In the second part of Small Gods, Brutha learns the difficulties of being a prophet, while Vorbis schemes to smite the nonbelievers and heretics. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For religious persecution.
Well, this is kind of messed up already, isn’t it?
It’s kind of astounding to me how bad I feel for Brutha when I’ve just started this book. In the last section, I found it hilarious that he was such a difficult prophet, but now I’m seeing why this is kind of tragic. In short? No one respected or cherished Brutha to begin with, and now, he’ll be treated even worse.
He’s a sincere person, so much so that he Believes, rather than believes. And that belief is so intense that it both aids and harms him as he interacts with the actual god he’s worshipped since he was able to. It keeps him honest, since he’s very frank with Om throughout their conversations. But he was also raised with a very specific version of Om, one that is… well, not all that accurate:
Brutha grew up knowing that Om’s eyes were on him all the time, especially in places like the privy, and the demons assailed him on all sides and were only kept at bay by the strength of his belief and the weight of grandmother’s cane, which was kept behind the door on those rare occasions when it was not being used. He could recite every verse in all seven Books of the Prophets, and every single Precept. He knew all the Laws and the Songs. Especially the Laws.
His piety is intense. And it’s one I understand somewhat, since I was raised with a similar view of the Christian God, one that ultimately pushed me away from every believing in Him. As far as I can tell, Om knew nothing of Brutha. Not his name, not his history, not the demons that apparently “assailed him on all sides.” (Is the “weight of a cane” line meant to hint at the fact that Brutha’s grandmother hit him with the cane? I couldn’t tell.) So what happens when Brutha finds out that his grandmother’s perception of Om is untrue?
The same goes for Brother Nhumrod, who increasingly guides Brutha in the wrong direction because his idea of Om is incorrect as well. His obsession with the voices of sin keeps him in denial constantly. (Unless I misread the point of the voices? I assumed that Pratchett meant sexual temptation and dirty thoughts.) Why would Brutha, the most honest and painfully sincere person that Nhumrod has ever met, suddenly lie about hearing voices? I think it’s a lot easier for Nhumrod to deny Brutha’s reality and gaslight him than it is for him to accept that he might be wrong or misguided.
Which brings me to the final scene in the section. Y’all, Brutha took Om to a statue of himself that’s used to destroy “heretical materials and other such rubbish.” In that moment, Om realizes just how wrong these people have gotten him. I do wonder if Om was as magnificently powerful as he believed he was when he wasn’t a tortoise or if he’s mistaken about that, too. At the moment, all he can do is speak to his prophet, who doesn’t believe him, and conjure up a tiny black cloud to quietly singe an eyebrow with a miniature bolt of lightning.
That’s endlessly adorable, but I don’t think it’ll inspire confidence in Brutha.
The Turtle Moves
Oh, so Pratchett is gonna go after that now, is he?
I’m guessing that Vorbis is going to be the main antagonist within Small Gods, given that what we see of him in the opening of this book is pretty damn horrifying. Pratchett references so much here from the history of Christianity and some other Abrahamic religions. But his focus here is on a religion’s denial of reality and the things it’s willing to do to maintain that. It’s not lost on me that Om appeared to Brutha in the form of the very animal that Vorbis finds ludicrous. He believes that it is heresy to suggest that the Disc floats on the back of four elephants that stand on a giant turtle.
It’s so funny that it’s suddenly not because how many people do you know that believe utterly wrong things about the world because their religion told them so? I have relatives on my mother’s side of family who honestly believe that the time of the dinosaurs was a generation away from Jesus. (I WISH SO DESPERATELY THAT I WAS JOKING. I AM NOT.) So what does Vorbis want to do about this belief? He wants to ERADICATE it by initiating war with Ephebe. Make no mistake: he wants to kill people who do not believe in the same god as him. That’s his moral mission, one that General Fri’it is deeply uncomfortable with, though admittedly for military reasons more than a moral conundrum. I don’t know exactly how Drunah feels about Vorbis’s intentions, but I got the sense that he was at least uncomfortable with the idea.
But Vorbis is the one with power, right?
Perhaps, but I’m intrigued by the group beneath the Citadel who are determined to stop Vorbis and to spread the truth about the Discworld. Who are they? Where did they come from? How did they know about Vorbis’s plan to invade Ephebe? Who is the Master???
I have a lot of questions. That’s a good thing, though, because it means I’m interested.
The original text contains use of the words “madman” and “crazed.”
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