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Pratchett, T. (1990). Moving Pictures. London: Victor Gollanz

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)

@Josh Kirby

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.

@Jameli (Amelia Halgas)

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.

@Dee Ellis

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.

@Beachcomber Bob

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.

@Marc Simonetti

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.

EstonianMoving 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.


Translations:

  1. Audiobook: Moving Pictures; Narrated by Nigel Planer; Oxford: Isis, 1997.
    • Australian English: Narrated by Kate Buring; Sydney: Australian Listening Library, 2005.
  2. BulgarianТери Пратчет; Подвижни образи / Podvizhni Obrazi; Translated by Vladimir Zarkov: Владимир Зарков; Sofii︠a︡: Vusev /Ahont-V, 2002.
  3. Czech: Pohyblivé obrázky; Translated by Jan Kantůrek; Praha: Talpress, 1996.
  4. Estonian: Liikuvad pildid; Translated by Avo Reinvald and Hillar Mets; Tallinn: Varrak, 2002.
  5. Dutch: Rollende prenten; Translated by Venugopalan Ittekot (Ruurd Groot); Utrecht: Het Spectrum, 1994.
  6. Finnish: Elävät kuvat; Translated by Mika Kivimäki; Hömeenlinna: Karisto Oy, 2003.
  7. French: Les zinzins d’Olive-Oued; Translated by Patrick Couton; Paris: Pocket, 1997.
  8. German: Voll im Bilde; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; München: Goldmann, 1993.
  9. Hungarian: Mozgó képek; Translated by Alföldi Nyomda; Debrecen: Cherubion, 2001.
  10. Italian: Stelle cadenti; Translated by Serena e Valentina Daniele; Milano: Salani, 2007.
  11. Norwegian: Levende bilder; Translated by Torleif Sjøgren-Erichsen; Oslo: Tiden Norsk, 2003.
  12. Polish: Ruchome obrazki; Translated by Piotr W. Cholewa; Warszawa: Prószyński Media, 2000.
  13. Romanian: Imagini mişcătoare; Translated by Cezar Octavian Tabarcea; Bucharest : Rao, 2009.
  14. Russian: Движущиеся картинки : [фантастический роман] / Dvizhushchiesi︠a︡ kartinki; Translated by В. Вольфсона / V. Volʹfson; Москва: ЭКСМО, 2006. Moskva: ĖKSMO, 2006.
  15. Serbian: Pokretne slike; Translated by ; Beograd: Laguna, 2001.
  16. Spanish: Imágenes en acción; Translated by Cristina Macía; Barcelona: Altaya, 2003.
  17. Swedish: Röliga bilder; Translated by Peter. Lindforss; Stockholm: Wahlströms, 1996.
  18. Turkish: Hareketli resimler; Translated by Niran Elçi; Istanbul: Ithaki, 2004.

Which witch is which? A feminist analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witches

Adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs

Adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs

Andersson posits the idea that Pratchett’s stories about the Witches of the Diskworld upholds patriarchy rather than fights misogyny. Is she correct about this? Yes and no. Her paper also has this dual quality of feminism and misogynism in the same work. Why do I make this claim?

We are all, everywhere in the world (although there may be exceptions), products of societies that have patriarchy at its lowest and most readily available levels. Our languages are littered with words that promote patriarchy and demote matriarchy. In English I have not even been able to find a word for women that is not a derivative of words for males. Our rituals and cultures are built on men and women who both keep status quo running. Take the colors pink and blue for children. Due to this, and due to Pratchett belonging to the group holding White Male Privilege, it would be odd if his Witches and Wizards were not colored by Pratchett’s own privilege.

Andersson’s article shows this same tendency. I am very much like Granny Weatherwax, and I am a woman, white and in my 50’s. Yet Andersson claims that Pratchett’s portrayal of her builds on a male view of the world. Pratchett certainly points out how our society supports patriarchy. What might be an interesting experiment could be to change genders on all of the characters in one of the Witches’ stories. Perhaps Wyrd Sisters would be a good story for that. Then we could see what happened to us as readers and to the characters of the story and if, in fact, Pratchett had fallen into his own “trap”.

