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The Last Continent is the twenty-second Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. First published in 1998, it parodies Australian people and aspects of Australian culture, such as the Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max movies, Vegemite, Flip-Flops, cork hats, the Peach Nellie, and the popular Australian song "Waltzing Matilda." It also mocks the concept of time travel, poking fun at the various paradoxes involved in traveling through time; preventing your own birth by killing your grandfather (the grandfather paradox), and the concept of altering time in the present by inadvertently changing the past as portrayed in the Ray Bradbury short story "A Sound of Thunder". The title comes from "The Lost Continent" which was a term used to describe the existence of a large continent in the South Pacific/Indian Ocean area, was disproved by Capt. James Cook's explorations but it lingered on in legend and myth and became a symbol associated with vanished worlds which were either the cradle of civilization or a high water mark in the development of mankind. One popular 19th Century version described it as a land bridge which joined Madagascar, South India and Australia which sank after they became inhabited. This continent was called Lemuria (after the Madagascar lemurs which the originator of this theory, Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834-1919), believed to be the ancestors of mankind). Another version popularized by Col James Churchward's 1931 book The Lost Continent of Mu claims that the Pacific Islands are all that remain of this super continent which was supposedly the original Garden of Eden. Today, geologists taking core samples of the ocean floor are finding evidence of both super continents (albeit as existing in physical terms but with no evidence of some higher culture living there): Mauritia, connecting Madagascar to South India and Zealandia, encompassing New Zealand, New Caledonia and the neighbouring Pacific Islands. In addition the Lost Continent has been described metaphorical in Bill Bryson's 1990 The Lost Continent, about his rediscovery of and journey through the lesser known parts of his native USA and in two movies of the same name.

Plot summaryEdit

The story opens years after the events of Interesting Times, in which Rincewind is magically transported to the forsaken continent of XXXX (so named because no one has any clue what its real name is) due to a miscalculation made by the Unseen University wizards. In the real world, XXXX is the name of an Australian beer and the continent is a takeoff on that country. Rincewind has been surviving by falling in water holes, looking for grubs under rocks, and befriending indigenous peoples (up to a point, since Rincewind would invariably talk about the weather, a subject about which the native tribes were apparently sensitive). Rincewind soon meets the magical kangaroo Scrappy, who was sent by the creator of XXXX. Scrappy explains to Rincewind that he is fated to bring back "The Wet," meaning the rain, and that he is the reason for the eons-long drought. Scrappy says that the continent is unfinished, and time and space will be an eternal anomaly there until it is finished, i.e. the rain is brought back. He shows Rincewind cave paintings of Wizards.

Meanwhile, the senior wizards (made up of Archancellor Mustrum Ridcully, the Dean, the Bursar, The Chair of Indefinite Studies, the Lecturer in Recent Runes, the Senior Wrangler and Ponder Stibbons) of Ankh Morpork's Unseen University are trying to find a cure for the Librarian's magical malady (which causes him to transform into a native object, such as a book when near a library, whenever he sneezes) contracted from his work in the Unseen University's magical library. The wizards soon find out that the books in the Library become hostile and attack (being magical books in a magical library, this is in fact a threat) when not in the librarian's care. The wizards cannot cure the Librarian without knowing his name. The Librarian, who enjoys his orangutan body (brought on by a magical accident years before) is also the archivist, so he destroys any evidence of his true name, believing the wizards would attempt to turn him human again. The Lecturer in Recent Runes suggests they interrogate Rincewind, as he once worked closely with the Librarian and seemed to know more about him than anyone else. The wizards then decide to find the continent of XXXX where they had previously sent Rincewind by accident. The wizards find the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography's study, but no sign of the professor himself. They then find a magical window in space leading from the professor's bathroom to a tropical island called MOro thousands of years in the past.

