White Knowledge and the Cauldron of Story: The Use of Allusion in Terry Pratchett ‘s Discworld.

Terry Pratchett is a remarkable writer, one who would need no introduction in Britain, and only an occasional one to the rest of the world that is involved in popular literature. He has become the bestselling living fiction author in England for the past ten years (White par. 1), with no signs of losing popularity anytime soon. While at first dismissed as a genre writer of humorous fantasy, Pratchett has become his own industry, and he has done so, in part, by his successful use of what he refers to as “white knowledge” and creative allusion to popular culture.

In the past eighteen years, Pratchett has released twenty-eight Discworld novels (along with several supplemental Discworld works [maps, computer games, an encyclopedia, comic book adaptations, etc.] and at least eight non-Discworld novels). One bookseller report said that “ten percent of all science fiction sold in 1993 was fantasy, and ten percent of all fantasy sold was Terry Pratchett” (James 202). Pratchett himself has received letters from librarians that say, “What is so marvellous is that you get people into the library so that we can introduce them to real books” (Pratchett and Briggs 1994, 266). There is also “a lot of evidence that he has a big following among young teenage boys–particularly those who, as we saw in one librarian’s happy phrase, ‘don’t read’” (Pratchett and Briggs 1994, 286). With this success rate, one might wonder what sets Pratchett’s works apart from others.

One of the primary features that Pratchett’s fans appreciate is his use of allusion. He states,

If I put a reference in a book I try to pick one that a generally well-read (well-viewed, well-listened) person has a sporting chance of picking up; I call this “white knowledge,” the sort of stuff that fills up your brain without you really knowing where it came from. Enough people would’ve read [Fritz] Lieber, say, to pick up a generalized reference to Fafhrd, etc. and even more people would have some knowledge of Tolkien–but I wouldn’t rely on people having read a specific story.

I like doing this kind of thing. There are a number of passages in the books which are “enhanced” if you know where the echoes are coming from but which are still, I hope, funny in their own right. (qtd. in Words from
the Master pars. 228-29)

A Handbook to Literature states that allusion “seeks, by tapping the knowledge and memory of the reader, to secure a resonant emotional effect from the associations already existing in the reader’s mind. [. . .] The effectiveness of allusion depends on a body of knowledge shared by writer and reader” (Harmon and Holman 14). Pratchett has created the term “white knowledge” to describe the concept of myth and white noise. White knowledge, the building blocks of knowledge that weave and bind a culture together, creates the best and most important reference base for an author, and Pratchett has tapped it masterfully. In the process, Pratchett has connected his novels to the reader through the cultural fabric, making them more recognizable and more interesting, whether as parody, satire, pun, or generalized allusion. Pratchett alludes widely, including such topics as Shakespeare, fantasy literature, movies, rock music, mythology, Arthurian Legend, modern authors, literary genres (mystery fiction, for example), and computers.

While some may suggest that Pratchett excludes part of his readership by having heavily allusive books, others would argue that the range of his allusions gives all readers recognizable reference points. Obviously, readers will not understand all of Pratchett’s allusions, but more literate readers will take great pleasure from them. The less “culturally aware” reader will still get the feeling that Pratchett has planted these ideas, and will often search them out actively. As reviewer Tom Shone stated in 1992, “what has ensured Pratchett’s success is that you don’t have to have read Tolkien to know what he’s poking fun at. As he has happily admitted, his fiction requires no specialized knowledge on the part of the reader whatsoever” (23). Though his fiction requires no specialized knowledge, a broad knowledge base does enrich a reader’s enjoyment. Even without the references, though, Pratchett produces quality writing that people enjoy and re-read frequently. Pratchett states, “With Moving Pictures, the film industry is common to everybody; fairy tales [Witches Abroad] are common to everybody; with Wyrd Sisters everyone knows Macbeth even if they’ve never read or seen it” (qtd. in Enright, Million Article par. 62). While some of Pratchett’s references remain more obscure than others, this paper will focus on and illustrate his use of white knowledge for popular effect, and will examine the connection between allusion and Discworld readers………………………………………………

Abbott, William Thomas (2002). White Knowledge and the Cauldron of Story: The Use of Allusion in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 630. https://dc.etsu.edu/etd/630


Toying with fantasy: the postmodern playground of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels

@Josh Kidby

… In Pratchett’s books, narrativium and the narrative imperative are the forces responsible for stereotypical plot elements that ought to prevail: As a “sense of predestination permeates Discworld” (Pratchett and Briggs 119), cliches are a force to be reckoned with, especially for the protagonists. Many Discworld novels show their struggle with narrative imperative (6)–at his best, Pratchett undermines the narrative expectations of cliched fantasy novels with at times acerbic humour. Be it staged heroes challenging dragons in Guards! Guards! or corrupt fairy godmothers ruling the perfect fairy tale kingdom with a quasi-dictatorship in Witches Abroad, there are always serious topics addressed underneath the jokes (cf. Smith 186f & Butler, “Power” 299ff). Here, the Discworld shows if not postmodern then certainly meta-fictional qualities in its approach to storytelling: Pratchett “plunders popular culture” (Mason 55) but also myth and folklore to emphasise the stereotypical elements that characterise numerous works of fantasy.

