Mark Reads ‘Mort’: Part 9

In the ninth part of Mort, Mort has created a nightmare. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Oh, Mort. I like him a lot because he cares so much that it’s become a flaw. It’s incredibly endearing! At the same time, Pratchett’s text fairly explicitly criticizes its own protagonist for his misguided ideas. Mort’s “inner monologue” points out – very directly! – that his whole quest to save Princess Keli is a DISASTER.

She’s only met you once, you fool. Why should she bother about you?

Yes, but I did save her life.

That means it belongs to her. Not to you.

Y E S. THANK YOU. This is so important to understand because people don’t owe you their life, at least not in this context. So Pratchett deliberately reminds us of this as Mort heads into the palace. (Should I say “through” the palace, though? Because he continuously walks through objects like walls and pillars.) He has a vague notion of saving Princess Keli, but at no point does he ever quite know how he’s going to pull it off. There’s a point later on where he suggests that he could whisk her out of this world (and I assume he meant off to Death’s world), but does that even work? Does Mort have the power to bring new things into that place?

Let’s get back to that later. It’s not long after Mort gains access to the palace that he comes across Cutwell, who was busy trying to scavenge the kitchen with no real success. I absolutely ADORE their conversation, y’all. It’s funny, it’s revealing, and it’s a brilliant demonstration of their characterization. Both men are well meaning, clearly, but that doesn’t mean that what they’ve done has the best of results. We discover that Cutwell was the one to come up with all the methods of forcing the people to remember Princess Keli. The town criers, the posters, it was all his idea. And it works! Sort of? The problem is that Cutwell suspected that the “interface” (what he calls the “dome” of silver mist that’s correcting the world) was already on its way. As it turns out, he heard Keli’s version of events, and Mort’s appearance corroborates the theory that Mort is Death’s assistant.

It’s fascinating to me, then, that Cutwell is the one that has to teach Mort about the causality of events. There’s an ongoing joke where Cutwell is constantly telling others that “wizards know these kind of things,” but here, HE’S ACTUALLY BEING SINCERE. He does know something that Mort doesn’t, and it’s this:

“You don’t quite understand. She will have been dead for a week. All this –” he waved his hands vaguely in the air – “will not have happened. The assassin will have done his job. You will have done yours. History will have healed itself. Everything will be all right. From History’s point of view, that is. There really isn’t any other.”

I like that he makes that distinction: that at this point, there’s currently more than one point of view of existence, but History is snapping back to reduce it all to one. The physical and mental reaction that people are experiencing because of this also demonstrates another effect of Mort’s actions. He’s causing people physical and emotional discomfort because “[t]heir minds were in one reality and their bodies where in another.” That kind of power is terrifying, isn’t it? Mort split people in two, forcing them into a bizarre existential crisis that they constantly have to fight. So why is it all that absurd to suggest that it might be possible to alter History permanently by getting people to believe that this reality is real? This entire thing has been written as an elaborate mind trick. There’s been a common motif throughout Mort of the mind seeing only what it wants to see. So… what happens if you convince minds to see something that shouldn’t exist? In this case, that would be Princess Keli.

It’s at this point that Pratchett drops one hell of a reveal, one that made me want to go back and read the last 190 pages or so. Cutwell pulls out a book to back up his theory on belief and reality, and he reveals that the person who wrote it – who also founded Unseen University – was Albert. DEATH’S SERVANT. Who just happened to disappear from the world thousands of years ago. SO OKAY, DOES ALBERT KNOW WHAT MORT IS DOING? Can he sense it? Oh god, what’s going to happen when he does find out??? I have no idea, y’all, but I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE HIM AGAIN.

Let’s get back to Mort, and then we’ll talk about Death being the best thing in the universe. Mort and Cutwell head up to Keli’s room, where we discover that she’s got herself on constant guard. She’s become paranoid that at any moment, she’ll die. Again. Except she kind of wants to. Not only is her life a paradox, so is her emotional state. The problem here is that Mort, having seen how people die, insists that there’s no glory in it. He wants Princess Keli to be the exception. But how is that possible? Mort, of all people, knows that you can’t escape Death. He knows that in his heart, but yet he persists in maintaining his own paradox, too.

I should also note that I was endlessly amused by Cutwell during Mort and Keli’s dramatic conversation because he was the only person interested in the fact that KELI HAD ACCIDENTALLY SHOT MORT WITH HER CROSSBOW AND IT WENT RIGHT THROUGH HIM. Oh my god, THE BEST.

But let’s talk about Death, who is the actual best in this entire section. It’s so much fun (FUN? WHAT IS FUN?) to read his sections here. He’s trying to find out why humans do what they do. Including dancing. And congo lines. AND IT GIVES ME THE MOST STUPENDOUS LINE IN ALL OF DISCWORLD (so far lol):


Bless. BLESS. (And if you play Borderlands 2, you’ll recognize my reference to the “A Real Boy” missions that Mal asks you to do. THEY TALK EXACTLY THE SAME, I SWEAR.) Death’s attempt to understand humanity continues when he gets involved in a particularly brutal game of floating craps, and someone insults him by calling him a wizard. Which he most strongly resents! I got the sense that at this point, Death was having fun unknowingly tormenting and confusing other humans. But even if that’s not the case, he was finally having fun. He had gone his entire existence without feeling that, y’all. SO I LOVE THIS SUBPLOT A GREAT DEAL, OKAY. I DO.

The original text contains use of the words “whore,” “mad,” and “cripple.”

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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