Category Archives: Book reviews
Trust is a valuable commodity. To whom do I give my trust? The entertainment industry? News media? Scientific research? Pratchett’s Moving Pictures is a biting and funny social commentary about the impact and influence media can have on us.
About thirty miles Turnwise of Ankh-Morpork the surf boomed on the wind-blown, seagrass-waving, sand-dune-covered spit of land where the Circle Sea met the Rim Ocean.
The hill itself was visible for miles. It wasn’t very high, but lay amongst the dunes like an upturned boat or a very unlucky whale, and was covered in scrub trees. No rain fell here, if it could possibly avoid it. Although the wind sculpted the dunes around it, the low summit of the hill remained in an everlasting, ringing calm.
Nothing but the sand had changed here in hundreds of years. (p.10)
Moving Pictures is the 10th novel in the Discworld bibliography and was published in 1990 (my paperback edition is 333 pages). Its cover was illustrated by Josh Kirby. His illustration is spot on with regards to both the spirit and letter of the story. Our narrator is omniscient and, therefore, knows and shares details from important places and people. One of Pratchett’s techniques is Footnotes. They aren’t essential to the story-line, but they do add to the narrative-believability. Chapter headings are non-existent. At first, that might be confusing but you soon get used to it. There are 17 non-English translations of the story and the novel has been dissected by scholars from some of those countries.
‘Oh, yes. Yes. Yes,’ breathed Soll. ‘What a picture! Pure kinema!’
‘A giant woman carrying a screaming ape up a tall building,’ sighed Dibbler. ‘And we’re not even having to pay wages!’ (p.300)
Making fun of the movie industry begins on the dedication page with Pratchett’s “Thank you speech” and continues throughout the story. Names (e.g. “Silverfish“), titles (e.g. “Last Keeper of the Door“) and places (e.g. “Holy Wood“) are from novels and films (e.g. “Gone with the Wind” + “King Kong” = “Blown Away”) that span the period that started with the Phantasmagoria shows of the 1790’s up through the one-reel Celluloid film from the late 1800‘s that developed into the silent movies of the early 1900‘s ending with the movies 1980‘s.
Many of the characters in this story are like people I know. Main characters are Theda Withel (Ginger/Delores del Syn), Victor Tugelbend (Victor Marachismo), Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler (Dibbler), Gaspode The Talking Dog (Gaspode), the Alchemist’s Guild, the Wizards of Unseen University, the Librarian, Holy Wood and Ankh-Morpork.
Our story begins and ends with Holy Wood. From the description above, it seems an idyllic place yet all Keepers of the Door have maintained a 3-times-a-day set of rituals to prevent an apocalypse. When Death puts a stop to the priestly line, whatever was kept back by the chanting begins to seep out.
It was old in a way not measurable by any calendar known to Man and what it had, right now, was memories and needs. It remembered life, in other times and other universes. It needed people. (p.13)
As anyone who has encountered Ankh-Morpork knows, it teems with life. Smelly, overcrowded and dangerous, its citizens are strangely loyal “can’t wait to get back so they can enjoy hating living there some more.” In other words, perfect for an entity needing people. Upon arrival it finds the Alchemist’s Guild.
At the best and worst of times Alchemists invent things that go “boom” or “bang”. One of Thomas Silverfish’s booms results from the creation of Octo-cellulose. Octo-cellulose is the substance that, together with imps, leads to clicks. Unfortunately these moving pictures lean towards magic. As only Wizards can legally practice magic in Ankh-Morpork, the Alchemists, led by Silverfish, decide to take their discovery to Holy Wood.
Where the Alchemist Guild is thought of as free entertainment for people passing by, it is best to avoid the Wizards of the Unseen University (UU). Like the faculties of many universities, the UU is filled with bright and ambitious individuals who tend to overestimate their own importance. The Wizards were tired of the deadly infighting and wanted a pushover Archchancellor for a while. They thought Mustrum Ridicully, who’d been running around “talking to trees” for the last 40 years, would fit that bill. What they got was a man who brought stability to the Archchancellorship and a complete lack of respect for their august personages.
Another important Wizard in Moving Pictures is the Bursar who is responsible for, and adores, paperwork. He and Ridicully tend to be at odds with each other, but in Moving Pictures they must cooperate to get to the bottom of things.
