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From Discworld & Terry Pratchett Wiki
On the Shires, the debatable border region between Ankh-Morpork and Quirm. Perhaps just the tiniest of shout-outs to JRR Tolkien, who devised The Shire as the home for an inoffensive people of small stature who lived in what amounted to holes in the ground? A minor plot-point, after all, is a ring first found on a severed finger. A similar artefact is something Fred Colon finds impossible to put down, which is so inexplicably, er, precious to him that he claims vehement ownership of it, and which totally alters his personality. The Lord of the Manor sets out on a quest to defeat evil that leads him into the dark places beneath the earth - except that he has a tame balrog on his side. The rest of the (human) peasantry exhibits all the parochial small-mindedness of the Hobbiton population, although the local pub ain't the Prancing Pony and Jiminy has little in common with Barliman Butterbur, save that both keep a stout club under the counter and disregard the licencing laws... and of course Sam Vimes, like Master Samwise before him, has to set about a Scouring of the Shires to eliminate the incurably evil, bring to brook the ringleaders, and discern between gloating colloborators who needed no encouragement as opposed to those who were scared into submission. No wizards or fireworks, though... and a Rider in Black (Willikins) claimed Statford in the end, on a lonely road miles from anywhere...
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 24:- the hats look wrong on them. Lady Sybil is bang on the money about gamekeepers and bowler hats. They were originally devised by Edward Coke of Leicester as practical wear for his gamekeepers. See . In confusing them with bailiffs, Vimes is perhaps thinking of the sort of hard men employed by Lord deWorde to remove his embarrassing son William, encountered in the climactic scene towards the end of The Truth, who are described as wearing bowlers and as the sort of hard men every Lord finds it useful to employ to smooth such distasteful moments. And a really big distasteful moment in which such men were used to do the dirty work (hinted at on p169) is of course at the heart of the crime Sam discovers.
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 32 and onwards:- Sybil introduces Vimes to a sadly widowed friend of hers, Lady Ariadne, who has six spinster daughters who live in full expectation of the acknowledged truth that a man, once in possession of an independent income and a country estate, will surely be looking for a wife. One of them is even called Jane, and she's the strange self-sufficient one who closely observes the world around her and wants to become a writer. Hmmm.... Supported by Sybil, Sam Vimes proceeds to deconstruct a certain Regency novel with extreme prejudice, whilst advising the girls to show a little pride in themselves. Among other things he imparts the truism that Jane is best-advised to base a novel on what she knows best...
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 54:- The local pub, the Goblin's Head - oddly evocative of The Bull, the gossip and social exchange of the town of Ambridge, immortalised in long-running BBC radio rural soap opera, The Archers. Its mine host, Sid Perks, also had a little experience of the police behind him - and his (deceased) first wife was called Polly.... (Annotation for Monstrous Regiment too?)
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 60 and onwards:- The game of crockett, the game of games and king of games, played on village greens over several days and governed by the sort of arcane laws that made Sam Vimes' eyes glaze over while a keen player was earnestly explaining them to him... oh dear, such an easy one...
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 61:- St Onan's Theological College... in the Bible, Onan is struck dead by the merciful LORD for "spilling his seed on the ground", an action taken by generations of theological commentators to be masturbation. (although a sympathetic and open-minded reading of the source text suggests that the real offence is Onan's use of the withdrawal method as contraception, otherwise known as Vatican Roulette to the disrespectful.) However, the "sin of Onan" is forever associated with masturbation. Which leads to the interesting question of what sort of theology this college teaches, and how on the Discworld Onan got his sainthood. Jackson Fieldfair, a student who is now Bishop of Quirm, is said to have taken his mallet in both hands and given the ball a gentle tap... hold on, that's the origin of crockett... The location of this singular seminary is said to be Ham-on-Rye, presumably not to be confused with the village of Ham-on-Koom previously visited by Vimes and Lady Sybil, giving him a previous taster of country life. Again, is Terry being mischievous and slipping in a dirty joke that will be appreciated by those who know and which will pass under the radar of those who don't?
"Ham-on-Rye" - an inadvertent taunt to Sam's desperate craving for a proper bacon sandwich, which by express command of Lady Sybil is now denied to him?
