Newsgroup Discussions: Why TLC is a great book

Why TLC is a great book

alt.books.pratchett

Spoilers for Rincewind books, Moving Pictures and Witches Abroad

Subject: [R] Why TLC is a great book [LONG analysis, spoilers]
Date: 21 Jan 1999
From: Miq

Many people have written fairly unkind things about The Last Continent , in contrast to CJ and Jingo . In fact, the majority opinion of the relative merits of these three books is so different from mine that I feel the need to explain what it is I like about TLC in particular.

It's often said here that TLC is a lightweight story of no real inner meaning. I think there's much more to it than that. TLC contains some hilarious insights on topics that Terry addresses extremely well: the perception of stories and the nature of belief. It is one of the great books precisely because these insights don't get in the way of the humour. Quite the reverse.

Stories end - this is arguably what makes the difference between fiction and reality. When you're reading a 253 page book, no matter how twisted and grim things look on p. 233, you know that in another 20 pages, everything is going to be sorted out somehow; if it isn't you'll feel cheated - it becomes a weak ending to, most likely, a poor book. We, the readers, know this, even though the hero doesn't. Moreover, in most books, we also know that the central character(s) will survive. Despite this, most genre authors try to generate a spurious sense of suspense by putting the hero in some sort of cliff hanging peril towards the end of the book.

TLC brings these conventions out from the back of our mind right into the open. At the outset of Rincewind's adventure, the hero himself is told that he will not only survive but also save the day. We, the readers, knew this before we even opened the book - the novelty in TLC is that Rincewind himself knows it.

I think this makes Rincewind the first of Pterry's characters to be aware that he's only a character in a story. In WA , Granny fights tooth and nail against 'the power of stories' to manipulate people's lives - but in fact, all she's doing is generating a sort of meta-story that transcends and incorporates all of Lilith's smaller ones. In reality, neither she nor any other character is any more 'free' than the big bad wolf. They are Terry's playthings, as much as the wolf is Lilith's.

Rincewind actually realises this, and begins to understand its implications. He keeps running away, automatically, because that's what he has to do - you have to play by the rules. (Like Victor in MP - he knows he'll reach the top of the tower in the nick of time, but he still has to run up it as fast as he possibly can. It's the Rules Of The Game.) But he's not really frightened, any more than he honestly believes that running will do any good - merely apprehensive, because he knows that he's going to have to do some extremely uncomfortable things.

Related to this narrative inevitability is Rincewind's continuing run of outrageous good fortune, substituting for magic. Way, way back in TCoM , we saw Rincewind thinking 'there must be a better way to do things' - he felt it should be possible to produce the effects of magic by other means. Ever since then, he's been doing exactly that.

In TLF , the effect was direct and unsubtle - instead of Rincewind performing magic, the Spell did it for him. In S , it was the hat. In Eric , Rincewind keeps clicking his fingers, and Vassenego does the actual magic; Rincewind himself is mystified as to why it keeps working, since he is now absolutely sure that he isn't doing anything. In IT , it's made very clear that The Lady is favouring him with a string of outrageous coincidences; these allow him to perform feats of 'magic' that would leave most 'proper' wizards at a complete loss - blowing a hole in the wall, killing the cell guards, leading the Red Army, surviving the teleport 'home', killing Lord Hong.

By the time of TLC , he's had enough hints to know that he really is just a pawn. This is something that all the willfully heroic characters - Granny, Carrot, Vimes, even Susan - never fully understand, though some of them have a suspicion. (Death knows it, but he doesn't express it in quite the same terms - he talks about DUTY and the Fabric of Reality and all that cobblers instead.)

Thus, in TLC , Rincewind warns the leader of the road bandits

You give me back my hat or there'll be trouble!

We know how attached Rincewind is to his hat, but he is clearly in no position to do anything about it. What even the reader doesn't realise at this point is that, even though Rincewind himself is powerless, this is not an empty threat. Thanks to stealing the hat, the leader dies horribly and the ensuing pileup wipes out the rest of his gang.

Only Rincewind himself is unsurprised.

The adventures of the other wizards provide a different, comical and more direct view of Inevitability. As they step through the window, Ridcully leaves a sign on it saying 'Do not touch' - from that moment, it is obvious that someone will touch and the wizards will get stuck. As they realise they're in the past, there are similar observations: with surprising perspicacity, Ridcully says "history already depends on you treading on any ants that you happen to step on" - a very true observation that the earnest Ponder clearly hasn't realised.

Then they meet the God of Evolution, who is to gods what Rincewind is to wizards: supremely incompetent, yet dreaming of a 'better' way to do things. I think this character shows what might have happened to Rincewind if he hadn't been so 'honoured' by the Lady: he might have spent out his days like some more earnest version of Leonard of Quirm, trying to invent clockwork and steam power and other things to 'harness the lightning' without the aid of magic - hampered by some very basic blind spot, like wanting to make everything out of glass.

It's fun to speculate that maybe the God of Evolution grows up to be the creator of our world - a god who believes in 'scientific' laws, and is trying desperately hard to make them work to produce all the things he wants to produce. This is precisely the God that the Deist philosophies of the Enlightenment believed in: Diderot, Voltaire and Hume would recognise him instantly. And having been given the hint of 'sex', this work could progress by leaps and bounds. But the real beauty of this idea lies in its resonance with the story of the creation of Eve: 'sex as an afterthought'.

There are more resonance on the same theme: for instance, the version of L-space theory that says that 'future books can be deduced from present ones'.

There are other themes - about the nature of gods, for instance - but I've written quite enough for now. Someone else can take up the baton if they're so inclined.

Anyway, that's my take on TLC, and that's why it's my favourite among the recent crop. All I'm hoping is that some of those who criticise it as 'lightweight' (as if this were somehow a bad thing?) might reconsider.


From: Tamar

I think this makes Rincewind the first of Pterry's characters to be aware that he's only a character in a story.

Um. I'm not sure he's aware he's only a character. What he's aware of is that he's been told he's going to do something, not that he'll survive having done it. And Death doesn't tell him he isn't going to die tomorrow, just that he's not officially on the list right now.

Rincewind actually realises this

Here I begin to disagree but I'll have to go back and rethink it.

and begins to understand its implications.

I think it's Terry who is discussing the implications; I don't think Rincewind is entirely conscious of it.

By the time of TLC, he's had enough hints to know that he really is just a pawn.

Though from our point of view he is a pawn, within the context of TLC Rincewind is not just a pawn. He could slow things down considerably, he could refuse to do what he's supposed to do - yes, he would probably die if he chose that, but he could. Short of actually taking over and forcing him to say and do things (the way the magic did occasionally, working through him, in earlier books), the powerful beings, who are using him because he happens to be there at the time, would have to find someone else to solve the problem/be the hero.

I think one issue to discuss here is the effect of The Lady. She caused the whole mess at the end of IT, by altering the space-time configuration of Hex's spell so that it became 3-way instead of 2-way.

This no doubt saved Rincewind's life, but it landed him in XXXX and sent a kangaroo to be smashed flat in UU, and the excess speed and distance were transmuted into a time-effect and sent the Luggage into the past. Remember, geography equals history, which means space equals time, and since speed is a matter of covering space in time, any equation that meddles with space-time is likely to affect speed as well as location. Taking the excess speed from Rincewind and adding some distance to get him equidistant from the Agatean Empire and UU meant that time had to compensate; this sent the Luggage into the past and opened up the time-tunnel at UU. That in turn sent the wizards into the past, where they did what they had already done, and that led to the innocent baby Librarian stealing the Old Man's bullroarer, which removed the rain and made the Dry happen. Thus, as soon as Rincewind arrived in the present, all that stuff in the past had happened (though it hadn't happened before), and now Rincewind has to bring it all together in order to solve the problem. The Old Man and his trickster companion are helping, so the Lady stays out of it.

Only Rincewind himself is unsurprised.

