Hammer, Y; Interrogating the Humanist subject in Carnivalesque Quest Novels (2006)
… 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)