Newsgroup Discussions: Carrot and Teatime

Carrot and Teatime

alt.books.pratchett

This thread explores some of the similarities and differences between the actions and characters of Carrot and of Mr. Teatime and contains spoilers for Hogfather and Men at Arms.


Subject: Carrot and Teatime
Date: 19 Oct 1998
From: Trent Hill

I may just be acting irrationally but I have just thought to myself "What's the difference between Carrot Killing the Assassin without a word and Teatime killing the carter without a thought?" I know that they are under different circumstances and Carrot is Good whilst Teatime was Evil but if Pterry had not made the whole lead up about Good men killing without hardly saying a word I would have assumed he was doing it so that no one found out his heritage.


From: Margaret Tarbet

It doesn't seem to me that Teatime did kill the carter without a thought...he killed without need -- the carter offered no threat -- but he delayed 'til he'd got what he wanted. Which says to me that he gave it a lot of thought.

Carrot killed the assassin specifically and immediately because the assassin was about to shoot Vimes. No thought -- he stepped in between Vimes and the gonne and ran the assassin through.


From: Miq

Carrot killed the assassin specifically and immediately because the assassin was about to shoot Vimes. No thought -- he stepped in between Vimes and the gonne and ran the assassin through.

I think Mountaineer has hit an interesting parallel there, though. Carrot and Teatime are alike in that they have no compunction, no trace of regret about what they do, and no hesitation to do it. Both are absolutely convinced that what they are doing is the right thing under the circumstances.

My memory is failing me now. I have a nagging feeling that Carrot has once been bothered by his conscience over something he's done, but I can't think where it is. Anyone?


Date: 20 Oct 1998
From: Trent Hill

I agree he did kill the carter when he became unnecessary but I don't think that he put a lot of thought into it. It seemed very much a spur of the moment thing to do. Something a sadistic child would do really.[1]

My memory is failing me now. I have a nagging feeling that Carrot has once been bothered by his conscience over something he's done, but I can't think where it is. Anyone?

Unless it's in Jingo[3] then I can't think of any time when Carrots conscience has reared it's ugly head.


Date: 22 Oct 1998
From: Mr M P Cairns

I seem to recall he was very concerned that he had used the minimum force necessary in stopping a riot in MAA? when that troll had been arrested? The rules said he was only allowed minimum necessary force and he needed Colon to reassure him that he hadn't stepped over his bounds.

Sadly, there are situations where people are going to end up getting hurt. The riot example is quite good. Let's say that an innocent man is about to be executed. You are a member of the law and know (and can prove) he is innocent. Massive assumption - you also know that the crowd won't accept that this man is innocent and will riot if you stop the execution. In this riot you may well get hurt, the accused almost certainly will and probably lots of others will get seriously hurt as well, possibly killed. What do you do?

There are four three solutions to this problem that I can think of -

The cold logical approach - let the innocent man die to cause the least total deaths and injuries

The "Star Trek" approach - set him free and try to deal with the situation because you can't let any person suffer unfairly

The rules approach - Do exactly what the rule book says you should do in this situation

Anyone considering the first approach would, IMHO, be a horrible person to know - but probably the most sensible, and certainly the kind of b*****d you want as your PM/President/King etc.

The second approach is the kind of person you want as your friend - a slight modification of Mrs. Easy, just to link threads - but could well end up wiping out the city if he ever got in a position of authority.

The third approach is very rigid, if you ever get in a situation not covered by the rules you're in deep trouble.

Which of these is good? The first considers only minimising total harm, the second minimising each person's harm, and the third follows rules which were probably set up to minimise harm.

Teatime is a little different in that IMHO (again) he considers himself first and everything as less important - so in the above situation he would step in if he wanted a good fight, or leave it if he wanted to see the man executed or wanted to make sure he saved his own skin.

The difference between Carrot and Teatime is that Teatime is putting himself first and Carrot others. This may lead to similar actions but the motivations are totally different and surely we can only judge "goodness" on motivations.


Date: 23 Oct 1998
From: francesco.nicoletti

The cold logical approach - let the inocent man die to cause the least total deaths and injuries

This would probably be the patrician's approach if there were no other consequences.

