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
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
Not too many years ago, my husband ended up in the hospital. He was there for four weeks. At one point, the drs weren’t certain how things would go and he ended up in Intensive. I had just started on The Unadulterated Cat and decided that if he had to placed in coma, then I would keep on reading it out loud to him. Thankfully, he did not have to be placed in coma, so I kept on reading the book to myself. But I have to say that The Unadulterated Cat represents a frightening period of my life yet also a time of gratitude in my heart.
Cats! My first cat appeared soon after my entry into the world. From pictures that cat seemed to be an adorable white little sweet-heart. According to my parents our relationship was much like the cat and baby in the above video. She loved being my hat and we kept her a long time. I imagine I put her ears into my mouth and did my best to pull and prod her as much as I was able to.
The Real Cat and Children A Real kitten in a Real household with a junior member can expect to be:1) pulled. 2) pushed. 3) Imprisoned in Cindy’s bedroom with Cindy, Mr T in one of Cinderella’s dresses*, a tiearmed teddy bear, a fearsome plasticoid with Lazer-zap cannon and a small pink pony. 4) Fed unsuitable food. In this category can be included peas, ghastly sweet pink goo, and a fortnight’s worth of Kitty treats in three minutes.5) Inserted into unsuitable clothing (cf. Cindy,Barbie, Action Man, etc).) Carried by being he the middle, so that large amounts of cat flop down on either side. (Strangely enough, most cats put up with this, even when they are great fat toms)
The next one that entered my life ended up with the name Soxie. She just turned up one day. I adored her. We did not have her for all that long before we moved to another country, and the cat may or may not have survived being placed in a pound. Upon leaving I was in my late sixes. Oh, how I missed her. On my way home from school I would sing songs about her and make up stories about where she might have ended up. In spite of her murdering, devious, treacherous and conniving ways she had found a place in my heart.
Buying a house in the Country: A very reliable way of acquiring a cat. It’ll normally turn up within the first year, with a smug expression that suggests it is a little surprised to see you here. It doesn’t belong to the previous occupants, none of the neighbours recognise it, but it seems perfectly at home. Why? It is very probably a Schrodinger Cat
Years and years passed until my family moved into another house in another country. I now understand that is a prerequisite for the magically appearing cat. The lady that moved into our house also turned up one day. She kept on returning and all of a sudden she decided she was ours. Paid rent as well. At night she would climb through my sister’s bedroom window and leave her offerings on her pillow.
Real cats don’t hunt for food, but because they love you. And, because they love you, they realise that for some reason you have neglected to include in your house all those little personal touches that make it a home, and do their best to provide them. Headless shrews are always popular. For that extra splash of colour, you can’t beat miniature sets of innards.
My sister still has a cat. All of her terrifying nightly experiences did not stop her from such a drastic step. Their first cat was the terror of the neighborhood. The one they have now is in cahoots with the dog. Such unpredictable creatures, cats, and described to perfection by Terry Pratchett.
- Bulgarian: Автентичната котка
- Czech: Nefalšovaná kočka
- Dutch: De Echte Kat: Felix Vulgaris
- Finnish: Tosikissa ei kirppuja kiroile
- French: Sacrés chats !
- German: Die gemeine Hauskatze
- Hungarian: Az igazi macska: Kampány az igazi macskáért
- Italian: Il Gatto D.O.C.
- Polish: Kot w stanie czystym
- Russian: «Кот без дурако́в», «Кот без прикра́с», «За подлинную кошачесть»
- Swedish: Riktiga Katter bär inte Rosett