Secrets of The Wee Free Men and Discworld The Myths and Legends of Terry Pratchett's Multiverse

by ;
  • ISBN13:


  • ISBN10:


  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-04-15
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • Purchase Benefits
  • Free Shipping On Orders Over $35!
    Your order must be $35 or more to qualify for free economy shipping. Bulk sales, PO's, Marketplace items, eBooks and apparel do not qualify for this offer.
  • Get Rewarded for Ordering Your Textbooks! Enroll Now
List Price: $21.99 Save up to $3.30
  • Buy New


Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

  • The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.


A fascinating guide to the international bestselling Discworld series and the award-winning The Wee Free Men-soon to be a major motion pictureBefore J. K. Rowling became the best-selling author in Britain, Terry Pratchett wore that hat. With over 45 million books sold, Pratchett is an international phenomenon. His brainchild is the Discworld series-novels he began as parodies of other works like Macbeth, Faust, and The Arabian Nights. The Wee Free Men, one of Pratchett's most popular novels, will be made into a movie by Spider-Man director Sam Raimi. It's the story of 9-year-old wannabe witch Tiffany Aching, who unites with the Nac Mac Feegle (6-inch-tall blue men who like to fight and love to drink) to free her brother from an evil fairy queen.A fun, interactive guide that will explore the land of Discword, Secrets of The Wee Free Men and Discworld is filled with sidebars, mythology trivia, and includes a bio of the fascinating author Terry Pratchett, and an in-depth analysis of his work. This unofficial guide is a great resource for readers of The Wee Free Men and the other books of the Discworld series.

Author Biography

LINDA M. WASHINGTON, a freelance writer, has written several books for kids. She lives in Carol Stream, Illinois.

CARRIE PYYKKONEN has degrees in Early Childhood Education and Geography. She lives in Wheaton, Illinois.