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, pp 120-121:- A harkening back to Thud! and the Summoning Dark. Sam discovers his arm is itching, the arm marked by the quasi-demonic entity he fought and defeated with the aid of the Guarding Dark. As the goblin Stinky tries to articulate his people's need for just ice, Vimes is given a vision of a dark cave and the desire for "terrible endless vengeance". He attributes this to Stinky having touched him on the scar left by the Summoning Dark, and really wishes he hadn't, as while all coppers must have a bit of villain in them, nobody wants to walk around with a bit of demon as a tattoo. Could it be that in defeating the Summoning Dark, it is now working for him? Sam discovers later that he can see in the dark as well as any deep-down dwarf: a gift the Dark has left him with? He also acknowledges that having faced it down and defeated it, he meets the Summoning Dark in dreams and it treats him with respect.
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, p165:- Vimes stared at the rolling acres stretching out far below: his fields, his trees, his fields of yellow corn... A shout-out to Reaper Man? Death realises that the harvest should hope for and expect the care of the Reaper Man and creates fields of waving corn in Death's Domain to remind him of this. Here Vimes the policeman is about to embark on a course of action that will, in the name of the dead, reap a harvest. Looking out over the rolling corn and realising it belongs to him, Vimes the landowner is beginning to grasp the realities of ownership and mastery. Ownership means a duty to that which is owned. He is, in short, having the same sort of epiphany as Death.
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, p174:-
The case of the Marquis of Fantailler, who stabbed his wife to death and tried to evade justice by fleeing to Fourecks, and disguising himself by the simple expedient of not using his title. In investigating the case, Sam Vimes ran up against the entrenched hostility of Ankh-Morpork's nobility who closed ranks and refused to talk, over and above expressing their collective indignation that a member of the nobility was being hounded as if he were a common criminal. Damn the thief-taker Vimes for getting ideas above his station, can't a chap commit one murder in peace? Besides, it was his wife's fault for having the crass and inconvenient bad taste to let herself die after only one stab! Vimes recollects this investigation in Snuff, while pondering the tendency of the nobility to hide behind privilege, and close ranks to protect each other.
The murder committed by the Marquis and his flight into self-imposed exile is very reminiscent of the Roundworld case of Lord Lucan. This member of the nobility tried to stab his wife to death one dark night. Incredibly, he got the wrong woman, and murdered his children's nanny, then fled in panic. The resultant closed-rank silence of the British nobility in protecting one of their own was not edifying and said a lot about their sense of ingrained privilege and of being above the law. The police claimed to have tried their hardest to crack the case, but may have been deterred by a sense of social expectations - ie, you cannot haul in relatives of royalty and give them the same sort of robust questioning you wouldn't think twice about giving to an Irish bombing suspect or a West Indian or a striking miner. Comment was made about "It was only the nanny, for goodness sake!" and the British nobility made it clear (as a challenge to any authority that believed it could treat them like commoners) that they knew perfectly well where Lucan was, but were not going to tell. In 2011, it is believed a criminal who fled justice in 1974 and was covertly helped out by cash handouts from other nobles died in exile, possibly in Australia or New Zealand.
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 175 and onwards:-
Vimes' visit to Miss Beedle. She lives in a scenario which is reminiscent of the Starkadders' smallholding at Cold Comfort Farm. (another literary shout-out to novels of rural England). The role of Elfine, the unworldly free spirit, is taken by the goblin girl, Tears of the Mushroom, and the unhinged Starkadder family, those archetypes of inbred rurality, would in this context be the habitues of Jiminy's public house, the Goblin's Head. Miss Felicity Beedle might well be Flora Poste, the displaced city intellectual who reads a lot, and who acts as a stone cast into the still and stagnant local pond, sending ripples everywhere. The owl-shaped clock in Miss Beedle's cottage also appears on Miss Flitworth's parlour wall in Reaper Man, where it serves to seriously discomfort Death in his Bill Door mortal aspect. Here, it worries Sam Vimes. (another reference to the deeper themes of Reaper Man, also a novel set largely in the rural Shires?) It need not necessarily be the same one. A search on Google produces quite a few manufacturers of owl-shaped curio clocks, which are unaccountably popular. Google also throws up articles on the social, literary and folklorique connotations of the owl, as a symbol of death, passage into eternity, and a harbinger of change, suggesting the ghostly nocturnal aspect of this bird together with its haunting night cry might link it to the Banshee myth - ie, hearing it call in the night is a harbinger of death to somebody or something.