Such playful rearranging also applies to the science of the Discworld. Apart from quantum physics and chaos theory, Pratchett has been inspired by a scientific story–the fictional element of phlogiston–to create his own fictional element called narrativium. Both this concept and its use in The Science of Discworld bear more than a passing resemblance to the role of narratives in real-world science:

‘Narrative’ is what is left when belief in the possibility of knowledge is eroded. The frequently heard phrase ‘the narratives of science’, popular in the new field of science studies, carries the implication that scientific discourse does not reflect but covertly constructs reality, does not discover truths but fabricates them according to the rules of its own game in a process disturbingly comparable to the overt working of narrative fiction. (Ryan, “Narrative” 344)

Using Niels Bohr’s model of an atom as a solar system, The Science of Discworld collaborators Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen point out the incorrectness of this model but at the same time acknowledge that the “[s]earch for understanding leads us to construct stories that map out limited parts of the future” (The Science of Discworld II: The Globe 248). In a similar very literal manner, Pratchett uses stories to ground his Discworld in the pseudo-scientific explanation of its existence. As we have seen, the Discworld stands on the margin between reality and impossibility, and narrativium enables the secondary world to exist at all, reflecting “Pratchett’s interest […] in the power of narrative expectation” (Mendlesohn, “Narrative” 264)–a power that pertains to reality no less than to fiction. Reminding ourselves once more of Tolkien’s essay, “creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun” (OFS 65) and not mere fancy. The Primary World provides the building blocks for a secondary world, remote or modified as they may be (cf. Attebery 3f). Therefore, it is only logical that fantasy is to a certain extent a mirror of our own world, and the Discworld is no exception to that. As the series progressed, this “world and mirror of worlds” (Moving Pictures 9) explored new topics and ideas. Perhaps at the core of this examination of our world through the perspective of a secondary world is, once again, narrativium. …

The entire text may be found at

Luthi, D. (2014). Toying with fantasy: the postmodern playground of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Mythlore. (33) 1: 125-142. Website: The Free Library


The Intertextuality of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld as a Major Challenge for the Translator

Marc Simonetti

The intertexts were chosen arbitrarily so as to show a possibly wide-ranging and representative portion of the whole spectrum of sources drawn on by Pratchett. A systematic study of the inertextuality of the Discworld would result in a multi-volume encyclopaedia, each volume dealing with just one novel in the series, so the arbitrariness was unavoidable. A large portion of the selection is made up of literary and extra-literary intertexts, these being conceivably of the highest literary value and – as will be shown – of greatest challenge to the translator. The high share of Wyrd Sisters intertextuality is chiefly due to the book’s underlying Shakespearian inspiration, manifest in numerous altered and unaltered quotations as well as structural elements. Naturally, any ‘writer-meets-Shakespeare’ intersection is a treat for the reader, researcher, and translator, so giving them broader coverage could not be resisted. In the other books of the series, equally interesting are references to other well-known authors, e.g. Vonnegut, Lovecraft, Herbert, Dunsany – hence the prominence of literary intertexts among their other types. One other often-quoted novel, Moving Pictures, boasts a markedly varied scope of intertextuality: from literature to cartoons to natural sciences.

With regard to their character, the intertexts can be divided into five categories: four of which are quite homogenous, proper categories, while one has to remain pretty catholic – otherwise it would have to be broken down into a number of separate categories – since they cannot be, even at a pinch, included into those four ones…. (p. 14)

The rest of the text may be found in:

Rzyman, A. (2017). The intertextuality of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld as a major challenge for the translator. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK : Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. (sample found here)

Postmodern Parody In The Discworld Novels of Terry Pratchett


“See… Great A’Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters. Through sea-sized eyes that are crusted with rheum and asteroid dust He stares fixedly at the Destination.

In a brain bigger than a city, with geological slowness, He thinks only of the Weight.

Most of the weight is of course accounted for by Berilia, Tubul, Great T’Phon and Jerakeen, the four giant elephants upon whose broad and star-tanned shoulders the disc of the World rests, garlanded by the long waterfall at its vast circumference and domed by the baby-blue vault of Heaven.

