Britton, S. (2018) Thoughtful Laughter: Fantasy and Satire as Social Commentary in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Bachelor of Arts, Chapel Hill: North Carolina
From the titanic clashes of good and evil in epic fantasies to the well-armed antiheroes of sword and sorcery, fantasy literature offers a little something for everyone. Yet even classic giants of the genre – J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Fritz Leiber, Alan Garner – are often reduced to well-designed escapism by traditional literary scholars. It is little wonder, then, that the sub-genre of comic fantasy, a mode of storytelling relying on puns and parody, resides at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to possessing anything of literary “merit.” However, recently the status of comic fantasy has turned into contested space, in large part due to award-winning British fantasy author and knight, Terry Pratchett. Pratchett was England’s number onebest-selling author in 1996; even after his passing in 2015, he remains England’s second best-selling author to date – not to mention that he owns the rather dubious mantle of being the most shoplifted authors in the UK (Hooper).
Pratchett’s main body of work concerns the Pratchett’s main body of work concerns the Discworld, a world shaped like (here it comes) a flat disc balanced on the backs of four enormous elephants who ride on the shell of an even larger sea-turtle as it travels through space. Despite the Discworld series being acclaimed for its “engaging storylines, meticulously described fantasy worlds, and [an] ever-expanding cast of recurring characters” (Contemporary Literary Criticism Select), it has also been consistently marginalized, if not outright scorned, for being “humorous diversions…entertaining escapism”(Penny). While this may have once been true – and Pratchett himself admits to early books, such as The Colour of Magic (1983), being novel-length gags (Penny) – the Discworld novels have since evolved from mere tongue-in-cheek, slap-stick parody into a full-fledged, satirical secondary world. According to Daniel Luthi in “Toying with Fantasy: The Postmodern Playground of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Novels,” “The hidden seriousness present in any true and thorough parody is now one of the core elements of the Discworld” (132). In a sense, the Discworld novels have “grown-up,” making use of complex narratives and serious satire, and
switching the critical lens from making fun of fantasy for the giggles to reflecting on our own world.
In effect, Pratchett’s Discworld series “dump[s] uncomfortable human truths onto the table and sprinkle[s] them with fairy dust… steeping the nasty stuff in music and magic to make it more bearable without ever lying” (Penny). Combining conventions of the fantasy genre with
satire, Pratchett retranslates social criticisms of the real world through spun-about fantasy tropes, inspiring both laughter and thoughtful reflection in his audience. By examining the use of comedy and satire in the fantasy genre and the purpose of secondary worldbuilding, this thesis determines how the Discworld constitutes a safe platform for social critique, with special attention given to one of Pratchett’s most popular characters, Death………………………..
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.
Guards! Guards! begins with an Ankh-Morpork brought to her knees by the fiascos of its previous rulers and the manipulations of its present Patrician, Lord Vetinari. Lord Vetinari has worked hard to subvert any thought of traditional social contract between ruler and the ruled. He has created organized crime/intricate guild system and subverted Ankh-Morpork’s police force/Watch. Its officers are no longer considered a threat to those who break the “law”.
The city wasa, wasa, wasa wossname. Thing. Woman. Thass what it was. Woman. Roaring, ancient, centuries old. Strung you along, let you fall in thingy, love with her, then kicked you inna, inna, thingy. thingy, in your mouth. Tongue. Tonsils. Teeth. That’s what it, she did. She wasa … thing, you know, lady dog. Puppy. Hen. Bitch. And then you hated her and, and, just when you thought you’d got her, it, out of your, whatever, then she opened her great rotten heart to you, caught you off bal, bal, bal, thing. Ance. Yeah. Thassit. Never knew where you stood. Lay. Only thing you were sure of, you couldn’t let her go. Because, because she was yours, all you had, even in her gutters …..
Captain Vimes is the leader of the Watch. A man who has no experience with rose-tinted glasses. Growing up in the Shades will do that to you. Brought to his knees by the manipulations of the Patrician, Vimes has become a severely depressed alcoholic who drinks to forget what he, and his Watch, have become.
In other words, both Ankh-Morpork and Captain Vimes seem ready for some kind of catalyst. And that is what Pratchett gives us. One of those catalysts brings a mystery to the eyes and ears of the entire Watch.
And then there was a sound –
– perhaps a volcanic sound, or the sound of a boiling geyser, but at any rate a long, dry roar of a sound, like the bellows in the forges of the Titans –
– but it was not so bad as the light, which was blue-white and the sort of light to print the pattern of your eyeballs’ blood vessels on the back of the inside of your skull.
