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On Djelibeybi

As well as the more obvious parallel with the much-loved sweetie proffered by Time Lord Doctor Who (a man skilled in manipulating and recycling Time), it is perhaps worth noting that in Egypt and Libya on Roundworld, the long flowing robe of the Arab male is called the gelebeia.

Corgi pb (1990 first edition) p35:- put on the spot by Mericet, who has just subjected Cheesewright to dark sarcasm, and challenged to name the invisible enemies of the Assassin who will dog at his heels, Pteppic lists them as "Ill-preparedness, carelessness, lack of concentration, and poor maintainence of tools. Oh, and over-confidence, sir"

This brings to mind a British Army training mantra, summarised as The Rule of P's:-

Practice, Preparation and Planning Prevent Piss-Poor Performance!

Not, of course, that the Guild would ever phrase it like that...

It has been suggested that the parents of Pteppic are a direct and deliberate parallel of the central characters in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. The setting is a several-thousand-year-old state (Djelibeybi/Gormenghast) which has fossilised into a tyrannical regime of age-old rituals which nobody dares to question the modern significance or relevance of; the Rituals are ferociously guarded and imposed by a fossilised Loremaster who embodies the tradition of the state in his own being (Barquentine/Dios). Most of the free income goes into endlessly maintaining old structures or building new ones to the same pattern (Pyramids). The ruling family consists of a rather vague and introspective Count/Pharaoh, married to a woman working on instinct who loves cats (the Countess/Artela). Of their children, the son (Titus Groan/Pteppic) goes out into a world not ruled by tradition and groaning under the weight of the past to see how things are done elsewhere, specifically in a fairly nearby but unspecified Big City. The daughter (Fuchsia/Ptraci)is also intensely dissatisfied with her lot and, if given a chance, would try to change it for the better -- in Pyramids, she manages it, in Gormenghast, she dies in ambiguous circumstances. Pteppic is also an archetype of anti-hero Steerpike, in that he climbs to the highest point in the Kingdom and brings about its dissolution (Steerpike dies trying in Gormenghast, but at this point, he has mutated into an embittered scarred and burnt villain who, interestingly enough, conceals a mutilated face behind a mask... another Roundworld fable creeping in here?) In his final insanity, the Count in Gormenghast imagines himself to be an owl; Pteppic's father just before his death is overcome with the essence of the noble seagull, the Divine and Royal Bird.

Another, er, literary association: the final scenes where Ptraci asserts her authority as Pharaoh and really puts her foot down. It occurs to me that this has been illustrated, if not written down. Readers familiar with Goscinny and Uderzo's Asterix books will perceive the interpretation of Ptraci as intractable and rather stroppy comes straight out of Asterix and Cleopatra. Read it -– there are some lovely illustrations! I'm sure Pterry got his character of Ptraci, at least as ruler, from Cleopatra as she appears in the band desinée.

The hieroglyph for "feather mattress" is a hippo's bottom. Recall the long-running advert on British TV for Silentnight mattresses -- using a hippo in bed as its exemplar of excellence regardless of the sleeper's dimensions.

Here's another interesting one. We have two separated people (Pteppic and Ptraci) who get together in difficult circumstances -- in fact he rescues her from a prison cell and certain death. At this point in the story they have no idea they are siblings. Aid is given by a sentient being whose mind runs on mathematical logic (YouBastard the camel). They travel on a deceptively fast and manoeuvreable ship, used for fast smuggling of undeclared goods, for which the navies of two continents are on high alert. The captain is a raffish pirate with an eye for the ladies (Chidder) supported by a huge hulking hairy brute (the first mate with the dubious tattoos). There is immediate LUST between Chidder and Ptraci which plays out as arguments. This ill-assorted crew assists the Hero (Pteppic) in throwing down an oppressive Theocracy/"Empire". Eventually the heroine winds up running the empire, probably marrying the pirate, while the Hero goes off and does something else...

Is this story arc reminiscent of anything at all?

