Newsgroup Discussions: Fog and FoC

Fog and FoC

alt.books.pratchett

Editor's Note: To reduce the amount of duplicated text, quoted posts have been occasionally paraphrased or edited.


Subject: [R] Fog and FoC
Date: 16 Dec 2000
From: Miq

I just re-read "Feet of Clay", for the umpth time...

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among the green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Circle Sea, fog on the Sto Plains. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the harbour, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient marine pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.
Adapted from Charles Dickens, 'Bleak House', chapter 1.

This is, as you know, not how 'Feet of Clay' begins. But considering that the fog does not seem to play a terribly important part in the story, the number of mentions it gets is truly astonishing. From spring mist to dense autumn smog, Ankh-Morpork spends almost the entire book wreathed in dense cloud - and, as in 'Moving Pictures', it changes everything - making the familiar strange, hiding what should be in plain view.

Our first sight of Sam Vimes catches him shaving, using a mirror. The weather is clear - clear enough for an assassin to take a shot at him through the window, and clear enough for Vimes to see it coming and dodge. The shot shatters both the window and the mirror - and from this moment, Vimes is lost. "Looks like the fog's rising again," Carrot remarks to the bakery thieves later that morning - and it permeates the rest of the book.

Fog is strange stuff. It obscures vision without reducing light. You can look out and see broad daylight, yet find you can't see the far side of the street. Light seems to make it clearer:

Tendrils of fog slipped in around the shutters and brushed against the wall until they were frightened away by the candlelight.
(p.110, Gollancz h/b - probably circa p.150 p/b)

... but as any experienced driver knows, this effect is often illusory. Like headlamps in fog, this candlelight is treacherous.

More than this, it muffles sound and destroys one's sense of direction. Vimes has learned to navigate the city not by sight, but by the feel of the cobbles through his boots. It makes the familiar seem strange, and allows the strange to pass unnoticed - the golem eludes Vimes on the Brass Bridge while remaining in plain view, simply by using the fog to disguise itself. In much the same way, Dragon shows Vimes the key to the plot, in the form of Arthur Carry's punning coat of arms, but relies on the fog of heraldry to prevent him from seeing it.

But perhaps the most important effect of fog is psychological. When Vimes pursues the golem across the bridge,

... he felt automatically for his bell, which would summon other Watchmen, but the Commander of the Watch didn't carry a bell. Commanders of the Watch were on their own.
(p.107 h/b)

In the fog, everyone is alone.

Vimes' isolation, in this most introspective of books, is figurative as well as literal. At first he keeps Carrot away from the investigation (to protect him from any possible connection with the crime); this leaves him with only the likes of Colon and Detritus to confide in. The one time we see Sybil in this book, she's asleep; and at the end of the book, when Sam wakes up and sets off to arrest Dragon, he leaves the trusted Detritus and Carrot sleeping, taking instead the completely unknown quantity of Dorfl.

Similarly, Vetinari refuses to confide in anyone, even the faithful Drumknott. Cheery, already isolated from her fellow alchemists, chooses further to distance herself from other dwarfs. Even Colon, pricked by pride, finds himself detectoring on his own. Meshugah is unique: alone among golems, he is expected to think for himself, and this enforced isolation - in contrast to the voluntary states of the heroes - drives him mad, until he runs off into the fog and screams in the night. Nobby finds himself unexpectedly cut off from his world and catapulted into High Society - where he finds himself being used, like the yudasgoat, as a sort of animate fog, to cover someone else's intentions.

Isolation is a testing experience, for all of them. Meshugah blames the humans who helped to create him, and kills them - arguably, a perfectly rational reaction, from a being that is compelled to 'CREATE JUSTICE FOR ALL' and 'LEAD US TO FREEDOM'. Dorfl, by contrast, accepts his own responsibility - all his fellow conspirators having destroyed themselves:

There were no Words between you and It. You belonged to It, It belonged to you. You couldn't turn your back on It because there It was in front of you.

Dorfl was responsible for every tick and swerve of It. You couldn't say, 'I had orders.' You couldn't say, 'It's not fair.'

No one was listening. There were no Words. You owned yourself. [...] Not thou shalt not. Say I will not.
(p.224 h/b)

But the isolation, like everything else associated with the fog, is an illusion. Other people are still out there, whether you can see them or not. Even alone, you are still (as John Donne put it) part of Humanity; what any human being does reflects on you, because like it or not, You are one of Them - and if They are capable of a particular crime, that means that You are, too. The golems feel this more acutely than most of us: they share the shame of Meshugah's crimes, and Dorfl shares the pain of his fellow conspirators as they destroy themselves.

This is one reason why the characters go out of their way to distance themselves from others; humans, dwarfs, undead, golems, guild members, High Society - all identify themselves by excluding the others. So a dwarf identifies herself as innately morally superior to a werewolf, and a werewolf thinks of a golem in the same terms.

At the end of the book, Dorfl talks about his plan to lead his people out of bondage: 'No One Else To Do It For Us. We Will Do It By Ourselves.' Paradoxically, he takes it for granted that the others, once free, will choose to follow his example and join him in his crusade. Like Cheery, and Visit, he hopes to end his isolation not by changing himself, but by making others more like him.

Compare these characters with the behaviour of Carrot and Angua. Angua has her secrets - from Cheery (that she's a werewolf), and even from Carrot (that she's planning to leave him). She feels the need for isolation, and only right at the end does she begin to think that it's possible to have a little personal space, even with Carrot.

In a book where, one by one, everyone's secrets are uncovered, Carrot alone remains as enigmatic as ever. This is the book, I think, where I first started to wonder about his true motivations: there are tiny quirks in his behaviour that don't seem right. Why did he take Vimes to the Dwarf Bread Museum before taking Angua? Why does he disobey Vimes' very explicit order not to go into the factory until support arrives? Why is he so understanding of everyone, even golems, yet fails completely to understand the feelings of those characters who are theoretically closest to him (Angua, Cheery, Vimes)?

Speculation: maybe Carrot's abrupt removal from dwarf society, at a very young age (16 is young even by human standards - in dwarf terms, he must have been little more than a babe in arms) means that he has never developed the capacity for empathy. He doesn't exclude anything, because it would never occur to him to identify with anyone except himself. Dwarfs, humans, trolls, golems, werewolves - all are the same to him, because it never occurs to him that he is one of them at all.


