Life is made up of stories. From the moment we are born until the time we die we get told, and tell, stories about the way we think life ought to be. If we are lucky, life sometimes introduces us to new ideas and experiences.
It began – part of it began – on the mail coach that came over the mountains from the distant cities of the plain.
This was the part of the journey that the driver didn’t like. The way wound through forests and around mountains on crumbling roads. There were deep shadows between the trees. Sometimes he thought things were following the coach, keeping just out of sight. It gave him the willies.
And on this journey, the really big willie was that he could hear voices. He was sure of it. They were coming from behind him, from the top of the coach, and there was nothing there but the big oilcloth mail-sacks and the young man’s luggage. There was certainly nothing big enough for a person to hide inside. But occasionally he was sure he heard squeaky voices, whispering.
With this as part of his introduction to The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Terry Pratchett sets the mood for one of his darker stories. Much like the court-jesters of old, Pratchett peels away our layers of folly and covers them in stories, this time a story about rats, a cat, a boy and a girl. Most of the time, humans prefer to pretend that what we are told is real rather than accept reality. Except for people like Keith.
“one day he’d seen the stupid-looking kid playing the flute with his cap in front of him for pennies, and he’d had an idea. An amazing idea. I just turned up, bang, all at once. Rats, flute, stupid-looking kid …”
Keith is thought stupid by most people he meets. He tends to listen more than he speaks, to observe more than he demands attention. Once his observations are confirmed, he accepts that what is right in front of him must be real. Even if that happens to be a talking cat. As long as he gets to play his flute, Keith does not care whether a person comes in the shape of a cat or a human or a rat. I am married to a man who has often been underestimated because of his listening abilities. Con-men have a harder time with such people. Not that Maurice had a difficult time recruiting Keith to his Pied Piper scheme. After all, it allowed for quite a bit of flute-playing. Some time before Maurice volunteered Keith he was still amazing but could not speak or think human. Until he could.
They said he was amazing. The Amazing Maurice, they said. He’d never meant to be amazing. It had just happened.
He’d realized something was odd that day, just after lunch, when he’d looked into a reflection in a puddle and thought that’s me. He’d never been aware of himself before. Of course, it was hard to remember how he’d thought before he became amazing. It seemed to him that his mind had been just a kind of soup.
Maurice became a Changeling by eating one of the members of the Clan. Cats seem to consider themselves above humans. Becoming a Changeling cemented Maurice’s theory of himself as better than any other creature he meets. While most parts of being a Changeling has made life more comfortable for Maurice, his new way of thinking brings with it a conscience. Perhaps not a well-functioning conscience, but one that rears its head at inconvenient times. Such as dinner.
One of the stories we are repeatedly told in life, is that the only good rat is a dead rat. Maurice discovers that this is not the case with the Clan. The Clan are the old mischief led by Hamnpork. They used to eat whatever the wizards at Unseen University threw out. The Clan had no idea eating food that glowed was a bad thing so they did. Oops. Now they have have to deal with humans in a completely new manner. One that brings in silver and gold.
Sudden change can be difficult for those who are set in their ways. Hamnpork and the other older rats all struggled with the new-fangled ways that came with human. Maurice was one of the things they had problems accepting. No wonder.
One person embraced human and that was Dangerous Beans. He is the Clan’s spiritual leader, the group’s philosopher and he thinks up guidelines for modern behaviour. All good prophets must have a person who writes down their wise thoughts. Peaches has that job. She feels that life has more to offer than babies and mating. Her duties for the Clan are as record-keeper and inventor of a written rat-language. You see, not every rat is interested in learning to read human.
Darktan is the rat voted most likely to succeed Hamnpork. Adapting to their changed condition has been simpler for Darktan. His inventions of tools, a tool-belt and a map for rats along with an ability to plan defensively has saved lives that traditional thinking would have killed. Many of the younger rats look up to him. Hamnpork sees Darktan as a threat. But Darktan does not want to take over leadership of the Clan. He would rather lead his teams of rats in making each new town safe.
Sardines is a rat smart enough to be a leader but whose interests lie with acting and dancing. He is the only rat with a hat. Sardines also has a stick that he uses during his dance numbers. These rats sound very human-like, but they aren’t any more human-like than rats have always been. The only difference really is that the Clan now talk and are able to think about tomorrow.
