Mort (1987)

"The Death God's Apprentice" | Translated by Hu Shu Source: it-bodes.blogspot.com

“The Death God’s Apprentice” | Translated by Hu Shu
Source: it-bodes.blogspot.com

Death, Mort, Ysabell and Albert are the four main players of this story. Of the four of them, Death is the one that reappears in most of the Discworld stories. Death is probably the most famous, revered and confused character of all the Discworld characters and is also one of my favorites.

http://soulstripper.deviantart.com/art/Sorrow-Itself-56162555

“Sorrow Itself”, by Soulstripper (2007)

DEATH is like an Asperger/Autist in the sense that most things are taken literally. Quite often the activities that humans engage in seem pointless. But that does not stop Death from trying to understand. At one point in Mort, Death visits a party at the Patrician’s palace and joins in the Serpent Dance (holding the waist of the person in front, kicking legs in time to beat and going from room to room).

… TELL ME, PLEASE, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS ACTIVITY?

… “Haven’t you been to a party before? Mind the glass, by the way.”

I AM AFRAID I DO NOT GET OUT AS MUCH AS I WOULD LIKE TO. PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS. DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH SEX?

“Not unless we pull up sharp, old boy, if you know what I mean?” said his lordship, and nudged his unseen fellow guest with his elbow.

“Ouch,” he said. A crash up ahead marked the demise of the cold buffet.

NO

“What?”

I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

“Mind the cream there, it’s slippery – look, it’s just a dance, all right? You do it for fun.”

This mood, and possibly Ysabell (adopted daughter), is most likely why Death suddenly felt the need for an apprentice (obviously Mort(imer)). Mort’s family is in the farming business and to them it is acutely embarrassing that their youngest son has the “same talent for horticulture that you would find in a dead starfish.”

Poverty is an interesting phenomenon. Growing up, my family was certainly struggling to make ends meet. Not until we moved into an area where others could afford what we could not, did I feel poor.

“After five minutes Mort came out of the tailor’s wearing a loose fitting brown garment of imprecise function, which had been understandably unclaimed by a previous owner and had plenty of room for him to grow, on the assumption that he would grow into a nineteen-legged elephant.

His father regarded him critically.

“Very nice,” he said, “for the money.”

While Mort might not have liked that garment, he had no concept yet of poverty because the whole village lived a hard life.

Then DEATH comes and Mort’s apprenticeship begins. Death starts the apprenticeship by taking him to Ankh-Morpork to get a curry and some clothes.

“What are we going to do now?”

BUY YOU SOME NEW CLOTHES.

“These were new today – yesterday, I mean.”

REALLY?

“Father said the shop was famous for its budget clothing,” said Mort, running to keep up.

IT CERTAINLY ADDS A NEW TERROR TO POVERTY.

All through Mort the concept of class/stratification is approached with humour. However, Pratchett is not afraid to aid us in seeing exactly how we all seem to accept these divisions. He questions how valid this thinking is without making us feel like the idiots we are.

http://zehogfairy.deviantart.com/art/Death-s-Domain-418292752

Artist: Zehogfairy (Ioana Z.) | Source: deviantart.com

Mort’s first encounter with Death’s adopted daughter, Ysabell is interesting.

“Are you a servant?” she said.

Mort straightened up.

“No,” he said, “I’m an apprentice.”

“That’s silly. Albert said you can’t be an apprentice.”

….

“He says,” said Ysabell in a louder voice, “that apprentices become masters, and you can’t have more than one Death. So you’re just a servant and you have to do what I say.”

Clearly, a shaky beginning. Ysabell, of course, is 100% correct about Death being irreplaceable. Or is she? Hmmm. Mort has no idea what is possible. His mind is open to the possibilities. And, sadly for Death, Mort is extremely open to the idea of Princess Keli. Princess Keli’s impact on Mort is apparent in the song Beautiful from the musical Mort: The Musical. Mort struggles with what most of us struggle with: Death comes to us all. So, what happens, when the very person sent to collect her soul tries to change fate?

Albert is not happy about the changes in Mort and Death. For one thing, his privileged position is in danger. Loss of privilege and change aren’t things that are easy to face. Even when that privilege does not seem like much to an outsider. So Albert draws on his connections to stop it all from happening.

Definitely recommended.

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Translations:

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Adaptations

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About humanitysdarkerside

Bibliophile, small-time activist, ASD, blogger

Posted on 2015-08-30, in Book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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