Date: 17 Dec 2000
From: Paul Andinach

I don't think this works. Carrot clearly identifies himself with dwarfkind on numerous occasions.


From: Miq

He calls himself a dwarf, yes, but does he really think he is one? Heck, Carrot doesn't even have a beard, much less a little iron helmet and an axe. He doesn't hate trolls, he doesn't sing (or even think) about gold. Note how shocked Cheery is at the suggestion of shaving or removing her helmet: 'It belonged to my grandmother! It's dwarfish!'

From 'The Fifth Elephant':

Cheery had retained her beard and iron helmet, of course. It was one thing to declare you were female, but quite unthinkable to declare that you weren't a dwarf.
(p.38 Doubleday h/b)

Yet Carrot has no problem with making this declaration on a daily basis. It doesn't seem to prevent other dwarfs from seeing him as a dwarf - Cheery herself does, for one. What Carrot lacks is her self-image as a dwarf.

Nor is it because Carrot is so much more open-minded and liberal in attitudes than Cheery. He's deeply shocked when she first shows up in a skirt - but he himself flouts convention, constantly, in a far more radical way.


Date: 18 Dec 2000
From: T J Wilkinson

Isn't that very common? People who are completely radical about some aspects of life being unthinkingly conventional in others? I'm reminded of the radicals in the 60s and the frequent appearance of unthinking sexism - I've heard a number of women describe the male hippies as assuming the women were just there to bear babies and do the dog-work. In fact the history of feminism is full of otherwise radical men regarding their sexism as natural and being honestly and completely shocked by a different view point.


Victoria's post was a direct response to Miq's original post, and led to a detailed discussion between the two. All quoted remarks in the post below are from Miq


From: Victoria Martin

But considering that the fog does not seem to play a terribly important part in the story, the number of mentions it gets is truly astonishing.

Yup. Pick a page at random and you can usually find a couple of mentions.

I've always assumed that the prime function of the fog - apart from the obvious 'creating atmosphere', which it does very effectively - is to mimic the action of the arsenic. It gets in everywhere, you can't help but breathe it in, it's profoundly menacing and it makes Vimes, and the reader, think obliquely of poison because of the way it's described. It is, in fact, a Clue.

The fact that this menace can be temporarily driven back by candlelight is a lovely ironic touch. The fog is also a useful metaphor for the threat to the city (the conspirators in this book being the most ill-defined set of villains of any DW novel - and I regard this as a strength of the plot in this instance. The only time we see them they are so wreathed in cigar smoke that they might as well be in thick fog). Because we don't know who the plotters are, nor what their specific intentions are, beyond the replacement of Vetinari by a puppet king, they can't contribute directly to Vimes' sense of fear and frustration, but the fog does a splendid job of representing the shadowy threat they pose, intangible, unclear, slipping through the fingers of the law.

In the fog, everyone is alone.

Some of what follows I find totally convincing, other bits I'm more sceptical about. I think the 'fog makes it hard to see what's under your nose' aspect of your analysis hits the nail harder on the head.

Vimes' isolation, in this most introspective of books, is figurative as well as literal. At first he keeps Carrot away from the investigation (to protect him from any possible connection with the crime);

Yes, I loved that sense of paranoia. I also wonder, in the light of T5E, whether Vimes is being totally honest with himself about his motives for keeping Carrot out - on the surface of his mind, his thoughts are all about protecting Carrot, but Lord Vetinari's question 'Ah, Sir Samuel, but who can you trust?' does at least hint at the possibility that under these circumstances even Carrot cannot be trusted as Vimes would trust himself. This paranoia fades very rapidly and ceases to become relevant after these initial scenes, but it's beautifully done while it lasts.

this leaves him with only the likes of Colon and Detritus to confide in. The one time we see Sybil in this book, she's asleep;

Don't we get to hear one of her 'All things considered, she was jolly lucky' speeches? Which, I concede, certainly serves to reinforce the sense that the characters are isolated from each other.

Similarly, Vetinari refuses to confide in anyone, even the faithful Drumknott.

I expect the experience with Wonse has taught him not to place too much faith in secretaries (it was nice to learn in TT that Drumknott is cast in a very different mould).

Meshugah is unique: alone among golems, he is expected to think for himself, and this enforced isolation - in contrast to the voluntary states of the heroes - drives him mad

Surely what drives him mad is the need to obey the huge number of conflicting words in his head? It's true that he's unique, but he isn't expected to think for himself - only Dorfl achieves that advanced state. Meshugah is unique because his master is the other golems, but he still has to carry out their orders. Nor can he be completely isolated, since he is 'clay of their clay'. In a mysterious way, the others even seem to know that Meshugah is responsible for poisoning people - Vimes says to Dragon 'It was sick involving the golems, they could feel what their king was doing'

Nobby finds himself unexpectedly cut off from his world and catapulted into High Society - where he finds himself being used, like the yudasgoat, as a sort of animate fog, to cover someone else's intentions.

Isn't the metaphor even more explicit than that? That as the king he would deliver 'his' people into the hands of merciless exploiters?

But the isolation, like everything else associated with the fog, is an illusion. Other people are still out there, whether you can see them or not.

Like the Easys (whom even Carrot didn't know).

Carrot alone remains as enigmatic as ever.

When I first learned that the book was going to be called FoC, I started wondering who would turn out to have feet of clay, and concluded after reading it that it was Carrot.

Why did he take Vimes to the Dwarf Bread Museum before taking Angua? Why does he disobey Vimes' very explicit order not to go into the factory until support arrives?

I can't remember these bits in any kind of detail, but they're interesting questions. I'll see if I can re-read it and come up with anything.

Why is he so understanding of everyone, even golems, yet fails completely to understand the feelings of those characters who are theoretically closest to him (Angua, Cheery, Vimes)?

