Thud! is Terry Pratchett's 34th Discworld novel, released in the United States of America on September 13 2005, the United Kingdom on October 1 2005, and may have been released before that date in other countries, such as Norway and Denmark. Thud! was released in the U.S. three weeks before it was released in Pratchett's native UK, to coincide with a United States signing tour. The book takes its name from the game "Thud" which was developed by Trevor Truran, Bernard the stout, Cunning Artificer to the Gentry, and Terry Pratchett. The game is based on games of the Tafl family, which are distinguished by the unequal size of the opposing forces. The objective is usually for the force of fewer numbers to take all the members of the larger forces whose aim is generally to stop them doing so. A fragment of a gaming board of 18 x 18 squares, found in Wimose, Fyn, Denmark dated prior to AD400 is the first evidence of Tafl, which also regularly appears in the early Icelandic sagas. It is also known as Hnefatafll or the Viking game.
As the book opens, a dwarven demagogue, Grag Hamcrusher, is apparently murdered, and the only witness is a confused troll called Brick. As ethnic tensions between Ankh-Morpork's troll and dwarf communities mount in the buildup to the anniversary of the Battle Of Koom Valley, Lord Vetinari convinces Commander Vimes to interview a vampire applicant to the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. The new recruit, Lance-Constable Salacia "Sally" von Humpeding, along with Angua and Carrot, is attached to the investigation surrounding Hamcrusher's death.
Meanwhile, Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Colon begin an investigation into the theft of the fifty-foot painting, The Battle of Koom Valley by the insane artist Methodia Rascal, from a city museum. Most of the populace believe the painting holds clues to a treasure hidden in Koom Valley. Nobbs has a new girlfriend, the exotic dancer Tawneee; Nobby first caught her eye when slipping an IOU into her garter. Other subplots involve the tension between vampires and werewolves (Sergeant Angua and Lance-Constable Van Humpeding), and the presence of Vetinari's auditor, A.E. Pessimal, in the Watch House.
Vimes, who has little patience with dwarves or trolls, finds himself pressured by Lord Vetinari to solve the murder quickly, before inter-species war erupts in Ankh-Morpork. Vimes and Sergeant Angua visit the dwarves' under-city mine, where a nervous dwarf named Helmclever draws a mysterious sign in the spilled coffee on his desk. Vimes' particular brand of omnidirectional anger sends him veering off into the mine, where he cuts himself, he supposes, on a locked door. Later, he convinces the deep down dwarves to allow Captain Carrot to be the "smelter" who looks for the truth of the murder.
When Carrot tries to find that truth, however, he is shown a body that was mutilated after death, and a confusing patch of clues. Angua discovers that a troll really WAS in the mine at the time of the murder, much to the consternation and fear of the dwarves who claimed a troll did the killing. This troll turns out to be Brick, who is a gutter troll of the lowest sort, addicted to anything beginning with "S" (such as most troll drugs, which all have names like Slab, Scrape, Slice, Slide etc.) and who becomes the protege of Sergeant Detritus.
Angua and Sally soon discover four more bodies in the mine, dwarves clearly murdered by other dwarves. One of these dwarves used his own blood to scrawl yet another mysterious rune on the back of a door in the mine -- a door that Commander Vimes cut himself on the other side of. The Deep Downers flee for the mountains, taking the talking cube they found at the bottom of Methodia Rascal's well, AND the painting of Koom Valley. As a parting shot, they invade the Vimes mansion and attempt to murder Lady Sybil Ramkin and Young Sam.
Vimes, along with wife, child, and several members of the Watch as an entourage, travels to Koom Valley. He believes he's pursuing justice, but an astute troll king named Mr. Shine and a bright young grag named Bashfulsson know that Vimes is carrying the Summoning Dark, the quasidemonic entity that wreaks vengeance on dwarves who have done evil in the sight of other dwarves. Vimes acquired the Summoning Dark when he touched the cursed door in the city mine, but his own internal watchman proves stronger than it is. As the Commander discovers, the real secret of Koom Valley is that trolls and dwarves did not intend war, but died together, friends, not enemies, in the deluge that ended the first battle. The ancient troll king and dwarf king were found in a deep cavern, preserved by centuries of dripping stone, playing a game of Thud.
The subplot concerning alleged "hidden messages" in the painting of Koom Valley, and the accompanying conspiracy theory book, The Koom Valley Codex parodies The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
Towards the beginning of the book Commander Vimes speaks to Cheery about a Koom Valley Stamp that had been produced by the Ankh-Morpork Post Office and mentions that only a month ago they had made a cabbage-scented stamp which had caused problems. In Going Postal Stanley had produced a cabbage-scented stamp which places this novel roughly a month after the events of Going Postal.
The book opens with the dwarf creation myth that draws its form and ideas from most of the creation myths of the Roundworld; from Christianity, to the San people of Africa, to the Iroquois to name but a few. It is similar to the Bible, in which God creating the world is described as a series of events taking 7 days (including his day of rest); this Dwarf myth also has a chronology of events - First Tak wrote himself, then Tak wrote the laws, etc. This sequence is also laid out like the long count of the Meso-American calendar (most well known of which was the extremely accurate Mayan calendar) which describes subsequent events from a specific point in time. The opening also draws on the Australian Aboriginal creation myths with its reference to Tak creating the cave (In the Aborigine myth, Earth Mother enters the caves to release the spirits who form the creatures of the world. The Iroquois myth creates two peoples (like the Humans and the Dwarfs in the Dwarf myth in Thud) one good and one bad, much like Cain and Abel in the Bible. In the Dwarf myth, the inference is clear that the Dwarfs are the good guys because the first thing they do upon being created is to find the laws. Humans on the other hand found no laws (thus they were lawless). The last paragraph which refers to the creation of Trolls and was evidently created much later is a reminder that certain chapters of the Bible were added and some deleted at a much later date than the rest. Addendum like these were a way of ensuring that the believers followed the path their rulers and leaders wanted to ensure that the status quo (ie their rulers' positions of power) was maintained. In this case, the Trolls wander the world unwanted after they are created much like the wandering Jew which takes its basis from Cain's banishment after he murders his brother, Abel. In the Bible, God creates the world in 7 days (actions) which is the basis of Roundworld's week. In Discworld, the Dwarf's myth seems to take 8 actions. Tak does 5 'things' and then moves on to the creation of Humans, the creation of Dwarfs and the creation of Trolls, for a total of 8 actions, which corresponds to the Discworld 8 day week.
