8 Clever Characters from Discworld and Good Omens — Terry Pratchett Series


This video has been brought to you by Audible,
the best way to enjoy your favorite stories on the go. 28… 29… Aaaaand 30… Phew. And that’s not even all of them… Well, it’ll have to do. Welcome back, everyone, to our Terry Pratchett
series! As you can see, we’ve been pretty deep in
the books on this one. With an oeuvre comprising a veritable library
of no less than 100 novels, graphic novels, short stories, companion books, and much,
much more, Pratchett is easily one of the most prolific authors we’ve discussed on the
show. We already spent the first video of this series
getting all technical and literary about how Pratchett uses voice, so this time I want
to share some of his actual creations. Of course, with a body of work so utterly
healthy, there is no way I can begin to share it in its entirety. So instead of sharing a list of books, I thought
it would be fun to share some of the most interesting characters Pratchett’s created. This list is by no means exhaustive-nowhere
even close in fact-but it should give all you newcomers watching a good taste for Pratchett,
and for those of you who already love his work, it’s always a joy to reminisce. I’ll try to avoid as many plot spoilers as
possible, but be warned, they may crop up here and there. Oh! And, before we get into the list, I think
it’s important I let all of you know-I actually received a follow-up letter from my correspondent
already. Sending them the scraps of a Pratchett book
seems to have… done something. This new letter is nearing lucidity, which,
given their record thus far, is truly shocking. More on that near the end of the video, though. For now, let’s get to know some of the occupants
of Pratchett’s imagination. #8 – Mau
Imagine this: you’re thirteen years old, you’ve left your friends and family behind, and made
a solitary pilgrimage to a distant island. There, you hope to leave your child-soul behind
and claim your new grown-up soul on your glorious return home. You’ve been there on your own for weeks, and
now, on the eve of your return, a tsunami sweeps you homeward to shore, annihilating
your entire culture in the process. No one is there to welcome you, no one is
there to give you your new soul. You are a soulless creature, alone in the
world.[B1] This is where our protagonist, Mau, finds
himself in Pratchett’s fascinating stand-alone novel: Nation. Nation being the only name of his now-ravaged
home island. Understandably, he gets to feeling a little
jaded about the gods his culture worshipped. They did, in his estimation, let his people
die, after all. Nevertheless, he spends a lot of the book
following the guidance of the ancestral voice in his mind: The Grandfathers, who require
him to restore his home to what it once was by righting “the god anchors”; religious monuments
disturbed by the wave. It’s a doomed task, and they’re never satisfied
with his progress. Perhaps the one truly useful piece of advice
they give him is that he alone is now Nation. This is important, because he ends up making
decisions throughout the story in defiance of The Grandfathers and their gods. Decisions that involve rescuing a baby by
finding a mother pig to nurse it, confronting a shark underwater and screaming a secret
word to scare it off, and among many other things, attempting to outrun the god of death. In the words of his friend Daphne, the book’s
second protagonist and Mau’s best friend, he makes his own soul in the process. If he is Nation, then we get to watch as not
only he, but the culture he’s going to rebuild in the future, changes. #7 – The Watch
Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, the corrupt mercantile capital of the world, a megalopolis of obstacles
and opportunities. Literally anything can and will happen here…
save, it seems, the creation of a genuine system of justice. In fact, the quote-unquote “law” of Ankh-Morpork
is so efficient, as long as you’re paying your taxes and guild dues, you can count on
getting mugged only twice in a calendar year-and, of course, like any good business you can
expect a receipt for the transaction, courtesy of the Thieves’ Guild. In a place where robbery is not only expected
but legal, what’s a police force to do? Well, over the course of about eight novels,
the Ankh-Morpork City Watch finds the answer to that question. It’s hardly a straight and narrow path, but
the Watch eventually blossoms into something useful and, in the process, introduces us
to some of the most interesting characters the Discworld universe has to offer. These include a werewolf, a vampire, a troll,
and a dwarf among others, but the core of the Watch is mostly made up of its human members. First, and maybe least remarkable of all,
we have the ineffectual Sergeant Fred Colon. Overweight and perpetually on desk jobs-except
in the odd case where he guards large buildings and bridges against theft-he’s described by
Pratchett as “one of nature’s sergeants.” Then there’s his best friend, Corporal Nobby-Nobbs,
who can only really be described as “human” by a great effort of the imagination. Not necessarily what you would call a good
guy, but according to Pratchett he’s “only bad in the same way that a weasel is evil”-just
