (ok, that was a groaner) and for some reason they are cooperating with Tiffany and helping her in many ways; this is contrary to their usual pattern of behaviour. Is Tiffany really a witch and if she is what doesn that mean about her Grandmother (now dead).

When the Faierie Queen steal Tiffany baby brother, Tiffany must open her eyes and take a look at the real world and see things as they are and then she must try to make things as they should be.

Several paragraphs were so funny that they had to be read out loud.
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LibraryThing member EmmMIB
a great dramatization of the Wee Free Men performed by Stephen Briggs who not only gets the Nac Mac Feegles just right, but does the best Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax I've heard yet.
LibraryThing member otterlake
I listened to this on audio books. The reading was animated and added to the fun.
LibraryThing member LostFrog
Not exactly mind-blowing, but a really fun book. The Nac Mac Feegle are hilarious. This is the type of book in which Pratchett's writing really shines (by which I mean, I never found his writing so great in most of his Discworld books, but the subject matter of this book really goes along with his
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writing style). Fun, fun, funzies!
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LibraryThing member melwil_2006
This was one of those delightful books that you begin reading with absolutely no expectations. See, I'm not a huge fantasy reader. I find that a lot of fantasy books (to me) get too bogged down in talking about remarkable creatures and strange things, and forget that there is a story to be told. So
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when [info]lizbee gave me this book for my birthday, I entered the book with few expectations.

And it blew me away.

Firstly, I'm a sucker for a good child heroine. Tiffany Aching, armed with her book and her frying pan and her small army of fighting, drinking and stealing men is a wonderful main character. Although she admits that she doesn't like her brother very much, she'd willing and ready to go forth and rescue him. And despite the fact that witches are banned in her part of the world, she's determined to be a witch. And she'd read the dictionary from beginning to end.

The Wee Free Men were also delightful, always ready for a fight (and a drink) whatever the circumstance might be.

Pratchett's humour is, of course, one of the best things about the book. He had me laughing out loud over and over again - much to the bemusement of the people around me.
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(2633 ratings; 4.2)
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