I think this is a working through of the 'personal isn't important' theme. Because everyone is important to Carrot, no one is more important than anyone else (I was fascinated by the way T5E reversed this). Just because he has a personal relationship with someone, doesn't make that person more important than other people he knows less well. From an objective moral perspective, he has a point. In practice, it's almost inhuman to think like that (the example I gave last time was that if you could save your own child from an accident or someone else's twins, most people would save their own child. But Carrot might not - Carrot might sacrifice his own feelings to the greater good, even though this would be a terrible betrayal of his own child).

Speculation: maybe Carrot's abrupt removal from dwarf society[...] means that he has never developed the capacity for empathy.

That can't be the right way of putting it - what does he feel for Dorfl if not empathy? What he doesn't seem to have developed - or at least not until T5E - is the sense that it's okay for some people to matter to him more than others, that the subjective viewpoint is valid as well as the objective one. I think of it as part of his 'kingliness', that 'all men count with you, but none too much', and it's one of the things Vimes distrusts about idealism.

He doesn't exclude anything, because it would never occur to him to identify with anyone except himself.

It's a possible reading but it runs rather counter to the tone of the books, which seem to suggest that one of Carrot's greatest gifts is the ability to fit in anywhere - down a dwarf mine, in the deserts of Klatch, on the streets of A-M - and in order to be able to do that he has to be able to identify with the inhabitants. He intuitively understands the D'regs way of life and picks up their language, he talks Klatchian to Mr Goriff, he seems to Angua to 'wear' A-M. Where the worm of doubt creeps in T5E is in assessing how far he exploits his ability to empathise in order to manipulate people, but I don't think you can convincingly argue that he lacks empathy. It may be that having been inculcated in the dwarfish way of life, he is vastly tolerant of all social structures which are not dwarfish, because they don't matter in the same way, but this isn't the same as a lack of empathy.


From: Miq

[the fog] is, in fact, a Clue.

Well... it could be a clue to the reader, but nobody is described as 'breathing' the fog. The experience of choking on fog is something I've only read about, never experienced, and there's no suggestion of it in this book.

It can't be called a Clue in the conventional detective-story sense, because the fog itself is completely unrelated to the poisoning plot. And I don't think Vimes ever sees any connection between the two.

The only time we see [the conspirators] they are so wreathed in cigar smoke that they might as well be in thick fog.

Yup. Another nice touch is the way we never see Dragon clearly, only in shadows and dim half-light. After their first encounter, Vimes isn't even sure whether he has wings or not.

the fog does a splendid job of representing the shadowy threat they pose, intangible, unclear, slipping through the fingers of the law.

Well... the fog isn't a threat, per se. It reinforces the isolation, the sense of paranoia - shadowy people with shadowy motives, yes, but they're not directly associated with the fog in any way. Their plot would work exactly the same without it.

I think the 'fog makes it hard to see what's under your nose' aspect of your analysis hits the nail harder on the head.

I think that isolation and self-reliance are a Major Theme here. Vimes solves the case pretty much on his own, and is amazed when he discovers how much of it Carrot has worked out independently. Vimes instinctively mistrusts everyone, which means he has no option but to do all the work himself; Carrot takes the opposite approach, which means that he has a lot more resources to draw on. Carrot is never alone - even when Gimlet the restaurateur thinks he is, that's just because Angua is under the table.

Surely what drives [Meshugah] mad is the need to obey the huge number of conflicting words in his head? It's true that he's unique, but he isn't expected to think for himself

Okay, I'm stretching a point a bit here. But he does have to think for himself, because of the huge number of words in his head. If you have a dozen conflicting commandments, that means you have to keep making choices between them. And those commandments ("LEAD US TO FREEDOM", etc.) preclude the idea of total obedience to a human master. The other golems simply do what their lawful owners tell them, but for Meshugah, that's not an option. He has to try to satisfy his words, and dumb 'obedience' won't do that. But he doesn't have 'free will' either - Dorfl is the first golem to gain that.

Meshugah is unique because his master is the other golems, but he still has to carry out their orders.

Meshugah's isolation takes the form of the 'loneliness of command'. He can't ask anyone for advice or support, he has no-one to consult or confide in.

Isn't the metaphor even more explicit than that? That as the king he would deliver 'his' people into the hands of merciless exploiters?

Arguably, but I think that's stretching it. The conspirators weren't proposing to slaughter the population of Ankh-Morpork, even metaphorically. We don't even know that they'd be particularly bad as rulers. Selfish and corrupt, yes, but for most people - certainly for Cockbill Street people - life would probably go on pretty much as before.

When I first learned that the book was going to be called FoC, I started wondering who would turn out to have feet of clay, and concluded after reading it that it was Carrot.

You think so? I think you could make a case for all the principals having some sort of hidden weakness here. Vimes' paranoia works against him, and he seems to realise this himself (this is the book where he makes that crack about 'My name's Sam and I'm a suspicious bastard.') Vetinari turns out to have remarkably little political support, when the chips are down (a scenario repeated in TT).

Why did he take Vimes to the Dwarf Bread Museum before taking Angua? Why does he disobey Vimes' very explicit order not to go into the factory until support arrives?

The first one is just a throwaway line. You recall how he takes Angua, evidently for the first time, and they discover Hopkinson's body, at the beginning of the book? When he's reporting the murder to Vimes, he says 'You remember, I introduced you to him when I took you to see the Boomerang Biscuit exhibition.'

The second is a much bigger thing. Vimes tells Carrot and Angua

'You two get down to Carry's tallow works. Just keep an eye on it until we get there, understand? Spy out the place, but don't go in, understand? Right? Do not in any circumstances move in. Do I make myself clear? Just remain in the area. Right?'
(p.240, h/b)

... which I'd call fairly explicit, as orders go. But Carrot decides to go in when he sees Meshugah entering the factory.

I think this is a working through of the 'personal isn't important' theme. Because everyone is important to Carrot, no one is more important than anyone else

That's not quite true, even at this stage. Vimes is very important to Carrot - note how he reacts to the guild leaders' demand to search his office. I think Angua is also more-than-normally important to him - she certainly thinks she is.

But how would you explain his reaction to Cheery's 'coming out'?

what does he feel for Dorfl if not empathy?

He sees Dorfl as a person, just the same as all the other people (human, troll, dwarf, gnome, undead) that he's met. To him, a person is an entity that responds when he talks or otherwise reasons with it. A golem is no different from any other person, and he sees it as irrational to treat him any differently - but it's a pragmatic approach, not a moral one.