don’t leave any of your belongings unattended in his presence. Taking a turn for the more competent, we have
the formidable Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, a six-foot-six muscle-bound human who was
raised by dwarves and only realized recently that he is not, in fact, one of them. A bit simple by all counts, but that’s certainly
not a bad thing. When he showed up, the watch was actually
desperately in need of someone dense enough to believe they could actually make a difference. And with his attitude, strength of character,
and strength of… strength, they really began to. Finally, we have one of Discworld’s most important
protagonists: Commander Samuel Vimes. Actually, that title changes quite a lot throughout
the books, swinging all the way from “Captain Sam Vimes” to “His Grace, His Excellency,
The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes”. He’s never too happy about it, but this change
parallels something deeper in his character. When we first meet him, he’s a drunk, cynical,
disillusioned mess. The backward morality of the city has kind
of ruined him. But really, that’s because he’s lead by a
sense of right down at the genetic level-justice is in Vimes’s blood. When finally starts to understand the threads
and wheels by which he can change the city for the better, he seizes the opportunity. Vimes’s story is the story of Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett’s even gone so far as to say that
it’s been difficult for him to set a book in Ankh-Morpork without it rapidly becoming
a book about the Watch. #6 – The Wizards
Replace the contents of a children’s science kit with the most dangerous magical agents
you can imagine, spill it out over Oxford University, put a cabinet of elderly, incompetent,
tenured crackpots in charge of the place, and you begin to have something that resembles
Unseen University. Attach the Library of Alexandria to it and
you’re practically there. This is the heart of magical learning in Pratchett’s
Discworld, and the source of a lot of important plot threads throughout the books. The university’s staff can always be depended
on, if not to solve things, then at least to convolute them in a really fun way. Among the University’s venerable alumni, we
have, of course, the head wizard himself, Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully. Though he speaks at a consistent shout, maintains
an incredible resistance to both suggestions and changes of any kind, and manages chronically
to misunderstand things in a most sagacious, practical fashion, he’s also the first archchancellor
in a number of years to hold his position for any meaningful amount of time without
being murdered. This might have something to do with the fact
that he’s a wizard of the eight level, which is about as magical as you get without being
either a protagonist or a villain. Also among the UU staff, we have an orangutan. That is, The Librarian, who was at some point
or other ostensibly human. He also has a rare understanding of what the
wizards call “L-space”-that is “Library Space”-which is created by the mystical, reality-warping
power of books, and allows him to appear in certain places at certain times to protect
books throughout the Discworld. And then there’s Hex. Not a character so much as a building-sized
rube Goldberg machine of a computer. Despite having built it, no one-except maybe
Ponder Stibbons, (derisive) the great nerd-quite knows how it works. This is more than a little troubling, as Hex
exhibits obvious signs of intelligence, the least of which is changing and adjusting its
own components. As of now, these include but are not limited
to: an anthill for performing calculations, a beehive for storage, and an aquarium on
a spring which serves as a “screensaver”. And last but certainly not lea-… well, actually,
I don’t whether that can be said about Rincewind. He may be one of Discworld’s most consistent
and well-traveled protagonists, but he’s also very likely one of the least magical beings
on the entire disc. In fact, he’s been called the magical equivalent
of the number 0, managing, somehow, to achieve negative marks during his time at Unseen University. Really, his main order of the day is just
to avoid as much danger as possible, a task which fails extraordinarily at. According to Pratchett, his continued survival
can probably be attributed to the fact that, “although he was with a wizard’s spirit, he
has the body of a long-distance sprinter.” Still, despite all of this, he does on occasion
manage some truly incredible-sometimes even world-saving-feats. All, of course, entirely by accident. #5 – The Witches
If Wizards are the magically learned of Discworld, then witches are the magically competent. Instead of making a great show of their magic
and engaging in the futile task of trying to understand its laws-if in fact it has any-they
ply their craft in a subtler, more useful fashion. Mostly, this means using the magical equivalent
of the placebo effect to “smooth out life’s humps and bumps”. If something happens, it’s because you and
the people it’s happening to know that it ought to be happening. They call it, in their uncomplicated way,
“headology”. To find the most important practitioners of
