Mark Reads ‘Unseen Academicals’: Part 16

In the sixteenth part of Unseen Academicals, Vetinari manipulates. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld. 

So, it’s not at all surprising that Vetinari is a benevolent tyrant, one who manipulates behind the scenes in order to keep Ankh-Morpork right where he wants it. That’s been his characterization since pretty much the beginning. (Which would be… The Colour of Magic? Or maybe Sourcery?) He isn’t necessarily a static character so much as a dependable one; I do think he’s changed over the course of these books. But this split features something that I felt was pretty unique: a detailed manipulation orchestrated by Vetinari unfolding in real-time and another character being fully aware of it! 

I should note that there is precedence for this, as Moist often was able to recognize when Vetinari was turning events in his favor. In that sense, I see a direct similarity between Moist and Glenda, despite that they are very, very different characters. Both of them are clever and observant, though Glenda has her own motivation for that:

Stupid, silly, and thoughtless though some of her neighbors were, it was up to her, as ever, to protect their interests. They had been dropped into a world they didn’t understand, so she had to understand it for them.

Isn’t this a beautifully succinct summary of who she is as a character? It’s certainly a fairly valid interpretation of her treatment of Juliet, for example, though I have to admit that even that’s changing in this book. Still: she observes the world around her to understand it better, particularly since she works in the “unseen” part of the university and must interact with various social classes in Ankh-Morpork in any given day. 

Before her realization, though, I got to watch Vetinari manipulate both the Dean and Henry into agreeing to a match between their respective universities. And honestly? It’s masterful to see how he inserts himself into the middle of their spat, plays them both like a fiddle, and then twists it into the citywide tournaments to honor the “traditional” game of football. In the process of doing so, football becomes regulated. I’m certainly interested to see what affect this will have on Ankh-Morpork, but generally speaking, Vetinari’s efforts have improved conditions in the city, so maybe this will be a good thing? Plus, I also have to point out that Vetinari knows that “just about every genuine battle between wizards has hitherto resulted in wholesale destruction,” so he has another reason to defuse this situation by manipulating the wizards. 

But y’all. Y’ALL. This has to be it, right? Right?

‘Are you referring to the Loko business?” said Henry. “You needn’t look surprised.’

‘I don’t intend to. I am surprised,’ said Vetinari, ‘but please credit me with not looking surprised unless, of course, there is some advantage in doing so.’

‘We are going to have to do something. The expedition found a nest of the damn things!’

‘Yes. Children, which they killed,’ said Vetinari. 

Is Mr. Nutt a Loko, whatever they are? Are they a species of goblin that is so feared that when an expedition found a nest of them, it was better to kill them all? I mean, it would explain why all of the people who know what Mr. Nutt is are instantly afraid of him. But a nest? Pups? What does this all mean??? I feel like this all matches up, but I’m still missing the final piece. This gets me closer, though:

‘Besides, if they are animals, as some people claim, then they understand nothing, but if, as I am convinced, they are sapient creatures, then some understanding is surely required by us.’

IS MR. NUTT THE FIRST DEMONSTRABLY SAPIENT LOKO??? Oh my god, this truly feels like the closest I’ve gotten, and I feel pretty certain this is what’s going on. This is also why he was given a chance, why Vetinari’s “friend” (Lady Margolotta) helped to turn Mr. Nutt into someone who was kind and giving and sought worth… holy shit. THIS IS IT, RIGHT?

Can we also take a moment with this incredible fucking passage?

‘And that’s when I first learned of evil. It is built in to the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.’

HI, HELLO, LOVE THIS, LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. It just hits all the right points for me? It’s just so epic?

Anyway, let’s move on to the manipulation of the football fans, which is so damn fulfilling to me because we see it through Glenda’s eyes. She’s the first one to realize that the menu was “off,” that the banquet was serving the wrong kind of food for who was attending. On top of that, she’s also the first one to put together the pieces of the issue with alcohol. While others noticed that Vetinari was drinking the same thing as them—Winkle’s Old Peculiar, Mages’ Special—it was Glenda who figured out that Vetinari was deliberately trying to trick others into thinking that he was just like them, when nothing could be further from the truth. They were fed fancy food and expensive alcohol; the Golden (er—Gold-ish) urn would have an endless supply of beer for the winners; he invites everyone for cigars and “exceptionally rare” brandy afterwards. And while this is happening, and while the people at the banquet are drunk off a liquor they normally don’t drink, they’re asked to sign a copy of the rules. He didn’t even have to beg, and Glenda knows it. He fed them, he got them drunk, and he quietly got exactly what he wanted. 

I wonder what Glenda is going to do with this information.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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