Subject: The Annotated Pratchett File, v7


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From: (Leo Breebaart)

Subject: The Annotated Pratchett File, v7a.0




Organization: Unseen University


Archive-name: apf-7a.0

Last modified: 23 August 1996

Version: 7a.0 (Patchlevel 9)

Edited-by: Leo Breebaart (

Preface to the 7a-th edition

By now, most regular readers of this document will have managed to get used to the fact that new releases of the Annotated Pratchett File always arrive later than announced. This time, however, over 18 months have passed since the previous version, and that is a little extreme, even for me. This will not happen again, if I can help it - and I think I can.

Rather than dwell on the various reasons for the delay (my military service, my PhD thesis - still not finished, darnit - the exponentially increased traffic on, I would like to focus instead on the present and the future.

The edition of the APF you now have before you is, as far as the contents and the structure of the file are concerned, basically an intermediate “more of the same” release. Apart from the 326 new annotations and many corrections to the existing text, not much has changed compared to APF v7.0.

Beneath the surface, however, considerable time and effort have gone into streamlining, enhancing, and automating many aspects of the editing and formatting process for all three major incarnations of the file (ASCII, PostScript, HTML). This should go a long way towards ensuring that work on the next version will be much faster and less difficult, and that for once I might even be able to meet the deadline, which for now I’ve set to the first quarter of 1997. We’ll see...
In the meantime I hope you will enjoy the Annotated Pratchett File, and I look forward once again to receiving your comments, corrections and new annotations in my mailbox.


You are now about to read the 7a-th edition (the 8th, really, but since this is the Discworld I’m not taking any chances...) of the Annotated Pratchett File, or APF for short.

One of the most popular pastimes on the Usenet newsgroup has always been discussing the many jokes, parodies and references that Terry Pratchett puts into his novels.
Since, as Terry once put it, “ as an entity has the attention span of a butterfly on cocaine” it quickly became apparent that it would be a good idea to distil some of these discussions into something with a little more persistence and staying power than individual Usenet articles. So the “Annotated Pratchett File” was born, and (because I was brave/foolish enough to volunteer) I became its editor.

The structure of the file is straightforward, with the books divided into two large groups: the Discworld related books, and all the other ones. Per book, the annotations are sorted in ascending page order. For each annotation I supply two page numbers: the first number is that of the paperback (usually the UK Corgi edition), the second number that of the hardcover (usually the UK Gollancz edition). Use these numbers as a rough guide for finding an annotation in your own particular edition of the book.

Each annotation is also prefixed by either a ‘+’, denoting an annotation that is new or has been significantly updated in this version of the APF, or a ‘-’, denoting an unchanged older annotation. This is handy for long-time readers who quickly want to scan for the new stuff.
The APF incorporates, in this edition even more than before, passages from articles that Terry himself has posted to As an active contributor to the group, he often provides us with inside information on many aspects of his writing, and it would be a waste to let this first-hand knowledge just disappear into the vacuum of Usenet history.
The file ends with an editorial section, where various nuts & bolts of the APF editing process are discussed, and information is given to help you obtain the most recent version of the APF in whatever format you prefer.
One particular piece of information is so important I am putting it here rather than at the end, and that is the address to write to if you have any suggestions, questions, corrections, or new annotations - without the enthusiastic reactions and input from its readers, the APF would never have survived. So please mail all your feedback to me at

and look for your contribution in the next edition. I will now leave you to the annotations, and end this introduction with a thought that is a bit of a cliche but nonetheless true: I hope you will enjoy reading the APF as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

Discworld Annotations


+ [p. 7/7] “[...] He stares fixedly at the Destination.”

This line is interesting not only because it foreshadows ‘The Light Fantastic’ (as in fact the entire prologue does), but also because it is about the only time the narrator really commits himself to A’Tuin’s gender without hedging his bets (as e.g. on the first page of ‘The Light Fantastic’). Note the capital ‘H’, which Death also rates in this book and loses in the later ones.

+ [p. 8/8] “For example, what was A’Tuin’s actual sex?”