Astropsychology has been, as yet, unable to establish what they think about…”(2)

The decision to write this dissertation on the relationship between the Discworld series and postmodern parody was reached from several angles at once. My familiarity with Pratchett’s books was obviously a large factor in that decision. More important, however, was a period of research into aspects of postmodernism, which involved study of several important theorists such as Juergen Habermas, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard. Postmodernism has yet to find an all-encompassing definition, but the essays and books that I read indicated its importance, not only as a tool for contemporary literature, but as an explanation of life – the term “The Postmodern Condition” has a wide frame of reference, and the theories of textual reality that Baudrillard and others have posited completely undermine all traditional concepts of what is “real.” In Baudrillard’s terms, “It is reality itself today that is hyperrealist”, when “The hyperreal” is defined as “that which is always already reproduced.”(3) The inseparable nature of reality and simulations is one aspect of postmodern theory which will be examined in this dissertation.

The connections between postmodernism and parody became apparent as my research continued: amongst other issues, both are concerned with repetition and simulation, and both raise questions about the originality of the text. Once the link between the two genres had been made, their relation to the Discworld series seemed an obvious subject, as it would enable closer examination of the various theories about postmodern parody as well as a range of novels which, despite lending themselves easily to critical debate, have been under-represented in this way to date.

Terry Pratchett has written twenty books to date, up to and including Hogfather, that take place on the Discworld. On this magical world, dwarfs and trolls share space with wizards and heroes, cities come under attack from fire-breathing dragons, and Gods play games with the fate of men. Unlike other works of fantasy, however – many of which could also be accurately described by this summation – Pratchett’s books infuse their situations and characters with an ironic sense that subverts the reader’s expectations of the genre. On the Discworld, the cross-section of species meet regularly at the Mended Drum inn, and the games played by the Gods are more complex than chess and a lot more vicious: the Gods of the Discworld have a habit of going round to atheists’ houses and breaking the windows. This is why Terry Pratchett has become a best-selling novelist – he fuses humour and fantasy to produce a unique universe.

The genre of fantasy, and by implication Pratchett’s novels, is often dismissed as pulp for children and therefore not worthy of critical attention. In fact, many of the concepts and references in the Discworld series are extremely complicated, with the result that the range can be appreciated on two levels – children can enjoy the books as a hilarious fantasy adventure romp, while adults will be able to get a greater appreciation of Pratchett’s deeper expository intent. Also, from a postmodern point of view, there is no reason for the Discworld novels to receive less critical attention than any other works of fiction: the barriers between “high” and “low” culture are no longer relevant, as will be illustrated later in this dissertation.

Terry Pratchett has himself defended the reputation of fantasy:

“I now know that almost all fiction is, at some level, fantasy. What Agatha Christie wrote was fantasy. What Tom Clancy writes is fantasy. What Jilly Cooper writes is fantasy–at least, I hope for her sake it is. But what people generally have in mind when they hear the word fantasy is swords, talking animals, vampires, rockets (science fiction is fantasy with bolts on), and around the edges it can indeed be pretty silly. Yet fantasy also speculates about the future, rewrites the past and reconsiders the present. It plays games with the universe.”(4)

The transformational nature of fantasy as indicated by Pratchett in this article can be compared with similar aspects of postmodern parody, as will be examined in this dissertation.

The Discworld novels, at various points, have concerned themselves with swords, talking animals, vampires and, if not rockets, then certainly at least one bronze “ship of space”(5) which is lowered over the edge of the world in an attempt to determine the sex of Great A’Tuin the World Turtle. Around the edges, they can indeed be pretty silly. Although they exist firmly within the fantasy genre, however, this dissertation will suggest that they are also critical of its conventions. Pratchett, it will be argued, presents a parody of fantasy from within a fantastic landscape.

The aim of this dissertation will be to determine whether the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett can be accurately described as postmodern parody: to discover what, if anything, they parody, how this is done, and what its implications are, particularly in reference to theories of the postmodern. The first chapter will explore these last in further detail, while the second and third chapters will concentrate more on parody, coming to a definition of the term (especially in contrast to terms like pastiche and satire, with which it is often confused) and judging how it relates to the Discworld novels.

Chapter One

L-Space and the Infinite Text

There are many aspects of the Discworld which support theories of postmodernism. The condition of hyperreality, as posited by Jean Baudrillard in The Order Of Simulacra, leads to a world in which there are no distinctions between the simulacra and that which they simulate:

“The new postmodern universe tends to make everything a simulacrum. By this Baudrillard means a world in which all we have are simulations, there being no ‘real’ external to them, no ‘original’ that is being copied. There is no longer a realm of the ‘real’ versus that of ‘imitation’ or ‘mimicry’ but rather a level in which there are only simulations.”(6)

Baudrillard’s example to illustrate this principle involves “a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory”(7) – a 1:1 scale simulation which effectively replaces the original. It is this effect which Baudrillard suggests has already taken place.