These and several more rats make up the Clan. Their job when they get to a new town is to annoy the humans enough to send for Keith, defuse traps, recognize and remove poison, set up camp, and defend the Clan from keekees (unchanged resident rats). Maurice’s job is to be the small voice in the crowd that gets people to say and do whatever he wants. Keith’s job is, of course, to lead the rats off to the closest river and pretend to drown them. Except rats swim well.
Our final main character is Malicia. She is the first human to understand what the gang is doing and wants in on it. Her world is one of stories and she lives her life according to whichever story she is currently into. Talking rats and a talking cat are woven into the stories in her head, and that worries Keith and Maurice. They know that death in life is more permanent that death in fairy tales.
Even the crooks are given life by Pratchett, even though that life is shallower than the one for our main characters. We should be able to recognize people we know in some of the people in Amazing Maurice. I know I could identify both myself and others in some of them. Keith, Dangerous Beans, Malicia and Peaches come to mind. Pratchett’s stories tend to give me that. Identification with characters is important to me. So is plot. Amazing Maurice is like fairy tales of old. Dangerous, scary and a kind of happy ending that leaves all parties somewhat dissatisfied. As usual Pratchett plays with old stories and plays making them into something that does not take itself as seriously. Amazing Maurice is told from several points of view. Each voice is different to the others.
As usual with Pratchett’s stories, my favourite thing about The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is the way it highlights how silly humans are and how dangerous that silliness is. Children of all ages ought to read Amazing Maurice. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
- Bulgarian: Изумителният Морис и неговите образовани гризачи; Translated by Катя Анчева; Вузев, 2006
- Chinese: 貓鼠奇譚 ; Translated by 謝其濬 ; 天下遠見出版股份有限公司 2004
- Croatian: Čudesni Maurice i njegovi učeni glodavci; Translated by Drago Štajduhar; Split, Marijan Tisak, 2003
- Czech: Úžasný Mauric a jeho vzdělaní hlodavci; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Talpress, 2003
- Danish: Mageløse Maurice og hans rådsnare rotter: Translated by Svend Ranild; København, Borgen, 2004
- Dutch: Mirakelse Maurits en zijn Gestudeerde Knaagdieren; Translated by Venugopalan Ittekot; Uitgeverij M, 2003
- Estonian: Hämmastav Maurice ja tema õpetatud närilised; Translated by Kaaren Kaer; Varrak, 2001
- Finnish: Mahtava Morris ja sivistyneet siimahännät; Translated by Leena Peltonen; Karisto Oy, 2002
- French: Le Fabuleux Maurice et ses rongeurs savants; Translated by Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 2004
- German: Maurice, der Kater; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; Goldmann, 2004
- Greek: Ο εκπληκτικός Μορίς και τα σοφά τρωκτικά του; Translated by Παπασταύρου Άννα; Αθήνα, Ψυχογιός, 2008
- Hebrew: מוריס המדהים ומכרסמיו המלומדים; Translated by Jonathan Bar; Sial, 2001
- Hungarian: Fantasztikus Maurícius és az ő tanult rágcsálói; Translated by Veronika Farkas; Delta Vision Kiadó, 2014
- Italian: Il prodigioso Maurice e i suoi geniali roditori; Translated by Maurizio Bartocci; Arnoldo Mondadori, 2005
- Japanese: 天才ネコモーリスとその仲間たち Translated by Hoshi Taminaga; Asunaru Shobo, 2004
- Latvian:Terijs Prečets; Brīnumainā Morisa dēkas; Translated by Uldis Sīlis; Zvaigzne ABC, 2001
- Norwegian: Magiske Maurits og hans Gløgge Gnagere; Translated by Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Oslo, Gyldendal Tiden, 2006
- Polish: Zadziwiający Maurycy i jego uczone szczury; Translated by Dorota Malinowska-Grupińska; Warszawa: Prósyński i S-ka, 2004
- Portugese: O Fabuloso Maurício e seus ratos letrados; Translated by Ricardo Gouveia; São Paolo, Conrad, 2004
- Romanian: Uluitorul Maurice şi rozătoarele lui educate; Translated by Mirella Acsente; Corint Junior, 2006
- Serbian: Neverovatni Moris i njegovi školovani glodari; Translated by Nevena Andrić; Laguna, 2001
- Spanish: El asombroso Mauricio y sus roedores sabios; Translated by ; Plaza & Janes Editories Sa, 2010
- Swedish: Den Makalöse Maurice och hans Kultiverade Gnagare; Translated by Mats Blomqvist; B Wahlströms, 2003
- Turkish: Muhteşem Maurice ve Değişmiş Fareleri; Translated by Niran Elçi; Tudem Yayınları, 2007
- The 2001 Carnegie Award:
“A brilliant and witty twist on the tale of the Pied Piper. Funny and irreverent, but also dark and subversive, in the way it parodies the classic folk tale genre. This is a story that holds a mirror up to our world and questions attitudes and behaviour prevalent in our society. A clever and most entertaining read.”
