Mark Reads ‘Small Gods’: Part 14

In the fourteenth part of Small Gods, Brutha learns of Vorbis’s terrible plans. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For gaslighting, torture, racial stereotypes (specifically Asian)

This is so disturbing, y’all.



Fundamental Truth

It’s such an uncomfortable and upsetting experience to watch Vorbis try and gaslight Brutha. Normally, it would work without fail. Brutha was a much more loyal believer, one who never questioned what was told to him by any authority figure. But shortly after waking up and learning of what Vorbis has told everyone in the Citadel, Brutha knows that Vorbis is a liar. I mean… HE TOLD EVERYONE THAT HE IS THE EIGHTH PROPHET. The horrific irony is not lost on me, given that Brutha is the actual Eighth Prophet. How? How could one person be so deceitful???

Well, because they always get away with it.

And so far, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Vorbis is using the existing system in order to put himself at the very, very top. That confrontation between Vorbis and Brutha is chilling because you can see Vorbis flex his power. He starts off – as I predicted in the video – bestowing Brutha with power of his own, in the form of archbishophood. Why? Because if he keeps Brutha interested and engaged in Church, then there’s less of a chance he’ll stray. Of course, I think practically everything he says in this section is laced with a threat, so I view his actions through that lens. He challenges Brutha: I dare you to reject a position so coveted by others.

Once no one else is around, though, Vorbis busts out his attempt to gaslight Brutha, to assure him that his perception of reality is utterly wrong:

“I am sure you have confused memories of our wanderings in the wilderness.”


“It is only to be expected. The sun, the thirst, the hunger…”

“No, lord. My memory does not confuse readily.”

“Oh, yes. I recall.”

“So do I, lord.”

CAN WE JUST ADMIT HOW AMAZING IT IS THAT BRUTHA FIGHTS HIM ON THIS??? It’s so subtle, so intense, and it’s a perfect demonstration that Brutha is not the same person he was at the beginning of the novel. He’s aware, and that awareness is a tool he can use against Vorbis. Not outright, mind you, and Brutha spends the bulk of this section suffering quietly and privately. He has to, because to speak openly against Vorbis at this point is certain death. How do I know that?

Because of the turtle. I simply cannot imagine a more heinous act in this book than what Vorbis has had commissioned for the heretics who dare oppose him. An iron tortoise that people will be chained to while a fire burns underneath it.

“They speak poisonous gibberish about turtles, do they not? They think they live on the back of a Great Turtle. Well, let them die on one.”

I hate Vorbis so much. SO MUCH.

The Other Turtle

At least I got a good laugh out of what Urn, Simony, and Didactylos have planned. Clearly, the Discworld has a vested interest in humor. While Vorbis is plotting his own bit of terror with an iron turtle, the heretics have figured that a turtle’s shell is the perfect defense system for attacking the Citadel. Both sides are using turtles as symbols for their beliefs, though Vorbis is doing so ironically. I still have the same worry, though. What if Vorbis knows too much about their plans? What if their efforts are thwarted before they even get started?

Sparing a Life

Well, consider me surprised. I kept waiting for a big twist from Vorbis where he’d use his own particular brand of logic to send the informant below to visit the Quisition. But he does no such thing. He spares the life of the man who spied on the heretics, and he spares the man’s father, too, ACTUALLY LETTING HIM OUT OF CUSTODY. What? Why? Oh god, is there something I’m missing?


I’ve been waiting to see if Lu-Tze would become a bigger part of the story. For the entirety of Small Gods up to this point, he’s been a silent observer. He finally does interact with Brutha while the boy is at his lowest point in the story. In that sense, I imagine he’s playing the role of the mystical guide, though I worry about why I assumed that. I’m assuming he won’t have a huge part in Small Gods after helping Brutha, but I also think that Pratchett is quite liberally using a trope for Asian men without subverting it at all. Like, seriously, when your “Asian” character talks like this:

“Ancient master say: ‘That boy there! What you eating? Hope you brought enough for everybody!’ Ancient master say: ‘You bad boy! Why you no do homework?’ Ancient master say: ‘What boy laughing? No tell what boy laughing, whole dojo stay in after school!’ When remember these wise words, nothing seems so bad.”

I can’t help but cringe. It’s like a mash-up of poor stereotypes for the Japanese and the Chinese, as if they’re interchangeable cultures. And the broken English? It’s just so bad, y’all. What does this add to the story? To the character? If anything, all it does is provide us with a narrative shortcut so that Pratchett doesn’t have to do much work for us to “get” who Lu-Tze is. And it’s lazy, honestly.


I really think that Vorbis has to be controlling that damn eagle. There are too many coincidences here! So, Om is still alive, but he was dropped over twenty miles outside of Omnia. I don’t know how he’ll survive the slow, tortuous walk back to the Citadel, but I know that he’s serious when he worries that Brutha will die if he goes up against Vorbis. No one’s been able to defeat the Church prior to this, so what makes anyone else think they can do it?

The original text contains use of the words “mad,” “madness,” and “insane.”

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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