  • The Ephebian god turning himself into a "golden shower" parodies Zeus turning himself into a "shower of gold" to impregnate Danae. "Golden shower", on the other hand, is slang for urinating on someone for mutual sexual pleasure. This is why the expression "raised interesting questions about everyday night life in sophisticated Ephebe" in Teppic's mind.
  • "THIS? IT'S A SCYTHE." -- Death reaps King Teppicymon's soul with a scythe, even though he normally uses a sword for kings.

A real devious link between Mort and Pyramids that never made the apf:

Mort, Corgi pb P247: "[the elephant] sniffed the distant dark continent of Klatch on the night breeze and, tail raised, followed the ancient call of home."

Pyramids, Corgi pb P147: "But the stables now held ... an elderly elephant whose presence was a bit of a mystery"

Actually confirmed by Terry

The Djelibeybian Pharoahs' shared dream, a bizarre nocturnal fantasy concerning seven cows playing trombone. Reminiscent of Genesis Chapter 41:

Two years later the king[a] of Egypt dreamed he was standing beside the Nile River. 2 Suddenly, seven fat, healthy cows came up from the river and started eating grass along the bank. 3 Then seven ugly, skinny cows came up out of the river and 4 ate the fat, healthy cows. When this happened, the king woke up.

and perhaps of a certain piece of musical theatre concerning an amazing raincoat.

Corgi pb (1990 first edition) p116: note the typo of a very minor character's name: Prince Imtebos becomes Imbetos in the same line. Doesn't matter too much, as the prince never appears again... This error may appear only in the first few print runs of the novel (1989-90) as good authority advises me it's been corrected in later editions.

Corgi pb (1990 first edition) p184:- There was a monstrous splash out in the river. Tzut, the Snake-Headed God of the Upper Djel, surfaced... Then Fhez, the Crocodile-Headed God of the Lower Djel, erupted beside him and made a spirited attempt at biting his head off. The two submerged in a column of spray and a minor tidal wave which slopped over the balcony...

This echoes another mythological battle and a serious demarcation dispute between two mythological creatures. In the Welsh mythological cycle, the Mabinogion, the wizard Merlin is called to referee a dispute between two dragons, whose subterranean war persists in throwing down the King's new castle. Merlin witnesses the fight, and explains that the two dragons, each with its teeth locked in the throat of the other in perpetual war, represent the battle for the land of Britain between the red dragon of Wales and the white dragon of the invading Saxon. Nothing of permanent worth, said Merlin, may be built in Britain until the English and the Welsh cease their eternal strife and learn to live as neighbours. The English are now too numerous for the Welsh to throw out and the English must realise they can never completely take Wales. (this was first written about 800 AD).

Also note that a "fez" is a traditional Middle Eastern hat which has become synonymous with the sort of amusing stereotypes and institutional mockery beloved of Brits.

Corgi PB (1990 first edition) p265:- Teppic sank on one knee and, out of desperation, raised the knife in both hands. This echoes the position and rationale of the weathercock on the highest point of the Assassins' Guild building: a silhouetted assassin with knife poised to inhume the very wind. Poised on top of the Great Pyramid, at the highest point of the Kingdom, Pteppic is about to perform the greatest act of assassination ever: an entire Kingdom, seven thousand years of history, and an entire pantheon of gods. (And also, by default and by their implicit consent, a total of 1,300 monarchs... simultaneously.) The Guild's collective heart must have swelled with pride...

As yet unsorted annotation, originated by David N Priestley, and quoted with permission: One of the best throw-away references is in Pyramids. There's a nod to vintage children's gameshow Crackerjack. Pteppic is given an armful of ceremonial objects, including the Cabbage of Vegetative Increase. For reference, the finale of Crackerjack consisted of the lucky winner of earlier rounds being given armfuls of prizes, but they only got to keep what they could hold onto. If an item was dropped they got given a cabbage to hold onto as well. Three cabbages and you were out.