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 185 and onwards:- A.E. Pessimal (now a police inspector) is dispassionately analysing the practice of eating one's own children - an allegation often levelled at despised minority groups by people who have a vested interest in keeping them despised, powerless and friendless (see below) - and considering that in certain circumstances there may be justification to it. Pessimal is talking from actuarial, biological and pragmatic grounds rather than moral or ethical. Cheery Littlebottom is suitably appalled. While there is historical and anthropological evidence that this has been the practice in certain human societies - usually for the reasons Pessimal summarises and invariably among marginal "primitive" groups living in inhospitable margins - this has always even in those tribal societies been an absolute desperation measure by those confronted with the "dreadful algebra". For instance, a cannibal clan was known to have persisted in the wilds of Scotland until wiped out by appalled neighbours in the late 1600's. A more sympathetic modern interpretation suggests that they were the last hold-out of the original stone-age Picts - a race who are speculated to be the origin of folk-myths about elves, gnomes and goblins in British folklore... The clue to the referent here lies in Pessimal's specific reference to famine. Pessimal is, with an absolutely straight face, expounding the arguments of Jonathan Swift, Dean of Dublin, who wrote a satirical pamphlet attacking the English attitude to destructive famine in Ireland. Swift's A Modest Proposal makes the eminent proposal that no welfare benefit should be forthcoming to succour the peasant Irish, who as everyone knows are feckess and idle and even if they were not, would have their self-reliance and willingness to perform honest work fatally weakened by hand-outs and charity. As long as they have resources to consume and goods to sell in an open market, they should exhaust all such resources before any sort of charity is permissible. And as Swift points out, an under-stated resource happens to be all those peasant Irish children these people persist in having by the wagonload. Irish babies should be seen as a cost-effective, economical and easily replaced source of nutrition and calories for their parents, who are otherwise too fond of holding up shrivelled and decayed potatoes, yelling "famine!", and expecting to sit back and receive hand-outs from the foolishly over-generous English. Indeed, the choicer cuts of their children could also be exported to England to grace the tables of genteel English homes, the price for which would defray the expenses to absentee landlords in housing and sheltering these people. Why should the Irish have the best, even of their own children?
Swift was dismayed and made even more cynical that what he had intended as bitter, mordant, satire on the way England had bled his country dry, still expected more, and saw its people as feckless savages who only needed the slightest incentive to start eating their own young, was taken as face value in England and so many people were saying to him "dam' good idea, Swift! We're too dam' soft on those people as it is!"
A Modest Proposal is also a broader satire on the way the rich think about the poor. How many conservative politicians have you heard lately saying "welfare dependency" sucks the will of the poor to work hard or indeed work at all? These attitudes have been around a long time and have always been used to demonise a chosen target group....
This was suggested by the current Pratchett novel, The Long Earth. In which reference is made to a book by Roundworld riverboat pilot and writer Mark Twian (Samuel Clement) called Life on the Missisippi. An episode of which involves a fight betwen two riverboat pilots, which has to be frequently stopped so that the pilot whose boat it is can adjust speed and station on a rough unforgiving river...
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 304:- Vimes notes the presence of Quirmian gendarmes, in their distinctive helmets, the ones he thinks are too fussy and militaristic and impractical for proper coppers. He could be referring to the Adrian helmet of WW1 and the early years of WW2, also worn by French policemen and firemen of the era: see here.
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 306:- Our relationship with Commondant Fournier is cordial at the moment, is it not? - Vimes is alluding to an entente cordiale between Quirm and Ankh-Morpork....
Doubleday/Waterstones Edition, page 351:- Vimes comments on how good the cells and locks are in Quirm and how it is unlikely anyone put into a Quirmian cell, under continual guard, encased in thick stone walls and with the best locks on the best doors, could ever escape. Hmmm. Could we call this a Bastille?
Towards the end of the book, Sam takes Young Sam to the Quirm zoo, where his incessant plea to "see the elephant" is finally answered. A continuity shout-out to the end of Witches Abroad, where the Lancre witches return home the long way round, "seeing the Elephant" and inadvertently precipitating the events of Lords and Ladies; or to Sam and Sybil deliberately taking the long way home at the end of The Fifth Elephant, also explicitly described as "seeing the Elephant"?
It's interesting that the people responsible for the card-based RPG, Magic: The Gathering have recently released a new card: Tivadar's Crusade, which launches a human pogrom against goblins...