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Small Gods

Annotations | Information | Quotes

- [p. 7] "'I remember,' said Lu-Tze."

Lu-Tze is probably meant to parallel Lao-Tze, the writer of the Tao Te Ching and thus one of the founders of Taoism. The mountain range he carries with him is reminiscent of stories told by and of Taoist and Buddhist sages.

- [p. 7] "'Young fellow called Ossory, wasn't there?'"

For what it's worth: an ossuary is a place where the bones of the dead are kept.

- [p. 8] The name 'Brutha' is of course pronounced as a jive-ified 'brother', and resonates with the name of Buddhism's prophet Buddha.

- [p. 9] Brother Nhumrod.

Brother Nhumrod's name is not only an obvious pun on the man's sexual problems, but also refers to the Biblical Nimrod who was "a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis 10:8).

- [p. 10] "Give me a boy up to the age of seven, Nhumrod had always said."

This is a reference to the Jesuit saying: "Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards."

The Jesuits boasted that they could convert anyone if they just started early enough.

- [p. 12] The Cenobiarch.

A cenobite is a "member of a religious order following a communal way of life". The 'arch' suffix denotes leadership (as in e.g. 'matriarch').

- [p. 12] "[...] and torturers, and Vestigial Virgins..."

See the annotation for p. 79 of Reaper Man .

- [p. 15] You Don't Have To Be Pitilessly Sadistic To Work Here But It Helps!!!

Refers to those lame stickers and signs in offices and work areas all over the world that say: "You don't have to be insane to work here but it helps!".

In Eric a similar slogan is pasted on the door to the Discworld Hell ("You don't have to be 'Damned' to work here...").

See also the annotation for p. 100 of Eric .

- [p. 23] "De Chelonian Mobile [...] The Turtle Moves."

This whole theory parodies Galileo Galilei's struggle to get his theory of a moving earth (moving around the sun, that is) accepted by the Christian Church.

The specific phrasing of the motto refers to what Galileo supposedly uttered under his breath after recanting his theory to the Inquisition (mirrored by Didactylos having to do the same in front of Vorbis); "E pur si muove" -- "And yet it moves". This explains why the Chelonists say "The Turtle Moves" and not, say, "It's A Turtle" or "We're On A Turtle". After all, the point of contention is the existence of the turtle, not whether it's mobile or stationary.

- [p. 23] "'And what does that stand on?' he said."

This is the classic objection to the turtle theory, at least according to an anecdote that has been told about every big name scientist from Bertrand Russell to William James. In the story, the scientist, after giving a lecture on astronomy, is approached by a little old lady who says that he's got it all wrong and that the world in fact rests on the back of a giant turtle. The scientist then asks the lady what the turtle is standing on, and she answers: on the back of a second, even larger turtle. But, asks the scientist, what does that turtle stand on? To which the lady triumphantly answers: "You're very clever, young man, but it's no use -- it's turtles all the way down!".

- [p. 39] "'He was eight feet tall? With a very long beard? And a huge staff? And the glow of the holy horns shining out of his head?'"

Michelangelo depicted Moses with horns after coming down from Mount Sinai. This can be traced back to an interpretation error from the original Hebrew, where the same word can mean either "send out rays" or "be horned", depending on context.

- [p. 40] "'I was beginning to think I was a tortoise dreaming about being a god.'"

This parallels one of the writings of Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage:

"Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up, and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou."

- [p. 44] "'The other novices make fun of him, sometimes. Call him The Big Dumb Ox.'"

St Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) was called the "the dumb ox" by his fellow students due to his silence during theological disputes at the university. He just listened -- or perhaps 'lurked' is a better term. He also had a large and awkward frame, like Brutha.

The story goes that Thomas' teacher (Albertus Magnus, see the annotation for p. 221 of Mort ) rebuked the insensitive students by saying: "His name will be remembered long after yours are all forgotten". He was right. Thomas Aquinas was canonised less than a century later. (And so was Albertus Magnus, but not until 1931.)

- [p. 57] "He was good at raking paths. He left scallop patterns and gentle soothing curves."

This is a description of a Zen rock garden.

- [p. 59] "'Nice fresh indulgences? Lizards? Onna stick?'"

