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.