The idea of simulations superseding that which is simulated is a common theme in the Discworld novels. One book which employs the concept is Moving Pictures, which culminates in the characters from a popular film bursting through the screen at the premiere and into reality. The star of the film, Victor, is present at the premiere, and the crowd expectantly wait for him to save the day, ignoring his protests that it was all acting.(8) The solution, in fact, turns out to be quite simple, in a Discworld sort of way – Victor yells “Lights! Picture box! Action!”, the cameras start rolling, and he is able to become the hero of the film once again. So-called “movie rules” are made to work in the “real” world: “we live in a world of simulacra where the image or signifier of an event has replaced direct experience and knowledge of its referent or signified.”(9)…………………

The rest of the article can be found in Christopher Bryant’s Bachelor of Arts stored at L-Space

Pratchett, T. (1990). Faust Eric (Illustrated). London, Gollanz.

“Eric” is mainly about who has power, who wants power and who will suffer from it.

The demon King of Hell, Astfgl, has been waiting for Eric Thursday to open a summoning circle.

(his) brand of super-intelligent gormlessness was a rare delight. Hell needed horribly-bright, self-centered people like Eric. They were much better at being nasty that demons could ever manage.

When this long-awaited event finally happened, the King’s best demon, Vassenego, was supposed to materialize in the magic circle and bend Eric to Astfgl’s will.

We last left Rincewind running away from the Thing in the Dungeon Dimensions after telling Coin to run towards the light and not look back over his shoulder no matter what he heard. One of Rincewind’s greatest strengths is running. He does not care where, as long as it is away from trouble. Somehow, Eric’s summoning brought him back from his marathon in the Dungeon Dimensions to the reality he preferred. Sadly, he was caught in the summoning circle and could run no further. Eric thought he had summoned a demon and demanded of Rincewind that he grant three wishes: Dominion of the world, the most beautiful woman who  ever lived and to live for ever.

We all know that Rincewind is the most inept wizard ever and incapable of fulfilling any wishes demanding magic. His magic ability is on the negative scale, and if it were not for the spell living in his head the other wizards would have completely ignored him. A strange thing happens with Rincewind after he was summoned. It seems he developed great magical powers. Eric is about to learn an important lesson when it comes to wishing things from summoned creatures: Phrasing is important.

Back to my questions at the beginning of this post. The only being on the Discworld who does not care about being powerful is Death. Whether you are all-powerful or downtrodden Death is who is found at the end of life. However, in Hell Astfgl is at the top of a ladder with many power-hungry demons climbing behind him. As we saw in “Sourcery”, magicians who are unfortunate enough to become Arch-chancellor suffer from the same affliction.

Rincewind’s ambitions are not those of demons. Nor are they those of Eric. However, he ends up suffering for the ambitions of both demons and Eric. In Eric’s case, we can safely say that he was extremely fortunate in getting Rincewind rather than Vassenego into his summoning circle. One can safely say that Rincewind is not interested in breaking any one to his will. Once again, the Luggage turns up to save Rincewind’s “bacon“.

Pratchett makes fun of the many reorganizations that people in power want to implement so they too make a mark upon the world. From my limited experience, reorganizations seldom seem to achieve their claimed goals. They are expensive things that require re-educating the people who have to implement them. Sadly that re-education is often lacking. Once again, Pratchett’s poking works for me and the laments about the reorganizations are brilliant.

The title of the story refers to the well-known story about another demon summoner who had not been careful of his phrasing. Eric and Rincewind’s adventures continue our classical education during the fulfillment of Eric’s wishes. We are taken to the Discworldian versions of the mythology surrounding the Aztecs, Helen of Troy, the  Big Bang theory and the re-birth of the universe. This reminder of sociological traditions is another thing I love about Pratchett’s writing. No text or theory is too sacred to be twisted into even odder tellings.

All of Pratchett’s intro’s are amazing. I leave you with the introduction to “Eric”:

The bees of Death are big and black, they buzz low and sombre, they keep their honey in combs of wax as white as altar candles. The honey is black as night, thick as sin and sweet as treacle.

It is well known that eight colours make up white. But there are also eight colours of blackness, for those that have the seeing of them, and the hives of Death are among the black grass in the black orchard under the black-blossomed, ancient boughs of tress that will, eventually, produce apples that — put it like this — probably won’t be red.

The grass was short now. They scythe that had done the work leaned against the gnarled bole of a pear tree. Now death was inspecting his bees, gently lifting the combs in his skeletal fingers.

A few bees buzzed around him. Like all beekeepers, Death wore a veil. It wasn’t that he had anything to sting, but sometimes a bee would get inside his skull and buzz around and give him a headache.

As he held a comb up to the grey light of his little world between the realities there was the faintest of tremors. A hum went up from hive, a leaf floated down. A wisp of wind blew for a moment through the orchard, and that was the most uncanny thing, because the air in the land of Death is always warm and still.

Death fancied that he heard, very briefly, the sound of running feet and a voice saying, no, a voice thinking oshitoshitoshit, I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna DIE!