- The 2014 Geffen Award for Best Translated YA Book
Terry Pratchett’s acceptance speech for the award for The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
I’m pretty sure that the publicists for this award would be quite happy if I said something controversial, but it seems to me that giving me the Carnegie medal is controversial enough. This was my third attempt. Well, I say my third attempt, but in fact I just sat there in ignorance and someone else attempted it on my behalf, somewhat to my initial dismay.
The Amazing Maurice is a fantasy book. Of course, everyone knows that fantasy is ‘all about’ wizards, but by now, I hope, everyone with any intelligence knows that, er, what everyone knows…is wrong.
Fantasy is more than wizards. For instance, this book is about rats that are intelligent. But it also about the even more fantastic idea that humans are capable of intelligence as well. Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by throwing a piece of expensive jewellery into a volcano is the possibility that evil can be defused by talking. The fantasy of justice is more interesting that the fantasy of fairies, and more truly fantastic. In the book the rats go to war, which is, I hope, gripping. But then they make peace, which is astonishing.
In any case, genre is just a flavouring. It’s not the whole meal. Don’t get confused by the scenery.
A novel set in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881 is what– a Western? The scenery says so, the clothes say so, but the story does not automatically become a Western. Why let a few cactuses tell you what to think? It might be a counterfactual, or a historical novel, or a searing literary indictment of something or other, or a horror novel, or even, perhaps, a romance – although the young lovers would have to speak up a bit and possibly even hide under the table, because the gunfight at the OK corral was going on at the time.
We categorize too much on the basis of unreliable assumption. A literary novel written by Brian Aldiss must be science fiction, because he is a known science fiction writer; a science fiction novel by Margaret Attwood is literature because she is a literary novelist. Recent Discworld books have spun on such concerns as the nature of belief, politics and even of journalistic freedom, but put in one lousy dragon and they call you a fantasy writer.
This is not, on the whole, a complaint. But as I have said, it seems to me that dragons are not really the pure quill of fantasy, when properly done. Real fantasy is that a man with a printing press might defy an entire government because of some half-formed belief that there may be such a thing as the truth. Anyway, fantasy needs no defence now. As a genre it has become quire respectable in recent years. At least, it can demonstrably make lots and lots and lots of money, which passes for respectable these days. When you can by a plastic Gandalf with kung-fu grip and rocket launcher, you know fantasy has broken through.
But I’m a humorous writer too, and humour is a real problem.
It was interesting to see how Maurice was reviewed here and in the US. Over there, where I’ve only recently made much of an impression, the reviews tended to be quite serious and detailed with, as Maurice himself would have put it, ‘long words, like “corrugated iron”‘ Over here, while being very nice, they tended towards the ‘another wacky, zany book by comic author Terry Pratchett’. In fact Maurice has no wack and very little zane. It’s quite a serious book. Only the scenery is funny.
The problem is that we think the opposite of funny is serious. It is not. In fact, as G K Chesterton pointed out, the opposite of funny is not funny, and the opposite of serious is not serious. Benny Hill was funny and not serious; Rory Bremner is funny and serious; most politicians are serious but, unfortunately, not funny. Humour has its uses. Laughter can get through the keyhole while seriousness is still hammering on the door. New ideas can ride in on the back of a joke, old ideas can be given an added edge.