Interesting point. Was he unsurprised? I think he was a bit surprised, even though he had learned from experience that anything left unguarded was likely harbour something venomous. His hat had been on the ground briefly, and his natural paranoia, added to by experience, led him to be cautious about retrieving it.

The adventures of the other wizards provide a different, comical and more direct view of Inevitability.

Also some comments on the nature of those who seek to understand how it all works.

Ridcully says "history already depends on you treading on any ants that you happen to step on"

This part is also a clear discussion of the problem of predestination, besides being involved in the situation of how it all got started.

Then they meet the God of Evolution, who is to gods what Rincewind is to wizards: supremely incompetent, yet dreaming of a 'better' way to do things.

But the G of E isn't incompetent; he can do the creating just fine. It's just that he has a bee in his ear about trying to do something for his worshipers, not just fake it. He's more of an eccentric than an incompetent. A version of Leonard of Quirm, but on the god scale. Like Thoth, Merlin, and Vulcan, a god who makes things. Whereas Rincewind is incompetent as a wizard (unless, as perhaps you meant to suggest, his style of wizardry is that The Lady favours him).

a god who believes in 'scientific' laws, and is trying desperately hard to make them work to produce all the things he wants to produce.

And revising them as he goes along, whenever we come up with the loopholes. The way Ponder found out about things not being impossible until just after you've tried them.

having been given the hint of 'sex', this work could progress by leaps and bounds. But the real beauty of this idea lies in its resonance with the story of the creation of Eve: 'sex as an afterthought'.

Instead as part of the main theme of the book, as it is in M!M. But let's save that for a different discussion.

There are other themes - about the nature of gods, for instance - but I've written quite enough for now. Someone else can take up the baton if they're so inclined.

That's one reason I hadn't written up my version yet - I didn't want to start a religion thread. I'd like to keep this discussion totally on-topic, with every comment relating directly to something actually in the book. There's certainly enough to discuss! Just try listing all the different types of gods in TLC.

I think it is an excellent book for similar reasons.


Date: 22 Jan 1999
From: Miq

I'm not sure he's aware he's only a character.

Just to clarify: I'm not suggesting that he suddenly thinks 'Wow, I'm a character in a book'. But, combined with what the kangaroo tells him - which is really little more than a standard prophecy, though unusually clear and direct - I think he's realised, after the events of Eric and IT , that the story will happen around him (or, as he probably sees it, to him) whether he likes it or not.

To me, his tone in his discussions with the kangaroo suggest that he's protesting - as well he might - but he knows it's futile.

What he's aware of is that he's been told he's going to do something, not that he'll survive having done it.

Well, he's told he'll know when he's completed his task, so it's a fair bet he'll still be alive after it's finished.

He could slow things down considerably, he could refuse to do what he's supposed to do - yes, he would probably die if he chose that, but he could.

I don't really see how he could. Each time he tries to avoid something unpleasant, he simply advances the storyline despite himself.

It's possible he could bale out by committing suicide (in the Ankh-Morpork sense of the term), and if and when we get another Rincewind book, I wouldn't be surprised to see him try it. But he's not quite at that level of protest yet.

But this book, in my view, is all about the unstoppability of the narrative. If he tried something like that here, the plot would simply rewrite itself around him and advance some other way.

Taking the excess speed from Rincewind and adding some distance to get him equidistant from the Agatean Empire and UU meant that time had to compensate; this sent the Luggage into the past and opened up the time-tunnel at UU.

Err - you've lost me. I thought the speed differentials thingy was all to do with the rotation of the Disc? Rincewind and the 'Barking Dog' both arrived more or less stationary, which means that the poor kangaroo inherited the combined momentum of both of them... nasty.

As for the Luggage, it wasn't part of the teleport. Time on XXXX is 'all mixed up', according to the kangaroo, and the relativity of time is mentioned once or twice in the book; and the Luggage is capable of time travel on its own initiative (as in Eric ).

When Rincewind was teleported, the Luggage will have tried to follow him (any idea what happened to its family, btw?) But because XXXXian time is out of sync with the rest of the Disc, it made a mistake. Perhaps Rincewind's beacon had reset to '30,000 years after Creation', 'cos that's when he's at in XXXXian time - so the Luggage went back in time before making its way to the continent, in which case it would arrive considerably early.

Are we told that the time tunnel at UU has something to do with the teleport cockup?

That in turn sent the wizards into the past, where they did what they had already done, and that led to the innocent baby Librarian stealing the Old Man's bullroarer, which removed the rain and made the Dry happen.

The time travel is a wonderfully elegant closed loop, yes. I'm just not convinced that the Lady is responsible for all of these details. To me, it seems more in character for her to take problems/tools that existed already , put them together and shake vigorously until they're resolved. That's what her name is, isn't it?

So unless I've missed something, I think the time tunnel existed already - though of course the wizards wouldn't have stumbled across it if they hadn't been looking for Rincewind.

The Old Man and his trickster companion are helping, so the Lady stays out of it.

What do you think is the relationship between the Lady and the Old Man? Has she 'lent' Rincewind to him, by way of reparation for using his continent, and his kangaroo, to save him earlier?

I suspect that she's still sticking her oar in. The spider-in- the-hat incident looks like her style to me.

Only Rincewind himself is unsurprised.

I think so. Not that he specifically expected something venomous to be lurking in the hat, but he knew from experience (mostly in IT ) that some sort of outrageous chance like that would almost certainly come up. For him, they always do.

Look at his conversation with the warder, when he's locked up. He has no doubt that he'll escape somehow... so he goes through all the ideas he can think of with the warder. When these all come up blank, he goes through a brief crisis of faith until Death turns up to cheer him up...

(And I've just seen an [A]nnotation there. p. 185: 'the narrow square of blue the prisoner calls the sky' - Oscar Wilde, 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol')

But the G of E isn't incompetent; he can do the creating just fine.

Not really - he can't 'create' a sustainable species, a trick that's common knowledge everywhere on the Disc except for his island. That's fairly incompetent.

He's more of an eccentric than an incompetent. A version of Leonard of Quirm, but on the god scale.

Again, I disagree. Leonard has thousands of little ideas, and works out a fraction of them. The G of E has one big idea (Evolution), but doesn't have the faintest notion of how to make it work. Just like Rincewind had that idea of 'harnessing the lightning' - but without Rincewind's outside 'help'.

Whereas Rincewind is incompetent as a wizard (unless, as perhaps you meant to suggest, his style of wizardry is that The Lady favours him).

Yes, I suppose that's one way of putting it. Referring back to IT again: he accomplishes far more in that way than any 'competent' wizard could achieve by 'real' magic.


From: Tamar

To me, his tone in his discussions with the kan garoo suggest that he's protesting - as well he might - but he knows it's futile.

This is where it gets iffy because I don't want to turn this into a religion thread, yet I see quite a lot of this element as philosophical.

Rincewind's development as a wizzard and as a human (and as a character) has reached a point where the visiting Creator God can use him effectively, and therefore has instructed his agent, a trickster, to provide divine aid. We are told that Rincewind's presence there was the cause of the problem and therefore Rincewind must repair the damage. This much so far is directly related to the events that sent him to XXXX in the first place (The Lady's adjustment of Hex's calculations and the results thereof).

The part that doesn't obviously follow directly is the part about Rincewind personally having to do the repair job - and in fact, when the visiting (nomadic?) Creator is talking to his trickster, he essentially admits that RW is not vital to the correction, he just happens to be there at the time when the Creator needs a local (promethean if you will) hero to occur, to make the continent complete. The nomadic Creator is in the past and in the present, and can obviously travel between them, but for reasons unknown (ineffable?) he has chosen to require that RW deal with the problem instead of just going back and retrieving his boomerang. Maybe it's because his favourite creation, a kangaroo-bearing continent, does require a hero to come out of nowhere, and everyone local is identifiable, so RW is the only total stranger available, the only person not attached in some way to the existing situation and culture, living entirely in the moment with only his ragged reddish garment(s) and a bowl for his grub (if you'll excuse a Buddhist allusion). Oh, and his hat, a standard symbol for his persona role.