I have had e-mail from a herpetologist who has studied under one of the world’s experts on turtles, and he assures me that in real life determining the sex of turtles is no easy task. Unlike mammals, reptiles don’t have their naughty bits hanging out where they can be easily seen, and the only way to really tell a turtle’s gender is by comparison: male turtles are often smaller than females and have thicker tails. Since there are no other “Chelys Galactica” to compare A’Tuin to, the attempts of the Discworld’s Astrozoologists are probably futile to begin with.

- [p. 8/8] “[...] the theory that A’Tuin had come from nowhere and would continue at a uniform

crawl, or steady gait, [...]”
Puns on the ‘steady state’ theory of explaining the size, origin and future of the universe. The best-known other theory is, of course, the Big Bang theory, referred to in the preceding sentence.

- [p. 9/9] “Fire roared through the bifurcated city of Ankh-Morpork.”

Terry has said that the name ‘Ankh-Morpork’ was inspired neither by the ankh (the Egyptian cross with the closed loop on top), nor by the Australian or New Zealand species of bird (frogmouths and small brown owls, respectively) that go by the name of ‘Morepork’.
Since I first wrote down the above annotation, there have been new developments, however. In ‘The Streets of Ankh-Morpork’ and ‘The Discworld Companion’ we are shown an illustration of the Ankh-Morpork coat of arms, which does feature a Morepork/owl holding an ankh. But from Terry’s remarks (see next annotation) I feel it’s safe to say that neither bird nor cross were explicitly on his mind when he first came up with the name Ankh-Morpork.

Finally, many readers have mentioned the resonance that Ankh-Morpork has with our world’s Budapest: also a large city made up of two smaller cities (Buda and Pest) separated by a river.

+ [p. 9/9] “[...] two figures were watching with considerable interest.”

The two barbarians, Bravd and Weasel, are parodies of Fritz Leiber’s fantasy heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The “Swords” series of books in which they star are absolute classics, and have probably had about as much influence on the genre as Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.
(Continued on next page)

[p. 9/9] – Continued

The “Swords” stories date back as far as 1939, but nearly sixty years later they have lost none of their appeal. Both ‘The Colour of Magic’ and ‘The Light Fantastic’ are, in large part, affectionate parodies of the Leiberian universe, although I hasten to add that, in sharp contrast to many later writers in the field, Leiber himself already had a great sense of humour. Fafhrd and the Mouser are not to be taken altogether serious in his original version, either.
Given all this, I can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that Terry intended Ankh-Morpork to be a direct parody of the great city of Lankhmar in which many of the “Swords” adventures take place. However, Terry explicitly denied this when I suggested it on
“Bravd and the Weasel were indeed takeoffs of Leiber characters - there was a lot of that sort of thing in ‘The Colour of Magic’. But I didn’t - at least consciously, I suppose I must say - create Ankh-Morpork as a takeoff of Lankhmar.”

+ [p. 11/11] “[...] two lesser directions, which are Turnwise and Widdershins.”

‘Widdershins’ is in fact an existing word meaning ‘counter-sunwise’, i.e. counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere, clockwise down South. A synonym for ‘turnwise’ is deosil, which helps explain Ankh-Morpork’s Deosil Gate as found on the ‘The Streets of Ankh-Morpork’ Mappe.

Widdershins is also the name of the planet where Dom, the hero from ‘The Dark Side of the Sun’ lives.

+ [p. 12/12] “Why, it’s Rincewind the wizard, isn’t it?’ [...]”

