In our second episode, writer and deputy culture editor for Guardian Australia Stephanie Convery joins us as we discuss the runner-up in our poll for which book to read first – Mort! Published 30 years ago, it’s the fourth Discworld novel, and the first to put Death in a starring role.
Mort (short for Mortimer), a daydreaming farmer’s son, is offered an apprenticeship by Death himself. Travelling outside of space and time to Death’s home, he finds things aren’t what he expects: Death has an elderly manservant, an adopted daughter, and an unusual interest in fly fishing. Mort, left to do the job alone, tries to defy fate in a very human (and teenage) moment – but can he possibly succeed? And why does an immortal anthropomorphic personification need an apprentice, anyway?
Mort is often cited (including by us) as the first book in the series that feels like the Discworld we know and love, so if you’re joining us for the first time this episode, this is a great place to start. (And don’t worry: we will go back and read the first three books at some point!)
Show Notes and Errata:
- You can follow Stephanie on Twitter at @gingerandhoney, and find her work at Guardian Australia here.
- Sir Terry’s thoughts on where to start reading the Discworld are most clearly outlined in the essay “Straight from the Heart, Via the Groin”, which is most easily found in the collection A Slip of the Keyboard.
- “Mort” does mean death, but it’s not Latin – it’s French (or in Discworld terms, Quirmian).
- A “squib” in the world of Harry Potter is the rare child of a magical person who is not magical themselves.
- The lead Gentleman in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Hush was played by Doug Jones, now famous for playing Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, and Saru in Star Trek Discovery. He plays Count Orlok, the titular vampire, in the upcoming remake of Nosferatu. And he’d make a great Death.
- Christopher Lee was the voice of Death in both Cosgrove Hall animated adaptations (Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music), and The Mob’s live-action adaptation of The Colour of Magic, following Ian Richardson’s death. And his Death. (Richardson played Death in The Mob’s first Discworld adaptation, Hogfather.) The body of Death was played by Marnix Van Den Broeke, who also played the golem Mr Pump in Going Postal.
- The horse that plays Bucephalus in Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is, unfairly, not named in the credits of the film.