In the twenty-second part of Snuff, Vimes chases after the goblins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of kidnapping, torture, slavery.
I just want to start this by saying that I’m still worried about Stratford. He’s SOMEWHERE, and I am going to keep my eyes open because he’s coming.
Anyway, so I wasn’t quite wrong in the last review! I didn’t nail down exactly what Pratchett was going for here. But I was asking the right questions: Who helped? Who knew what was happening? Who wouldn’t even think twice about transporting goblins? Well, that’s addressed here in a long sequence where Vimes also learns the truth of where the goblins were being sent. There’s a really fascinating line in this after Wee Mad Arthur reveals the full details of the goblin slave trade and how much torture and death these beings have been subjected. I found it important because of how Pratchett contrasted Vimes and Wee Mad Arthur, both in how others perceive them and what they actually would do in this situation. SO:
“I hope I did what ye would have done, commander?”
Vimes looked at Wee Mad Arthur as if he was seeing him for the first time. “No, constable, you did not do what I would have done, which is fortunate, because if you had, then you would be in front of me on a charge for using brutally excessive force in the execution of your duties.”
I think a convincing case could be made that over the course of his books, Vimes has gotten angrier. He is much more willing to stand up for those who are different and forgotten than he was at the start of Discworld. But this goes beyond that! Vimes also possesses a darkness within him, partially gained from his life on the streets, and something that’s attracted the Summoning Dark to him. Yet look what Vimes is commending Wee Mad Arthur for just before this: taking out a dozen Quirmian Watch men single-handedly. Wee Mad Arthur is a Feegle, and everyone expects Feegles to be violent and chaotic. But Wee Mad Arthur did the restrained thing here, and after everything that Vimes has seen? He is definitely not ready to be restrained with these monsters. Look to Stratford for an example of that!
Anyway, MORE COMPLICITY IS AT HAND. Well, and not just that, but I love the way Vimes anticipates that the lieutenant might not be ready to pursue a crime that isn’t technically illegal yet. So he’s pushing people away from being complicit in this slave trade, and it ends up working in his favor. I also feel obligated to acknowledge how absurd it is that Pratchett named the captain of this ship Captain Murderer, but then made the family smugglers? Except I would argue this is ALSO A CLUE to the true nature of these people: they’re actually helping humans murder goblins by willingly taking them on the long trip to Howondaland. SO WHO ARE THE MURDERERS AFTER ALL.
Also: they’re kidnappers, not just for the goblins, but for the completely surprise twist that the man they had captive aboard wasn’t Stratford, but JETHRO JEFFERSON. Holy shit, what an incredibly plotted surprise. I had not even the slightest inkling of this reveal, despite that it made so much sense. Stratford wouldn’t have been that easy to tie up, and no one could have turned him over without a problem. But we also knew the goblins were on this ship, and they weren’t guiding the ship themselves. What were the odds that they found sympathetic humans to take them home? Yeah, no. STILL. Jethro had been missing, there was no sign of him back in the Shires, he had to be hidden somewhere, and what better place than the same place where all the goblins disappeared to?
So, I have more questions. How many more men are there like Captain Murderer? Did this whole industry pop up to ferry the goblins to Howondaland? Or did Vimes catch it before it could explode? I still don’t know if the scarcity of goblins is due to them being decimated by humans or if they’ve just hidden deeper and deeper in the earth to avoid humans. Either way, Captain Murderer wasn’t thinking of these sort of things. He saw goblins as “cargo,” and he didn’t think he’d ever remotely get in trouble for the monstrous thing he contributed to. And why would he? The entire world around him supports his viewpoint, and it’s not until Vimes presents the very first consequence to him that he changes his tune. Because that’s what this really comes down to, doesn’t it? Captain Murderer has never faced a consequence for what he’s done to the goblins. And now? Well, how quickly he thinks about this differently!
So, at least this part is resolved; I am also going to assume that this is the last we’ve seen of Stinky and the goblins who were kidnapped. They disappear understandably quickly after they’re freed. On top of that, Vimes allows a grudge match between the first mate and Jethro, all because the first mate was the only member of the crew to be openly cruel to Jethro and the goblins. I also thought this was a smart move because it allowed Jethro to burn off some of his own rage, rather than try to convince him not to get involved at all. But this doesn’t solve the bigger issue: the people who initially started this nightmare and have been profiting from it. I am certain that the names Murderer provided are all the magistrates we have previously met. But I don’t know what Vimes can do next! It’s never been illegal to do what these people did because goblins don’t legally have rights. So how is he going to fix this and hold these people accountable? Or is it less about that and more about stopping the slave trade itself? I can’t wait to find out.
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