The Librarian is one my favourite UU character. According to rumours, a long time ago something went wrong during an experiment and the result was an orang-utan. As long as one does not call him a “monkey” he is a pretty laid-back person. His immense dedication to the books in the UU library, along with his agility and heft, makes him the perfect caretaker of some extremely dangerous works, e.g. the Necrotelicomnicon (see picture by Dee Ellis).
@Marc SimonettiOnce upon a time, Victor Tugelbend’s uncle set up a college fund for Victor. It stipulated that he must never get a grade lower than 80 points. Finals had a passing grade of 88 points. This stipulation gained Victor a well-trained body and mind hard to keep him from graduating. He is a fairly good-looking fellow with a pencil thin mustache. On his way back to the UU, on the night before exams, he somehow finds himself at the Plaza of Broken Moons. Something happens and eight hours later he finds himself he road to Holy Wood along with the rest of the crowd who were at the Plaza with him. Including Gaspode the Wonder Dog.
Gaspode is a talking dog. One day he woke from a nap with the ability to talk human and has regretted it ever since. Victor is one of the few people who understands that Gaspode is truly a talking dog and that gives Gaspode something to hold onto. I pity Gaspode. Imagine waking up one day only talking dog. He is an extremely conflicted dog and things do not get any less conflicted when Laddie (beautiful but stupid) gets all of the love and attention.
Another essential character dragged along by the entity is Dibbler. Between schemes Dibbler is a “hot-meat-pie-and-sausage-in-a-bun salesman” (p.15) who tends to go easy on the meat and whose remarkable con-skills include selling “sausages to people that have bought them off him before.” (p.70). This is one of the few times in the Discworld history that he gets to shine. And shine he does. To protect him from the consequences of his actions, Dibbler hires Detritus, a high-mountain troll whose brain capacity has been severely reduced by the low-lands of Ankh-Morpork. Trolls in the Discworld, and particularly Ankh-Morpork regions, put on sun-lotion while the sun is up and no longer openly “swaller” humans.
Once Victor arrives in Holy Wood he comes across Theda Withel. The two of them become the scorching hot starring couple Victor and Ginger and Victor Maraschino and Delores del Syn. He becomes the dashing hero who comes to her rescue. Even today, that is a role women are often stuck with as actors. In addition to acting in the clicks, and with the help of Gaspode, they look for answers to Ginger’s strange behaviour, what the entity of Holy Wood is and how it affects everyone.
Looking at the world today, it’s simple to see that we suffer from the same illusion of how our needs and ideas must be met and heard. Our “entity from Holy Wood” is difficult to escape in a time when fronts matter more than content. I’m whether that would be true in a collectivistic culture. Most likely it is but on a larger scale, i.e. the family, the club, the country, etc. We are easily fooled. Pratchett does a good job. I never felt preached at yet I had no problem understanding that I need to pay attention to the “real” message of what I encounter.
Moving Pictures moves between characters. Most times the breaks in the text indicate that we are moving to another location/person. Since there are no Chapter breaks, this is a useful tool for us to keep everything in order. In addition, these breaks also handle the sub-plots of the story (e.g. Wizards’ in-house drama). Towards the end everything comes together in a climax worthy of an action movie.
When it comes to movie references, readers do not need to know the original to have fun with the story. Details are weaved together in a manner that gets the message across. As usual I’m amazed at how Pratchett manages to make a bit of our world into a part of the Discworld. As usual, his humour is dry, biting, kind, intelligent and revealing.
Moving Pictures remains relevant. Definitely recommended.
- Audiobook: Moving Pictures; Narrated by Nigel Planer; Oxford: Isis, 1997.
- Australian English: Narrated by Kate Buring; Sydney: Australian Listening Library, 2005.
- Bulgarian: Тери Пратчет; Подвижни образи / Podvizhni Obrazi; Translated by
- Czech: Pohyblivé obrázky; Translated byPraha: Talpress, 1996.
- Estonian: Liikuvad pildid; Translated by : Varrak, 2002.
- Dutch: Rollende prenten; Translated byUtrecht: Het Spectrum, 1994.
- Finnish: Elävät kuvat; Translated by Mika Kivimäki; Hömeenlinna: Karisto Oy, 2003.
- French: Les zinzins d’Olive-Oued; Translated by Paris: Pocket, 1997.
