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

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Thief of Time

Annotations | Information | Quotes

+ Terry comments on the inspiration for Thief of Time:

"The genesis for ToT, for me, was an article I read a few years ago about a genuine glass clock, with one metal component (the image of it shattering in slow motion tends to stick in the mind) and I believe it was made in Germany. The idea of a perfect clock stopping Time seemed an inevitable next step. This made it a 'Susan' book, because she's not a creature of time... which brought in Death and the Auditors, with their known animosity to life... and so it went."

+ [title] "Thief of Time"

From the old saying: Procrastination is the thief of time.

+ [p. 7] "an enthusiasm for healthy sports [footnote: Mostly involving big, big beachballs]"

A cliché of 50's "naturist" films was a group of women throwing around a large beachball.

+ [p. 7] "Tragedy loomed in the shape of thousands of tons of unaccountably floating iron and an exciting soundtrack..."

A reference to the 1997 movie Titanic.

+ [p. 15] "There were snatches of sound, too, of laughter, tears, screams and for some reason a brief burst of xylophone music, which caused him to pause for a moment."

Refers back to the conversation Susan had with Albert back in Soul Music:

Susan: "I mean I'm an ordinary kid!"

Albert: "Listen, ordinary kids get a xylophone. They don't just ask their granddad to take his shirt off!"

+ [p. 18] "'We are Myria LeJean. Lady Myria LeJean.'"

The name "Myria" resonated with the English word "myriad", meaning "a vast number" or "comprised of a large number of things".

In the Bible, Mark 5, Jesus encounters a man in the country of the Gadarenes who is possessed by not one, but a multitude of unclean spirits: "And [Jesus] asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many." (Jesus allows the spirits to leave the man, and enter a herd of swine instead.)

In other words (and as Susan will also explain later), Myria(d) LeJean/legion is a perfectly appropriate name for a large group of (evil) spirits controlling a human body.

+ [p. 21] "'It's Xeno's Paradox.'"

We've encountered Xeno the philosopher and his paradoxes before, in Pyramids. See the various 'philosopher' annotations for that book.

+ [p. 21] "'Grim Fairy Tales?' he said."

Reference to our world's Grimm's Fairy Tales, after the influential volumes of folk and fairy tales collected and published in the nineteenth century by the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

+ [p. 28] "[footnote: There may, as the philosopher says, be no spoon, although this begs the question of why there is the idea of soup.]"

I don't think there has ever been a philosopher who has made pronouncements about spoons, but "There is no spoon" is of course one of the better-known metaphysical mumbo-jumbo quotes from the original The Matrix movie.

+ [p. 29] "'Master Soto sent him. You know?'"

'Soto' is the last name of Marco Soto, who won a charity auction for the right to appear as a character in a Discworld novel.

+ [p. 31] "'Soto said he saw him perform the Stance of the Coyote!'"

Echoes of the 'Crane' technique' made famous by the The Karate Kid movies. Martial Arts in general, and Kung Fu in particular, have many techniques and styles named after animals, e.g. 'Stance of Horse'.

There's of course also Wile E. Coyote's 'stance' -- suspended in mid-air for seconds before dropping into the ravine -- from the Roadrunner cartoons.

+ [p. 35] "[...] a crowbar dropped out and onto the street with a clang."

Later in the book (p. 138) Lobsang says building a clock that would tick with the universe would be impossible because "it would be like opening a box with the crowbar that's inside", but that's just what happens here because Jeremy has some help. A nice little precursor.

+ [p. 60] "The abbot had never mastered the art of circular ageing."

Circular breathing is the technique of breathing in through the nose while simultaneously breathing out through the mouth. This allows musicians playing a wind instrument to hold a single note for minutes at a time, if necessary.

+ [p. 70] "'It is the Way of Mrs Marietta Cosmopilite, 3 Quirm Street, Ankh-Morpork, Rooms For Rent, Very Reasonable.'"

We have met Mrs Marietta Cosmopilite in several previous books starting from Moving Pictures.

+ [p. 72] "'Word one is, you don't call me "master" and I don't name you after some damn insect.'"

A reference to the 'grasshopper' nickname from the Kung Fu television series (see also the annotation for p. 165/107 of Good Omens ).

+ [p. 110] "Oh, maybe fishermen would start to dredge up strange whiskery fish that they'd only ever seen before as fossils [...]"

Coelacanths are the oldest living fish known to date. In 1938, a Coelacanth was found off the east coast of South Africa. Up to then, these animals were considered to have been extinct since the end of the Cretaceous era.

+ [p. 121] "'You've disobeyed my baababa orders before, though. In Omnia, I remember.'"

Indeed he has. This story is told in greater detail in Small Gods.

+ [p. 124] "'Qu's having fun, I see,' said Lu-Tze."

Qu is of course the Discworld version of Q, head of the technical branch of the British Secret Service in the James Bond movies, who was played by Desmond Llewellyn until his death in 1999.

This entire scene is written in the style of the classic James Bond / Q dialogues. Terry says:

"As I wrote it I could [hear Llewellyn's voice], too. Qu will be back -- unlike, alas, Desmond Llewellyn."

+ [p. 124] "'Bang, instant karma!'"

'Instant Karma!' is the title of a well-known John Lennon track.

+ [p. 130] "He found himself thinking of his new master as the tick-tock man."

'Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktock Man' is the title of a classic science-fiction short story by Harlan Ellison. It describes a dystopian society, ruled and time-regulated down to the microsecond by the Master Timekeeper, aka the Ticktock Man. The Timekeeper is challenged by the free-spirited Harlequin (who is never on time -- a crime punishable by death in that society).

+ [p. 136] "[footnote: 'We belong dead? Ecthcuthe me? Where doeth it thay "we"?']"

From the Bride of Frankenstein movie. See also the annotation for p. 305/255 of Moving Pictures .

+ [p. 150] "'Is it a book?' said one who was slightly intellectual. 'How many words?'"

Reference to the game 'charades'.

+ [p. 159] "Given that she'd met the Tooth Fairy, the Soul Cake Duck and Old Man Trouble, it amazed Susan that she had grown up to be mostly human, nearly normal."

Susan met the Tooth Fairy in Hogfather. For the Soul Cake Duck see the annotation for p. 75/57 of Soul Music , and for Old Man Trouble see the annotation for p. 86 of Feet of Clay .

+ [p. 188] "'Mr Black. Mr Green. Miss Brown. Miss White. Miss... Yellow. And Mr Blue.'"

Reminiscent of the criminal protagonists in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs (Mr White, Mr Orange, Mr Blonde, Mr Pink, Mr Brown and Mr Blue). Note how 'Mr Blonde' maps to 'Miss... Yellow'.

+ [p. 274] "The idea was strangely attractive."

Strange attractors are a concept from mathematics, specifically the study of chaos theory and dynamical systems.

+ [p. 275] "The Fifth Horseman rode out, and a faint smell of cheese followed him"

The Bible, Revelation 6:7: "And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed with him".

+ [p. 283] "'"Oh, my paws and whiskers"?'"

The White Rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is always late (i.e. having trouble with time) and anxious: "Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!". See also the annotation for p. 46/35 of Soul Music .

+ [p. 289] "The Death of Rats had scurried up the side of the clock [...]"

As the nursery rhyme goes:

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory Dickory Dock


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