Table of Contents

Secrets of The Wee Free Men and Discworld
Part One
Pratchett, Parodies, and Plots: The Literary Roots of Discworld
Blueprint for a World
Sometimes old buildings inspire us, sometimes the opposite is true. We look at an old building and ask ourselves, "What on earth were those people thinking of?"
--Witold Rybczynski, The Look of Architecture7
If you were on an architectural tour of, say, Saint Peter's Square in Rome, maybe your tour guide would say something like, "This is a true example of Italian baroque--one of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini's finest" in the lilting tone that many tour guides have. Then, while telling you how the architect was inspired to design such a masterpiece, he or she might slip in a genteel pun, one certain to be a cut above the if-it-ain't-baroque-don't-fix-it variety that you might hear and chuckle at out of pity back home.
We brought that up for two reasons: (1) A fantasy writer like Terry Pratchett is an architect of sorts, but on a much grander scale than an Italian baroque master like Bernini or his rival, Francesco Borromini. After all, he had a whole world to design. Bernini and Borromini only had to influence Italy and several generations of would-be architects. (2) In this chapter, we're about to take you on an architectural tour of the Discworld, but one without the lilting tone or even remarks (at least not many remarks) about the actual architecture, such as Unseen University. (You would've bought The Discworld Mapp or The Streets of Ankh-Morpork for that, wouldn't you?) Instead, we'll discuss words--the building blocks of Discworld. Like the furniture in the office of Ladislav Pelc, the Professor of Morbid Bibliomancy in Going Postal, Discworld is a world designed out of books. It is a veritable library of literary allusions. By the end of the tour, you might feel like A. Clarence Shandon in Silverlock by John Myers Myers--as if you've walked through literary history.
And since we're discussing Discworld, where characters named Flatulus (the god of winds, of course) abide, we'll throw in puns for free. Let's get write to it, shall we? (Feel free to ask questions while on the tour. We'll do our best to answer them. No question is considered dumb.)
Since this is not a short chapter, maybe you should send out for pizza. We like pepperoni ... .
DISCLAIMER (or in honor of Discworld, Disc-Claimer):
This tour is by no means exhaustive. You might easily think of some aspects or allusions not noted here. We won't hold that against you.
Like any good architect's, Pratchett's work should be judged by whether it fulfills the three purposes of good architecture, namely: (1) to shelter people; (2) to be durable against the elements andgravity; (3) to be beautiful or delightful.8 Judging by the millions of fans, shelves of books written over decades, awards, and several Discworld conventions (the first North American one coming in 2009!), we would venture to say that Discworld fulfilled all three.
If you read Strata, you caught the gleam of Discworld in Pratchett's eye. But if you read Ringworld by Larry Niven, you caught the inspiration for that gleam. After all, Strata is considered a parody of Ringworld, Niven's 1970 sci-fi classic detailing the discovery of a 600-million-mile, ring-shaped world by an intrepid, eclectic collection of explorers. (In comparison, the Disc is only 10,000 miles wide.)9
But the world beginning with The Color of Magic didn't just spring into being in 1983, or two years previous to that when Strata appeared, or even when Ringworld was read. If you look even further back, you'll find other elements that went into the blueprint of Discworld. There's a little bit of this and that in Pratchett's design.
Throughout our history we have clung to elements of our past as carriers of our culture ... . Where we can, we need to preserve its triumphs and occasionally its follies, the best and even sometimes the mundane examples of how our society lived, worked, worshiped, and played.
--John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill10
An architect can look at an old building, with its crenellations or cornices, its Gothic or baroque style, and find inspiration to designsomething new to wow a twenty-first-century population. Or he or she, for the love of a particular time period (say, the 1920s), might design a building to revive a style of the past.
Terry Pratchett looked at several old myths and was inspired to create Discworld.
Greek, Roman, and Norse Mythology: Pratchett Mines the Myths
Pick any of the Discworld books at random and you'll soon know that Terry Pratchett is very familiar with Greek, Roman, Norse, and Celtic mythology. Go on. We dare you. First, look at the Disc itself. In the world of Norse mythology, Earth is a flat disc in the branches of a tree called Yggdrasil. (Not a name you'd stick on a baby these days.) In Pratchett's world, the earth is a flat disc mounted on the backs of four elephants standing on a humongous turtle traveling through the multiverse (rather than the universe). That turtle is based on a myth he read as a child. More on that myth later.
Second, check out the population. As you remember from high school or even middle school if you went to a fancy one, in Greek and Roman mythology, there are creatures like centaurs, fauns, satyrs, naiads, dryads, nymphs. But intervening or interfering in their lives are gods/goddesses such as Zeus, Hera, Minerva/Athena, Ares, and so on, who live on Mount Olympus. (Yeah, yeah. Like in the old Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journey shows.) In Norse mythology, the gods/goddesses Odin, Thor, Eir, and so on live in Valhalla. Let's begin our population examination (it won't hurt) with the Discworld pantheon.
The Gods Must Be Crazy. In the pantheon of Discworld, there's a smidgen of Greek and Roman mythology, plus a smattering of Norse as well. Instead of the two-eyed chief god Zeus (Jupiter inRoman mythology); Thor, the Norse thunder god; or even Thor's father, Odin, the one-eyed chief of the Aesir gods in Norse mythology, Blind Io, the thunder god, is the chief of the Discworld gods. Instead of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, there's Bibulous, the god of wine and things on sticks. Instead of Loki, the trickster god kicked out of Valhalla, there's Hoki the Jokester. Instead of Aphrodite/Venus, the goddess of love, there's Astoria (like the hotel). And who can forget Pratchett's Fedecks--the messenger of the gods? ("When it absolutely has to be there overnight," as a FedEx advertising slogan proclaimed.) He can give Hermes, the messenger god (Mercury in Roman mythology), a run for his money. And of course, Discworld has minor deities similar to those in Greek and Roman mythology: Vulcan (the Greek Vulcan) and Hephaistos (the Greek Hephaestus).
Pratchett includes unique gods and goddesses as well, like Anoia, the minor goddess of things that stick in drawers (and also lost corkscrews and things that roll under furniture), and Aniger, the goddess of squashed animals. (She must work overtime.)
Although we said we wouldn't talk about architecture, we can't help mentioning one place--Dunmanifestin, the place where the gods apparently were done manifesting. In The Last Hero, Ghengiz Cohen (a.k.a. Cohen the Barbarian with a bit of Genghis Khan, the Mongolian conqueror of the thirteenth century) and his posse, the Silver Horde, argue with the Valkyries who want to take them to the Halls of the Slain in Dunmanifestin on Cori Celesti. Well, Dunmanifestin is referred to as "the stuccoed Valhalla" in Guards! Guards!11 (The Valkyries, the female warriors who take the dead to Valhalla, come from Norse mythology.)
According to Fairies and How to Avoid Them by Miss Perspicacia Tick (a book mentioned in Hat Full of Sky), the Nac Mac Feegles believe that Earth is like Valhalla.
Other Stories (But the Gods Are in Them, Too). Not content to tweak just the gods of Greek myths, Pratchett tweaks other people or their situations to include in Discworld. For example, you know the story of King Midas, right? An allusion to the greedy king's story appears early in Witches Abroad, which seems to be a veritable "glodmine" of allusions. Instead of King Midas, there is Seriph Al-Ybi, whose curse by a god with poor spelling causes everything he touches to turn to a dwarf named Glod.
And how about the story of Daedalus and Icarus? It gets a send-up in Jingo and The Last Hero. Leonard of Quirm, Pratchett's answer to Leonardo da Vinci (more on them in chapter 19), has a similar goal of perfecting the art of flying, but not airline food.