Given the Medieval Catholic nature of Omnianism, Dhblah's trade in indulgences (time off for a loved one in Purgatory) is not at all surprising.

+ [p. 60] "Below it, the doors of the Great Temple, each one made of forty tons of gilded bronze, opened by the breath (it was said) of the Great God Himself, swung open ponderously and -- and this was the holy part -- silently."

In the 1st century, the Greek mathematician and engineer Hero of Alexandria built a fire/air/water-based device that would miraculously open and close temple doors -- lighting the altar fire would open the doors, extinguishing the fire would close them again.

Hero wrote entire books (Pneumatica, Automata) that detailed the mechanics of this and many other similar inventions. These books have a delightful Ankh-Morporkian entrepeneural feel to them. Pneumatica has chapter titles such as 'Figures made to dance by Fire on an Altar', 'A Steam-Boiler from which either a hot Blast may be driven into the Fire, a Blackbird made to sing, or a Triton to blow a horn' and 'On an Apple being lifted, Hercules shoots a Dragon which then hisses', and contains instructions such as "Let ABCD (fig. 21) be a sacrificial vessel or treasure chest, [...]".

Hero is also famous for inventing the earliest-known steam engine, but that was merely a small sphere that rotated due to steam pressure (history's earliest executive toy?), and was not related to his temple door-opening construction.

- [p. 64] "'And -- that other one. The eminence grease.'"

Éminence grise = "grey eminence", as in "shadowy power".

- [p. 66] "'[...] they have to cross a terrible desert and you weigh their heart in some scales [...] And if it weighs less than a feather, they are spared the hells.'"

In Egyptian myth, a dead man was judged by Osiris, Thoth, Anubis and forty-two Assessors in the Hall of Judgement in the Underworld. His heart was balanced against the Feather of Truth while he made his Confession. If his heart was heavy (with guilt), then the monster Amit ate the heart. See the Egyptian Book of the Dead for more details.

- [p. 67] "Give me that old-time religion..."

This is the title to a song, originally belonging to the evangelist revival camp meeting category, which has the chorus:

Give me that old time religion,
Give me that old time religion,
Give me that old time religion,
Cos it's good enough for me.

It has been taken up by the SF filk community ('filk' = folk singing, but with funny or parodying lyrics), which has added verses like:

Let's sing praise to Aphrodite
She may seem a little flighty,
but she wears a green gauze nighty,
And she's good enough for me.

and the Lovecraftian:

We will worship old Cthulhu,
Yes, we'll worship old Cthulhu,
I can't find a rhyme for Cthulhu
And that's good enough for me.

- [p. 73] "You have to walk a lonesome desert... You have to walk it all alone..."

Terry said in an article to a.f.p: "This probably is a good time to raise the 'lonesome valley/lonesome desert' lines from Small Gods, with apologies to you who, because of finance, heel-dragging by publishers or because you threw all that tea in the harbour, haven't read it yet. Yes, I know variants of the song have turned up on various folk/country/spiritual albums over the last forty years, but some American friends tracked variations of it back to the last century and the anonymous mists of folk Christianity. So I used it, like everyone else has done. Like 'Lord of the Dance', it's one of those songs that transcends a specific religion -- and also a very attractive use of language."

- [p. 77] "The Voice of the Turtle was heard in the land."

The Bible, Song of Solomon 2:12:

The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Note that the biblical 'turtle' in fact refers to the turtledove.

- [p. 77] "'I am what I am. I can't help it if people think something else.'"

This is not a Popeye reference! "I am that I am" is what God said to Moses in answer to the questions "What is his name? What shall I say to them?" (Exodus 3:14).

- [p. 79] "There was Sergeant Simony, a muscular young man [...]"

'Simony' is the religious crime of selling benefices. Since Terry doesn't refer to or joke about this second meaning at all in the rest of the book, I had left this annotation out of previous versions of the APF, but people kept writing me about it, so this time I've put it in for completeness' sake.

- [p. 83] "'Three years before the shell.'"

The phrase "x years before the mast" was used by sailors to indicate the length of time they've been in their profession. Common seamen slept in the forward part of the ship, i.e. before the main mast on sailing ships. Officers slept in the after part of the ship where they could get easy access to the tiller.

- [p. 85] Terry Pratchett translates the book title Ego-Video Liber Deorum here as Gods: A Spotter's Guide.

