Sir Terry Pratchett

Thank you for the home-made cookies, lively discussions and great ideas! Here’s a brief introduction concerning Terry Pratchett followed by a short summary of what we talked about. If you could not make it to our first two meetings, do not fret. Come to the next!

Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) was a bestselling author of mostly comical fantasy novels, most famously his 41 Discworld novels. In 1998 he became Office of the Order of the British Empire, in 2009 he was ” by knighted by the Queen for services to literature, although he maintained that his greatest service to literature was to avoid writing any” (taken from the Official Website of Sir Terry). When he died of dementia (he called it the “embuggerance”) in 2015, many authors reacted – the great Ursula Le Guin wrote:

“He wasn’t imagining an alternative universe; he was reimagining ours. His fantasies sit alongside – and are the equals of – those of Rabelais, Voltaire, Swift, Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. He’s surely our most quotable writer after Shakespeare and Wilde. Granny Weatherwax’s definition of sin – “When you treat people as things” – is all you need to know about ethics. Whereas all my beloved P G Wodehouses and Philip Pullmans are neatly arranged on the bookshelves, my Pratchetts are strewn under the beds, in the bathrooms, the glove compartments. They have shopping lists, takeaway orders and Scrabble scores scribbled on the fly leaves. They were part of life. Rincewind is always looking for something “better than magic”. Pratchett found something better than literature.”

His Discworld novels take place on the Disc, a flat Earth which lies on the backs of four giant elephants, who are standing on the carapace of a giant space turtle, called Great A’Tuin. The novel we read, “The Wee Free Men”, is targeted at a younger audience and serves as a good introduction into his Discworld. If you want to read more of the Disc, read the other Tiffany novels. You can then either start with the very first Discworld book or start with one of the series within the Discworld, such as the witches, the watch or DEATH.

All participants liked the novel, even those who thought they would dislike it as comic fantasy isn’t their cup of tea. (This pleased me a lot.)
– the first chapter of the novel was somewhat confusing as many did not know what a Jenny Greenteeth was (a folkloric creature)
– the story takes place from Tiffany’s point of view, making adults seem weird, Tiffany is much smarter and responsible than her age
– it somewhat felt like a fairy tale, magic works, logic is not that necessary
– we liked Tiffany’s way of thinking (first, second and third thoughts) or overthinking
– the idea that magic is hard work and that, in most cases, you do not need to employ magic but reason (or pretend that it’s magic to make people listen to reason) was very interesting
– we talked about William McGonagall (world’s worst poet) as an inspiration for the Feegles’s war poet, the gonnagle. Listen to the poem here:
– we discussed the Feegles and whether Pratchett (as an Englishman) is allowed to present such a partly stereotypical depiction of Scotland inspired fairies (pixies are the “wee shites” from Cornwall the Feegles hate, they call themselves pictsies after the Picts, they speak Glaswegian Scots, wear kilts, are blue all over, are afraid of lawyers and the written word (as were people in Medieval times that could not read), can cross dimensions and even annoy DEATH, they believe that they are in heaven as the Disc is full of creatures to fight, booze and a clear, blue sky) –> we came to the conclusion that they are somewhat stereotypical but they are more than that: they are Tiffany’s friends and helpers, they defy certain stereotypes and they evolve in the course of the Tiffany novels
– we talked about that words can be used to bind and control somebody (inspired by the Feegle’s fear of the written word which is overcome in one of the later novels as Rob Anybody learns how to read)
– we discussed inhowfar cultural appropriation and writing fantasy (being inspired by something as an author) is problematic and how it could work: respect, the situation of the different cultures, but of course there was no finite answer


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