The "Star Trek" approach - set him free and try to deal with the situation because you can't let any person suffer unfairly

The trouble is if a mob (or any other group) finds that it could impose its will by violence (or threat of violence) once it will probably try it again.So you save the person not only because it is right, but because otherwise right will soon not matter, only violence will. This would be the "Babylon 5" approach. But the price is heads get broken.

The rules approach - Do exactly what the rule book says you should do in this situation

What rules? Written by whom? In whose interest? I suspect most law codes would say protect the innocent.Otherwise any society would be reduced to a state of chaos. An unjust government would reserve onto itself the job of victimising the innocent, just to stay in power. A just government would have rules saying victimising the innocent is wrong.


From: Mr M P Cairns

This would probably be the patrician's approach if there were no other consequences.

I agree, that's probably why he's good at his job.

The trouble is if a mob (or any other group) finds that it could impose its will by violence (or threat of violence) once it will probably try it again.

Reasonable so far as it goes, but we can assume the effect of mob mentality getting it's own way into the negative aspects of letting the poor guy die. This could change the cold ruthless approach to the problem, or it could be that the positives still outweigh the negatives. Obviously each situation would have to be interpreted on it's own merit.

A just government would have rules saying victimising the innocent is wrong.

The law book might originally say protect the innocent (although it's unlikely, it's more likely to say protect the innocent assuming it doesn't do Thaddeus Fromwell, writer of these laws, any harm) but that really isn't inclusive enough anyway. Over time, amendments are always written to deal with new and unexpected situations and are not written to only apply in those cases (for instance, in Britain it is illegal to be a Welshman on the streets of Chester - a hangover from a war several hundred years ago). I am certain that always heeding the rules above all else will not always protect the innocent, and I suspect that in any rule book currently existing, in you try to follow all the rules and amendments etc., you will find that there is a situation in which the book/set of laws contradicts itself.


Date: 25 Oct 1998
From: valdis

The law book might originally say protect the innocent (although it's unlikely, it's more likely to say protect the innocent assuming it doesn't do Thaddeus Fromwell, writer of these laws, any harm) but that really isn't inclusive enough anyway.

I'm not sure about that. I think that the law book originally said "punish the guilty" not "protect the innocent". The protecting the innocent bit was then probably added afterwards. Then after more and more of those bits getting added, you got big, ugly monsters of justice systems, like the one in the USA, where if you try to help someone you will probably end up getting sued for potential physical damage and psychological harm.


Date: 28 Oct 1998
From: francesco.nicoletti

Obviously each situation would have to be interpretted on it's own merit.

Why do I get the feeling that Carrot (or his subconscious) would manipulate the situation until the positives did out weigh the negatives.

I am certain that always heeding the rules above all else will not always protect the innocent, and I suspect that in any rule book currently existing, in you try to follow all the rules and amendments etc., you will find that there is a situation in which the book/set of laws contradicts itself.

Vimes exploited that quite well in Jingo - he chose which rules of knighthood to follow, as they were inconsistent enough to allow him to do as he wished. In this case just to get up the nose of Lord whatsname.

Carrot I suspect would exploit the inconsistency in the system to produce a just outcome.


Date: 23 Oct 1998
From: Sam Vimes

The trouble is if a mob (or any other group) finds that it could impose its will by violence (or threat of violence) once it will probably try it again.

Or, if you have Detritus on your side, you can forget about saving someone FROM the mob and worry about saving the mob itself.

A just government would have rules saying victimising the innocent is wrong.

I agree, and I believe it is this, combined with the axioms of "right and wrong" that Vimes usually tosses off, that Carrot uses as his personal rules to back up his already deeply ingrained moral compass.


Date: 19 Oct 1998
From: valdis

I know that they are under different circumstances and Carrot is Good whilst Teatime was Evil but if Pterry had not made the whole lead up about Good men killing without hardly saying a word I would have assumed he was doing it so that no one found out his heritage.

That's an interesting point. That bit about Carrot has been bothering me a lot, and I think that stuff about Good vs. Evil does not quite explain Carrot's behaviour. I think that his concern was mostly getting the job done, i.e. destroying the gonne. He knew that Dr. Cruces would not give it up while he was still alive and he (Carrot) would have to kill him (Dr. Cruces) to do it. The fact that Dr. Cruces knew about his heritage and that he had "killed" Angua also worked as an incentive.

