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Pratchett, Terry; Pyramids (1989)

“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.


Reviews:


Translations:

  • 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

Adaptations:

  • Pratchett, T., 1989. The test: a specially adapted extract from Terry Pratchett’s new Discworld novel, Pyramids. London: Croftward
  • Bookrags: Everything you need to understand or teach Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

 

 

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Pratchett, Terry: Equal Rites (Witches I) (1987)

Source: Pinterest, David Crambe

Simplified Chinese

Lately, each time I have sat down and worked with Terry Pratchett stuff I have been reminded of his death. So, too, with this review on Equal Rites.

“Despite rumor, Death isn’t cruel, merely terribly, terribly good at his job”

The Death of Discworld first showed up in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. There it was becoming frustrated with Rincewind’s inability to die. In Equal Rites, Death gathers to itself Drum Billet just as Wizard Billet realized his mistake in passing his wizard’s staff to a girl. A GIRL!

THERE IS NO GOING BACK. THERE IS NO GOING BACK, said the deep, heavy voice like the closing of crypt doors.

And so Eskarina Smith’s parents and Granny Weatherwax are left wondering what will happen to a wizard girl and her seemingly indestructible wizard’s staff. Obviously, Esk is going to show magical talent and Granny Weatherwax will be forced to teach her what Granny may (being a witch, and all).

Witches, at least Granny Weatherwax’s (I love the names Pratchett gives to people and places) kind, are practical women. They know that before anything esoteric can be taught, a person needs to understand all sorts of useful things. Practical knowledge is usually what keeps you alive in this world and on the Discworld. By the time Granny and Esk set off for the Unseen University in Ankh Morpork Esk is able to do an astounding amount of things.

“What sort of helpful things?” he asked. “Washing and sweeping, yesno?”

“If you like,” said Esk, “or distillation using the bifold or triple alembic, the making of varnishes, glazes, creams, zuum-chats and punes, the rendering of waxes, the manufacture of candles, the proper selection of seeds, roots and cuttings, and most preparations from the Eighty Marvellous Herbs; I can spin, card, rett, flallow and weave on the hand, frame, harp and Noble looms and I can knit if people start the wool on for me, I can read soil and rock, do carpentry up to the three-way mortise and tenon, predict weather by means of beastsign and skyreck, make increase in bees, brew five types of mead, make dyes and mordants and pigments, including a fast blue, I can do most types of whitesmithing, mend boots, cure and fashion most leathers, and if you have any goats I can look after them. I like goats.”

Granny does not like to see people sitting around doing nothing. She makes certain that any person in her vicinity has  something to do. But the most important thing she teaches Esk with all of this is the art of self-confidence and self-reliance. And not to use magic. To Granny that is the most important thing about having power, knowing when not to use it. Except Esk is leaking magic all over the place.

The Things from the Dungeon Dimensions love people who leak magic. Sometimes that link will give them a way into the world, and thereby a way to wreak havoc. As if people need others to wreak havoc upon them. But the Things really want in on the fun. By being pig-headed about letting young Esk into the UU, the wizards are helping the Things out. So is young Simon, another extremely powerful and knowledgeable young person (who is let in as a student due to his being a boy).

Like all of Pratchett’s Discworld books, Equal Rites leaves me thinking about every-day issues. Some of them I read about in the news or hear about from others. Some I experience myself. Sharing privilege and power with others is perhaps the one lesson we humans struggle most with. Because I am a woman, I have thought about the many privileges I will never have. Because I am white, I am aware of the many privileges that have come to me by stint of birth. Like Granny, I am less worried about what rooms I have a right to step into. But like Granny, I am bound by traditions of which I am not aware. Esk is the kind of child I wanted to be like.


Reviews:

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Adaptations

BBC4 dramatisation of Equal Rites as serial on Woman’s Hour

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Translations:

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1985: Why Gandalf Never Married

TV-tropes

Wikipedia (spoilers)

 

Donovan, Frances: Was Terry Pratchett a Feminist?


by | March 13, 2015


Terry Pratchett at book signingTerry Pratchett is one of the most prolific authors of our age. When he died yesterday (March 12, 2015) he left behind a massive oeuvre: more than 70 books, most of them about the Discworld, a flat planet carried on the back of four elephants who themselves stand back of the great turtle A’Tuin as it swims through space.

