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It's quite clear from the beginning that Tiffany Aching may be a little girl, but she's still a force to be reckoned with. After all, this is a girl who goes after supernatural beings with a frying pan—and somehow manages to come out ahead. From the very beginning Tiffany isn't afraid of bashing a Jenny Green-Teeth over the head with nothing but a frying pan. Even Miss Tick and her toad are impressed:
"She bashed Jenny!" said the toad. "The girl has got talent!" (3.15)
And even when she enters Fairyland, where the creatures definitely get scarier, Tiffany doesn't let her fear take a hold of her. Instead she uses it to propel herself toward action:
The terror took her. But because she was Tiffany, she ran toward it, raising the pan. She had to get through the forest, find the Queen, get her brother, leave this place! (8.105)
Because Tiffany runs toward her fear instead of away from it, she comes out ahead—instead of avoiding the scary things in life, she learns how to overcome them. She doesn't just sit around and wait for bad things to find her—she actively seeks them out so that she can learn and become a stronger person. After all, she's never going to run away from an enemy.
Tiffany may be independent and headstrong, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't recognize her role as a part of a clan. In fact, Tiffany always rises to the occasion—even if it's not necessarily what she wants to do. She may not like her little brother that much, but when he goes missing, she takes it upon herself to look for him. She's his big sister, after all, and that means it's her job to make sure he's okay and to bring him home. She doesn't even go to the Baron:
Somehow I don't think the Baron would have a clue how to deal with this. I don't, either, but I think I can be clueless in more sensible ways. (4.231)
Tiffany doesn't think that the Baron would do a great job. He's used to just ruling—but he doesn't have a real sense of what it takes to keep the people happy, or how the peasants work. Even though Tiffany's just a kid, she recognizes this about the Baron, and also identifies herself as the more competent person to find a solution to the problem. In short, our girl is scrappy and up for learning new things. She can MacGyver her way through most situations, and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.
These qualities come up again when Tiffany is named the new kelda. The old kelda thinks that Tiffany will do a good job of leading her sons, and she's right. Tiffany is responsible, can make decisions, and most importantly, sticks with the clan. She doesn't operate alone when she goes into Fairy Land; she recognizes that they need to rely on each other.
Finally, Tiffany knows that she has a responsibility to take care of her community. She's a good kid who realizes that there are long-term consequences to her actions (which is definitely not something we could say of all nine-year-olds). When she talks to Roland at the end, she makes him aware that she'll be watching him when he becomes Baron.
"Because I'll be there, you see. You'll look up and see my eye on you. I'll be there on the edge of the crowd. All the time. I'll be watching everything, because I come from a long line of Aching people and this is my land. But you can be the Baron for us and I hope you're a good one. If you are not… there will be a reckoning." (14.240)
She'll be keeping an eye out and making sure that the people of the Chalk are well taken care of—because that's her responsibility.
One thing that's rather impressive about Tiffany Aching is the fact that she loves to learn. At the very beginning of the story we see her learning about magical creatures from her grandmother's book, and going off with fresh produce to get some learning from the traveling teachers who come to town each year. She also contributes a lot to her own learning. We're talking about a girl who willingly read the dictionary from front to back here:
She'd read the dictionary all the way through. No one told her you weren't supposed to. (1.20)
And Tiffany's natural curiosity and propensity for learning totally helps her when she's thrown into an unfamiliar setting. Fairyland may be strange and confusing, but Tiffany's willing to roll with the punches and soak up as much knowledge as she can.
This trait serves her well—by the end, Tiffany's definitely savvier than when she started. She has a better sense of what magic (and being a witch) entails, and even comes to realize that she doesn't necessarily have to go on grand, rollicking trips to the Netherworld to find adventure. Adventure can be found as close as home—and it's her job to protect that home.
Not only is Tiffany extremely curious, but she also has an incredible amount of imagination—and a willingness to exercise that imagination. Tiffany has Second and Third Thoughts, which seem really impressive to everyone else, but are really just fancy names for her ability to think creatively and critically. When she's thrown into dreams that trap and ensnare the victim, Tiffany's the one who's able to extend her imagination and think… she even manages to use the dromes for her advantage. She makes a dream all her own to escape the Queen momentarily:
My dream! Tiffany thought. The drome uses what it can find in your head... but this is my dream. I can use it. (12.5)
Curiosity helped her understand the dromes and dream worlds in the first place, and quick thinking and imagination help her promptly help her find a solution to the problem she finds herself in here. She's able to manipulate the world around her in order to come out ahead. She even realizes at the end that she has to wake up fully in order to get out of Fairyland and defeat the Queen—which she does. By the end, it's Tiffany's quick thinking and ability to think outside the box that gets her—and her whole gang—out of trouble.
Not too shabby for a nine-year-old butter churner from the Chalk.
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