- German: Voll im Bilde; Translated by
- Hungarian: Mozgó képek; Translated by Alföldi Nyomda; Debrecen: Cherubion, 2001.
- Italian: Stelle cadenti; Milano: Salani, 2007.
- Norwegian: Levende bilder; Translated by Oslo: Tiden Norsk, 2003.
- Polish: Ruchome obrazki; Translated by Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa: Prószyński Media, 2000.
- Romanian: Imagini mişcătoare; Translated by
- Russian: Движущиеся картинки : [фантастический роман] / Dvizhushchiesi︠a︡ kartinki; Translated by В. Вольфсона / V. Volʹfson; Москва: ЭКСМО, 2006. Moskva: ĖKSMO, 2006.
- Serbian: Pokretne slike; Translated by ; Beograd: Laguna, 2001.
- Spanish: Imágenes en acción; Translated by Barcelona: Altaya, 2003.
- Swedish: Röliga bilder; Translated byStockholm: Wahlströms, 1996.
- Turkish: Hareketli resimler; Translated by Istanbul: Ithaki, 2004.
“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! 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
- 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
- 卫兵！卫兵！ Wei bing! Wei bing! 四川科学, 技术出版 社, 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
- 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
- Romanian: Gărzi! Gărzi!; Translator M; 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
“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
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
Vulnerability is not a trait I see mentioned in connection with Esmerelda Weatherwax (“Granny”, “Mistress” or “Esme). The Weatherwax sisters were born with strong magical powers. Because of her older sister’s tendency to make lives about fairy-tales, Esme had learned to be wary of the effects of power on herself and others. That has made her defensive and preachy about how to use magic, and she is often incapable of acknowledging the depth of other Witches’ abilities or admitting that she might be wrong or not know the answer. Yet Granny loves magic and being a Witch and goes out of her way to help people with what they need (not necessarily what they want). To her being a Witch is all about hard work, abstinence and treating magic like a friend you need to be wary of.
When King Verence is assassinated by Duke Felmet, and his baby heir comes to the three Witches, he is accompanied by a crown. A crown that has been worn by many kings and calls out to be worn again. Granny’s wariness comes in handy when she tries it on.
It seemed to fit. Granny drew herself up proudly, and waved a hand imperiously in the general direction of the hearth.
“Jolly well do this,” she said. She beckoned arrogantly at the grandfather clock. “Chop his head off, what ho,” she commanded. She smiled grimly.
And froze as she heard the screams, and the thunder of horses, and the deadly whisper of arrows and the damp, solid sound of spears in flesh. … There were times when she lay among the dead, or hanging from the branch of a tree; but always there were hands that would pick her up again, and place her on a velvet cushion.
Granny very carefully lifted the crown off her head – it was an effort, it didn’t like it much – and laid it on the table.
Granny’s best, and possibly only, friend is Gytha Ogg (“Nanny”). Nanny and Esme are about the same age, probably in their 50’s. Where Granny has remained unmarried, Nanny has had 15 children, many grand-children, has been married three times and had several lovers. She is the Matron of her large family and possibly even the village of Lancre. Due to the entire village being invited to her house, Nanny misses Lancre protesting the lack of a king that cares for it.
Nanny Ogg got around the Hogswatchnight tradition by inviting the whole village in, and the air in the room was already beyond the reach of pollution controls. Granny navigated through the press of bodies by the sound of a cracked voice explaining to the world at large that, compared to an unbelievable variety of other animals, the hedgehog was quite fortunate.
Gytha is adored by her children, feared by her daughters-in-law and accorded wary respect by Granny. Part of that respect comes from the power Nanny can wield when she feels like it, and because she leashes Esme in whenever cackling and condiments threaten. She also supports Granny when she decides to do something incredibly dangerous and magical.
“I reckon fifteen’d be a nice round number,” said Granny. “That means the lad will be eighteen at the finish. We just do the spell, go and fetch him, he can manifest his destiny, and everything will be nice and neat.”
You have to remember that Granny did not believe in destiny but she did believe in retaining the image of Witches as untouchable by King, Queen and everyperson. Duke Felmet had just humiliated her and she was not having anything to do with that.
