In the third part of The Last Continent, the wizards try to locate Fourecks while Rincewind lives Fourecks. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I am fascinated by quite a few things revealed in this section. First, I never quite comprehended just how large and complicated Unseen University was as a whole. Pratchett has mostly given UU a narrow focus, and the five or six characters he usually talks about are all in this scene. But now, knowing the size of the campus and the sheer number of staff members it has, I really want to meet other professors and wizards. Who are they? What’s their take on the weirdness of UU? Why is it that Pratchett never names these characters and only offers up their job title instead? What hallways have we never seen? WHAT SECRETS DO THEY HIDE?
If anything, ignorance is the theme of this book so far. There are professors the wizards can’t recall ever meeting. There are wings of Unseen University that no one has ever been in. There’s magic that allows the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography to do that thing to his office. And once you think about Rincewind and Death, this still pops up. These people know so very little about the Discworld. That includes us as well! There have been only passing references to XXXX in the past and a single scene set there in Interesting Times. Even if it’s a clear analogy/parody of Australia, I still can’t claim to know much of anything about the Continent. I couldn’t even point it out on a map of the Discworld!
Which is sort of the point. As the wizards poke around the Egregious Professor’s office, it became crystal clear to me that these men knew shit about XXXX. The same goes for the books they manage to read. There’s no definitive volume or all-encompassing, general history; everything they read basically says, “Well, it’s probably there? Most of us don’t believe it’s real, but, like, five people think it is. So maybe?” Well, then there’s this.
“It says the continent has very few poisonous snakes… Oh, there’s a footnote.” His finger went down the page. “It says, ‘Most of them have been killed by the spiders.’ How very odd.”
FUCKING AUSTRALIA, OH MY GOD. So yeah, there are rumors and speculation, like the bit about the “noble savages” (which I dearly hope is subverted and not used uncritically in the pages to come), but I still didn’t get a sense for what Four Ecks actually was like.
That is, until we got to Rincewind.
Well, at least Rincewind’s story feels familiar, despite that he is in a place that is not. Now, I’ve never been to Australia, but what little I’ve heard from those who have or who live there, much of the Australian landscape is pretty fucking harsh. I was told by someone earlier this year that there was a reason the major cities are clustered on the coasts: most of that continent is actively trying to murder you. If not the creatures, then the unrelenting sun coupled with a lack of water. And given Rincewind’s journal entries, I’d say that XXXX isn’t all that different. And I do feel bad for him! He has been dropped into so many hopeless situations, and yet this one feels grittier than all the rest. There are no magical barriers for him to get past; no, he just needs to survive a harsh and unrelenting desert.
He has some interactions with the indigenous people of XXXX… I think? And I think that they’re supposed to be Aborigine? But I’m not really sure because so little details are offered to the reader. All I do know is that he keeps pissing them off whenever he talks about rain, which I suspect is a joke about how little it rains in XXXX. As for that weird smoke/creature thing that comes out of the waterhole… I have no clue. Apparently it’s responsible for petroglyphs? Something like that? I DON’T GET IT.
Rounding this all out, even Death doesn’t know much about Fourecks. His inclusion here is intriguing because I don’t know if he’s meant to signal an end to Rincewind. The man has escaped Death so many times that perhaps this is it for him. Is Rincewind finally up against something he won’t come back from? I don’t know; it was just a thought that popped in my head. However, my big takeaway is that XXXX is a mystery to practically everyone who doesn’t live on it, so I love the idea that Death is gonna go check it out, too. Not even necessarily to keep an eye on Rincewind, but just out of pure curiosity for a land where the only non-lethal creature is “some of the sheep.”
Oh god, Australians, tell us about your lovely non-lethal creatures. I know you have them!
Mark Links Stuff
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