Actually, the dog-Latin translates more literally to The I-Spy Book of Gods. I-Spy books are little books for children with lists of things to look out for. When you see one of these things you tick a box and get some points. When you get enough points you can send off for a badge. They have titles like The I-Spy Book of Birds and The I-Spy Book of Cars.

- [p. 85] "Or, to put it another way the existence of a badly put-together watch proved the existence of a blind watchmaker."

This whole section is parodying the creationist argument that complex creatures such as those which exist in the world could only be the product of deliberate design and hence must have been created by a Supreme Being rather than by a 'blind' process such as evolution. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins provided a counter-argument in his book The Blind Watchmaker.

+ [p. 87] "It was worse than women aboard. It was worse than albatrosses."

Women are traditionally considered bad luck on a ship. Albatrosses, in contrast, are considered lucky -- it is killing them that brings very bad luck indeed. For a classic example just recall Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

- [p. 92] "The shepherd had a hundred sheep, and it might have been surprising that he was prepared to spend days searching for one sheep; [...]"

Another Biblical allusion. Jesus used this as a parable for the mercy of God, in Matthew 18:12: "How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?"

- [p. 92] "[...] the priests of Ur-Gilash [...]"

The name is a composite of several ancient names. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Babylonian tale which contains some interesting parallels to contemporary Biblical stories. Gil-Galash was ruler of one of the Euphrates civilisations. And Ur was, of course, a Babylonian city, as well as a prefix signifying "primal" or "original".

- [p. 95] "'According to Book One of the Septateuch, anyway.'"

A reference to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible/Torah.

When Brutha, Om's last great prophet, finishes writing his book, the Septateuch will become the Octateuch, which is of course wholly appropriate for the Discworld...

- [p. 100] "'There's one of 'em that sits around playing a flute most of the time and chasing milkmaids.'"

This describes Krishna, an avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu in Indian mythology, who spent his youth playing the flute and dancing with as many as 100 milkmaids at a time.

- [p. 101] Legibus's entrance incorporates some concepts borrowed from several legends of famous philosophers.

Archimedes was the one who jumped out of the bath and ran naked down the street shouting 'Eureka!' after he'd discovered the principle of fluid displacement. He also said: "Give me but a place to stand and a long enough lever, and I can move the world", a quote that Terry repeatedly uses in different forms. The "Number Nine pot and some string, please" probably refers to the ancient method of calculating the curvature of the Earth's surface as done by Eratosthenes of Cyrene. The drawing of triangles vaguely recalls Pythagoras.

- [p. 103] "[...] putting a thirty-foot parabolic reflector on a high place to shoot the rays of the sun at an enemy's ships [...]"

Legend has it that Archimedes did just this in the defence of the city of Syracuse in 213 BC.

- [p. 103] "'[...] some intricate device that demonstrated the principles of leverage by incidentally hurling balls of burning sulphur two miles.'"

This is a description of the trebuchet, another weapon supposedly invented by Archimedes (or at least based on his teachings).

- [p. 110] "[...] if Xeno the Ephebian said, 'All Ephebians are liars --'"

This is the Liar Paradox again. See the annotation for p. 222 of Witches Abroad .

- [p. 111] "'That's right,' he said. 'We're philosophers. We think, therefore we am.'"

Play on Descartes' famous philosophical pronouncement "Cogito, ergo sum" -- "I think, therefore I am".

- [p. 111] "'Thesis plus antithesis equals hysteresis,' said Ibid."

A play on the central tenet of dialectical materialism, which was lifted (by Marx and Engels) from Hegelian philosophy: "Thesis plus antithesis yields synthesis".

- [p. 112] "'Fedecks the Messenger of the Gods, one of the all-time greats,' said Xeno."

Federal Express (or FedEx) is an overnight shipping courier service.

- [p. 112] A running gag in the book is the penguin associated with Patina, the Goddess of Wisdom. This refers to Minerva or Pallas Athena (Pal-las A-thena, get it, get it?), who was the Roman/Greek goddess of wisdom, and whose symbol was an owl.

- [p. 115] The Greek name Didactylos, besides having the word 'didactic' as its root (very appropriate for a philosopher), also translates as 'Two-fingers'.