this hyper-canny art, we’ve got to go high up into Discworld’s tallest mountain range:
the Ramtops. Here, precariously balanced on one of the
few surfaces that is both flat and horizontal, lies the kingdom of Lancre. And watching over it: the Lancre Coven. In typical fashion, they number just three. First, the archetypal Mother witch: Gytha
“Nanny” Ogg. It’s less accurate to describe her as a mother
than as the mother. Not only because she has a massive family
branching out from her fifteen children, but because she fills the role in such a natural,
primal way. You could say that motherliness-in addition
to a certain unassailable, drunken-bar-song-belting boisteriosity-is her power. To everyone but her daughters-in-law, Nanny
Ogg is easily one of the most agreeable people in the world. Almost… compulsively so… We also have the Maiden witch of the coven:
Magrat Garlick. Not quite a force of nature in the way that
Nanny is, but when you get past all her insecurities and her ineptitude with conventional witching
magic, she does have some interesting qualities to offer. For one, she’s a relentless optimist, which
is a powerful thing for a witch to be. So powerful that all her bogus holistic medicines
and crystals and new-age witchy nonsense actually work. Well, that’s headology for you. And of course, what respectable coven would
be complete without its Crone? Granted, a judicious individual may think
twice before using the term to describe Esmerelda Weatherwax-at least to her face. Known by most as “Granny” Weatherwax, she
stands as the leader of the Lancre coven, and indeed, one of the most powerful magical
beings on the Disc. It’s innate. Her magic is common sense, more a result of
her attitude than anything else. She can subdue a bear with a stern gaze, “borrow”
the bodies of animals, and in a variety of clever ways, has thwarted the plots of vampires,
elves, wizards, and worse. She’s even stood up to Death on multiple occasions. With her considerable power and… shall we
say, less-than-delicate demeanor, it would have been easy for Granny to become the wickedest
of witches. Instead, in her own wyrd way, she is Lancre’s
greatest caretaker. There is one more witch who bears mentioning
before we move on. One who may not be a part of the Lancre coven,
but who gets five whole books of her own, and who may even be a match for Granny in
terms of raw, witchy power. Well, someday, maybe. For now, Tiffany Aching is just a teenager
trying to learn what it means to be a witch. And for her, it means all kinds of things. A tribe of little blue men who follow her
around and protect her, an invisible hat, not just second thoughts, but third and fourth
thoughts as well-that is, she has thoughts about the thoughts she has about the thoughts
she has about the thoughts she has. She not only shows a great deal of potential
as a witch, but a huge amount of initiative. As her story unfolds, she does learn what
it means to be a witch, but she also in many ways defines it. #4 – Lord Vetinari
At a glance, the city of Ankh-Morpork makes no sense. Home to the lawfully-sanctioned Thieves’ and
Assassins’ guilds, and even worse, the crack-pot infested time-bomb that is Unseen University,
the place should have imploded in a dozen different ways a good long time ago. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that
the city lies in the clutches of the unkillable tyrant, Lord Havelock Vetinari. Okay, that last one may be a bit unfair. He is a tyrant, but only when it suits the
needs of the city. He himself almost seems devoid of any powerlust
or vices. He controls the city out of a sense of loyalty
to it and very little else. It can be said with little-to-no exaggeration
that Ankh-Morpork is likely still standing thanks to his scheming. Despite his shocking benevolence, he doesn’t
hold the title of Patrician because he was voted most likely to succeed during his time
in the Assassins’ Guild-he does it by ensuring that a reality in which he is Patrician is
slightly better than one in which he isn’t. This means weaving innumerable threads throughout
the goings on of Ankh-Morpork, staying perpetually seventeen complex steps ahead of the game. As it happens, this is a task Vetinari is
uniquely qualified for. With a perfect photographic memory, the ability
to solve puzzles almost instantly, a curious resistance to the effects of alcohol, and
so much skill with stealth and assassination that the Assassins’ Guild no longer accepts
contracts for him, people have at times wondered whether he’s even entirely human. Whatever he is, he gets the job done, and
does it with disturbing skill and insight. His golden rule is that people want stability
more than anything. “Tomorrow should pretty much resemble today”. Even so, he manages to drag Ankh-Morpork,
inch-by-inch, kicking and screaming, toward a better future. #3 – Aziraphale & Crowley
“Funny thing is,” said Crawly, “I keep wondering whether the apple thing wasn’t the right thing
to do, as well. A demon can get into real trouble, doing the
right thing.” He nudged the angel. “Funny if we both got it wrong, eh? Funny if I did the good thing and you did
the bad one, eh?” “Not really,” said Aziraphale. Crawly looked at the rain. “No,” he said, sobering up. “I suppose not.” A conversation between an angel and a demon. Right there, in the garden of Eden, before