The idea that you are going to do something because you've already done it is a paradox that occurs in some deep philosophical and religious studies, and that's as far as I intend to go with that one.

he's told he'll know when he's completed his task, so it's a fair bet he'll still be alive after it's finished.

Bets? RW has been to Death's Domain and heard the voices of the ghosts ("What a great view -oops" etc.) so he knows that there is consciousness after death; he could very easily only know when he was done because he was dead.

Each time he tries to avoid something unpleasant, he simply advances the storyline despite himself.

What if he didn't try to avoid the really unpleasant things? If he sat quietly and didn't escape from the cell, would they have pardoned him? Even after the water dried up and they started fighting to the death over the last bottle of beer? How about after all the liquids are gone and everyone starts dying of thirst?

While he was totally unconscious of the role he was being put in, he was protected. After he was told, when he tried to resist, the trickster stopped providing miraculous food in the desert - at that point, I think there is a possibility that if RW really wanted to resist out of total stubbornness, he could just reach under a rock and get bitten by something venomous. It would be out of character, but RW's character is changing anyway.

It's possible he could bale out by committing suicide (in the Ankh-Morpork sense of the term), and if and when we get another Rincewind book, I wouldn't be surprised to see him try it. But he's not quite at that level of protest yet.

That's a fair point, mate^W Miq. RW hasn't yet reached the level of development where he is willing to die because then they can't do anything else to him. He did reach the point of being willing to risk death way back in Sourcery, when he was fighting to stop the wizard war that was destroying the world he lived in, but he hasn't yet been completely suicidal.

But this book, in my view, is all about the unstoppability of the narrative. If he tried something like that here, the plot would simply rewrite itself around him and advance some other way.

This gets back to the meta-level of the story, the relationship between free will and destiny. The philosophical statement of which come out something like "the greatest free will is to see your destiny and do it willingly instead of grudgingly - then you're not being forced to do anything." It's related to the concept of Acting instead of merely Reacting. RW mostly Reacts, but on important occasions he has chosen to Act, to do something even though nothing outwardly was forcing him to do it, just because it was the right thing to do. There is usually one, sometime more, such moment in each RW book.

"Narrative" being unstoppable can be thought of as a metaphor for "existence/development" being unstoppable. Or even as Cultural Demand - no matter how often RW tries to explain that he wasn't doing anything heroic, the XXXXian culture wants him to be a hero so they won't listen.

I thought the speed differentials thingy was all to do with the rotation of the Disc? Rincewind and the 'Barking Dog' both arrived more or less stationary, which means that the poor kangaroo inherited the combined momentum of both of them... nasty.

Well, Ponder thought so - but he doesn't know everything Hex does either, and he didn't know that The Lady had made a change in the equations.

When Rincewind was teleported, the Luggage will have tried to follow him (any idea what happened to its family, btw?)

(They gave the impression of waving goodbye at the end of IT; I assume they stayed with Twoflower. Most of them took after the female Luggage; only the smallest one seemed to have a touch of RW's luggage's attitude.)

But because XXXXian time is out of sync with the rest of the Disc, it made a mistake. Perhaps Rincewind's beacon had reset to '30,000 years after Creation', 'cos that's when he's at in XXXXian time - so the Luggage went back in time before making its way to the continent, in which case it would arrive considerably early.

This is a good point. But in Eric, the Luggage could travel in time without getting stuck. The time being mixed up in XXXX, experience of it is different from different viewpoints. Um. The Wizards are frozen in time, but it doesn't seem all that long to them. The Luggage doesn't have much way to tell time and doesn't seem to age, so perhaps it too didn't perceive the experience as being too long. Yet from the outer point of view, they were stuck for at least 30,000 years. The way the cave paintings of the wizards were there for 30,000 years but weren't there yesterday - today they were created 30,000 years old. [This resonates with the Creationist view of geological and historical evidence, by the way. [A]? ]

Are we told that the time tunnel at UU has something to do with the teleport cockup?

If the wizards hadn't gone into the past, the bullroarer would not have been stolen, and the continent would not have been dry. The Dry occurred because the wizards did that. And they only did that because RW was sent to XXXX. However, because they did that, they self-created their own evolution by giving the idea to the God of Evolution.

The time travel is a wonderfully elegant closed loop, yes. I'm just not convinced that the Lady is responsible for all of these details. To me, it seems more in character for her to take problems/tools that existed already , put them together and shake vigorously until they're resolved. That's what her name is, isn't it?

That's a long name... I think she did take tools that existed already. She's very efficient. She doesn't worry about the comfort of RW's situation as long as he doesn't get killed - so she prevented him from getting killed by altering the calculations. After that it was up to him again. She set up the situation and left it to everyone else to deal with it. Since everyone else was dealing with it, she had no need to interfere further. As previously noted, she doesn't play fair, and she doesn't play to win, she plays not to lose. Here, her actions are affecting those of other gods who aren't even officially in the game, and she's never seen.

So unless I've missed something, I think the time tunnel existed already - though of course the wizards wouldn't have stumbled across it if they hadn't been looking for Rincewind.

But its existence is necessary for the wizards to go back to steal the boomerang, and as soon as RW landed in XXXX, everything was wrong, and a major part of that wrongness, the Dry, is caused by the wizards' meddling. Therefore I think it was created by the same effect. (Such a lovely iconic image for the way the story works - a curve that comes back to where it started - I hope they use a boomerang for the American cover picture!)

What do you think is the relationship between the Lady and the Old Man? Has she 'lent' Rincewind to him, by way of reparation for using his continent, and his kangaroo, to save him earlier?

Interesting idea, but we haven't been let in on that. I'm not entirely sure he realizes she's at work - he's new in the area, after all, and may not have visited Dunmanifestin.

Not that he specifically expected something venomous to be lurking in the hat, but he knew from experience (mostly in IT ) that some sort of outrageous chance like that would almost certainly come up. For him, they always do.

But only when he is not depending on them. If he ever planned for it to happen, it would fail. This is true for anyone who depends on The Lady.
-page 90, hardcover TLC
When RW says

You give me back my hat or there'll be trouble!

it isn't a prediction - it's just his desperation talking. It's the wording of a small child being bullied on the playground. The hat symbolizes the fact that Rincewind is a wizard. His hat - his role as a wizard, his concept of self - is the first thing he fights for, way back in Sourcery . He doesn't know what he'll do, he only knows that he'll do anything to get his hat (role, essence of being) back. In Sourcery he attacked the Librarian to get his hat! <pg.91>

's my hat,' said Rincewind sullenly. He wasn't at all sure what had happened.

I submit that Rincewind was surprised. Claiming by implication that he had something to do with the carnage ("'He shouldn't've stolen my hat,' Rincewind mumbled.) is just protective coloration, an instinct for RW.

Look at his conversation with the warder, when he's locked up. He has no doubt that he'll escape somehow... so he goes through all the ideas he can think of with the warder. When these all come up blank, he goes through a brief crisis of faith until Death turns up to cheer him up...

The conversation with the warder just shows that all the old cliche escapes aren't going to happen. Rincewind is just putting on a show of confidence.
pg. 189, after the conversation with the warder.

So it was down to this, then. One brief night left, and then, if these clowns had anything to do with it, happy people would be wandering the streets to see where his head had come down.

At this point it's pretty clear that Rincewind is convinced he's going to die.

Then Death appears and eventually tells RW that he isn't especially on the list. But we, as readers, can't even trust that, because we know that Death himself doesn't know when Rincewind will die; Death is just showing up when there's a chance of it, to check the situation in person. RW thinks he can trust what Death says at that point but is still puzzled as to how he's supposed to escape.

he can't 'create' a sustainable species, a trick that's common knowledge everywhere on the Disc except for his island. That's fairly incompetent.