About a month ago I began re-reading Pratchett’s Discworld books. As I did so, this question kept roiling around in the back of my mind: Is Terry Pratchett a feminist? He most likely fielded that question during one of his many press appearances, but I’m more interested in exploring the question based solely on the basis of his books.

His earliest Discworld novels – The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic – don’t even pass the Bechdel Test. The few female characters consist mainly of damsels in distress and femmes fatales.  But beginning with Equal Rites, Pratchett applies one of his great comedic tools – reversal – to the issue of gender.

The premise of the book itself rests on just such a reversal. A dying wizard seeks out the eighth son of an eighth son to inherit his magical powers. But he bequeaths his staff to the baby without realizing that she is a daughter, not a son. And thus begins the story of Eskarina, a girl who challenges the gendered nature of magic on the Discworld.

The midwife who delivers Eskarina is none other than Granny Weatherwax, a powerful and experienced witch and one of the most popular characters of the Discworld series. She’s dead set against Eskarina becoming a wizard.

 “It’s the wrong kind of magic for women, is wizard magic, it’s all books and stars and jommetry. She’d never grasp it. Whoever heard of a female wizard?… “Witches is a different thing altogether… It’s magic out of the ground, not the sky, and men never could get the hang of it.”(1) ……………………………..

The rest of the article can be read at Gender Focus

Roberts, Tansy Rainer: Pratchett’s Women: The Boobs, the Bad and the Broomsticks

July 11th, 2011 at 22:25

[SPOILER ALERT for several older Discworld novels and one key scene in recent release I Shall Wear Midnight]

Some time ago, I talked on Galactic Suburbia about how I felt Pratchett was one of those writers who you can see noticeably improving and honing his craft as he goes, and that one of the elements he hugely improved in over the years was his treatment of female characters. Someone commented that they hoped we would elaborate on that at some point, and I have always intended to, though I don’t know that Galactic Suburbia is the best place for that discussion – largely because I think I’m the only one of the three who is a huge reader of Pratchett.

I started reading the Discworld books in the early 90′s, when Small Gods was the latest release. This meant that I read all the books before that in (mostly) the wrong order, and all of the books after that in (mostly) the right order. So it took me some time to figure out what was going on with Pratchett’s women, and the chronology of those early books is still a little muddled in my head.

The first ten books of the Discworld series are quite problematic in their portrayal of female characters, particularly the younger women. I certainly don’t think this was intentional on Pratchett’s part, but an unfortunate result of the fact that in these early books he was largely writing parody of various fantasy worlds and tropes, just beginning to develop the Discworld into something more substantial and complex. I also feel that Pratchett was very much aware of some of the dreadful sexism in his source material, and the female characters he wrote were often in direct response to what he saw in the fantasy genre.

His intentions to point out the silliness of the portrayal of women in fantasy, sadly, backfired somewhat.

So in these early Discworld books, we find Pratchett parodying the half-clad, bosomy fantasy females who reward the handsome hero with their sexy selves by creating half-clad, bosomy fantasy females who a) say bitchy things to the (not handsome) hero in the hopes that no one would notice they still look like a complete cliche of the genre and/or b) amusingly fail to fall in love with the protagonist and instead choose to reward a less obvious male character with their sexy selves. We get Bethan, the glamorous priestess who is cross about being rescued from a temple but chooses to hook up with the aged Cohen the Barbarian instead of giving Rincewind a second look; we have Conina, the glamorous warrior woman who chooses to hook up with the nerdy whatsisname instead of giving Rincewind a second look; we have Ptraci, who is totally hot for Pteppic and vice versa, but when they discover they are siblings he literally hands her over to his mate; we have Princess Keli who goes for the dweeby wizard (finally a hot girl with a taste for wizards!) over the equally dweeby protagonist Mort; and of course we have Ginger and Ysabell, who are utterly bitchy to their respective guys, but ultimately sink into their arms.

[I should admit at this point that when I was fourteen and reading Pratchett for the first time, I adored Conina and Ptraci and Ginger and totally wanted to be just like them when I grow up. I look back on that now and shudder, just a bit. Among the many other things I would like to tell my teenage self, ‘how about we aspire to be something other than a Josh Kirby cartoon character’ would be pretty bloody high on the list.] ……………

The rest of the article can be found at stitching words, one thread at a time

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