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Illustrating Granny Weatherwax’s Cottage


Ready for autumn, the latest in our range of official Discworld Jigsaw Puzzles and prints has arrived, and his time we’ve brushed off our broomsticks and sent our tame illustrators off to the mountain kingdom of Lancre to capture a bewitching image of Granny Weatherwax’s Cottage…

It’s a late-summer evening, where high among the spires of the Ramtops the slow light of the Disc is pooling in the forests of Lancre. Icy peaks tower over a clearing in the trees, in which nestles Granny Weatherwax’s fungoid cottage, the crisp, cool mountain air thick with the heady scents of a damp forest floor, Granny’s herbs and woodsmoke.

As with Terry Pratchett’s wonderful witches books from which our image is drawn, it’s almost a fairytale. In a world where things tend to go a little ‘Black Aliss’ every now and again, we set out with illustrator David Wyatt to create a rendition of Granny’s homestead that is on the edge…

“An edge witch is one who makes her living on the edges, in that moment when boundary conditions apply – between life and death, light and dark, good and evil and, most dangerously of all, today and tomorrow.”

–  Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time 

In Granny Weatherwax’s garden, on the edge between day and night as summer turns to autumn, we gaze upon an idyllic storybook scene. The freezing blue sky hangs over peaks blushing in the sunset as the woodland denizens are changing shifts; an owl rouses in the apple tree as the swallows head to roost, while the hare and the hedgehog (unbuggerable as he may be) exchange a glance as they share the clearing momentarily.

In the quiet of her garden, Granny Weatherwax reclines on an old goat blanket on a bleached bench, surrounded by the Herbs, the hives and her de facto familiar, You the cat. Her borrowing sign is held to her chest to prevent any unfortunate misunderstandings.

Our exclusive Discworld Jigsaw Puzzles are famed for all the wonderful details from Terry Pratchett’s books that we pack into each image. When depicting Death’s Study and The Unseen University Library for our previous puzzles, we were able to define spaces and places with numerous and often iconic physical objects; a bottle of Wow-wow sauce here, a sodding great scythe there, and books as far as the eyes can see. When it comes to the Hag o’ Hags however, Granny Weatherwax is almost defined by her paired-down existence; Esme’s life is one of bare necessities. Headology doesn’t rely on objects or belongings, and she can’t be doing with literature or frills.

However there are a few well-described details that speak directly and unmistakeably of Granny, notably her pointy hat, her borrowing sign, her battered broomstick and her house…

“A witch’s cottage is a very specific architectural item. It is not exactly built, but put together over the years as the areas of repair join up, like a sock made entirely of darns. The chimney twists like a corkscrew. The roof is thatch so old that small but flourishing trees are growing in it, the floors are switchbacks, it creaks at night like a tea clipper in a gale.”

 – Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett.

Long ago in the mists of time Bernard created Granny Weatherwax’s Cottage as a sculpture directed by Terry Pratchett himself. Ever faithful to portrayals devised in Terry’s presence, this depiction provided the basis for the design in our new rendition (with perhaps a bit of Los Angeles’ famous landmark, the Spandena House AKA the ‘Witch’s House’ thrown in as a fun reference).

However, the house itself perhaps plays second fiddle (or should that be banjo) in our image to the outside space which comprises the possessions Granny treasures the most, being her hives, her goats and perhaps most notably the Herbs:

“ … strange plants, hairy or squat or twining, with curious flowers or vivid fruits or unpleasantly bulging pods. Only Granny knew what they were all for, and any wood-pigeon hungry enough to attack them generally emerged giggling to itself and bumping into things (or, sometimes, never emerged at all).”

 – Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites 

We’ve had a lot of fun depicting as many bare essentials from Esme’s life as possible, from the tattered windsock and cup of tea, to the soft fruit bushes and her decent milking stool. To a newt fished out of the well bucket and an outhouse furnished with the nice soft pages of the Almanack. Not forgetting the water butt, because we all know that Granny Weatherwax can’t be doing with baths, them being quite unhygienic…

“‘First thing she does in the mornings, rain or shine, is wash her face in the water butt,’ [Nanny Ogg] said. ‘Someone broke the ice two hours ago. You can see where it’s frozed over again.’”

– Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

While these details are important for conveying character and setting the scene, they don’t imply as much narrative from Terry Pratchett’s books as the items included in our other puzzles. With that in mind, we wanted to emphasise another of Granny’s signatures, the act of ‘borrowing’, or riding in the mind of another being. Apart from a recumbent Weatherwax, you might just notice that her bedroom window has been left open, as she always did when borrowing late at night. If you look even more closely you’ll find that the eyes of every living creature in the scene are fixed on us, the viewer, so although we don’t know exactly ‘where’ Esme is, you can be sure she knows that we’ve come to visit.

Speaking of visitors, what would Granny Weatherwax be without her faithful coven of witches? This peaceful scene is about to be disturbed as Gytha Ogg trudges over a mossy tump, enjoying an evening tipple, her fragrant pipe smoke coiling through the sunbeams. While overhead we see Magrat aloft on her brrom, her dandelion hair fluttering around her face, shedding flowers and beads as she comes in to land.

Once again David worked from a detailed brief, accompanied by a series of conceptual sketches which provided him with a composition, plusall the elements to be included in the image, along with a colour pallet, mood and lighting details. He created a fabulous pencil draft which was then overlaid in sections to allow fine tuning of layout and any additional details to be easily worked into the scene. Piece by piece Granny’s world came into being with a little tweak here, and a sprinkle of magic there…

Esme Weatherwax is one of the strongest female characters ever written in the ‘fantasy’ genre. She was written for over thirty years. She can never be captured in one image, and as Terry used to say, the best images are the ones on the insides of your eyelids, but as an Emporium favourite, we hope you’ll enjoy this intimate little moment that we captured of her fantastic life.

“Tiffany thought of the little spot in the woods where Granny Weatherwax lay. Remembered.

And knew that You had been right. Granny Weatherwax was indeed here. And there. She was, in fact, and always would be, everywhere.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd’s Crown