And of course, there is the story of Prometheus, the Titan and creator of man (according to the Greek myth) who dared to steal fire from the gods and suffered for it by having his liver eaten by an eagle every day. (But not with bacon or onions.) He's Mazda in Discworld and his theft is the inspiration for The Last Hero, where Ghengiz Cohen and the Silver Horde try to return fire to the gods by blowing them up. (A weird way of saying thanks. Flowers would've been better.)
At this point, we have to mention another place--the Underworld, or realm of the dead. The Greeks and Romans had it in their mythology. This kingdom is ruled by Hades and surrounded by rivers that include Acheron, Styx, and Lethe. A three-headed dog named Cerberus guards this realm.
Discworld not only has an Underworld, it has an inferno similar to the one described in The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. (See "The Devil Made Me Do It" later in the chapter.) In Wintersmith, the Nac Mac Feegles and Roland de Chumsfanleigh journey through the Underworld to wake up the Summer Lady and meet an unnamed, overcharging ferryman. Pratchett cleverly reminds us where they are by having oneof the Feegles shout, "We're right oot in the Styx noo!"12 The three-headed dog, however, meets its end thanks to the loads of boggles in the Underworld.
As the Feegles explain, a trip through the Underworld is traditional for heroes, because a number of heroes in classical mythology journeyed through it. We're told of a myth of Ephebe--the rescue of Euniphon by Orpheo,13 which is an allusion to two Greek myths: (1) The story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, the son of Apollo (the god of fine arts) and Calliope (a muse), was a poet and musician known especially for playing the lyre. (In Pratchett's book, a lute and a lyre are mentioned.) He sorrowed so much when his wife, Eurydice, died, that Hades allowed her to return to Earth with him on one condition--that Orpheus not look back until he returned above ground. (In Wintersmith, Rob Anybody cautions Roland in a similar manner.) But in a move like that of Lot's wife in the Bible, Orpheus looked back and Eurydice returned to the Underworld. (2) The story of Persephone, whose enforced stay in the Underworld caused winter on earth. But in Discworld, the rescue is all about the return of summer--hence the Summer Lady's stay in the Underworld.
As we read this journey, we couldn't help thinking of Odysseus, whose trip through the Underworld to seek the aid of Tiresias, a blind prophet, is chronicled in The Odyssey by another architect of worlds--Homer (but not Simpson).
Speaking of Homer (still not Simpson), both of his epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and Virgil's The Aeneid have a place in Discworld mythology. In Eric, the Trojan Wars from The Iliad and The Aeneid are the Tsortean Wars in which the Ephebians (the Greeks) fight the Tsorteans (the Trojans), because of Elenor, the Helen of Troy of the story. Lavaeolus, the Odysseus of the story, is trying to return home.
The Tsortean Wars are woven even tighter into the fabric of Discworld mythology when Nanny Ogg refers to them (and an Achilles's heel situation) in Witches Abroad.
Lest we forget, Roland de Chumsfanleigh is an allusion to Roland, the hero of Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland) the twelfth-century French epic by Turoldus.
A Nod to the Norse Myths. Moving on to Norse mythology, some of its population find equal opportunity in Discworld, namely elves, dwarfs (or dwarves, as Tolkien popularized), trolls (the faithful Sergeant Detritus), werewolves (of sorts), and Valkyries.
The large number of werewolves prowling around Uberwald owe their fictional lives to the long history of werewolf stories, starting with Loki's wolf son, Fenrir--who was so fearsome that the other gods had to bind him to prevent him from killing them--and continuing with "White Wolf of the Harz Mountains," an 1839 story by Frederick Marryat, and the 1941 Lon Chaney movie The Wolf Man. (More on werewolves in chapter 4.)
European Folklore and History
I Dream of Jenny with the Light Green Teeth. Although The Lord of the Rings was meant to be a mythology of sorts for England, many folktales already existed around the British Isles. Some of these folktales derived from tales elsewhere in Europe and the world. Take, for example, the tale of Jenny Green-Teeth, whom Pratchett mentions in The Wee Free Men. Jenny, a hag of the river and a "Grade 1 Prohibitory Monster"14 according to Miss Tick (see chapter 6), was known to lure children to their doom--a fate that nearly befalls Tiffany's sticky brother, Wentworth. She's a sort of antiondine or undine--a water elemental of folklorebased on Ondine, a water nymph in German myths, who fell in love with a faithless human. (Reminds you of "Little Mermaid," doesn't it?) Whereas water nymphs are said to be beautiful and helpful (if helping suits their needs), Jenny's the Ugly Betty of the water spirit world. She's not so much concerned about gaining a soul, which undines seek (if you read Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Mermaid," you know that was the goal). She just wants lunch, as other famous child-eating witches (Baba Yaga, the witch of Russian folklore, or the witch in "Hansel and Gretel") could relate to.
Freaks and Geats, Plus Arthur--Warts and All. Pratchett admits to reading Beowulf, the thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon epic, as a boy. Beowulf, the great Geat hero with amazing strength, had the gumption to fight the monster Grendel with his bare hands. And who doesn't know the story of King Arthur, told in a cycle of medieval stories? Beowulf, supposedly written by a monk, and the legend of King Arthur--realized by Sir Thomas Malory (Le Morte d'Arthur, based on French and English tales) and T. H. White in The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn--set the standard for heroic tales.
Carrot Ironfoundersson, who was named after a guy with red hair who worked on Pratchett's house, has both the manner of a Beowulf-type hero and the legacy of a King Arthur, even though he considers himself a dwarf. Like King Arthur, formerly known as Wart in Once and Future King, Carrot is an orphan who is probably the rightful king of the land. Both have heirloom swords. Unlike Arthur, Carrot was raised by dwarfs and is content to remain a simple watchman for now, rather than rule over corrupt Ankh-Morpork.
In The Fifth Elephant, Carrot agrees to fight a werewolf with his bare hands. Shades of the Beowulf-Grendel match perhaps? Only Pratchett knows. But a direct allusion to the monsters in Beowulf occurs in Guards! Guards! when one hero says to another, "Monstersare getting more uppity, too. I heard where this guy, he killed this monster in this lake, no problem, stuck its arm up over the door ... . Its mum come and complained."15
An allusion to the King Arthur legend occurs in Wintersmith, when Roland throws his sword into the river while in the Underworld. The sword is caught in a manner similar to that of the Lady of the Lake in the King Arthur stories, who caught the sword, Excalibur, when it was returned to her--her stipulation upon granting Arthur the sword.
Historical Hijinks. Another building block of Discworld involves Alexandre Dumas, a nineteenth-century French writer you probably read in high school, who used the drama of seventeenth-century France to tell his musketeer stories. In The Truth, an allusion to The Man in the Iron Mask is made when Lord Havelock Vetinari is asked about the fate of his doppelgänger, an unfortunate man named Charlie. Is he "in a deep cell, and made ... [to] wear a mask all the time, and have all his meals brought by a deaf and dumb jailer?"16 Philippe, the unfortunate mask-wearing prisoner of Man in the Iron Mask, was taken away from the Bastille in a carriage manned by a "deaf and dumb" postilion arranged by ex-musketeer Aramis.
Folklore of the East
If any one should be asked ... what is it that solidity and extension adhere in, he would not be in a much better case than the Indian before mentioned who, saying that the world was supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on; to which his answer was- a great tortoise: but beingagain pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied- something, he knew not what.
--John Locke, British philosopher in chapter XXIII of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, written in 1690,17 a time when everyone talked like this.
Perhaps when you're eating aloo gobi or watching a Tony Jaa film (The Protector!) you don't think about myths from such countries as Thailand, China, or India. (Maybe you will next time.) But Pratchett folds some of the myths of the East into his cultural stew.