The story behind Rincewind’s name goes back to 1924, when J. B. Morton took over authorship of the column ‘By The Way’ in the ‘Daily Express’, a London newspaper.
He inherited the pseudonym ‘Beachcomber’ from his predecessors on the job (the column had existed since 1917), but he was to make that name forever his own by virtue of his astonishing output and success: Morton wrote the column for over 50 years, six times a week, until 1965 when the column became a weekly feature, and continued to the last column in November 1975.
Beachcomber/Morton used an eccentric cast of regular characters in his sketches, which frequently caricatured self-important and high-brow public figures. One continual theme was the silliness of the law courts, featuring amongst others Mr Justice Cocklecarrot and the twelve Red-Bearded Dwarves. In one sketch, the names of those dwarfs were given as Sophus Barkayo-Tong, Amaninter Axling, Farjole Merrybody, Guttergorm Guttergormpton, Badly Oronparser, Cleveland Zackhouse, Molonay Tubilderborst, Edeledel Edel, Scorpion de Rooftrouser, Listenis Youghaupt, Frums Gillygottle, and, wait for it: Churm Rincewind.
Terry says:
“I read of lot of Beachcomber in second-hand collections when I was around 13. Dave Langford pointed out the origin of Rincewind a few years ago, and I went back through all the books and found the name and thought, oh, blast, that’s where it came from. And then I thought, what the hell, anyway.”

- [p. 12/12] “Since the Hub is never closely warmed by the weak sun the lands there are locked in

permafrost. The Rim, on the other hand, is a region of sunny islands and balmy days.”

A presumably knowledgeable correspondent tells me that actually, if you do the calculations, it turns out that it would be the other way around (on average, the sun is closer to the hub than the rim, so the hub would be warmer).

Do not feel obliged to take his word for it, though. ‘Discworld Mechanics’ is one of’s favourite Perennial Discussion Topics, and I don’t think that any two given participants in such a thread have ever managed to agree on anything definite about the way in which the Discworld might ‘work’. See also the “The Turtle Moves!” section in Chapter 5 for more information about the physical aspects of the Discworld.

- [p. 16/16] “[...] found himself looking up into a face with four eyes in it.”

On the covers of the first two Discworld books, Josh Kirby actually drew Twoflower with four physical eyes. Consensus on has it that Terry was trying to get across the fact that Twoflower was wearing glasses (‘four-eyes’ being a common insult thrown at bespectacled folks), but that Josh Kirby simply triggered on the literal text and went off in a direction of his own. Whether this action essentially shows Kirby’s interpretative genius (the KirbyFan explanation) or his inability to get the joke / read very carefully (the NonKirbyFan explanation) is a matter still under discussion.

- [p. 18/17] The inn called ‘The Broken Drum’ gets burned down in this book. The later Discworld

novels all feature an inn called ‘The Mended Drum’. The novel ‘Strata’ contains (on p. 35/42) an explanation of why you would call a pub ‘The Broken Drum’ in the first place: “You can’t beat it”.

This is probably as good a place as any to mention some intriguing information that I received from one of my correspondents: if you have ever wondered what it would be like to experience the atmosphere of an establishment like the Mended Drum, then the closest you can possibly come in our world is by paying a visit to Alexandria, where there exists a bar called the ‘Spitfire’, populated mostly by soldiers and sailors, and apparently a dead ringer for the Mended Drum. The story goes that when the owner of the bar passed away a few years ago, his body was kept in a freezer next to the toilets where, for all we know, it may still be today. If any of you ever happen to be in Alexandria, be sure to visit the ‘Spitfire’ and check it out for us.

+ [p. 22/20] “Some might have taken him for a mere apprentice enchanter [...]”

One of the few clues to Rincewind’s age being younger rather than older, despite the tendency of every cover artist to depict him as at least sixtyish. No one ever draws him as looking like a weasel, either.

+ [p. 22/20] “[...] an alumnus of Unseen University, [...]”

The name of the Discworld’s premier scientific institution resonates with that of the Invisible College, formed by the secret organisation of the Rosicrucians, whose members were called the Invisibles because they never dared to reveal themselves in public. The Invisible College was a conclave of scientists, philosophers and other progressive thinkers which, in later times and under Stuart patronage, became the Royal Society.
(Continued on next page)

[p.22/20] – Continued

In the ‘Brief Lives’ arc of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ comic, Dream visits the Invisible College, where a scientist is happily dissecting a dead orangutan. I don’t think that scene was entirely coincidental...

