In the sixth part of Small Gods, I AM ENJOYING THIS SO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
What the hell does Om have planned for Brutha? This question has me completely invested in this narrative aside from all the neat shit that Pratchett is skewering in regards to religion. I was confused by Om’s mental asides during the opening of this section because they didn’t make sense to me. Why Brutha? Why not utilize any of the numerous followers that he had? Why choose the most frustrating person to be your prophet? Why had Om been stuck inside the body of a tortoise for three years? Why was Vorbis the “eagle” in this scenario? I think Pratchett does a fine job in this section with the way he reveals the bigger picture. It’s paced well enough that I get a sense of relief and understanding once I am aware what’s going on, but he doesn’t reveal so much that I’m left feeling aimless. No, I still have a lot I’m wondering about, but the dangled carrot doesn’t feel frustrating.
So what is it that Om has planned for Brutha? There’s some insight provided here, first by the section that explains Koomi’s theory of lesser gods, then by Om’s own interaction with a god. At the heart of this? Brutha is Om’s only true believer. That one fact changes EVERYTHING, y’all. And shit, I should have seen this coming! We knew that Fri’it did not believe in the afterlife of Omnian. We also saw that the god Vorbis invoked was not Om in any way. So who really believed in Om? If Vorbis and the Church and the Quisition had been dedicated to such an intense and utterly wrong version of Om, that would mean that none of the people of this religion actually believe in Om.
Except, of course, for the sole loyal member of the Omnian religion. Brutha.
And since belief is the “food” of the gods within the Discworld, that means that Om can actually die if Brutha dies or stops believing in him, which is a ridiculous thing to type and yet I SINCERELY BELIEVE IT. I suspect that is why Om has finally contacted his “prophet”: it’s out of desperation! Why else does he summon the Queen of the Sea? Because Vorbis foolishly and ignorantly had a porpoise killed, which guaranteed that the ship would sink in a destructive storm. The Sea Queen agrees to help Brutha, but at a price: one human life. THIS IS WHAT OM IS WILLING TO DO TO KEEP BRUTHA ALIVE. That is how important this is to him!
Unfortunately and ironically, the sailors choose Brutha to sacrifice to the sea, right after Om made a deal to save Brutha. THANKS, SAILORS. WAY TO MAKE THIS AWKWARD. But in yet another ironic twist, Brutha prays to his god, and then the Sea Queen makes good on her deal, granting smooth sailing to the ship. The coincidental nature of this makes it seem like Brutha actually called upon his god to calm the sea. So, yet again, Brutha comes across as slightly intimidating, and it’s just a beautiful thing to witness.
Anyway, I appreciated that this was followed by even more insight into the sort of existence that Om lived. From his beginnings as a mere thought in the consciousness of one dude to the waning God he is now, he’s passed through from oblivion to popularity and now, to being nearly obsolete. Is this the end for Om? Is this his last adventure? Will he soon have to cross the Great Desert in the afterworld, like many small gods before him?
A Veneer of Surprise
It’s both fascinating and heartbreaking to see Brutha change.
There’s a rather subtle (but vital scene) near the end of this section where Brutha’s faith in the institution of the Church falters further. During a conversation with the captain of the ship, Brutha does not condemn or judge the caption for his most recent sleight. (In this case? Owning a mirror. Seriously.) He starts to, but he doesn’t commit to it:
Brutha was about to say, “Then rejoice that your soul shall be purified.” But he didn’t. And he didn’t know why he didn’t.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said.
A veneer of surprise overlaid the captain’s grief.
“You people usually say something about how the Quisition is good for the soul,” he said.
“I’m sure it is,” said Brutha.
And that’s when the captain takes the opportunity to reveal that he, like many others, believes that the world is flat, and that it rides on the back of four elephants who stand on a turtle. It’s an electrifying little moment, made even better when Om matter-of-factly agrees with the captain that this is what the world is like. I loved this little exchange:
“In that case,” said Brutha triumphantly, “what does the turtle stand on?”
The tortoise gave him a blank stare.
“It doesn’t stand on anything,” it said. “It’s a turtle, for heaven’s sake. It swims. That’s what turtles are for.”
Wow, this part was too real:
“Because the Quisition cannot be wrong. Things can only be as the God wishes them. It is impossible to think that the world could run in any other way, is this not so?”
I grew up with this kind of logic. My mother used it whenever I tried to question God or herself, and it was an immutable point: God would not ever allow mistakes, which meant that “good” Christians were always doing as He desired. You can quickly see why this would become a problem for me in that household. But I encountered it for years afterward, especially once I started going to Sunday school. It frustrated me because there seemed to be so much wrong in the world, including in my own life, and I couldn’t rectify that with a loving, omniscient, and omnipotent god.
And as we can see here in Small Gods, gods can certainly be wrong.
Mark Links Stuff
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