In the second part ofÂ Eric, Eric completely misses the truth, and itâ€™s a disaster. Intrigued? Then itâ€™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.
Itâ€™s such a strange imagery to invoke just to explain something thatâ€™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 thereÂ is an oppressive force at work is another matter, and I donâ€™t know ifÂ that is what comprises the joke being made. Are the gods freedom fighters? The demons? We find out later that the King of the DemonsÂ hates the gods, so in that sense, wouldnâ€™t he believe he is the freedom fighter in this scenario? Does that make the gods terrorists?
I admit that I donâ€™t get this at all, and I suspect itâ€™s because Pratchett chose two loaded words to make a joke.
The King of the Demons
Seriously, itâ€™sÂ really hard not to picture Astfgl as Crowley from Good Omens andÂ Crowley fromÂ Supernatural. ITâ€™S REALLY HARD.
Like many characters in theÂ 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 historyÂ as a demon, and he understands his role in everything. At the same time, heâ€™s in charge of a writhing pile of chaos, so to speak, and itâ€™s not exactly an easy task. Like, I canâ€™t even fathom what it would be like to be in charge ofÂ every demon in this dimension, particularly when theyâ€™re almost entirely single-minded and shallow in their pursuits.
Getting a small peak at PandemoniumÂ was a treat, though, and Iâ€™m hoping this is not the last time weâ€™ll see the place. I WANT TO KNOW SO MUCH MORE ABOUT IT.
But the bulk of this section does the exact opposite of what I expected: Eric is still convinced that Rincewind is a demon. Now, evenÂ I have to admit that Rincewindâ€™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 universeÂ gaveÂ Rincewind these powers?
Thatâ€™s an issue Iâ€™ll discuss once I have more information. Thereâ€™s absolutely none of it given to us because Rincewind is forced to deal with two things at once. One, heâ€™s got powers he doesnâ€™t understand; and two, Eric Thursley is ONE OF THE MOST IRRITATING CHARACTERS EVER. Actually, irritating doesnâ€™t quite cut it. Iâ€™m going to quote Astfglâ€™s assessment of Eric because it works so well:
And heâ€™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, Iâ€™m already pleased thatÂ Eric is not treating its titular character with carelessness. Sections of the book here areÂ brutal towards him, and justifiably so! Heâ€™s super rude to Rincewind, though I do understand that by all appearances, Rincewind reallyÂ 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. Yâ€™all, when Rincewind accidentally uses magic to FLOATÂ himself, the Luggage, the parrot, and Eric, what does Eric say when heâ€™s offered THE ENTIRE WORLD?
â€œArenâ€™t I allowed to try it out first?â€
â€œWell, supposing it doesnâ€™t work? Iâ€™m not signing for it until Iâ€™ve seen it work.â€
You little shit. I loved that Rincewindâ€™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 letâ€™s be real: most of us dudes wereÂ insufferable little monsters when we were teenagers. I enjoyed that this was part of Rincewindâ€™s perception of him. I mean, Iâ€™d like to think that I was a pretty good kid, but I was socialized to believe that I was entitled to certain thingsÂ 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 Rincewindâ€™s power is truly real, that means heâ€™s been the ruler of the Discworld for a whopping sixty seconds, and heâ€™s already making demands like this. WHAT???
At the same time, Iâ€™m hoping that Pratchett doesnâ€™t let up on the tone of all of this. I appreciate that there are multiple instances of the text outright calling Ericâ€™s behavior deplorable. But given Pratchettâ€™s track record with non-white peopleÂ and with women, I donâ€™t want to see people in these categories treated as the butt of a joke. The â€œAmazonian princessesâ€ bit is another instance of women being the object of male desire, and thereâ€™s a healthy dose of gender essentialism in the footnote about the â€œmasculine dutiesâ€ that men are subject to. The â€œbackward civilizationâ€ bit is also uncomfortable, though I think that PratchettÂ is poking fun at Ericâ€™s viewâ€¦ sort of? Still, heâ€™s using anÂ incredibly common racist trope that portrays indigenous people as simplistic and backwards.
The thing is, I canâ€™t quite parse my feelings because I donâ€™t know where any of this is going. Well, I get the sense that absolutelyÂ none of this is going to go as Eric expects it too. He imagines a fairly simplistic end to all of this: heâ€™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 aÂ 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 itâ€™s fine to be worried about all of this.
The original text contains use of the words â€œmadâ€ and â€œidiot.â€
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