In the seventh part of Pyramids, I’m a mess, and Dios has created a mess, and Ptalcusp IIb has created a mess. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of objectification of women
SO MUCH JUST HAPPENED.
A Fresh Day
I’m not letting this slip by. Dios returns to the palace refreshed and energized, and that means I need to know where he went overnight. What did he do??? Something is giving him physical energy or possibly healing him? Or something? I SEE YOU, DIOS. I SHALL REMAIN SUSPICIOUS OF YOU.
Seriously, perhaps more than ever before, the jokes that Pratchett makes in this book are just LACED with sadness. Is it funny that Dil reveals a trade secret to Gern, and it’s that they make the dead look better than they did when they were alive? It’s funny until Pratchett pulls us out of the scene deliberately by putting us in Teppicymon’s shoes, and then it’s just CRUSHING. I think this whole section finally made me realize how frustration is built into the narrative. We’re frustrated by Teppicymon’s inability to communicate with those around him. Then there’s Dios, and I need to write an entire part of this review just on him as the antagonistic force within Pyramids and I’ll be yelling a lot. HEADS UP.
There’s certainly some humor in the commitment to tradition within the nation of Djelibeybi, especially since Pratchett is able to show us how this affects everything in Dejl society. But he veers away from that by demonstrating the horrific ways in which tradition can hurt people, often violently so. He’s played with the idea of roles in plenty of books before, and a lot of that feels like a commentary on the fantasy genre itself. So when Teppic begins talking to his subjects honestly and genuinely, they all freak out in a way that’s absurd to us. But within this universe, there’s literally never been a king or pharaoh who stepped out of his assigned role. They don’t even know how to deal with it! And in the case of the stonemason, Teppic finds out just how far this extends. Tradition has dictated that the king of Djelibeybi is a literal god, which means anything and everything he touches is now holy, AND THAT INCLUDES BODY PARTS. So the logic here is that the stonemason’s hand is so holy that everything it touches post-Teppic defiles it.
So it has to be cut off.
(Oh my god, the puns.)
Everything in Teppic’s life is determined by what was done before. Everything. When he wakes, what he eats, where he goes, how he behaves, what he’s supposed to say, and how much power he gives to Dios. (All of it. DIOS HAS ALL THE POWER. Of course he’s invested in keeping the status quo! The status quo leaves him in charge!) That’s even the case for the handmaidens in court, which… I understand the point being made, but there are practically no women characters at all in this book so far, so it’s a lot more glaring when the only women mentioned are nameless sex objects. But I do get that Teppic’s frustration is based on the fact that he knows there are other ways to live and to rule, but Dios refuses to let him do any of them.
I actually think that the temporal loop here was something that worked best read aloud. I’m sure I would have realized what Pratchett was doing if I was just reading it like a normal person. But there was something mind-melting about reading those repetitive passages out loud, and it was effective as hell! SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS BECAUSE HOLY SHIT. I do love that Pratchett often takes the metaphorical or the figurative and makes them literal. That’s the case here, since there’s now a power in the pyramid. Is that based on belief? I’m not quite sure what’s at work here, but that’s not really important to me yet. Ptaclusp was always so opposed to changing tradition, but now that he’s seen the unreal power of this “modern” pyramid? Well, look how quickly he changes his tune. He sees how the negative nodes affect reality, and he realizes that, tradition be damned, he can benefit from it. (So can Pratchett, since we get that goddamn camel/hoarse pun and reja vu. HE’S EVIL, HE’S DESTROYING ME ONE PUN AT A TIME.)
Now Teppic’s prophetic dream makes a lot more sense. Ptaclusp is going to try to harness this power, and it’s probably going to backfire terribly. LORD.
You know, I don’t know that we’ve ever had an antagonist who infuriates me quite as much as Dios does. I couldn’t parse my anger towards him while I was making the video for this section, but now that I’m reading through the meeting between Tsort and Ephebe, I’m realizing why he pisses me off so much. Teppic is frustrated by Dios’s refusal to let him stray from tradition. This is not a new dynamic in Pyramids, but there’s something particularly fucked up about Dios dismissing Teppic’s desire to do anything. When Dios reveals that the meeting between the delegates is entirely fake because he already met with them hours earlier, it’s a manifestation of futility. Teppic can’t do anything even though he wants to and technically, he’s the one with “power.”
But Dios doesn’t care because he’s got tradition on his side. That angers me. Look, I’ve had to live with these kind of people my entire life. I DIDN’T REALIZE I WAS RELATING TO TEPPIC DURING ALL THESE SCENES. I’ve had to cope with people who denied me the right to marriage because it’s “tradition.” My family was obsessed with tradition. My school district was obsessed with tradition. And oh my god, as an ex-Catholic, DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED. Do you have a thousand years for me to unload all of my Catholic guilt on to you??? You probably don’t.
And I think that there’s still an aspect of Pyramids that’s a parody of organized religion, too, but it’s not the only thing at work here. Tradition is not found only in religion. It’s found in this genre, and Pratchett tears it to shreds through these characters and scenarios. It’s found in governments, in social contracts, in friendships and families. It’s not without merit, but the framing in this book is showing us how it can be used in terrible ways.
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