According to the Patrician, they are dealing with a gigantic “wading bird” and “gang war”. Vimes does not agree. The other catalyst comes in the form of a six foot six dwarf. For the sake of spoofing, the dwarfs of Discworld are similar to the dwarfs of epic fantasy, i.e. miners whose idea of a good height for a mine is five feet. As far as he knows, Carrot is a dwarf. When he becomes sixteen, Carrot discovers that he is not, in fact, a dwarf. Instead, he is a human like those on the surface. His father wrote to the Patrician inquiring about the possibility of a position with the Watch. Once the letter of hire is received, Carrot travels to Ankh-Morpork to “have a man made of him.” On his he memorizes most of Ankh-Morpork’s laws.
Why do I love Guards! Guards!? Pratchett is an excellent writer and this is probably one of his better works. He lays our (humanity’s) weaknesses and strengths in front of us in a manner that is both warm and sharp. No issue is too sacred. With Carrot, Vimes and Wonce we explore the long-term effects of personality, environment and chance. Colon allows us a look at the way some marriages survive. Sybil and Vimes show us loneliness and depression and different ways of coping. They also bring an odd version of Cinderella to the Discworld. The Patrian and the dragon show us two sides of the same type of leadership. Theirs aren’t the only types of leadership we see. Organized crime is a fitting word for the guild system, and the wizards, of the city. In addition, there is the Supreme Grand Master of the The Elucidated Brethren. Democracy is a term the citizens of Ankh-Morpork are unfamiliar with. The Librarian remains comfortable in his skin. Lines between classes are best seen in the river of Ankh-Morpork and, indeed, it does divide “betters” (Morpork) from their “lessers” (Ankh).
With Guards! Guards! Pratchett’s satire pricks me, and hopefully many others, with its truths. Mainly though, I am left with a sense of hope. Or perhaps opportunities? Anyways. Absolutely fabulous.
- Audiobook: Guards! Guards!; Narrator
- Bulgarian: Стражите! Стражите!; Translator Мирела Христова; ИК Вузев, 1998
- Chinese: 來人啊！Translator 魯宓 (Hu Shu); 寂寞出版股份有限公司, 2012
- 卫兵！卫兵！ Wei bing! Wei bing! 四川科学, 技术出版 社, 2012
- Czech: Stráže! Stráže!; Translator Jan Kantůrek; Talpress, 1995
- Dutch: Wacht! Wacht!; Translator Venugopalan Ittekot; Het Spectrum, 1993
- Estonian: Vahid! Vahid!; Translator Allan Eichenbaum; Varrak, 2002
- Finnish: Vartijat, hoi!; Translator Marja Sinkkonen; Karisto, 1999
- French: Au Guet!; Translator Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 1997
- German: Wachen! Wachen!; Translator Andreas Brandhorst; Münich, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1991
- Hebrew: שומרים! שומרים! Shomrim! Shomrim!; Translator
- Hungarian: Őrség! Őrség!; Translator Sohár Anikó; Cherubion, 2000
- Italian: A me le guardie!; Translator Antonella Pieretti; Milano, Salani, 2002
- Norwegian: I lovens navn!; Translator Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Tiden, 2002
- Polish: Straż! Straż!; Translator Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa, Prószyński i S-ka, 1989
- Portuguese (Brazil): Guardas! Guardas!; Translator
- Romanian: Gărzi! Gărzi!; Translator M; Rao, 2008
- Russian: Стража! Стража!; Translator Светлана Увбарх; Москва, Эксмо, 2001
- Serbian: Straža! Straža!; Preveo: Dejan Papić; Beograd, Laguna, 2000
- Spanish: ¡Guardias! ¡Guardias!; Translator Cristina Macía Orio; Barcelona, Martínez-Roca, 1993
- Swedish: I lagens namn!; Translator Peter Lindforss; Stockholm, Wahlströms, 1995
- Turkish: Muhafızlar! Muhafızlar!; Translator Niran Elçi; İthaki Yayınları, 2003
“But here, away from the great centres of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar towards the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.
The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.
The energy streaming up from their paracosmic peaks may, in chapters to come, illuminate many mysteries: why tortoises hate philosophy, why too much religion is bad for goats, and what it is that handmaidens actually do.”
As the Discworld unfolds, the stories become more poignant. Yes, gags, plays on words, and downright bizarreness are plentiful. Except, this isn’t why Pratchett remains one of my alltime favourite authors. Real world people and events (even historical) are. Pyramids is sort of about Egyptian history, all boy boarding schools (particularly final examinations), family, coming of age and religion. Most of all, it is about human nature as seen with the eyes of Pratchett and interpreted through me. This must have been my fourth time to read the Pyramids, and I still enjoyed it a great deal. To be fair, I am not alone in that point of view. Pyramids was considered great enough that it won the 1989 BSFA Award for best science fiction novel.
