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My review of Amazing Maurice

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The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (2001)

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.

llustration by Sal Vador TheDarkCloak

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.

Painting by Jackie Morris | Maurice helps Dangerous Mind

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.

Leeds Children’s Theatre, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds

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.

Interview with Terry Pratchett about The Amazing Maurice


Reviews:


Translations:

  • 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 Javier Calvo Perales; 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

Awards

  • 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

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (Witches II) (1988)

Paul Kidby's 2013 illustration of Wyrd Sisters.

Paul Kidby’s 2013 illustration of Wyrd Sisters

Three official artists have managed to capture the likeness of the Witches of Lancre fairly well: Paul Kidby, Katarzyna Oleska and Marc Simonetti.

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.

Trois Sæurcières; Illustration by Marc Simonetti, 2011

Trois Sæurcières; Illustration by Marc Simonetti, 2011

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.

Wyrd Sisters' cover illustration by Katarzyna Oleska, 2004

Wyrd Sisters’ cover illustration by Katarzyna Oleska, 2004

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.

Duchess Felmet; Photography: Jiří Lebeda; Directed by Jan Brichcín & Hana Burešová

Duchess Felmet; Photography: Jiří Lebeda; Directed by Jan Brichcín & Hana Burešová

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.


Articles:

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;


Translations:

  • Bulgarian: Тери Пратчет; Посестрими в занаята; Translator: Елена Паскалева; София: Издателска къща Вузев, 2001 (Cover artist: Josh Kirby)
  • Czech: Soudné sestry; Translator: Jan KantůrekPraha: 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)
    • Seltsame Schwestern; Translator: Silke Jürgensen/Sönke Brodersen; Leipzig, I:D Verlag, 1997
      • MacBest; Translation; Andreas Brandhorst; München/Berlin, Piper Verlag, 2004 (Cover art: Katarzyna Oleska)
  • 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 KugaTokyo: 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
  • Russian: Терри Пратчетта; Вещие сестрички; Translator: В. Вольфсон; Moscow, ЭКСМО, 2001
  • 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

Sources

Discworld Colouring book illustrated by Paul Kidby, August 2016

Discworld colouring book illustrated by Paul Kidby

I’m a fan of Paul Kidby’s illustrations. His people are amazing. I gave up on listing which characters are my favorites. I get that August is a ways off. Annoyingly far off for Discworld fans who also love colouring books. Being patient is going to be difficult, but what choice do we have. Just wanted to share. Had to share.

Mort (1987)

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

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

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

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

“Sorrow Itself”, by Soulstripper (2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO

“What?”

I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

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

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

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

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

His father regarded him critically.

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

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

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

“What are we going to do now?”

BUY YOU SOME NEW CLOTHES.

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

REALLY?

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

IT CERTAINLY ADDS A NEW TERROR TO POVERTY.

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

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

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

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

“Are you a servant?” she said.

Mort straightened up.

“No,” he said, “I’m an apprentice.”

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

….

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

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

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

Definitely recommended.

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Translations:

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Reviews:

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Adaptations

Art

Sources

Pratchett, Terry: The Discworld

The Colour of Magic – Episode 1 (2008) – Television film

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I have just finished watching the first episode of the Colour of Magic television production. This episode ends where the book ends. Except for the happenings at the Unseen University, the movie stays true to the book. Of course, a lot of the story could not be included due to time constraints (and probably budget).

One does not have to be a Pratchett fan, nor does one have to have read either Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic in order to understand the “plot” of the movie.

The film has a narrator, Brian Cox, that works well for my autism sensitivity to such matters. Stage set and costume quality varied. At times I felt as though I was watching a theater production. Death’s costume is under par. REALLY! That was the best SkyOne could do???