[p. 24/22] Terry has this to say about the name ‘Twoflower’:

“[...] there’s no joke in Twoflower. I just wanted a coherent way of making up ‘foreign’ names and I think I pinched the Mayan construction (Nine Turning Mirrors, Three Rabbits, etc.).”

- [p. 26/24] “‘If you mean: is this coin the same as, say, a fifty-dollar piece, then the answer is

An American reader was puzzled by the fact that in Ankh-Morpork the unit of currency is the dollar, instead of, for instance, something more British, like the pound. Terry explained:

“The dollar is quite an elderly unit of currency, from the German ‘thaler’, I believe, and the use of the term for the unit of currency isn’t restricted to the US. I just needed a nice easy monetary unit and didn’t want to opt for the ‘gold pieces’ cliche. Sure, I live in the UK, but I haven’t a clue what the appropriate unit of currency is for a city in a world on the back of a turtle :-)...”

+ [p. 28/25] “‘Barely two thousand “rhinu”.’”

A very old British slang word for ready money is ‘rhino’, which Brewer thinks may be related to the phrase ‘to pay through the nose’, since ‘rhinos’ means ‘nose’ in Greek.

+ [p. 30/27] “The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork smiled, but with his mouth only.”

An interesting consideration is when Lord Vetinari became Patrician. Clearly this isn’t him (Vetinari eating crystallised jellyfish? - I don’t think so. Besides, ‘Interesting Times’ makes it quite clear that Vetinari does not know who Rincewind is). By the time ‘Mort’ takes place, however, Vetinari had probably already risen to power. When some people on questioned whether Vetinari would really be the type of man to throw the kind of party described in ‘Mort’, Terry answered:
“I’ve always thought the Patrician is a party animal. Can you imagine waking up next day and remembering all those witty things you said and did, and then realising that he was listening?”

- [p. 44/39] “‘“Reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits?”‘“

Surprising as it may seem (or at least as it was to me), there are quite a few people who do not understand this cryptification of ‘economics’, even though it is explicitly explained by Terry a bit later, on p. 71/63: ‘echo-gnomics’. Some of the confusion perhaps arises from the fact that we don’t usually associate gnomes with spirits, as in: ghosts. But I think Terry here simply means spirits (as in: souls) living underground, with the emphasis on the word ‘underground’.

- [p. 49/43] “Let him but get to Chimera or Gonim or Ecalpon and half a dozen armies couldn’t bring

him back.”

The Chimera was a fire-breathing monster from Greek mythology (see the annotation for p. 171/154 of ‘Sourcery’). The name is also a pun on Cimmeria, Conan the Barbarian’s mythical homeland, while ‘Chimerical’ has the general connotation of something mythical or imaginary as well.

Ecalpon is ‘Noplace’ spelled backwards. This is similar to Erewhon, which is ‘Nowhere’ spelled backwards (well, almost), the idealistic commonwealth described in Samuel Butler’s eponymous novel. Also, ‘Nehwon’ is the universe where Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have most of their adventures.
Go-Nim, finally, is the name of a Japanese board game similar to four-in-a-row.


Death and Rincewind are replaying their own version of the well-known folktale “Appointment in Samarra”. Terry says: “My mother told me the ‘Appointment in Samarra’ story when I was very young, and it remained. She says she read it somewhere, or maybe heard it...
I’d always thought it was from the 1001 Nights, although I never went looking for it. It’s one of those stories that a lot of people vaguely know, without quite knowing why...”
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it concerns a servant to a rich Baghdad merchant who goes to the market and encounters Death there, who gestures at him. Convinced that this is a very bad omen indeed, the servant rushes back to his master in a great panic and begs him for a horse, so that he can ride to Samarra and escape whatever calamity will befall him should he stay in Baghdad. The kind master gives the servant a horse, and goes out to investigate for himself. When the merchant finds Death and asks him why he frightened the servant so, Death replies: “I wasn’t trying to scare him, it is just that I was so very surprised to meet him here, because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra!”

