In the third part of Carpe Jugulum, Magrat prepares for the naming ceremony while Granny has a crisis. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK, I’M SCARED.
King and Queen
I sat here and thought, “I won’t be petty about this!” But I’m gonna be petty. The amount of character development that we get from Verence and Magrat in this scene alone is justification enough that there’s no excuse why the wizards remain so unchanging in the Discworld series. I don’t need everything to be the same, of course, and the variance we get across this series is one of the things that makes it so fun. But LOOK HOW GREAT PRATCHETT IS AT THIS. This whole section is satisfying because we get to see how Magrat and Verence have changed since the last time we saw them. They’re not unrecognizable, but they’re also… well, it’s very fascinating.
Magrat, for example, still straddles worlds. It’s easy to see the “old” Magrat here, the one who is nervous about how she’s perceived. Yet there’s a tinge of something new, too. I wouldn’t say that being Queen has gone to her head; I think that’s a step too far. However, I also can’t deny that she’s adapted to the position. She may complain about the crib and the pomp and the circumstance, but her conversation with Agnes reveals that on some level, she enjoys all of this. Which isn’t all that surprising, I admit; she wanted to be Queen.
But there’s still a duality here, isn’t there? It’s a recurring motif so far, with the whole Perdita/Agnes split, as well as Reverend Oats’s beliefs, and now we’ve got another one. In King Verence’s case, though… I’m not so sure. His kinging (I LOVE THAT AS A VERB) is much more pronounced than it was the last time around. He’s taken to it well, even if Lancre isn’t necessarily the best place for him to do kingly things. Well, he’s trying, and it’s adorable!
Anyway, this is a great set-up, and the tension of the naming ceremony (OH MY GOD, THAT POOR CHILD’S NAME) with the inevitable appearance of the Magpyr clan makes for great fiction. BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE HERE THAN THIS.
So, I’d be curious to know what time period Small Gods takes place in. Was it so recent that Brutha’s destruction of the Quisition hasn’t reached the rest of the Disc? Or does it happen after this? Regardless, Pratchett does an interesting thing here by having Nanny Ogg react as she does to Reverend Oats. It’s a complicated set up because, on the one hand, she has a right to fear that Oats is going to hate her. Actually, not just hate her, but say something about how she shouldn’t exist! So it’s not just that she disagrees with him about his religious beliefs. That’s not the right context here. Omnians used to (or might still?) believe that witches should be burned alive, so I don’t begrudge her for behaving as she does. Lord knows I don’t feel any sympathy or affinity for religions that tell their believers that I am affront to God for being gay, you know?
There’s also an interesting line that made me think of something else, though:
“Well, look… the worst she could put her little hand up to at her age is a few grubby nappies and keepin’ you awake at night. That’s hardly sinful, to my mind.”
I generally avoid talk of scripture or theology on this blog, not because I find it boring or anything, but because I’m always conscious of being one of those atheists. YOU KNOW THEM, YOU ALL DO. At the end of the day, I don’t feel a hatred or distaste for religious belief in and of itself, and thus, I don’t feel the need to comment on religions from the point of view of an atheist. What could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?
But this line reminded me of one of the central problems I had with Christian religions that believe in original sin. It was one of a few things I simply could not rationalize in my mind, no matter how much my catechism teachers explained it. How could we be born in sin when we were ignorant to what it was? It seemed so deeply unfair. Beyond that, it felt like the deck was stacked against us from the beginning, as if God had allowed us to flourish with a propensity towards sin, but then got furious with us if we didn’t live up to his standards. (To be fair, I was taught a very angry, resentful God by my mother and my Catholic elders.) How was this just? How was it fair to doom children to Hell if they weren’t baptized before they could even become conscious beings with free will?
It all seemed so cruel to me, and it kept me from ever feeling truly close to God or a god or what have you. So I understood Nanny Ogg in these scenes. She recoiled at the thought of an Omnian priest leading the naming ceremony, not because all Omnians are horrible people, but because their religion mandated them to believe these things. Now, the reader knows that Oats is not quite what he seems, but how is Nanny supposed to know that? Why shouldn’t she protect herself from him?
I’m interested to see if Reverend Oats will reveal more of himself to her in the coming pages. What kind of Om does he believe in?
Then there’s Granny. Y’all. Y’all. It seemed utterly unbelievable to me (at first!) that Granny would be so salty about an RSVP. Like… it’s Granny! She doesn’t care about these things! But Pratchett’s prose here is SO FUCKING GOOD, and I know how wrong I am. It’s intentional, isn’t it? I worried that the Magpyr clan going after Granny was nonsensical, but it’s not. Look, Granny likes to pretend she doesn’t care about the world, that she is distant and detached from it, but that’s simply not true. The birth scene in the last section is evidence of that; so is her behavior in Lords and Ladies. And Wyrd Sisters. And Masquerade. She cares fiercely about the world, and the missing RSVP tells her that THE WORLD DOESN’T CARE ABOUT HER. Evidence of her views on this are here:
That was the worst part about being good – it caught you coming and going.
The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.
And always, always, you did it by yourself. You were the one there, on the edge, watching and listening. Never any tears, never any apology, never any regrets… You saved them all up in a way that could be used when needed.
What had she ever earned? The reward for toil had been more toil. If you dug the best ditches, they gave you a bigger shovel.
In a way, Pratchett does portray her as being this separate entity from society, the one who makes the difficult decisions that others can’t make. And yet, she craves reciprocation just like everyone else. Maybe not just like everyone else, but it’s still there. So, I’m posting all this to come to one final point: What if this is how the Magpyrs will get to Granny Weatherwax? This is the only inkling I have that Granny is vulnerable at all, so… maybe???
GIVE ME THE NEXT SECTION NOW, OH MY GOD.
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