And, after all, what was there for him at home? A kingdom two miles wide and one hundred and fifty miles long, which was almost entirely underwater during the flood season, and threatened on either side by stronger neighbours who tolerated its existence only because they’s be constantly at war if it wasn’t there.
Teppic’s father, the king of Djelibeybi, promised Teppic’s mother that he would send the boy off for a proper education abroad. She felt Djelibeybi was a bit set in its ways. According to popular beliefs of the time, the best all-round education a boy could get was at Ankh-Morpork’s Assassin’s Guild. Up until then, Teppic’s education had been a bit spotty, encouraged independent thinking, and gave him an inflated view of his position in the world. The (almost) all-boy boarding school did not destroy Teppic’s independent thinking but it did manage to help his opinion of himself become a bit more in line with Discworld reality. We meet him for the first time as he is about to take his final examination, one that is all about avoiding ill-preparedness, carelessness, lack of concentration, poor maintenenance of tools and over-confidence. Not all who attend the Assassin Guild’s school survive the experience.
Then Teppic’s father dies and his “mantle” passes on to Teppic.
The sun, unaware that it was making its farewell performance, continued to drift smoothly above the rim of the world. And out of it, moving faster than any bird should be able to fly, a seagull bore down on Ankh-Morpork, on the Brass Bridge and eight still figures, on one staring face …
Once the mantle is passed, Teppic knows that he must return to Djelibeybi. If only he did not have to return to Dios. “Dios, First Minister and high priest among high priests“. A fundamentalist of fundamentalists. Like many priests he does not really believe in his gods, but he certainly believes that other people should. Dios reminds me of many religious leaders I have met and read about.
The naturally religious, he felt, were unstable and given to wandering in the desert and having revelations – as if the gods would lower themselves to that sort of thing. And they never got anything done. They started thinking that rituals weren’t important. They started thinking that you could talk to the gods direct. Dios knew, with the kind of rigid and unbending certainly you could pivot the world on, that the gods of Djelibeybi liked ritual as much as anyone else. After all, a god who was against ritual would be like a fish who was against water.
Along the way we meet two other important characters, albeit secondary ones. The greatest mathematician of the Discworld and Ptraci. Like I said at the beginning, Pratchett jokes with words. Being a word kind of person, I like that. I like the intelligence of Pratchett’s writing. His expectation that I see through his fun and games. The lovely pictures he paints. Intriguing characters. It is fitting that the characters from Pyramids remain in Djelibeybi, leaving it as one of his stand-alone novels. I miss having him alive.
The Pyramid Players presented a one-week stage adaptation by Suzi Holyoake, “at the Bowen West Theatre in Bedford from Tuesday 5th January to Saturday 9th January 1999.” The original titles of the chapters can be found in Egyptian funerary texts, The Book of the New Sun, and 101 things a boy can do around the house.
- Audiobook: Narrated by Tony Robinson; Abridged by Kati Nicholl; produced by Maurice Leitch. Corgi Audiobooks, 1995
- Braille: South Yarra, Vic. : Louis Braille Books, 1996
- Bulgarian: Пирамиди; Translated by ; Вузев, 2000
- Chinese: 金字塔 (Jin zi ta); Translated by Hu Shu yi; 成都 : 四川科学技术出版社, 2012 (Laqiete Pu)
- Chengdou : Si chuan ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 2012
- Croatian: Piramide; Translated by Drago Štajduhar; Split, Marjan tisak, 2008
- Czech: Pyramidy; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Praha, Talpress, 1995
- Dutch: Pyramides; Translated by Venugopalan Ittekot; Utrecht, Het Spectrum, 1993
- Estonian: Püramiidid; Translated by Allan Eichenbaum; Varrak, 2001
- Finnish: Pyramidit; Translated by Mika Kivimäki; Hämeenlinna, Karisto, 2002
- French: Pyramides; Translated by Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 1996
- German: Pyramiden; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; München, Piper, 2015
- Greek: Τέρι Πράτσετ, Πυραμίδες; Μετάφραση: Άννα Παπασταύρου; Ψυχογιός, 2006
- Hebrew: ירמידות; טרי פראצ`ט; תירגום: אורית קפלן;תל אביב, כנרת, 1998
Hungarian: Piramisok; Translated by Sohár Anikó and Farkas Veronika; Debrecen, Cherubion Könyvkiadó, 2000
- Italian: Maledette piramidi; Translated by Pier Francesco Paolini; Milano, TEA, 2004
- Japanese: ピラミッド; Translated by 久賀宣人訳 久賀, 宣人; S.l., Choueisha, 1999
- Norwegian: Pyramidene; Translated by Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Oslo, Tiden, 2001