But I find that one thing I can't easily imagine him doing is the trick of mentally putting himself in someone else's shoes.

I think of it as part of his 'kingliness', that 'all men count with you, but none too much', and it's one of the things Vimes distrusts about idealism.

And I'm with Vimes on that... but I think that's a form of empathy. If you take the trouble to empathise with someone, that means you can't help but weigh their feelings, or at least your perception of their feelings, more heavily than other considerations.

It's not just that he goes out of his way not to treat Angua better than anyone else - he doesn't - but he really doesn't seem to have the faintest idea what she's thinking.

one of Carrot's greatest gifts is the ability to fit in anywhere - down a dwarf mine, in the deserts of Klatch, on the streets of A-M - and in order to be able to do that he has to be able to identify with the inhabitants.

I think that's a non sequitur. He doesn't do that by identifying with anyone, but by treating everyone exactly the same. If someone acts and reacts like a person, then - as far as Carrot's concerned - they're a person, end of story. He doesn't suffer from bizarre preconceptions about how to behave in front of Klatchians, because he doesn't think of 'Klatchians' as a category (except insofar as they're 'people who speak a different language').


Date: 20 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

It can't be called a Clue in the conventional detective-story sense, because the fog itself is completely unrelated to the poisoning plot. And I don't think Vimes ever sees any connection between the two.

I didn't mean it was a Clue for Vimes, but it is for the reader (at least on re-reading).

Well... the fog isn't a threat, per se.

Not viewed objectively, no, but it feels threatening, and it's described using threatening vocabulary (all that tuff about tendrils and so forth).

I didn't mean that the fog was a part of the plot, but that it is a metaphor for the conspiracy, providing the sense of intangible danger which they themselves can't provide (because if we saw enough for them to feel the threat, then they would no longer be shadowy and insubstantial).

I think that isolation and self-reliance are a Major Theme here. Vimes solves the case pretty much on his own, and is amazed when he discovers how much of it Carrot has worked out independently.

But on the other hand he has a lengthy discussion with Carrot about how the poison might be being administered (this is the scene where Carrot knows all the details about when the food is delivered and how it's brought up) and he relies quite heavily on Cheery.

Okay, I'm stretching a point a bit here. But [Meshugah] does have to think for himself, because of the huge number of words in his head. If you have a dozen conflicting commandments, that means you have to keep making choices between them.

But what sends him mad is the fact that he can't make that choice - as a golem, he must obey the words in his head, he can't make a rational choice about which ones to prioritise.

he can't ask anyone for advice or support, he has no-one to consult or confide in.

I don't honestly think these are needs felt by any golem until Dorfl gains free will. Meshugah has to obey the words in his head, so he can't ask for advice about which ones to ignore, or for support in carrying out his decision. There wouldn't be any point in consultation.

[Nobby as judasgoat] The conspirators weren't proposing to slaughter the population of Ankh-Morpork, even metaphorically.

My own feeling - and I know not everyone agrees with this - is that the deaths of William and Mrs Easy were indicative of the conspirators' utter disregard of human life. As long as they can get power, they really don't care who gets trampled on. This is quite clearly different from Vetinari's attitude to people as a precious resource. He may not be an interventionist ruler (although he's managed to introduce sweeping social changes) but he doesn't waste lives either.

We don't even know that they'd be particularly bad as rulers. Selfish and corrupt, yes, but for most people - certainly for Cockbill Street people - life would probably go on pretty much as before.

As long as they didn't get in the way.

Vimes' paranoia works against him, and he seems to realise this himself (this is the book where he makes that crack about 'My name's Sam and I'm a suspicious bastard.')

I'm not sure about this - aren't Vimes' copper's instincts one of his great strengths?

Vetinari turns out to have remarkably little political support, when the chips are down

Vetinari has never had political support when the chips are down - that was made clear in G!G! (where even Vimes feels that the populace of A-M might have shown a little more loyalty). And he's always been an isolated enigmatic figure, that's the way he works.

But Carrot decides to go in when he sees Meshugah entering the factory.

Carrot isn't a golem. Neither is Vimes. Both of them, at key moments, choose to disobey orders in the light of new circumstances - Vimes heads off for Klatch in J, Carrot goes into the factory. Both are proved right. Vimes doesn't tear a strip off Carrot for disobeying orders because he recognises that being able to think for oneself is a valuable attribute in an officer. Carrot is bright enough to recognise when an order is wrong.

Vimes is very important to Carrot - note how he reacts to the guild leaders' demand to search his office. I think Angua is also more-than- normally important to him - she certainly thinks she is.

Okay, we're going to have to be careful here. You're right that Angua and Vimes (and, I think, Vetinari) are more important to Carrot than most people, although that is at least in part because he recognises that they do a better job than most people, so they aren't only valuable to him. But if I'm prepared to concede that I was overstating my case slightly, will you in return acknowledge that claiming that Carrot 'completely fails to understand the feelings of those characters who are theoretically closest to him' is also an overstatement? Can you give me an example of a 'complete failure' of this sort? Yes, it sometimes annoys Angua that he's so accepting of her, but that's more her problem than his, I feel. She finds being a werewolf such a tortuous experience, that she can't understand why he doesn't have a problem with it. And he does mind - badly - that other people say nasty things about her.

But how would you explain his reaction to Cheery's coming out'?

I'm afraid my take on dwarf society always has been that it is deeply sexist, despite all the denials from the dwarfs and from The Author (TM). Whatever Cheery's private thoughts on the matter, the fact is that is far more shocking for dwarfs that she walks around in a skirt and make-up than that Carrot walks around without a beard and helmet.

To him, a person is an entity that responds when he talks or otherwise reasons with it.

But in order to know how that entity will respond, he has to be able to empathise with it.

A golem is no different from any other person, and he sees it as irrational to treat him any differently - but it's a pragmatic approach, not a moral one.

I'm not entirely sure how far these two concepts can be disentangled here. Carrot treats people the way he does, because that's the way he is - to that extent, it's a pragmatic attitude. But he would be as opposed as Granny is to 'treating people as things'. To that extent, his behaviour is also a reflection of a moral attitude. The leap from 'this is a person' to 'therefore this is someone of intrinsic worth' is a moral leap.

