In the fourteenth part of Snuff, Vimes visits the goblins again. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of poverty, death of a child, homophobia
OH NO I AM WORRIED.
I am only somewhat confident that I might be on to something, but, as has been the case with the last few Discworld books (or… way more than that, perhaps), I feel like there’s some major piece missing that will link everything together. That being said, Sergeant Littlebottom’s report on Colon’s condition leads me to think that the unggue pot that is stuck to the Sergeant is slowly turning him… goblin-like? Or into goblin-lite? At this point, Fred Colon:
- “acts as if he’s very hot”
- He refuses to let go of the pot.
- “shouts if anyone tries even to get near it,” which reminded me of how the goblins below Hangman’s Hill reacted when Vimes did the same.
- Fred’s voice “sounds like a man who’s gargling rocks.”
And to me, that last bit is the most damning part. Why would his voice be changing like that? Additionally, the conversation had around this reveal is telling to me, too. It’s all about the apparent custom that some goblins mothers practice in times of extreme need: they’ll consume their newborn child if they do not have food. On the surface, this seems like such an appalling nightmare of a choice that, like the characters in this book, we react with horror and disgust. How could anyone do such a thing? But I love that it’s immediately given a different context by both Cheery and A.E. Pessimal (who has a delightful return to the Discworld series!). This is about a “dreadful algebra,” a terrible “logic of necessity.” This decision is not made lightly, and it’s only in a situation of extreme hunger that it’s even considered. So, if Cheery’s earlier claim of what is in the pot stuck to Colon is true, we can assume they’re related, right? Is the soul of a child in that unggue pot because a mother was stuck in a dreadful algebra? And if that’s the case, does that mean somewhere out in the world, the goblins are being starved? From a later scene, we know the goblins in the Shires are dealing with food issues, but I can’t believe this is all just a coincidence. But how did that pot end up in tobacco? And was it the same pot that’s missing from the murdered goblin that Vimes is investigating?
Another thing of note here that’s only briefly brought up: how little anyone “knows” about goblins. Well, except for Harry King. Carrot is flabbergasted that the University can have so many hyper-specific professors, but “no expert on an entire species of talking humanoids.” Well, why is that? As I said on video: no one considers them worth studying. They’re beneath the professors, and I bet it is directly tied to the fact that people view them as “savages” and “vermin.” And why does Harry King know anything about them?
Because he actually works with them. He at least sees them as worthy of that.
Back to the Goblins
With Young Sam in tow—who brilliantly transfers his fear to Mr. Whistle because OF COURSE HE DOES he’s so cute I LOVE YOUNG SAM SO MUCH—Vimes returns to talk to the goblins. It may seem obvious, but seriously: Pratchett continually shows us that if you spend time with a group, you learn more things about them. It is gloriously simple, yes, but coming off the previous POV, it’s clear that virtually no one every spent any significant time with the goblins and tried to understand them. But Miss Beedle has, and the insight she gives Vimes is vital to him changing his perception of them. Like finding out they’re interested in fashion! Or the fact that they are having a difficulty with a variance of food, which leads to health problems. Even that works as a superficial metaphor for something like food deserts, for example. If a population has limited access to a variety of foods, then it stands to reason that there would be health issues caused by that.
But there’s one part here that just GUTTED me:
“What they really need is a first-class theologian, because, you see, they agree with the rest of the world: they think they’re rubbish! They think they did something very bad, a long time ago, and because of it they’ve lived like they do. They think they have it coming to them, as you might say.”
It hurts because—and I realize I am most likely projecting something onto this that Pratchett may not have intended—this was how I was raised. It’s clear that Pratchett did want to address how religion can make people feel like they deserve terrible things that happen to them in this life. And while it might be a stretch, I couldn’t help but think about how religion and a warped view of Christianity was used against me in a very similar way. I’ve written about this many times before! I was made to believe that I had been born “wrong,” and that all the horrible things happening to me growing up were deserved because I had not renounced this part of myself.
Again, it doesn’t fit over the metaphor that Pratchett has written, and I can see like… ten other contexts in which it works. It’s how internalized oppression operates, isn’t it? A system can lean so heavily biased against a person that they start believing all the horrible stereotypes about themselves, and that’s what is happening to the goblins. How do you break a person out of something like that?
And then Pratchett had to go and heart punch me with this:
That was a strange thing: when he got past the features, which at best could be considered homely, depending on what kind of home you had in mind, the eyes were as human as you could imagine. They had a depth that not even the brightest animal could achieve.
Again, the text reinforces that the rest of the world views goblins in the wrong way. They’re vermin or livestock or a legal source of labor to other people, and Vimes is quickly realizing how immensely, immensely fucked up this is. It’s not long after this that he offers up something of his heart in exchange for getting Tears of the Mushroom’s unggue pot. It’s a photo of Young Sam, which… FIRST OF ALL, HOW DARE YOU, I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS. But look at Vimes’s reaction when Tears of the Mushroom takes it:
Then Tears of the Mushroom said in her strange voice, like a living filing cabinet, “Hearts have given.” Which almost brought Vimes to his knees.
He thought: it could just as well have been her head grinning on the pub wall! Someone is going to burn!
The connection has been made. What has been enacted on the goblins by humans is truly monstrous.
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