- Persian: اهرام؛ تری پرتچت؛ مترجم: محمد حسینی مقدم؛ تهران، ویدا، 1395
Polish: Piramidy; Translated by Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa, Pro︠szyn︠ski i S-ka, 1998
- Portugese: Pirâmides; Translated by Ludimila Hashimoto; São Paolo, Conrad 2004
- Romanian: Piramide; Translated by Tatiana Kostadinova-Minkovska, Bozhidar Grozianov; Sofia, Vusev, 2000
- Russian: Пирамиды; Translated by V. Simonova and N. Berdnikova; Moskva, Эксмо, 2003
- Serbian: Piramide; Translated by Dejan Papić; Beograd, Laguna, 2000
- Slovak: Pyramídy; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Talpress, 1995
- Spanish: Pirómides; Translated by Albert Solé and Cristina Macía Orio; Barcelona, Martinez Roca, 1992
- Swedish: Pyramidfeber; Translated by Peter Lindforss; Stockholm, B. Wahlströms bokförlag AB, 1997
- Turkish: Piramitler; Translated by Niran Elçi: istanbul, İthaki Yayınlar, 2002
Life is made up of stories. From the moment we are born until the time we die we get told, and tell, stories about the way we think life ought to be. If we are lucky, life sometimes introduces us to new ideas and experiences.
It began – part of it began – on the mail coach that came over the mountains from the distant cities of the plain.
This was the part of the journey that the driver didn’t like. The way wound through forests and around mountains on crumbling roads. There were deep shadows between the trees. Sometimes he thought things were following the coach, keeping just out of sight. It gave him the willies.
And on this journey, the really big willie was that he could hear voices. He was sure of it. They were coming from behind him, from the top of the coach, and there was nothing there but the big oilcloth mail-sacks and the young man’s luggage. There was certainly nothing big enough for a person to hide inside. But occasionally he was sure he heard squeaky voices, whispering.
With this as part of his introduction to The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Terry Pratchett sets the mood for one of his darker stories. Much like the court-jesters of old, Pratchett peels away our layers of folly and covers them in stories, this time a story about rats, a cat, a boy and a girl. Most of the time, humans prefer to pretend that what we are told is real rather than accept reality. Except for people like Keith.
“one day he’d seen the stupid-looking kid playing the flute with his cap in front of him for pennies, and he’d had an idea. An amazing idea. I just turned up, bang, all at once. Rats, flute, stupid-looking kid …”
Keith is thought stupid by most people he meets. He tends to listen more than he speaks, to observe more than he demands attention. Once his observations are confirmed, he accepts that what is right in front of him must be real. Even if that happens to be a talking cat. As long as he gets to play his flute, Keith does not care whether a person comes in the shape of a cat or a human or a rat. I am married to a man who has often been underestimated because of his listening abilities. Con-men have a harder time with such people. Not that Maurice had a difficult time recruiting Keith to his Pied Piper scheme. After all, it allowed for quite a bit of flute-playing. Some time before Maurice volunteered Keith he was still amazing but could not speak or think human. Until he could.
They said he was amazing. The Amazing Maurice, they said. He’d never meant to be amazing. It had just happened.
He’d realized something was odd that day, just after lunch, when he’d looked into a reflection in a puddle and thought that’s me. He’d never been aware of himself before. Of course, it was hard to remember how he’d thought before he became amazing. It seemed to him that his mind had been just a kind of soup.
Maurice became a Changeling by eating one of the members of the Clan. Cats seem to consider themselves above humans. Becoming a Changeling cemented Maurice’s theory of himself as better than any other creature he meets. While most parts of being a Changeling has made life more comfortable for Maurice, his new way of thinking brings with it a conscience. Perhaps not a well-functioning conscience, but one that rears its head at inconvenient times. Such as dinner.
One of the stories we are repeatedly told in life, is that the only good rat is a dead rat. Maurice discovers that this is not the case with the Clan. The Clan are the old mischief led by Hamnpork. They used to eat whatever the wizards at Unseen University threw out. The Clan had no idea eating food that glowed was a bad thing so they did. Oops. Now they have have to deal with humans in a completely new manner. One that brings in silver and gold.
Sudden change can be difficult for those who are set in their ways. Hamnpork and the other older rats all struggled with the new-fangled ways that came with human. Maurice was one of the things they had problems accepting. No wonder.