Which reminds me… Chesterton is not read much these days, and his style and approach belong to another time and, now, can irritate. You have to read in a slightly different language. And then, just when the ‘ho, good landlord, a pint of your finest English ale!’ style gets you down, you run across a gem, cogently expressed. He famously defended fairy stories against those who said they told children that there were monsters; children already know that there are monsters, he said, and fairy stories teach them that monsters can be killed. We now know that the monsters may not simply have scales and sleep under a mountain. They may be in our own heads.
In Maurice, the rats have to confront them all: real monsters, some of whom have many legs, some merely have two, but some, perhaps the worse, are the ones they invent. The rats are intelligent. They’re the first rats in the world to be afraid of the dark, and they people the shadows with imaginary monsters. An act of extreme significance to them is the lighting of a flame.
People have already asked me if I had the current international situation in mind when I wrote the book. The answer is no. I wouldn’t insult even rats by turning them into handy metaphors. It’s just unfortunate that the current international situation is pretty much the same old dull, stupid international situation, in a world obsessed by the monsters it has made up, dragons that are hard to kill. We look around and see foreign policies that are little more than the taking of revenge for the revenge that was taken in revenge for the revenge last time. It’s a path that leads only downwards, and still the world flocks along it. It makes you want to spit. The dinosaurs were thick as concrete, but they survived for one hundred and fifty million years and it took a damn great asteroid to knock them out. I find myself wonder wondering now if intelligence comes with its own built-in asteroid.
Of course, as the aforesaid writer of humorous fantasy I’m obsessed by wacky, zany ideas. One is that rats might talk. But sometimes I’m even capable of weirder, more ridiculous ideas, such the possibility of a happy ending. Sometimes, when I’m really, really wacky and on a fresh dose of zany, I’m just capable of entertaining the fantastic idea that, in certain circumstances, Homo Sapiens might actually be capable of thinking. It must be worth a go, since we’ve tried everything else.
Writing for children is harder that writing for adults, if you’re doing it right. What I thought was going to be a funny story about a cat organizing a swindle based on the Pied Piper legend turned out to be a major project, in which I was aided and encouraged and given hope by Philippa Dickinson and Sue Coates at Doubleday or whatever they’re calling themselves this week, and Anne Hoppe of HarperCollins in New York, who waylaid me in an alley in Manhattan and insisted on publishing the book and even promised to protect me from that most feared of creatures, the American copy editor.
And I must thank you, the judges, in the hope that your sanity and critical faculties may speedily be returned to you. And finally, my thanks to the rest of you, the loose agglomeration of editors and teachers and librarians that I usually refer to, mostly with a smile, as the dirndl mafia. You keep the flame alive.
Interference Patterns of the Verb Say in the Narration of English-Polish Literary Translations: A Corpus-Based Study
Olejniczak, J. (2016). Interference Patterns of the Verb Say in the Narration of English-Polish Literary Translations: A Corpus-Based Study. Anglica. An International Journal of English Studies, (25/2), 139-150.
To conduct this research it was necessary to create a number of corpora. I obtained samples at my own discretion (see Database for the titles) and removed the paratextual elements except for some of the footnotes (in Pratchett’s novels these constitute an integral part of the texts). The corpora adhere to the statistical norms set forth by Sinclair and Biber. The Polish Fiction Corpus is large enough to examine syntactic patterns (Biber 1993, 252–255) whereas the parallel corpora are sampled proportionally (Sinclair 2005, 4). The core of my research material consists of two large corpora, the Cholewa Corpus and the Grupińska Corpus (approx. 140,000 words each), obtained from the parallel translations of three books by Terry Pratchett. Each corpus contains the Polish translations of the same set of books by one translator. The translators are Piotr Cholewa and Dorota Malinowska-Grupińska, and the titles of the source texts are: The Wee-Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. All the six translations were published between 2003 and 2011. The samples used in the creation of the corpora are fully parallel (so that every given sample X in the Cholewa Corpus has its directly equivalent sample Y in the Grupińska Corpus). The Pratchett Corpus (approx. 135,000 words) was obtained from the original books by Terry Pratchett written in English. This corpus represents source texts and again contains samples fully parallel to those from the Cholewa Corpus and the Grupińska Corpus. Its raison d’être is to highlight the relationship between the source texts and the target texts allowing me to show the contrast between the two translations.
