In the twelfth part of Pyramids, Teppic consults some experts, Dios panics, and Teppicymon has a revelation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
HOLY SHIT. Literally? Sort of. LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.
No one is more worried by the actual physical manifestation of a god than his priests; it’s like having the auditors in unexpectedly.
It’s with this that Pratchett unleashes some of his most brutal commentary through parody. It’s not lost on me how disturbing a lot of this is, given that some of the priests die because of what they believe. I’m reminded of Ptraci’s literal-mindedness here as the high priests all try to cope with the world becoming just as literal as she is. (Which is fascinating to me on another level, y’all. Ptraci excels by seeing the world as it is, while the high priests do not.) At the center of this is Dios, who is so opposed to change that he is KEEPING HIMSELF ALIVE IN ORDER TO PREVENT CHANGE FROM HAPPENING. Exactly how old is Dios? That question has been asked before, but I wrote it off as just another way to bring up the fact that Dios was older than anyone else. But good god, that’s actually a very important thing to ask!
He’s terrified, simply put, that the world is not exactly as he made it. And it’s important to note how clearly he defines the world by his own requirements. Hell, Koomi even starts to notice the “treasonous” things he’s saying. They’re signs that he absolutely views himself as the real ruler of Djelibeybi. Now, not all of this is super serious, biting satire, of course, and I don’t want to ignore how funny this can be. LIKE THE HIGH PRIEST OF CEPHUT ANNOUNCING THE GODS FIGHTING OVER THE SUN LIKE IT’S A RUGBY GAME. It’s so beautiful. But then, right as we feel comfortable slipping into this sort of humor, this same high priest says something that gets him thrown to the crocodiles:
“But… but…” He swallowed. “It’s not possible, is it? Not really? We all must have eaten something, or been out in the sun too long, or something. Because, I mean, everyone knows that the gods aren’t… I mean, the sun is a big flaming ball of gas, isn’t it, that goes around the whole world every day, and, and, and the gods… well, you know, there’s a very real need in people to believe, don’t get me wrong here –”
The high priest of Cephut broke a rule: he spoke the obvious. We already know from Dios’s narration that he believes in everything and nothing all at once, that he’s just in this for the power. And I imagine that all of the priests new the game well and they knew how to play. Except now, it has backfired, and all the metaphorical aspects of their religion (and power structure) have become real, and with them, they’ve brought utter chaos. That makes me think that, at least in this moment, Koomi is an opportunist. Has he been patiently awaiting something like this to happen? I’M GOING TO ENTERTAIN THIS NOTION WITH NO SUPPORT FROM CANON. Whatever the case is, he swoops in when he realizes that without Dios to lead them, they have no idea what to do. They’re so reliant on this system of power that it nearly collapses when any part of it is changed.
But Dios is not quite out of the picture, though he’s temporarily distracted by the shock of it all. If Koomi is going to assume power, he’s got to get rid of Dios. Dios, though, is more determined than Koomi can possibly imagine:
The old man was shaking again. “I do not presume to tell them how to run affairs in the Hereunder,” he said. “They shall not presume to instruct me in how to run my kingdom.”
Again: HOW OLD IS DIOS? He obviously views himself as the sole representative of all humanity on earth. Everyone is just one of his pawns! But I think Koomi wants to reverse that dynamic, to turn Dios’s weaknesses against him. But how? The man has lived an UNTOLD NUMBER OF YEARS. How do you undo that?
Tortoises and Geometry
Well, now I get the whole tortoise-arrow thing! Xeno simply considers himself an expert on everything, but he actually appears to not be an expert in anything. He knows enough to sound like an expert, but his understanding of velocity and speed and physics is… oh lord. OH LORD. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, he’s still sticking to the theory that a moving tortoise cannot be struck by an arrow because… reasons. His logic is flawed, to say the least.
What I got out of this section was twofold: First, that war between Ephebe and Tsort was inevitable because of “historical imperative,” which goes a little like this:
“If we don’t attack them, they’ll attack us first,” said Ibid.
“S’right,” said Xeno. “So we’d better retaliate before they have a chance to strike.”
The two philosophers stared uncomfortably at one another.
OKAY, I AM ENDLESSLY AMUSED BY XENO AND IBID. PLEASE LET THEM NEVER STOP SHARING THEIR HALF-FORMED LOGICAL THOUGHTS. Anyway, this is all a lead-in to whatever will happen at the symposium, where Teppic will hopefully find a possible solution to the problem of Djelibeybi. (And where I hope Pratchett addresses that horrible line of Ibid’s about Ptraci.)
HOW DID I NOT REALIZE THAT THIS WOULD HAPPEN? If the temporal shift of Djelibeybi made all beliefs real, that means that their belief in the power of pyramids would become real. Meaning that after death, all come back to life. LITERALLY. Meaning that King Teppicymon XXVII is now a MUMMY. Not only that, but he comes back to life in front of Dil and Gern, which gives me one of my favorite little jokes:
His chest swelled. No one else in the Guild had ever been congratulated on their work by a recipient.
But this is such an exciting development because King Teppicymon can finally interact with the rest of the story instead of remaining nothing more than a sad observer. He learns of the chaos of the rest of the world from Dil and Gern, though part of that includes the news that most people believe that Teppic is dead. (Is that why he’s outside of Djelibeybi? Because people believed he had died?) I loved that Teppicymon refused to believe the worst about his son, though, and I do hope there’s a reunion of sorts. However, they have bigger things to worry about at the moment. Like ALL OF THE PAST KINGS IN ALL OF THE PYRAMIDS COMING BACK TO LIFE. Mummies, y’all. THERE ARE ACTUAL MUMMIES THAT WILL BE WALKING THE STREETS OF DJELIBEYBI. This is too much to deal with.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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