One person embraced human and that was Dangerous Beans. He is the Clan’s spiritual leader, the group’s philosopher and he thinks up guidelines for modern behaviour. All good prophets must have a person who writes down their wise thoughts. Peaches has that job. She feels that life has more to offer than babies and mating. Her duties for the Clan are as record-keeper and inventor of a written rat-language. You see, not every rat is interested in learning to read human.
Darktan is the rat voted most likely to succeed Hamnpork. Adapting to their changed condition has been simpler for Darktan. His inventions of tools, a tool-belt and a map for rats along with an ability to plan defensively has saved lives that traditional thinking would have killed. Many of the younger rats look up to him. Hamnpork sees Darktan as a threat. But Darktan does not want to take over leadership of the Clan. He would rather lead his teams of rats in making each new town safe.
Sardines is a rat smart enough to be a leader but whose interests lie with acting and dancing. He is the only rat with a hat. Sardines also has a stick that he uses during his dance numbers. These rats sound very human-like, but they aren’t any more human-like than rats have always been. The only difference really is that the Clan now talk and are able to think about tomorrow.
These and several more rats make up the Clan. Their job when they get to a new town is to annoy the humans enough to send for Keith, defuse traps, recognize and remove poison, set up camp, and defend the Clan from keekees (unchanged resident rats). Maurice’s job is to be the small voice in the crowd that gets people to say and do whatever he wants. Keith’s job is, of course, to lead the rats off to the closest river and pretend to drown them. Except rats swim well.
Our final main character is Malicia. She is the first human to understand what the gang is doing and wants in on it. Her world is one of stories and she lives her life according to whichever story she is currently into. Talking rats and a talking cat are woven into the stories in her head, and that worries Keith and Maurice. They know that death in life is more permanent that death in fairy tales.
Even the crooks are given life by Pratchett, even though that life is shallower than the one for our main characters. We should be able to recognize people we know in some of the people in Amazing Maurice. I know I could identify both myself and others in some of them. Keith, Dangerous Beans, Malicia and Peaches come to mind. Pratchett’s stories tend to give me that. Identification with characters is important to me. So is plot. Amazing Maurice is like fairy tales of old. Dangerous, scary and a kind of happy ending that leaves all parties somewhat dissatisfied. As usual Pratchett plays with old stories and plays making them into something that does not take itself as seriously. Amazing Maurice is told from several points of view. Each voice is different to the others.
As usual with Pratchett’s stories, my favourite thing about The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is the way it highlights how silly humans are and how dangerous that silliness is. Children of all ages ought to read Amazing Maurice. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
- Bulgarian: Изумителният Морис и неговите образовани гризачи; Translated by Катя Анчева; Вузев, 2006
- Chinese: 貓鼠奇譚 ; Translated by 謝其濬 ; 天下遠見出版股份有限公司 2004
- Croatian: Čudesni Maurice i njegovi učeni glodavci; Translated by Drago Štajduhar; Split, Marijan Tisak, 2003
- Czech: Úžasný Mauric a jeho vzdělaní hlodavci; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Talpress, 2003
- Danish: Mageløse Maurice og hans rådsnare rotter: Translated by Svend Ranild; København, Borgen, 2004
- Dutch: Mirakelse Maurits en zijn Gestudeerde Knaagdieren; Translated by Venugopalan Ittekot; Uitgeverij M, 2003
- Estonian: Hämmastav Maurice ja tema õpetatud närilised; Translated by Kaaren Kaer; Varrak, 2001
- Finnish: Mahtava Morris ja sivistyneet siimahännät; Translated by Leena Peltonen; Karisto Oy, 2002
- French: Le Fabuleux Maurice et ses rongeurs savants; Translated by Patrick Couton; Nantes, L’Atalante, 2004
- German: Maurice, der Kater; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; Goldmann, 2004
- Greek: Ο εκπληκτικός Μορίς και τα σοφά τρωκτικά του; Translated by Παπασταύρου Άννα; Αθήνα, Ψυχογιός, 2008
- Hebrew: מוריס המדהים ומכרסמיו המלומדים; Translated by Jonathan Bar; Sial, 2001
- Hungarian: Fantasztikus Maurícius és az ő tanult rágcsálói; Translated by Veronika Farkas; Delta Vision Kiadó, 2014
- Italian: Il prodigioso Maurice e i suoi geniali roditori; Translated by Maurizio Bartocci; Arnoldo Mondadori, 2005
- Japanese: 天才ネコモーリスとその仲間たち Translated by Hoshi Taminaga; Asunaru Shobo, 2004
- Latvian:Terijs Prečets; Brīnumainā Morisa dēkas; Translated by Uldis Sīlis; Zvaigzne ABC, 2001
- Norwegian: Magiske Maurits og hans Gløgge Gnagere; Translated by Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Oslo, Gyldendal Tiden, 2006
- Polish: Zadziwiający Maurycy i jego uczone szczury; Translated by Dorota Malinowska-Grupińska; Warszawa: Prósyński i S-ka, 2004
- Portugese: O Fabuloso Maurício e seus ratos letrados; Translated by Ricardo Gouveia; São Paolo, Conrad, 2004