Rincewind is supposed to be around 50 years old when we first meet him. In the film you will probably notice that he seems much older than that (depending on how old the person watching the movie is). He has been thrown out of the Unseen University for his complete inability to learn magic. Having a spell that terrifies any other spell is what makes Rincewind a one-spell-wizzard. At what he feels is his lowest point in life thus far, Rincewind meets the strange phenomena – the tourist Twoflower (and Twoflower’s Luggage). In the film Twoflower was the stereotypical US tourist. That worked for me. Rincewind was in his usual anti-adventure, pro-running away from trouble form. I find this kind of character rather adorable.

From this point on we follow three storylines through episode one.

The first is Rincewind who is forced by the Patrician to be Twoflower’s guide. Guiding Twoflower is dangerous at best and deadly (if not for the spell) for Rincewind. But Twoflower and the spell pull Rincewind’s bottom away from Death’s waiting arms several times during this episode.

Back at the Unseen University there are a couple of important matters happening. One is the disturbance Rincewind’s disappearance and the Turtle getting closer to the red star is causing Octavo. Octavo is an incredibly dangerous magic book. On the Discworld, you risk being eaten by some of the magic books. Exactly what the Octavo does no one seems to know. Not even Rincewind who has one of its spells inside his mind.

The other matter going on at the Unseen University is a battle for supremacy. The approved way to the seat of the Archchancellor is through the death of its current holder (whether through natural or assisted causes). Tryman desperately wants that power and is not afraid to kill those ahead of him. Tryman felt a bit forced. The portrayal Archchancellor was much better.

The third plotline is the one involving the Krull and their obsession with anything to do with the Turtle. One of the extremely important unsolved questions is what the gender of the Turtle is. One of their scientists is played by Pratchett.

At times the movie lagged. Sometimes it was funny. I never really felt the danger of many of the situations as Pratchett portrays them. But all in all I enjoyed the film. Average quality is the grading I give the first episode of the Colour of Magic adaptation for television.

Reviews

Cast (Wikipedia)

  • David Jason as Rincewind, a failed wizard and the main protagonist.
  • Sean Astin as Twoflower, the discworld’s first tourist.
  • Tim Curry as Trymon, the power-hungry senior wizard at the Unseen University.
  • Christopher Lee as the voice of Death.
  • Jeremy Irons as Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.
  • James Cosmo as Galder Weatherwax, the incumbent Archchancellor of the Unseen University.
  • Nicolas Tennant as Head Librarian of the Unseen University, who is turned into an orangutan during the events of the film.
  • Karen David as Liessa, a dragonlady from the Wyrmberg.
  • Nigel Planer as the Arch-Astronomer of Krull.
  • Richard Da Costa as The Luggage/The Librarian as Orangutang.
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Lumuel Panter.
  • Miles Richardson as Zlorf, the leader of the Ankh-Morpork Assassins’ Guild.
  • James Perry as Kring, the enchanted sword.
  • Stephen Marcus as Broadman, the bartender at the Broken Drum.
  • Toby Jones as one of the heads of the eight orders of Wizardry.
  • Terry Pratchett appears in a cameo role, playing Astrozoologist #2 in the opening and closing scenes of the film.
  • Richard Woolfe, the director of programming at Sky One, also appears as the Alchemist.

Discworld reading order

How to read the Discworld books? I have read them all several times, some more than others. Hogfather is a X-mas favorite. When I got into Pratchett, it was due to the Watch series. After having read that, I just read them all in order. Then I read them according to characters. And so on and so on. My reviews are chronological. I strongly recommend that you get the illustrated versions that are out there. I have The Last Hero and it is amazing.

This first list is originally by Krzysztof K. Kietzman. As you can see from the chart, it has been updated by several people.

Latest Krzysztof Kietzman reading order

Here is another suggestion. This one is more complicated than Krzysztof’s, but one needs a little complication in making reading choices. I don’t know who created it, but the link takes you to where I found it.

Discworld reading order

When it comes to the non-chronological way of reading the Discworld, there are great commentaries on the series out there (cannot speak for the ones I do not understand):

This chronological list is from Wikipedia and lets you know how each book fits into the Discworld system.