Over the centuries, countless versions and re-tellings of this story have appeared in books, plays and poems in all languages and cultures. One of my correspondents was so intrigued by the tale that with the help of he set out to find the original, or at least the earliest known version. After much research, he now believes this to be ‘When Death Came to Baghdad’, an old ninth century Middle Eastern Sufi teaching story, told by Fudail ibn Ayad in his ‘Hikayat-i-Naqshia’ (‘Tales formed according to a design’).

If anyone has a reference to an even earlier version, we would love to hear about it.

- [p. 73/65] “‘Here’s another fine mess you’ve got me into,’ he moaned and slumped backwards.”

This is a well-known Laurel and Hardy catchphrase. Hardy (the fat one) always says it to Laurel (the thin one), who then usually responded by ruffling the top of his hair with one hand and whimpering in characteristic fashion.
People have been quick to point out to me that Hardy never actually said “fine mess”, though, but always “nice mess”.

- [p. 75/67] This is the first occurrence of the name ‘Dunmanifestin’ for the home of the Gods at the top

of Cori Celesti. It is used again in several places throughout the other Discworld novels.
This is not only a reference to the many British placenames that begin with ‘Dun’ (a Gaelic word meaning castle or fort and hence town) but also a reference to the supposedly traditional name for a twee retirement bungalow in the suburbs. When people (especially the bourgeois middle classes) retire to the suburbs they always, according to the stereotype, give the house some ‘cute’ punning name. Since the Dun/Done association is well-known, one of the more common names (though it is a matter of discussion if anyone has ever actually seen a house with this name) is ‘Dunroamin’ - that is “done roaming” - i.e. the owners of the house have finished “travelling the world” and are now settled down to a life of the Daily Mail, golf and coffee mornings. From this, we get that a retirement home for gods not possessing much taste, might just be named ‘Dunmanifestin’.
A correspondent tells me that ‘Dun’ is also an Old English word for hill.

+ [p. 76/68] “[...] Zephyrus the god of slight breezes.”

Zephyrus was in fact the Greek god of the soft west winds. The interactions of the gods in ‘The Sending of Eight’ strongly bring to mind the Godshome scenes in Leiber’s “Swords” series.

+ [p. 78/70] “The Sending of Eight”

Just as the first chapter of ‘The Colour of Magic’ has many resonances with Fritz Leiber’s “Swords” series, so can this chapter be regarded as a light parody of the works of horror author H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote many stories in a universe where unspeakable Evil lives, and where Ancient Gods (with unpronounceable names) play games with the lives of mortals.

+ [p. 92/82] “[...] the circle began to spin widdershins.”

This entire section is a direct analogy to the workings of a normal electrical generator, with the Elemental Magical Force being the electromotive force we all know and love from high school physics lessons.

- [p. 98/87] “The floor was a continuous mosaic of eight-sided tiles, [...]”

It is physically impossible for convex octagons (the ones we usually think of when we hear the word ‘octagon’) to tile a plane. Unless, of course, space itself would somehow be strangely distorted (one of the hallmarks of the Cthulhu mythos). It is possible, however, to tile a plane with non-convex octagons (and Terry nowhere says or implies he meant convex tiles). Proof is left as an exercise to the reader (I hate ASCII pictures).

- [p. 101/89] “[...] the disposal of grimoires [...]”

I don’t think too many people will have missed that this section echoes the two main methods of nuclear waste disposal: sealing drums in deep salt mines, and dropping the drums into trenches at subduction zones. Of these two methods, the trench dumping has only been theorised about and not actually employed.

- [p. 114/101] “‘I spent a couple of hundred years on the bottom of a lake once.’”

Reference to the sword Excalibur from the King Arthur legend. There’s another reference to that legend on p. 128/113: “‘This could have been an anvil’”.
Some people were also reminded of the black sword Stormbringer, from Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga.

- [p. 114/101] “‘What I’d really like to be is a ploughshare. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds like an

existence with some point to it.’”
Swords and ploughshares have always been connected through a proverb originating in a famous phrase from the Bible, in Isaiah 2:4: “[...] and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.

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