- Romanian: Uluitorul Maurice şi rozătoarele lui educate; Translated by Mirella Acsente; Corint Junior, 2006
- Serbian: Neverovatni Moris i njegovi školovani glodari; Translated by Nevena Andrić; Laguna, 2001
- Spanish: El asombroso Mauricio y sus roedores sabios; Translated by ; Plaza & Janes Editories Sa, 2010
- Swedish: Den Makalöse Maurice och hans Kultiverade Gnagare; Translated by Mats Blomqvist; B Wahlströms, 2003
- Turkish: Muhteşem Maurice ve Değişmiş Fareleri; Translated by Niran Elçi; Tudem Yayınları, 2007
- The 2001 Carnegie Award:
“A brilliant and witty twist on the tale of the Pied Piper. Funny and irreverent, but also dark and subversive, in the way it parodies the classic folk tale genre. This is a story that holds a mirror up to our world and questions attitudes and behaviour prevalent in our society. A clever and most entertaining read.”
- The 2014 Geffen Award for Best Translated YA Book
… In contrast, Pratchett’s text incorporates childhood play within a festival of tales. Whilst traditional mythic structures have been utilised by both authors to frame their carnivalesque interpretations, Pratchett has constructed a carnival space inscribing metafictive strategies which focus on humorous inversions, mirror images, and intertextual reflexivity embedded in his celebration of plots. His opening page alerts readers to this artifice of plotting by invoking five plot connections: one is encoded in the chapter peritext, Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure;iii the second quotes Browning’s text, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn; two characters then debate their view of the narrative’s direction; whilst a fifth voice, the narrator, begins the official tale. The author humorously and consistently encodes intertextual referencing and metafictive mirroring devices to establish carnival space in this narrative.
Because this text features linguistic playfulness, Pratchett also builds complex contrapuntal plots wherein each emergent narrative strand is embedded in its predecessor: First, the peritext, framed to indicate the narrative’s structural direction, establishes a mise en abyme device that heads each chapter of the larger narrative and parodies the event expectations of traditional quest structures. Beatrix Potter’s text The Adventures of Peter Rabbit is a prominent intertext in Pratchett’s Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure. Pratchett’s use of this peritext structure also encodes both parodic and ironic perspectives and suggests a superior view of childhood naivety in its use of mimetic and intertextual signification even as quest codes are subverted.
Ratty Rupert was the bravest rat that ever was. Everyone in Furry Bottom said so. (2002, p.79)
Mr Bunnsy realised that he was a fat rabbit in a dark wood and wished he wasn’t a rabbit, or at least not a fat one … (2002, p.132)
The same intertext also re-emerges as a didactic masterplot which models utopian society: its gradual philosophical integration is treasured as a training manual by which the educated rodents may consider equal participation in human society. This anthropomorphic approach mirrors childhood struggles with rules of conduct, though at a deeper interrogative level the author examines the Western humanist ideologies that sustain civilised spaces whilst simultaneously offering an intersubjective view of quest representation. Pratchett humorously signifies an emerging rodent consciousness that examines and revises past behavioural patterns to derive a new estimate of societal responsibilities. In this narrative strand, the quest transition from rodent to Changeling interrogates cultural codes of social behaviour, but Pratchett also intends this construct as a comedic subplot which mirrors theories of emergent consciousness within human subjects. The author images child subjectivity even as he promotes this anthropomorphic self-reflection, with all its incumbent failures, as a social condition of growth.
In opening scenes that disclose his feline protagonist’s narrative intention, Pratchett intertextually mirrors the structure of Browning’s popular children’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn. Browning’s narration begins with a rat plague, and event focus is placed upon the piper’s response to a failed contractual agreement that deprives the town of its children and mirrors the piper’s deprivation of just payment. Pratchett’s Maurice enacts a carnival pastiche: even as the text openly images and enacts authorial plotting, the author’s intertextual allusion adapts another fairytale, Puss-inBoots. At one level, Maurice’s plan provides selected towns with a problematic rat population, offers the piper solution at a negotiated price, and retrieves the rat troupe downstream, ready for a new venture. At another level, the plotting inscribes a game enacted by players: child piper, anthropomorphised rodents, and entrepreneurial conductor, which directs narrative awareness to the performative actions of writers and the game of plotting fiction. In Pratchett’s narrative playground, Maurice and his team soon encounter a Bad Blintz that already has its own deceitful schemes. Here the author’s counterpoint weaves plotters and plots that introduce a carnival space of narrative patterns.
