Book:The Last Continent/Annotations

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  • The mechanism by which the Wizards land on Mono Island is via the window in the rooms allocated to the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography at Unseen University. This almost exactly parellels the plot device of the Dr. Who episode Shada, written by Douglas Adams, which he later re-wrote as a sci-fi mystery tale featuring paranormal investigator Dirk Gently. (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency[1]). In Adams' story, the mysterious Regius Professor of Chronology [2] at a semi-fictitious Cambridge college (St Cedd's) has the traditional don's suite of rooms at the university. But these are effectively a Tardis, allowing him access to any point of space and time - via the window. Its first overt use is to visit the island of Mauritius, several hundred years ago, to see living dodos before the human race wipes them out.
  • This is one of the few times someone gets away with calling the Librarian a "monkey". An anonymous and lucky Ecksian wizard also gets away with it on page 388 (Corgi PB).
  • Death confirms that Rincewind will escape Bugarup prison. Earlier in the book, Death has no idea when Rincewind will die. So how does know Rincewind will escape? Maybe he sees that Rincewind has enough sand for at least a few more days of life? Though this would seem unlikely, given references to Rincewind's hourglass being like a hiccuping glassblower's nightmare, to the extent that even Death didn't know when the fastest wizzard on the Disc was going to pop his (pointy) clogs.
While Death doesn't know WHEN Rincewind will die, he might have an idea HOW or WHERE (qv. ""I WAS EXPECTING TO MEET THEE IN PSEUDOPOLIS" in TCOM. And it ain't Bugarup...
  • The Chair of Indefinite Studies refers to the Librarian (in book form) as "The Story of Ook", parodying the Roundworld The Story of O
  • Rincewind asks Scrappy about a magic sword, probably forgetting the terrible experience he had with Kring
  • In Bugarup, Rincewind seems surprised that XXXX has wizards, but the road gang he meets earlier is familiar with wizards, and the chefs at the opera house also mention wizards.
Maybe it's the difference between 'wizards' and 'Wizzards'?
  • The "Small Boring Group of Faint Stars" is fairly bright when the wizards travel back in time. If the ancients named it, why did they call it faint and boring (did they know it would become so in several thousand years?) Or have the wizards simply travelled back far, far beyond the time of the stars being named?
    • Possibly Great A'Tuin reversed course and is retracing its previous route to the Red Star, so the old astronomical signs are reappearing? The ancients might've named the Small Boring Group of Faint Stars on a previous trip along the same path, when the Turtle came to deposit or check up on the eggs.
  • Corgi pb page 110: the Creator is described as somebody who likes to leave kangaroos wherever he goes on every world he builds. You know, as a sort of signature. Compare Slartibartfast, the Magrathean planet-builder in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who does a similar thing with fjords on all his worlds. He also leaves signed portraits of himself in remote hard-to-reach glaciers.
  • Rincewind introduces the concept of parrots to XXXX. They already exist outside XXXX as we see in Moving Pictures and Eric.
    • Actually, he didn't introduce the concept of parrots, just the concept of prattling silly phrases like "Who's a pretty boy then?" to them. To be pedantic, Rincewind teaches budgerigars to repeat the "pretty boy" phrase. However, parrots also feature in Eric, Moving Pictures, and one particular parrot marooned on a jungle island takes a starring role in Nation.
  • "Gods turning themselves into bulls ... [s]wans ... [s]howers of gold". Zeus did all these things, in pursuit of Europa, Leda, and Danae respectively.
  • "You know, I've often wondered about that one [showers of gold]". "Golden shower" is slang for urinating on someone for mutual sexual pleasure. In Pyramids, the expression "golden shower" is used explicitly, a more direct version of this joke.
  • The magical rejuvenation that Mrs Whitlow received, where exposure to a very strong flux made her look and act so much younger, would have its Roundworld counterpart in hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has given a new lease of life to many Roundworld ladies of a certain age and which would have been un-thought of even twenty years ago. Is this, can it be wondered, an intended parallel?
  • Rincewind laments that he "never had a relative before", apparently forgetting about Lavaeolus. And about his grandfather, who'd told him stories about Cohen the Barbarian.
  • Ridcully refers to XXXX as a "colony", parodying the way British people look down on British colonies.(South Africans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders in Great Britain are sometimes fondly referred to as "colonials"). Of course, there's no evidence that XXXX is a colony of Ankh-Morpork - except for a strangely different form of Morporkian being spoken by the natives, and the suggestion that the country was founded by shipwrecked survivors from the main continent, of whom Ankh-Morporkians would have predominated.

