BEING: THEE moft LEARNED and EDDYFYING COMPENDIUM intended for the AMUSEMENT of the NOBLE and the INSTRUCTION of the VULGAR, pofted on occafion upon THEE NETTE and CONSISTING of an OSTENTATIOUSNESS of COMMENTARIES and EXPLICATIONS by which shall be shewn the TRUE MEANING of the LEGION and MANY JESTS, SAWS and WITTICISMS to be FOUND in the MULTITUDINOUS WORKS of MISTER TERENCE PRATCHETT ESQUIRE, scribe of thysse parifh. FEATURING a CAST of THOUSANDS confifting in PART of WIZARDS, WARRIORS, MONK----APES, DIURSE ALARUMS and ONE THOUSAND ELEPHANTS. BEWARE! Here be SPOILERS!
Edited by Leo Breebaart
Formatted by Ian Crowther
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 alt.fan.pratchett), 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 alt.fan.pratchett has always been discussing the many jokes, parodies and references that Terry Pratchett puts into his novels.
Since, as Terry once put it, “alt.fan.pratchett as an entity has the attention span of a butterfly on cocaine” it quickly became apparent that it would be a good idea to distill 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 alt.fan.pratchett. 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
email@example.com 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.
The Colour Of Magic
+ [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.
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 alt.fan.pratchett:
“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 alt.fan.pratchett’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 alt.fan.pratchett 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.
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 no.’”
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 alt.fan.pratchett 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.
+ [p. 62/55] “[...] I WAS EXPECTING TO MEET THEE IN PSEPHOPOLOLIS.”
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 alt.fan.pratchett 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”.
- [p. 117/103] “I’LL GET YOU YET, CULLY, said Death [...]”
Death is addressing Rincewind here, so the use of what looks like a different name is confusing. Terry explains: “Cully still just about hangs on in parts of the UK as a mildly negative term meaning variously ‘yer bastard’, ‘man’, ‘you there’ and so on. It’s quite old, but then, Death is a history kind of guy.”
The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (a 19th century reference book; see also the Words From The Master section in chapter 5) explains ‘cully’ as being a contracted form of ‘cullion’, “a despicable creature” (from the Italian: coglione). An Italian correspondent subsequently informed me that “coglione” is actually a popular term for testicle, which is often used to signify a stupid and gullible person. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘cully’ may also have been a gypsy word.
- [p. 118/104]
The entire Lure of the Wyrm section parodies the Pern novels (an sf/fantasy series) by Anne McCaffrey. The heroine of the first Pern novel Dragonflightis called Lessa, and the exclamation mark in Terry’s dragonriders’ names parallels the similar use of apostrophes in McCaffrey’s names.
+ [p. 124/109] “The dragons sense Liessa’s presence.”
This section in italics (continued later with Ninereeds) is another Pern reference (see the annotation for p. 118/104), in this case to the way McCaffrey depicts the mental communications from the dragons.
- [p. 125/110] “Oh, you know how it is with wizards. Half an hour afterwards you could do with another one, the dragon grumbles.”
The ‘half an hour afterwards’ quip is more conventionally made about Chinese food.
- [p. 130/114] “[...] it appeared to be singing to itself.”
Although singing swords are common as dirt in myths and folklore, we do know that Terry is familiar with many old computer games, so the description of Kring may be a passing reference to the prototypical computer adventure game ADVENT (later versions of which were also known as Adventure or Colossal Cave). In this game, a room exists where a sword is stuck in an anvil. The next line of the room’s description goes:
“The sword is singing to itself”.
- [p. 141/123] “[...] he had been captivated by the pictures of the fiery beasts in The Octarine Fairy Book.”
A reference to our world’s Blue, Brown, Crimson, Green, etc., Fairy Books, edited by Andrew Lang.
- [p. 168/145] “At that moment Lianna’s dragon flashed by, and Hrun landed heavily across its neck. Lianna leaned over and kissed him.”
A strange error, since in the rest of the story the girl’s name is Liessa. Terry says the typo (which occurs in both the original Colin Smythe hardcover and the 1st edition of the Corgi paperback, but can also be found as late as the 5th edition of the US Signet paperback) must have been introduced sometime during the publishing process: they are not in his original manuscript.
Even so, the switch is kind of appropriate because Anne McCaffrey has a tendency herself to suddenly change a character’s name or other attributes (T’ron becoming T’ton, etc.). At least one of my correspondents thought Terry was changing Liessa’s name on purpose as an explicit parody.