As for Teatime I think that Pterry hadn't considered that side of Evil when he wrote that bit about Good vs. Evil. Trying to say that Teatime wasn't really evil would be a bit childish, but he is not the same kind of Evil as Pterry is referring to. That kind of Evil is the kind that has to gloat, has to see his opponent squirm in the dust. He needs to know that other know about his superiority. Teatime doesn't need that, because he doesn't give a rat's arse about what others think or know, especially some carter.


From: An Thi-Nguyen Le

That's an interesting point. That bit about Carrot has been bothering me a lot, and I think that stuff about Good vs. Evil does not quite explain Carrot's behaviour.

Well, that good/evil stuff does explain his behaviour. Look at it this way: what was the ends? Carrot did what he did so that people wouldn't be endangered by the gonne, which is pretty darn dangerous, more dangerous than a wizard's staff even. Teatime did what he did so that he could forward his own means.

And while killing (quote/unquote) Angua does make Carrot angry, I doubt he let it affect his decision. (Personal isn't the same as important).

Teatime'd smash the universe to see what sound it makes. If Carrot had to kill anybody, he'd try to hurt the fewest people (see article on Lspace about 'good' versus 'nice' versus 'right').

So Carrot is good and right, but not necessarily nice; Vimes is good and nice and not necessarily right; Teatime is neither good nor nice nor right.

That kind of Evil is the kind that has to gloat, has to see his opponent squirm in the dust. He needs to know that other know about his superiority. Teatime doesn't need that, because he doesn't give a rat's arse about what others think or know, especially some carter.

Teatime, as far as I know, liked to kill people to see others squirm. He likes to hold power over other people. So I don't think you can say that he didn't care what other people thought; he didn't care, he only cared that they were afraid of him (see passage in book where he thinks about the memorials to famous assassins, and how the most famous didn't need memorials, and how he aims to be of the latter type -- I'd say that was definitely thinking about himself). He can decide who lives and who dies, and be frivolous about it, and no one can do anything about it.

That's power.


Date: 20 Oct 1998
From: L. Feenstra

Teatime'd smash the universe to see what sound it makes.

This sounds very similar to Vorbis placing Om on its back (and trying to kill Brutha near the end) in Small Gods


Date: 21 Oct 1998
From: Richard Bos

It is. That's why Vorbis is almost as scary as Teatime, and why he's an exquisitor.


Date: 20 Oct 1998
From: Joerg Ruedenauer

As for Teatime I think that Pterry hadn't considered that side of Evil when he wrote that bit about Good vs. Evil.

On the contrary, I think Teatime is exactly this kind of Evil. The point is that evil persons only take a long time for gloating if the one they want to kill is a major character of the story. The "minor" persons are simply not important enough for them. At the end, when Teatime gets a chance to kill Susan with Death's sword, he takes too long, just like any other evil protagonist.


Date: 22 Oct 1998
From: Trent Hill

What helps Teatime decide who is a major character in the story? ;) I think Teatime is gloating over Susan because now its personal. Before she was an irrelevancy, now she is the damn b*tch that stuffed his plan. IMHO


From: Joerg Ruedenauer

Seen from "inside" the story, you're absolutely right. From "outside", PTerry "helps" Teatime decide who is a major character, because only major characters can do things (like stuffing the plan) that turn the matter into something personal.


From: Si Rodgers

Erm..isn't it the other way round; the major characters are kinda defined as those that do affect the plot, stuff the plan, etc. The minor ones are just those that don't. IMHO, anyway. I see Teatime reacting in a certain and particular way to those major characters, however we want to define them, but by virtue of what they do, not who they are.


Date: 23 Oct 1998
From: Richard Bos

In the first book they appear in, this is often the case; but in Susan's case, she was already a major character because of what she had done in previous books, and was therefore very likely to play a major part in this one; it's PTerry's work that she was in it, and did get a major part. Even if she had a small part, she would have been a cameo in this book, but still a major DW character.


Date: 20 Oct 1998
From: Trent Hill

That was what I meant, Susan IS a major character, even if she had played no direct part in the plot. But I also agree with everyone else who argues that major characters are those that directly effect the plot.