We know from circumstantial evidence in Jingo and elsewhere that wherever the Ankh-Morporkian Empire left, it planted colonies - even though the one visited by Vimes in modern Klatch is now long-dead. Conversely, General Tacticus might not have stopped at Genua, even though, strictly speaking, by then he wasn't conquering for Ankh-Morpork any more... and is it also possible that a wilier earlier ruler of A-M, knowing that things could find their way into XXXX but not out of it again, used the island as a penal colony, strictly one-way travel only?

  • "Can you hear that thunder? ... We'd better take cover..." are lines from the song Down Under
  • [Corgi PB p74] A footnote mentions that books on holiday turn into books "with a name containing at least one Greek word or letter", even though Greece doesn't exist on the Discworld. Not necessarily an error: perhaps this transformation is cross-dimensional; also consider that footnotes are a way for an author to communicate directly with the reader, rather than via the story, and so do not have to stay "in character". The orthography used in Ephebe is in any case suspiciously akin to the Greek alphabet - regard the inscription on the Summer Lady's cornucopia in Wintersmith.
  • [Corgi PB p95] In his encounter with Scrappy down in the cave, Rincewind eats a gooseberry jam sandwich and detects hints of other jams in there "You know, I think there could be plum in it, too? [...] And maybe some rhubarb. You'd be amazed how often they do that sort of thing. You know, stuff cheaper fruit in. I met this man in an inn once, he worked for a jam-maker in Ankh-Morpork, and he said they put in any old rubbish and some red dye, and I said what about the raspberry pips, and he said they make them out of wood. Wood! He said they'd got a machine for stamping 'em out." According to the BBC's QI (S06E06 XL), this practice was rather common in the 19th and early 20th century. Especially, raspberry jam was substituted by rhubarb and/or sweetened turnips with fake wooden pips. The practice was so common that factories were opened to produce these wooden pips.
  • [Corgi PB p154] The concept of "if you were marooned on a desert island... what kind of music would you like to listen to" is fairly old, but may be a parody of Desert Island Discs.
  • [Corgi PB pp 157-158] The argument between Wally the wombat and Rincewind has overtones of Eric Idle's Australian Wino Society sketch for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding. At the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Club, they were fishing them out of the main sewer every half an hour. The Nuits St Wogga-Wogga has a bouquet like an aborigine's armpit and is particularly suited for hand to hand-combat....

  • Corgi pb page 248:Once a moderately jolly wizzard camped by... Move on through the set-up to And he swore as he hacked and he hacked at a can of beer, saying "What kind of idiots put beer in tins?". Can be sung to the tume of "Waltzing Matilda". Probably by sheer coincidence.

  • [Corgi PB page 310] "Does it look as though it's girting to you?" - this evokes a line from the Australian national anthem, first verse:-

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We've golden soil and wealth for toil,

Our home is girt by sea;

  • [Corgi PB p312 - 314] "Dame Nellie Butt". If XXXX doesn't have royalty (and it doesn't appear to), how did Nellie get to be a Dame? On Roundworld, Australia recognizes English royalty, but XXXX appears to be cutoff from any known Discworld royalty. Does Dame just mean "opera singer" on XXXX?

Well, the Discworld has pantomime Dames - it is entirely possible that XXXX refined the concept of men dressing as women for entertainment until it reached its apogee in the form of Petunia the Desert Princess.

