Carpe Jugulum
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Carpe Jugulum



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Carpe Jugulum

Copyright © 1998 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

It would have been more impressive if they’d all agreed on one before, but as it was it sounded as though every single small warrior had a battle cry of his very own and would fight anyone who tried to take it away from him.

“Nac mac Feegle!”

“Ach, stickit yer trakkans!”

“Gie you sich a kickin’!”


“Dere c’n onlie be whin t’ousand!”

“Nac mac Feegle wha hae!”

“Wha hae yersel, ya boggin!”


Battle Cries

It wasn’t that they didn’t take an interest in the world around them. On the contrary, they had a deep, personal and passionate involvement in it, but instead of asking “why are we here?” they asked “is it going to rain before the harvest?”

A philosopher might have deplored this lack of mental ambition, but only if he was really certain about where his next meal was coming from.



The pointy hat carried a lot of weight in the Ramtops. People talked to the hat, not to the person wearing it. When people were in serious trouble they went to a witch.*

* Sometimes, of course, to say, “please stop doing it.”

They thought you could see life through books but you couldn’t, the reason being that the words got in the way.

The people of Lancre wouldn’t dream of living in anything other than a monarchy. They’d done so for thousands of years and knew that it worked. But they’d also found that it didn’t do to pay too much attention to what the King wanted, because there was bound to be another king along in forty years or so and he’d be certain to want something different and so they’d have gone to all that trouble for nothing.



“I mean, it’s one thing saying you’ve got the best god, but sayin’ it’s the only real one is a bit of a cheek, in my opinion. I know where I can find at least two any day of the week.”

The people’d sent for her and she’d looked at him and seen the guilt writhing in his head like a red worm, and then she’d taken them to his farm and showed them where to dig, and he’d thrown himself down and asked her for mercy, because he said he’d been drunk and it’d all been done in alcohol.

Her words came back to her. She’d said, in sobriety: end it in hemp.

And they’d dragged him off and hanged him in a hempen rope and she’d gone to watch because she owed him that much, and he’d cursed, which was unfair because hanging is a clean death, or at least cleaner than the one he’d have got if the villagers had dared defy her [...]

The villagers had said justice had been done, and she’d lost patience and told them to go home, then, and pray to whatever gods they believed in that it was never done to them. The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.


Capital punishment

Nanny could find an innuendo in “Good morning.” She could certainly find one in “innuendo.”



“I thought we did not drink . . . wine.”

“I believe it’s time we started.”

“Yuk,” said Lacrimosa. “I’m not touching that, it’s squeezed from vegetables!”

Note (Hal’s):
I hope it’s obvious that these characters are vampires.

— end note



“I had, er, hoped to see Mrs. Weatherwax.”

For a moment the only sound was the chattering of the ravens.

Hoped?” said Agnes.

Mrs. Weatherwax?” said Nanny.

“Er, yes. It is part of my . . . I’m supposed to . . . one of the things we . . . Well, I heard she might be ill, and visiting the elderly and infirm is part, er, of our pastoral duties . . . Of course, I realize that technically I have no pastoral duties, but still, while I’m here . . .”

Nanny’s face was a picture, possibly one painted by an artist with a very strange sense of humor.

“I’m really sorry she ain’t here,” she said, and Agnes knew she was being altogether honest and absolutely nasty.

“Oh dear. I was, er, going to give her some . . . I was going . . . er . . . Is she well, then?”

“I’m sure she’d be all the better for a visit from you,” said Nanny, and once again there was a strange, curvy sort of truth to this. “It’d be the sort of thing she’d talk about for days.”



He wasn’t about to disagree with his betters. Hodgesaargh was a one-man feudal system.

On the other hand, he thought, as he packed up and prepared to move on, books that were all about the world tended to be written by people who knew all about books rather than all about the world.


Books (general)

She was not, herself, hugely in favor of motherhood in general. Obviously it was necessary, but it wasn’t exactly difficult. Even cats managed it. But women acted as if they’d been given a medal that entitled them to boss people around. It was as if, just because they’d got the label which said “mother,” everyone else got a tiny part of the label that said “child” . . .

“You don’t organize a mob, Nanny,” said Agnes. “A mob is something that happens spontaneously.”

Nanny Ogg’s eyes gleamed.

“There’s seventy-nine Oggs in these parts,” she said. “Spontaneous it is, then.”

After four years of theological college he wasn’t at all certain of what he believed, and this was partly because the Church had schismed so often that occasionally the entire curriculum would alter in the space of one afternoon. But also—

They had been warned about it. Don’t expect it, they’d said. It doesn’t happen to anyone except the prophets. Om doesn’t work like that. Om works from inside.