O.K., but it's partly because he wants to improve them. In the long run (as Death might say), all species are non-sustainable. And it's the Special Creation type of Creationist theory, pushed to extremes.

The G of E has one big idea (Evolution), but doesn't have the faintest notion of how to make it work.

The G of E has lots of ideas - one for each creature he makes. He's not incompetent - each creature works just fine. He just hasn't gotten into mass production because it hasn't occurred to him that he doesn't have to do all the work himself, rebuilding each one to install improvements. Why would you make multiple copies of something that wasn't perfected yet? So he only makes one of each. He's an experimenter, like Leonard. He's a Creationist God, carried to the extreme. Until the wizards give him the idea, he doesn't really like the idea that his creations change in ways he hadn't planned. (pg 101, pg 124) His creations are selfishly teleological - they evolve themselves (more self-creation) to try to be useful to the humans, and Ponder sees the weirdness of that concept (the cigarette plant for instance, has no reason to exist before there are humans to want them).

There's slight inconsistency here actually, as on pg. 101 the G of E thinks the cigarette bush's speed of evolution is 'evolution in action', but on pg 124 Ponder tells him the word for changing over time and it's news to the G of E. We'll just have to chalk it up to Terry's translating what the G of E actually thought into words we can understand. ;-)

TLC on this level is a book about Self-Creation - RW has to do something because he's already done it, and the wizards create evolution and sex (even though they are behaviorally asexual for the most part), which leads ultimately to themselves as wizards. As Ridcully pointed out - their present depends on their doing exactly what they do in the past. The plants self-change to adapt to new conditions.

Referring back to IT again: he accomplishes far more in that way than any 'competent' wizard could achieve by 'real' magic.

The Lady helps him a lot in IT, but much of what he accomplishes is based on his own nature and what he has learned from experience. Sure, there are coincidences aplenty, but The Lady would've had to work much harder to make things happen (the game is The Fall of Empires) if RW hadn't rescued the kids from the dungeons, and taught the technique of propaganda by denial. He was even ahead of Twoflower's cynical elder daughter in understanding the machinations of the court.

In TLC, on the other hand, The Lady is conspicuously absent, and the intervention of the Old Man and the trickster is driven not by a game of the gods but by the plan the Old Man has for his favourite type of continent. Continents as afterthoughts (cf. the earlier comment, 'sex as an afterthought'). Little changes made after the main job was done, fine tuning Creation. (The Old Man as copyeditor?)


Date: 23 Jan 1999
From: Miq

when the visiting [nomadic?] Creator is talking to his trickster, he essentially admits that RW is not vital to the correction

But natives of the continent wouldn't be aware of what the problem was - to them, the Dry is normal. As a visitor, Rincewind has a major conceptual advantage. And there's a certain karmic 'fittingness' about having him repair the damage that's been caused on his behalf, no?

If he sat quietly and didn't escape from the cell, would they have pardoned him?

I imagine someone would have kidnapped him... something like his own 'washerwoman' plan, but in reverse...

he could just reach under a rock and get bitten by something venomous.

I think he'd either have found nothing, or been stung by a scorpion that was excruciatingly painful for some time thereafter, but not actually fatal.

He did reach the point of being willing to risk death way back in Sourcery, when he was fighting to stop the wizard war that was destroying the world he lived in, but he hasn't yet been completely suicidal.

He was a lot braver all round, back then. I think his legendary cowardice is something he only developed around that time - most likely during his sojourn in the Dungeon Dimensions, where he had to keep running simply to survive.

RW mostly Reacts, but on important occasions he has chosen to Act, to do something even though nothing outwardly was forcing him to do it, just because it was the right thing to do.

Yes, and this is why we think of, and admire, him as a hero, despite his extremely low self-image as a world-class coward and shirker.

they self-created their own evolution by giving the idea to the God of Evolution.

Whoa - you think that the G of E is actually responsible for modern life on the Disc?

In Eric, we're fairly clearly told that life starts from Rincewind's egg-and-cress sandwich, and it seems to start developing from that moment. If the G of E is responsible for all that development, then life has evolved from bacteria to humanity in less than 30,000 years...

Actually, on the Disc, I guess that's possible - but it honestly hadn't occurred to me.

Back to the point: the wizards' presence in XXXX is because of Rincewind, yes - if they hadn't been looking for him there, they wouldn't have gone to the room of the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, and wouldn't have found the tunnel. But there's no reason to suppose the tunnel itself shares a common cause, is there?

page 90, hardcover TLC
When RW says
_You give me back my hat or there'll be trouble!
it isn't a prediction - it's just his desperation talking.

I see it as fitting into the fine tradition of unconscious prophecy. Rincewind has no way of knowing what's about to happen, and he certainly doesn't cause or will it to happen... but I think he has a moment of prescience at this point, even as he speaks.

Incidentally, we've seen this phrase before in a Rincewind book, in very similar circumstances - talking of the Luggage:

'Well, I'm going to have a look at it, sergeant - '
'- not a good plan, sir, if I may - '
'- and after I've had a look at it, sergeant, there is going to be trouble.'
The sergeant threw him a salute. 'Right you are, sir,' he predicted.

( Eric , p.78 in my edition)

The Lady would've had to work much harder to make things happen (the game is The Fall of Empires) if RW hadn't rescued the kids from the dungeons, and taught the technique of propaganda by denial.

I would guess she chose him, rather than any other piece in her set, for the game precisely because he has this sort of cynical talent. But what I was trying to say is that if, say, Ridcully or Granny had gone instead, and tried to defeat Lord Hong's army by magic or headology, they'd have failed.

Of course, either of them would have brought certain other attributes to the job, and there's no telling what effects they'd have had. It would be a completely different story. But in terms of direct power, magic isn't a patch on what the Lady can arrange.


Date: 22 Jan 1999
From: Tamar

when the [nomadic?] Creator is talking to his trickster, he admits that RW is not vital to the correction, he just happens to be there at the time when the Creator needs a local (promethean if you will) hero to occur, to make the continent complete.

Erm.. check book again... ah, page 51:

'He's not even heroic. He's just in the right place at the right time... why not go and get the thing yerself?' 'You've gotta have heroes.'

But natives of the continent wouldn't be aware of what the problem was - to them, the Dry is normal.

Well, it has been for 5 minutes/30,000 years. pg. 130: The Luggage "knew it had been stuck underground for a long time, but it also knew that it had been stuck underground for about five minutes." Until the moment RW landed in XXXX, there hadn't been any Dry. As soon as he arrived, there had always been the Dry. The miscellaneous rumblings all through are the sound of the continent adjusting itself to the twist caused by RW's arrival. The memories of the inhabitants and their entire experience changed the moment he arrived.

As a visitor, Rincewind has a major conceptual advantage. And there's a certain karmic 'fittingness' about having him repair the damage that's been caused on his behalf, no?

Oh yes. He's there by an act of The Lady, and his being there caused a problem, but there were other acts of "heroism" required - the culture needed - and as long as he was there anyway, he might as well do those along the way, while he was fixing up the damage. But the primary reason for having him fix the damage is that the continent needs some heroes. It gets precariously close to being self-referential, which IMO is death to a book, and can kill a series. IMO, the saving grace is that RW doesn't know he's just a character; he knows he's being messed around with by gods, but not that he's a total invention. The only reason for his having to repair the damage, as well as be the reality-seed for all the local heroes to be built on, is Narrative Causality. That's already been established as a force on the Disc ( WA ), though it isn't overtly invoked here except on pg. 51. RW has been drawn into a hero story, or at least a Mr. Fixit story.

I think his legendary cowardice is something he only developed around that time - most likely during his sojourn in the Dungeon Dimensions, where he had to keep running simply to survive.

