Mark Reads ‘Mort’: Part 5

In the fifth part of Mort, Mort tries to walk through walls and takes his first soul. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mort. 


Sto Lat

There are two distinct halves to this section, and both of them reflect on Mort’s current state and the possibility of his growth. We open with his journey to go find the unnamed Queen that he glimpsed when King Olerve was taken, and by and large, this shows us how much Mort is struggling with what his life has become. He sets out with high hopes that are quickly dashed by boredom and impracticality. That’s an ongoing theme throughout this section, though. Mort has to constantly deal with disappointment, both for how things work in the world and how he performs as Death’s apprentice.

In Sto Lat, he discovers the hard way that getting to the queen is nigh impossible, given that he didn’t really think the whole thing through. And he ran out of horses. (That, too!) And then, further supporting my theory that Mort’s “powers” are only possible when he’s in danger, he finds out he can’t walk through walls. (If you hadn’t read the book and just read this review, that would probably be a very bizarre sentence, haha!) He’s stuck outside the castle with no way inside, and he’s sad, and he’s frustrated, and that means it’s time for a wizard. Because what’s more useless than an apprentice to Death who can’t walk through walls? WIZARDS!

I refuse to stop being amused by the way that Mort questions everyone, though. It’s quickly becoming my favorite part of this book because he so quickly deconstructs every single person he comes across. How quickly does he make Cutwell admit that he’s a liar? LIKE A MINUTE. He also has a fun way of talking:

“Only I before I did it I didn’t know that I could, and when I was doing it I didn’t know I was, and now I’ve done it I can’t remember how it was done. And I want to do it again.”


“Because,” said Mort, “if I could walk through walls I could do anything.”

Please tell me that some wrote a thesis on how Pratchett plays with word usage in the Discworld series. Because I would read the hell out of it. (In the future, obviously. WAY IN THE FUTURE.)

Granny Hamstring

Pratchett switches the tone of the book rather dramatically once Mort is sent to collect his very first soul. I am still mystified by Death’s behavior. What’s making him act the way he is? I imagine I’ll have to wait for that, so let’s talk about Mort’s first night on a solo job. Pratchett treats the whole thing with utter sincerity, and while Granny Hamstring herself is pretty damn funny, he doesn’t poke fun at any of this. He’s prose is gorgeous as he describes what it’s like for Mort to drift over the Discworld on Binky. (I am beginning to appreciate the unending joke that is naming that goddamn horse Binky. It will definitively ruin the serious nature of any sentence with its name in it.) It was a calming scene for me, to think of Mort on that horse, floating over the Ramtops. And really, now I understand why Death chose this specific person to give to Mort. There could not have been a better human for Mort to claim.

I didn’t figure out that Goodie Hamstring was a witch until she picked up her hat, but all the clues were there. Namely, the big hint was that she knew when Mort was coming, though she expected something different than what did show up. That’s part of the reason Mort so quickly becomes self-conscious about his job. He’s seen how smooth and kind Death has been in the past week while collecting souls and ferrying them on to the next world. And within a few minutes, he’s convinced that he’s ruined any possibility of him meeting the standard that Death had set for him. Which is why it’s so important that Hamstring is the person Mort helps:

“But you don’t understand!” Mort wailed. “I’ll mess it all up! I’ve never done this before!”

She patted his hand. “Neither have I,” she said. “We can learn together.”

WOW, MY HEART IS FULL OF EMOTIONS. Holy shit, what an incredible line. Granny Hamstring guides Mort down to the perfect spot, awaiting her death, and she shares with the reason she’s calm about her end:

“There’s some things I shall miss,” she said. “But it gets thin, you know. Life, I’m referring to. You can’t trust your own body any more, and it’s time to move on. I reckon it’s about time I tried something else.”

I think if Mort had been faced with someone a lot more upset than Granny, he wouldn’t have been able to feel like he could do this job. But Granny eases him into it. Well, sort of. There was that one part:

“Have a care, Mort,” said her voice in his head. “You may want to hold on to your job, but will you ever be able to let go?”

It was a fascinating thing for her to say, but I’m not sure I know what she’s referring to. Mort’s inability to let go of his own fears? His own life? The life he left behind in the mortal world? I don’t quite know. But if you trace Mort’s story in this section, there’s definitely a lot of him being unable to let go. He wouldn’t let go of the queen. Was that what she was talking about?

I guess I’ll have to read more to find out. YES.

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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