everything, already wondering and worrying about their own virtues. This is how Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
begin their masterpiece, Good Omens. As representatives of the most polarizing
conflict in history-that is, good vs. evil-you’d think their jobs ought to be pretty simple:
hang out on Earth and get it all ready for your side to win come the apocalypse. Spread some love, spread some mayhem, and
always follow the orders from above and below. They know best, after all. Ineffable wisdom and all that. Aziraphale and Crowley could hardly fail this
task worse. The thing is, they’ve been on Earth for a
while now. Certainly long enough to adjust. And honestly, at this point the apocalypse
really would get in the way of Aziraphale’s hobby for collecting rare, misprinted books,
and it’d certainly interfere with Crowley’s nonstop hedonist revel. The point is, alignments aside, they can’t
help enjoying Earth and wondering why it’s got to be destroyed. To prove some metaphysical point about good
and evil? Concepts which, mind you, no one’s ever even
clearly explained to them? No. There’s got to be some way to keep this going;
something they can do to sabotage the apocalypse. Among many things, this is what makes Good
Omens a joy to read: we get to watch the would-be embodiments of good and evil work together
to protect the unaligned experience of being human. Read into this as you will. It’s half the fun. #2 – Death
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to
make life bearable.” (VOICE EFFECT) REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS
THE RISING APE. “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little-”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE
THE LITTLE LIES. “So we can believe the big ones?” YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING. This, if you can believe it, is the voice
of Death. At least according to Terry Pratchett, who
featured him as a character in almost every Discworld novel he wrote, and maybe even a
few others beside. His concept of the reaper is something special-a
strangely optimistic, duty-bound being of immense power… and even greater compassion. Pratchett’s Death is not the aloof harvester
of souls we’re so used to seeing. In fact, at times he somewhat resents his
job, finding small, clever loopholes here and there which allow him to circumvent the
natural order of things and let people live. Or at least, let them live longer. Mostly, he does his job out of a sense of
duty. It is the reason he exists, after all. You see, in Discworld the power of belief
manifests in very tangible ways. If enough people believe in a story about
a fairy who goes around collecting the lost teeth of children, you can sure enough bet
kids will start finding money under their pillows their parents didn’t put there. If enough people blame the cosmos for the
way their drawers get irritatingly stuck on their own contents, a Goddess of Things That
Get Stuck in Drawers is bound to spring out of the ether. And of course, if enough people believe in
Death… Perhaps it’s this origin in human creativity
that gives Death his soft spot for intelligent beings. He’s so fascinated with mankind, he emulates
them in his spare time, furnishing his metaphysical home with amenities that he’ll never have
a reason to use-beds, a toilet with pipes that are solid all the way through, a violin
he continuously fails to play. He’s also been known, ironically, to protect
humanity with a certain zeal. More than once, he combats the scheming of
the Auditors of Reality, for example, who account for all order in the universe and
hate the chaos of the human imagination. On one particularly memorable occasion, he
even takes up the mantle of “Hogfather” (Discworld’s equivalent of Santa Clause) for the holiday,
just to keep the belief and what it means to mankind alive in the Hogfather’s absence. To think of Death in this way-not as a malevolent,
indifferent force, but as something that comes from mortals and our experiences; something
that is in many ways passionately intertwined with our existence-to think of it in this
way can prevent us a lot of fear and sorrow. Pratchett himself has received letters from
fans with terminal illnesses who hope Death turns out to be like the Death he wrote about
in his books. Who knows? Maybe the concept of Death is as beholden
to us mortals as we are to the physical process. #1 – Terry Pratchett
The man himself. With this kind of thing, you always want to
go after the heart of the person-that special thing that drives you to make an entire series
of three videos based on their work. But for a man who created over 100 works,
who has an asteroid and a species of fossilized turtle named after him, who built his own
library shelves, grew carnivorous plants in his greenhouse and picked black mushrooms
before the sun had gotten out of bed, who read more books in his lifetime than you’ve
probably ever seen, who was knighted by the Queen of England for services to literature,
who made his own sword from mined iron and stardust, and who in his final years, fought-and
I do mean fought, tooth and nail-a rare form of early-onset alzheimer’s? For someone who was, and is, all of these
