APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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The Last Hero

Annotations | Information | Quotes

+ [cover] The hardcover version of The Last Hero shows Cohen in typical Conan pose, but the softcover version ("16 pages of all-new illustrations!") has Rincewind doing his rendition of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.

+ [title page] The tapestry depicted on the title pages (and on pp. 152-3) not only tells the story of Cohen and the Silver Horde, but is also a pretty awesome parody (down to the positioning of the characters at the beginning) of the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230 feet long embroidery telling the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

+ [p. 8] The circular illustration of Fingers Mazda, Io and the eagle is drawn in the style of Etruscan ceramics of pre-Roman Italy, in black and cream (actually terracotta). The style was revived in Europe in the eighteenth century as part of the Neo-Classical style of art, design and architecture.

+ [p. 12] One of the birds Leonardo is feeding in the picture is a parrot with "dog" written on its body.

Back in The Truth, William de Worde offered a $25 reward to anybody who could find the Patrician's dog. This lead to Sacharissa having to explain to an enterprising citizen of Ankh-Morpork: "--- no, that's not it. No, sir, I know that's not it. Because it's a parrot, that's why. You've taught it to bark and you've painted "DoG" on the side of it but it's still a parrot --"

Evidently the parrot escaped...

+ [p. 14] "Lord Vetinari gave him a severe look, but essayed a little wave. 'Oh. How curious.'"

To spell it out: instead of seeing his reflection waving back, Vetinari sees himself waving the 'wrong' hand, making him realise he is watching an image, not a reflection.

+ [p. 18] "Who wins with the most believers, lives."

From the sarcastic saying: "he who dies with the most toys, wins".

+ [p. 18] "They sometimes forgot what happened if you let a pawn get all the way up the board."

On the surface, this appears to be a simple chess or checkers reference, but is also likely to be deeper foreshadowing of Them not knowing exactly what to do when humans (i.e. the Horde) make it all the way up the mountain and actually enter the city of Cori Celesti.

+ [p. 21] Ponder Stibbons looks a bit like Harry Potter.

Or so people keep saying, which is a bit unfortunate, because ever since the success of the Harry Potter books, Terry is hearing increasingly more often from people who ask if (or sometimes even demand he acknowledge that) he 'got' Unseen University from Hogwarts, etcetera, etcetera.

In this case, the first drawing of Ponder Stibbons (looking exactly as he does here) appeared in the 1996 Discworld Portfolio, whereas the first Harry Potter novel was not published until 1997...

Terry says:

"Ponder Stibbons was indeed first drawn in 1996. I, of course, used a time machine to 'get the idea' of Unseen University from Hogwarts; I don't know what Paul used in this case. Obviously he must have used something."

+ [p. 29] "'That's what heroes want, isn't it? To crush the thrones of the world beneath their sandalled feet, as the poet puts it?'"

Every issue of the classic Conan the Barbarian comic series from Marvel Comics used to start out with the following quote:

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and in the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars -- Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet."

I have not been able to determine with certainty who actually wrote this quote, but if it is attributed at all, it is usually to Robert E Howard, author of the original Conan books.

+ [p. 31] "'I recall an old story about a ship that was pulled by swans and flew all the way to --"

In 1638, Bishop Francis Godwin of Hereford wrote The Man In The Moone, in which a Spaniard travels to the moon in a chariot drawn by swans. It is one of the earliest published accounts of space travel.

+ [p. 36] "[...] poems longer'n seventeen syllables."

Seventeen syllables (5+7+5) is the length that English-language haiku poems are supposed to have.

+ [p. 36] "'And also, if you recall... the Maria Pesto?"

This name echoes that of the mysteriously lost Roundworld ship Marie Celeste (see also the annotation for p. 204/195 of Pyramids ).

+ [p. 36] "'My God, it's full of elephants!'"

This parallels Dave Bowman's famous line, "My God, it's full of stars!" at the end of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

+ [p. 37] "[...] he could paint pictures that didn't just follow you around the room but went home with you [...]"

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa is said to have eyes that follow one around the room. See also the annotation for p. 137/104 of Men At Arms .

+ [p. 38] "[...], Leonard had drawn a perfect circle."

The story goes that the Pope was requesting Leonardo da Vinci to submit some of his work for a competition for a new commission. Leonardo kept putting him off, saying he was too busy, as the requests grew more and more insistent. In the end, to avoid the Pope having him arrested, he drew, freehand, at arms length, a perfect circle on a sheet of paper and sent it to the Pope, who promptly gave him the commission. The reason for this is that to draw a perfect circle, freehand and unsupported is one of the hardest things possible to draw, achieved by few artists, usually only after much practice and was for a long time considered to be the pinnacle of artistic achievement.