If you take the trouble to empathise with someone, that means you can't help but weigh their feelings, or at least your perception of their feelings, more heavily than other considerations.

Unless you're 'empathising' with everyone, can see everyone's point of view, know what makes everyone tick. Then it becomes harder to put the needs of your special friend above those of the equally deserving multitude.

He doesn't [identify with the inhabitants] by identifying with anyone, but by treating everyone exactly the same.

Again, I think we need to be more precise here. He doesn't treat everyone exactly the same because their cultures differ so widely that they wouldn't want to be treated the same. His attitude to them is the same - as you said, he thinks of them all as 'people', but his treatment of them varies.

he doesn't think of 'Klatchians' as a category

But this doesn't imply a lack of empathy, just an admirable resistance to stereotyping.


At this point, the main part of the thread split into two distinct parts, the first of which continued to discuss Carrot's character and actions, and included a change of thread name to Carrot and Vimes - a subthread large enough to merit its own section.


From: Miq

[Vetinari] doesn't waste lives either.

That makes sense. In TT, in fact, Vetinari's hands-off approach to government is very clearly seen as a virtue.
(p.n tells Tulip that 'nothing' is 'One of the hardest things to do properly, in politics.' Which is very true.)

I still see Nobby as more of a cover than a decoy, though. People don't really have to follow him, actively - just carry on behaving themselves, and they'll never know who's giving the real orders.

aren't Vimes' copper's instincts one of his great strengths?

A strength and a weakness, maybe? :o)
If Vimes had involved Carrot from the beginning, the two of them together might have worked it out much more quickly. And because he insists on handling the whole thing himself, he becomes vulnerable to Dragon's attempt to frame him - although his instincts do help him there...

Incidentally, do you have any ideas about the choice of guild leaders who show up for that? Lord Downey, Mr Boggis and Mrs Palm. We know that Downey is none too fond of Vimes, and vice versa; Boggis has always come across as a bit of a buffoon; but Mrs Palm has usually been one of the more sympathetic guild leaders, as far as I can recall.

Both [Carrot and Vimes], at key moments, choose to disobey orders in the light of new circumstances - Vimes heads off for Klatch in J, Carrot goes into the factory.

But there are no 'new circumstances' there. They already knew that Meshuggah was working in the candle factory; so it went in, after having been off somewhere (chasing Colon, as it happened), there was every probability that it would stay there for a reasonable time. What did Carrot think he, Angua and Cheery could do, alone, against a golem? Why not wait for at least a couple of trolls to arrive?

Can you give me an example of this sort? [Carrot fails to understand the feelings of those characters who are theoretically closest to him]

Look at his conversation with Angua at the very end of the book. Angua is packing to leave, and she's convinced that Carrot is coming to ask her to marry him or some such. Yet Carrot ends up asking her to help him restore the Dwarf Bread Museum. He seems quite bewildered when she says 'no' before even hearing the question - I'm reasonably sure he doesn't have the faintest idea what's going through her mind at this point. As far as I can see, the whole scene illustrates the gap between them - neither can read the other anything like correctly.

There are other scenes, earlier, which make a point of misunderstandings in conversations with Carrot. He seems very bad at understanding things that people assume he'll understand. (Vimes has to explain the framing attempt to him in more detail than he expects to, for instance.)

Whatever Cheery's private thoughts on the matter, the fact is that is far more shocking for dwarfs that she walks around in a skirt and make-up than that Carrot walks around without a beard and helmet.

It's not just her private thoughts, though. In T5E, when this feminine-dwarf idea has spread, they've all adopted the same approach - skirt and makeup yes, but the beard and helmet stay.

The leap from 'this is a person' to 'therefore this is someone of intrinsic worth' is a moral leap.

Umm... I seem to be getting confuzzled here. No, Carrot's not amoral in the sense that I seemed to be suggesting there. What I'm trying to suggest is that - just maybe - Carrot thinks of everyone else as people, but never thinks of himself as one.


Date: 28 Dec 2000
From: Vampyre

Look at his conversation with Angua at the very end of the book... As far as I can see, the whole scene illustrates the gap between them - neither can read the other anything like correctly.

here's my view on that scene. carrot knew that Angua was thinking about leaving. he didn't want her to go, so he had to find some reason for her to stay. Angua is a bit more of a romantic, so she thinks that the only way carrot would make her stay would be marriage (which is, i think, what she wants deep down). She forgets in this scene that carrot is indeed simple, but also intelligent. its the old thing of good and bad actors. so carrot uses a simple way to make her stay. i think it's generally a very confused scene, no one knows what the other is going on about!

i can imagine little cherry standing there through that conversation looking from face to face (or more likely,from waist to waist), with a bewildered expression on her's.

if you subscribe to the "scheming Carrot" view, he knows exactly which buttons to push at this delicate point, or else [...] just by being himself he makes her aware that she loves him [...]

awww... so what if you subscribe to both ideas? carrot can be a scheming bastard when he needs to be, but he's also an innocent young man who wouldn't intentionally harm a fly... or at least as long as it's a law abiding fly...

There are other scenes, earlier, which make a point of misunderstandings in conversations with Carrot.

again it's all part of the "only a good actor can be a bad actor" thing. carrot keeps up the simple literal-mindedness as a mask, so that he can be totally unpredictable.

as i understand it, carrot never knew about the whole thing with Nobby being an earl. it was all part of Vimes idea to protect him from suspicion. but, carrot had figured out the golem thing before anyone else had. carrot had been taken off the Vetinari case, because he was the person most likely to gain from Vetinari's death. so he was fulfilling his job.


Date: 29 Dec 2000
Subject: Victoria Martin

It's really hard to know how to take Carrot sometimes. I note that the only time suspicions are raised in the reader's mind it's either via Vimes or via Angua, and neither of them can ever decide if he's 'for real' or not. For what it's worth, my own take on it is this: Carrot in G!G! is 'for real'. He's as simple and straightforward as he seems and as literal-minded as any other dwarf. Truly impartial, he tries to book the Patrician for having a wonky carriage wheel, he arrests the dragon and reads her rights, and he literally throws the book at Wonse. He's extremely idealistic and completely unafraid, he delights Vimes by beating up the scum in the Mended Drum and by arresting the head of the Thieves' Guild, and he really isn't very bright. Very kingly, in fact.