Terrifying Tortoises and Powerful Pachyderms. If you happen to know Hindu mythology, you know about Akupara, the tortoise carrying a world on its back. English philosopher and empiricist John Locke was certainly aware back in the seventeenth century. We've already said Pratchett was aware; hence his inclusion of the Great A'Tuin, the giant turtle upon which the four elephants (Great T'Phon, Tubul, Jerakeen, and Berilia) carrying the Disc ride. (A fifth elephant, discussed in The Fifth Elephant, is just a legend.)
Elephants play a big role in Hindu mythology. Not only does the Hindu god Indra ride one (Airavata--the first elephant created), elephants supposedly are the mounts of choice for the guardian gods at the eight points of the compass. (Some people prefer horses as destriers.) So, it's only fitting that elephants, like Atlas the Titan in Greek mythology, hold up the world.
A'Tuin isn't the only chelonian mentioned in Discworld (although it is the largest, being a star turtle). The Great God Om (Small Gods) is a small tortoise for much of the time (and a grumpy one at that) until more people believe in him.
And Yet There's the Yeti. You've undoubtedly heard stories of the yeti, the ape-man creatures loping around the Himalayas and supposedly leaving their scalps around monasteries. (We don't make these things up.) These are "the abominable snowmen" of many stories. (The Tibetans have the yeti. In North America, we have Bigfoot and Sasquatch.) But only Pratchett (see Thief of Time) mentions the "sword trick"--cutting off a yeti's head and having it come back to life.
Are yeti real or mythological? Scientists aren't really sure, even after several expeditions to track them. The jury's still out on Bigfoot, as well.
Stories? She's Got a Thousand of 'Em. The stories woven through one master storyteller, Scheherazade, in The Arabian Nights or The 1001 Arabian Nights, are myths from Persia (now Iran), Asia, India, and Arabia and were written in the tenth through the fourteenth centuries. Maybe you read the collection of stories compiled by Andrew Lang (usually relegated to the kids' section of the library) or the complete tales found in the nonfiction section of the library. Pratchett, like Scheherazade, wove several stories (or allusions to stories) from The Arabian Nights into one book: Sourcery. Check it out: The cowardly Rincewind's journey to Al Khali, a city in Klatch, his dealings with Creosote, the Seriph of Al Khali, and Abrim the evil vizier who instigates the Mage Wars (see also chapter 7)--all are reminiscent of stories in the Arabian Nights collection, particularly "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp," "The Three Princes and the Princess Nouronnihar," and the Haroun al-Raschid, Caliph of Baghdad, stories. A major nod to The Arabian Nights comes through the mention of a flying carpet and a magic lamp from the seriph's treasury. Contrary to the 1992 Disney movie Aladdin (which drew some inspiration from The Thief of Bagdad, a movie from 1940), the flying carpet comes from "The Three Princes and the Princess Nouronnihar."
Another oblique nod (we think) to The Arabian Nights is thecharacter of Rincewind who, like Sinbad, the intrepid sailor of seven voyages, journeys around the world and encounters many dangers. Unlike Sinbad, however, who at least wanted to go on some of the voyages, Rincewind is dragged kicking and screaming.
By the way, Creosote is an allusion to Croesus--the king of Lydia in 560-546 B.C., who was known for being wealthy, hence the idiom "rich as Croesus." Of course, you knew that.
The decision as to what form the house shall take is made on sociocultural grounds--way of life, shared group values, and "ideal" environment sought.
Amos Rapoport, House Form and Culture18
An architect also has to be an anthropologist of sorts in order to make his or her designs functional and culturally relevant. Terry Pratchett is an anthropologist as well--perhaps not in degree, but in his experience as a journalist and in the stories from other cultures he has read. The curios and connections he gained through stories added to the crucible in which Discworld was born.
Discworld has several people groups, some of which have a changing cultural identity based on the region they're in. For example, the dwarfs in Shmaltzberg might act a little differently than do the dwarfs in Ankh-Morpork. Angua, a werewolf from Uberwald, opposes some of the practices of her family back home. But Pratchett still keeps the basic cultural identities of dwarfs and werewolves found in literature. Werewolves are still people who transform into wolves (or, in the case of the yennork, a werewolf who doesn'tchange at all). Witches are still witches. Immortals (personifications), while they may work as milkmen at times (e.g., Ronny Soak, alias Kaos) or look like men (the Wintersmith), are still, well, elementals. It's elementary. (Just keeping up with our end of the bargain concerning the bad puns.)
So, how does Pratchett give shape to the cultural identities of his people/creature groups? Some classic stories inspire him.
Full of Fairy Tales ... and Classic Tales
If you made the trek to see any of the Shrek movies, chances are you probably liked fairy tales as a kid (and still do, if you're honest with yourself; we know you record The Fairly OddParents on TiVo). The fairy-tale collections of Charles Perrault in seventeenth-century France, the Brothers Grimm (Jacob and Wilhelm) from Germany, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe from Norway in the eighteenth century, and Scotsman Andrew Lang in the nineteenth influenced many fantasy writers, including Terry Pratchett.
"Little Red Riding Hood," a story all three collections have in common, also finds its way into Pratchett's Witches Abroad--one of the Lancre witch novels featuring Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick. Perrault's "Cinderella" story also is integral to the plot. Since the novel deals with the fulfillment of stories, it includes a plethora of nods to other well-known fairy tales from the three collections: "Sleeping Beauty" (also alluded to in Mort), "The Frog Prince," "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," "Hansel and Gretel" (also alluded to in The Light Fantastic), "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and "Rumpelstiltskin."
In each of Pratchett's allusions, the characters behave in a way readers can easily recognize from fairy tales. But he places his own spin on the situations. Although fairy godmothers still provide pumpkin coaches, Magrat winds up turning everything into pumpkins at first. Black Aliss is the wicked witch shut up in the oven in aHansel and Gretel-like way. The frog prince (really a duc--French for "duke" and "horned owl"--go figure), who is hardly a Prince Charming, tries to marry the Cinderella of the story.
In Thief of Time, Pratchett alludes to Grimm's Fairy Tales when Jeremy Clockson reads Grim Fairy Tales, which contains such stories as "The Old Lady in the Oven" (gotta be a Hansel and Gretel story) and "The Glass Clock of Bad Schüschein."
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is one large allusion to the Pied Piper of Hamelin story, a story the Grimm brothers included and one that inspired poet Robert Browning. Pratchett also mentions the story of "Puss in Books" from Charles Perrault's collection and "Dick Livingstone and his wonderful cat"--an allusion to Dick Whittington, a story Andrew Lang collected (which is partially based on the life of Richard Whittington the Lord Mayor of London), and Ken Livingstone the Leader of the Greater London Council until 1986. He became Mayor of London in 2002.
Every culture has folktales. Pratchett is undoubtedly familiar with the folktales of Norway, judging by his allusion to East of the Sun, West of the Moon in Lords and Ladies. That story comes from the fairy-tale collection of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe published in 1845, another volume of which was published in 1879.
The Devil Made Me Do It. As you may or may not know, Faust, the epic by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, featuring a Job-like agreement and a contest of wills between Faust and Mephistopheles, is parodied in Eric. Instead of the pious Doktor Faust, there's Eric, a fourteen-year-old who wants to meet the most beautiful woman in the world, have mastery over the kingdoms, and live forever--apt goals according to some in our world. Having a huge amount of gold would be nice, too. But instead of summoning someone like Mephistopheles, Eric summons Rincewind.
In Faust, Mephistopheles tried and failed to gain Faust's soul through similar temptations--the pleasures of life, the search forthe most beautiful woman in the world (Helen of Troy), a desire for power. As we mentioned earlier, Helen is Elenor in Eric.
