Thursday, May 17, 2012

Apprentice to Death


Mort, by Terry Pratchett
Back in September 2011, Walhydra was reading Mort, the fourth volume of Terry Pratchett's brilliant Discworld Series. (She thinks it's the fourth...time is weird on Discworld. She's already read The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Equal Rites.)

Walhydra likes pretty much everything about the Discworld books, but her favorite character so far is—surprise, surprise—Death. Or should we say DEATH, since he always speaks in upper case, without quotation marks? He always appears as a hooded, animated skeleton with glowing eyes.

What Walhydra admires most about Death is his attitude toward...um...death.

As far as Death is concerned, death is not some sort of evil consequence or punishment for mortals. It's just his job. All mortals die, and Death's job is to help them finish the business.

It's the mortals who, clinging to their lives, label death as "evil," as "punishment." Poor Death struggles with the unfair blame...though he always rises above it.

The title character in Mort is a young mortal whom Death takes on as an apprentice.
"Er," [Mort] began. "I don't have to die to get the job, do I?"

BEING DEAD IS NOT COMPULSORY.

"And...the bones...?"

NOT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO.
(12-13)
Death leads Mort to the great twin city of Ankh-Morpork, where they stop for a meal at the Curry Garden. The place is crowded, "but only with the cream of society—at least, with those people who are found foating on the top and who, therefore, it's wisest to call the cream." (19)

Mort is puzzled by the fact that, besides himself, no one seems to see Death.
"Is it magic?" said Mort.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? said Death. AM I REALLY HERE, BOY?

"Yes," said Mort slowly. "I...I've watched people. They look at you but they don't see you, I think. You do something to their minds."

Death shook his head.

THEY DO IT ALL THEMSELVES, he said. THERE'S NO MAGIC. PEOPLE CAN'T SEE ME, THEY SIMPLY WON'T ALLOW THEMSELVES TO DO IT. UNTIL IT'S TIME, OF COURSE. WIZARDS CAN SEE ME, AND CATS. BUT YOUR AVERAGE HUMAN...NO, NEVER.

He blew a smoke ring at the sky, and added, STRANGE BUT TRUE.
(20)
Pretty much sums it up.

And so it is.

Bless├Ęd be.


Here is a beautiful portrait of Terry Pratchett and Death, done by Flynn-the-Cat and posted on DeviantArt and RedBubble.

Death & the Discworld, by Flynn-the-Cat

Flynn's own commentary on the portrait:
A portrait of Terry Pratchett, his Death and his Discworld.

He's the creator of the Discworld, that little planet being carried away into space by the turtle Great A'Tuin, with the sun setting on it.

Death, the walking skeleton with an awful lot of character appears in all his books (however briefly) and spends a lot of time trying to figure people out. he's here because a) it's about dying (mental, age, possible-suicide), b) he's kinda a reflection of people (he is shaped by their expectations, so he's in mirror image to Pterry, c) he's one of Pterry's greater legacies, and d)... well, if anyone outlives the Discworld, it'll be Death.

The lilacs were worn in memory of a revolution in Night Watch and are now the symbol of Wear the Lilac Day on May 25th - Discworld Day, and now dedicated to Alzheimer's Awareness.

Because—oh yes, Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's Disease. And I started painting this while listening to his documentary on assisted dying: Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die
.
Here's a link to a new Terry Pratchett interview on the Late, Late Show, and a link to an NPR interview in August 2011.

Terry's own website is here.

1 comment:

Jason said...

I'm going to have to give this series a read. You haven't steered me wrong before!