+ [p. 40] "Vena the Raven-Haired"

Both name and behaviour echo that of the main character in the Xena: Warrior Princess television series, and Paul Kidby has drawn her armour to look very similar to what Xena typically wears (although it's difficult to tell whether that's a deliberate likeness or just your generic fantasy female warrior outfit in both cases)

+ [p. 69] "Morituri Nolumus Mori"

As explained later on, this is dog-Latin for "We who are about to die don't want to". The original quote is of course "Morituri Te Salutant" -- "We who are about to die salute you", said in Roman amphitheatres by the gladiators to the Emperor.

Also, the mission badge bears a striking resemblance to the NASA badges worn by astronauts and to the NASA logo itself, down to the oval path around the central object.

+ [p. 76] "With your sword... like Carelinus untied the Tsortean Knot?"

In our world's mythology it was Alexander the Great who 'untied' the Gordian Knot this way.

+ [p. 82] "'[...] like who leaves all the weapons and keys and medicine kits lying around in the unexplored dungeons.'"

That you can find such valuable items in unexplored dungeons is known to everybody who has ever played a computer game of e.g. the 'first-person shooter' type.

+ [p. 83] Rincewind is shown as Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, drawn in 1490 in venice.

+ [p. 84] Rincewind's dragon pack has resonances of both James Bond's NASA rocket pack from 1964, and the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) that shuttle astronauts use to manoeuvre outside.

+ [p. 93] "'I think there's a catch there,' said the wizard, knowing that he'd lost."

And the catch is, of course, nothing other than Catch-22, made famous by Joseph Heller's book of the same name.

+ [p. 94] The sign: "No handball playing allowed".

Before the launch, John Glenn pasted a small sign saying "No handball playing here" to the instrument panel of the 'Freedom 7' Mercury flight that was to make Alan Shepard the first American in space.

+ [p. 98] "The Kite rose from the splintering barge."

Terry says:

"As far as I know, Paul designed the Kite (Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Great Bird') from first principles, bearing in mind we wanted to use a sea eagle design to allow it to 'realistically' hold the huge 'salmon'. Then we had a model made up from his original sketches, for him to use as a drawing aid. If you want something that can do the things the Kite does, you end up with a design pretty much like that!"

+ [p. 100] "'Think of it as a sort of... well, a magic carpet ride...'"

Steppenwolf's song 'Magic Carpet Ride' is featured on the soundtrack of many genre films. Amongst others, it can be heard in Apollo 13, Austin Powers 2, Coneheads, The Dish, Jay and Silent Bob strike Back, and Star Trek: First Contact.

Terry says:

"It tends to turn up a lot in SF movies, to the extent that I think directors do it deliberately. I just added to the list."

"I'd swear that it was in My Stepmother Was An Alien, too..."

"Anyway, Magic Carpet Ride is definitely a movie tradition. I'm just wondering how many directors put it in because they'd seen it on the other movies..."

+ [p. 101] "'I've got to get one of these,' he murmured."

Rincewind is saying the same thing Will Smith's character's says in the 1996 movie Independence Day upon admiring a new piece of technology, after having just blasted off into space.

As an afper put it: "The contrast between Will Smith ("I've got to get one of these so I can fly around blowing up aliens for God, motherhood & apple pie") and Rincewind ("I've got to get one of these so I can run away more efficiently") says (to me at least) that this has just got to be deliberate."

Terry later confirmed that it was, indeed, a deliberate reference.

+ [p. 105] "'Leonard took a deep breath. 'Ankh-Morpork, we have an orangutan...'"

"Houston, we have a problem" was what was supposedly said by the crew of Apollo 13, after one of their oxygen tanks blew a leak.

As far as I've been able to ascertain, what astronaut Jack Swigert literally said was first: "Hey, we've got a problem here.", followed (after Mission Control asked him to repeat) by: "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a Main B bus undervolt."

+ [p. 144] Cohen and Io are drawn as Adam and God, from the roof of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarotti in 1509-1512.

+ [p. 156] I can't find a source for this particular picture, but the illustration depicts the minstrel as Orpheus.

+ [p. 157] "'Second star to the left and straight on 'til morning?'"

Those are the directions to Never-Never Land in Peter Pan.

+ [p. 159] The spiraling machine that Leonard is using in this illustration is actually based on a drawing of a helicopter designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

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