Possibly. RW had the unheroic attitude and running ability back in TCOM, though at that point it was simple self-preservation from the normal dangers of Ankh-Morpork (and before that, UU), described as cowardice. He also was already a pawn of The Lady. Fate didn't decide to go after him until The Lady used him to win a game. When you have Fate and Death both gunning for you, you survive only by concentrating on survival. (Luckily ;-) for RW, Death decided to back off about the time Fate started up.)

If the G of E is responsible for all that development, then life has evolved from bacteria to humanity in less than 30,000 years...

No, I think that the timeline is getting confused here. (how else could it be? :-) after all).

The 30,000 years-ago bit IIRC refers to the apparent age of something, but not necessarily to the actual age of all life.

The original Creator of the Disc made the Disc, and then RW dropped his sandwich. Much later, when the Nomadic Creator came along, noticed a nice empty ocean, and decided to add The Last Continent, some life already existed on the other continents, including humans, according to the G of E. We know this because the wizards hear about worshipers already existing from the G of E, and then travel in real time on the boat to XXXX, where the nomadic Creator is making new animals. The wizards are then stuck in the rocks for an unspecified number of thousands of years. The figure of 30,000 years comes from pg. 66:

Those hills look as old as the hills.
They were made 30,000 years old.
They look millions of years old.
30,000 years ago, they were made a million years ago.

Actually I think this is a typo - I think it ought to be either "They were made 30,000 years ago" or "They were made a million years old 30,000 years ago." Or possibly "Five minutes ago they were made 30,000 years old." Because there wouldn't be any point to making them a million plus 30,000 years old: "A million years ago they were made 30,000 years old" would be meaningless even in context.

The G of E was inventing new species and trying to make them more efficient and interesting. When he was given the idea of adding sexual differentiation and competition, evolution continued, but special creation by the other gods of the Disc probably still continued also. At least once (after the Mage Wars, IIRC), the basic strain of human , which was originally very large and powerful in magic, was redesigned to make them more controllable. Different strains of humans on the Disc can interbreed even though they obviously come from different special creations as well as evolving. (Hey, on the Disc, fruit flies and sweet peas cross to produce a sad green thing that buzzes.)

Terry is playing with various aspects of creation, including the creation of humans, animals, religions, heroes, cultures, self-images, and more.

But all of that happened when the nomadic Creator was making the last continent. Which was not necessarily 30,000 years ago - it could have been millions of years ago. When artifacts can be created instantly and be 30,000 years old when they are created (like the mountains and fossils or whatever it was), there's no need for them to be created at any particular time.

pg. 67-68 As soon as RW arrived, he changed what's already happened, and suddenly it had always been wrong.

Back to the point: the wizards' presence in XXXX is because of Rincewind, yes - if they hadn't been looking for him there, they wouldn't have gone to the room of the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, and wouldn't have found the tunnel. But there's no reason to suppose the tunnel itself shares a common cause, is there?

The tunnel goes directly to the exact time that the nomadic Creator is working on the last continent. The wizards arrive at the precise time necessary to meddle - while the nC is creating the animals - and while he is therefore distracted enough for the Librarian to have a chance to steal the boomerang. That was the direct cause of the Dry, which is the thing that went wrong when RW arrived. So the arrival of the wizards at that precise moment has to be linked directly to RW's arrival. His arrival brought them there to cause the wrong note. The method by which it happened was the creation of the time tunnel.

Rincewind has no way of knowing what's about to happen, and he certainly doesn't cause or will it to happen... but I think he has a moment of prescience at this point, even as he speaks.

Narrative tradition of unconscious prophecy, yes. What I call the Lie that is True syndrome. But since he didn't know it would happen, he was surprised when it did. This is hinted at in the description as he picks up the hat - the only curse he can cause is 'may it rain on you some time', and turning horrible colours as you die isn't a usual result of anything he does.

Incidentally, we've seen this phrase before in a Rincewind book, in very similar circumstances - talking of the Luggage:
'Well, I'm going to have a look at it, sergeant' -
'- not a good plan, sir, if I may - '
'- and after I've had a look at it, sergeant, there is going to be trouble.'
The sergeant threw him a salute. 'Right you are, sir,'; he predicted.

But in that case, the sergeant had immediately previous experience of seeing what the Luggage could do and had been doing, so it wasn't unconscious prophecy, it was irony. (Doubly so, since we're not sure the lieutenant didn't survive - the next time we see Luggage, it's cosying up to the commander. In which case there wasn't trouble for the lieutenant.)

if, say, Ridcully or Granny had gone instead, and tried to defeat Lord Hong's army by magic or headology, they'd have failed.

Possibly. We didn't see much (any?) of the Agatean wizards, though some must have existed somewhere, I assume. Maybe they all had the sense to stay hidden.

But in TLC, if The Lady is involved, she is very (very) quiet. Rincewind has to solve this one himself - he gets divine aid to get him to the important location - the spot where the wizards are frozen in time, with the boomerang, but he then has to bring the past and present together into one moment, all by himself. The kangaroo doesn't help him then, he does it by freeing his creativity and drawing, very much the same way that the nomadic Creator drew the living creatures way back when.


Date: 23 Jan 1999
From: Miq

The 30,000 years-ago bit IIRC refers to the apparent age of something, but not necessarily to the actual age of all life.

I think it's when XXXX was created.

when the Nomadic Creator came along, noticed a nice empty ocean, and decided to add The Last Continent, some life already existed on the other continents, including humans

Hmmm.. I'm not sure this follows. Do worshippers have to be human? He could be talking about trolls, which are a completely different developmental strand, or elves, which are a magical race from another dimension. It's even been hypothesised that fairly primitive animals could have gods.

Though I'll grant you, I'm nitpicking now. Your interpretation does make more sense.

I think it ought to be either "They were made 30,000 years ago" or "They were made a million years old 30,000 years ago." Or possibly "Five minutes ago they were made 30,000 years old."

Very likely Scrappy himself is a bit confused. As he says a few lines later, "I'm trying to find words you might understand."

Terry is playing with various aspects of creation, including the creation of humans, animals, religions, heroes, cultures, self-images, and more.

And stories ;o)

Yes, you're quite right - creation is a Big Theme here. I'd suggest making that another thread?

the only curse he can cause is 'may it rain on you some time', and turning horrible colours as you die isn't a usual result of anything he does.

Interesting choice of sample curse, n'est-ce pas?

the sergeant had immediately previous experience of seeing what the Luggage could do and had been doing, so it wasn't unconscious prophecy, it was irony.

Nunno, I'm not saying it was... merely that this form of words has been used before with a considerably-more-than-playground level of significance.

We didn't see much (any?) of the Agatean wizards, though some must have existed somewhere, I assume. Maybe they all had the sense to stay hidden.

I seem to recall that magic is frowned upon in the Agatean empire, as it puts power into the hands of the ill-bred and uncouth, who couldn't even compose a decent haiku, or something to that effect. In which case wizards, if any, would stay very hidden if they didn't want Serious Bits cut off...


Date: 25 Jan 1999
From: Meg

I imagine someone would have kidnapped him... something like his own 'washerwoman' plan, but in reverse...

Small comment here:

You're both missing something. XXXXian culture is based strongly on Australian culture, and part of Australian culture is the search for a hero. We're a comparatively young nation (less than 100 years), we haven't had enough time for heroes to evolve on their own, so we keep looking for ways to create them. A big part of the Australian mythos is that anyone can be a hero if they want to - all you have to do is to try.

What this means in terms of Rincewind's story is that, quite honestly, if he'd refused to try and escape, or not bothered with a desperate last stand, the guards themselves, or the crowd, or both, would have conspired to make him have a last stand. He was being fitted for the role, both by the Trickster, and also by the population. If "Rinso" (which, if I recall correctly, used to be a brand of washing powder over here <grin>) hadn't tried to escape, one of the shearers from Dijabringabeeralong would have ambled into town in time to see the hanging, and told the story of his shearing, or Clancy and Remorse would have wandered into town to sell horses, and tell the story of his ride. Or, (she says, digging through her mental mythic archive) someone would have come along and said that they'd seen him ride a big white bull through Wagga, or that he'd had his dog do something unmentionable in the tuckerbox a certain distance from another town, or even that he'd managed to herd hundreds of lizards across a narrow strait of water to a small island. It's inevitable. It's not the Lady doing it, nor is it the Trickster. It's a facet of the need to create a hero. Hells Bells, let's be honest, if he'd refused to escape, he'd have probably created cricket, and then where would we be?