- [p. 169/146]
After Rincewind and Twoflower escape from the Wyrmberg they are flying a dragon one moment and a modern jetliner the next. Clearly they have been, get this, translated to another plane (the last few paragraphs of this section seem to support the theory that Terry actually intended this rather implicit pun). Note also the “powerful travelling rune TWA” appearing on the Luggage: Trans World Airlines.
- [p. 171/148]
‘Zweiblumen’ is the (almost) literal German translation of ‘Twoflower’ (it actually translates to ‘Twoflowers’, so a ‘better’ translation would have been the singular form: ‘Zweiblume’).
‘Rjinswand’, however, is merely something that was intended to sound foreign—it is not a word in any language known to the readers of alt.fan.pratchett.
+ [p. 172/149] “[...] a specialist in the breakaway oxidation phenomena of certain nuclear reactors.”
“Breakaway oxidation phenomena” is a reasonably well-known example of doubletalk. Basically, what Terry’s saying here is that Dr. Rjinswand is an expert on uncontrolled fires in nuclear reactors. And we all know what Terry’s job was before he became a Famous Author...
- [p. 176/153] “’I am Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos,’ said the craftsman.”
‘Dactylos’ means ‘fingers’ in dog Greek. See also the annotation for p. 159/115 of Small Gods.
The fate of Dactylos has been suffered by craftsmen in our world as well.In 1555 Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of St. Basil’s Church in Moscow. He was so pleased with this piece of work by the two architects, Postnik and Barma, that he had them blinded so they would never be able to design anything more beautiful.
- [p. 179/155] “[...] the incredibly dry desert known as the Great Nef.”
‘Neff’ is the name of an oven manufacturer, and ‘nef’ is of course ‘fen’ (i.e. something incredibly wet) spelled backwards.
- [p. 184/160] “The captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.”
Probably the best known version of this line is from Woody Allen, who said: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying”.
+ [p. 184/160] “’His name is Tethis. He says he’s a sea troll.’”
In Greek mythology Tethys or Thetis was the personification of the feminine fecundity of the sea. She was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia, and the youngest female Titan (or Titanide). Eventually she married her brother Oceanus, and together they had more than 3000 children, namely all the rivers of the world.
Note that this is one instance where Terry violates his own unwritten rule that trolls should have ‘mineral’ names. Perhaps this is simply because we are looking at this early book in the series with hindsight: the only rock troll to appear up to this point lasted about three paragraphs and didn’t have a chance to introduce himself.
But even if the unwritten rule was already established in Terry’s mind at this point, it seems logical that it should not apply to Tethis, who is, after all, neither a rock troll, nor originally a Discworld creature.
- [p. 189/164] “’Ghlen Livid,’ he said.”
Glenlivet is a well-known Single Malt Scotch whisky. It’s a wee bit more expensive than Johnny Walker.
- [p. 193/168] He told them of the world of Bathys, [...]”
‘Bathys’ is Greek for ‘deep’, as in for example bathyscaphe deep-sea diving equipment.
- [p. 194/168] “[...] the biggest dragon you could ever imagine, covered in snow and glaciers and holding its tail in its mouth.”
Tethis is describing a planet designed according to a world-view that is about as ancient and as widespread as the idea of a Discworld itself.
The snow and glaciers seem to point specifically to the Norse mythology however, where the Midgard serpent Jormungand circles the world in the manner described.
- [p. 198/172] “’Well, the disc itself would have been created by Fresnel’s Wonderful Concentrator,’ said Rincewind, authoritatively.”
It is stereotypical that in fantasy fiction (e.g. Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories) and role-playing games (e.g. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) spells are often named after their ‘creator’, e.g. ‘Bigby’s Crushing Hand’. And indeed, in our universe Augustin Fresnel was the 19th century inventor of the Fresnel lens, often used in lighthouses to concentrate the light beam. A Fresnel lens consists of concentric ring segments; its main advantage is that it is not as thick as a (large) normal lens would be. The disc Rincewind is referring to is a transparent lens twenty feet across.
- [p. 221/191] “Whoever would be wearing those suits, Rincewind decided, was expecting to boldly go where no man [...] had boldly gone before[...]”
From the famous opening voice-over to the Star Trek television series:
“Space... the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations—to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
(This became “where no-one has gone before” only in the newer, more politically correct Star Trek incarnations)
- [p. 222/192] “’? Tyo yur atl ho sooten gatrunen?’”
People have been wondering if this was perhaps a real sentence in some Scandinavian language (the letters used are from the Danish/Norwegian alphabet), but it isn’t.
Terry remarks: “The point is that Krullian isn’t Swedish—it’s just a language that looks foreign. In the same way, I hope the hell that when Witches Abroad is translated the translators use some common sense when dealing with Nanny Ogg’s fractured Esperanto.”