In the fourteenth part of Unseen Academicals, Ridcully experiences a reunion, and Mr. Nutt receives a promotion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Hi, wow, this was somehow worse than I expected? SO MUCH WORSE.
So, my anticipation for this was… well, I knew it would be terribly awkward. Ridcully was still angry at the Dean for leaving for a position at Brazeneck, and he certainly didn’t respect the fact that the Dean was an Archchancellor there. But holy shit, despite all the clues that this would be intense, I still wasn’t ready!!! And initially, that was mostly because I ACTUALLY FOUND OUT THE DEAN’S NAME. As I said on video, I was so used to him being the Dean that his name was just… Dean! That’s who he is! But nope, he’s actually Henry. HENRY. It’s not even that it doesn’t fit; it’s just that I have a solitary name for him in my head. But Pratchett is intentional about that; I believe he introduced this here so that he could give Ridcully a means to diminish Henry. This whole time, we’ve known him by his position. Now, his position is something that angers Ridcully a lot. So what does he do? Ridcully won’t refer to his previous colleague as the Archchancellor; that’s his job, and as we see in the hat argument, only one of them has the “history” to back them. Nope, he’s just Henry. That’s it!
What transpires here is the wizards dropping one barb after another, insulting the other as many times as they can in every sentence. IT’S LIKE A TALENT OR SOMETHING. Because this went on way longer than I expected, and it was far more brutal, too. Like, holy shit, everything with Turnipseed!!! RIDCULLY WAS COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS TO THAT. Of course he wouldn’t understand how messed up that dynamic is because he treats Ponder Stibbons in the same way and thinks it’s normal! There’s also another reading I could see of this: Ridcully resents that Henry appears to have copied him and went and got his own version of Stibbons. Indeed, Ridcully sees himself as being the “original” Archchancellor of the two of them, and it makes a lot of sense that he’d hate someone not only leaving, but trying to replicate him. Even if that was unintentional! I suspect it wasn’t. Henry feels way too purposeful for that. Y’all: PEX. Pex!!! And Pex is supposed to be better, just like the Higher Energy Magic building. Henry came to rub all of this in Ridcully’s face, and he did not waste the opportunity.
But what was truly surprising was how quickly this sputtered out. In the space of just a few lines, Henry and Ridcully bond over when they first met, and then they segue perfectly into talking about football. Now, there’s still an air of competitiveness within this conversation, but the tone absolutely changes. Has Ridcully fully accepted Henry as the Archchancellor of Brazeneck? I wouldn’t go that far, and I’m now guessing that it will be through this experience that he comes to do so. What happens if Henry wins the Hat from Ridcully? Will he hand it over? I also suspect that Ridcully learning that Brazeneck is not swimming in money has changed his perception of Henry, too. Henry’s life has changed significantly since moving to the new school, and yet, he still wants to stay there.
Oh, I am SO PLEASED that this book features Ponder openly challenging Ridcully and standing up for himself so often. The long monologue he gives in this split is something that’s been a long time coming. Most of the wizards rely on on Ponder to take care of the details, but at this point, the man has so many positions/job titles that:
‘The accumulated votes of all the posts I hold on the University Council mean that I do, technically, control it…’
And so, he rightly takes that power and refuses to cede it. AS HE SHOULD. If the other wizards are going to constantly give up responsibilities and expect Ponder to take them on, then he is by all rights allowed to accept the power that comes with it. GOOD FOR YOU, PONDER STIBBONS.
Mr. Nutt Proves His Worth
I actually forgot that Mr. Nutt was still in the Hall, LMAO. But he speaks up at the perfect time, reminding Ponder that he does know a lot about football, enough to hopefully help Ponder in an area he is severely lacking in. Plus, Pratchett puts this moment at the perfect place in the story: Ponder just stood up for himself for having too many things expected of him. This is him asking for help; it’s him delegating a responsibility to someone who is not only able to but willing to help. Ponder is growing and changing, and I can barely believe this is actually happening, but it is!!!
And then there’s Ponder’s decision itself. I liked that we got some context for “the politics of wizardry,” namely that it wasn’t unheard of to give people sanctuary, or to help someone hide within the school. So, Ponder doesn’t actually know Nutt’s backstory, so he assumed he had done something wrong and was being given a second chance… of a sort? Which isn’t that far from whatever is actually happening here. Nutt is being given another chance. So, Ponder just continues to offer him that, asking him to continue to talk about football and eventually offering him the position of trainer. But Nutt—bless his pure, kind heart—doesn’t want to do this without Trev. Though Trev has complicated feelings about that! He’s been trying to escape the shadow of his father’s notoriety for ages, and how is he going to do that while playing football? Which he’s never technically played? But is probably terrifyingly good at???
I really, really love how this book is shaping up. I honestly didn’t expect this much depth from a book about the wizards and football, but here we are. And now Mr. Nutt is going to take the team to the ballet??? This is only going to get better.
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