# Title Pub Groups Notes
1 The Colour of Magic 1983 Rincewind Came 93rd in the Big Read.
2 The Light Fantastic 1986 Rincewind Continues from The Colour of Magic
3 Equal Rites 1987 The Witches, The Wizards
4 Mort 1987 Death Came 65th in the Big Read
5 Sourcery 1988 Rincewind, The Wizards
6 Wyrd Sisters 1988 The Witches Came 135th in the Big Read
7 Pyramids 1989 Discworld Cultures (Djelibeybi) British Science Fiction Award winner, 1989
8 Guards! Guards! 1989 The City Watch Came 69th in the Big Read
9 Eric 1990 Rincewind Published in a larger format and fully illustrated by Josh Kirby
10 Moving Pictures 1990 Miscellaneous (Holy Wood), The Wizards
11 Reaper Man 1991 Death, The Wizards Came 126th in the Big Read
12 Witches Abroad 1991 The Witches Came 197th in the Big Read
13 Small Gods 1992 Discworld Cultures (Omnia), The History Monks Came 102nd in the Big Read
14 Lords and Ladies 1992 The Witches, The Wizards
15 Men at Arms 1993 The City Watch Came 148th in the Big Read
16 Soul Music 1994 Death, Susan Sto Helit, The Wizards Came 151st in the Big Read
17 Interesting Times 1994 Rincewind, The Wizards
18 Maskerade 1995 The Witches
19 Feet of Clay 1996 The City Watch
20 Hogfather 1996 Death, Susan Sto Helit, The Wizards Came 137th in the Big Read; British Fantasy Award nominee, 1997
21 Jingo 1997 The City Watch
22 The Last Continent 1998 Rincewind, The Wizards
23 Carpe Jugulum 1998 The Witches
24 The Fifth Elephant 1999 The City Watch Came 153rd in the Big Read; Locus Fantasy Award nominee, 2000
25 The Truth 2000 Ankh-Morpork, The City Watch, The Ankh-Morpork Times Came 193rd in the Big Read
26 Thief of Time 2001 Death, Susan Sto Helit, The History Monks Came 152nd in the Big Read; Locus Award nominee, 2002
27 The Last Hero 2001 Rincewind, The Wizards, The City Watch Published in a larger format and fully illustrated by Paul Kidby
28 The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents 2001 Miscellaneous (Überwald) A YA (young adult or children’s) Discworld book; winner of the 2001 Carnegie Medal
29 Night Watch 2002 The City Watch, The History Monks Received the Prometheus Award in 2003; came 73rd in the Big Read; Locus Award nominee, 2003
30 The Wee Free Men 2003 Tiffany Aching The second YA Discworld book; also published in larger format and fully illustrated by Stephen Player
31 Monstrous Regiment 2003 Discworld Cultures (Borogravia), The City Watch, The Ankh-Morpork Times The title is a reference to The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women; 2004 nominee for Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.
32 A Hat Full of Sky 2004 Tiffany Aching, The Witches The third YA Discworld book
33 Going Postal 2004 Moist von Lipwig, Ankh-Morpork Locus and Nebula Awards nominee, 2005
34 Thud! 2005 The City Watch Locus Award nominee, 2006
35 Wintersmith 2006 Tiffany Aching, The Witches The fourth YA book.
36 Making Money 2007 Moist von Lipwig, Ankh-Morpork Locus Award winner, Nebula nominee, 2008
37 Unseen Academicals 2009 The Wizards, Rincewind, Miscellaneous (Nutt) Locus Award Nominee, 2010
38 I Shall Wear Midnight 2010 Tiffany Aching, The Witches Fifth YA book, Andre Norton winner, 2010
39 Snuff 2011 The City Watch (Sam Vimes) Third fastest selling book in first week of publication
40 Raising Steam 2013 Moist von Lipwig, Ankh-Morpork, The City Watch
41 The Shepherd’s Crown[19] TBA Tiffany Aching

The Light Fantastic (Discworld II) (Rincewind II) (1986)

http://www.deboekenplank.nl/naslag/aut/p/img/pratchett_t_schijfwereld_02_2002_2e.jpgThe Light Fantastic is filled with a wonderful cast of “characters”. Every person we meet, from Rincewind to Bethan are eccentrics (or nutters if you prefer).