things, where do you aim? Pratchett the man is as prolific in his intrigues
as Pratchett the author. A journalist could hardly ask for a broader
target. Fortunately, we aren’t journalists, and this
isn’t actually a bio piece. This list is about characters, which works
out nicely because throughout nearly all of his work, Pratchett himself is something of
a character. Not in the way that Lemony Snicket is-his
work’s not metafiction, for the most part. He’s a character in that he himself, based
in our world with us, is telling the story. Everything we’re reading may be set in Discworld
or some other fantasy, but that never stops him from mentioning, referencing, and-through
the thinnest of veils-alluding to the world we all live in and experience; a behavior
many fantasy authors would be horrified by, knowing how it could break the immersion. What’s more, he doesn’t hide who he is in
his writing. His thoughts, his philosophies, feelings all
come through with spectacular clarity, and not because he weaves all of them into metaphor
and character perspectives, although he does do that often and beautifully. There’s a lot that Pratchett shares with us
point-blank in his works. Sometimes it even begins to feel like more
of a… conversation than a work of fiction. Sometimes, it feels like you just sharing
inside jokes with an old friend. So who is Terry Pratchett, the Character? Perhaps the most honest and oddly-insightful
stranger ever to tell you a story over a pint. And all you need to do if you want to have
the experience for yourself is open any one of his books. In Pratchett’s own words: “A man is not dead
while his name is still spoken. Speak his name.” Conclusion
Well, if you’re new to Pratchett, I hope that whets your appetite a bit. This is just the barest taste of what the
man created. There’s much, much more, and every moment
of it is worthwhile. We’ve still got a short story to write before
we wrap this series up, but there’s actually an excellent way to fill the time while you’re
waiting: you could settle in with a free Terry Pratchett audiobook, courtesy of Audible. They have a huge catalogue of books, including
the vast majority of Pratchett’s works. If you want to meet some of the characters
on this list for the first time, Audible has you covered. To get started on the right foot reading the
expansive Discworld, I recommend Hogfather, which is all about Death, belief, and the
human need for fantasy. Otherwise, if you want something that stands
all on its own, I can make no better recommendation than the hilarious, masterful, irreverent
Good Omens, written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman together. To get either of these audiobooks at no cost,
all you have to do is sign up for a free 30-day trial with Audible by visiting audible.com/talefoundry,
or by texting the code talefoundry to 500-500. Not only is it a free audiobook-it’s also
a free way to support the show. Before we wrap this video up and begin work
on the short story for our Terry Pratchett series, I want to share that letter I mentioned
at the start of the video with you. Based on everything we’ve seen from my correspondent
so far, what they’ve sent me this time is shockingly direct. To catch you up, they’ve been suggesting for
a while that all of reality is sort of… a fantasy in their head? I tried to explain Tale Foundry to them, but
they took it all as my own fantasy and began questioning me about what’s like to be a…
sentient thought in their head?… their “child” after a fashion?… Of course, I had no clue how to respond to
this, and frankly I’ve been at my wit’s end with them for a while now. It seems that no matter what I write, they’re
determined to be as oblique and cryptic as possible. However, as I mentioned in the first Pratchett
video, I have noticed an odd trend: the book pages they write on seem to influence what
or how they write. So, in hopes that it would help focus their
mind, unite their voices, lead them toward something like clarity, instead of a letter
I sent over the scraps of the book Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. This is what I got back:
– It’s as true against my fingerttips as any
thought I’ve ever known, this eviscerated thing you’ve sent. Strange, its words upon my mind, myriad shapes
tasting ever the same. Wonderful, the abandon. It can be no fabrication, can it? This, the untainted stuff of creation, a mere
riffling of pages from the endless ream which composes all things; a new stitch of reality
in my cosmos. And it flows not out of me, sender, but you. Has there ever been a thing more curious? If not on the other side of my looking glass,
where ever could you be? –
Not exactly what I thought would happen, but it’s progress. I’ll take it. At the very least, maybe now they’ll stop
trying to treat me like I don’t exist. If you have any thoughts on how I should respond
to this, I would love the input. Just leave a comment. I’ll be reading them! At any rate, that’s all for this all for this
episode! Thanks for watching, and keep making stuff
up! We’ll see you… next time! Bye! [B1]Replace this with a paragraph introducing
the tradition and Nation-need a place in the text to actually name Nation so the audience
understands

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