Thursday, June 12, 2014

The folklore of two worlds

The Folklore of Discworld, Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson

This book was such a delight.  I have read and re-read Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, but only one of the companion books, The Art of Discworld (written with Paul Kirby).  Then, just in the space of a week, I found not only this book, but also Turtle Recall, the actual Discworld Companion.  Both are revised editions, incorporating material from the most recent books in the long-running series.  I don't think I'll be sitting down to read the Companion, but I've already been dipping in and out, looking up my favorite characters, like Anoia, the Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers.

The subtitle of The Folklore of Discworld is "Legends, Myths and Customs from the Discworld with Helpful Hints from Planet Earth."  The chapters deal with different elements of life of the Disc, starting with "The Cosmos: Gods, Demons and Things."  Later chapters cover the various species of beings (including the hilarious Nac Mac Feegle); the witches, especially those from Lancre and the Chalk, who feature in several of the books; and of course DEATH himself.  The authors cite examples from the Discworld stories, explain their context in those books, and then connect them to beliefs and practices here in our world.  I have never studied folklore myself, but many of the narrative and the practices discussed were familiar to me, and I enjoyed learning more about them.

Jacqueline Simpson wrote in her Preface,
      So when Terry invited me to join him in exploring this incredibly rich network of links, I had only one misgiving.  Is it wise to explain so much?  Might it not be best to let readers enjoy the glimpses and hints and clues half-understood, and gradually make their own discoveries? 
      But as Terry has said elsewhere, a conjurer is more entertaining than a wizard, because he entertains you twice: once with the trick, and once with the trickery.
For myself, I don't think it has diluted the magic at all, to understand more about the elements that Terry Pratchett weaves together in creating his world and its many characters and settings.  In fact, I came away impressed with the breadth of his knowledge.

The book includes a bibliography, in part as Terry Pratchett says in his Preface, "because people who love books always want to recommend them to other people at the least excuse."  Discovering that the bibliography includes They Fought Like Demons, a history of women soldiers in the American Civil War, was just icing on the proverbial cake.  The authors cite statistics from that book in a section on "Female Soldiers," like Polly Perks and her companions in Monstrous Regiment - which, coincidentally or not, was my introduction to Terry Pratchett's books, and still one of my favorites.

The only trouble is that now I want to sit down with Guards! Guards! and read my way around the Disc.


  1. I have a few family members who love and adore Pratchett, but fantasy is not my go-to genre of choice (although when I read it & usually end up loving it).

    Thanks for making me think (again) that I really ought to see what all the fuss is about!

  2. Brona, I don't read a lot of fantasy these days, but Pratchett is at the top of my list - along with pretty much anything involving dragons :)


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!