Book:I Shall Wear Midnight/Annotations

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Annotations for I Shall Wear Midnight. Unless otherwise specified, page numbers below are for the first edition, the UK hardcover published by Doubleday.

General annotations

Annotations about general ideas and concepts in the book, rather than specific passages.

None yet.

Specific annotations

Pages 11-13
The scouring fair and the Giant: this still happens in England, where a remarkably similar and somewhat priapic giant is carved in the chalk at Cerne Abbas, in Dorset. Every so often his lines need cleaning. According to popular belief, for many years postcards of the giant were the only pornographic images that could legally be sent through the Royal Mail. Meanwhile at Uffington the White Horse is similarly (though less ribaldly) scoured, and the event is celebrated by a fair, with all the usual entertainments, including Cheese Rolling and ducking for apples, though not apparently ducking for frogs.
Page 103
Still, it could have been worse, she told herself. There could have been snakes on the broomstick.
Terry is fond of this urban myth. See the relevant annotations for The Fifth Elephant (hypothetical snakes on a sleigh) and Carpe Jugulum (putative snakes in a coach). It could also be a reference to the 2006 action film Snakes on a Plane.
Page 105
Tiffany's landing of a stricken broomstick on top of a moving coach almost exactly mirrors the standard operating procedure for aircraft landing on the deck of a moving carrier at sea - all that's needed now is the arrester hook and transverse cable. Another first for research witchcraft, after ravens used as black-box flight recorders, and in-flight refuelling?
Page 118
Because you're worthless - a play on the commercial slogan for cosmetic company L'Oréal, "Because you're worth it." The slogan is here used for Boffo's "Hag in a Hurry" range, a play on "For the Woman in a Hurry" style product names used since the 1950s. One famous example is the cookbook Quick Dishes for the Woman in a Hurry, first published in 1955.
Page 137
"I told you to find him; I didn't tell you you were supposed to pull the doors off!"
Tiffany's rebuke to the Feegle echoes the most famous line from the 1968 British comedy heist movie The Italian Job. After a practice run with explosives destroys the test armoured van, Michael Caine's character angrily tells the explosive expert: "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" See also the annotation for page 307 of The Fifth Elephant (Corgi paperback edition).
Page 149
Long-term solitary confinement prisoners, often dangerous killers, keeping caged birds for company in their cells is now a cliche, thanks to the "Birdman of Alcatraz". Depressingly, the real-life "Birdman", Robert Stroud, never kept caged birds in his life, and certainly not during his incarceration. Stroud was a devious, manipulative and thoroughly loathsome double murderer with paedophilic tendencies, who knew how to play a good PR game. He convinced a charismatic lawyer to fight his appeals, leading to a romantic and wildly inaccurate book being written about him, Thomas E. Gaddis' Birdman of Alcatraz, in 1955. The 1962 Hollywood film starring Burt Lancaster established the fiction firmly in the public eye. (Source: Perfect Victims by Bill James, Simon and Schuster, 2011)
p.163 (Harper Edition)
"Do not suffer a witch to live" Exodus 22:18 (KJV) reads "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," though I am told the context is less "You must murder..." as "Do not contribute to the livelihood of..." which isn't particularly nice either
Page 164
Wee Mad Arthur declares of the Unreal Estate, "It will be certain death to go in there. Certain death! You'll all be doomed!" This resembles the catch-phrase of Scottish comic actor John Laurie, who played the gloomy undertaker and over-age soldier Private Frazer in the British sitcom Dad's Army. Wee Mad Arthur doesn’t make a habit of it, though, and isn’t gloomy at all, so this one might just be coincidence. (Arthur is also, before this book, usually written with a more Northern accent than a Scottish one.)
Page 176
”In this neighbourhood we don’t just watch!” A reference to Neighbourhood Watch, originally a community “crime prevention movement” started in New York in the 1960s. In 2007 the “Neighbourhood Watch Network” organisation was set up in the UK to coordinate local Neighbourhood Watch groups, helping them liaise with the police.
Pages 176-177 (Gift Edition pages 210-211)
Since last being heard of in Equal Rites, Simon is described (via third-party accounts Tiffany remembers) as having his illnesses and allergies multiplied to the point where he resembles Unseen University's analogue of Stephen Hawking - unable to move or do very much for himself. (He is still able to speak, though.)
