In the eighth part of Unseen Academicals, Glenda and Trev confront Nutt about his truth, but that’s not the truth they get. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma/PTSD
Y’all, this was ASTONISHING. I’m amazed by this direction because Pratchett is spending so much time digging into these characters, and I expected that most of the book would focus on the wizards and the football match. That’s still the framing of the narrative, but it’s not what’s given the most space in the book. I’m so totally into these four characters, who are all distinct, complicated, and intriguing, and this split adds even more to my understanding of them.
Let’s start with Glenda, who I’m learning is perhaps the most observant character in the group. Multiple times, she’s noticed details the others haven’t. (Or, in the case of the sandwich ingredients that Igor made for Nutt, things I did not pick up on either!) But she has to be that way, doesn’t she? She’s running an entire kitchen in a place where food is everything to those who are being fed. I can’t even imagine how busy she’s been all these years, especially since prior to Unseen Academicals, we’d only experienced the university through those who either attended the school or taught at it. Is that perhaps a motivation for the title of this book? Because Glenda, Juliet, Nutt, and Trev are all “unseen” members of Unseen University, and they contribute in material ways to the running of the place. In the context of Glenda’s role, that requires an attention to detail from her. So it makes perfect sense that she’s able to pick up on subtler elements that pass others by. She’s the only one thus far who noticed that the wizards were taking notes at the football game!
Once Nutt finally wakes up, though, this story veers in an entirely new direction. I feel like I’m so close to understanding Nutt, and I’m wondering if all the stereotypes that are assumed of him aren’t stereotypes at all. It sounds very much like whatever Lady Margolotta did for Nutt was to genuinely help him survive in Ankh-Morpork because his previous life was violent and uncaring. Was he prone to bouts of violence and rage before Pastor Oats found him??? What I do know is that Nutt takes in information like a sponge, except he retains it all. He’s terrible at knowing when and how to tactfully express that information, sure, but look at what happens when he rather expertly determines why Trev has had so much antagonism towards his dead father. Is Nutt wrong? Oh, no, I believe he nailed it all right on the head: Trev resents his father for being mortal, for being just like everyone else in the end, for burning so bright that he still hasn’t been extinguished even after his death. And Nutt doesn’t say any of this out of cruelty, either. He is doing as the Ladyship instructed him to: He is offering what he thinks is kindness. He is showing that he is helpful, that he is worthy. Which again brings me back to his origin: What or who made Nutt feel unworthy in the first place? Why did he not value these things before?
And why the hell does he crave pies? Is that a goblin thing, too? I genuinely have no clue how that’s a clue, but I know it is one! So is this, and lord, it feels like the biggest one:
‘There are many things I don’t know. There is a door.’
‘A door in my head. Some things are behind the door and I don’t know them. But that is all right, Ladyship says.’
Reading that back just now, I wonder if this is either something the Ladyship put there through training or if it’s one way that Nutt’s mind dealt with the trauma he experienced those seven years chained to an anvil. What if this is how he copes? He’s buried those memories behind that door, and it would mean that he’s being entirely truthful here, that he is giving Glenda honest answers. That’s also what I think is happening here:
‘Yes. It was wonderful. The noise, the crowds, the chanting, oh the chanting. It becomes a second blood! The unison! To not be alone! To be not just one but one and all, of one mind and purpose!…excuse me.’
I think that perhaps the tiniest memory—maybe just an instinct or a feeling—slipped out from behind that door. What it reveals about Nutt’s past, I don’t know, but I feel like understanding this would shed so much light on what Mr. Nutt went through. As for what he’s going through now? It’s just as interesting! Y’all, he likes POETRY. Poetry!!! I’m curious what exactly ignites a fire in Nutt’s brain here. Is he thrilled by the act of creating poetry? Of thinking about love? Is this a reference to the door in his mind? I like the first idea the most, that maybe this is something else that Nutt is good at that has nothing to do with his past.
Speaking of the past: the vase!!! So, was that the wizards in the opening scene, stealing the vase so that it could be publicized? Or Vetinari, maybe? Because the vase allows the “rules” of football to be changed and regulated, right? As far as I can tell, the version of football played in the streets is just… chaos? Right? And if Vetinari wants to bring the game under the purview of the city, this is how to do it, right? There’s now an ancient tradition! But how are they going to enforce these “original” rules on a bunch of people who most likely have no interest in doing anything different than they’re already doing?
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