Mark Reads ‘Mort’: Part 15

In the fifteenth and final part of Mort, Death confronts Mort over what he’s done. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Holy shit, what an ending, y’all!

I like that while Mort has a happy conclusion for everyone involved, it doesn’t negate what Mort did and why he did it. Death’s demonstration of mercy – which I have a lot to say about – takes Mort’s actions and gives them a potentiality, arguably a very positive one. It’s hopeful, it lacks cynicism, and it feels distinctly optimistic.

That’s not how Death starts off, though. The group is only in Death’s house for a couple minutes before they walk in on Death and Albert, and then the shit hits the fan, AND WOW. IT’S SO AWKWARD. Understandably so! Death is furious with Ysabell, but truly, he is ETERNALLY PISSED at Mort. And when he spells it out for Mort, it’s clear that this would have ramifications for YEARS. Years! And the gods would have to get involved, and nobody likes the gods. Just kidding, I do! But apparently, nobody likes the Ice Giants. WHERE IS THEIR NOVEL? I want to understand them!

What I did not expect from the end of this book was a fight. Mort, fueled by his own sense of morality, challenges Death to a duel. DEATH. DEATH. Who can’t actually die??? But I understood that as misguided as this was, Mort was fighting for his own freedom in a sense. He had insisted that Death let Cutwell, Ysabell, and Keli go because this wasn’t their fault; it was his. I appreciated that he wanted to take responsibility for this and give them a chance to have freedom, too! But after having experienced what it was like to live outside of Time, Mort was… well, he was done.

Unfortunately for him, I don’t think there ever was a way that Mort could have beat Death. I MEAN:

Albert came back down one of the glass-lined alleys with two hourglasses, and set them down wordlessly on a ledge on one of the pillars.

One was several times the size of the ordinary glasses – black, thin and decorated with a complicated skull-and-bones motif.

That wasn’t the most unpleasant thing about it.

Mort groaned inwardly. He couldn’t see any sand in there.

The deck was stacked against Mort from the beginning. But you know what? He fought anyway. The battle is incredibly vicious, not just because of how desperate Mort is to win but because the two keep knocking lifeturners off the shelves, WHICH ACTUALLY CAUSES THE PEOPLE ATTACHED TO THEM TO DIE. HOLY SHIT. This included the Duke who tried to usurp the throne from Keli, who I didn’t feel particularly bad about, but many others, too! (Which was nicely addressed later.) And still, Mort fought on, despite that his own lifeturner was emptying of sand. Even when he does pin Death, it didn’t matter, did it? His life was ending, and that meant that he’d spend an eternity as Death’s apprentice or he’d die.

And then: Ysabell. Because punching Mort was not enough, she strikes her own father in rage, following it with a scathing point: Death technically meddled with most of their lives, too. I think this, combined with what Mort says later, helped him realize what was the right thing to do. It wasn’t being vindictive, nor was it taking Mort’s life or damning him to eternal servitude. I’d like to think that Death’s time spent entertaining notions of humanity is what caused him to feel sorry, you know?


Mort pulled himself on to his elbows.

“I might,” he said.

With those two words, Death is reminded that Mort actually does know what it’s like to be him. And even if Mort was the one who chose to to save Keli and set the world on a perilous path, Death put that boy (MORT!) into this experience. While this is all speculation (since the text is very vague on the internal motivations of Death), I think that Death was humanized during his experience. Maybe he now understood why Mort wanted to live and wanted to live in the mortal world. So Death chose happiness for someone else: for Mort, for Keli, and for his daughter.

That’s definitely a theory formulated after reading this, because I was SO CONFUSED by the jarring jump to Ysabell and Mort’s wedding. I UNDERSTAND IT NOW. It’s in the future! Mort is now Duke under Keli, and his coat of arms is a flawless work of art that needs to be preserved in every museum, oh my god. But the best part about this ending is the gift. THE GIFT. It took me a while to realize that Death basically gave Mort a physical manifestation of the very deus ex machina that solved the dilemma of the alternate reality. The gods, who are sentimentalists where Death is not, managed to fold reality so that Keli wouldn’t have to die again, and in doing so, the pearl of reality is born. It’s an entire reality that could one day give birth if the universe ever ceases to be. And I love that it represents that because Mort saw possibility in the world, even if it was a messy possibility at times.

AND THEN DEATH GIVES HIM HIS OWN BIOGRAPHY AND I GOT REALLY EMOTIONAL ABOUT THIS??? Look, I wanted a Death book very badly. And this book has rewarded me consistently and thoroughly by peeling back the curtain on Death’s life, and then giving the added bonus of making me feel intense pangs of adoration and sadness for him. I’m glad that he got to experience life in Ankh-Morpork, and even if he’s decided to stick to what he knows, I feel like he’ll live just a little bit differently than he did before. Maybe he’ll be friendlier to Albert. These gifts alone suggest a sentimentality to Death that he claims he doesn’t have. I think that’s not quite true. He does feel affection towards Mort after all that they’ve gone through. Plus, there’s still the option of having Mort help out if Death wants to take a vacation!

Seriously, this was a spectacular thing to experience, and I hope I get to see Death again in the Discworld. Now, I move on to Sourcery! Which is about sorcery! And stuff! AND I’M UNPREPARED AGAIN. Bless Mort, because that might have been my favorite Discworld novel so far.

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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