Andersson, Lorraine; Which witch is which? A feminist analysis of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld witches; University of Halmstad, Faculty of Humanities, 2006-06-03 (Thesis for a Masters of Arts in English)

“Terry Pratchett, writer of humorous, satirical fantasy, is very popular in Britain. His Discworld series, which encompasses over 30 novels, has witches as protagonists in one of the major sub-series, currently covering eight novels. His first “witch” novel, Equal Rites, in which he pits organised, misogynist wizards against disorganised witches, led him to being accused of feminist writing. This work investigates this claim by first outlining the development of the historical witch stereotype or discourse and how that relates to the modern, feminist views of witches. Then Pratchett’s treatment of his major witch characters is examined and analysed in terms of feminist and poststructuralist literary theory. It appears that, while giving the impression of supporting feminism and the feminist views of witches, Pratchett’s witches actually reinforce the patriarchal view of women.”

The rest of the article may be found at L-Space

Sourcery @ Terry Prachett (1989)

Artist: Ayato (Brandon Zuckerman) | Source: deviantart.com

Artist: Ayato (Brandon Zuckerman) | Source: deviantart.com

One would think it was possible to learn from history, or at least from other people’s experiences. I suppose we could say that people have, because we follow in the footsteps of past generations who did not learn from history themselves. Once the lure of power comes into play, power-hunger begins to grow.

Once upon a time …

The hierarchy in the Unseen University (UU) is a dangerous one. There are eight orders with eight levels in each. An eighth-level wizard is leader of the order/house) and at level one are the recently graduated students. Except for Rincewind. Rincewind never passed his exams, poor fellow, but knows with all his heart that he is a wizard. As leader of these eight orders is the Archchancellor. Within the orders, competition is fierce. Murder is a well-known tool of advancement. The idea is that if the dead wizard was not able to defend himself, he did not deserve to be there. All wizards are men. At least they were until Eskarina in Equal Rites came along. As far as I know, she is the only female wizard.

Artist: Mbrainspaz (M. Parrott) | Source: deviantart.com

Artist: Mbrainspaz (M. Parrott) | Source: deviantart.com

The first person we meet in Sourcery is Ipsilore the Red. Even by wizard standards, Ipsilore is a bit batty. He was kicked out of UU because of a woman. Perhaps it could be said that Ipsilore had discovered the joys of sex, making him a dangerous sort of wizard. History had taught wizards that sex led to children. Once a wizard reached the magical number of eight sons, the Discworld was in trouble. Sourcerers were the result of such matings.

“SOURCERERS MAKE THEIR OWN DESTINY. THEY TOUCH THE EARTH LIGHTLY.

Ipsilore leaned on the staff, drumming on it with his fingers, apparently lost in the maze of his own thoughts. His left eyebrow twitched.

‘No,’ he said, softly, ‘no. I will make his destiny for him.'”

Ipsilore is the kind of annoying parent who tries to force his son to fulfill his own dreams by making every decision for his child. The kind of parent who attaches himself to his son’s wizard’s staff, ensuring he will never leave the side of his child (given how attached a wizard is to his staff). The kind of parent who possesses his child and forces him to do things in the name of power. You know, that kind of parent. Ipsilore’s only problem is that he is about to die. At the last possible moment, Ipsilore places a prophecy on his son, Coin, a prophecy that reeks of destruction and mayhem. But like all prophecies, this one has a loophole. Then, just as DEATH is about to scythe his soul out of his body, Ipsilore the Red places as much of himself inside the wizard’s staff, thereby giving himself a sort of after-life.

Artist: Vipergirl (Amanda) | Source: deviantart.com

Artist: Vipergirl (Amanda) | Source: deviantart.com

Lord Vetinary of Ankh-Morpork is a brilliant ruler. He understands power-hunger to such a degree that Ankh-Morpork is stable. Corrupt and insane, but stable. Some time in the past, Vetinary made an agreement with the Wizards at UU, containing their power-plays within UU’s grounds. Until Coin arrives with his staff, the wizards seem content with this life.

The wizards stared at one another, mouths open, and what they saw was not what they had always thought they’d seen. The unforgiving rays transmuted rich gold embroidery into dusty gilt, exposed opulent fabric as rather stained and threadbare velvet, turned fine flowing beards into nicotine-stained tangles, betrayed splendid diamonds as rather inferior Ankhstones. The fresh light probed and prodded, stripping away the comfortable shadows.

And, Spelter had to admit, what was left didn’t inspire confidence. He was suddenly acutely aware that under his robes – his tattered, badly-faded robes, he realised with an added spasm of guilt, the robes with the perforated area where the mice had got at them – he was still wearing his bedroom slippers.