Between G!G! and MAA he undergoes some rapid character development, which can only be explained as the impact of the experience of living in the big city, although he also has his IQ raised by several notches. He figures out that arresting thieves isn't the sensible way of doing things, and he learns a tremendous amount from Vimes, most importantly that monarchy is a Bad Thing. In fact, in MAA we come to the rather curious position that Carrot is pretty much the perfect leader figure, kind-hearted, noble, brave and with a legitimate claim to the throne, yet he is so far from being tempted to ascend to that throne that the gonne itself has no power over him. And because he doesn't want to be king, that makes him even more perfect.

It's not surprising therefore that in FoC Pterry, whose thoughts on the monarchy seem not so different from those of Sam Vimes, does a little back-pedaling and cracks begin to appear in Carrot's image. First of all we learn that even though he knows everyone by name, he's actually distanced from who they really are because he always sees good in them. People try to live up to this idealised image Carrot has of them, and so for as long as he's around the magic works and they do behave as he expects - but they aren't really like that, and forcing people to be something they're not is a big Pratchett moral no-no.

Secondly, it begins to be suggested that there is more to Carrot than meets the eye, that his innocence may be a front for something more devious. This is done, as I said, by Vimes and Angua, but in both cases what they are really wondering is whether Carrot knows about the effect he has on people around him. T5E strongly suggests that he does, that he has become consciously aware that the good he sees in people isn't necessarily there, but that he can get them to behave as if they were good by the way he treats them.

I think it's interesting that as the Watch books progress, Vetinari becomes more sympathetic and Carrot less so - the former ceases to be the villain of the piece (at least in the world according to Vimes) and becomes the unambiguously legitimate ruler, whilst Carrot moves from being the perfect prince-in-waiting, to someone much more ambiguous. In G!G! Vimes can't understand why he saved Vetinari; in J he protests that he can't arrest him. In MAA Carrot appears to save Vimes from his own Stoneface side, in J and T5E a certain strain has appeared in their relationship and there are hints that Carrot wants more autonomous control over the Watch and is critical of certain aspects of Vimes' approach to policing
(primarily those involving paperwork, I concede).

carrot can be a scheming bastard when he needs to be, but he's also an innocent young man who wouldn't intentionally harm a fly... or at least as long as it's a law abiding fly....

I don't think you can have your cake and eat it in quite so blatant a fashion. You'll have to find a way of defusing the negative vibes emanated by the word 'scheming bastard'. Personally, I don't think it's such a bad thing to have reached the level of self-awareness Carrot has, not least because it makes him potentially a far more interesting character. Equally, I don't see that one then has to go back and read 'scheming Carrot' into everything he ever did or does. I don't think his basic character has changed, he's just had his consciousness raised a bit.

By the time they reach the factory, they all know that there's a connection between the golem and the poisoning. They know that Meshugah has been working with arsenic (because Cheery tested the grease found under Father Tubelcek's fingers) and they know that the arsenic has been put into the candles. The two plot lines have converged to the point where they can't be disentangled.


The next section follows the part of the thread concerning Meshuggah.
We pick this section of the thread up on Dec 21st...


Date: 21 Dec 2000
From: Miq

[Meshuggah] But what sends him mad is the fact that he can't make that choice - as a golem, he must obey the words in his head, he can't make a rational choice about which ones to prioritise.

I've been thinking about this. We don't know all the words that were inside Meshuggah's head: the only ones we see are
... CREATE PEACE AND JUSTICE FOR ALL...
... RULE US WISELY...
... TEACH US FREEDOM...
... LEAD US TO...

These are kinda vague, to say the least. There's nothing anything like as specific as 'thou shalt not kill'. Of course, we can only guess at what the others were, but it seems quite possible that they didn't include the standard-issue Words that the other golems were issued with.

And then Meshuggah worked normally as a golem for half a year before going off the rails. Then, for no obvious reason, he went and killed the two humans who were partly responsible for creating him.

Why did he do this? Was it just yer archetypal rage-at-the-creator, such as Frankenstein experienced (and many humans feel at some time)? Or was he actually trying to fulfil his Words? Maybe, before liberating the golems, he had to eliminate those humans who could stop him - most humans couldn't get in his way, but those who knew about golems would be a potential threat. Or maybe it qualified as some sort of 'justice', to kill those who had performed the forbidden act of creating a new golem.

So why did he wait so long before doing it? The obvious answer - the one thing about his circumstances that changed - was that he started making candles with arsenic in them. Somehow, he knew that he was taking part in murder, and this knowledge broke down whatever conditioning was preventing him from resorting to violence earlier.

And that's what leads me to wonder about his other Words. Being 'clay- of-clay' of the other golems, perhaps he was conceptually incapable of thinking of murder at all - until humans showed him that it was possible, planting the idea in his head. Once the idea was there, it wasn't actually forbidden - just inconceivable.

But whatever the reason, he decided to kill the two old men. No-one ordered him to do that, and there was certainly nothing explicit in his Words that ordered him explicitly to do it - after all, Tubelcek wrote the words. It can only have been Meshuggah's interpretation of the words.


Date: 25 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

I've been thinking about this. We don't know all the words that were inside Meshuggah's head

But we know there are many more than that - when Dorfl smashes his head open, dozens and dozens of bits of paper float out.

it seems quite possible that they didn't include the standard-issue Words that the other golems were issued with.

That does seem plausible, yes. At the very least, 'Thou shalt not kill' must have been missing.

And then Meshuggah worked normally as a golem for half a year before going off the rails. Then, for no obvious reason, he went and killed the two humans who were partly responsible for creating him.

I think he goes off the rails when he runs out of work - Carry complains about precisely this, that he can't keep up with the golem, but when he isn't supplied with sufficient tallow, he goes off and walks the streets, getting up to gods-know-what. When he attacks Carrot in the factory, the attack is triggered by the production line stopping. As long as he has work, Meshugah must do it, it's only when he has no work that he has the 'freedom' to get destructive. (BTW, I looked back at Carrot's decision to disobey Vimes' order and go into the factory, and it seemed perfectly rational given what he and Angua had discovered about Meshugah. And in J Vimes says that he encourages his officers to show initiative rather than just following orders, so I think Carrot must be found 'not guilty' of this charge at least).