As the scenery of Pandemonium--the place to which Eric journeys--is described, we can't help also seeing the influence of The Divine Comedy, the fourteenth-century Dante Alighieri classic, and Paradise Lost, John Milton's epic take on the temptation and fall of man, published in 1667. The city Eric comes to, which is surrounded by a lake of lava, has "unparalleled views of the Eight Circles"19--like the nine circles of Dante's Inferno, the first cantica of The Divine Comedy. The name Pandemonium is a reference to Lucifer's palace of the same name in Paradise Lost.
In Inferno, you see some elements similar to Greek mythology in the use of the River Acheron and Charon the ferryman. In the journey through the Underworld described in Wintersmith, the taciturn river ferryman is like Charon and the river is like Acheron.
A Book to Sink Your Teeth Into. Bram Stoker's 1897 classic novel Dracula is the great-great-grandfather of many a vampire story, even though it wasn't actually the first vampire story written. (John William Polidori wrote "The Vampyre," published in 1819. But even that wasn't the first, although it started the tradition of the vampire story in literature.) As Pratchett gives shape to the fortified communities of Uberwald, a land "with no real boundaries and lots of forest in between"20 plus plenty of howling wolves, you see echoes of the Transylvania the unfortunate Jonathan Harker saw in Dracula, with its howling wolves and mile after mile of forested land.
Pratchett's vampires run the gamut from bloodthirsty (the de Magpyrs of Carpe Jugulum) to black ribboners (Lady Margolottavon Uberwald in The Fifth Elephant, Lance-constable Sally von Humpeding in Thud!, Otto Chriek in The Truth and other books, Maladict/Maladicta in Monstrous Regiment) who have taken the pledge to avoid the usual diet of vampires, to wannabes (Doreen Winkings--Countess Notfaroutoe in The Reaper Man and Thud!--who isn't really a vampire, but acts as if she is).
In Carpe Jugulum, the name Magpyr is an allusion to the Magyars--Hungarians in western Transylvania in the nineteenth century. Vlad is an allusion to Vlad Tepes also known as Vlad the Impaler, the fifteenth-century ruler of Walachia known for impaling prisoners. Of course, you knew that. Stoker used Tepes as a model of sorts for Count Dracula. Not content to stop at that reference, Pratchett references a character known as Griminir the Impaler, a female vampire who merely bit people but did not suck their blood.
The name Notfaroutoe is an allusion to the movie adaptations of Dracula, namely the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu, directed by F. W. Murnau and its 1979 remake Nosferatu the Vampyre by Werner Herzog.
"That's Fronck-en-shteen" Mary Shelley's creation came "to life" in 1818 and spawned Frankenstein movies as well as the Igor tradition in Discworld. Although there is no character named "Igor" in Shelley's book, an Igor appears in many of the films based on the book (like Mel Brooks's classic, Young Frankenstein, starring Gene Wilder where Igor--or rather, Eye-gore--is played by Marty Feldman).
While visiting Lord Byron in 1816, Shelley (then Mary Woll-stonecraft Godwin), John William Polidori (the physician of Lord Byron), and Shelley's then husband-to-be, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were encouraged by Byron to each write a scary story. Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Polidori wrote "The Vampyre." And thus history was made.
Jeremy Clockson plays a sort of Victor Frankenstein-like creatorin Thief of Time. Instead of using lightning to bring life to a creature amassed out of corpses' body parts, he uses it to bring the ultimate clock to life. It's apt that he's assigned an Igor (yes, there's more than one) to help him, since Igors usually work for vampires, mad scientists, and other criminally insane individuals.
Throughout Discworld, the Igors carry on the Victor Frankenstein tradition by operating on themselves and others as well as recycling spare body parts. Just doing their bit to help the environment.
Ringing in the New. Moving along on this architectural tour, we come to one of the pillars of fantasy fiction. J. R. R. Tolkien is widely considered the father of twentieth-century fantasy. Pratchett read Tolkien's trilogy during his childhood, and describing how he felt when he first read the trilogy, Pratchett remarked in an essay, "I can remember the vision of beech woods in the Shire ... I remember the light as green, coming through trees. I have never since then so truly had the experience of being inside the story."21
Maybe that's why several allusions to Tolkien's works became part of the Discworld makeup. In Equal Rites, Gandalf's single state gets a shout-out in the second paragraph of the first chapter. In Lords and Ladies, witches are referred to as having minds "like metal"22--reminiscent of Treebeard's description of Saruman in The Two Towers : "He has a mind of metal and wheels."23 A scene in Witches Abroad provides an allusion to aspects of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit. Perhaps you caught it. While on their way to Genua by boat, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick spy with their little eyes a "small gray creature, vaguely froglike" on a log, who is whispering of his "birthday."24 As you know, in The HobbitGollum referred to the ring as his birthday present. And in Fellowship, Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn noticed that Gollum used a log to follow them while they traveled on the river Anduin. And of course, the draco nobilis in Guards! Guards! sitting on a hoard of gold brings to mind Smaug from The Hobbit.
In Wintersmith, during the Underworld journey, Roland recalls his time as the prisoner of the queen of the elves, an event that takes place in The Wee Free Men: "I could hardly remember anything after a while. Not my name, not the feel of the sunshine, not the taste of real food."25 His words are an allusion to Frodo's words in Return of the King in response to Sam's question concerning the rabbits Frodo and Sam ate in Ithilien, earlier in their journey (The Two Towers): "I know that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me."26
A-Head of His Time. If you saw Sleepy Hollow, the 1999 movie starring Johnny Depp (directed by Tim Burton), you're undoubtedly familiar with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the short story written by American author Washington Irving, published in 1820. The story is a staple in many elementary school curricula, especially around Halloween. The setting is Sleepy Hollow, an area near Tarrytown, New York, a place of "haunted spots, and twilight superstitions"27--the home of the legendary Headless Horseman, the so-called ghost of a Hessian soldier killed during the Revolutionary War, who frightened the ill-fated schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane. His fright, however, was due to the shenanigans of Brom(Bones) Van Brunt--his rival for the affections of Katrina Van Tassel.
A headless horseman makes an appearance in The Wee Free Men and thus provides another building block for Discworld. Too bad Ichabod Crane didn't have the Nac Mac Feegles (see chapter 10) on his side. They prove to be a huge help to Tiffany Aching who encounters the headless horseman.
"Phantastic" Voyage. George MacDonald is another author who helped inspire a cornice or two in Discworld. If you read his novel Phantastes, you read of Anodos, a man who wakes up to discover himself in Fairy Land. As with many "Otherworld" trips, there is delight mixed with horror.
Pratchett's Fairyland, a place you travel through in The Wee Free Men, is a ramped-up Neverland, where everything tries to harm you instead of just one jealous pixie like Tinker Bell. Traveling through it is like taking a trip through an evil version of Wonderland or the everyday version of the Matrix (i.e., evil) where Agent Smiths abound. But there is wonder as well, however, with talking daisies (reminiscent of the talking flowers of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ). However, creatures like the dromes, grimhounds, and bumblebee women take the joy out of the journey.
An Oz Encore. Perhaps you think of Oz only in terms of the prison drama on HBO from 1997-2003. Another building block of Discworld comes from L. Frank Baum's classic children's series of that name. Some aspects of the 1939 movie based on Baum's first book (The Wizard of Oz) are alluded to in Witches Abroad. The witches fly on broomsticks, a reminder of an image Dorothy saw during the tornado: the evil Miss Gulch turning into a wicked witch flying on a broomstick. Later, when a farmhouse falls on Nanny Ogg and a "dwarf" asks for Nanny Ogg's red boots but doesn't know why he asks for them, you can't help thinking of the scene in the Munchkins'Country (or Munchkinland as the movie refers to it) where Dorothy's farmhouse fell on the Wicked Witch of the East and Dorothy gained the ruby slippers (silver in the book). It's only fitting that the fate of one witch befall another (one decidedly nicer, however).