Death is almost the oldest creature in the universe, with habits and modes of thought that mortal man cannot being to understand, but because he was also a good beekeeper he carefully replaced the comb in its rack and put the lid on the hive before reacting.

He strode back through the dark garden to his cottage, removed the veil, carefully dislodged a few bees who had got lost in the depths of his cranium, and retired to his study.

As he sat down at his desk there was another rush of wind, which rattled the hour-glasses on the shelves and made the big pendulum clock in the hall pause ever so briefly in its interminable task of slicing time into manageable bits.

Death sighed, and focused his gaze.

There is nowhere Death will not go, no matter how distant and dangerous. In fact the more dangerous it is, the more likely he is to be there already.

Now he stared through the mists of time and space.

OH, he said. IT’s HIM.


  • Braille: Eric; Stephen Briggs; Stockport: National Library for the Blind, 1997.
  • Brazilian Portugese: Eric; Translated by Ludimila Hashimoto; Sao Paulo: Conrad livros, 2005.
  • Bulgarian: Eric; Translated by Tatiana. Kostadinova-Minkovska; Sofia: Vusev, 1992.
  • Czech: Erik; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Praha: Talpress, 2007.
  • Dutch: Eric; Translated by Venugopalan Ittekot; Amsterdam: Mynx, 2008.
  • Estonian: Eric; Translated by Kaaren Kaer, Hillar Mets; Tailinn: Varrak, 2002.
  • Finnish: Eric; Translated by Mika Kivimäki; Hämeenlinna: Karisto, 2003.
  • French: Eric; Translated by Patrick Couton, Raphaël Defossez; Nante: L’Atalante, 1997, Paris: Pocket, 2001.
  • German: Eric; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; Munich: Piper, 2006.
  • Hungarian: Erik. Regény a Korongvilágon; Translated by Anikó Sohár; Debrecen: Cherubion, 2001.
  • Italian: Eric; Translated by Antonella Pierotti; Milano: Salini, 2006.
  • Polish: Eryk; Translated by Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka: 1997.
  • Serbian: Erik; Translated by Dejan Papić; Beograd: Laguna, 2001.
  • Slovakian: Erik; Translated by Vladislav Gális; Praha: Talpress, 2010.
  • Spanish: Eric; Translated by Javier Calvo; Barcelona: Debolsillo, 2004.
  • Swedish: Eric; Translated by Mats Blomquist; Stockholm: B. Wahlström, 2003.
  • Turkish: Eric; Translated by Niran Elçi; Istanbul: Ithaki, 2010.


Guards! Guards! (1989)

Guards! Guards! begins with an Ankh-Morpork brought to her knees by the fiascos of its previous rulers and the manipulations of its present Patrician, Lord Vetinari. Lord Vetinari has worked hard to subvert any thought of traditional social contract between ruler and the ruled. He has created organized crime/intricate guild system and subverted Ankh-Morpork’s police force/Watch. Its officers are no longer considered a threat to those who break the “law”.

The city wasa, wasa, wasa wossname. Thing. Woman. Thass what it was. Woman. Roaring, ancient, centuries old. Strung you along, let you fall in thingy, love with her, then kicked you inna, inna, thingy. thingy, in your mouth. Tongue. Tonsils. Teeth. That’s what it, she did. She wasa … thing, you know, lady dog. Puppy. Hen. Bitch. And then you hated her and, and, just when you thought you’d got her, it, out of your, whatever, then she opened her great rotten heart to you, caught you off bal, bal, bal, thing. Ance. Yeah. Thassit. Never knew where you stood. Lay. Only thing you were sure of, you couldn’t let her go. Because, because she was yours, all you had, even in her gutters …..

Captain Vimes is the leader of the Watch. A man who has no experience with rose-tinted glasses. Growing up in the Shades will do that to you. Brought to his knees by the manipulations of the Patrician, Vimes has become a severely depressed alcoholic who drinks to forget what he, and his Watch, have become.

In other words, both Ankh-Morpork and Captain Vimes seem ready for some kind of catalyst. And that is what Pratchett gives us. One of those catalysts brings a mystery to the eyes and ears of the entire Watch.

And then there was a sound –

– perhaps a volcanic sound, or the sound of a boiling geyser, but at any rate a long, dry roar of a sound, like the bellows in the forges of the Titans –

– but it was not so bad as the light, which was blue-white and the sort of light to print the pattern of your eyeballs’ blood vessels on the back of the inside of your skull.

According to the Patrician, they are dealing with a gigantic “wading bird” and “gang war”. Vimes does not agree.  The other catalyst comes in the form of a six foot six dwarf. For the sake of spoofing, the dwarfs of Discworld are similar to the dwarfs of epic fantasy, i.e. miners whose idea of a good height for a mine is five feet. As far as he knows, Carrot is a dwarf. When he becomes sixteen, Carrot discovers that he is not, in fact, a dwarf. Instead, he is a human like those on the surface. His father wrote to the Patrician inquiring about the possibility of a position with the Watch. Once the letter of hire is received, Carrot travels to Ankh-Morpork to “have a man made of him.” On his he memorizes most of Ankh-Morpork’s laws.