The British equivalent of "giving someone the finger" consists of extending two fingers upwards, palm facing the gesturer, in a kind of rotated 'V for Victory' sign.

The origin of this rude gesture is supposed to date back to the battle of Agincourt. In those days the French used to cut the index and middle fingers off the right hands of any British archers they happened to catch, in order to render them useless for further shooting should they e.g. ever manage to escape and rejoin their army.

When the English finally won the battle (largely thanks to their longbowmen) the gesture quickly evolved from a Frenchmen-ridiculing "look what I still got" statement into a more general rudeness.

Whether this story, charming as it may be, is in fact completely incorrect, or only partially incorrect, or completely correct after all, is something I will no longer be attempting to resolve in this annotation, since proponents of all three theories have been supplying me with quotes from various history books in order to support their claim.

- [p. 118] "Candidates for the Tyrantship were elected by the placing of black or white balls in various urns, thus giving rise to a well-known comment about politics."

That comment probably being: "It's all a load of balls".

- [p. 121] Nil Illegitimo Carborundum is dog-Latin for "Don't let the bastards grind you down".

Variants of it crop up in various places, most notably Nil Carborundi Illegitimo which apparently is a key phrase in the Illuminati mythos.

- [p. 122] Urn's name is a reference to the old joke:

Question: "What's a Greek urn?"
Answer: "About $2,50 an hour!"

Or, as the Goon Show put it:

-- "What's a Greek urn?"
-- "It's a vase made by Greeks for storing liquid."
-- "I wasn't expecting that answer."
-- "Neither were quite a few smart-alec listeners."

- [p. 128] "'Worried, eh? Feeling a bit Avis Domestica? Cluck-cluck?'"

Actually, the Latin name for 'chicken' is Gallus Domesticus -- even though 'avis' by itself does mean 'bird'.

- [p. 129] "He caught a glimpse of a circle of damp sand, covered with geometrical figures. Om was sitting in the middle of them."

The whole scene with Om drawing shapes in the sand is a reference to the computer programming language Logo, in which figures are drawn by a turtle-shaped cursor ('turtle graphics'). In fact, it was also possible to get a real 'turtle': a little robot attached to a Logo machine by a long cable which would walk around on a big sheet of paper.

- [p. 130] "'Ah,' said Didactylos. 'Ambi-sinister?' 'What?' 'He means incompetent with both hands,' said Om."

'Ambidextrous' means being able to use both hands equally well. 'dextr-' is the prefix meaning 'right'. 'Sinistr-' is a prefix meaning 'left'. Hence: ambi-sinister = having two left hands.

- [p. 131] "The Library of Ephebe was -- before it burned down -- the second biggest on the Disc."

Refers of course to our world's Alexandrian Library. Brewer tells us that this Library was supposed to have contained 700,000 volumes. It was already burned and partially consumed in 391, but when the city fell into the hands of the calif Omar, in 642, the Arabs found books sufficient to "heat the baths of the city for six months".

Legend has it that Omar ordered the Library torched because all the books in it either agreed with the Koran, and were therefore superfluous; or else disagreed with the Koran, and were therefore heretical, but this is probably just apocryphal. Other references say that the inhabitants of Alexandria torched the scrolls themselves in order to keep the knowledge out of the hands of the Arabs.

- [p. 131] "[...] a whole gallery of unwritten books [...]"

Libraries of unwritten books are of course very rare, but do tend to crop up occasionally in L-space. The library described in the opening section of Beyond Life by James Branch Cabell contains the novels of David Copperfield as well as Milton's King Arthur. In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Lucien's library (a direct homage to Cabell) also contains books that were never written, such as Alice's Journey Beyond The Moon by Lewis Carroll, The Lost Road by J. R. R. Tolkien, and P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith and Jeeves. There's also a library of future books in Robin McKinley's novel Beauty.

Finally, other people were reminded of the library in Jorge Luis Borges' story The Library of Babel, where a vast universe is described which contains all possible books (assuming a finite alphabet and a fixed book size the number of all possible books is mindbogglingly huge, but finite) -- in random order. Most books in such a library would appear written by the 'monkey and typewriter' brigade, but all the coherent books, whether actually written or not, are in there as well.

All libraries are connected through L-space anyway, aren't they?