From: Jamie Crowther

However, because they [the wizards] did that [stole the bull-roarer], they self- created their own evolution by giving the idea to the God of Evolution.

I don't really have much to add to this, but I just want to ask about one point: if the wizard's caused evolution 'cos of their meddling, how come there were people already on the Disc beforehand? I'm asking this cos the God of Evolution mentions his former worshippers, and you get the impression that humans had been around a long time before them. Any ideas?


From: Tamar

I think some of them evolved from Rincewind's sandwich, others may have been created by the other gods that were around. IIRC it's mentioned somewhere in the canon (Sourcery? DW Companions, maybe?) that the original humans were considerably more powerful magicians and were recreated after the mage wars to be more controllable. <memo: look this up soon, I keep saying it with no page numbers to back it up>

Anyway, the G of E caused the evolution of possibly another batch of humans. All the surviving ones (as far as we know) can interbreed and are essentially similar. Maybe the variant forms all got blasted by bad-tempered gods and the rest survived because the gods moved up to Dunmanifestin and stopped meddling quite so much.


Date: 27 Jan 1999
From: francesco.nicoletti

There is no evidence that the God Of Evolution created humans on the DW. He was last seen creating the cockroach.


Date: 22 Jan 1999
From: Marion Diamond

I really enjoyed [the] analysis of TLC - especially as I was re-reading it this week and, as always, found it much better the second time around. It struck me the first time, and still does a bit, that the problem with the book as a narrative is that it has no 'baddie' - there are NO evil or disquieting individuals [e.g. D'Eath) or groups of people (e.g. elves) in the whole book. This lack of an anti-hero unbalances the narrative a bit.

But the other thing that struck me is that Rincewind is a Prometheus figure - a Hero in the Joseph Campbell meaning of the word. But instead of fire, he (and the wizards) steal another element - water - from the Gods, to give to mankind. And the story of Prometheus is one where there is no anti-hero, so Pterry's running true to the archetype.


From: Richard Bos

the problem with the book as a narrative is that it has no 'baddie' - there are NO evil or disquieting individuals [e.g. D'Eath] or groups of people [e.g. elves] in the whole book. This lack of an anti-hero unbalances the narrative a bit.

Actually, there is an antagonist in TLC, unless you insist on having one in human form. It is the usual antagonist for Rincewind, to whit Fate, the world, and circumstance. I don't think there is more than one book[1] where Rincewind has a human adversary - he has them for parts of the books, as in TLC, e.g., the jailers and the cart gang, but never one for the whole book.

[1] The one is Sourcery. IT doesn't count, Rincewind hardly meets Lord Hong and is really used as a pawn by everybody.

Rincewind tends not to make many enemies, but to have so bad luck on the grand scale that he keeps getting involved in other people's troubles. In TLC, it's the trouble that the back-in-time wizards make by stealing the bullroarer; Rincewind has nothing to do with that, but he gets to solve the mess. Good thing, really, that on a small scale his luck is very good indeed.

And the story of Prometheus is one where there is no anti-hero, so Pterry's running true to the archetype.

Yes, there is, but it's the same kind as with Rincewind, really. In Prometheus' case it is the collective of Olympic gods, who withhold fire from the humans out of fear, and Prometheus gets to interfere on our behalf. Mind you, after that he does have some very bad-tempered enemies.


From: Miq

Actually, there is an antagonist in TLC, unless you insist on having one in human form. It is the usual antagonist for Rincewind, to whit Fate, the world, and circumstance.

Do you mean Fate with a capital F, as in the Lady's opponent in IT? If so, I can't see any real evidence that he's involved. I'm not convinced that 'the world' is against him either, even though he thinks it is. I think it's one or more Divine Powers (the old man and the trickster, mostly) who are arranging things so that he keeps landing in the doo-doo.

I don't think there is more than one book where Rincewind has a human adversary - he has them for parts of the books, as in TLC, e.g., the jailers and the cart gang, but never one for the whole book.

Oh, I don't know. In TCoM there's Death and the Patrician, who were both pretty unsympathetic back then. In Eric there's Astfgl. And although Lord Hong isn't Rincewind's enemy in particular, he's still a villainous hate-figure for the whole book.

But the other thing that struck me is that Rincewind is a Prometheus figure

I think that's quite an apt comparison. It's a 'Quest' story, overdone to the point of a spoof, and Prometheus is perhaps the archetypal 'Quest'.


Date: 23 Jan 1999
From: Miq

[...]

Terry is quite subtle about it. To all appearances, TLC is a spoof of a standard 'quest' story. The observations about the nature of the story are seamlessly woven into the story itself - so seamlessly that many readers don't even see them. That's an achievement.


Date: 25 Jan 1999
From: Richard Bos

Do you mean Fate with a capital F, as in the Lady's opponent in IT?

I mean fate with a small f; but on the D-W, this probably means Fate with a big F. Just because we don't see him doesn't mean he isn't involved at all; though perhaps this new continent has a separate Fate... tempting thought, that. Maybe you're right with Divine Powers; but there needn't be any such. What I meant was not really that there is an active force fighting RW; much more that he is trying to struggle, uphill, against Circumstance. There are, in most books, several people involved in RW's fate; some trying to help, some not. However, RW does always tend to struggle against the World In General; this may indeed be caused by his own attitude, but the struggle exists.

It's much more a case of RW against the World, than the other way around, I think.

In TCoM there's Death and the Patrician, who were both pretty unsympathetic back then. In Eric there's Astfgl. And although Lord Hong isn't Rincewind's enemy in particular, he's still a villainous hate-figure for the whole book.

Yes... but they're not directly his enemy. Death was after RW in TCoM; but RW doesn't fight Death throughout the book. Same for the Patrician. And Astgfl actually uses RW during Eric, and doesn't become his adversary until RW enters his own domain, and then lets him go. Lord Hong, too, actually helps bring RW to Agatea; he's much more Twoflower's enemy.

I think that's quite an apt comparison. It's a 'Quest' story, overdone to the point of a spoof, and Prometheus is perhaps the archetypal 'Quest'.

Yes; with one big difference. Prometheus was a Hero, intervening with the Olympics in our behalf, willingly risking their ire, and receiving it. Rincewind gets the role dumped on him, plays it despite himself, and, eventually, gets out scot-free, even going back home; though I agree with Miq that this is probably mostly the work of the Lady.


From: Miq

perhaps this new continent has a separate Fate... tempting thought, that.

Hmmm... why would it? What with the old man, who's kind of looking after the place. (Incidentally, have you noticed that XXXX seems to be singularly un-religious, in terms of priests and temples and things? It seems to go in more for a sort of magic/ mysticism, presumably based on Aussie aborigine magic. Do you suppose Small Gods work differently here?)

What I meant was not really that there is an active force fighting RW; much more that he is trying to struggle, uphill, against Circumstance.

Against his own destiny - yes. I see what you mean.

It's much more a case of RW against the World, than the other way around, I think.

Yes, but that's a matter of RW's perception - his persecution complex (which someone was likening to Yossarian in 'Catch 22' the other week:

'You don't know who you hate.'
'Whoever's trying to poison me,' Yossarian told him.
'Nobody's trying to poison you.'
'They poisoned my food twice, didn't they? Didn't they put poison in my food during Ferrara and during the Great Big Siege of Bologna?"
'They put poison in everybody's food,' Clevinger explained. 'And what difference does that make?