Why do I love Guards! Guards!? Pratchett is an excellent writer and this is probably one of his better works. He lays our (humanity’s) weaknesses and strengths in front of us in a manner that is both warm and sharp. No issue is too sacred. With Carrot, Vimes and Wonce we explore the long-term effects of personality, environment and chance. Colon allows us a look at the way some marriages survive. Sybil and Vimes show us loneliness and depression and different ways of coping. They also bring an odd version of Cinderella to the Discworld. The Patrian and the dragon show us two sides of the same type of leadership. Theirs aren’t the only types of leadership we see. Organized crime is a fitting word for the guild system, and the wizards, of the city. In addition, there is the Supreme Grand Master of the The Elucidated Brethren. Democracy is a term the citizens of Ankh-Morpork are unfamiliar with. The Librarian remains comfortable in his skin. Lines between classes are best seen in the river of Ankh-Morpork and, indeed, it does divide “betters” (Morpork) from their “lessers” (Ankh).

With Guards! Guards! Pratchett’s satire pricks me, and hopefully many others, with its truths. Mainly though, I am left with a sense of hope. Or perhaps opportunities? Anyways. Absolutely fabulous.


  • Audiobook: Guards! Guards!; Narrator Nigel Planer; Random House AudioBooks, 2007
  • Bulgarian: Стражите! Стражите!; Translator Мирела Христова; ИК Вузев, 1998
  • Chinese: 來人啊!Translator 魯宓 (Hu Shu); 寂寞出版股份有限公司, 2012
  • Czech: Stráže! Stráže!; Translator Jan Kantůrek; Talpress, 1995
  • Dutch: Wacht! Wacht!; Translator Venugopalan Ittekot; Het Spectrum, 1993
  • Estonian: Vahid! Vahid!; Translator Allan Eichenbaum; Varrak, 2002
  • Finnish: Vartijat, hoi!; Translator Marja Sinkkonen; Karisto, 1999
  • French: Au Guet!; Translator Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 1997
  • German: Wachen! Wachen!; Translator Andreas Brandhorst; Münich, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1991
  • Hebrew: שומרים! שומרים! Shomrim! Shomrim!; Translator Shelomit Hendelsman; 1998
  • Hungarian: Őrség! Őrség!; Translator Sohár Anikó; Cherubion, 2000
  • Italian: A me le guardie!; Translator Antonella Pieretti; Milano, Salani, 2002
  • Norwegian: I lovens navn!; Translator Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Tiden, 2002
  • Polish: Straż! Straż!; Translator Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa, Prószyński i S-ka, 1989
  • Portuguese (Brazil): Guardas! Guardas!; Translator Ludimila Hashimoto; São Paulo, Conrad Editora do Brasil, 2005
  • Romanian: Gărzi! Gărzi!; Translator Mihalescu Bogdan; Rao, 2008
  • Russian: Стража! Стража!; Translator Светлана Увбарх; Москва, Эксмо, 2001
  • Serbian: Straža! Straža!; Preveo: Dejan Papić; Beograd, Laguna, 2000
  • Spanish: ¡Guardias! ¡Guardias!; Translator Cristina Macía Orio; Barcelona, Martínez-Roca, 1993
  • Swedish: I lagens namn!; Translator Peter Lindforss; Stockholm, Wahlströms, 1995
  • Turkish: Muhafızlar! Muhafızlar!; Translator Niran Elçi; İthaki Yayınları, 2003

Humanities in academia: The glass beads game ………….

Another feature in the young (and not only young) people in today’s Russia is their (or our) political apathy. Out of one hundred students barely 10 will be at least mildly interested in politics. Whatever the causes this apathy has to be dealt with despite the fact that government and university officials frown upon attempts at independent political activity of more or less any kind. There are quite many books on the issue but they are so serious that in them things either look like ideological propaganda which provokes idiosyncratic reaction – or appear to be totally hopeless which is maybe even worse. With Pratchett’s ‘Guards! Guards!’ it as possible to talk not only about political matters, but also about the good and evil in people. Pratchett’s brilliant formulas stick in memory and give food for thought and, I believe may really influence one’s behavior, provided that attention has been timely drawn to them: ‘people who will follow any dragon…’

So, from Pratchett’s books we can move in three directions: 1) philosophical; 2) political; 3) literary (involving the above and a lot of other things as well).

Suprun, T. (2011). Humanities in academia: The glass beads game, a breakthrough to the ultimate reality (whatever it means) or following the curriculum?. International Journal of Arts & Sciences, CD-ROM. ISSN: 1944-6934 :: 4(18):65–75 http://openaccesslibrary.org/images/0418_Tatiana_Suprun.pdf

Terry Pratchett’s narrative worlds….