- [p. 132] Didactylos carrying a lantern and living in a barrel is a reference to Diogenes, the famous philosopher who is reputed to have done the same.

- [p. 132] Aristocrates = Aristotle + Socrates + aristocratic.

- [p. 133] "Art was not permitted in Omnia."

The comment about no art and pictures being allowed in Om resonates with similar prohibitions in various real world religions, ranging from the Muslims to the Amish.

- [p. 150] "'Ah gentlemen,' said Didactylos. 'Pray don't disturb my circles.'"

Legend has it that when Syracuse was eventually taken the Roman soldiers entered Archimedes' house as he was trying to solve a geometrical problem. He had just been drawing some figures on the floor of his house when the soldiers entered. "Gentlemen, pray don't disturb my circles," Archimedes is reported to have said to the soldiers, one of whom then drew his sword and slew him on the spot.

- [p. 150] "'You don't belong to the Quisition,' said the Corporal. 'No. But I know a man who does,' said Brutha."

In the UK there were a series of adverts for the AA (Automobile Association) where people were in various dire motoring trouble. They were asked by a passenger (say) if they knew how to get out of it. They replied either: "No. But I know a man who can." or "No. But I know a man who does." It's now very much a part of English idiom.

- [p. 154] "'Describe what an Ambiguous Puzuma looks like,' he demanded."

Brutha goes on to describe the Puzuma as having its ears laid flat against its head. Of course, as we learned in the footnote on p. 178 of Pyramids, in a Puzuma's "natural state", everything is laid flat against everything else...

- [p. 158] "'One minute upright, next minute a draught-excluder.'"

Discussions on a.f.p., initiated by a puzzled American reader, revealed that the concept of a 'draught-excluder' is one of those things only British readers are familiar with. Many English houses, especially older ones, have doors with a gap at the bottom, which will allow cold draughts into the room. To solve this, rather than simple expedients such as making doors that fit, the English instead place a cylindrical stuffed object (often shaped amusingly like a snake with felt eyes and tongue, for the tackily inclined) along the bottom of the door to keep out the draughts. Hence: a draught excluder.

I have been informed that the English exported their draught excluders to Australia as well, and that Croatians also know them, but use them for windows rather than for doors.

- [p. 161] "'Tell him you can't recall!'"

"I can't recall" is another one of those mantra's politicians tend to repeat when coming under fire during formal investigations. See also the annotation for p. 133 of Wyrd Sisters .

- [p. 162] "'Life in this world,' he said, 'is, as it were, a sojourn in a cave.'"

This paragraph is a very loose parody of a famous Socratic dialogue in Plato's Republic, Book VII. I quote (and edit down a wee bit) from Labyrinths of Reason by William Poundstone, p. 203:

"Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open toward the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

[...] and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave? [...] And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would see only the shadows? [...] And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose they were naming what was actually before them? [...] To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images."

- [p. 162] "Go on, do Deformed Rabbit ...it's my favourite."

Reference to the art of making shadow animals with your hands, as described on p. 36 of Moving Pictures: "'Mainly my uncle did "Deformed Rabbit", said Victor. 'He wasn't very good at it, you see.'"

- [p. 162] "'And the wrong sort of ash', said Vorbis."

The (true) story goes that British Rail was having difficulty one winter getting trains to run on time, which they blamed on the snow. They were then quizzed as to why their snow ploughs could not deal with the problem. They replied that it was "the wrong sort of snow", a phrase that has now entered the English idiom.

In defence of British Rail it should be pointed out that their remark was not as silly as it seems at first sight: what happened was that fine, dry, powdery snow blew inside the traction motor cooling slots and, melting, caused the motors to arc over. It simply is very rare for British snow to be cold and dry enough to do this, hence the "wrong sort of snow" comment which the press, seeking as usual for any excuse to make fun of British Rail, leapt upon with great glee.

- [p. 166] Didactylos' anecdote about the royal road to learning parodies a similar one told about Aristotle and Alexander the Great.

- [p. 170] "'I'm just going out,' said Brutha. 'I may be some time.'"

Brutha here repeats the last words of Captain Lawrence "Titus" Oates, who walked out in a blizzard on Scott's unsuccessful Antarctic expedition, in order to try and save food for the remaining expedition members. He was never seen again. His sacrifice made no difference; two weeks later all remaining members of the expedition had died as well.