Pratchett’s third intertextual strategy centres upon …. (p. 144-145)
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
Cohen the Barbarian is much more fun as a Barbarian than Conan could ever be – especially the way Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed him in the movie. Here we see what is left of the Barbarian after surviving 70 years of life – most of those running around fighting various creatures for gold and wimmin.
Upon meeting Twoflower and Rincewind, Cohen has these words of wisdom to impart:
“He hash got guts, I’ll give him that. Do exshactly what I shay and it ish just possible he won’t end up with them wrapped around a shtone.”
Definitely wise words considering the situations Twoflower has a tendency to drag Rincewind into and out of – helped a great deal by the Luggage.
I would hate to travel with Twoflower (except for his tendency to survive the most unlikely situations), but he is adorable in his innocence. Surprisingly, now that I think about it, I have actually met tourists who behave as he does. Somehow, I doubt they have the same survival luck as Twoflower. Although, if they had the Luggage on their side, they, too, might have his chances.
The Luggage is the personification of a valet and James Bond all wrapped up in one box. Wordless, and all, The Luggage has to be one of the most interesting characters in the world of silence (on its part – the opposition tends to scream a lot). Its loyalty is undivided once it has settled on an owner. For the time being, that owner is Twoflower. But Rincewind also benefits from that loyalty.
Rincewind remains one of my favorite Discworld characters. His tendency to run away from trouble is actually wisdom. Unless you are a wizards. Wizards seem to consider the saying “curiosity killed the cat” as an invitation to poke anything interesting. Rincewind might poke something, but not without being ready to run. Twoflower, Rincewind and the Luggage might be unlikely friends, but friends they are.
Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage find themselves flying off the Discworld at the end of The Colour of Magic. We meet them in this same position at the beginning of The Light Fantastic. Death seems imminent for all three of them. However, someone/something seems to want them for a “higher” purpose.
As the red light in the sky grows larger and the Discworld warmer, chaos seems to meet The Trio wherever they go. As usual Twoflower gets them into trouble, Rincewind tries to flee from trouble and the Luggage has to save both of them – although Twoflower gets priority. Through their travels they get to meet all sorts of insanity and danger while being herded toward their “destiny”.
Terry Pratchett’s second book in the Discworld saga and the Rincewind saga teaches us a creation-story, an end-story and a whole lot about survival and adventure.
1993: Graphic novel – illustrated by Steven Ross and Joe Bennet. Published by Corgi.
2008: Sky One Television two-part miniseries combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (The Colour of Magic): the version released in the US was much shorter than the one released in the UK
My review of the television miniseries
L-Space: Annotations, information and quotes
- Bosnian: Svetlost čudesnog (Disksvet, #2)
- Bulgarian: Фантастична светлина (Истории от Света на Диска, #2)
- Chinese: 奇光
- Croatian: Čudesno svjetlo (Roman o svijetu Diska, #2)
- Czech: Lehké fantastično (Úžasná Zeměplocha, #2)
- Danish: Det fantastiske lys (Diskverden #2)
- Dutch: Dat Wonderbare Licht
- Estonian: Fantastiline valgus (Kettamaailm, #2)
- Finnish: Valon tanssi
- French: Le huitième sortilège (Les annales du Disque-Monde, #2)
- Georgian: ფანტასტიური ნათება
- German: Das Licht der Phantasie (Scheibenwelt, #2)
- Greek: Το Φως της Φαντασίας
- Hungarian: A mágia fénye (Korongvilág, #2)
- Italian: La luce fantastica
- Lithuanian: Šviesa fantastiška
- Polish: Blask fantastyczny (Świat Dysku, #2)
- Romanian: Lumina fantastică
- Russian: Безумная звезда (Плоский мир, #2)
- Slovak: Ľahká fantastika (Úžasná Plochozem, # 2)
- Slovenian: Luč fantastike
- Spanish: La luz fantástica (Mundodisco, #2)
- Swedish: Det fantastiska ljuset
- Turkish: Fantastik Işık (Diskdünya, #2)
I listened to the first two episodes of Good Omens on BBC4 yesterday. I’m one hour ahead of the UK so that was all I managed.
What fun. The voices fit the characters. Hearing Them’s voices was a bit strange. They sounded like kids. I know, they are supposed to do that, but for some reason it all of a sudden sounded strange.