Guards! Guards!, 2017

Art by Liu Junwei, aka Shayudan (鲨鱼丹)

Terry Pratchett recognises the power of cultural stories: they are a way for the culture to understand itself. “Story shapes” become templates as people “attempt to fit the facts of history into them”. However, when these stories move beyond frameworks for understanding the past and present, they morph into a blueprint for the future. This “narrative causality”, as Pratchett calls it, drives cultural and individual identity. Pratchett rejects this cultural lockstep, as his Discworld characters demonstrate that “stories cannot be allowed to dictate roles to people”. In Guards! Guards!, Captain Samuel Vimes of the City Watch is caught between two roles: the fantasy hero and the drunk, washed-up policeman. His negotiation between these two frameworks is the heart of the novel. Vimes becomes a hero and stays a cop through his own choices about what he wants his story to be, not what the universally known stories tell him.

Pratchett’s Discworld brings together medieval English romance tropes and their modern reiterations in epic fantasy. Historically, both genres have struggled to garner serious scholarly study. Medieval romance was for a long time understudied, despite its being the most popular genre of its time, the basis for much of modern Western popular culture, and the location of much of the imaginary world of the Middle Ages. Fantasy (and science fiction) often take tropes of romance and rework them for a contemporary audience. Epic fantasy is a type of medievalism ………………………………..

Leverett, E. (2018). Terry Pratchett’s Narrative Worlds : From giant turtles to small gods. In ‘At times like this it’s traditional that a hero comes forth’: Romance and identity in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! (pp. 159-175). Cham: Springer International Publishing: Palgrave MacMillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-67298-4_9


Who holds the Watch tonight?………..

Guards sketch

Of all of the Discworld novels, those that feature Ankh-Morpork’s Watch place the most emphasis on the operation of society as a whole. They apply the satirical lens of Discworld optics to the city of Ankh-Morpork, using the Watch as a microcosm of society to focus attention on the ways in which people see. The events of each of the novels are set in motion by a perceived need to resurrect the long-dead monarchy of Ankh-Morpork. Those who think: the city needs a king view monarchy as a monological means of resolution, using it to superimpose their idea of kingship upon society. The absolutist nature of this kind of approach either ignores or devalues some of the Discworld’s inhabitants. In contrast, the high-resolution picture of society that the Watch develop is an inclusive and adaptable one, always in the process of being shaped. The Watch novels subvert perceptions of monarchy and, in doing so, indicate the narrowness of anyone who ignores the essential diversity, divisiveness and complexity of society…………….

Murray, W. (1998). Subversions: The Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett. University of Canterbury, Masters thesis. p. 52-113. Webaddress

Pratchett, Terry; Pyramids (1989)

“But here, away from the great centres of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar towards the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.

The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.

The energy streaming up from their paracosmic peaks may, in chapters to come, illuminate many mysteries: why tortoises hate philosophy, why too much religion is bad for goats, and what it is that handmaidens actually do.”

As the Discworld unfolds, the stories become more poignant. Yes, gags, plays on words, and downright bizarreness are plentiful. Except, this isn’t why Pratchett remains one of my alltime favourite authors. Real world people and events (even historical) are. Pyramids is sort of about Egyptian history, all boy boarding schools (particularly final examinations), family, coming of age and religion. Most of all, it is about human nature as seen with the eyes of Pratchett and interpreted through me. This must have been my fourth time to read the Pyramids, and I still enjoyed it a great deal. To be fair, I am not alone in that point of view. Pyramids was considered great enough that it won the 1989 BSFA Award for best science fiction novel.

And, after all, what was there for him at home? A kingdom two miles wide and one hundred and fifty miles long, which was almost entirely underwater during the flood season, and threatened on either side by stronger neighbours who tolerated its existence only because they’s be constantly at war if it wasn’t there.

Teppic’s father, the king of Djelibeybi, promised Teppic’s mother that he would send the boy off for a proper education abroad. She felt Djelibeybi was a bit set in its ways. According to popular beliefs of the time, the best all-round education a boy could get was at Ankh-Morpork’s Assassin’s Guild. Up until then, Teppic’s education had been a bit spotty, encouraged independent thinking, and gave him an inflated view of his position in the world. The (almost) all-boy boarding school did not destroy Teppic’s independent thinking but it did manage to help his opinion of himself become a bit more in line with Discworld reality. We meet him for the first time as he is about to take his final examination, one that is all about avoiding ill-preparedness, carelessness, lack of concentration, poor maintenenance of tools and over-confidence. Not all who attend the Assassin Guild’s school survive the experience.

Then Teppic’s father dies and his “mantle” passes on to Teppic.