Artist: Paul Kidby | Source: facebook.com/paulkidby

Artist: Paul Kidby | Source: facebook.com/paulkidby

Like many who have the truth about themselves revealed, the wizards want another person to blame. Lord Vetinary is the obvious one. Time for revenge. The wizards and Coin go after Vetinary and world-dominion.

In the meantime, the Archchancellor’s hat has gotten itself stolen by Conina the Hairdresser (she wishes). Conina is daughter to Cohen the Barbarian and her mother the “temple dancer for some mad god or other”. Conina has inherited her fighting compulsion from her father and her looks and voice from her mother. I mention Conina’s voice because

… It sounded like wild silk looks. … that voice would have made even a statue get down off its pedestal for a few brisk laps of the playing field and fifty press-ups. It was a voice that could make ‘Good Morning’ sound like an invitation to bed…

which might sound something like this. As quite a few characters in Sourcerer discover, judging Conina by her looks and voice rather than her talents tends to be a dangerously deadly choice. Rincewind knows better. His knowledge has been dearly bought as any who have read The Colour of Magic or Light Fantastic know. Unfortunately for him, he is the only available wizard in Ankh Morpork seeing the others are conspiring at UU. That makes Conina’s choice obvious. In the end there is no doubt as to who is boss. The Archancellor’s Hat makes it very clear to Conina and Rincewind that

Something terrible is happening at the University. It is vital that we are not taken back, do you understand! You must take us to Klatch, where there is someone fit to wear me.

Off the trio sails. What could possibly go wrong?

Artist: TithOuktarine | Source: deviantart.com

Artist: TithOuktarine | Source: deviantart.com

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Trivia:

Mort (1987)

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

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

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

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

“Sorrow Itself”, by Soulstripper (2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO

“What?”

I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

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

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

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

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

His father regarded him critically.

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

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

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

“What are we going to do now?”

BUY YOU SOME NEW CLOTHES.

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

REALLY?

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

IT CERTAINLY ADDS A NEW TERROR TO POVERTY.

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

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

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

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

“Are you a servant?” she said.

Mort straightened up.

“No,” he said, “I’m an apprentice.”

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

….

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

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

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

Definitely recommended.

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Adaptations

Art

Sources

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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1985: Why Gandalf Never Married

TV-tropes

Wikipedia (spoilers)

 

1985: Why Gandalf Never Married (Terry Pratchett)

Photographer: Alexander Turchanin

Photographer: Alexander Turchanin

I want to talk about magic, how magic is portrayed in fantasy, how fantasy literature has in fact contributed to a very distinct image of magic, and perhaps most importantly how the Western world in general has come to accept a very precise and extremely suspect image of magic users.

I’d better say at the start that I don’t actually believe in magic any more than I believe in astrology, because I’m a Taurean and we don’t go in for all that weirdo occult stuff.

But a couple of years ago I wrote a book called The Colour of Magic. It had some boffo laughs. It was an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns. It was also my tribute to twenty-five years of fantasy reading, which started when I was thirteen and read Lord of the Rings in 25 hours. That damn book was a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of my life. I started reading fantasy books at the kind of speed you can only manage in your early teens. I panted for the stuff.

I had a deprived childhood, you see. I had lots of other kids to play with and my parents bought me outdoor toys and refused to ill-treat me, so it never occurred to me to seek solitary consolation with a good book.

Then Tolkien changed all that. I went mad for fantasy. Comics, boring Norse sagas, even more boring Victorian fantasy … I’d better explain to younger listeners that in those days fantasy was not available in every toyshop and bookstall, it was really a bit like sex: you didn’t know where to get the really dirty books, so all you could do was paw hopefully through Amateur Photography magazines looking for artistic nudes.

When I couldn’t get it — heroic fantasy, I mean, not sex — I hung around the children’s section in the public libraries, trying to lure books about dragons and elves to come home with me. I even bought and read all the Narnia books in one go, which was bit like a surfeit of Communion wafers. I didn’t care any more.

Eventually the authorities caught up with me and kept me in a dark room with small doses of science fiction until I broke the habit and now I can walk past a book with a dragon on the cover and my hands hardly sweat at all.