Dirk Maggs did great job with his adaptation of the story. Hastur and Ligum were the baddies they were supposed to be. Crowley and Aziraphale were the fence-sitters they had become and Anathema was depressed about losing her book. Finally, Dog changed with the correct sound.
In honor of the occasion, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman played the cops who chased Crowley and found more than they were looking for when they opened the hood of their car.
If you have a chance, you really should drop by BBC4 and enjoy the comedy while you can.
I originally blogged about Good Omens on my humanitysdarkerside.com blog. The original post is still there. Time has passed and I have changed, both as a blogger and as a reader.
This collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman has led to a story that is funny, action-filled and philosophical. Both men seem to enjoy questioning the paradigms present in society at the time of whatever they are writing. Both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are exceedingly good as this type of authorship.
“Well, I had to,” said the angel, rubbing his hands distractedly. “They looked so cold, poor things, and she’s expecting already, and what with the vicious animals out there and the storm coming up I thought, well, where’s the harm, so I just said, look, if you come back there’s going to be an almighty row, but you might be needing this sword, so here it is, don’t bother to thank me, just do everyone a favor and don’t let the sun go down on you down here”.
“Funny thing is,” said Crawly, “I keep wondering whether the apple thing wasn’t the right thing to do, as well. A demon can get into real trouble, doing the right thing.” He nudged the angel. “Funny if we both got it wrong, eh? Funny if I did the good thing and you did the bad one, eh?”
Two of the characters from the Garden of Eden kind of stick together up to this moment in time, the moment of Good Omens. Both Crowley and Aziraphale are angels (on opposite sides) who enjoy living with humans because of the choices people make. Now the awaited Armageddon has arrived and the two aren’t happy about having to follow the commands of their masters. But they do because angels have a built in slavery mode when it comes to God and Satan (with a little leeway). Slavery is like that. The slave has to follow the command their are given, but only the exact wording applies. Of course, using the leeway inherent in most commands could risk getting them kicked off earth, but both Asiraphale and Crowley find that risk worthwhile.
The Son of Satan is to be the one who ushers Armageddon in. Crowley and Aziraphale have both decided to watch over him. But it turns out that a baby got switched at birth and it was the wrong one and both angels will be in serious trouble if their masters find out that something has gone awry.
The Son of Satan, or Adam as he is known to his friends, is going to be a huge disappointment to his biological father. You see, the boy has turned into the kind of child that pretty much wants to make the people he likes happy – such as the town environmentalist. Anathema knows there is something really strange about Adam (besides him not having an aura), but she cannot seem to concentrate on figuring out what that something is. I love “Them” (Adam’s gang). Their take on the world is wonderfully influenced by their parents and other important adults. I remember how I believed everything Important people told me. Some of those beliefs have been replaced by others while some of them still remain. Gaiman and Pratchett manage to discuss the whole genetics v environment debate in Good Omens through their nutty little crew of characters.
It is funny that the son of Satan is a disappointment to his father. I would think that ought to make father Satan pleased with his offspring. But Satan is only pro-disobedience if it is disobedience to others. One of the major problems with getting a hold of his bratty little angel son, is that Adam cannot be found. In fact, the only one who is able to find Adam is Adam’s very own Hellhound, Dog.
The gang that are supposed to help Adam fight Armageddon are gathering to fulfill their destiny, but none of them knows where to go. Where is the promised son of the Devil?
Good Omens is filled with interesting characters and a strange sense of logic. Whenever I begin reading books by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, I get into this weird thought-mode where I go – yeah, that could happen. This time was no exception.
- Dobry Omen
- Johanna Sinisalo (Finnish)
- Madame Macabre (Spanish)
- Myosotis (French)
- Ohentibi (Hungarian)
- World Fantasy Award nominee for Best Novel, 1991
- Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 1991
- 2014 December 22: BBC Radio 4 – It begins (HALLELULJAH! or was it PRAISE SATAN!) – The End is Near.
In March 2013, Cult Classic Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland, performed Amy Hoff’s adaptation of Good Omens with the permission of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
- Croatian: Dobri predznaci
- Dutch: Hoge Omens
- French: De bons présages
- Finnish: Hyviä enteitä
- German: Ein Gutes Omen
- Hungarian: Elveszett próféciák
- Italian: Buena Apocalisse a tutti!
- Polish: Dobry Omen
- Portugese: Belas Maldições
- Russian: Добрые предзнаменования
- Spanish: Buenos Presagios
- Swedish: Goda omen
- Turkish: Kıyamet Gösterisi
Neil Gaiman: “Terry Pratchett Isn’t Jolly. He’s Angry.”
Good Omens Artwork