- this sounds very like Rincewind reasoning to me.

Astgfl actually uses RW during Eric, and doesn't become his adversary until RW enters his own domain, and then lets him go.

I think you're getting Astfgl mixed up with Vassenego, who was the one pulling Rincewind's strings.

Lord Hong, too, actually helps bring RW to Agatea; he's much more Twoflower's enemy.

But both Astfgl and Hong are 'adversaries' - evil figures who have to be Dealt With somehow before the end of the book. There's no-one like this in TLC .


From: Tamar

Do you suppose Small Gods work differently here?

We haven't seen enough of XXXX to know much about their religions. No doubt some of them were brought along with the settlers. However, IMO small gods would work the same. Bunyips and so on are not mentioned but if they show up in a later book, they will probably have begun as small gods.

And Astgfl^W Vassenego actually uses RW during Eric, and doesn't become his adversary until RW enters his own domain, and then lets him go.

Astfgl is RW's adversary as soon as he realizes RW has taken off with the boy Astfgl wanted to ensnare; Vassenego is using RW and Eric and lets them go at the end. I'd say Astfgl qualifies as a Villain to be overcome even though RW doesn't know about him, and we only applaud Vassenego because he's fighting Astfgl and because he lets RW and E go. RW in E is being a Mentor to Eric; the villain of the piece may actually be Eric's lack of understanding, which RW combats fairly well.

But both Astfgl and Hong are 'adversaries' - evil figures who have to be Dealt With somehow before the end of the book. There's no-one like this in TLC .

In TLC could it be that Rincewind is his own adversary? With the wizards of UU as sort of henchmen. RW's arrival (due to the spell actually cast by the UU wizards, despite the fact that it was altered by The Lady) is the cause of the trouble because his arrival led to the UU wizards' interference, which really caused the trouble. He has to undo his own inadvertently 'evil' action, which caused the drought of all droughts.

He has to fix it by recovering the bullroarer (which I think I miscalled the boomerang earlier in this thread), and the method of doing that is to find the cave and bring the pointy-headed ones into the present; then he has to find and use the bullroarer to make the magic work. As usual he does it without really knowing what he's doing, and is spurred to it by fear of Death.


Date: 26 Jan 1999
From: Richard Bos

We haven't seen enough of XXXX to know much about their religions. No doubt some of them were brought along with the settlers.

Yes... though Fate isn't, strictly, a god, he's an anthropo- morphic personification. Hang on, we've had this discussion before, haven't we? Anyway, since there is a fate on XXXX, there must, by DW rules, be a Fate. Perhaps the same as for the rest of DW, perhaps not. We don't need to see him roll the dice to know that he's there, somewhere.

RW in E is being a Mentor to Eric; the villain of the piece may actually be Eric's lack of understanding, which RW combats fairly well.

And RW himself, as you later suggest for TLC; or more properly, the conscious part of RW is fighting against his own, well, call it fate; or "tendency to get into trouble" or, maybe, against his own lack of capability as a wizzard, and his own imperfections.

Rincewind as a symbol for humanity's struggle against its own imperfections - that should serve as a nice theme for a literary Ph.D.

But both Astfgl and Hong are 'adversaries' - evil figures who have to be Dealt With somehow before the end of the book. There's no-one like this in TLC .

True; however, neither Astfgl nor Hong is actually dealt with by RW. Astfgl is promoted away by Vassenego, and Hong is killed by the wizards through the Barking Dog. In neither case was RW the main actor. True, he was in both cases involved; but not consciously, or intentionally, nor even as the most important player. In IT, he was the cause, but not the actor, in the move that defeated Hong; in E, he was a mere pawn.

And from RW's point of view, neither Astfgl nor Hong have to be dealt with. He doesn't even know of Astfgl, any more than he knew of Fate in TCOM; RW's adversaries are the troubles he gets into thanks to Astfgl, but Astfgl is a direct enemy only of Vassenego. He'd like Hong to be defeated, sure, but only because that's better for his friends. He himself would've been satisfied with a clear escape, I suspect.

In TLC could it be that Rincewind is his own adversary? With the wizards of UU as sort of henchmen.

Again, an appealing theory, and a very strong symbol of RW as personification of Humanity struggling against its own short- comings.

However, on a higher level there is also a possibility, though this is not inside the books. Since RW's main direct adversary is, I still maintain, his environment, which has a distressing tendency to run against him, and since this environment is created by the writer of the books, could PTerry not be RW's adversary? All other main characters tend to have more direct opponents; only RW is in threat of just about everything. Mr. Pratchett cast as DM, or, for those who love adventures, as an Implementor, setting traps for RW, only so that he can overcome them in the end, and have a nice run for it; as, perhaps, a higher level of Fate, ruling over Fate himself. Or am I being too fanciful here?


From: Miq

Anyway, since there is a fate on XXXX, there must, by DW rules, be a Fate. Perhaps the same as for the rest of DW, perhaps not. We don't need to see him roll the dice to know that he's there, somewhere.

But can we be sure that normal DW rules apply on XXXX? The whole creation seems different in some ways. And what is the Trickster - is it a god, an anthropomorphic personification or what?

I get the feeling that XXXX doesn't work quite by normal Discworld rules.

RW in E is being a Mentor to Eric; the villain of the piece may actually be Eric's lack of understanding, which RW combats fairly well.

Rincewind as Mephistopheles to Eric's Faust... that's a comparison that's crying out to be done...

True; however, neither Astfgl nor Hong is actually dealt with by RW. Astfgl is promoted away by Vassenego, and Hong is killed by the wizards through the Barking Dog.

Astfgl is dealt with by Vassenego using Rincewind as a decoy - fine. In Hong's case you can't really credit the wizards with killing him, since it was an entirely involuntary action on their part. He was killed by 'chance', as much as anyone ever is on the Disc...

If you must credit his death to an individual, the only real candidate is the Lady. I'd rather say that he's killed by the force of the story itself. It is necessary that he should die, because he is the villain.

He has to undo his own inadvertently 'evil' action, which caused the drought of all droughts. As usual he does it without really knowing what he's doing, and is spurred to it by fear of Death.

Whoa - I don't think you can say that Rincewind has done anything 'evil', inadvertently or otherwise. He had no say whatever in what happened to him at the end of IT, so he can't reasonably be either blamed or credited for it.

If anyone has acted 'evilly', it's the Lady. Which raises an interesting question about her:

She's known on Cori Celesti as the player who never sacrifices a pawn. This suggests something more than simple economy. After all, if it was obviously good tactics never to sacrifice a pawn, one or two of the other gods would have worked this out and adopted the same principle. So I suspect that there are times when she sticks to this principle even at the cost of losing a game.

Possibly she feels a real sense of obligation to Rincewind, or possibly she's just a sentimental so-and-so...

Or maybe she just looks further ahead than the other players. So perhaps she knew exactly what she was doing when she dumped Rincewind in XXXX. As Meg has so illuminatingly pointed out, the continent needed a hero. To have a hero, there must be a problem to overcome. Rincewind's arrival provided both the problem and the solution in one neat package.

So the whole story is manufactured purely to fill XXXX's need for a Hero. The central theme of the book is then The Making Of A Hero (In Spite Of Himself). As I started off by saying, the story is going to happen, and nothing Rincewind can do will stop it; Meg has explained why this is the case - not, as I first thought, just to make a statement about the nature of books, but to provide a hero.

could PTerry not be RW's adversary?

That's a formidable opponent... wow. What a thought.

I still maintain that RW's main direct opponent is the Book itself. He wants nothing more than a quiet life - but as long as he keeps appearing in books, that's precisely what he's not going to get. What he's trying to do is run away from the story, thus running out of the book.

So... yes, I guess you could say the author is his enemy. But then you'd have to recognise that Terry writes about Rincewind, in part at least, because his fans keep asking him to. So maybe we're the real villains here... maybe Terry is Rincewind's ally, shielding him from us by writing books about all these other characters in between, giving him sometimes years at a time of blissful boredom.