And on Roundworld, of course, one of Australia's great entertainment exports is Barry Humphries, also known as Dame Edna Everage. Could it be that at least some Fourecksian opera dames have more than may meet the eye at first glance?

  • [Corgi PB page 342] The Senior Wrangler refers to the curious shape of the coco-de-mer which reminded him of Mrs. Whitlow. On Roundworld, the coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica) is a plant endemic to the Seychelles whos fruit is a double coconut (actually the largest seed on Roundworld; the fruit can weigh up to 30 kg). The shape of the fruit is basically a running gag on the island as it may remind the onlooker indeed of a woman "around the hip area" to put it politely. You can buy postcards with women holding the fruit in the appropriate area behind or in front of them, and as the male flower has a rather phallic look, there is at least one restaurant which uses these two symbols, respectively, to indicate the sex for which the toilets are intended.
  • [Corgi PB page 367] "We can't have women in the University!" shouted the Dean, "They'll want to drink sherry!" Many of the cultural references in this book are to Australian consumer goods, mainly beers (ref. XXXX itself) and to the way they have been advertised in Great Britain. Pratchett is here alluding to a TV advert for Castlemaine XXXX beer, where a group of hardy Outback farmers trek to the nearest off-licence to load up a flatbed truck with crates of beer for a party. As an afterthought, they agree that "we'd better get a couple of bottles of sherry in for the ladies". The two sherry bottles then sit incongruously on top of hundreds of tins of beer. The truck is then seen to creak ominously on its rear axle. The guys then agree it's dangerously overloaded and they need to take something off. They opt to leave the sherry behind...

And of course, a bunch of fractious beery ockers in bush hats with corks on strings dangling from the brim are debating the faculty rules.

Rule Four - I don't want to catch anyone not drinking!

Rules One, Three, Five and Seven are barely hinted at, except perhaps in passing references to "pozzas". But very much the Bruces at the University of Wolamaloo.

  • "Rincewind spoke a fairly primitive language, and it had no word for 'that smell you get after rain' other than 'that smell you get after rain'." In our world, there actually is such a word, though it's not widely used: petrichor

Other References

Roundworld literature/etc parodied (excluding those already mentioned above):

  • Australia, nation-continent (explicitly acknowledged by author)
  • Peach Melba, dessert named after Australian opera singer
  • (Film) The Adventures of Barry McKenzie - comedy about a young Australian's misadventures on first arriving in London, notable for a plethora of interesting and colourful descriptions of vomiting. (as used in this book), as well as one of the first appearances outside Australia of Barry Humphries' alter-ego Mrs (later Dame) Edna Everage, of Moonee Ponds, Melbourne. Rincewind is essentially a Barry McKenzie travelling in the opposite direction.
  • Tom Sharpe's "Piemburg" farces get a look in - admittedly set in South Africa (Rimwards Howondaland?) but the scene where the extremely dense Konstabel Els is co-opted as Civic Hangman is homaged, in the episode where a good-natured but inept hangman is preparing Rincewind for the noose. In Riotous Assembly, Els cannot grasp that you weigh the condemned without his shackles, chains and manacles to assess the length of drop needed. As with Els and Bishop Hazelstone (he is to hang an Anglican Bishop for crimes against apartheid - it makes sense in context), the Fourecksian hangman proposes to execute Rincewind whilst in his chains. A discussion ensues about the sheer unsupported weight serving to rip the executee's head off and owing to Newton's Third Law, flying a long way in the opposite direction to the body. This is pretty much the discourse in Sharpe's novel between Els and Hazelstone. (As mentioned elsewhere, Sharpe's Piemburg Police Force may have been an influence on the City Watch: Els is a sort of Afrikaaner Nobby Nobbs shorn of the redeeming virtues.)

Continuity error?

"...all you need now is to be good at some damn silly bat and ball game that no one's invented yet..." but in the Discworld it already has been invented and is a time-honoured gamed played in the Shires - Crockett. History Monks again?


The Last Continent Annotations - Annotated Pratchett File