Mark Reads ‘Snuff’: Part 11

In the eleventh part of Snuff, Cheery makes a discovery, and Vimes has an important meeting with the goblins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Snuff. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of the death of a child.

The Unggue Pot

Okay, I love that all the bits previously in this book about Unggue and the importance of bodily secretions to the goblins have now come back around, and I’m going to try to unpack what this bizarre reveal actually means. I initially thought that the unggue pot was a bribe from Mr. Gumption. Sergeant Colon had noticed that something was off about the tobacco production at Gumption’s factory, and maybe this was how Gumption hoped to keep Colon quiet. This pot was rare and weird and probably worth a lot of money! And wasn’t that why Cheery made that big monologue and pointed out how Colon had taught her so much about being moral and ethical and fair as a copper? Except… holy shit, y’all, this part:

“You picked up a little trinket, sergeant, and now it really is yours, more yours than I think you can possibly imagine. I wish I could tell you more, but I only know what the average dwarf knows about goblins; and I don’t know much about this type of unggue pot but I think, given the floral decoration and its small size, that it is the one they call the soul of tears, sergeant, and I think you have made your life suddenly very interesting because—”

Which leads to:

“I’m very sorry to hear that, sergeant, but you see, in that pot is the living soul of a goblin child and it belongs to you. Congratulations!”

If unggue pots are for bodily secretions, then… what the hell? Is it just the tears? Or does a soul leaving a body count as a secretion? Which would imply that the child died? Why was a soul (A LIVING ONE!!!) put in one of these pots, and why was it then put into a cigar? So, I figured that Gumption’s behavior had something to do with the goblins. My guess is that he doesn’t know that the unggue pot was in the cigar; I think a goblin is sending a message, and it’s directly related to what Vimes is investigating. But what’s the message? Makepeace mentioned something regarding children being separated from their mothers, so that’s totally what this is, right? 


The Goblins’ Plea

Well, the goblins have now officially enlisted Vimes to help them, but it’s clear that this one body is just the tip of the iceberg. I think Vimes is spot-on here: someone did not want Vimes to meet with Jethro, and the easiest thing to do was to frame Vimes for Jethro’s murder by killing a goblin and hoping no one would figure out that it was goblin blood on Hangman’s Hill, not human blood. But this death reveals exactly what the people of this place consider the goblins to be: disposable. There’s another detail that is nagging at me: why was Vimes able to tell the sex of the goblin from the belly? Could Vimes tell that she was pregnant? Look, I wouldn’t even think that if we hadn’t had all these clues that child goblins are being separated from their parents.

Even if that isn’t the case and this is just a bad guess on my part, it doesn’t lessen the tragedy of this murder. As Sound of the Rain puts it: 

“She was thrown into our cave last night, Mr. Po-leess-maan. She had gone out to check the rabbit snares. Thrown down like old bones, Mr. Po-leess-maan, like old bones. No blood in her. Like old bones.”

Again: disposable. A means to an end, nothing more. But the text deliberately reminds us through Vimes and Sound of the Rain that this goblin was a person with a life that was extinguished early. She was Sound of the Rain’s second wife. And she did not matter at all to the people who killed her. Understandably, then, the goblins both want to trust Vimes to help them, but they also don’t trust him all the way. Vimes even realizes that the other goblins tried to hide as he arrived! And that’s a fair reaction, given how humans have treated them in the past. But look how important it is to Sound of the Rain that Vimes asks what the name is of the goblin who was killed. Humans never do that. They operate under the assumption that goblins DON’T have names, which further stigmatizes them and makes it easier for them to be perceived as vermin or failed humans. This is also not the only epiphany that Vimes has about the goblins, either. There’s a gut-wrenching moment not long after this where Vimes wonders why Sound of the Rain was able to talk about his dead wife without being intensely emotional about it. Initially, I thought that maybe goblins just weren’t that emotional? But then we got this line:

How can you get like that? How can life so beat you down?

And now I’m thinking that Vimes just got a deeper glimpse of how oppressed the goblins are. What if this whole nightmare they’re a part of, that I assume the aristocrats are a part of, is so heinous and hellish that they’ve just become used to their loved ones being murdered? What if it’s not that they aren’t emotional, but they’ve learned how to grieve over and over again because it’s so common?

Christ, that’s DARK. As Vimes puts it, they were “going through the motions now,” because what else was there to do? Well, this. Stinky did something to change this reality, and he sought out Vimes and brought him to the cave as a means to fight whatever is happening. On top of that all is the existence of the Summoning Dark, a being of pure vengeance, and what more apt situation is there for a revenge demon than this? 

I am a little frightened to discover just how deep this nightmare is. 

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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