These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 64, “GNOME Terry Pratchett“, discussing the 1973 short story “Rincemangle, the Gnome of Even Moor”, with special guest Andy Matthews.
Here’s the Two Ronnies sketch mentioned by Andy in which they use letters (and numbers) instead of words. It’s framed as “Swedish Made Simple”, a “Swedish lesson in Norwegian”, in which the subtitles use only single letters and numbers to represent words. It seems to be from the second episode of the fourth series of the show, broadcast on BBC Two in January 1975 – and please be warned that the sensibility of the sketch reflects the state of comedy in that era, especially in the way it’s ended.
Notes and Errata
- The episode title is a play on the “GNU Terry Pratchett”, which many websites – including this one, if our plugin is working correctly – add to a special “Clacks overhead” bit of information. This is a reference to Going Postal, in which a message prefixed GNU is sent up and down the Clacks system forever. John Dearheart’s name is preserved this way, in accordance with the idea in Pratchett’s writing that “a man’s not dead while his name is still spoken”. GNU is also a reference to the Roundworld GNU Project, a cornerstone of the free software movement which set out to create a free Unix-like operating system. In this context, GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix!”
- We mention a lot of Terry’s other books this episode; here’s a list with our episodes:
- Feet of Clay – discussed in #Pratchat24, “Arsenic and Old Clays“
- Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes – Terry’s official biography written by Rob Wilkins, which we’ve not yet covered.
- Strata – his early sci-fi novel which we’ve not yet covered
- The Dark Side of the Sun – his early sci-fi novel which we have covered, in #Pratchat18, “Sundog Gazillionaire“
- The Johnny books – Only You Can Save Mankind (#Pratchat28), Johnny and the Dead (#Pratchat34), and Johnny and the Bomb (#Pratchat37)
- The Bromeliad – Truckers (#Pratchat9), Diggers (#Pratchat13) and Wings (#Pratchat20)
- Equal Rites – discussed in #Pratchat25, “Eskist Attitudes“
- Wyrd Sisters – discussed in #Pratchat4, “Enter Three Wytches”
- Small Gods – discussed in #Pratchat16, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Vorbis”
- In the 1999 film The Matrix, future humanity is enslaved by sentient machines, who use the humans as living batteries after environmental disaster prevents traditional methods of power generation. They keep the humans subjugated by plugging them into an artificial reality known as “The Matrix”, but there are some free humans who present the imprisoned ones with the truth. Famously one of them – Morpheus, played by Lawrence Fishburne – does so by offering a prospective recruit two pills. The red one will allow them to see the truth of their situation, exiting the Matrix, never to return. The Wachowskis, who wrote and directed the film, turned it into a trilogy by making two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, in 2003. A fourth film, The Matrix Resurrections, was released in 2021.
- Owls are indeed mentioned in the Bromeliad – Granny Morkie describes them in Diggers while attempting to “cheer up” the Nomes who’ve gone outside at night to try and rescue Dorcas. In her words: “Cunning’ devils, owls. You never hear ‘em till they’re almost on top of you.” The Nomes who grew up in the Store are terrified.
- The four books collecting Pratchett’s early stories are Dragons at Crumbling Castle, The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner (which contains this story), Father Christmas’s Fake Beard and The Time-traveling Caveman. Most of the stories are from the Bucks Free Press, but Father Christmas’s Fake Beard also contains a number of Christmas-themed stories from other points in Pratchett’s career.
- The origins of the name Rincewind are actually known: it comes from the long-running humour column “By the Way” in the Daily Express newspaper. Written by various writers under the pen name “Beachcomber”, “By the Way” was a broad spoof of society news, with short snippets of nonsense about various fictional characters. One group of frequently recurring characters were “twelve red-bearded dwarfs” who were highly litigious, and who were at one point given individual names – one of which was “Churm Rincewind”. As mentioned in the Annotated Pratchett File entry for The Colour of Magic, Terry read a lot of the columns in published collections when he was 13, but didn’t realise that’s where he’d picked up the name until his friend Dave Langford pointed it out many years later. So Ben’s dramatic recreation wasn’t too far off the mark…
- “Fishing from the same stream” is mentioned in the L-Space wiki, though the specific quote about it is not sourced. Pratchett is said to have invoked this when saying its ridiculous that anyone would suggest a certain famous author had plagiarised him just because they both had schools of magic in their books, since it was an old concept that both had drawn on. “That’s how genres work,” he says, and indeed sites like TV Tropes and All the Tropes would agree.
- In the film Jurassic Park, palaeontologist Alan Grant and his young friends escape a Tyrannosaurus rex in part because Grant advises them its vision is “based on movement” – much as Rincemangle advises his fellow gnomes. But Rincemangle is partially correct – cats are ambush predators and while they have excellent night vision are relatively short-sighted. While it’s not true that stationary objects or mice are invisible to them, they are instinctively drawn to movement and use it to identify prey when laying in wait. To see why this is probably a silly assumption to make about T. rex, try to imagine the dinosaur as it appears in the film hiding in the grass and waiting to ambush its prey… Modern thought is that T. rex probably had great eyesight, just like many modern predatory birds, making it able to see prey from quite a long distance and chase it down. The assumption also appears in Crighton’s original 1990 novel, though in that case Grant makes the observation after seeing the live dinosaurs, though this is backtracked in the sequel, The Lost World.
- For more on how cats see, here’s the MYSTERIOUS FELINE VISION article from catveteran.com shared with us by subscriber Ian Banks.
- Jorges Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentine writer, and one of the most influential Spanish-language writers in the world. While he’s most famous for his short stories, which came to the attention of English-language readers in the 1970s, he also wrote novels, poetry and nonfiction, and perpetrated a great number of literary hoaxes. His most famous stories were mostly written in the 1940s and 1950s, and include “The Library of Babel”, about a library that contains every possible book that could ever exist, and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, in which Borges discovers that a secret society invented a country and the world of its legends, and by doing so conjured them into being.
More notes coming soon!
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