Magrat Garlick, the youngest witch in Lancre, and a protege of both Nanny and Granny was a bit worried about Granny’s simplistic explanation. After all, the two had previously lectured her about the futility of a concept like destiny. However, her confidence in her abilities and looks and likability was extremely low. Her fairy godmother wish for TomJohn is that “He will make friends easily,“. If nothing else, Magrat becomes more confident in her magic abilities during the course of Wyrd Sisters. One turning point came soon after an argument the three Witches had. Nanny Ogg is captured by Duke Felmet’s guards. Her son, Shawn, a guard, approaches Magrat.
Magrat stood absolutely still. She had thought she was angry before, but now she was furious. She was wet and cold and hungry and this person – once upon a time, she heard herself thinking – she would have burst into tears at this point.
One person who is very interested in Magrat is the much abused Fool, Verence Beldame. The Fool comes with Castle Lancre and according to the Fool’s oath he owes his loyalty to his employer, even when those employers are Duke and Duchess Felmet. As far as unhappy careers go, the Fool has one of the sadder ones. His male relatives all seem to have been Fools. Grandfather Fool certainly was. Talk about abusive upbringing.
The Fool recalled with a shudder how, at the age of six, he’d timidly approached the old man after supper with a joke he’d made up. It was about a duck.
It had earned him the biggest thrashing of his life, which even then must have presented the old joker with a bit of a challenge.
His stint at the Fools’ Academy was not much better. Forced to hide his intelligence, terrified of the Duke’s obvious madness and the Duchess’ insatiable power hunger, and his own loneliness, he and Magrat seem destined to become a couple. When the Duke’s demands and Magrat’s Witch status come into conflict, the Fool’s low self-esteem and terror get in his way. And no wonder.
Duke and Duchess Felmet had killed King Verence. Duke Felmet did not object to ordering people killed and/or watching the killing. But doing the cousin-killing tipped him over the edge of madness.
He’d scrubbed and scrubbed, but it seemed to have no effect. Eventually, he’d gone down to the dungeons and borrowed one of the torturer’s wire brushes, and scrubbed and scrubbed with that, too. That had no effect, either. It made it worse. The harder he scrubbed, the more blood there was. He was afraid he might go mad …
Duchess Felmet did not mind ordering or doing murder herself. If she became aware of mistakes, she tended to over-react. Torture, killing and mayhem were her favorite tools and she liked that part of herself. So, it is easy to understand why the Fool would hesitate to fight them. His grandfather had taught him at a young age to obey orders.
The missing heir, TomJohn, is adopted by the Vitolliers, owners of a travelling theatre troupe. Considering the forces of nature that Granny and Nanny are and their own earlier loss of a girl child, the Vitolliers had no chance to refuse to take him in. When we meet them fifteen years later, we see that the choice in parents was a good one. TomJohn’s other Godmother gifts have come in handy for the troupe. Nanny wished him a good memory and Granny wished him “Let him be whoever he thinks he is”.
I have read Wyrd Sisters many times. Each reading helps me love it a little more and teaches me more about myself and the world.
Andersson, Lorraine; Which witch is which? A feminist analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witches; University of Halmstad, Faculty of Humanities, 2006-06-03 (Thesis for a Masters of Arts in English)
Apostolova, Gergana; Existence and Demiurgy in Terry Pratchett’s Works; E-magazine LiterNet, 12.02.2005, № 2 (63)
Bjarkadóttir, Valgerður Guðrún; Teaching Literature in the Tenth Grade. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Novels as an Introduction to Classic English Literature; Thesis for an MA degree in English; University of Iceland, Humanities, English department 2009-02-01
Boulding, Lucas; “I can’t be having with that”: The Ethical Implications of Professional Witchcraft in Pratchett’s Fiction; Gender Forum Issue 52 (2015)
Homolková, Eva; An Analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters; Masaryk University in Brno, Faculty of Arts, Department of English and American Studies, 2009
Lawless, Daphne Antonia; Weird Sisters and Wild Women: The Changing Depiction of Witches in Literature, from Shakespeare to Science Fiction; Victoria University of Wellington, Master of Arts in English Literature, 1999