When Granny Weatherwax and Magrat argue (an inevitability when they get together), each deciding that a person needs more brain or more heart (page 165 of the paperback edition of Witches Abroad), you can't help thinking of what the Scarecrow and Tin Man each thought he needed.
During the argument, Nanny notices that the road to Genua is paved with yellow bricks--an allusion to the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City of Oz. Genua even sparkles like the Emerald City.
Still another nod to The Wizard of Oz comes in Moving Pictures, where an actor describes the plot of the click--or movie--he's working on as "going to see a wizard. Something about following a yellow sick toad."28
But an oblique reference to The Wizard of Oz (possibly) can be found in Pyramids, when the Sphinx tells young Teppic, "Thou art in the presence of the wise and the terrible." The fake wizard of Oz described himself as "Oz, the Great and Terrible."29
Even with such building blocks, Pratchett still needs the best patching materials--his imagination, skill, and humor--to ensure that the three purposes of good architecture are fulfilled.
That concludes this leg of the tour. Please notice the tip jar on your way out.
Fully Realized Worlds
Discworld works because it takes itself seriously. The people in Ankh-Morpork don't think they're being funny.
--Terry Pratchett at an October 12, 2006, book signing (Anderson Bookshop, Naperville, Illinois)
Some fantasy worlds can seem as real as your backyard--almost like you could step into it the moment you open the book. Worlds like ...
The Star Wars Galaxy (various planets
"a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away")
The incredibly popular film series created by George Lucas chronicled the rise of the Galactic Empire and spawned many series of books written by authors as disparate as Terry Brooks, Jude Watson, Elizabeth Hand, Troy Denning, Kathy Tyres, R. A. Salvatore, Michael Stackpole, and many more.
Lucas came up with the mythology of the various planets (Tatooine, Naboo, Alderaan, Dagobah, and others), cultures, and characters like Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Han Solo, C3PO, and so on, and revolutionized the movie industry as well as science fiction in general.
In his quest to develop a mythology for England, Tolkien created a mythical place that seems like an actual place in history. The moment you walk into Bilbo Baggins's hobbit hole in the Shire and trek through the region of Eriador all the way through Mordor, you get asense of being in a believable world. (And after the movies, beautifully realized by Peter Jackson and hundreds of craftspeople, Middle-earth seems even more real.)
Like Pratchett, Tolkien was inspired by Norse mythology. Middle-earth is Midgard--the home of men in Norse mythology.
Anne McCaffrey has multiple series that take place on Pern, a planet in the Rukbat System. This planet's Earth-like environment came at a price for settlers, thanks to the threat of Threadfall--the silver spores deposited by an orbiting planet, Red Star. Because the Thread attacked all organic matter, the technologically advanced society returned to a medieval state. Only dragonfire could stop the Thread.
Kahrain, Araby, and Cathay were just a few of the provinces established in the first landing. The society became divided among the weyrs (the homes of the dragons and their riders), the holds (lord-ruled lands), and the halls (those of craftspeople). The series continues under the pen of McCaffrey's son, Todd.
Frank Herbert's award-winning epic series (now known as "classic Dune") of political intrigue in space took place on the desert planet Arrakis, a fiefdom run by the House Atreides. Arrakis, populated by Fremen and sandworms, was the place for melange, a spice valued throughout the universe. The Fremen searched for their Messiah--Muad'Dib--while House Atreides and House Harkonnen battled each other for control of Arrakis.
The series began in 1965 and after Herbert's death was continued by his son, Brian, and Kevin Anderson.
Ursula LeGuin's archipelago of islands (Gont, Roke, Karego-At, Atuan, Havnor, etc.) is the setting where magic and mayhem abound. In A Wizard of Earthsea to The Other Wind and books of Earthsea short stories, LeGuin showed the history of Earthsea from the Creation of Eá through Ged's birth and rise from wizard to archmage to Tenar's adoption of Therru/Tehanu the dragon/child, who reached adulthood.
With Ged's wandering tendencies, readers tour the islands from Roke to the farthest shore where dragons fly and the dead walk. In this series, prepare to see dragons, creatures of the Old Powers, and plenty of feats of magic.
The Hyborian Age of Conan
Robert E. Howard's creation, Conan the Barbarian, a.k.a. Conan the Cimmerian, lives on thanks to such writers as L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Robert Jordan, and Dale Rippke.
Conan lived in the Hyborian Age, supposedly after Atlantis sank but before other civilizations sprang into being. Kingdoms like Nemedia, Ophir, Zamora, Brythunia, Hyperborea, and Aquilonia sprawled across this mythical form of Earth. Hyperborea, from Greek mythology, was the original happiest kingdom on earth (way before Disney World)--a vacation spot for Apollo. Some believed that Hyperborea was Great Britain.
Having been a warrior, a thief, a mercenary, and a pirate, Conan later became king of Aquilonia--the most powerful kingdom. Not your average hero. When you read the exploits of Cohen the Barbarian in Interesting Times and The Last Hero, you can't help but see the parody.
The books spawned two Conan movies, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, one in 1982 and the other in 1984.
Hogwarts and the London of Harry Potter
J. K. Rowling, the only author who outsells Terry Pratchett in Britain and possibly every other author in the world, created an instantly memorable character in Harry Potter and the other students and faculty of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although the stories take place in modern-day England, Rowling's world of wizards and witches is almost an alternate universe, where Muggles are not allowed.
The movies bring to life the Hogwarts of our imaginations with its gloomy edifice surrounded by rolling hills and eerie forest. Inside the castle, the ghosts, moving stairways, dark passages, and "live" pictures are all there--as is the incredible danger Harry and his friends face.
Star Trek's Worlds
The old television series, created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966, spawned other series and well over one hundred books. In the twenty-third century after a third world war, Captain James T. Kirk and his intrepid crew traveled from planet to planet "boldly going where no man has gone before." The governing body for humans and aliens was the United Federation of Planets. (Kind of reminds you of the Republic, doesn't it?)
The first series was written by James Blish until his death. But many, many writers, including Margaret Armen, Larry Niven, Gordon Eklund, Walter Koenig, Michael Jan Friedman, and Diane Duane, contributed to the series. Then came other TV series and books: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; and Star Trek: Enterprise.
Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga covered the wars with the Tsurani, an alien race of beings from Kelewan. Pug, one of the main charactersof the series, lived on Midkemia, a planet with three continents established by feudal societies, where dukes and princes lived peacefully or at war with elves, dark elves (moredhel), and dwarves. As with many fantasy lands, magic abounded. Oh, and there were dragons and dragonlords, too.
The Tsurani society had a Far East flavor while the Midkemians went the medieval Europe route. Other series followed such characters as Arutha and Pug beyond the Riftwar drama.
The World of the Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan's massive Wheel of Time series might seem like The Lord of the Rings upon first glance with its Emond's Field, the Shire-like village from which Rand al'Thor and his friends (Mat, Egwene, Perrin) hailed. After all, we know we're in the midst of a society like something out of a Renaissance fair. The world opened much wider as Rand traveled with his friends and the Aes Sedai--a female channeler or mage--and later went their separate ways (a breaking of the fellowship). With its Westlands, city states (Tar Valon), blighted areas, and seas, you feel as if you live there.
SECRETS OF THE WEE FREE MEN AND DISCWORLD: THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF TERRY PRATCHETT'S MULTIVERSE. Copyright © 2008 by Carrie Pyykkonen and Linda Washington. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.



