Book:Small Gods/Annotations

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Monk, or Sweeper? The interesting (possible contradiction) here is that when the character of Lu-Tze first appears in Small Gods, (ref Corgi Paperback p.8), he is introduced thus:-

The 493rd Abbot... addressed Lu-Tze, one of his most senior monks.

He is still a History Monk on pp 376-377, at the end of Small Gods.

Here, Lu-Tze is a fully-fledged and acknowledged History Monk who while in the field adopts the guise of a humble sweeper. It is only in the later books, Thief of Time, Night Watch, that the reverse is emphasised: here, the story is the Lu-Tze never graduated as a monk nor was selected as one at all. What he has learnt has come from years of sweeping up, unobtrusively, in classrooms where the monks are trained. To add further confusion, on p317 he is identified as being six thousand years old, which contradicts ages given in other places and sets up further contradictions.

Harper paperback p8

Brother Nhumrod, who had a nervous habit of squinting at the speaker's lips and repeating the last few words they said practically as they said them.

One of the frequently-cited symptoms of schizophrenia is echolalia: repeating the words of another person. The best-known is auditory hallucinations. Brother Nhumrod has both.

Corgi Paperback p40 Note Om-as-Tortoise's desperate curse on Brother Nhumrod. Compare it to the notes on the statue of Fedex in Going Postal (Doubleday hardback p47) - "Your sexual organs to sprout wings and fly away!"

Harper paperback p49

Then he scratched the dust with a claw. "I...remember a day...summer were...thirteen..."

Oh, now this is quite clever. From context, it's clear that Om is referring to some sin of Brutha's, but the fact that he is referring to a sin, at least here, is not specified. In the Gospel of John (though not necessarily written by him), there is an account of a woman who is about to be stoned as an adulterer. Local religious authorities take her to Jesus, who begins writing with his finger on the ground, saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." This causes the accusers to leave. The writing bit is fairly nonsensical without the explanation of tradition, which states that Jesus was writing their sins. So similarly, we have Om writing on the ground with his claw while talking to Brutha about one of his sins without actually explaining in the text that he's confronting Brutha about his sins.

Corgi Paperback p50 "sometimes there are very big waves." Fri'it said, thoughtfully. "Nothing would stop them. But if you ride them, you do not drown...the trick is to judge the strength of the wave."

Drunah caught the glint in his eye.

"Ah. How wonderful of the Great Om to put such instructive examples in our path... and what happens to the ones who cannot {ride it}?"

"They drown. Often. Some of the waves are very big."

"Such is often the nature of waves, I understand."

This dialogue between General Fri'it and the priest Drunah is very suggestive of a tsunami wiping a tropical island clean, together with all its people, history and traditions.

Terry Pratchett returned to this theme much later with a second book that explored the nature of social community, social history and religious belief, this time set on a tropical island where a handful of survivors are rebuilding things after a tsunami. (Nation) Is this a foreshadowing, that even then TP was exploring an alternative way a book like Small Gods might have been written?

Corgi Paperback p67

most Gods find it hard to walk and think at the same time - originally said about a god-like figure, President Gerald Ford of the USA, who famously stumbled and fell on the steps out of an airliner. He was chewing gum at the time, apparently.

Corgi Paperback pp.81-82

"That sounds dreadful!" said the woman... "I wonder what passes through the poor little creature's head when he's dropped?"

"His shell, madam!" said the Great God Om...

Om is being uncharacteristically delicate here. In the variation of this joke usually told on Roundworld, the last thing to pass through the mind/head of any creature dropped from a great height is usually its arsehole.

Corgi Paperback p.85-86 The million-to-one chance makes an appearance: "Landed on a pile of dirt in your garden. That's eagles for you. Whole place made of rock and paved with rock and built on a big rock, and they miss."

Omnianism is a reference to Catholicism. The original meaning of "Catholic", before becoming synonymous with only one sect of Christianity, was "universal". "Omni" means "all", ie universality.

A small error occurs when Brutha is counting the flashes from the ship. He counts seven, and then four flashes, while talking to the captain; but when reporting to Vorbis, he claims there were 6, 8, then 2 flashes. (HarperPrism edition, mass paperback: pp. 115, 120) --Neddy 19:39, 14 April 2006 (CEST)

Corgi Paperback p.100 I have to walk that lonesome valley/I have to walk it all alone These are lines from a fundamentalist Christian hymn which occur in the book when Brutha has to confront the idea of walking through the Desert (both on the physical Discworld and when ushered by Death into the Afterlife). It's certainly popular: a lyrics site lists sixty different recordings, perhaps the most prominent of which was by Elvis Presley:-[1]

The hymn recurs throughout Small Gods, and is seen here when General Fri'it is contemplating the assassination of Vorbis.

In Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy, the same verse of the same hymn is used when two of the principal characters are forced to question, challenge, and finally reject the Christian orthodoxy they have been brought up to believe in. Like Brutha, both Robert Putney Drake (villain) and Hagbard Celine (anti-hero) experience the absolute loneliness of being leaders, responsible not just for themselves but for the fortunes of others. Drake, like Vorbis, ends up in a Hell of his own making, while Celine finds a sort of inner peace based on his philosophy of "Think for yourself, schmuck!" - not a million miles away from the philosophy Brutha steers Omnianism into.

p. 131/95

According to Book One of the Septateuch, anyway.

The Septateuch is already noted to be a reference to the Penteteuch, but it's probably also a reference to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (septuagint means seventy in Latin, and there were 72 translators).

Harper paperback p133

"But not a barbarian one"

Ephebe seems to be modeled on Greece. Greece defined barbarian as coming from any country other than Greece.