- [p. 179] "The scalbie took no notice. [...] It had perched on Om's shell."

Resonates with the B.C. comic strip, which occasionally features a bird of indeterminate species standing on a turtle's shell. They don't get along very well, either.

- [p. 182] "'Got to have a whole parcel of worshippers to live on Nob Hill.'"

Nob Hill is an affluent section of San Francisco (which in turn got its name from 'nob', a British term of derision for upper-class people, especially those who are a little ostentatious with their wealth).

- [p. 186] "'Something that'd open the valve if there was too much steam. I think I could do something with a pair of revolving balls.'"

Urn's steam engines are more or less identical to the ones that were described by Archimedes and used in ancient Ephebe -- I mean Greece. These engines also used copper spheres as heating vessels, and these spheres did, in fact, have a regrettable tendency to explode, which is what limited their use until some bright person thought of adding overpressure relief valves.

These steam engines never really caught on, because of various practical problems and the greater cost-effectiveness of slave-power. See also the James Watt annotation for p. 153 of Reaper Man .

The contraption with revolving balls Urn is thinking of in the sentence quoted above was identified by several readers as something called a speed governor, invented by James Watt. This consists of two balls spinning on two opposite movable arms around a rotating central axis. When the centrifugal force gets large enough to lift the balls up, the movement opens a safety valve that lets off the steam, causing the rotation to slow down and the balls to come down again, closing the valve, etc. -- a simple but ingenious negative feedback device.

- [p. 190] "There was a city once [...] there were canals, and gardens. There was a lake. They had floating gardens on the lake,[...]. Great pyramid temples that reached to the sky. Thousands were sacrificed."

This description evokes Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the capital of the ancient Aztec Empire. Tenochtitlan was built on islands in a lake (now drained) and was crossed by canals, and the floating gardens may still be seen, as may the ruins of the pyramid temples on which thousands were indeed sacrificed.

- [p. 198] "'About life being like a sparrow flying through a room? Nothing but darkness outside? And it flies through the room and there's just a moment of warmth and light?'"

This story appears in the Anglo-Saxon historian St Bede's account of the conversion of England to Christianity in the year 625. A noble relates this metaphor for human existence to King Edwin of Northumbria, and concludes, "Of what went before and of what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If therefore this new faith [Christianity] can give us some greater certainty, it justly deserves that we should follow it."

The original meaning of the parable was to describe the human condition, with life as a moment of light between two dark unknowns; it's a nice twist of irony that Terry here uses it to describe the divine condition instead.

- [p. 205] "Like many early thinkers, the Ephebians believed that thoughts originated in the heart, and that the brain was merely a device to cool the blood."

In our world this idea was originally proposed by none other than Aristotle. Aristotle got almost everything to do with natural history dead wrong, although in his defense it must be said that it was not his fault that later cultures took his works to be Absolute Truth instead of trying to experiment and find things out for themselves.

- [p. 206] "[...] promises in his head."

The Small Gods' offer that "All this can be yours, if you just worship me..." parallels the Temptation of Christ in the desert, during his forty days' fast before starting his preaching.

The offer of food is similar, but more closely related to St Peter's vision in Acts 10:11, in which a blanket is lowered from heaven, containing all sorts of ritually unclean food, notably Pork (the Roast Pig which is proffered by the Small Gods).

- [p. 207] "The wheel had been nailed flat on the top of a slim pole."

St Simon Stylites (or Simon the Elder), a Syrian Monk, spent the last 39 years of his life living atop a pole. There are quite a few accounts of pole sitting in Syrian Monasticism, and a variety of other hermits and extremely pious lunatics also lived this way.

- [p. 208] "'My parents named me Sevrian Thaddeus Ungulant, [...]'"

The hero of Gene Wolfe's science fiction novel Book of the New Sun is called Severian. Like Brutha, Severian has a problem with forgetting things.

St Ungulant's sidekick Angus resonates with the breed of cattle of the same name (the Aberdeen Angus), which in turn may not be entirely unrelated to the fact that an 'ungulate' is a hoofed mammal.

- [p. 220] "'A nod's as good as a poke with a sharp stick to a deaf camel, as they say.'"