The sun, unaware that it was making its farewell performance, continued to drift smoothly above the rim of the world. And out of it, moving faster than any bird should be able to fly, a seagull bore down on Ankh-Morpork, on the Brass Bridge and eight still figures, on one staring face …

Once the mantle is passed, Teppic knows that he must return to Djelibeybi. If only he did not have to return to Dios. “Dios, First Minister and high priest among high priests“. A fundamentalist of fundamentalists. Like many priests he does not really believe in his gods, but he certainly believes that other people should. Dios reminds me of many religious leaders I have met and read about.

The naturally religious, he felt, were unstable and given to wandering in the desert and having revelations – as if the gods would lower themselves to that sort of thing. And they never got anything done. They started thinking that rituals weren’t important. They started thinking that you could talk to the gods direct. Dios knew, with the kind of rigid and unbending certainly you could pivot the world on, that the gods of Djelibeybi liked ritual as much as anyone else. After all, a god who was against ritual would be like a fish who was against water.

Along the way we meet two other important characters, albeit secondary ones. The greatest mathematician of the Discworld and Ptraci. Like I said at the beginning, Pratchett jokes with words. Being a word kind of person, I like that. I like the intelligence of Pratchett’s writing. His expectation that I see through his fun and games. The lovely pictures he paints. Intriguing characters. It is fitting that the characters from Pyramids remain in Djelibeybi, leaving it as one of his stand-alone novels. I miss having him alive.

The Pyramid Players presented a one-week stage adaptation by Suzi Holyoake, “at the Bowen West Theatre in Bedford from Tuesday 5th January to Saturday 9th January 1999.” The original titles of the chapters can be found in Egyptian funerary texts, The Book of the New Sun, and 101 things a boy can do around the house.



  • Audiobook: Narrated by Tony Robinson; Abridged by Kati Nicholl; produced by Maurice Leitch. Corgi Audiobooks, 1995
  • Braille: South Yarra, Vic. : Louis Braille Books, 1996
  • Bulgarian: Пирамиди; Translated by ; Вузев, 2000
  • Chinese: 金字塔 (Jin zi ta); Translated by Hu Shu yi; 成都 : 四川科学技术出版社, 2012 (Laqiete Pu)
    • Chengdou : Si chuan ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 2012
  • Croatian: Piramide; Translated by Drago Štajduhar; Split, Marjan tisak, 2008
  • Czech: Pyramidy; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Praha, Talpress, 1995
  • Dutch: Pyramides; Translated by Venugopalan Ittekot; Utrecht, Het Spectrum, 1993
  • Estonian: Püramiidid; Translated by Allan Eichenbaum; Varrak, 2001
  • Finnish: Pyramidit; Translated by Mika Kivimäki; Hämeenlinna, Karisto, 2002
  • French: Pyramides; Translated by Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 1996
  • German: Pyramiden; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; München, Piper, 2015
  • Greek: Τέρι Πράτσετ, Πυραμίδες; Μετάφραση: Άννα Παπασταύρου; Ψυχογιός, 2006
  • Hebrew: ירמידות; טרי פראצ`ט; תירגום: אורית קפלן;תל אביב, כנרת, 1998
    Hungarian: Piramisok; Translated by Sohár Anikó and Farkas Veronika; Debrecen, Cherubion Könyvkiadó, 2000
  • Italian: Maledette piramidi; Translated by Pier Francesco Paolini; Milano, TEA, 2004
  • Japanese: ピラミッド; Translated by 久賀宣人訳 久賀, 宣人; S.l., Choueisha, 1999
  • Norwegian: Pyramidene; Translated by Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Oslo, Tiden, 2001
  • Persian: اهرام؛ تری پرتچت؛ مترجم: محمد حسینی مقدم؛ تهران، ویدا، 1395
    Polish: Piramidy; Translated by Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa, Pro︠szyn︠ski i S-ka, 1998
  • Portugese: Pirâmides; Translated by Ludimila Hashimoto; São Paolo, Conrad 2004
  • Romanian: Piramide; Translated by Tatiana Kostadinova-Minkovska, Bozhidar Grozianov; Sofia, Vusev, 2000
  • Russian: Пирамиды; Translated by V. Simonova and N. Berdnikova; Moskva, Эксмо, 2003
  • Serbian: Piramide; Translated by Dejan Papić; Beograd, Laguna, 2000
  • Slovak: Pyramídy; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Talpress, 1995
  • Spanish: Pirómides; Translated by Albert Solé and Cristina Macía Orio; Barcelona, Martinez Roca, 1992
  • Swedish: Pyramidfeber; Translated by Peter Lindforss; Stockholm, B. Wahlströms bokförlag AB, 1997
  • Turkish: Piramitler; Translated by Niran Elçi: istanbul, İthaki Yayınlar, 2002


  • Pratchett, T., 1989. The test: a specially adapted extract from Terry Pratchett’s new Discworld novel, Pyramids. London: Croftward
  • Bookrags: Everything you need to understand or teach Pyramids by Terry Pratchett



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