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Reaper Man
by
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Reaper Man

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Fantasy

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Reaper Man

Copyright © 1991 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended. And this is all very natural and organic and in tune with mysterious cycles of the cosmos, which believes that there’s nothing like millions of years of really frustrating trial and error to give a species moral fibre and, in some cases, backbone.

This is probably fine from the species’ point of view, but from the perspective of the actual individuals involved it can be a real pig, or at least a small pink root-eating reptile that might one day evolve into a real pig.

So the Counting Pines avoided all this by letting other vegetables do their evolving for them. A pine seed, coming to rest anywhere on the Disc, immediately picks up the most effective local genetic code via morphic resonance and grows into whatever best suits the soil and climate, usually doing much better at it than the native trees themselves, which it usually usurps.

Topic:

Evolution

Being dimly aware that human beings had learned to tell the age of a tree by counting the rings, the original Counting Pines decided that this was why humans cut trees down.

Overnight every Counting Pine readjusted its genetic code to produce, at about eye-level on its trunk, in pale letters, its precise age. Within a year they were felled almost into extinction by the ornamental house number plate industry, and only a very few survive in hard-to-reach areas.

Alone of all the creatures in the world, trolls believe that all living things go through Time backwards. If the past is visible and the future is hidden, they say, then it means you must be facing the wrong way. Everything alive is going through life back to front.

Topic:

Time

Something wonderful, if you took the long view, was about to happen.

If you took the short or medium view, something horrible was about to happen.

It’s like the difference between seeing a beautiful new star in the winter sky and actually being close to the supernova. It’s the difference between the beauty of morning dew on a cobweb and actually being a fly.

Intellectually, Ridcully maintained his position for two reasons. One was that he never, ever, changed his mind about anything. The other was that it took him several minutes to understand any new idea put to him, and this is a very valuable trait in a leader, because anything anyone is still trying to explain to you after two minutes is probably important and anything they give up after a mere minute or so is almost certainly something they shouldn’t have been bothering you with in the first place.

The Senior Wrangler could do to a conversation what it takes quite thick treacle to do to the pedals of a precision watch.

It is true that the undead cannot cross running water. However, the naturally turbid river Ankh, already heavy with the mud of the plains, does not, after having passed through the city (pop. 1,000,000) necessarily qualify under the term “running” or, for that matter, “water”.

He knew from experience that the living never found out half of what was really happening, because they were too busy being the living. The onlooker sees most of the game, he told himself.

It was the living who ignored the strange and wonderful, because life was too full of the boring and mundane.

Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of Unseen University, was a shameless autocondimentor.*

* Someone who will put certainly salt and probably pepper on any meal you put in front of them whatever it is and regardless of how much it’s got on it already and regardless of how it tastes. Behavioural psychiatrists working for fast-food outlets around the universe have saved billions of whatever the local currency is by noting the autocondimenting phenomenon and advising their employers to leave seasoning out in the first place.

Topic:

Food

Belief is one of the most powerful organic forces in the multiverse. It may not be able to move mountains, exactly. But it can create someone who can.

People get exactly the wrong idea about belief. They think it works back to front. They think the sequence is, first object, then belief. In fact, it works the other way.

Belief sloshes around in the firmament like lumps of clay spiraling into a potter’s wheel. That’s how gods get created, for example. They clearly must be created by their own believers, because a brief résumé of the lives of most gods suggests that their origins certainly couldn’t be divine. They tend to do exactly the things people would do if only they could, especially when it comes to nymphs, golden showers, and the smiting of your enemies.

Topic:

Belief

Windle realised that talking to Mr Shoe was very much like talking to the Archchancellor. It didn’t actually matter what you said, because he wasn’t listening. Only in Mustrum Ridcully’s case it was because he just wasn’t bothering, while Reg Shoe was in fact supplying your side of the conversation somewhere inside his own head.

Topic:

Conversation

“Huh! Priests!” said Mr Shoe. “They’re all the same. Always telling you that you’re going to live again after you’re dead, but you just try it and see the look on their faces!”

Topic:

Clergy

“He said that there was death and taxes, and taxes was worse, because at least death didn’t happen to you every year.”

Topic:

Taxes

There was the creaking of a pump. She returned with a damp flannel and a glass of water.

THERES A NEWT IN IT!

“Shows it’s fresh,” said Miss Flitworth,* fishing the amphibian out and releasing it on the flagstones, where it scuttled away into a crack.

* People have believed for hundreds of years that newts in a well mean that the water’s fresh and drinkable, and in all that time never asked themselves whether the newts got out to go to the lavatory.

JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS A METAPHOR DOESNT MEAN IT CANT BE REAL.

It was a work of art.

It was better than that. It was a work of craft.

“If we knew when we were going to die, people would live better lives.”

IF PEOPLE KNEW WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO DIE, I THINK THEY PROBABLY WOULDNT LIVE AT ALL.

Topic:

Death

Ridcully was simple-minded. This doesn’t mean stupid. It just meant that he could only think properly about things if he cut away all the complicated bits around the edges.

No naked little men sat on the summit dispensing wisdom, because the first thing the truly wise man works out is that sitting around on mountaintops gives you not only haemorrhoids but frostbitten haemorrhoids.

Occasionally people would climb the mountain and add a stone or two to the cairn at the top, if only to prove that there is nothing really damn stupid that humans won’t do.

Topic:

Mountains

YOU ARE AS OLD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.

“Huh! Yeah? Really? That’s the kind of stupid thing people always say. They always say, My word, you’re looking well. They say, There’s life in the old dog yet. Many a good tune played on an old fiddle. That kind of stuff. It’s all stupid. As if being old was some kind of thing you should be glad about! As if being philosophical about it will earn you marks! My head knows how to think young, but my knees aren’t that good at it. Or my back. Or my teeth. Try telling my knees they’re as old as they think they are and see what good it does you. Or them.”

Topic:

Age

text checked (see note) May 2022

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