Aug 3, 2007

Favourite Characters Contest

Deslily is hosting a very interesting contest:

I wanted to know more about why certain characters stand out to you. Who and why are there some characters in a book (and I mean ANY type of book..not just Fantasy) that you just can't forget. Or one that you just can't read enough of that certain character.

There are, of course, many characters I am fond of, but in the end I don’t think I could have picked any other than Terry Pratchett’s Death:



I love this image because I think it perfectly summarizes what Death is like. He’s a tall skeleton in a black robe carrying a scythe who TALKS LIKE THIS. And yet he likes kittens. He really likes kittens. Few things upset him more than having to collect a drowned litter of kittens, like we see in Mort. He manages to appear poker-faced even though his face is, well, a skull. Also, he named his horse Binky.

What I liked the most about Death is how very human he is. He can be a little awkward when dealing with humans, and he doesn’t seem to grasp some basic human things (thus driving his granddaughter Susan mad), but at the same time, he has a very deep understanding of what human life is like at its core.

He would never admit this, of course, but he cares about things and often gets involved in human affairs. Not only that, but he begins to have human feelings, like fear, doubt, guilt or regret. This behaviour actually gets him temporarily removed from his post, and this is the story of my very favourite Discworld book, Reaper Man – for some time he lives in a farm as a human by the name of Bill Door. The friendship he develops with the elderly owner of the farm, Miss Flitworth, is absolutely beautiful.

In Soul Music, he feels guilty for having done the job he knows he has to do, and goes on a quest to try and forget his sorrows in the ways that humans do – by drinking, joining the army, etc. Ultimately none of this works, and he has to face his own feelings.

I will end my entry with one of my favourite Discworld passages, from the book Hogfather:
"All right", said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
"Tooth faeries? Hogfathers? Little-"
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
"So we can believe the big ones?"
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
"They're not the same at all!"
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET - Death waved a hand - AND YET YOU CAN ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME... SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point-"
MY POINT EXACTLY.
If anyone is interested in learning more about this character, there are two Discworld short stories
featuring Death that can be read online : “Turntables of the Night” and “Death and What Comes Next”. The Discworld Death novels are, in order, Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time. They don't have to be read in order, but I suppose the latter books have a greater impact if one is fully familiar with the background story.



On other news, I wanted to thank Petunia for giving me the "Rocking Girl Blogger" Award, with the following kind words: for always having a kind and thoughtful word, even if she disagrees.. Thank you so much, Petunia! You definitely rock :)

12 comments:

  1. wow, that really IS some character!! I will check out your links to be sure.. (just what I need ..to add to my wish list! ugh! lol)

    thanks for joining in! I love hearing about characters that stay with you.. it means the author was good!! (I added your link to the sidebar!)

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  2. Death was my favorite character in The Color of Magic next to Rincewind. I enjoyed the both of them and the scenes with them together (come to think of it, I believe Death's scenes were always with Rincewind) were wonderful. I really looked forward to Death's appearances (doesn't that sound awful) and I would get so excited when I'd turn the page and would see words in all caps! lol...Really is a great character. Can't wait to visit with him some more.

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  3. death! yay!

    i'll write a proper comment when i have a moment, but in the meantime i'll just say very good choice. :)

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  4. I love Death, but I can't decide if I love Death of Rats more... He speaks in sqeaks but still manages to get his message across. I need to give this question some thought and see who I com eup with. Cheers for spreading the word!

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  5. Well, this has convinced me that I really do need to read these books. Anyone who can make Death such a memorable character is someone I want to read.

    Thanks for the great post, Nymeth.

    cjh

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  6. Death is hands down the reason I read more Pratchett after picking up Thief of Time as the first book.

    Wonderfully put.

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  7. I was smiling as I read your post on Death.

    After too many Discworld novels the different stories just overlap, and I find myself reading each new Discworld novels for the characters. Like revisiting old friends.

    Death is one of my favourite character from Discworld, and yes, I absolutely agree that we need to believe in the little lies for the big ones. I like it that he's kind to kittens. People who are mean to kittens make him VERY ANGRY. Even look Binky, who always makes people feel that he's smarter than them.

    But I can't ever narrow my choice down to just one Discworld character.

    I love Granny Weatherwax, Vimes, the Patrician, The Librarian(Ook!), Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men! Too many to speak of.

    But Death is definitely a great choice. He is the most child-like character on Discworld. He knows so much about us, but also misses out on the details.

    Oh, and the Death of Rats. You forget the Death of Rats!

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  8. what a brilliant choice, nymeth. pratchett's death is one of the coolest creations!

    to personify death is one thing, but he makes a fully-fledged character out of him, with feelings and thoughts!! that is really amazing if you think about it.

    and he is so likeable, and deep and philosophical.

    and he likes cats! thats just brilliant.

    great choice, nymeth :)

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  9. Deslily: The "problem" with getting into Discworld is that suddenly there are almost 40 books to add to one's wishlist :P It's worth it, though! And thank you for hosting this contest - I've been really enjoying reading everyone's responses.

    Chris: That's exactly what happens to me - I get ridiculously excited when I see caps in a Discworld book. In fact, when I get a new one I flip through the pages just to see how much caps there is throughout the story. Death makes cameos in all the novels except one, so far. He really is great, and I think you should abandon the idea of reading Discworld in order of publication and jump straight to "Mort" :P

    Rhinoa: Death of Rats is great too, but for me Death is just something else. I'd love to see your response to this. I forgot to mention that the deadline for the contest is Sunday, though, so make sure you post it in the next few days.

    CJ: It really is quite impressive that he managed to make Death such a loveable character. I'd love to see what you think of the books!

    Kim: Like Chris, in my first few Terry Pratchett books, the moments with Death were my favourite. My first was "Wyrd Sisters", and then I read the first 6 in order of publication. It was when I got to "Mort" that I truly fell in love with the series.

    Dark Orpheus: You're absolutely right - it's not that he is bad at plot, but Terry's greatest strength is how well he writes characters and the relationships between them. They really are the reason why I read Discworld so eagerly, and it does feel like revisiting old friends.

    There are a lot of other Discworld characters I love. My second favourite is Granny Weatherwax, but there's also Vimes, Death of Rats, Tiffany, and, even though we never get to "meet" her, Granny Aching. But Death is just extra special for me. I love the way you described him: child-like. That is so very true.

    Jean Pierre: I knew that you of all people would understand my choice. The way he personified Death really is remarkable. Makes me wish he were real, and that's not something one would normally say of a big skeleton carrying a scythe :P

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  10. Anyone remember the one time when Granny Weatherwax had to challenge Death for the life of a mother and her child? And later Granny Weatherwax asked Death about his stiff elbow (too much swinging of the scythe.)

    Something about Granny Weatherwax and Death that's so similar - they are both fundamentally "good" characters that are doing their jobs very well - and people avoid them because of it.

    Oh yes, Granny Aching. One of the most vivid characters of Pratchett's that you never "meet" directly. The Tiffany Aching series is just so GOOD!

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  11. Death does sound like a great character. I have been wanting to read this series, but like so many, have yet to fit it into my reading schedule. I really must. I've heard mostly great things about it. And a chance to meet Death--I can't resist!

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  12. Dark Orpheus: I remember that, yes. I really loved that part. And you're right, in a way they are very much alike. I love the two Tifanny Aching books I've read - I really need to get my hands on Wintersmith.

    Literary Feline: It's a great series. I'd love to know what you think of it when you get started.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.