From: Opabinia

An example of this is Rincewind in Mort- he only gets a very little part, even though he's already established as one of the most important characters, and judging by other comments the most popular.


Date: 23 Oct 1998
From: Joerg Ruedenauer

Erm..isn't it the other way round; the major characters are kinda defined as those that do affect the plot, stuff the plan, etc. The minor ones are just those that don't. IMHO, anyway.

I think it's both: Only the major characters can (strongly) affect the plot, and only these who affect the plot are major characters [1]. The question what defines what seems to be a bit like the question if the hen or the egg has been there first. IM(H)O, in most of the books, the author knows the major characters before he knows exactly how they will alter the story, so it is mostly the first way round. But that's up to the book, the author and the personal view.

I see Teatime reacting in a certain and particular way to those major characters, however we want to define them, but by virtue of what they do, not who they are.

Perhaps I should've been more clearly here. From Teatime's point of view, he reacts because of the deeds of the major characters. From the point of view that Teatime is the evil protagonist of the story and acting like all evil protagonists, his acting is determined by the fact if the other is a major character or not. He certainly doesn't think of major characters, because he doesn't know he's in a story. By the way, this gets really complicated in WA, where there are stories within stories and the major characters partially know it.

[1] if you like maths: major character <=> affects story


Date: 24 Oct 1998
From: Paul Johnson

As for Teatime I think that Pterry hadn't considered that side of Evil when he wrote that bit about Good vs. Evil.

I don't think that Teatime was Evil. He was the personification of the Amoral Child. The whole book is exploring various aspects of childhood, and children below the age of around 4 or 5 are incapable of empathising. You can teach them not to do something because bad things happen if they do it (shouting, rejection, slapped hands etc), but saying "don't pull the cat's tail because it hurts the cat" just goes right past them.

Teatime never grew out of that phase. At the end he says "I'm in touch with my inner child". He meant it sarcastically, but it was true.


Date: 26 Oct 1998
From: valdis@my-dejanews.com

I just knew that someone would come on with this one, eventually. I wonder, what would be your definition of Evil? Does he have to have a Plan to Conquer the World? How many people does he have to kill without a second thought to be Evil? I'm sure that we can all agree that Mr. Teh-ah-tim-eh was as nutty as a fruitcake and has many childlike qualities but people can be both and still be "nice". Teh-ah-tim-eh is not. Teh-ah-tim-eh is Evil.


Date: 27 Oct 1998
From: Paul Wilkins

So what qualities does he have that make him evil, qualities that children do not have (because we all know that children are evil li'le buggers)


From: Joerg Ruedenauer

I think someone who has no conscience (like Teatime: he doesn't know what's right and what's wrong) is evil. It's just another kind of evil compared to someone who does know what's wrong and does it in spite of that.

The difference to children is that children have a conscience. They just don't have it inside themselves, but their parents are their conscience. At least, that's how I remember Freud's theory from school. Teatime has also no conscience inside himself, but he doesn't listen to an "outer" conscience either.


From: Tamar

I think someone who has no conscience (like Teatime: he doesn't know what's right and what's wrong) is evil. It's just another kind of evil compared to someone who does know what's wrong and does it in spite of that.

Teatime knows intellectually what other people consider right and wrong; he just doesn't care. He believes that other people's rules don't apply to him. Sort of the way I am aware that people in Japan traditionally change to indoor slippers when they come in the house; it's right for them, but it doesn't apply to me. Teatime feels that way about everything; he only does what pleases him (or keeps him temporarily out of trouble for that moment, which pleases him).

The difference to children is that children have a conscience. They just don't have it inside themselves, but their parents are their conscience. At least, that's how I remember Freud's theory from school. Teatime has also no conscience inside himself, but he doesn't listen to an "outer" conscience either.

Most children do have a conscience, or at least the ability to develop one; whether they develop one that matches what you think is important depends on subculture training, including the mini-subculture of their family.

Teatime is like an infant before the age of six months. The ability to develop a conscience is based on the ability to care about another being other than yourself; this develops between the age of six and nine months (according to my psych class). When that doesn't develop (from too few minutes of human contact), the individual becomes a conscienceless being, a psychopath, like Teatime.


From: Miq

Teatime knows intellectually what other people consider right and wrong; he just doesn't care. He believes that other people's rules don't apply to him.