Novelist Patrick Rothfuss, when asked “Who do you read?”, replied, “Terry Pratchett. He doesn’t get enough credit for the superbly believable world he’s created. It’s internally consistent, well constructed, and his characters behave realistically.”2 Whether you agree with those words or wonder whether Pratchett would agree, one thing is for certain: The influence of Terry Pratchett in the literary world is obvious. If you don’t believe that, check out the science fiction/fantasy section at your local bookstore or library.

For a long time, Terry Pratchett was pretty lonely at the very top of the British literary food chain—at least until the arrival of a certain author by the name of J. K. Rowling. But with well over fifty million books sold (as of February 2007, according to Wikipedia, the site that seems to know all), Pratchett is still an international phenomenon and a consistent best seller. His brainchild, as if you didn’t know, is the Discworld series, thirty-six books (as of the writing of this book and excluding Where’s My Cow? and the Nanny Ogg Cookbook) strong, and still going like the Energizer bunny. Although this series began as parodies of other works such as Ringworld, Macbeth, and The Arabian Nights, it defies all pigeonholes. Is it science fiction? Fantasy? Mystery? Political intrigue? Romance? (Uh, no to the latter.) It is, to use a phrase often heard on Monty Python, something completely different.

If you’ve been tempted, like many others, to avoid or underestimate the Discworld series because of its parodies and humor, maybe after reading this, you’ll reconsider.