Thousands of years later, Rincewind attempts to run away from his destiny, but in fact runs towards it. With the secret assistance of Scrappy, Rincewind eventually ends up wrongfully arrested for sheep theft and taken to Bugarup, where he is hoping to find a ship to escape on. A gigantic circular storm surrounding XXXX prevents any ships from leaving, however. The people of Bugarup are enthusiastically for Rincewind, since they regard sheep thieves as folk heroes and encourage him to escape, while not actually allowing him to. Rincewind finds a hidden message on the ceiling of his holding cell telling him to check the hinges on the door. Rincewind discovers that he is able to lift the door off its hinges and escape.

The wizards become trapped on the tropical island of Monowhen Mrs. Whitlow, the head maid, brings them their breakfast and inadvertently closes the window that leads back into the Professor's study. The wizards soon encounter plants that rapidly evolve to suit their needs but do not question the turn of events (apart from Ponder) until a large dinosaur evolves into a chicken in front of their eyes. After finding a plant-based boat, the wizards start to question their surroundings even more and the god of Evolution, who has been causing the events, then turns up and helps explain things a bit. He created the boat plant so that the wizards would leave him in peace, as the plants are going haywire attempting to evolve to suit the wizards' every needs in order to have their seeds distributed. The god doesn't understand the purpose of the seeds and is, it turns out, unaware of the concept of sexual reproduction. After Mrs. Whitlow explains it to him, the much excited god decides to almost completely redesign the creatures on the island in order to incorporate the idea. Ponder decides to stays to help the god while the wizards load up on provisions and leave. Ponder soon catches up with them, as he discovered that the God was fixated with beetles and built the cockroach as his primary project rather than humans. The wizards then reach XXXX and meet the Creator of XXXX (not of the Disc) in the process of creating it by way of impressionistic cave paintings. The wizards bicker over the Creator's technique and inadvertently create the duck-billed platypus. The Librarian meanwhile steals the Creator's bullroarer and spins it, causing the drought Rincewind is in the process of stopping. The wizards are then frozen in time for thousands of years by the stray magic left over from creating the continent.

Rincewind having escaped from gaol, invents the Peach Nellie, and then meets up with a group of female impersonators, Darleen and Letitia, and a female, Neilette. Rincewind then meets up with his magical trunk, the infamous Luggage, who rescues him from the Watch. Escaping from the Watch, Rincewind and Neilette break into the old brewery (which was never used because all the beer kept going flat). An earthquake (induced by the voice of the creator) causes the brewery to collapse, trapping them inside the Luggage. When they emerge, Rincewind can see the ethereal outlines of the wizards (who were trapped, frozen in time, for thirty thousand years in the brewery). Eventually he arrives at the University of FourX (which is made out of corrugated iron nailed onto a wooden frame, and has a tower that is taller on the inside than it is on the outside). He takes the FourXian Wizards to the brewery and figures out how to free the wizards, by drawing a picture of them, like the Creator does to create animals and plants in the past. However, it becomes apparent that no-one knows how to make it rain. In despair, they give up. As they are sitting around, Rincewind idly twirls the Bullroarer (which had remained in the Librarian's possession), and realises that it is the key to making it rain. He swings it around his head, and it soon begins to fly faster and farther than it should with the force with which it is being swung. Rincewind lets go and the bullroarer flies off; immediately, it begins to rain.

Having saved FourX, the Wizards return to Ankh-Morpork by ship, and the story ends with the old man with the sack (the Creator of the last continent) catching the bullroarer in front of a young boy.

Popular References Edit

The line "[...] one particular planet whose inhabitants watched, with mild interest, huge continent-wrecking slabs of ice slap into another world which was, in astronomical terms, right next door -- and then did nothing about it because that sort of thing only happens in Outer Space." refers to the event in 1994 when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter.

Pratchett says, "It is a general test of the omnipotence of a god that they can see the fall of a tiny bird." This comes from the bible, Matthew 10:29. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." Pratdhett refers to this "test" in the Hogfather as well.

The Ceremony of The Archchancellor's Keys spoofs a ritual conducted at the Tower of London, where "The Queen's Keys" are used to lock up every day.