Oziewicz, M. C. (2009). “We cooperate, or we die”: Sustainable Coexistence in Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Children’s Literature in Education, 40, 85-94.
This article examines Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice as a modern example of environmentally informed social dreaming about sustainable coexistence. In our increasingly ecologically-conscious world sustainability and coexistence have become key words in the discourse about social, economic and political relations. The problem of relating to what lies beyond the human, however, remains a challenge. This article argues that this problem is central to Pratchett’s novel, making it a serious commentary on ecoliteracy and ecodesign. The Amazing Maurice, it is claimed, is a work with a transformative purpose. It suggests that cooperation and coexistence are workable beyond what we assume to be their limits.
Webb, Caroline (2015); Fantasy and the Real World in British Children’s Literature: The Power of Story; New York, Rutledge, (p. 20-23); Cached dokument
Pratchett’s first Discworld novel marketed to children, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, makes very clear his engagement with the problem of fiction. On the one hand, stories generate dreams, even ideals, through which people can imagine and construct a better future; on the other, taken too literally, they can produce false expectations, with dangerous results when readers trust to the happy ending of fairy tales to bypass the power of actual evil. The story of The Amazing Maurice holds both ideas in tension. It offers a beguiling story, or set of stories—the story of two children outsmarting a gang of thieves, aided by a cat and some rats; the story of a homeless boy and a homeless family, who happen to be rats, finding places to live—but at the same time it critiques the conventions of story and asks pertinent questions about how we not only think about but think with and through stories to shape our lives.
The novel’s premise seems to answer one of Pratchett’s characteristically faux-naïf questions: if you pay someone to remove rats, isn’t it in his interest to make sure there are always rats to take away? Thus we are introduced to a young traveller whose bags contain a clan of intelligent rats—or, as they prefer to be known, educated rodents (Pratchett, The Amazing 87)—whose role is to provide the impression of a rat plague that the young man, known for the first part of the novel simply as “the kid” (12), can then triumphantly remove from each town by playing his pipe. The absurd rightness of this scenario is heightened when the reader realises that the brains of this operation is a cat, the amazing Maurice, who magically gained intelligence at the same time as the rats, but whose cat instincts for making the most of a situation remain well to the fore.
As is characteristic in Pratchett’s work, the ideas presented and indeed the structure of the opening pages of the novel are highly significant to his project. In this case, the novel’s opening highlights the extent to which The Amazing Maurice is “a story about stories” (10). First, we are presented with an epigraph drawn apparently from a children’s book called Mr Bunnsy Has an Adventure. Second, the opening lines echo Browning’s famous poem, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”: “Rats! They chased the dogs and bit the cats, they—” (Pratchett, The Amazing 9). The reader is immediately, and doubly, projected into story, whether the imitation Beatrix Potter of the epigraph—the fictional source text of which turns out to be significant to the plot—or the quotation from Browning. However, the narrator interrupts his own sentence, commenting “But there was more to it than that” (9) before quoting, this time, the title character himself—“As the amazing Maurice said, it was just a story about people and rats” (9)—and observing, significantly, that “the difficult part was deciding who the people were, and who were the rats” (10). The final one-sentence paragraph before we are introduced to the central characters underlines the metafictional aspect of what we are reading: “But Malicia Grim said it was a story about stories” (10). This layering and contrasting invites readers to keep in mind several ideas in reading the novel: that we are reading a story that may be interpreted in different ways; that the story may provide a comment on story itself, as underlined by the epigraph and quotation as well as Malicia Grim’s assertion; and, importantly too, that it may involve a confusion between good and evil, distinguishing the “people” from the “rats.” This Orwellian difficulty is explored in the later stages of the novel, but it is intriguingly literalised in the opening pages. The reader discovers that some of the “squeaky voices” heard by the coachman belong not to humans but to rats—but rats who are definitely “people” (10). The novel at one level imitates the many children’s stories featuring animal characters, but this is not simply naturalised; through Pratchett’s initial use of the coachman as focaliser, the reader is left guessing the identity of the “voices.” Pratchett thus introduces us to the world of the novel, in which animals are not expected to have voices—but may turn out to—and in which not only the characters but the narrator may conceal information from the reader.