Readers of the Discworld Books

Okay, so one of the authors of this book (Carrie) is keenly aware that her parents were born the same year as Terry Pratchett was and that she was born the same year as Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna, which in some way creates a connection with the author in a strange, paternal way. (The other author, Linda, has absolutely no comment to make about birthdays.) She is also aware that her parents would never open a Terry Pratchett book, especially not a Discworld book.

So who does read Terry Pratchett? His loyal followers range from nuns (unlike the satanic nuns in Good Omens) to the new generation digging into The Wee Free Men and Wintersmith. Pratchett’s audience is hard to fit into a box. Young, somewhat old, Trekkers, Lord of the Rings buffs, Harry Potter fans, our strange friend who loves The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie that made me (Carrie) fall asleep, hobbits, maybe a teacher or two, and fools. We were even lucky enough to find a Web site giving Christians advice on which Pratchett books were good and which were dangerous.3 Honestly, it is difficult to really pinpoint what makes a person willing to read Pratchett. Usually the result is to get hooked on the series. Then, of course, the individual tries to read the books quicker than Pratchett writes them (a quite difficult task)!

Discworld is so well received, or at least read, by so many people, because Pratchett is able to make us laugh about everything. He may offend us in one paragraph and then cause us to have a laughing fit in the next, which washes away the initial offense. It is typical for the laughing fit to delay one’s reading for many minutes and can be the cause of interesting looks from one’s spouse.4 If you’re anything like us, it will be almost impossible to explain to onlookers what was so funny that you fell off the couch and rolled around in hysterics. I have found it is best to not try and explain, especially if it was due to reading Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook. Oh, and certainly do not try to explain Unseen University’s orangutan Librarian.

Someone (perhaps you?) is obviously buying millions of copies of Pratchett’s books. If it is not you, we are not quite sure why you picked up this book unless you are Linda’s dad or my grandma.

Terry Pratchett in Brief

Terence David John Pratchett was born in 19485 and, according to himself, he is still alive.6 Therefore, if he were an American, he would be considered a baby boomer, which entitles him to our attention. He began his writing career at the age of thirteen, when his short story “The Hades Business” was published in the school magazine; it was sold to a commercially published magazine when he was fifteen. After leaving school in 1965, he became a journalist with the Bucks Free Press and later with the Western Daily Press and The Bath Chronicle.

While between stints at the Bucks Free Press, he published his first novel, The Carpet People (1971). He began writing it at the age of seventeen. This was followed by The Dark Side of the Sun (1976).

His novel Strata (1981) is considered to be the forerunner of Discworld. While he was working as a publicity officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board, he published his first Discworld book, The Color of Magic (1983).

We could tell you that he’s written well over fifty books, including young adult novels like The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings), the Johnny Maxwell books (Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead, and Johnny and the Bomb), and children’s books such as The Unadulterated Cat and Where’s My Cow? But you probably already knew that.

Why Write a Book on Discworld?

Call us crazy, but we really like Pratchett’s books and are dying to tell you why—hence this book. Collectively, we have read and studied all of Pratchett’s Discworld books—except for Making Money (October 2007). Our deadline didn’t coincide with that one. It is very difficult to read faster than Pratchett writes. By the time our book is published, the prolific writer will probably have at least two more books out. And by the time you find time to read this book, many more titles in the Discworld series will be lining the local bookstores and landing their way on Top Ten readers’ lists.

Does writing a book on Discworld make us experts on Pratchett? Hardly. We aren’t privy to deep, dark wisdom from Terry and his family, nor did we snoop through his garbage like crazed paparazzi (though we wanted to). Although this book doesn’t contain every person, every street, every place, or every event, it does explore some of the mythological, scientific, and pop culture building blocks that correlate with Discworld. If you know and love this series, we hope we inspire you to look at it in a fresh way. If you’ve never read any of the Discworld books, maybe you’ll take a chance. Go on. We dare you . . . right after you read this book.

Well, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Copyright © 2008 by Carrie Pyykkonen and Linda Washington. All rights reserved.

Excerpted from Secrets of the Wee Free Men and Discworld: The Myths and Legends of Terry Pratchett's Multiverse by Carrie Pyykkonen, Linda Washington
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Rewards Program

Write a Review