A bunch of rowdy philosophers who love to argue over a few drinks in a pub, and who get into drunken fights and use basic language. A naive newcomer among them with a name that's halfway to being "Bruce". Hmmm....

Corgi Paperback p.185

Go tell that to the mariners. Or to the Marines.

Corgi Paperback (2013) p.238

Didactylos: "'Life in this world,' he said, 'is, as it were, a sojourn in a cave. What can we know of reality? For all we see of the true nature of existence is, shall we say, no more than bewildering and amusing shadows cast upon the inner wall of the cave by the unseen blinding light of absolute truth, from which we may or may not deduce some glimmer of veracity, and we as troglodyte seekers of wisdom can only lift our voices to the unseen and say, humbly, "Go on, do Deformed Rabbit... It's my favourite."'"

This is a reference to Plato's Allegory of the Cave, given the classic Pratchett treatment. People who have not yet seen the "truth" are compared to prisoners chained in a cave, watching a shadow-play projected on the cave wall by actors. They end up believing this play is reality, as it is all they know. True philosophers can exit the cave and, provided they are not blinded by the light, see the truth.

"Do deformed rabbit, it's my favourite" also appears in Moving Pictures, when a spectator thinks the moving picture will be like a shadow-play.

Corgi Paperback (2013) p.249

"'I'm just going out,' said Brutha. 'I may be some time.'"

These are the famous last words of Antarctic explorer Lawrence Oates. Realising he was hindering his companions' progress, he sacrificed his own life by stepping out of the tent into a blizzard.

Corgi Paperback p.317

Lu-Tze finds Brutha huddled in his familiar garden, curled up in fear, alone among the melons. He then talks about his fear to Lu-Tze and wishes he was small and anonymous again and his biggest fear was missing a weed when hoeing. This echoes Christ's emotional turmoil the night before his arrest and eventual crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where, alone, human and afraid, he pleads with God to take the burden away and spare him the worst. Christ feels forsaken by the absence of God the father; Brutha feels equally lost and alone with Om-As-Tortoise having vanished. (Om was deliberately abandoned in the desert by Vorbis, and is at least a hundred tortoise-hours away from the Citadel). It also refers to French agnostic Voltaire's comment, at the end of Candide, that il faut cautiver notre jardins - colloquially, we all have our row to hoe our own garden to tend, our own fate to meet.

The brazen tortoise, in which Brutha is to be the first victim: "a torture and execution device designed in ancient Greece by Perillos of Athens. Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, desired the invention of a new means for executing criminals. Perilos was a brass-founder, who cast a bull, made entirely of brass, hollow, with a door in the side. The condemned were shut in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became yellow hot and causing the person inside to roast to death."

The Romans were recorded as having used this torture device to kill some Christian martyrs, notably Saint Eustace, who, according to Christian tradition, was roasted in a brazen bull with his wife and children by the Emperor Hadrian. The same happened to Saint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum during the persecutions of Emperor Domitian, and the first martyr in Asia Minor, roasted to death in a brazen bull in c. 92.apparently this was still used two centuries later, when another Christian martyr, Saint Pelagia, is said to have been burned in one in 287 by the Emperor Diocletian.

The bull and the eagle are two of four archetypes that recur throughout the Bible and are a repeating motif in Christian iconography. In Ezekiel 1:10 and 10:14, there is a description of a race of angels who each have four faces: of a man, a bull, an eagle and a lion. At the the end of the Bible, in the apocalypse of St John (Revelation), Rev. 4:7 lists four separate creatures - not explicitly identified as angelic, although they are in Heaven - whose job is to ceaselessly chant praise of god, pausing only to make a prophetic announcemet when one of the seven seals is broken.

The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. (Bible, N.I.V., Revelation 4:7)

Theology ascribes several meanings to this symbolism, all tied into the Biblical rule of Fours. They symbolically represent the Four Gospels, and the four writers of the Gospels. It is especially noticeable in Revelation that each is a herald to one of the Four Riders of the Apocalypse. (The Eagle is the herald of the arrival of DEATH into the world, completing the four riders. Contrast this to the Eagle here being the harbinger of Death to Vorbis. Just after Brutha declares, with absolute confidence "Vorbis? you're going to die," the eagle-headed creature announcing "Come And See" to the fourth rider, Death, is fitting here; in the citadel, EVERYBODY came and saw. And believed in Om.)

In the Christian mysticism of Rosicrucianism, the four creatures represent stages in human evolution: the eagle, winged, majestic and capable of flight, is the highest, transcending Man's earthbound limitation. It also represents the soul freed from the chains of body. An eagle certainly helped earthbound tortoises shake off dull Earth, and as a bonus liberated their souls from the shackles of bodily incarnation.... tortoises equate to the Bull - plodding, dull, and patiently enduring. Note Om's transition from the bull to the tortoise...

The Lion is best known as Christian icon in Narnia via CS Lewis' polemic. The lion encountered in the Omnian desert is very emphatically no Aslan!

Corgi Paperback p.346 Death by Tortoise actually happened to the Greek playwright Aeschylus (b 355BC). In 456 or 455 BC he was visiting the city of Gela where he died. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed outside the city by a tortoise dropped by an eagle which had mistaken his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historiæ, adds that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avoid a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.

Corgi Paperback p.354 i see a hundred thousand people . Death may be imperfectly quoting Bob Dylan. He gets the context of A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall perfectly correctly - Vorbis is reaping exactly what he sowed and experiencing a Hell of his own making - but he's out by a factor of ten. I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'... Vorbis cannot see he is far from alone. His experience is of a place where black is the color, where none is the number...