In the fourteenth part of Snuff, Vimes visits the goblins again. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to read Discworld.Â
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 thereâ€™s some major piece missing that will link everything together. That being said, Sergeant Littlebottomâ€™s report on Colonâ€™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:
- â€œacts as if heâ€™s very hotâ€
- He refuses to let go of the pot.
- â€œshouts if anyone tries even to get near it,â€ which reminded me of how the goblins below Hangmanâ€™s Hill reacted when Vimes did the same.Â
- Fredâ€™s voice â€œsounds like a man whoâ€™s gargling rocks.â€Â
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. Itâ€™s all about the apparent custom that some goblins mothers practice in times of extreme need: theyâ€™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 itâ€™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 â€œdreadful algebra,â€ a terrible â€œlogic of necessity.â€ This decision is not made lightly, and itâ€™s only in a situation of extreme hunger that itâ€™s even considered. So, if Cheeryâ€™s earlier claim of what is in the pot stuck to Colon is true, we can assume theyâ€™re related, right? Is the soul of a child in that unggue pot because a mother was stuck in a dreadful algebra? And if thatâ€™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 canâ€™t believe this is all just a coincidence. But how did that pot end up in tobacco? And was it the same pot thatâ€™s missing from the murdered goblin that Vimes is investigating?
Another thing of note here thatâ€™s only briefly brought up: how little anyone â€œknowsâ€ about goblins. Well, except for Harry King. Carrot is flabbergasted that the University can have so many hyper-specific professors, but â€œno expert on an entire species of talking humanoids.â€ Well, why is that? As I said on video: no one considers them worth studying. Theyâ€™re beneath the professors, and I bet it is directly tied to the fact that people view them as â€œsavagesâ€ and â€œvermin.â€ 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 towâ€”who brilliantly transfers his fear to Mr. Whistle because OF COURSE HE DOES heâ€™s so cute I LOVE YOUNG SAM SO MUCHâ€”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, itâ€™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 theyâ€™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.Â
But thereâ€™s one part here that just GUTTED me:
â€œWhat they really need is a first-class theologian, because, you see, they agree with the rest of the world: they think theyâ€™re rubbish! They think they did something very bad, a long time ago, and because of it theyâ€™ve lived like they do. They think they have it coming to them, as you might say.â€
It hurts becauseâ€”and I realize I am most likely projecting something onto this that Pratchett may not have intendedâ€”this was how I was raised. Itâ€™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 couldnâ€™t help but think about how religion and a warped view of Christianity was used against me in a very similar way. Iâ€™ve written about this many times before! I was made to believe that I had been born â€œwrong,â€ and that all the horrible things happening to me growing up were deserved because I had not renounced this part of myself.Â
Again, it doesnâ€™t fit over the metaphor that Pratchett has written, and I can see like… ten other contexts in which it works. Itâ€™s how internalized oppression operates, isnâ€™t it? A system can lean so heavily biased against a person that they start believing all the horrible stereotypes about themselves, and thatâ€™s what is happening to the goblins. How do you break a person out of something like that?Â
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. Theyâ€™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. Itâ€™s not long after this that he offers up something of his heart in exchange for getting Tears of the Mushroomâ€™s unggue pot. Itâ€™s a photo of Young Sam, which… FIRST OF ALL, HOW DARE YOU, I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS. But look at Vimesâ€™s reaction when Tears of the Mushroom takes it:
Then Tears of the Mushroom said in her strange voice, like a living filing cabinet, â€œHearts have given.â€ Which almost brought Vimes to his knees.Â
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.
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now OUT!Â If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.