Mark Reads ‘Eric’: Part 2

In the second part of Eric, Eric completely misses the truth, and it’s a disaster. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For talk of race, gender essentialism.

Okay, I have a lot of questions about all of this. BEAR WITH ME.

The Difference Between Demons and Gods

What an odd metaphor:

Demons have existed on the Discworld for at least as long as the gods, who in many ways they closely resemble. The difference is basically the same as that between terrorists and freedom fighters.

It’s such a strange imagery to invoke just to explain something that’s so relatively inconsequential. Are we talking about perception here or actuality? Freedom fighters, traditionally, believe that their resistance is one aimed at destroying an oppressive presence. Whether there is an oppressive force at work is another matter, and I don’t know if that is what comprises the joke being made. Are the gods freedom fighters? The demons? We find out later that the King of the Demons hates the gods, so in that sense, wouldn’t he believe he is the freedom fighter in this scenario? Does that make the gods terrorists?

I admit that I don’t get this at all, and I suspect it’s because Pratchett chose two loaded words to make a joke.

The King of the Demons

Seriously, it’s really hard not to picture Astfgl as Crowley from Good Omens and Crowley from Supernatural. IT’S REALLY HARD.

Like many characters in the Discworld books, tradition plays a huge part in their own characterization and behavior. I loved the idea that Astfgl chose the most stereotypical manifestation of himself as possible. That visual representation of a narrative trope is important to building his character! He respects his own history as a demon, and he understands his role in everything. At the same time, he’s in charge of a writhing pile of chaos, so to speak, and it’s not exactly an easy task. Like, I can’t even fathom what it would be like to be in charge of every demon in this dimension, particularly when they’re almost entirely single-minded and shallow in their pursuits.

Getting a small peak at Pandemonium was a treat, though, and I’m hoping this is not the last time we’ll see the place. I WANT TO KNOW SO MUCH MORE ABOUT IT.

Eric Thursley

But the bulk of this section does the exact opposite of what I expected: Eric is still convinced that Rincewind is a demon. Now, even I have to admit that Rincewind’s sudden, inexplicable possession of power confuses me. Is this an issue of perception again? Because Rincewind came back into the world through a magic circle, and because Eric so wholly believe he is a demon, does that meant that the universe gave Rincewind these powers?

That’s an issue I’ll discuss once I have more information. There’s absolutely none of it given to us because Rincewind is forced to deal with two things at once. One, he’s got powers he doesn’t understand; and two, Eric Thursley is ONE OF THE MOST IRRITATING CHARACTERS EVER. Actually, irritating doesn’t quite cut it. I’m going to quote Astfgl’s assessment of Eric because it works so well:

And he’d really been looking forward to Eric Thursley, whose brand of superintelligent gormlessness was a rare delight. Hell needed horribly bright, self-centered people like Eric. They were much better at being nasty than demons could ever manage.

So yes, I’m already pleased that Eric is not treating its titular character with carelessness. Sections of the book here are brutal towards him, and justifiably so! He’s super rude to Rincewind, though I do understand that by all appearances, Rincewind really did seem to be fooling Eric about his powers. Still, his requests are arrogant, sexist, racist, horrific, and I could just continue to list adjectives if I wanted to. MANY OF THEM WOULD APPLY PERFECTLY. Y’all, when Rincewind accidentally uses magic to FLOAT himself, the Luggage, the parrot, and Eric, what does Eric say when he’s offered THE ENTIRE WORLD?

“Aren’t I allowed to try it out first?”

“What?”

“Well, supposing it doesn’t work? I’m not signing for it until I’ve seen it work.”

You little shit. I loved that Rincewind’s reply was this:

Rincewind stared at the boy. Then he looked down at the broad panorama of the kingdoms of the world. I wonder if I was like him at his age? he thought. I wonder how I survived?

Because let’s be real: most of us dudes were insufferable little monsters when we were teenagers. I enjoyed that this was part of Rincewind’s perception of him. I mean, I’d like to think that I was a pretty good kid, but I was socialized to believe that I was entitled to certain things because I was a guy. Granted, I feel safe in saying that I never did anything like Eric does here. HE LITERALLY DEMANDS THAT THE KINGS OF THE WORLD PAY TRIBUTE TO HIM AS THE NEW RULER. Like, if Rincewind’s power is truly real, that means he’s been the ruler of the Discworld for a whopping sixty seconds, and he’s already making demands like this. WHAT???

At the same time, I’m hoping that Pratchett doesn’t let up on the tone of all of this. I appreciate that there are multiple instances of the text outright calling Eric’s behavior deplorable. But given Pratchett’s track record with non-white people and with women, I don’t want to see people in these categories treated as the butt of a joke. The “Amazonian princesses” bit is another instance of women being the object of male desire, and there’s a healthy dose of gender essentialism in the footnote about the “masculine duties” that men are subject to. The “backward civilization” bit is also uncomfortable, though I think that Pratchett is poking fun at Eric’s view… sort of? Still, he’s using an incredibly common racist trope that portrays indigenous people as simplistic and backwards.

The thing is, I can’t quite parse my feelings because I don’t know where any of this is going. Well, I get the sense that absolutely none of this is going to go as Eric expects it too. He imagines a fairly simplistic end to all of this: he’ll be showered with treasure and women, and the Tezuman Empire will worship him as a god or supreme ruler. But the Tezuman are perpetual pessimists, right? How can they possibly believe that the arrival of Eric is a good thing? Nothing good happens to them. Ever. I mean, they quite literally believe each day is worst than the last one, as if life is a never-ending plunge to a bottom that does not exist.

I think it’s fine to be worried about all of this.

The original text contains use of the words “mad” and “idiot.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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One Response to Mark Reads ‘Eric’: Part 2

  1. cvrc11 says:

    I think the terrorists thing was pretty clear though? As in, “history is written by the victors” – the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist is often simply the person doing the telling. For example, if you asked a white plantation owner 200 years ago, he’d say a black slave rising up and fighting for his freedom was a terrorist, whereas if you asked most people today, they’d call them freedom fighters (although, as we know, most people today probably wouldn’t actually believe that, unfortunately…)
    In much the same way, the guys on Dunmanifestin and the guys in Pandemonium are pretty much the same, except the former happen to be accepted by society at large at the moment while the latter are, no pun intended, demonized.

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