Mark Reads ‘Pyramids’: Part 2

In the second part of Pyramids, Teppic finds out that his nobility doesn’t matter within the Assassin’s Guild. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern across the Discworld books, or at least I think I have. I know I’ve said something of the sort before, but I’m getting the sense that Pratchett loves to take characters and throw them into a situation where they are, by and large, completely ignorant. That started off with Twoflower, you can see it sometimes in Rincewind, it’s Mort’s entire story, and there’s a huge element of it in Teppic’s personality. I don’t mind it, so this isn’t me pointing it out to say I’m bored of it. There’s an ongoing joke in literally every Discworld book about characters believing a word to mean something that it’s absolutely not, and I love it!

So what makes this different? How can an archetype be repetitive without it being boring? Teppic is fascinating to me because he comes from a noble, royal class, and you can see none of that in all of the present-time scenes. Indeed, it’s almost shocking when the flashbacks of his first days at the Guild shows us that he truly expected to be treated as the son of a pharaoh and the son of a god. So how does he unlearn that? The hard way, though even that experience is kind of pleasant. It could have been so much worse than the verbal smackdown he got from Grunworth Nivor. It is jarring for him, however, to learn that he’s going to have to do everything for himself. EVERYTHING. And that intrigues me because I don’t see that self-centered man in the future; Teppic seems to have wholly assimilated himself. How did that happen?

I know this is a great joke, but I wanted to briefly address this exchange because… look, shout out to all of you who have difficult-to-pronounce names or surnames, because I CANNOT EVEN COUNT HOW MANY TIMES THIS HAS HAPPENED TO ME:

“Pateppic, is it?” said the master.

“No. Pteppic.”

“Ah, Teppic,” said the master, and ticked off a name on his list. He gave Teppic a generous smile.

Bless this because it’s a VERY REAL THING that happens. I’ve had people put an apostrophe in my last name (O’Shiro) because “it’s easier for me.” No, I don’t give a fuck if it is, say my name right.

“Is it Cheerio?”

No.

“I’m going to call you Cheerio.”

No, you’re not.

“Why does it have so many vowels in it? That’s hard.”

The sentence you just said had more vowels than my name.

“Can’t I just call you Mr. O?”

No, you can’t.

ETERNAL STRUGGLE, MY FRIENDS.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system. Chidder! He’s really neat. And nice. There doesn’t seem to be some ulterior motive at work here; he’s just super kind! For now, he acts as a guide of sorts for Teppic, and his job? To introduce Teppic to how practically everyone else lives. They carry their own luggage! They go to the bathroom in toilets! Actually, on that note, I got super worried that Pratchett had invoked that trope of cultures from faraway lands being super behind the times and unable to handle technology. But nope, not quite:

“The whole kingdom’s in debt,” he said, quietly. “I mean even our debts are in debt. That’s why I’m here, really. Someone in our house needs to earn some money. A royal prince can’t hang around looking ornamental anymore. He’s got to get out and do something useful in the community.”

They haven’t developed beyond their “old-fashioned” system because they’re broke.

“Couldn’t you take some of the stuff out of the pyramids, then?” he said.

“Don’t be silly.”

HA. It’s a surprising reveal, but it’s a motivation that makes a lot of sense. Why would Teppic leave his royal life behind for something so chaotic? Because he has to. Which makes all the scenes in the present-time so much more urgent. He has to succeed to help support his kingdom!

Let’s just take a moment to be destroyed, by the way:

“And who’s the little kid with the curls?” said Teppic. He pointed to a small lad receiving the attentions of a washed-out looking lady. She was licking her handkerchief and dabbing apparent smudges off his face. When she stopped that, she straightened his tie.

Chidder craned to see. “Oh, just some new kid,” he said. “Arthur someone. Still hanging onto his mummy, I see. He won’t last long.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Teppic. “We do, too, and we’ve lasted for thousands of years.”

DO YOU THINK THIS IS A FUCKING GAME, TERRY PRATCHETT. Oh my god, HOW DOES HE KEEP DOING THIS.

I didn’t realize until this book that we’ve not actually had much religion discussed with the Discworld. I knew it existed and knew people believed in things, but it always seemed like an unnecessary thing to discuss in depth because… well, the gods are real. Undeniably so. And the gods had agency and a will all of their own separate from any faith attached to them, so I just treated everyone like their own character. I loved the joke about the goat sacrifice being a nightly prayer, one that annoys another student so much that he makes fun of Arthur for praying before bed. But that is a fascinating concept: how does religion play into the life of an assassin? Should they have a religion? Is there a way to be moral within the confines of a theological morality? Will the Great Orm actually do what Arthur says if he doesn’t pray to him??? THESE ARE REALLY GREAT QUESTIONS.

And then Teppic has to ask himself questions about the gods of the Djel, namely his father. Actually, only his father, who, as pharaoh, is a god of Djel, too. What does that entail? Is his father truly powerful or has he been lying? If the Masters have finally decided to stop allowing religious displays, is this the last we’ll hear of it? WHAT RELIGION IS SNOXALL PART OF????

I don’t know that I have anything substantive to say about Teppic’s exam, beyond the fact that it’s COOL AS FUCK. It’s neat seeing him use all these skills to try and pass his test, though I’m continually amused by Mericet, who is ALWAYS A STEP AHEAD OF TEPPIC. How does he do that??? Clearly, he’s a master. CLEARLY.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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