The line 'Grubs! That's what we're going to eat!' refers to the Indigenous Aboriginal food, witchetty grubs which are the larva of the Cossid moth. They were highly sought out as a staple because of their high-protein value. They could be eaten raw or lightly cooked in hot ashes, The raw witchetty grub tastes similar to almonds, and when cooked, the skin becomes crisp like roast chicken, while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg.

The expression 'Strewth!' is the abbreviated form of "God's truth!" It is old fashioned in Britain now but is more common in Australia.

Scrappy the Kangaroo is a reference to the popular Australian TV show "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo".

The name of the continent XXXX is the name of one of the most popular Australian beers.

The line that "Ridcully was to management what King Herod was to the Bethlehem Playgroup Association." is an obvious biblical reference to the fact that King Herod ordered all children of Bethlehem under the age of two to be killed to prevent a new King of the Jews (Jesus) from taking his place; an act which clearly would have impacted negatively on the Bethlehem Playgroup if it had existed. Matthew 2:16: "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, [...]"

Ponder Stibbons is "...] trying to teach Hex to sing 'Lydia the Tattooed Lady', [...]" which was one of Groucho Marx' most famous songs, originally performed in the 1939 Marx Brothers movie At the Circus. Teaching artifical intelligences to sing songs, recite poetry, or tell jokes is a well-established science fiction theme. Probably the most famous example is HAL in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, who reverts back to his 'childhood' and sings 'Daisy' for Bowman.

Funnelweb beer is a parody of the real Australian beer, Redback (both named after spiders).

The annual boat race in Dijabringabeeralong is a take off on the one held in Alice Springs: the Henley-on-Todd Regatta. It too is held in a dry river bed and was cancelled when the river flooded.

The wizards plan their escape from Mono island by looking for a book like "Practical Boat-building for Beginners" a take off on the book "Practical Boat Building for Amateurs" by Adrian Nelson and Dixon Kemp.

The scene involving Mr. Mad and the cart chase is a parallel to the Mad Max movies.

Petunia the Desert Princess, the troupe of female impersonators, Darleen and Letitia, and the female, Neilette, is a take off on the Australian drama/comedy movie, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert".

Rincewind invents a horrible looking paste which consumers are drawn to which is clearly poking fun at Vegemite a popular (only in Australia) paste for crackers and toast.

The scene involving Rincewind, the wild horses and the cowboys pursuing the horses is a take off on the Australian film "The Man from Snowy River" which was based on the poem of the same name by Banjo Paterson. To emphasize the link, Pratchett calls the horse that Rincewlnd is riding, "Snowy".

When the rains finally start, Ridcully says "Can you hear that thunder?" "We'd better take cover...." a reference to lines in the song "Down Under" by Men at Work and written by Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, from their debut album Business As Usual.

The Opera house in Bugarup is a parody of the Sydney Opera House with its billowing ship sails.

Dame Nellie Butt, the opera star reduces a chef to tears wondering what dessert he could name after her. Previous stars at the Bugarup Opera House have had desserts named after them including Dame Wendy Sackville (Strawberry Sackville), Dame Margyreen Glazier (Apple Glazier), Dame Janine Ormulu (Orange Ormulu), and Germaine Trifle (Trifle). Rincewind saves the day by inventing Peach Nellie. This whole section dealing with what to name the various desserts connected with Opera stars is a take off on Peach Melba which was created in the 1890s by the French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel, London, in honour of the Australian soprano Nellie Melba.

Crocodile (a parody of Crocodile Dundee) says that Tie up My Kangaroo is a bloody good fong (song) - a parody of Tie me Kangaroo Down Sport by Rolf Harris.

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TranslationsEdit

  • Последният континент (Bulgarian)
  • Poslední kontinent (Czech)
  • Het jongste werelddeel (Dutch)
  • Viimane manner (Estonian)
  • Viimeinen manner (Finnish)
  • Le Dernier Continent (French)
  • Heiße Hüpfer (German)
  • Ostatni kontynent (Polish)
  • Последний континент (Russian)
  • El País del Fin del Mundo (Spanish)
  • Den sista kontinenten (Swedish)

External linksEdit