In the twentieth part of Snuff, Vimes tries to determine what has happened onboard the stolen boat. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of slavery, torture, and death
I CAN’T WAIT FOR STRATFORD TO BE TAKEN DOWN. Holy shit, he’s truly awful??? And I haven’t even met him on the page!
I wanna back up from that point, though, because I think it’s important to acknowledge that, much like most of this book, Pratchett is still writing about complicity here. Stratford is absolutely a huge antagonist, but he’s not even someone I would consider a Big Bad. Actually, I’d argue that this book doesn’t have one at ALL; it’s split between so many various “antagonists” that to choose a single one would diminish what Pratchett is trying to do. I was thinking of that at the start of this split, where Vimes is trying to find out what has happened onboard the Fanny from Mr. False. There’s an interesting thing we’ve seen over and over again in various forms throughout Snuff. What is the complicated algebra of survival? Of necessity? Mr. False is just a (complicated) chicken breeder who didn’t attempt to stop Stratford because… well, because he wanted to live. His complicated algebra centered on survival. I wouldn’t argue that Mr. False is complicit in what Stratford has done; as far as I can tell, Stratford and his men stole this barge at the last minute, most likely to get their “cargo” out of the Shires as soon as possible. Like, I would not be surprised to find out later that they knew Vimes was close to discovering the truth about the goblin slave trade, so they wanted to at least get out another shipment of goblins before things got stopped.
But the man that Vimes and Feeney find in the Wonderful Fanny is definitely complicit in what’s happening. The last barge the two reach contains the worst horror thus far: a container full of captive goblins, “tied hand and foot, every one, and they had been stacked like cabbages.” Pratchett is clearly borrowing from how the slave trade operated around the world in our world, too, and this specific detail tells us just how poorly the humans view goblins. They’re bundled like vegetables, y’all. And treated as such! God, and then what if Stinky hadn’t even been here? I mean, I feel like the goblins would have been able to recognize that Vimes and Feeney were freeing them and not harming them. Still, Stinky is an important presence here. I’m guessing that he did lead the goblins to freedom off the barge, but Pratchett hasn’t revealed that part yet. But there is one detail here that kinda messed me up? It’s a small bit, but y’all:
“Do you think it’ll be a holiday of sun, sea, surf and fun?” said Vimes.
“No, sir,” said Feeney, “and they wouldn’t like it if it was, would they? Goblins like the dark.”
Hi, I hadn’t thought of this at all, and IT’S SO FUCKED UP. Because they’re being forced to work in the sunlight ALL DAY in Howondaland. HOLY. SHIT. Like, this already felt so evil, but there’s another layer to it all.
Anyway, back to that notion of complicity I spoke of at the beginning. Once Vimes and Feeney make it onboard the ship, they meet a young man named Eddie Brassbound who has a bow trained on a woman and a child. This young man was told to kill these people if the strings tied to his legs were pulled. That reality is… super messed up, too? So, if the ships animals were disrupted… kill the hostages. If something happened to the engines… kill the hostages. Did Eddie know he’d face a decision like this when he agreed to help Stratford? The text makes it clear that the boy never did, but there’s still the issue of what he was willing to do. He still was willing to sit in that room with a bow trained on a mother and child, terrifying them with the possibility that their lives might end soon. And he was fine waiting until the last second to trick the original staff of the barge and take their ship from them. There’s no way Eddie didn’t know about the goblins, either. Hell, Vimes even confirms that while Eddie isn’t a killer, he is still a pirate, and he certainly isn’t trustworthy.
How many people in this world are like Eddie Brassbound? How many of them have gone along with this situation and justified the things they’ve done? Maybe Eddie drew the line at not killing a human mother and child, but he’s contributed to the deaths of countless goblin mothers and goblin children. He’s one of… well, so very, very many. That’s what Vimes and Feeney are up against: a whole legion of people who just haven’t learned when to say no.
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