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.
Terry Pratchett is certainly a popular writer – of that there can be no question. His Discworld novels now number twenty-eight, including The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, the first work intended for children in the series, and another novel is scheduled to appear in early 2002. The books have been translated into several languages (an interesting phenomenon, given the rather English world and costums depicted in the series). There is an electronic game board on the fantasy narratives, and animated film versions of some of the novels have also been produced.
Moreover, a sort of support-and-publicity industry has grown up around the Discworld series. These include the publication of maps (for instance, The Streets of Ankh-Morpork), cookbooks (Nanny Ogg-s Cookbook) and annual diaries (The Discworld Fools’ Guild Yearbook, which allows an eight-day week, Octeday following Sunday). There is a Discworld Companion as well as a guide to the ways things work in the Discworld, The Science of Discworld, both with Pratchett as coauthor. The final pages of the several of the novels advertise figurines based on characters in the Discworld series, as well as at least one international convention centered on the Discworld oeuvre. There are numerous Web sites in several languages dedicated to Pratchett, the L-Space Web site being perhaps the most informative – certainly the most ambitious, including the electronic version of an M.A. thesis on Pratchett’s work and identification of the many intertexts and intertextual jokes embedded in the individual novels.
While for some time most of the serious, nonfan material on Pratchett’s output has consisted largely of reviews of new titles in the series, gradually a body of scholarly commentary on Pratchett’s Discworld novels is emerging, as evidenced, for instance by the recent appearance of a collection of essays, Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, edited by Andrew M. Butler and others. The present chapter is, of course, a further instance of the gradual movement of Pratchett’s work into the arena of scholarly analysis, commentary and criticism.
In this way readers of Pratchett’s Discworld participate actively in its creation and re-creation in different forms. Yet there is also a tendency in such participation to seek a certain fixing of both the spatial and temporal coordinates and other “facts” of the Discworld. Of this desire for consistency Pratchett has remarked “sometimes even I forget who was who, and where things are. Readers don’t like that sort of thing. The write me letters” (quoted in Pratchett & Briggs 8-9).
Yet this occasional writerly amnesial has not been a generic trait of fantasy fiction. Indeed, most fantasy authors have been extremely careful to maintain the consistency of the worlds they create, even when – as in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – the imagined world is enormously complicated by detailed attention to racial or ethnic histories as well as to a general history anterior to the events unfolded in the actual narrative, to various linguistic groups, to mythologies, and so on. This is signaled, for instance, by the provision of maps of the fictional world as part of the text, not, as in the case of the Discworld series, as a series of belated addition and supplements to the text (though of course any such map is, in some sense, a supplement to the written narrative). One effect of the punctilious observation by the fantasy author of the cosmological “facts” of the world that she or he creates, of course, has been to condition readers to anticipate that consistency. No wonder, therefore, that Pratchett receives letters from disgruntled or merely puzzled readers.
Should we assume therefore that Pratchett’s is a slapdash sort of art of fantasy fiction writing? He himself observed
I don’t think … even the most rabid fan expects complete consistency within Discworld because in Ankh-Morpork you have what is apparently a Renaissance city, but with elements of early Victorian England, and the medival world is still hanging on. It’s in a permanent state of turmoil, which is very interesting for the author. (quoted in Hills 130)
The interest for the author aside, I suggest that this latter comment points to a pronounced characteristic of the Discworld series, namely, its tendency to satirize, ridicule, or deconstruct (these activities are not, of course, mutually contradictory) the traditional fantasy fiction narrative, and in particular that genre’s epic form.
Space does not allow a thoroughgoing comparative analysis between Pratchett’s version of the fantasy world and narrative and that of the genre’s more traditional, even conservative, exponents……………………..
The rest of this text may be found in:
The intertexts were chosen arbitrarily so as to show a possibly wide-ranging and representative portion of the whole spectrum of sources drawn on by Pratchett. A systematic study of the inertextuality of the Discworld would result in a multi-volume encyclopaedia, each volume dealing with just one novel in the series, so the arbitrariness was unavoidable. A large portion of the selection is made up of literary and extra-literary intertexts, these being conceivably of the highest literary value and – as will be shown – of greatest challenge to the translator. The high share of Wyrd Sisters intertextuality is chiefly due to the book’s underlying Shakespearian inspiration, manifest in numerous altered and unaltered quotations as well as structural elements. Naturally, any ‘writer-meets-Shakespeare’ intersection is a treat for the reader, researcher, and translator, so giving them broader coverage could not be resisted. In the other books of the series, equally interesting are references to other well-known authors, e.g. Vonnegut, Lovecraft, Herbert, Dunsany – hence the prominence of literary intertexts among their other types. One other often-quoted novel, Moving Pictures, boasts a markedly varied scope of intertextuality: from literature to cartoons to natural sciences.
With regard to their character, the intertexts can be divided into five categories: four of which are quite homogenous, proper categories, while one has to remain pretty catholic – otherwise it would have to be broken down into a number of separate categories – since they cannot be, even at a pinch, included into those four ones…. (p. 14)
The rest of the text may be found in:
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
My review of Amazing Maurice
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
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
This gallery contains 7 photos.
Originally posted on humanitysdarkerside:
Every once in a while I come across an author that catches my imagination and my love on a great many levels. Terry Pratchett is one such author. He imbues his stories with his love for his craft along with the great talent that he has shared with others ever since…