But a part of my mind remained plugged into what I might call the consensus fantasy universe. It does exist, and you all know it. It has been formed by folklore and Victorian romantics and Walt Disney, and E R Eddison and Jack Vance and Ursula Le Guin and Fritz Leiber — hasn’t it? In fact those writers and a handful of others have very closely defined it. There are now, to the delight of parasitical writers like me, what I might almost call “public domain” plot items. There are dragons, and magic users, and far horizons, and quests, and items of power, and weird cities. There’s the kind of scenery that we would have had on Earth if only God had had the money.

To see the consensus fantasy universe in detail you need only look at the classical Dungeons and Dragon role-playing games. They are mosaics of every fantasy story you’ve ever read.

Of course, the consensus fantasy universe is full of cliches, almost by definition. Elves are tall and fair and use bows, dwarves are small and dark and vote Labour. And magic works. That’s the difference between magic in the fantasy universe and magic here. In the fantasy universe a wizard points his fingers and all these sort of blue glittery lights come out and there’s a sort of explosion and some poor soul is turned into something horrible.

Anyway, if you are in the market for easy laughs you learn that two well-tried ways are either to trip up a cliche or take things absolutely literally. So in the sequel to The Colour of Magic, which is being rushed into print with all the speed of continental drift, you’ll learn what happens, for example, if someone like me gets hold of the idea that megalithic stone circles are really complex computers. What you get is, you get druids walking around talking a sort of computer jargon and referring to Stonehenge as the miracle of the silicon chunk.

While I was plundering the fantasy world for the next cliche to pulls a few laughs from, I found one which was so deeply ingrained that you hardly notice it is there at all. In fact it struck me so vividly that I actually began to look at it seriously.

That’s the generally very clear division between magic done by women and magic done by men…………….

The rest of the article can be found at Ansible

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

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

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One of the reasons I usually refuse to watch movie/television versions of books has to do with the inevitable deviations. If the director/producer did not deviate from the books, budgets and length of the movie would be overwhelming. In the case The Light Fantastic and Colour of Magic, changes in the television movie kept to the “spirit” of the story of Twoflower, Rincewind and the Luggage.

Episode II begins with Rincewind being saved by the Octavo. You see, the Octavo needs that eighth spell in Rincewind’s head so it might assist the Turtle in its purpose. The Octavo prefers Rincewind as keeper of the eighth spell rather than Tryman. Tryman’s obsession with the Octavo worries the Octavo.

Cohen the Barbarian makes his first appearance in this film. He is one of the most charming characters of the Discworld. David Bradley, as Cohen, was an inspired choice. He and Tennant were the best fits for their roles, in my opinion. The only problem Bradley had with his role, was his teeth. Cohen is not supposed to have teeth for most of the story. However we see teeth long before their arrival time. As usual, I find this kind of spoof quite funny.

Death’s house/property had the right feel to it. I got that sense of different shades of black and grey that The Light Fantastic talks about. This scene was the only one that threw me due to it being completely different to the book. Perhaps this was why Rincewind did not seem as frightened as he should. Sean Astin was just as oblivious in the movie as Twoflower is in the book. Using the stereotype US tourist for Twoflower continues to agree with me.

As with Episode I, I felt the final product seemed kind of half-hearted. In trying to figure out why, I think my conclusion is that it must be cutting that is the problem. Sadly, Vadim has given a cut-and-paste feel to much of this movie.

In spite of my protestations, The Colour of Magic, Episode II is a fair enough production. Perhaps never having read the stories would have been an advantage. It often seems that way to me.

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Reviews:

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Cast:

  • David Jason as Rincewind, a failed wizard and the main protagonist.
  • Sean Astin as Twoflower, the Discworld’s first tourist.
  • Tim Curry as Trymon, the power-hungry senior wizard at the Unseen University.
  • Christopher Lee as the voice of Death.
  • David Bradley as Cohen the Barbarian, the most famous barbarian in the Discworld, now ‘retired’.
  • Laura Haddock as Bethan, a druid sacrifice, who falls in love with Cohen.
  • Nicolas Tennant as Head Librarian of the Unseen University, who becomes an orangutan during the events of the film.
  • Liz May Brice as Herrena, a mercenary who is employed to capture Rincewind.
  • Richard Da Costa as The Luggage.
  • Toby Jones as one of the heads of the eight orders of Wizardry. (Wikipedia)

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“The Matthew, the replica of the ship John Cabot sailed from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1496″, was used for sequences in the Colour of Magic TV film. (BBC News)

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Nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for best television effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews

Cast (Wikipedia)

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