Why did he do this? Was it just yer archetypal rage-at-the-creator, such as Frankenstein experienced (and many humans feel at some time)?

I must admit I had always assumed it was. Indeed, with a nice irony the bit in the bible about accepting the will of the creator uses precisely the example of a pot not being able to criticise the potter for making it.

those who knew about golems would be a potential threat.

Even Mr Hopkinson? That's quite a long shot. Father Tubelcek, possibly.

Or maybe it qualified as some sort of 'justice', to kill those who had performed the forbidden act of creating a new golem.

But this isn't a directive aimed at golems, surely? It's a human matter.

Once the idea [of murder] was there, it wasn't actually forbidden - just inconceivable.

I like that. he idea would never have entered his head, if humans hadn't shown him it was possible, and once he knew, there was nothing to prevent him from using that knowledge - though the feelings of hate against Tubelcek and Hopkinson must have been there already.

But whatever the reason, he decided to kill the two old men. No-one ordered him to do that...

No, but not everything that golems do has to be prescribed. Otherwise they could never have made Meshugah in the first place. I imagine they get a small set of do's and don'ts - the golem equivalent of the 10 commandments - and the rest is up to them.


Meanwhile, Victoria's question about the Guild leaders chosen to search Vime's office had led to this offshoot of the conversation.


Date: 20 Dec 2000
From: David Tiemroth

Incidentally, do you have any ideas about the choice of guild leaders who show up for that? Lord Downey, Mr Boggis and Mrs Palm.

As I saw it, it was to make sure there was as little doubt of Vimes being guilty as possible. If it was only Downey there, then there would be doubt, because it's known that Downey doesn't like Vimes. Add Boggis and it gets a bit better, but he'd still be easy to confuse. But add Mrs Palm, who's generally been pro-Vimes (as much as any guild leader is pro-Vimes), and there's really no doubt, is there? Three leading guild, err, leaders finding poor Vimes, dead drunk, with a bag of dangerous narcotics in his desk drawer? 'e's gotta be guilty 'en, in' 'e? It's character assassination, after all. A topic that's brought up again in The Truth.

Or you could look at it in a Dragonlance kind of way. We have the evil Black robe, the neutral Red robe and the good White robe (although Mrs Palm's robe would probably only be white until it hit the floor).


From: T J Wilkinson

Actually I thought it was just a joke that three respected members of the A-M community are the heads of the assassins' guild, the thieves' guild and the seamstresses'.

If I was busy framing someone and wanted three reliable and respected people to find the 'evidence' I wouldn't pick on their NZ equivalents.


Date: 21 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

That seems the likeliest explanation. And I don't recall that Mrs Palm was ever actually pro-Vimes (that honour seems reserved for Queen Molly of the Beggars), though as far as I can recall she was mildly pro-Vetinari, until a better offer comes her way. I rather assumed her support for Vetinari in TT was the result of her having learned a valuable lesson in FoC - add another to the list of people who are inclined to believe Vetinari could come back from the dead if he wanted to.


From: Jonathan Ellis

I'm surprised that Downey and Boggis aren't reported as showing a little more support for Vetinari in TT. On the other hand, it was an -unlicensed theft, and an unpaid attempted murder that he was accused of, which probably explains it.


Date: 23 Dec 2000
From: tallperson

And I don't recall that Mrs Palm was ever actually pro-Vimes

I believe the pro-Vimes stance was deduced from when major guild leaders voted for Vimes' head and other parts of his anatomy too, all except Mrs Palm and Queen Molly. That seems to be the only indicator that they could be sympathetic.


Date: 27 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

I'm surprised that Downey and Boggis aren't reported as showing a little more support for Vetinari...

Downey appears to have been consistently involved in the anti-Vetinari plots, and he's a chum of Lord Rust's. I think it's reasonable to assume that he may be one of the few Guild leaders who is actively keen on getting rid of the Patrician. And whilst we don't know anything about his possible personal motivations, it makes sense that the assassins would be less favourably disposed to the current regime than, say, the seamstresses, the dunnikin divers or the butchers.

The Assassins' Guild is composed almost exclusively of aristocrats, and under Vetinari aristocratic privileges have been extensively curtailed, whilst seamstresses and butchers have gained political power. From the assassins' point of view, Vetinari is a class traitor, and, to add insult to injury, hasn't provided them with the advantages they might reasonably expect from having an Old Boy in office.

Boggis's motivations are rather different. I would hazard a guess that he is probably quite keen to see Vetinari removed whilst the agreement between him and the Thieves' Guild is still intact - given the huge increase in the manpower and standing of the City Watch, the thieves must be feeling nervous about how long the agreement will last, but with Vetinari out of the way, it's most unlikely that his successor would be capable of unlicensing the Guild.

This alone, I think, accounts for the fact that Boggis and Downey, unlike Mrs Palm, don't swiftly come to the conclusion that it's unwise to bet on anyone other than Vetinari unless you're really, really sure he's going to lose. Unlike the other Guilds, they stand to benefit actively from a change in the status quo.


Date: 28 Dec 2000
From: Stephen Tempest

Plus the (rather too crude to mention, but inescapable) fact that Vetinari is (ahem) bad for business. He's brought stability and prosperity to Ankh-Morpork, and, I would guess, has ruled the city a lot longer than the average Patrician. What the Assassins' Guild would really benefit from would be a long period of uncertainty, regular succession crises, inter-noble and inter-guild warfare, and general chaos...


Meanwhile, in another part of the thread, the thorny question "What is a dwarf?" was being debated, prompted by Miq's and Victoria's comments on Cheery and Carrot and their respective dwarfishness.


Date: 22 Dec 2000
From: Dr Nuncheon

Whatever Cheery's private thoughts on the matter, the fact is that is far more shocking for dwarfs that she walks around in a skirt and make-up than that Carrot walks around without a beard and helmet.

Having just read Jingo, I have to wonder about this. How much is the dwarvish acceptance of Carrot being beardless and helmet-less a function of dwarvish society, and how much is it a function of Carrot's ability to "fit in"?

