In the fifteenth part of Carpe Jugulum, I can’t believe Pratchett has me interested in vampires again. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
SERIOUSLY THIS IS GENUINELY FASCINATING. Let me start with the “modern” vampires before we get into the glimpse of the “traditional” vampires that Igor gives us. The idea that vampires have “adapted” to prolong their lives by shedding their stereotypical flaws is SO FUNNY TO ME, except that Pratchett finds a really creepy way to make this a reality. Like, yes, it’s absolutely hilarious that this is an honest-to-gods line in this book:
“This is Morbidia,” said Vlad. “Although she’s been calling herself Tracy lately, to be cool.”
I cherish it. I really do. But the text swings from this moment to talk of how these vampires feed. Vlad insists that Agnes has it all wrong, that she is full of misconceptions of how they get sustenance. Instead, he is certain that once she sees life in Escrow, the town they came from, she’ll agree that vampires and humans can live in peace.
But it’s all a ruse, isn’t it? That peace is relative. (Which is later referenced in the conversation that Granny and Oats have about religion.) To them, it looks like peace; could you say the same from the humans’ perspective? How is it peaceful to control people’s minds? That’s an act of violence, y’all, but these vampyres conveniently don’t see it that way. I’m not even sure that they believe it, so much as it’s all posturing for Agnes. They want a world where they lord over everyone “lesser” than them. They don’t want peace at all, unless you consider “peace” to mean that they never want anyone contradicting them ever.
Of all books, didn’t expect this one to host a rather intense conversation about faith and religion. It’s an integral part of Oats’s characterization, though, and his “dual” mind is specifically because of his complicated experiences with Omnianism. And it’s relevant to this book for a number of reasons. I said before that adaptation is a huge theme of Carpe Jugulum, and I would argue that this long scene is evidence of that.
It doesn’t seem that way at first. Granny’s prodding of Oats felt a bit more like her chance to poke fun at his beliefs in that way Granny does. She sees silliness and she goes after it, usually in a quiet, biting way. Add to this the unfortunate history of Omnians and witches, and I really wasn’t surprised that Granny decided to say something. What did surprise me was how intense and personal this got. VERY QUICKLY. It goes from light talk about a song to the heinous nature of ascribing sin to human beings:
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
OH, THE WAYS IN WHICH I LOVE THIS. You can blame my strict Christian upbringing and my conversion to Catholicism for my feelings on this, but Granny nails it on the head. It was one of a few things that, at the end of my schooling to become Catholic, I simply could not wrap my mind around. Granted, the Catholic church has a very specific and rigorous interpretation of sin, so that certainly plays a part in it. But original sin… I couldn’t accept it. How could I be asked to be responsible for what two people did long, long ago? How was I expected to accept the deck stacked against me as fair? In those moments, I felt like an object, a thing, a vessel in which hundreds of thousands of years of guilt had been poured into me, and it seemed so wrong. Even worse, I was gay, and I knew it, and that sin was the most unforgivable of them all! Nevermind that I saw people do heinous things all the time – many in the name of the Catholic church – and yet, their sins weren’t as bad as the one I held, which hurt… well, no one.
Anyway, getting off my soapbox, I loved that Granny got Oats to this part, then backed down herself: this wasn’t about telling people what the believe… as long as “they act decent.” I like that… it’s less about the content of a belief and more of what a person does with that belief. How do they treat others? What laws do they enact or help to enact? Who is helped and who is ignored? In the end, Granny doesn’t turn to religion because she doesn’t feel compelled to. She’s already got a hot water bottle, y’all. But just because Oats does – or anyone else, for that matter – doesn’t make him less of a person. She just cares what he does with that religion.
And Oats adapts. I guessed the ending scene once Oats started looking for dry twigs, but that didn’t dilute how powerful it was to watch him realize that he could use his copy of the Book of Om for something else: a great light.
It’s been firmly established that Igor’s rebellion against the Magpyrs is because they adapted. He’s used to a certain kind of arrangement with his master, and the Count refuses to provide him with that. In one sense, Igor is a walking trope and he’s proud of it. He misses the days when the head vampire treated hunting humans like a fair sport. That is a strange sentence that I just typed, but you know what? THAT’S WHAT HE BELIEVES. I just love how much we learn about what the vampires used to be like before the Magpyrs changed everything. They’re like… hyper aware of how trope-y they are??? And are totally cool with that!!! In fact, that I pride I spoke of extends to the work that the previous master did.
BUT ALSO I WANT TO NOT BE SERIOUS FOR A MOMENT BECAUSE SCRAPS IS MY FAVORITE AND WHAT A GREAT NAME AND I AM SURE THAT THEY’RE A GOOD DOGGIE AND WHAT A GREAT SURPRISE IN THIS SECTION. Sorry not sorry, I love dogs of ALL TYPES.
Anyway, one last thing:
“Being killed’s nothing to a vampire,” said Nanny. “They always find a way of coming back. Everyone knows that, who knows anything about vampires. If they’re not too hard to kill and it’s all a bit of an adventure for people, well, like as not they’ll just stake him or chuck him in the river and go home. Then he has a nice restful decade or so, bein’ dead, and comes back from the grace and away he goes again. That way he never gets totally wiped out and the lads of the village get some healthy exercise.”
This system is exactly what the Magpyrs want to avoid, namely the part where they die. The way Nanny describes this, it actually sounds a lot more pleasant, at least in comparison to what the Magpyrs want. I mean, getting hunted by vampires isn’t fun period, but you know, it’s better than the system these new age vampyres have set up. In the end, it feels like they want power more than anything else. That’s what fuels them, what motivates them to dominate cities like Escrow and Lancre.
And I can’t wait to see how they’ll get taken down.
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