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.