This element suggests an ethical dimension to the novel that is further established in the immediately following action. The “fair-haired young man” (10) who is the only person the briefly focalising coachman can see, asks, “Maurice? [. . .] You don’t think what we’re doing is, you know . . . dishonest , do you?” (11), 3 and is fobbed off with the unseen Maurice’s glib arguments. The young man’s awareness that “some of those towns looked pretty poor” (12) generates an argument about the nature of the group’s activities that is ironically punctuated by a more explicit theft than the scam the characters are clearly running, as the coach is held up by a highwayman. Only when the highwayman is in turn attacked by beings that “ran up your trouser legs [. . .] Typical rat trick” (16) does he, and the reader, realise that the hidden Maurice is a cat—and that the other speakers, apart from the young man, are rats. We, like the now vanished coachman, and the highwayman who enquired whether his intended targets were wizards, witches, vampires, or werewolves but did not think of intelligent rats or cats, have been deceived, and our awareness of this deception is focused by the continuing discussion. Clearly we are reading not only a story about stories, but a story that will constantly engage with questions of right and wrong—and with judgements less between good and evil than between the greater and the lesser evil. After all, no one expects the heroes of a story to be rats.
The Amazing Maurice highlights two approaches to fiction. In the first, an individual may lose sight of the world—and his or her place in it—through belief in the literal truth or the universal applicability of a story. The rats, who have taught themselves to read after suddenly becoming intelligent, believe in the reality depicted in Mr Bunnsy Has an Adventure. Malicia Grim, meanwhile, has immersed herself in stories; she is fully aware that the stories she reads are fiction, but her admiration for story results in her endeavouring to turn everything she encounters into the shape of a story. People turn around to watch her being inconspicuous (112). As a result, although Malicia sees a lot more than do the townsfolk around her, she misses seeing some obvious facts because she is convinced that she knows how the story ought to go. Importantly, the human beings she meets do not behave as she expects they will, as when the villainous rat-catchers beat up her and Keith, the kid—who does not bounce back displaying superhuman powers—and shut them in a prison that lacks an obvious escape route. The rats, on the other hand, have been using Mr Bunnsy as their guidebook: they believe there must already be a place where people and rats relate to each other as described in Mr Bunnsy.
Both views misinterpret the ways in which stories can tell the truth. Stories do not provide the literal truth about events. What good stories do, as the rat Darktan eventually recognises, is to provide “a map of . . . where we are and where we’re going” (Pratchett, The Amazing 227). Mr Bunnsy does not describe the world as it really is; it is, as Malicia points out, a rather silly story that ignores not only social realities, such as the enmity of humans and rats, but physical possibilities, as it depicts a snake wearing a collar. But just as Darktan could use the idea of a rat in a jacket, depicted in Mr Bunnsy, to invent something that is not a jacket but is a version of a jacket that might be useful to a rat—a harness of straps and pockets—so he and the other rats can use the idea of a place where animals and humans can live with and help each other to start to make that happen. In the novel’s denouement, the intelligent rats negotiate a way in which they can cohabit with the humans to the benefit of both. Malicia, too, turns out to have learned at least some useful things from stories—she is able to manipulate hairpins to open locks because she has practised this storybook skill, and her decision to provide the villainous rat-catchers with the same emetic as fake antidote that they have been given as fake poison is, as she observes, “narratively satisfying” (214). And Keith, the “stupid-looking kid” (31) who initially claims that he just wants to be allowed to play music, but by the end has not only helped to track down the villains but also been clever enough to defeat and then do a deal with a real rat piper, is last seen speculating about how long it might take to become mayor. Keith, who expressed scepticism about story in his discussions with Malicia, has also learned from story by the end of the novel, in this case about the possible future of a boy who arrives in a town with a clever cat. The rats and Keith, as well as the humans of the town, have used story to imagine and to begin to construct new ways to live their lives.