A reference to the British saying "A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse", meaning that no hint is useful to one who does not notice it, implying that a hint is currently in progress. Terry combines this in typical fashion with the saying "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick".

Monty Python had similar fun with this proverb in their "Nudge nudge" sketch: "'A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat, eh?'"

- [p. 230] "'What've you got? He's got an army! You've got an army? How many divisions have you got?'"

As the Allies in World War II were planning the landing in Italy, they had frequent meetings to discuss methods and consequences. On one of these meetings, Churchill made a reference to what the Pope would think about all this. To which Stalin replied, "The pope? How many divisions does he have?".

- [p. 232] "I don't know what effect it's going to have on the enemy, he thought, but it scares the hells out of me."

Paraphrases a comment made by the Duke of Wellington immediately before the Battle of Waterloo, about his own troops, in particular about the Highland regiments (large, hairy, kilts, bagpipes, etc.).

- [p. 233] "'We said, the first thing we'll do, we'll kill all the priests!'"

Paraphrases a line from Shakespeare's King Henry VI, part 2, act 4, scene 2 (a play that's also about bloody revolution): "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

- [p. 234] "Bishops move diagonally."

Reference to chess moves.

- [p. 244] "[...] plunged his beak through the brown feathers between the talons, and gripped."

While I agree with Terry that biological correctness shouldn't stand in the way of a good joke or plot point, I feel it should still be pointed out that the organs Om is presumably aiming for don't exist in birds. They simply haven't got the balls.

- [p. 244] "When you have their full attention in your grip, their hearts and minds will follow."

'Testiculos' does not quite translate as 'full attention'.

The correct version of the quote originates with Chuck Colson, one of Richard Nixon's Watergate henchmen.

- [p. 248] "[...] two pounds of tortoise, travelling at three metres a second, hit him between the eyes."

Brewer tells us that in 456 BC Aeschylus, "the most sublime of the Greek tragic poets", was "killed by a tortoise thrown by an eagle (to break the shell) against his bald head, which it mistook for a stone".

Somebody on alt.fan.pratchett accused Terry of using 'deus ex machina' solutions too often in the Discworld novels, and cited this as a particular example. After all, everything has been going just swimmingly for Vorbis right until the very end, when the situation is simply resolved by having Om smash into him. In answer to this, Terry wrote:

"This is a valid point... but the key is whether the 'solution' is inherent in the story.

Consider one of the most basic lessons of folk tale. The young adventurer meets the old woman begging for food and gives her some; subsequently (she being, of course, a witch) he becomes king/wins the princess/etc with her aid, because of his actions earlier.

A solution doesn't 'come along'; it's built into the fabric of the story from an early stage. Guards! Guards! and Interesting Times both use this device. I'd suggest that such a resolution is perfectly valid -- as they say, using a gun to shoot the bad guy in Act 3 is only okay if the gun has been on the wall since Act 1. In Small Gods, though, not a single new thing is introduced or resurrected in order to defeat Vorbis -- he's defeated because of the way various characters react to events. The problem contains the solution coiled inside.

If it's cowardice not to kill off your heroes but let them survive because luck runs their way, then I'll plead guilty in the certain knowledge that I won't get within a mile of the dock because of the crowds of authors and directors already there...:-)"

- [p. 252] "'Right. Right. That's all I'm looking for. Just trying to make ends hummus.'"

A pun on the expression "trying to make ends meet". Hummus is a meat substitute/complement, made from chickpeas, usually eaten in Middle Eastern countries.


"Hell is other people" is a quote from, and the message of, Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit.

- [p. 255] Could the name Fasta Benj possibly be derived from 'Faster, Ben Johnson'?


Refers back to a joke on p. 12 of Sourcery, where we are told that Death dreads playing symbolic last chess games because "he could never remember how the knight was supposed to move".

- There is a rumour going round that there was to be a crucifixion scene at the end of this book but that the publishers made Terry take it out.

The idea of such a scene would appear to be a misrepresentation of the 'Brutha bound to the turtle' scene. To quote Terry on this:

"Crucifiction in Small Gods: this is a familiar thing to me, a DW 'fact' that's gone through several retellings. Nothing's been taken out of Small Gods, or put in, and there was no pressure to do either."

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