Miller, Jenna; Terry Pratchett’s Literary Tryst with Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Postmodernist Reading with a Humanist Guide; Honors College, University of South Florida, 2011
Roberts, Tansy Rainer: Pratchett’s Women: The Boobs, the Bad and the Broomsticks; tansyrr.com, 2011
Williams, L. Kaitlin; Change the Story, Change the World: Gendered Magic and Educational Ideology in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld; Appalachian State University, 2015;
- Bulgarian: Тери Пратчет; Посестрими в занаята; Translator: Елена Паскалева; София: Издателска къща Вузев, 2001 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Posestrimi v zanaiata; Translator: Elena Paskaleva; Sofia, Vuzev, 2001
- Czech: Soudné sestry; Translator: Jan Kantůrek; Praha: Talpress, 1995 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Croatian: Vile suđenice; Translator: Drago Štajduhar; Split: Marjan Tisak, 2004 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Dutch: De plaagzusters; Translator: Venugopalan Ittekot; Amsterdam, MYNX, 1993 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Finnish: Noitasiskokset; Translator: Margit Salmenoja; Hämeenlinna: Karisto Oy, 1993 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- French: Trois soeurcières; Translator: Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 1993
- Paris, Pocket, 2011 (Cover artist: Marc Simonetti)
- German: MacBest; Andreas Brandhorst Thomas Krüger; München : Wilhelm Heyne, 1990 (Dt. Erstausg)
- Greek: Τέρι Πράτσετ; Οι στρίγγλες; Translated by: Άννα Παπασταύρου; Αθήνα: Ψυχογιός, 2005
- Hungarian: Vészbanyák; Translator: Anikó Sohár; Debrecen, Cherubion, 2000 (cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Italian: Sorellanza stregonesca; Translator: Antonella Pieretti; Milano, TEA, 1992
- Japanese: Sannin no Majo; Translator: Norito Kuga; Tokyo: H. Kawaguchi/Sanyusha, 1997
- Norwegian: Sære søstre; Translator: Per Malde; Oslo, Tiden, 2001 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Polish: Trzy wiedźmy; Translator: Piotr W Cholewa; Prószyński Media.; Edipresse Polska, 1998 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- Portugese: Estranhas irmãs; Translator: Roberto DeNice; São Paulo/Brasil, Conrad Livros, 2003 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
- As três bruxas; Translator: Paula Reis; Lisboa, Editorial Caminho, 1991
- Translator: Mário Dias Correia/Francisca Rodrigues; Lisboa, Temas e Debates, 2005
- As três bruxas; Translator: Paula Reis; Lisboa, Editorial Caminho, 1991
- Russian: Терри Пратчетта; Вещие сестрички; Translator: В. Вольфсон; Moscow, ЭКСМО, 2001
- Veshchie sestrichki; Translator: V. Volʹfson; St. Petersburg, Domino, 2005
- Serbian: Teri Pračet; Sestre po metli; Translator: Dejan Papić; Beograd: Laguna, 2000 (coverartist: Josh Kirby)
- Slovenian: Tri vešče; Translator: Saša Požek; Tržič, Učila International, 2009
- Spanish: Brujerías; Translator: Cristina Macía Orío; Barcelona, Editorial Martínez Roca, 1992
- Swedish: Häxkonster; Translator: Olle Sahlin; Stockholm, B. Wahlströms, 1993
- Turkish: Ucube kocakarilar; Translator: Niran Elçi; Istanbul: İthaki Yayınları, 2002
One would think it was possible to learn from history, or at least from other people’s experiences. I suppose we could say that people have, because we follow in the footsteps of past generations who did not learn from history themselves. Once the lure of power comes into play, power-hunger begins to grow.
Once upon a time …
The hierarchy in the Unseen University (UU) is a dangerous one. There are eight orders with eight levels in each. An eighth-level wizard is leader of the order/house) and at level one are the recently graduated students. Except for Rincewind. Rincewind never passed his exams, poor fellow, but knows with all his heart that he is a wizard. As leader of these eight orders is the Archchancellor. Within the orders, competition is fierce. Murder is a well-known tool of advancement. The idea is that if the dead wizard was not able to defend himself, he did not deserve to be there. All wizards are men. At least they were until Eskarina in Equal Rites came along. As far as I know, she is the only female wizard.
The first person we meet in Sourcery is Ipsilore the Red. Even by wizard standards, Ipsilore is a bit batty. He was kicked out of UU because of a woman. Perhaps it could be said that Ipsilore had discovered the joys of sex, making him a dangerous sort of wizard. History had taught wizards that sex led to children. Once a wizard reached the magical number of eight sons, the Discworld was in trouble. Sourcerers were the result of such matings.
