Mark Reads ‘Pyramids’: Part 5

In the fifth part of Pyramids, Teppic is confused by tradition, and Teppicymon desperately wishes his son would ignore tradition. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Whether it was intentional or not, I feel like this is a companion piece to Wyrd Sisters in a way because there are similar elements being explored. Sort of! I recognize that pretty much all of the contextual details are different, but we’ve got a father and a son dealing with the sudden upheaval in a kingdom; the previous king is trying to communicate with the next one; and there’s a shady, untrustworthy man who’s actually running things.

But the similarities stop there, and GOOD LORD I AM SO INTO THE COMMENTARY. It’s not that religion as a whole is being criticized so much as the idea of ceremony and ritual. Pratchett is asking why these things are followed for centuries without any critical analysis from those participating in them. Of course, that’s initially done through Teppicymon’s examination of his own religion after he died, but it’s fleshed out even further once Teppic becomes king. I was so surprised that this happened as suddenly as it did because I expected most of Pyramids to focus on Teppic the reluctant assassin. That’s not to say that’s not relevant, but at the moment, it’s only a situational thing. It gave us a set up.

At the heart of this conflict is Dios, the high priest who has spent a long time coaching monarchs in Djelibeybi. It took me a few pages to realize that the man has a very obvious interest in tradition. How many times does he roll his eyes or sigh with exasperation at Teppic? He takes the tradition of the pharaohs so seriously that he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in admitting how absurd it all is. I mean… the Cabbage of Vegetative Increase! HE TELLS TEPPIC TO MARRY HIS OWN AUNT BECAUSE IT’S TRADITION TO KEEP THE BLOOD OF THE PHARAOHS WITHIN THE FAMILY. Like…. dude. DUDE. Why is Dios like this? Perhaps he just like the certainty and stability of tradition, you know? As plainly as he speaks, I got a sense that he was quietly pleased that he was keeping tradition alive. But how does it benefit him? Have all the pharaohs defaulted their power to him or something?

I think that would explain why he’s so nervous about Teppic becoming pharaoh. Teppic, having been raised in Ankh-Morpork as an assassin, has no appreciation for the ceremony of it all. It’s not just that Dios is stubborn or that he’s annoyed he’ll have to teach Teppic from scratch. I think he’s genuinely worried that Teppic won’t go along with everything. At the moment, though, Teppic’s internal monologue suggests that he might play along because… well, it’s worked so well for all the other pharaohs, right?

But a second, older voice said: We’ve run a kingdom like this for seven thousand years. The humblest melon farmer has a lineage that makes kings elsewhere look like mayflies. We used to own the continent, before we sold it again to pay for pyramids. We don’t even think about other countries less than three thousand years old. It all seems work.

What’s so fascinating about this is that as Teppic gains an understanding for tradition, Teppicymon is busy learning that TRADITION IS COMPLETELY FUCKING USELESS FOR HIM. Pratchett takes this so much further than that, though, and my absolute favorite detail about this section is how Teppicymon becomes aware of how little attention he paid to the people around him. He is now obsessed with Dil and Gern, the two men responsible for embalming his body. (God, that is so many levels of weird that I refuse to deal with it. HE’S WATCHING HIS OWN BODY BE – nevermind, can’t do it, TOO EERIE.) As he puts it:

It was as if death was some astonishing optical device which turned even a drop of water into a complex hive of life.

It’s with this hindsight that Teppicymon not only appreciates what he missed out on, but he’s able to recognize that the life he devoted to maintaining the tradition of building pyramids to honor the dead was a complete waste. Understandably, he’s becoming increasingly panicked about what he’s about to face, and he’s got a limited timeline because what happens if they seal up the pyramid??? He’s totally stuck there for eternity. Y’ALL:

Think it’s fun, do you, spending the rest of your death under a million tons of rock, watching yourself crumble to bits? Is that your idea of a good epoch?

I’d laugh at the fact that everytime Teppicymon says what he wants, Dios says the exact opposite, but this is so disturbing to me. This means that Dios either: 1) knows he’s bullshitting and just keeps up appearances for the sake of tradition, or 2) CAN ACTUALLY HEAR TEPPICYMON AND IS LYING FOR TRADITION’S SAKE.

I need to know more about Dios STAT, y’all.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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