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.

Credit: SJ Games

Credit: SJ Games

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.

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Credit: LSpace

Credit: LSpace

Adaptations:

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

 

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Reviews:

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Translations:

Strata @ Terry Pratchett (1981)

https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/61259391/disp/0d4a0bbed82122db5dec726d8f81db36.jpg

Coverart by Marc Simonetti

Kin Karad works for the Company. Her job is to oversee the creation of planets. Imagine that: being able to be part of planet-creation. Might make you feel like a supreme being, perhaps even a bit cocky. Add cockiness to a brilliant mind and the road is short to doing something to divert your attention from the incredibly boring task of layering the planet properly. One must remember to place the fossils in the correct layer, thus avoiding confusion with later settlers. Placing a plesiosaur holding a placard reading “End Nuclear Testing Now” in the wrong stratum might seem like a good idea at the time. Newbies! Always so full of themselves.

Kin does remember being exactly like that herself once upon a time, and she is impressed with the inventiveness of the culprit. The Company is not. It expects its employees to follow the regulations come what may. Bureaucracy that strict might get a bit boring after a couple of centuries. Kin is getting tired of her life.

Right on time she receives an invitation to travel with the stranger Jago Jalo. Kin Karad decides to go but when she gets to the spaceship she discovers that she is alone. Companions will be joining her later – a kung called Marco Farfarer, and Silver the Shandi. They are told that they will be going to a flat world. Yes, a flat world with a star system revolving around it.

This trio gets to meet interesting people who all seem to have one aim in their lives – get rid of the weird strangers. Some of the people they meet are as strange as Silver. Although Silver might think humans look pretty strange. All in the eye of the beholder I guess. Some of the people/creatures they come into contact with are more than they appear to be. In fact all of Flat Earth is other than it appears to be.

Humour is a tricky business. Some humour can be extremely funny without my feeling the need to laugh. That is because really great humour – to me – is humour that makes me squirm inside my head. I find Terry Pratchett to be that kind of author. He rips the world and literature apart and puts them back together in a manner that makes sense to me.

As I read Strata at an older and infinitely wiser (cough, cough) age, Pratchett showed me new layers of myself and the world around me. He continues to do so in all of his stories. In Strata I got to meet fun characters, enjoy excellent action and have an interesting philosophical discussion with a dying “world”. While Pratchett has grown as an author since those early days, even WAY back then, Terry Pratchett was a pretty awesome writer.

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Reviews:

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Translations:

  • Bulgarian: Страта; Transl: Светлана Комогорова – Комата; Прозорец, 1999
  • Czech: Strata; Transl: ;Praha, Magnet-Press, 1997
  • Dutch: Delven; Transl: Jaime Martijn; Amsterdam, Meulenhoff-M, 1982; Cover-art: Tom Barber

    • Strata; Transl: Jaime Martijn; Amsterdam, Meulenhoff-M, 1994; Cover-art: Nico Keulers
  • French: Strate-à-gemmes; Transl: Dominique Haas; Paris, Pocket, 1997
  • German: Strata oder die Flachwelt; Transl: Heinz Zwack; München, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, 1983

    • Strata; Transl: Andreas Brandhorst; München, Piper Taschenbuch, 1992
  • Polish: Warstwy Wszechświata; Transl: Ewa Siarkiewicz; Warszawa, Oficyna Wydawnicza Almapress, 1992

    • Dysk; Transl: Jarosław Kotarski; Poznań, Dom Wydawniczy Rebis, 1999
  • Russian: Творцы миров; Transl: Олег Колесников
    • Страта; Transl: Л. Щёкотовой; Внецикловые романы, 2004
    • Journal: Если № 3, март 2004; Терри Пратчетт; Страта; Transl: Л. Щёкотовой; стр. 117-222; Art: И. Тарачкова

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Sources

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Audiobook

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