The Amazing Maurice, like a number of Pratchett’s novels, highlights both the inevitable falsity of stories and their power. At the end of the novel Malicia’s father, the town’s mayor, remarks, “Stories are just stories. Life is complicated enough as it is. You have to plan for the real world. There’s no room for the fantastic”; the response “ ‘Exactly,’ said the rat” (313) underscores the extent to which this practical conclusion is emerging within a fantastic scenario. Stories in this novel turn out to be more than “just stories,” and planning for the real world entails an idea strikingly akin to Sir Philip Sidney’s suggestion that “her [Nature’s] world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden” (216). The “golden world” only available through art becomes an exemplar for real life to follow. Pratchett’s story simultaneously warns against a simplistic investment in the literal truth of story and provides what might seem a wonderfully escapist fantasy that in fact educates its readers in how to learn from what they read.
The entire study can be found on Amazon
Pratchett for Young Readers: Translation Analysis of Selected Texts with Software for Lexical Analysis
Lengálová, K. (2009). Pratchett for Young Readers: Translation Analysis of Selected Texts with Software for Lexical Analysis (Doctoral dissertation, Masarykova univerzita, Filozofická fakulta).
Literary translation is tricky: the most important thing that makes it outstanding is style, which cannot be measured or indeed objectively analysed. There will always be readers who will not like a translation because it does not sound natural enough or because it sounds too natural – naturality being an example of an aspect deeply individual, depending on each reader’s social and cultural background.
However, there are now modern ways to analyse a translation, whether literary or not: software for lexical analysis. This software brings objectivity into the field of translation analysis because it allows the theoretician to calculate certain values of a text and then compare them with those of other texts of his or her choice. Texts can be analysed on the level of words, word clusters or even longer segments, and the software allows the user to ensure that the objects analysed really are objectively comparable. This method is not able to tell you whether the translation is good or not, but it allows you to get a more objective point of view. That is why I chose such approach in my thesis to analyse segments of texts from Terry Pratchett’s books, The Bromeliad and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.
I should add that the texts I chose are not just some ordinary texts. Firstly, they fall into the group of children’s literature, that is those books that were written (supposedly) with low age and relative inexperience of the readers in mind. Secondly, to keep the thesis more focused, I chose only certain parts of the texts. Both of the analysed books have a particular peculiarity: each chapter starts with an excerpt from an imaginary book that plays a role in the story. …..
New Windmills – 2004 – Resource sheets –
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
By Terry Pratchett
Activities by Alan Pearce
© Harcourt Education Limited, 2004
The following pages consist of teacher’s notes and classroom resource sheets for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.
These pages can be downloaded and printed out as required. This material may be freely copied for institutional use. However, this material is copyright and under no circumstances can copies be offered for sale. The publishers gratefully acknowledge permission to reproduce copyright material.
This is a very entertaining novel, with some extremely amusing moments. However, there are also dark moments when, for example, some of the educated rodents are killed. The novel will definitely encourage students to consider their attitude towards animals. Possible areas for study include:
Persuasive writing: Write Maurice’s speech to Bad Blintz’s town council, persuading them that rats should be treated as equals. …
Creative writing: Imagine a pet could record his or her thoughts. What would they think of their owners? …
Informative writing: Write an article for a nature magazine, about the educated rodents found in Bad Blintz. …
Independent research/information writing: Produce a leaflet about keeping rats as pets. …
Personal view: Who would you identify as the hero of the novel? …
Group discussion/presentation: Imagine you are members of the Bad Blintz town council. Debate the advantages and disadvantages of treating the educated rodents as equals. …
Collaborative drama: Dramatise significant scenes from the novel: …
Horng, W. J. (2011). 泰瑞• 普萊契的《 貓鼠奇譚》 與兒童文學再思. 臺灣大學外國語文學研究所學位論文, 1-88.
“A Story About Stories”: Rethinking Childhood and Children’s Literature in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
In this thesis, I plan to discuss Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001), an animal fantasy aimed at a child audience. Pratchett is a well-known writer of comic fantasy, and he has been hailed as a keen satirist. Consistent with Pratchett’s tendency to satirize established concepts and conventions, The Amazing Maurice targets the very genre it belongs to: children’s literature. Therefore, in this paper, I will examine how in the novel, Pratchett critiques and subverts of three aspects of the tradition of children’s literature: the first is Pratchett’s subversion of the representation of childhood in children’s animal fantasy, the second is Pratchett’s use of literary nonsense to reveal the artificiality of language and literary conventions in children’s literature, and the third is Pratchett’s exploration of the process of children’s reading and storytelling.
