Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

This page:




index pages:


Copyright © 1995 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

People who didn’t need people needed people around to know that they were the kind of people who didn’t need people.

It was like hermits. There was no point freezing your nadgers off on top of some mountain while communing with the Infinite unless you could rely on a lot of impressionable young women to come along occasionally and say “Gosh.”

No doubt about it, thought Nanny with a misty-eyed smile: innocence, in a hot Lancre summer, was that state in which innocence is lost.



It was the slippery slope. Next thing it’d be cackling and gibbering and luring children into the oven. And it wasn’t as if she even liked children.

“The money in the chorus isn’t very good, is it?!” she said.

“No.” It was less than you’d get for scrubbing floors. The reason was that, when you advertised a dirty floor, hundreds of hopefuls didn’t turn up.



“Why’ve you got broomsticks?” shouted the driver. “Are you witches?”

“Yes. Have you got any special low terms for witches?”

“Yeah, how about ‘meddling, interfering old baggages’?”

Cutoff felt that he must have missed part of the conversation, because the next exchange went like this:

“What was that again, young man?”

“Two complimentary tickets to Ankh-Morpork, ma’am. No problem.”

He reckoned he was as good as the next man at reading a balance sheet, but these were to bookkeeping what grit was to clockwork.
“And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.”


Exclamation marks

“Opera happens because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong, Mr. Bucket. It works because of hatred and love and nerves. All the time. This isn’t cheese. This is opera. If you wanted a quiet retirement, Mr. Bucket, you shouldn’t have bought the Opera House. You should have done something peaceful, like alligator dentistry.”

“Like . . . s’pose I was to say to you, Gytha Ogg, your house is on fire, what’s the first thing you’d try to take out?”

Nanny bit her lip. “This is one of them personality questions, ain’t it?” she said.

“That’s right.”

“Like, you try to guess what I’m like by what I say . . .”

“Gytha Ogg, I’ve known you all my life, I knows what you’re like. I don’t need to guess. But answer me, all the same.”

“I reckon I’d take Greebo.”

Granny nodded.

“ ’Cos that shows I’ve got a warm and considerate nature,” Nanny went on.

“No, it shows you’re the kind of person who tries to work out what the right answer’s supposed to be,” said Granny. “Untrustworthy.”

“What’d I ever have achieved in the cheese business, I’d like to know, if I’d said that money wasn’t important?”

Salzella smiled humorlessly. “There are people out on the stage right now, sir,” he said, “who’d say that you would probably have made better cheeses.” He sighed, and leaned over the desk. “You see,” he said, “cheese does make money. And opera doesn’t. Opera’s what you spend money on.”

“But . .  what do you get out of it?”

“You get opera. You put money in, you see, and opera comes out,” said Salzella wearily.

Most people in Lancre, as the saying goes, went to bed with the chickens and got up with the cows.*

* Er. That is to say, they went to bed at the same time as the chickens went to bed, and got up at the same time as the cows got up. Loosely worded sayings can really cause misunderstandings.



Granny Weatherwax was firmly against fiction. Life was hard enough without lies floating around and changing the way people thought. And because the theater was fiction made flesh, she hated the theater most of all. But that was it—hate was exactly the right word. Hate is a force of attraction. Hate is just love with its back turned.

She didn’t loathe the theater, because, had she done so, she would have avoided it completely. Granny now took every opportunity to visit the traveling theater that came to Lancre, and sat bolt upright in the front row of every performance, staring fiercely. Even honest Punch and Judy men found her sitting among the children, snapping things like “ ’Tain’t so!” and “Is that any way to behave?” As a result, Lancre was becoming known throughout the Sto Plains as a really tough gig.




It was one of the most ancient terrors, the one that meant that no sooner had mankind learned to walk on two legs than it dropped to its knees. It was the terror of impermanence, the knowledge that all this would pass away, that a beautiful voice or a wonderful figure was something whose arrival you couldn’t control and whose departure you couldn’t delay.




“For shame, my friends! To talk about a few dollars when there is a dead man lying there . . . Have you no respect for his memory?”

“Exactly! A few dollars is disrespectful. Five dollars or nothing!”

Far more people had fussed over Christine than around the prima donna, despite the fact that Dame Timpani had come around and fainted again quite pointedly several times and had eventually been forced to go for hysterics. No one had assumed for a minute that Agnes couldn’t cope.

Christine had been carried into Salzella’s backstage office and put on a couch. Agnes had to fetch a bowl of water and a cloth and was wiping her forehead, for there are some people who are destined to be carried to comfortable couches and some people whose only fate is fetching a bowl of cold water.

[...] “Just because I occasionally technic’ly steal something, that doesn’t make me a thief. I don’t think thief.”

Madame Dawning had a manner peculiar to her class and upbringing. She’d been raised to see the world in a certain way. When it didn’t act in that certain way she wobbled a bit but, like a gyroscope, eventually recovered and went on spinning just as if it had. If civilization were to collapse totally and the survivors were reduced to eating cockroaches, Madame Dawning would still use a napkin and look down on people who ate their cockroaches the wrong way around.



“Money don’t buy happiness, Gytha.”

“I only wanted to rent it for a few weeks.”



As a conversational gambit, “Hello, I understand you have a lot of money, can I have some please?” lacked, he felt, a certain subtlety.

“I’m afraid we won’t be able to have all that ready until at least next Wednesday,” he said.

Nanny Ogg sighed. She felt she was becoming familiar with one of the most fundamental laws of physics. Time equaled money. Therefore, money equaled time.



“They’ve even got little cubes of cheese on sticks stuck in a grapefruit, and you don’t get much posher than that.”



“I don’t see why Mr. Morecombe couldn’t give you tickets to see Nellie Stamp at the music hall. Now that’s what I call music. Proper tunes you can understand.”

“Songs like ‘She Sits Among the Cabbages and Leeks’ are not very cultural, mother.”

His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few people.
He was up against a mind that regarded truth as a reference point but certainly not as a shackle. Nanny Ogg could think her way through a corkscrew in a tornado without touching the sides.



“I . . . hang around in dark places looking for trouble,” he said.

“Really? There’s a nasty name for people like that,” snapped Granny.

“Yes [...] It’s ‘policeman.’ ”

Granny Weatherwax had never heard of psychiatry and would have had no truck with it even if she had. There are some arts too black even for a witch. She practiced headology—practiced, in fact, until she was very good at it. And though there may be some superficial similarities between a psychiatrist and a headologist, there is a huge practical difference. A psychiatrist, dealing with a man who fears he is being followed by a large and terrible monster, will endeavor to convince him that monsters don’t exist. Granny Weatherwax would simply give him a chair to stand on and a very heavy stick.



“There was a wicked ole witch once called Black Aliss. She was an unholy terror. There’s never been one worse or more powerful. Until now. Because I could spit in her eye and steal her teeth, see. Because she didn’t know Right from Wrong, so she got all twisted up and that was the end of her.

“The trouble is, you see, that if you do know Right from Wrong you can’t choose Wrong. You just can’t do it and live.”

“Never pick yourself a name you can’t scrub the floor in.”

text checked (see note) May 2005

top of page