“SOURCERERS MAKE THEIR OWN DESTINY. THEY TOUCH THE EARTH LIGHTLY.
Ipsilore leaned on the staff, drumming on it with his fingers, apparently lost in the maze of his own thoughts. His left eyebrow twitched.
‘No,’ he said, softly, ‘no. I will make his destiny for him.'”
Ipsilore is the kind of annoying parent who tries to force his son to fulfill his own dreams by making every decision for his child. The kind of parent who attaches himself to his son’s wizard’s staff, ensuring he will never leave the side of his child (given how attached a wizard is to his staff). The kind of parent who possesses his child and forces him to do things in the name of power. You know, that kind of parent. Ipsilore’s only problem is that he is about to die. At the last possible moment, Ipsilore places a prophecy on his son, Coin, a prophecy that reeks of destruction and mayhem. But like all prophecies, this one has a loophole. Then, just as DEATH is about to scythe his soul out of his body, Ipsilore the Red places as much of himself inside the wizard’s staff, thereby giving himself a sort of after-life.
Lord Vetinary of Ankh-Morpork is a brilliant ruler. He understands power-hunger to such a degree that Ankh-Morpork is stable. Corrupt and insane, but stable. Some time in the past, Vetinary made an agreement with the Wizards at UU, containing their power-plays within UU’s grounds. Until Coin arrives with his staff, the wizards seem content with this life.
The wizards stared at one another, mouths open, and what they saw was not what they had always thought they’d seen. The unforgiving rays transmuted rich gold embroidery into dusty gilt, exposed opulent fabric as rather stained and threadbare velvet, turned fine flowing beards into nicotine-stained tangles, betrayed splendid diamonds as rather inferior Ankhstones. The fresh light probed and prodded, stripping away the comfortable shadows.
And, Spelter had to admit, what was left didn’t inspire confidence. He was suddenly acutely aware that under his robes – his tattered, badly-faded robes, he realised with an added spasm of guilt, the robes with the perforated area where the mice had got at them – he was still wearing his bedroom slippers.
Like many who have the truth about themselves revealed, the wizards want another person to blame. Lord Vetinary is the obvious one. Time for revenge. The wizards and Coin go after Vetinary and world-dominion.
In the meantime, the Archchancellor’s hat has gotten itself stolen by Conina the Hairdresser (she wishes). Conina is daughter to Cohen the Barbarian and her mother the “temple dancer for some mad god or other”. Conina has inherited her fighting compulsion from her father and her looks and voice from her mother. I mention Conina’s voice because
… It sounded like wild silk looks. … that voice would have made even a statue get down off its pedestal for a few brisk laps of the playing field and fifty press-ups. It was a voice that could make ‘Good Morning’ sound like an invitation to bed…
which might sound something like this. As quite a few characters in Sourcerer discover, judging Conina by her looks and voice rather than her talents tends to be a dangerously deadly choice. Rincewind knows better. His knowledge has been dearly bought as any who have read The Colour of Magic or Light Fantastic know. Unfortunately for him, he is the only available wizard in Ankh Morpork seeing the others are conspiring at UU. That makes Conina’s choice obvious. In the end there is no doubt as to who is boss. The Archancellor’s Hat makes it very clear to Conina and Rincewind that
Something terrible is happening at the University. It is vital that we are not taken back, do you understand! You must take us to Klatch, where there is someone fit to wear me.
Off the trio sails. What could possibly go wrong?
- Bulgarian: Магизточник
- Chinese: 碟形世界:大法
- Croatian: Kiselo Čaranje
- Czech: Magický Prazdroj
- Danish: Megamagikeren
- Dutch: Betoverkind
- Estonian: Ürgsorts
- Finnish: Velhous verissä
- French: Sourcellerie
- German: Der Zauberhut
- Italian: Stregoneria
- Norwegian: Magiens kilde
- Polish: Czarodzicielstwo
- Portugese: O Oitavo Mago / Fontiçaria
- Russian: Посох и шляпа
- Serbian: Čudotvorac
- Slovenian: Izvor magije
- Spanish: Rechicero
- Swedish: Svartkonster
- Turkish: Şifacı
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
- Bulgarian: Морт (Истории от Света на Диска, #4)
- Chinese: 死神学徒 (“The Death God’s Apprentice”)
- Czech: Mort
- Croatian: Mort
- Danish: Dødens lærling
- Dutch: Dunne Hein
- Estonian: Mort
- Finnish: Mort
- French: Mortimer
- German: Gevatter Tod
- Greek: Θανατηφόρος βοηθός
- Hungarian: Mort, a halál kisinasa
- Italian: Morty l’apprendista
- Polish: Mort
- Portugese: Mort, O Aprendiz de Morte
- Russian: Мор, ученик Смерти
- Slovak: Mort
- Spanish: Mort
Lately, each time I have sat down and worked with Terry Pratchett stuff I have been reminded of his death. So, too, with this review on Equal Rites.
“Despite rumor, Death isn’t cruel, merely terribly, terribly good at his job”
The Death of Discworld first showed up in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. There it was becoming frustrated with Rincewind’s inability to die. In Equal Rites, Death gathers to itself Drum Billet just as Wizard Billet realized his mistake in passing his wizard’s staff to a girl. A GIRL!
THERE IS NO GOING BACK. THERE IS NO GOING BACK, said the deep, heavy voice like the closing of crypt doors.
And so Eskarina Smith’s parents and Granny Weatherwax are left wondering what will happen to a wizard girl and her seemingly indestructible wizard’s staff. Obviously, Esk is going to show magical talent and Granny Weatherwax will be forced to teach her what Granny may (being a witch, and all).
Witches, at least Granny Weatherwax’s (I love the names Pratchett gives to people and places) kind, are practical women. They know that before anything esoteric can be taught, a person needs to understand all sorts of useful things. Practical knowledge is usually what keeps you alive in this world and on the Discworld. By the time Granny and Esk set off for the Unseen University in Ankh Morpork Esk is able to do an astounding amount of things.
“What sort of helpful things?” he asked. “Washing and sweeping, yesno?”
“If you like,” said Esk, “or distillation using the bifold or triple alembic, the making of varnishes, glazes, creams, zuum-chats and punes, the rendering of waxes, the manufacture of candles, the proper selection of seeds, roots and cuttings, and most preparations from the Eighty Marvellous Herbs; I can spin, card, rett, flallow and weave on the hand, frame, harp and Noble looms and I can knit if people start the wool on for me, I can read soil and rock, do carpentry up to the three-way mortise and tenon, predict weather by means of beastsign and skyreck, make increase in bees, brew five types of mead, make dyes and mordants and pigments, including a fast blue, I can do most types of whitesmithing, mend boots, cure and fashion most leathers, and if you have any goats I can look after them. I like goats.”
Granny does not like to see people sitting around doing nothing. She makes certain that any person in her vicinity has something to do. But the most important thing she teaches Esk with all of this is the art of self-confidence and self-reliance. And not to use magic. To Granny that is the most important thing about having power, knowing when not to use it. Except Esk is leaking magic all over the place.
The Things from the Dungeon Dimensions love people who leak magic. Sometimes that link will give them a way into the world, and thereby a way to wreak havoc. As if people need others to wreak havoc upon them. But the Things really want in on the fun. By being pig-headed about letting young Esk into the UU, the wizards are helping the Things out. So is young Simon, another extremely powerful and knowledgeable young person (who is let in as a student due to his being a boy).
Like all of Pratchett’s Discworld books, Equal Rites leaves me thinking about every-day issues. Some of them I read about in the news or hear about from others. Some I experience myself. Sharing privilege and power with others is perhaps the one lesson we humans struggle most with. Because I am a woman, I have thought about the many privileges I will never have. Because I am white, I am aware of the many privileges that have come to me by stint of birth. Like Granny, I am less worried about what rooms I have a right to step into. But like Granny, I am bound by traditions of which I am not aware. Esk is the kind of child I wanted to be like.
BBC4 dramatisation of Equal Rites as serial on Woman’s Hour
- Bulgarian: Еманципирана магия
- Chinese (simplified): 平等仪式
- Croatian: Jednakost Rituala
- Czech: Čaroprávnost
- Danish: Den ottende datter
- Dutch: Meidezeggenschap
- Estonian: Võluv võrdsus
- Finnish: Johan riitti!
- French: La huitième fille
- German: Das Erbe des Zauberers
- Greek: Νευρικές μάγισσες
- Hungarian: Egyenjogú rítusok
- Italian: L’arte della magia
- Norwegian: Trollmannens stav
- Polish: Równoumagicznienie
- Portugese: Ritos Iguais
- Romanian: Magie de ambe sexe
- Russian: Творцы заклинаний / Tvortsy Zaklinanii
- Serbian: Jednakost rituala
- Spanish: Ritos Iguales
- Slovenian: Čar enakih pravic / Čarovné práva
- Swedish: Trollkarlens stav
- Turkish: Eşit Haklar / Eşit Ayinler
Cohen the Barbarian is much more fun as a Barbarian than Conan could ever be – especially the way Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed him in the movie. Here we see what is left of the Barbarian after surviving 70 years of life – most of those running around fighting various creatures for gold and wimmin.
Upon meeting Twoflower and Rincewind, Cohen has these words of wisdom to impart:
“He hash got guts, I’ll give him that. Do exshactly what I shay and it ish just possible he won’t end up with them wrapped around a shtone.”
Definitely wise words considering the situations Twoflower has a tendency to drag Rincewind into and out of – helped a great deal by the Luggage.
I would hate to travel with Twoflower (except for his tendency to survive the most unlikely situations), but he is adorable in his innocence. Surprisingly, now that I think about it, I have actually met tourists who behave as he does. Somehow, I doubt they have the same survival luck as Twoflower. Although, if they had the Luggage on their side, they, too, might have his chances.
The Luggage is the personification of a valet and James Bond all wrapped up in one box. Wordless, and all, The Luggage has to be one of the most interesting characters in the world of silence (on its part – the opposition tends to scream a lot). Its loyalty is undivided once it has settled on an owner. For the time being, that owner is Twoflower. But Rincewind also benefits from that loyalty.
Rincewind remains one of my favorite Discworld characters. His tendency to run away from trouble is actually wisdom. Unless you are a wizards. Wizards seem to consider the saying “curiosity killed the cat” as an invitation to poke anything interesting. Rincewind might poke something, but not without being ready to run. Twoflower, Rincewind and the Luggage might be unlikely friends, but friends they are.
Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage find themselves flying off the Discworld at the end of The Colour of Magic. We meet them in this same position at the beginning of The Light Fantastic. Death seems imminent for all three of them. However, someone/something seems to want them for a “higher” purpose.
As the red light in the sky grows larger and the Discworld warmer, chaos seems to meet The Trio wherever they go. As usual Twoflower gets them into trouble, Rincewind tries to flee from trouble and the Luggage has to save both of them – although Twoflower gets priority. Through their travels they get to meet all sorts of insanity and danger while being herded toward their “destiny”.
Terry Pratchett’s second book in the Discworld saga and the Rincewind saga teaches us a creation-story, an end-story and a whole lot about survival and adventure.
1993: Graphic novel – illustrated by Steven Ross and Joe Bennet. Published by Corgi.
2008: Sky One Television two-part miniseries combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (The Colour of Magic): the version released in the US was much shorter than the one released in the UK
My review of the television miniseries
L-Space: Annotations, information and quotes
- Bosnian: Svetlost čudesnog (Disksvet, #2)
- Bulgarian: Фантастична светлина (Истории от Света на Диска, #2)
- Chinese: 奇光
- Croatian: Čudesno svjetlo (Roman o svijetu Diska, #2)
- Czech: Lehké fantastično (Úžasná Zeměplocha, #2)
- Danish: Det fantastiske lys (Diskverden #2)
- Dutch: Dat Wonderbare Licht
- Estonian: Fantastiline valgus (Kettamaailm, #2)
- Finnish: Valon tanssi
- French: Le huitième sortilège (Les annales du Disque-Monde, #2)
- Georgian: ფანტასტიური ნათება
- German: Das Licht der Phantasie (Scheibenwelt, #2)
- Greek: Το Φως της Φαντασίας
- Hungarian: A mágia fénye (Korongvilág, #2)
- Italian: La luce fantastica
- Lithuanian: Šviesa fantastiška
- Polish: Blask fantastyczny (Świat Dysku, #2)
- Romanian: Lumina fantastică
- Russian: Безумная звезда (Плоский мир, #2)
- Slovak: Ľahká fantastika (Úžasná Plochozem, # 2)
- Slovenian: Luč fantastike
- Spanish: La luz fantástica (Mundodisco, #2)
- Swedish: Det fantastiska ljuset
- Turkish: Fantastik Işık (Diskdünya, #2)