Some lessons are worth repeating. That’s what I tend to think whenever I hear people say that Terry Pratchett got repetitive in his later books. Yeah, there’s quite a few examples of people setting aside racial prejudices and learning how to accept each other in his books. Do you know what it seems like he thought we should do? Hmm. I know that’s a real tough one, but I bet you can figure it out.
Snuff beats much the same path that Unseen Academicals did in those terms – orcs gaining a degree of acceptance is one of the major themes of Unseen Academicals. Goblins see a much more widespread degree of acceptance in Snuff than the orcs do, however. This is at least partially due to the fact that goblins are much more ubiquitous than orcs (there’s hundreds of goblins working for Harry King alone, whereas there’s only one orc in Ankh-Morpork). It is also, in my opinion, at least partially due to the fact that Terry Pratchett (at this point in his career especially) is not anywhere in the general vicinity of fucking around. Armed with only a pen and her address book, Sybil Vimes almost single-handedly changes the public opinion on goblins. She is just that badass.
Snuff also starts to deal with some of the darker undersides of rural living, a theme Pratchett explores more thoroughly in his next book, I Shall Wear Midnight (I’ve been saving the Tiffany Aching books for last, because… well, because I want to). People in insular communities protecting each other, the secrets and gossip traded between neighbors – things you see in cities that are often amplified in rural settings. I know a lot of people say that they would never want to start a family or raise children in the city – I also know that I would not want to raise children in a tiny town, not in a million years.
I would say that Snuff might be a little bit less dark than Thud except for the vividness with which Pratchett describes the mistreatment and living conditions of the goblins, and the beauty with which he describes their “redemption”. The war between the dwarves and the trolls was intense, but there was a different nature to it, if you ask me. But the salvation of the goblins – one of their own, named Tears of the Mushroom, plays a harp concert in Ankh-Morpork, a piece of her own composing. Sybil invites everyone who’s anyone on the Disc, all of her contacts from decades of social events, and because she’s Sybil, they all come. And in one stunning, moving piece of music, the fate of an entire race is changed. The very next day, laws are being passed to prevent discrimination against goblins. I love it, I love it, I love it.
There are some people who said, as early as Snuff, that they could see Pratchett’s mental deterioration affecting his writing. I’ll admit, I don’t see it here. Yes, it’s a repetitive theme. But it’s been repeated all across the history of the Discworld, so it doesn’t seem incongruous to me. I also didn’t see it in I Shall Wear Midnight. Truly, the first time I saw it was in Raising Steam, painfully, acutely so. And because I saved the Tiffany Aching books for last, Raising Steam is the next post in this series.
“Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.”
“The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
“If you want to change a whole people, then you start with the girls. It stands to reason: they learn faster, and they pass on what they learn to their children.”
“You were so worried about legal and illegal that you never stopped to think about whether it was right or wrong.”
“Do not seek perfection. None exists. All we can do is strive.”