Monstrous Regiment
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Monstrous Regiment



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Monstrous Regiment

Copyright © 2003 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

There was always a war. Usually they were border disputes, the national equivalent of complaining that the neighbor was letting their hedge grow too long. Sometimes they were bigger. Borogravia was a peace-loving country in the midst of treacherous, devious, warlike enemies. They had to be treacherous, devious, and warlike, otherwise we wouldn’t be fighting them, eh? There was always a war.



The mothers of Borogravia were very definite about wanting to send their sons off to war Against the Zlobenian Aggressor!! and used a great many exclamation points to say so. And this was odd, because the mothers in the town had not seemed keen on the idea of their sons going off to war, and positively tried to drag them back. Several copies of the pamphlet seemed to have reached every home, even so. It was very patriotic. That is, it talked about killing foreigners.




“Fill yer pack with grub. Fill yer hat with grub. Fill yer boots with soup! If any of you run across a pot of mustard, you hang on to it, it’s amazin’ what mustard’ll help down. And look after your mates. And keep out of the way of officers, ’cos they ain’t healthy. That’s what you learn in the army. The enemy dun’t really want to fight you, ’cos the enemy is mostly blokes like you who want to go home with all their bits still on. But officers’ll get you killed.”



She was embarrassed, of course. But not for the obvious reason. It was for the other one, the little lesson that life sometimes rams home with a stick: you are not the only one watching the world, other people are also people, while you watch them they watch you, and they think about you while you think about them. The world isn’t just about you.



“Never talk to people who writes things down. Milit’ry rule.”



“That’s threepence extra a day you’re due now, only you won’t get it ’cos they ain’t payin’ us, but to look on the bright side, you won’t get stoppages, and they’re a devil for stoppages. The way I see it, march backwards and yer pockets’ll overflow!”

“These are tricky times, Sergeant. Command has never been so burdensome. The great General Tacticus says that in dangerous times the commander must be like the eagle and see the whole, and yet still be like the hawk and see every detail.”

“Yessir,” said Jackrum, gliding the razor down a cheek. “And if he acts like a common tit, sir, he can hang upside down all day and eat fat bacon.”

“Er . . . well said, Sergeant.”

Compare to:

Miyamoto Musashi

“You know what most of the milit’ry training is, Perks?” he went on. “All that yelling from little spitbubs like Strappi? It’s to turn you into a man who will, on the word of command, stick his blade into some poor sod just like him who happens to be wearing the wrong uniform. He’s like you, you’re like him. He doesn’t really want to kill you, you don’t really want to kill him. But if you don’t kill him first, he’ll kill you. That’s the start and finish of it. It don’t come easy without trainin’.”
“People build something that works. Then circumstances change, and they have to tinker with it to make it continue to work, and they are so busy tinkering that they cannot see that a much better idea would be to build a whole new system to deal with the new circumstances. But to an outsider, the idea is obvious.”
The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.



“Many times have I said The Soldier’s Prayer, sir, and I don’t mind admitting it.”

“Er . . . I don’t think I know that one,” said Blouse.

“Oh, I reckon the words’ll come to you soon enough, sir, once you’re up against the foe. Gen’rally, though, they’re on the lines of ‘oh god, let me kill this bastard before he kills me.’ ” Jackrum grinned at Blouse’s expression. “That’s what I call the Authorized Version, sir.”

“Yes, Sergeant, but where would we be if we all prayed all the time?” said the lieutenant.

“In heaven, sir, sitting at Nuggan’s right hand,” said Jackrum promptly. “That’s what I was taught as a little nipper, sir. Of course, it’d be a bit crowded, so it’s just as well we don’t.”




“Sergeant, we have no choice! We must take advantage of the ‘tide of fortune’!”

“I know about tides, sir! They leave little fish gaspin’!”

“You can’t just go around saying that a god is dead!”

“Gone, then. Dwindled . . . I think,” said Wazzer, her brow furrowing. “No longer with us . . .”

“We still get the Abominations!”

Wazzer tried to concentrate. “No, they’re not real. They’re like . . . echoes. Dead voices in an ancient cave, bouncing back and forth, the words changing, making nonsense . . . like flags that were used for signals but now just flap in the wind . . .” Wazzer’s eyes went unfocused and her voice altered, became more adult, more certain “ . . . and they come from no god. There is no god here now.”

“So where do they come from?”

“From your fear . . . They come from the part that hates the Other, that will not change. They come from the sum of all your pettiness and stupidity and dullness. You fear tomorrow, and you’ve made your fear your god.”





“The trouble is, when you say to a general ‘you and whose army?’ he just has to point out of the window.”

Stopping a battle is much harder than starting it. Starting it only requires you to shout “Attack!,” but when you want to stop it, everyone is busy.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Graphics copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen