Mark Reads ‘Mort’: Part 3

In the third part of Mort, Mort goes on his first trip with Death to claim a life, and he’s disturbed by what he witnesses. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

Well, I’m somewhat pleased that my little bit in the last review in relation to kittens (KITTIES!) came true, but only somewhat. This is a sad experience for Mort, but it’s one that needed to happen very early on in his apprenticeship, or things would have gotten very uncomfortable later on. Amidst all of this, Mort is still trying to wrap his head around the seemingly complicated nature of the world he’s in now, which not only includes Death’s duty but the physical world he inhabits at Death’s house. Which… is sort of physical? It’s physical in the sense that you can observe and the things closest to the actual home are made up of what feels like solid matter, but the entire thing is a creation of Death. Albert reasons it’s so that Death feels like he has a place to go home to.

That contributes to this notion that Death does all these little things to give himself some comfort or amusement. Like naming his horse BINKY. Or having a garden with different hues of black! OR CRASHING PARTIES IN ORDER TO GET DRINKS AND FOOD, which is my favorite single detail in this whole section I suppose this got me thinking about how long Death had been doing his job, and it only makes sense that he’d eventually give himself something to own after all that time.

Well, time is a human invention. Who knows if Death even experiences it?

Anyway, the first job that Death takes Mort on is an assassination of a king. Mort, always inquisitive, spends most of this section asking questions, which Death usually answers quickly and succinctly. Sometimes, I sense a hint of annoyance from Death, but it’s always just a hint of it. I think that, by and large, he appreciate’s Mort’s mind. Mort tries to figure out the world around him, and he does so with a genuine sense of wonder. There’s no ulterior motive here. When he’s asking about kings and assassins and horses on rooftops, they’re sincere things he wants to know.

It’s that sincerity and that sense of innocent goodness that gets him in trouble, though. The two arrive to take the soul of King Olerve, who only has a few minutes to live, and Mort is increasingly upset about the very idea that Death is uninterested in doing anything to stop people from dying. This is all rooted in a key misunderstanding: Mort still thinks Death is actually the one killing these people. I think he’s slowly comprehending that’s not the case, but the way he frames his questions and actions here suggests that he believes Death is acting of his own agency when he collects souls. These people are dying regardless of Death being there, and his presence has no affect on events at all. Still, Mort is distracted by Death’s refusal to stop anything, and then the entire thing is humanized through the king’s daughter. It’s only after Mort notices her that he tries to stop the crossbow bolt from striking King Olerve. (NOT SORRY FOR MY EERILY ACCURATE “RAINS OF CASTAMERE” JOKE.)

He fails because there was nothing Mort could have done to stop it. I love the way that Pratchett describes the dream-like quality of the parallel world where Mort, Death, and now King Olerve exist. Upon the king’s death, Death’s job is essentially to help the soul move on to… well, wherever that soul is headed. While he does so, Mort becomes increasingly frustrated and frightened by what he’s witnessing. Not only did he watch someone die and was unable to stop it, but he’s also experiencing the surreal magic that surrounds Death at all times. It’s almost too much for Mort to handle at once. So when Death mildly scolds Mort for trying to twist fate to his liking, it made sense that he’d be worried he was going to be sent home. He believed he’d failed Death on his first outing! But I got the sense that Death knew this was an inevitable reaction from someone like Mort. He actually praises Mort’s compassion before reminding him that Death’s compassion isn’t saving a life. It’s the sharp blade that ends it quickly.

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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