Perhaps his heroic dash into the Dungeon Dimensions at the end of Sourcery was in fact an attempt to escape from the stories... that would explain why it seemed so uncharacteristically brave.

That's mindblowing... I think I'll stop there.


Date: 27 Jan 1999
From: Richard Bos

Rincewind as Mephistopheles to Eric's Faust... that's a comparison that's crying out to be done...

Not quite... Mephisto was trying to get Faust's soul, wasn't he? RW is trying to get out, and is helping Eric, apparently, because he has to. But it is a nice comparison.

I'd rather say that [Hong]'s killed by the force of the story itself. It is necessary that he should die, because he is the villain.

Hrm... the villain of the book, he certainly is. In that sense, Astfgl is also the villain of Eric. So is there a confusion of terms here, between the main villain of the book, and RW's main adversary? Even when RW is the protagonist, his antagonist does not have to be the story's main bad guy.

Point in case: Mort. In M, M is the protagonist; his antagonist, when he has one, is Death. But Death is not the villain of the book; in fact, it hasn't one. Opposite case, really, from what I'm arguing for RW.

I don't think you can say that Rincewind has done anything 'evil', inadvertently or otherwise. He had no say whatever in what happened to him at the end of IT, so he can't reasonably be either blamed or credited for it.

Not evil in the sense of with bad intent, no. But it certainly has bad consequences. He may be held to his actions even if he didn't willfully do them.

I still maintain that RW's main direct opponent is the Book itself.

Yes... but now we have moved the opponent from inside the book to outside it. Does this, in a higher sense, concede and/or beg the question?

So maybe we're the real villains here...

Hmmm... I wouldn't call an Implementor, nor any of his users/ readers, the protagonist's enemy. Adversary, perhaps. Someone who opposes him, but not maliciously.

Even so, the readers don't really come into it, I think. Before TCoM, we didn't even exist as readers, there was just Terry as writer. Even now, he could just stop writing about RW. Oh, we would squeal, but why should that stop him?

Then again, maybe I'm just trying to protect my own conscience...

Perhaps his heroic dash into the Dungeon Dimensions at the end of Sourcery was in fact an attempt to escape from the stories... that would explain why it seemed so uncharacteristically brave.

No... I agree with Tamar that he doesn't know that he's in a story. Maybe it was PTerry's attempt to get some small respite from RW, à la Reichenbach Falls ;-) ; but probably he suspected that, with the Sorcerer still loose, and the Dungeon Dimensions in a (presumably) highly unstable state, this was, strangely enough, his most likely bid for (long-term) safety.


Date: 28 Jan 1999
From: Miq

Not quite... Mephisto was trying to get Faust's soul, wasn't he?

I think there's more to Mephistopheles than that... but that's another thread. Just wait'll I can actually find my copy of Marlowe...

[who or what was "responsible" for killing Lord Hong?]

is there a confusion of terms here, between the main villain of the book, and RW's main adversary?

Yes, we've been getting the two things confused - or rather, I've been conflating them without making it clear what I was doing. Sorry about that.

My point is that, to bring the story to a satisfying end, these are figures that have to be overcome. Because Rincewind is the hero in each case, this 'overcoming' is going to involve him. But as Marion pointed out, TLC doesn't have any comparable figure.

He may be held to his actions even if he didn't wilfully do them.

But it wasn't 'his' action at all! That's like blaming a brick, rather than the vandal who heaved it through your window.

Or, more topically: you might as well hold a crate of prawns to blame, rather than the idiot who didn't secure it properly or the fool who was trying to hoist it over the Senior Wrangler's uncle's head. :o)

but now we have moved the opponent from inside the book to outside it. Does this, in a higher sense, concede and/or beg the question?

I don't think so. As Marion spotted, the lack of a personal opponent is significant in this book. Rincewind is not trying either to avoid or defeat an enemy, nor himself; he is trying to escape from a story.

Tamar has pointed out his burst of heroism towards the end. I think this is because he senses the end approaching, and knows that now the easiest and quickest way out is to finish the damn story and get it over with. He's already lived through the worst of it.

the readers don't really come into it, I think. Before CoM, we didn't even exist as readers, there was just Terry as writer. Even now, he could just stop writing about RW.

Some previous RW books have actively hinted at sequels. In S, it's mentioned that he's left his hat behind; in IT, it's clear that TLC is about to happen. TLF or Eric could have been the end of his career, but fortunately for us, Terry had all these other great ideas for him. TLC, again, ends on such a note that it could be the last RW book - and if Tamar is right about self-realisation being the death of a series, then it probably is.

Even in that brief scene at the end of IT, I think we can see, in his reaction to being given the boomerang, a dawning awareness that his life is being shaped and directed by a power that is far bigger than any mere god. It recurs in his first conversation with Scrappy: "And what's kangaroo for 'you are needed for a quest of the utmost importance'?"

He knows that as soon as something takes an interest in him, his life is going to become exciting, and he is going to achieve great things - however hard he tries not to.

he doesn't know that he's in a story.

Back then - yes, I agree. I was just getting a bit carried away. But now , I'm more than ever convinced that he knows what's happening to him. The words 'book' or 'story' may not have crossed his mind, but he's had quite enough proof that he has absolutely no control whatever over his own destiny.

Maybe it was PTerry's attempt to get some small respite from RW, à la Reichenbach Falls

I don't think so - remember the comment about the hat? That's a clear hint that he'll be back.

No, I think he goes at that stage simply because it's the right thing to do. He was considerably braver back then.

On the other hand, if one really wanted to stretch a point, it could be seen as foreshadowing the end of TLC, where he rushes through the last, dangerous stretch just to get it over with.


Date: 29 Jan 1999
From: Richard Bos

I think there's more to Mephistopheles than that...

Yes; though I've never actually read it, just re-tellings; but surely, at least, Mephisto is out to get Faust, and RW is never out to get Eric, merely to get out.

My point is that, to bring the story to a satisfying end, these are figures that have to be overcome.

Yes; in that case, you're right. This is from our POV; I think from RW's POV, this is not at all clear; but from outside the story, we can see the several strands that RW can not.

That's like blaming a brick, rather than the vandal who heaved it through your window.

Mmm... yes, I think I agree with you ethically. However, in real life this does happen. People who aren't really responsible do get the job of fighting the fires. <fx: sigh> This is what happens, characteristically, I'd say, to RW.

Rincewind is not trying either to avoid or defeat an enemy, nor himself; he is trying to escape from a story.

Ah, but in Eric, he wasn't trying to avoid or defeat anyone, either. In fact, he wasn't even aware he had an enemy. He was merely trying to get out of this eventful situation, and back to a place where, even if things might be dangerous (whether this is the DM or A-M), he at least knew basically what was going to happen tomorrow.

The same, I think, goes for IT - from RW's POV, there is no clear-cut enemy. It is only from outside the story that we can see there is. He 's just running.

he senses the end approaching, and knows that now the easiest and quickest way out is to finish the damn story and get it over with. He's already lived through the worst of it.

Not the story. The adventure. He does it for his safety; that it is beneficial for XXXX is an added bonus, but he is still the same old coward he always was. He is merely trying to find the quickest, safest way home. That he does, on occasion, look further away than five minutes shouldn't surprise us; after all, he's good at surviving, and not solely by Luck.

But now , I'm more than ever convinced that he knows what's happening to him. The words 'book' or 'story' may not have crossed his mind, but he's had quite enough proof that he has absolutely no control whatever over his own destiny.

Has anyone? I can decide what I want to do, but there are always forces greater than me that will decide that I will pay taxes, whether I want to or not. And I could have accidents, whatever... I can take measures against this, and ensure I have no more accidents than strictly necessary, but there just is no guarantee. It shouldn't surprise RW that on a world so much more "interesting" than ours, the Powers That Be are also much more direct in their approaches.


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