This ability is really pointed out in J - Vimes remarks on it several times - so I have to wonder if the dwarves would react worse to anybody else shaving their beard and going without a helmet, but they are mollified by Carrot's innate good nature.


From: Terry Pratchett

Dwarfs aren't dumb. I suspect that while they accept that Carrot is a dwarf, they can spot the fact that he is very tall. Certainly this is no bar to dwarfdom (nor, I suspect, is the whole beard and helmet business; it's what dwarfs wear, but it doesn't define a dwarf.) I've always imagined that they are quite capable of holding the view that there's a human being around who is a dwarf.


Date: 25 Dec 2000
From: Oliver Scheiber

Actually, why do you have to be born a dwarf? It can not be height, as stated in T5E: "No sir. Not size. Nobby Nobbs is shorter than many dwarfs, and we don't call him a dwarf".

But on the same page Carrot is giving us hints what makes a dwarf: "Adopted by dwarfs, brought up by dwarfs. To dwarfs I'm a dwarf, sir. I can do the rite of k'zakra, I know the secret of h'ragna, I can ha'lk my g'rakha correctly ... I am a dwarf."

Could it be possible that dwarfdom is not defined by birth, but by knowledge ? It would make Carrot acceptable as a dwarf because he would know how to greet a mining engineer 2nd class by his correct title, mostly by knowing how he held his axe. Beefing in a class of his own for most of the time - first dwarfish watchman, first and up to T5E only dwarfish officer in a large dwarf city - would stand him more along the others, not outside. He "found a new lode to mine" so to say.

But because of his initiation into dwarfdom he is a member.


Date: 28 Dec 2000
From: James Quincy Morrissey

I would think it more likely that dwarfdom is decided by acceptance into the culture, like a religion. Everyone says Carrot is a dwarf, but no-one says he ISN'T human. If it were by simple knowledge of dwarfish customs etc that you became a dwarf I'm sure many people in Ankh-Morpork could claim they were dwarfs.


Date: 29 Dec 2000
From: Victoria Martin

Which is exactly what Thomas Stronginthearm ne Smith does in FoC, because he can charge 20 pence more in the dollar for goods which are "dwarf-made". Interestingly enough, given the observation which started this thread, as well as changing his name he also grows a beard and dons a metal helmet whenever the committee of the Campaign for Equal Heights comes around.


Date: 04 Jan 2001
From: Terry Pratchett

Could it be possible that dwarfdom is not defined by birth, but by knowledge?

I've always assumed so. I'm sure the rules were stretched for Carrot, who technically is a young child by dwarf standards; I think dwarfs can be quite pragmatic over some things. I suspect you become a dwarf by going though a ceremony confers certain knowledge and responsibilities. Before that, you are a child - afterwards, you are a DWARF.

I also suspect that if just anyone turned up and said 'yo, I think it would be kewl to be a dwarf' he wouldn't stand a chance. Like I said, dwarfs are pragmatic. They can spot the difference between a 'child' who speaks dwarfish, was raised in a dwarf community, has been given careful coaching by their parents and some guy who just strolled in saying 'hey, I've got an axe and everything'.


And finally, a few comments on the original subject.
What was it again?


Date: 20 Dec 2000
From: goblin

I didn't mean that the fog was a part of the plot, but that it is a metaphor for the conspiracy, providing the sense of intangible danger[...]

I believe from my long ago studies this was called "pathetic fallacy" - that is, the poetic device of attributing human emotions/responses/situations to nature or the environment around. Lots of it in "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" IIRC. I think it's generally used more for human emotions rather than the situation but it does have relevance.


From: ocallaghan

I had thought that as well as these (all of which I agree on) The fog was also a gentle ironic reminder of Vimes deep distrust of the 'I see by your clothing you have spent some time in Afghanistan' method of detection. Oppressive city wide fogs being something of a feature in at least one of these works.


Date: 16 Dec 2000
From: tallperson

I just re-read "Feet of Clay", for the umpth time, and felt a powerful need to post some...

< snip fog and fog related fog >

It seems you have spotted the importance of fog being stressed yet not seeming to be important within the context of the book. In my opinion the most important thing about fog is the fog=evil air=arsnic poisoned.

Hence when the fog is coming into Vetinari's room and is chased away by the candlelight this is either saying how the fog is good, not poisonous, or bad, as evil as the poisoned air.

As for the Golem being obscured in fog all the time, personally I think it is a dramatic effect, like Jurassic park were you only hear and "sense" the dinosaurs rather than having them leaping about the place all the time.

"Fog in Feet of Clay" Who'd have thought there'd have been so much?


Date: 19 Dec 2000
From: Prosser

just have to make a point here.

many people believe that Napoleon was poisoned with arsenic, and died. some people say it was the french govt., and others have a possibly true theory... it was his wallpaper. this is mentioned in FOC... i can't remember the exact line, but it's something like "'we've done everything but strip the damn wallpaper from the walls!' wait... the walls... all the rooms had that ugly green wallpaper..."

back to napoleon.. the way they used to make green dye was from arsenic. when the fog reacted with the green dye in the wallpaper, it made a highly poisonous form of arsine gas, which some people say killed napoleon. it's just a theory, though.

back to FOC.. this could tie in with the (very constant) appearances of the fog in the text. it's sort of ironic that when cheery tests the wallpaper, there's no trace of arsenic at all.


Date: 20 Dec 2000
From: Miq

The wallpaper is mentioned several times in the book, and yes, you're supposed to think of Napoleon when the word appears.

And that seemed about it, short of stripping the wallpaper off the wall.
p.65, h/b

... you might as well accuse the wallpaper of driving him mad. Mind you, that horrible green colour would drive anyone insane...
p.147

That horrible green wallpaper. - this is where Vimes himself thinks of the idea, but he doesn't entertain it for long. But... no, that couldn't be it. Vetinari had slept in that room for years, if he slept at all. You can't sneak in and redecorate without someone noticing.
p.190

It's the most obvious of the red herrings aimed at the reader, rather than those aimed at Vimes. I don't think he even asks Cheery to test it.


As tallperson says, "Who'd have thought there'd have been so much?"


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