Does he, though? In that first interview with the head of the guild (Downey?), he gives the impression of one who genuinely doesn't understand the rules. He claims that he's genuinely followed all the rules, but he simply hasn't got the hang of the Assassins' code of 'honour'.

Or do you think he's just being disingenuous?


Date: 28 Oct 1998
From: Antti Lehtola

He understood the rules to the letter - and therein lies the catch... He also seemed to understand that he could simply ignore the spirit of the rules, disregard every unwritten part of them, not obey any guidelines of the 'this is what we simply don't do' variety...

"True, there was no actual rule..." (or words to that effect) Downey thought at some point in the conversation. I think it was clear that there was not a single rule Downey could point to and say, "Here, you broke this one, it's the Pit for you, young man." I'm pretty sure he must have checked the rule book for such a rule after more than one or two...messy ends Teatime had left for others to...clean up.

He was sort of like a layer, actually.


From: Paul Johnson

I wonder, what would be your definition of Evil?

It's a good question. I find that the more I think about it, and the more I learn about the world, the less useful I find the concept of Good versus Evil. There are good things and bad things, of course. But to reify these into Good and Evil seems to me on a par with talking about the battle between Light and Darkness (in a literal way, not as a metaphor for Good and Evil).

In part this is why I find TP's writing so fascinating. He explores our concepts of good and evil, and frequently pushes these ideas to the limit (e.g. in Vetinari).

Getting back to the original question I tend to take it as an axiom that the human race is a Good Thing. From that, anything that helps humanity is good, and anything which doesn't is bad. Beyond this the question tends to descend into details of economics, biology, psychology and evolution. For instance I'm currently reading a fascinating book "The Origin of Virtue". It should really be titled "The Evolutionary Origin". There is a general synthesis of ideas coming together taking in the Prisoner's Dilemma, the perspective of the Selfish Gene and free- market economics. This seems to have good predictive value when looking at the ways in which individuals form societies, at every level from chromosomes (there is such as thing as a parasitic chromosome), through multi-cellular organisms, colony organisms (e.g. ants and bees), right up to tribes and nations of humans.

(Aside: Pterry's notions of the hive-minds of bees and pack-minds of wolves fit right into this: its exactly what the combination of DW magic and this socio-biological synthesis ought to produce)

Somewhere during the development of these ideas the concepts of Good and Evil were replaced by economic efficiency, reciprocity and kin selection. An act is not Good or Evil in isolation, but only when judged against its effects on society as a whole.


Date: 31 Oct 1998
From: cbishop@scruznet.com

An act is not Good or Evil in isolation, but only when judged against its effects on society as a whole.

I would agree but extend it to the effect(s) on an individual as well. Otherwise you can have Evil done to one, or a few, for the benefit of the 'many'. When the individual is protected, then society is protected.


This part of the thread grew into the discussion "Evil on the Disc".


Date: 26 Oct 1998
From: Tamar

I don't think that Teatime was Evil. He was the personification of the Amoral Child. The whole book is exploring various aspects of childhood, and children below the age of around 4 or 5 are incapable of empathising.

No. Some children under two years are capable of empathising with, for instance, other people. Expanding what you empathise with from people to include animals is something that happens a bit more slowly in some cases. (Many of us have expanded it to inanimate objects - why else would we shout at our computers when they fail us?)

Teatime never grew out of that phase. At the end he says "I'm in touch with my inner child". He meant it sarcastically, but it was true.

With the infant below the age of six months, yes.


Date: 28 Oct 1998
From: Ophelia

No. Some children under two years are capable of empathising with, for instance, other people. Expanding what you empathise with from people to include animals is something that happens a bit more slowly in some cases.

Certainly I think four is way too old. Most children can emphasise as soon as they have a grasp of language, if not before. I know from experience that if a two year old tot pulls a cat's tail and you respond by asking gently how they'd feel if someone they loved hurt them for a game, they get upset. Just because something doesn't occur to them doesn't mean they're incapable of understanding, and most children show remorse if someone or something they love is hurt/unhappy.

btw, from where does the idea that Teatime doesn't understand right or wrong come from? I thought he understood, but simply didn't care. (So I'm on the "Teatime is Evil" side of things...)

But then, I was watching Susan...


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