—but he’d hoped that, just once, that Om would make himself known in some obvious and unequivocal way that couldn’t be mistaken for wind or a guilty conscience. Just once, he’d like the clouds to part for the space of ten seconds and a voice to cry out, “YES, MIGHTILY-PRAISEWORTHY-ARE-YE-WHO-EXALTETH-OM OATS! IT’S ALL COMPLETELY TRUE! INCIDENTALLY, THAT WAS A VERY THOUGHTFUL PAPER YOU WROTE ON THE CRISIS OF RELIGION IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY!”

It wasn’t that he’d lacked faith. But faith wasn’t enough. He’d wanted knowledge.



Even when he was small there’d been a part of him that thought the temple was a silly boring place, and tried to make him laugh when he was supposed to be listening to sermons. It had grown up with him. It was the Oats that read avidly and always remembered those passages which cast doubt on the literal truth of the Book of Om—and nudged him and said, if this isn’t true, what can you believe?

And the other half of him would say: there must be other kinds of truth.

And he’d reply: other kinds than the kind that is actually true, you mean?

And he’d say: define actually!

And he’d shout: well, actually Omnians would have tortured you to death, not long ago, for even thinking like this. Remember that? Remember how many died for using the brain which, you seem to think, their god gave them? What kind of truth excuses all that pain?

He’d never quite worked out how to put the answer into words. And then the headaches would start, and the sleepless nights. The Church schismed all the time these days, and this was surely the ultimate one, starting a war inside one’s head.



“You’re always arguing?”

“The Prophet Brutha said ‘Let there be ten thousand voices,’ ” said the priest. “Sometimes I think he meant that it was better to argue amongst ourselves than go out putting unbelievers to fire and the sword. It’s all very complicated.” He sighed. “There are a hundred pathways to Om. Unfortunately, I sometimes think someone left a rake lying across a lot of them.”



One or two of the old barrows had been exposed over the years, their huge stones attracting their own folklore. If you left your unshod horse at one of them overnight, and placed a sixpence on the stone, in the morning the sixpence would be gone and you’d never see your horse again, either . . .



“You wouldn’t let a poor old lady go off to confront monsters on a wild night like this, would you?”

They watched him owlishly for a while just in case something interestingly nasty was going to happen to him.

Then someone near the back said, “So why should we care what happens to monsters?”

And Shawn Ogg said, “That’s Granny Weatherwax, that is.”

“But she’s an old lady!” Oats insisted.

The crowd took a few steps back. Oats was clearly a dangerous man to be around.

“Would you go out alone on a night like this?” he said.

The voice at the back said, “Depends if I knew where Granny Weatherwax was.”

“There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example.”

“And what do they think? Against it, are they?”

“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”



“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that—”

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they are getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes—”

“But they starts with thinking about people as things . . .”

Compare to:

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.



Oats sighed. “Many people find faith a great solace,” he said. He wished he was one of them.


“Really? Somehow I thought you’d argue.”

“It’s not my place to tell ’em what to believe, if they act decent.”

“But it’s not something that you feel drawn to, perhaps, in the darker hours?”

“No. I’ve already got a hot water bottle.”

People were good at imagining hells, and some they occupied while they were alive.



“But I bet that now they’re arguing about what they actually saw, eh?”

“Well, indeed, yes, there are many opinions—”

“Right. Right. That’s people for you. Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ’em like a father and cared for ’em like a mother . . . well, you wouldn’t catch me sayin’ things like ‘there are two sides to every question’ and ‘we must respect other people’s beliefs.’ You wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgivin’ sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, ’cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just . . . is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbors.”

She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice: “Anyway, that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And I don’t think that’s fashionable right now, ’cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say, ‘oh deary me, we must debate this.’ That’s my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don’t chase faith, ’cos you’ll never catch it.“ She added, almost as an aside, “But, perhaps, you can live faithfully.”

Compare to:

Chesterton’s Orthodoxy



“Some cold nights you see them dancin’ in the sky over the Hub, burnin’ green and gold . . .”

“Oh, you mean the aurora coriolis,” said Oats, trying to make his voice sound matter-of-fact. “But actually that’s caused by magic particles hitting the—”

“Dunno what it’s caused by,” said Granny sharply, “but what it is, is the phoenix dancin’.”

“Remember—that which does not kill us can only make us stronger.”

“And that which does kill us leaves us dead!” snarled Lacrimosa.

“We are vampires. We cannot help what we are.”

“Only animals can’t help what they are,” said Granny.

text checked (see note) Jun 2005

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