Continuing my occasional series as I work my way through Sir Terry Pratchett’s delightful Discworld series, one novel at a time.
Today’s entry is for the 23rd book, Carpe Jugulum.
First Appearance: the Nac Mac Feegles, the Igors, Uberwald
Introduced to Discworld: modern vampirism
Plot: The Kingdom of Lancre is celebrating the birth of a royal princess, and King Verence invited everybody.
Sadly, that includes some vampires from the neighboring kingdom of Uberwald. Vampires need an invitation to enter anywhere, and if it comes from a king, then the vampires in question now have the run of the entire kingdom. The Magpyrs, with their family motto of Carpe Jugulum (“Go for the throat”), figure they can import their own brand of “modern” vampirism to Lancre, where they can ignore any and all vampire weaknesses and use their potent mental and physical powers to more or less do as they see fit. Even the witches seem to be unable to resist them.
Well, maybe not all of them. Granny Weatherwax, most powerful witch currently walking the Disc…is missing. Can Nanny Ogg, Magrat, and Agnes (with Perdita riding shotgun in her mind) save the day without Granny? They’ll need help from an Omnian missionary, the castle Falconer’s latest find, and a disgruntled Igor to save the kingdom. Especially when the Granny does return and the vampires decide to make her one of them…
Commentary: Pratchett would, in his lifetime, write 42 or so Discworld books. We’re about halfway through, but this is the last of the full length Granny Weatherwax novels. She, Nanny Ogg, Agnes, Magrat, and the rest of Lancre won’t get another starring role. Pratchett doesn’t give up witchcraft books or anything; he just refocuses it to his YA creation Tiffany Aching (Granny and Nanny cameo in her first book…I haven’t read the rest yet). In the meantime, Pratchett does seem to give Granny and the rest a good send-off.
It makes some sense. The witches deal with increasingly powerful threats (Maskerade aside). After a Shakespearean duke and his wife, fairy tales, and the elves, vampires seem to be something on an order of magnitude above whatever else they’ve dealt with. These vampires, or vampyres as they prefer, make taking over look really, really easy. Granny left for reasons unknown (at first), and she alone might have been able to stop the undead invasion.
Granny does, of course, and how she does it is pure Granny. She can’t beat them with her magic or headology…so she uses the rules the vampires are trying to ignore against them.
Pratchett does a good job here of explaining evil. The vampyres think they’re not so bad because they tamed towns to “live in harmony” but at one point Granny tells missionary Mightily Oats that the real sin is treating people like things, and things go from there. Agnes, with a vampire besotted with her, realizes that these vampires, by ignoring the rules of what vampires are supposed to be like, actually are treating people as things. When a very old, traditional vampire rises from his coffin, the townsfolk are glad to see him despite the fact he is an unrepentant monster because he follows the rules and understands his place. That, it turns out, is what the people of Uberwald (a Discworld country more or less standing in for Eastern Europe/Russia and home to all manner of werewolves, vampires, and other things) really want, not some guy who thinks he can just show up whenever and take blood from a cowed town. That the old monster actually seems somewhat personable and gives out complements to people in the crowd for ancestors who had thwarted him goes a long way, too.
But really, after fighting off a vampire conversion, what’s left for Granny? As much as Granny and the others are fan favorites, I am not sure there is much room for them to go from here.
This novel does bring in some concepts Pratchett will use again. The Nac Mac Feegle, tiny, violent pixies (or Pictsies as they prefer), will be put to great use by Tiffany Aching. Plus, the Igors, who share names and body parts, will pop up all over. This particular Igor may not appear again, but others are more likely. Vampires themselves, more benevolent ones, will also continue to appear in various books, but we got some really sinister ones here.
Finally, a note on Mightily Oats, the Omnian missionary. Oats is a man who discovers the true power of faith, but his references are to characters from Small Gods suggest that that particular book happened centuries before the events of the rest of the Discworld series. It looks as if the church splintered a good deal since Brutha’s time, but I suspect he and Om would be rather cool with Oats.
NEXT BOOK: We’re not done with Uberwald just yet. The Ankh-Morpork City Watch will need to go there to investigate a crime involving Angua’s brother. Be back soon for The Fifth Elephant.