My discussions in the thesis are based on the premises of childhood studies, especially on its constructivist view of childhood. Constructivist scholars of childhood see childhood not as a biological, essential, and universal phenomenon, but as something constructed according to the historical and cultural context. With this concept in mind, I argue that Pratchett not only critiques the traditional construction of childhood in animal fantasy, but he also reconstructs children as being self-aware and capable of distinguishing between reality and the discourses people construct to structure it. Such a reconstruction of childhood allows Pratchett to justify presenting in a work of children’s literature a detached and critical view on the artificiality of language and literary conventions, as well as the process of children’s reading and storytelling.
… In contrast, Pratchett’s text incorporates childhood play within a festival of tales. Whilst traditional mythic structures have been utilised by both authors to frame their carnivalesque interpretations, Pratchett has constructed a carnival space inscribing metafictive strategies which focus on humorous inversions, mirror images, and intertextual reflexivity embedded in his celebration of plots. His opening page alerts readers to this artifice of plotting by invoking five plot connections: one is encoded in the chapter peritext, Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure;iii the second quotes Browning’s text, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn; two characters then debate their view of the narrative’s direction; whilst a fifth voice, the narrator, begins the official tale. The author humorously and consistently encodes intertextual referencing and metafictive mirroring devices to establish carnival space in this narrative.
Because this text features linguistic playfulness, Pratchett also builds complex contrapuntal plots wherein each emergent narrative strand is embedded in its predecessor: First, the peritext, framed to indicate the narrative’s structural direction, establishes a mise en abyme device that heads each chapter of the larger narrative and parodies the event expectations of traditional quest structures. Beatrix Potter’s text The Adventures of Peter Rabbit is a prominent intertext in Pratchett’s Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure. Pratchett’s use of this peritext structure also encodes both parodic and ironic perspectives and suggests a superior view of childhood naivety in its use of mimetic and intertextual signification even as quest codes are subverted.
Ratty Rupert was the bravest rat that ever was. Everyone in Furry Bottom said so. (2002, p.79)
Mr Bunnsy realised that he was a fat rabbit in a dark wood and wished he wasn’t a rabbit, or at least not a fat one … (2002, p.132)
The same intertext also re-emerges as a didactic masterplot which models utopian society: its gradual philosophical integration is treasured as a training manual by which the educated rodents may consider equal participation in human society. This anthropomorphic approach mirrors childhood struggles with rules of conduct, though at a deeper interrogative level the author examines the Western humanist ideologies that sustain civilised spaces whilst simultaneously offering an intersubjective view of quest representation. Pratchett humorously signifies an emerging rodent consciousness that examines and revises past behavioural patterns to derive a new estimate of societal responsibilities. In this narrative strand, the quest transition from rodent to Changeling interrogates cultural codes of social behaviour, but Pratchett also intends this construct as a comedic subplot which mirrors theories of emergent consciousness within human subjects. The author images child subjectivity even as he promotes this anthropomorphic self-reflection, with all its incumbent failures, as a social condition of growth.
In opening scenes that disclose his feline protagonist’s narrative intention, Pratchett intertextually mirrors the structure of Browning’s popular children’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn. Browning’s narration begins with a rat plague, and event focus is placed upon the piper’s response to a failed contractual agreement that deprives the town of its children and mirrors the piper’s deprivation of just payment. Pratchett’s Maurice enacts a carnival pastiche: even as the text openly images and enacts authorial plotting, the author’s intertextual allusion adapts another fairytale, Puss-inBoots. At one level, Maurice’s plan provides selected towns with a problematic rat population, offers the piper solution at a negotiated price, and retrieves the rat troupe downstream, ready for a new venture. At another level, the plotting inscribes a game enacted by players: child piper, anthropomorphised rodents, and entrepreneurial conductor, which directs narrative awareness to the performative actions of writers and the game of plotting fiction. In Pratchett’s narrative playground, Maurice and his team soon encounter a Bad Blintz that already has its own deceitful schemes. Here the author’s counterpoint weaves plotters and plots that introduce a carnival space of narrative patterns.
Pratchett’s third intertextual strategy centres upon …. (p. 144-145)