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Y’know, I don’t think Terry Pratchett is talked about enough as someone who writes genuinely great female characters. I mean, two of his most well-known protagonists, around whom he’s based several books each, are Esmerelda “Granny” Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching, both of them female and both of them shining examples of what a true “strong female character” can and should be.
Granny is an elderly woman who is easily the most powerful witch on the Discworld, who is capable of varied and strong magic, and who prefers not to use it, instead choosing in most situations to rely on her intuitive understanding of what people are like (she calls it “headology”) to get whatever job needs doing done. She’s been a midwife and a medicine woman, called in at the beginnings and ends of countless lives. She’s saved kingdoms, and she’s saved people. She’s a stone-cold badass. And her biggest fear is that she’s become so powerful she might start using magic for the wrong reasons, to try to control people. She is afraid of what she might become, if she isn’t careful. Granny does all this while being, very obviously, a woman. Pratchett never tries to make her look stronger by having her do “manly” things or act tough in ways traditionally coded masculine. She is feminine through and through, and Pratchett’s books about her celebrate this rather than minimizing it or presenting narratives in which she succeeds “despite” being a woman.
Tiffany Aching on the other hand, starts out her series of books as a little girl and has grown into a teenager. She also has magical talent that’s more than noteworthy, and her series is presented as a coming of age narrative wherein she learns to use magic (and when not to use it) and how to cope with what having these skills and talents means. Tiffany is precocious and very intelligent (she reads dictionaries), and has grown more and more “people-smart” as well. She makes cheese and has defeated fairy queens and elemental beings. She’s had feelings about boys, forged friendships with girls, and has earned the undying loyalty of a band of little blue men in kilts called the Nac Mac Feegle. And Tiffany, like Granny, is female, a girl who is growing into a woman. Pratchett doesn’t write her as “not like the other girls” in the sense of being “not feminine.” Tiffany is learning to do magic and finds herself embroiled in supernatural events, but behind all that she’s a young woman having the kinds of problems young women have. She’s written as a very well-rounded character, and much more likely to save a boy’s life than to need saving. She, too, doesn’t succeed in her ventures “despite” being a girl or even “because” she’s a girl. She definitely is a girl, and that is far from minimized in her stories, but she, like Granny, is written first and foremost as a person.
And those are just two prominent examples of how Terry Pratchett writes wonderful female characters and is generally awesome, the end.