"the young Eskarina had met at the University a young man called Simon who had been cursed by the Gods with almost every possible ailment that mankind was prone to. But, because the gods have a sense of humour, even though it's a rather strange one, they had granted him the power to understand - well - everything. He could barely walk without assistance but was so brilliant that he managed to keep the whole universe in his head. Wizards [...] would flock to hear him talk about space and time and magic as if they were all part of the same thing. And young Eskarina had fed him and cleaned him and helped him get about and learned from him - well - everything."
And Simon describes part of the knowledge as elasticated string theory, a phenomena which Eskarina says, in a discourse with Tiffany, has at least sixteen different dimensions... Compare this to Hawking on superspace and string theory. (See also page 332, below.)
Page 175
When Mrs Proust performs magic on the statue of Lord Albert Rust to turn it into a temporary Golem under her will, this is reminiscent of “The Equestrian Statue”, a song by 1960s prankster musicians, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. In the song a statue in the park takes it into its head to wake up and have a canter up and down the square. (“Little old ladies stop and say ‘Well, I declare!’”) You can listen to “The Equestrian Statue” on YouTube.
Page 216
Rob Anybody describes the abortive attempt to evict the Feegle as having been carried out by a bunch of "mound-digging Cromwells". This is a strange expression for the Disc, as Oliver Cromwell was the Lord Protector of England who is even today vilified for a policy of mass slaughter and destruction during his campaign in Ireland. Fan-fiction aside, there is no "official" Discworld analogue for Ireland or all things Irish*, and the only other analogue to Cromwell on the Discworld is Stoneface Vimes - a man who, while capable of executing a King, would not have countenanced the destruction of a city and the slaughter of all its inhabitants. A Vimes would happily kill a King, but only to protect and serve the people.
Perhaps on their journeys through the dimensions, the Feegle may have visited Ireland in the 1650's and 1660's; Irish folklore preserves the myth of a terrible, wrathful and cunning Little People living in mounds and barrows, who are to leprechauns what Feegle are to flower fairies. Little People are, after all, common to all the Celtic mythologies - Scottish, Welsh, Manx, Breton and Irish.
(* The otherwise unknown and unreferenced country of Hergen has been proposed, but this is strictly non-canon, with nothing to support it, except its geographical location on the far side of Llamedos. It is interesting in this context that Unseen Academicals introduces a place on the Disc with the very unambiguously Irish-sounding name of Cladh. Was there a Discworld Ireland which was never revealed?)
p. 219 (Harper Edition)
"There is said to be a code in the number and placement of the horse's hooves." It is indeed said, but the supposed code does not match up to reality. Perhaps a sculptor might choose a more dynamic pose to suggest that the rider should be remembered for something other than the time the rider failed to protect the life of the highest ranking soldier under his command (i.e. him or herself).
Pages 199-200
The goings-on at the castle in the run up to a funeral and a wedding. Why is this reminiscent of Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Especially when a seemingly dim guard (Preston) is not quite getting it right about the need to lock up a prisoner, and an increasingly exasperated employer cannot get the idea across...
p. 225 (Harper Edition)
"Swan on a Hot Tin Lake" would appear to be a combination of the restrained Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake & the somewhat more ribald Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Page 274
The world needs cheesemakers. Not a million miles away from "Blessed are the cheese-makers", the misinterpretation of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount heard in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
Page 316 the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.
Shakespeare again: Macbeth. Alluding to the ability of a witch to sense things others cannot. See also the line early in Wyrd Sisters (page?) - "Can you tell by the pricking of your thumbs?" "By the pricking of my ears."
p.324 (Harper Edition)
"a hand thrust its way through the book's cover before a metal plate slammed down on it" making it the witch burner getting pressed instead of the witch.
Page 332
We learn that Eskarina has a son, whom she must protect. This is the only mention of him in the book. Theories about this tantalising standalone fact may be found on the Discussion page for the Eskarina Smith.