The dwarfs who live deep under ground and distrust the reality or validity of anything on the surface, shunning the light, etc have a parallel in Plato's Allegory of the Cave from The Republic, in which the themes of perception and reality are examined. In Plato's work he discusses what the reaction of people confined to a cave and living in a world where shadows are their reality would be if they were told that their world wasn't the real one or were suddenly brought out into the light of the sun, a higher reality. He concludes that they would not believe what they were told, would kill anyone who tried to change their reality and would retreat to their shadow world. The Dwarfs who live deep underground are known as deep-downers and they doubt the existence of many things on the surface; some even question the reality of the humans. They believe the surface is a dream. Ray Bradbury explores this theme and analogy in his novel Fahrenheit 451 and Pratchett has referenced Bradbuy's novel in his other works. H G Wells explores this theme in his 1904 short story, The Country of the Blind as well.
These dwarfs also display many of the traits that fundamentalists throughout the religious world, whether Christian, Islamic or Sikh. They insist on their right to set their own laws, ungoverned by any other laws set by the rulers of the country in which they live. They argue that others should conform to their laws and beliefs and believe that the ends justifies the means. They insist that they have the right to bear arms because these arms are "culturally important" to them, like the Sikhs wearing the kirpan or Americans believing in their right to carry guns. Attacks of abortion clinics, Jihads against non-believers or people like Salman Rushdie who "insult Mohammed" and blowing up innocent people in planes are acceptable, even desirable actions by these kinds of people and Pratchett attacks this narrow minded thinking throughout his novels.
Near the beginning of the novel Pratchett uses the line, "Sam Vimes shaved himself." This is likely a synthesis of the well-known logical paradox "the barber shaves all those who do not shave themselves; who shaves the barber?" The paradox is used throughout Pratchett's books in connection to Sam Vimes who is always asking himself, "who watches the watchers?" The government inspector, Mr. Pessimal says, "Quid custodiet ipsos custodes?" -(which is from Juvenal's, "Satires" and translates as "Who shall guard the guardsmen?" but is often translated as "who watches the watchers?" either of which fits in an Ankh-Morpork City Watch context. The line originally related to ensuring marital fidelity by locking up one's wife in order to prevent her from cheating, followed by the fear that she may be seduced by the guard watching her. The original quote is "Quis" rather than "Quid" which Pessimal uses correctly later in the novel when he joins the Watch himself. Quis is the nomative masculine and feminine pronoun (Who) and Quid is the nomative and accusative neuter pronoun (What). So perhaps Pratchett, through Pessimal, is foreshadowing the Summoning Dark (clearly a 'what' not a 'who' watching and trying to take over Vimes.
Popular References: Edit
“Fizz” - the editorial cartoonist in the Times is a reference to Hablot Knight Browne, 19th Century English artist, famous as Phiz, the illustrator of the best-known books by Charles Dickens and a cartoonist for Punch Magazine after which the style of the Ankh-Morpork Times is patterned.
"Mr. Pessimal" the government inspector has all the characteristics of officialdom pencil pushers. His name is likely a combination of pessimist" and "dismal", attributes that most of these types of people display.
The line, "Do you know Mr. John Smith?" resonates with the character of the doctor in the popular British TV show, Dr. Who occasionally goes by "Doctor John Smith", and who wears colourful vests in many of hisincarnations.
Pratchett plays with role reversal and being something you are not here with humans playing at being vampires and in the Fifth Elephant with werewolves playing at being human and reverses it in Carpe Jugulum where the vampires play at being everyday humans.
"D'rkza" is a Dwarf word meaning not a proper dwarf.
Pratchett refers to Otto Chriek, the Ankh-Morpork Times photographer as “Little, fussy Otto, in his red-lined black opera cloak. . .his carefully cut widow’s peak and, not least, his ridiculous accent. . . .He looked funny, a joke, a music-hall vampire.” Otto is clearly patterned after Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor who starred as Dracula on stage and in movie in the late 1920s to 1930. There is also a bit of the Count from Sesame Street thrown in for good measure.
- Sally says, "HI, Igor, Gimmee six!" - In the Roundworld the expression is obviously "Gimmee five" because a human "high five" greeting uses five fingers but Igor's always have a spare finger in case they need it, hence the Discworld expression.
Pratchett refers to the “Ankh-Morpork Mission of the Uberwald League of Temperance and the black ribboners in many of his novels. This is a reference to the various temperance organizations active in the 19th Century in Britain and other countries, particularly the Woman's Christian Temperance Movement (which used a white ribbon.) These organizations required members to take a pledge of abstinence from all forms of alcohol. The black ribbons are also reminiscent of the scarlet sash worn by members of the Junior Anti-Sex League in George Orwell’s 1984. Similar red ribbons were worn by the Komsomolyet (Коммунисти́ческий сою́з молодёжи) movement - the Soviet Communist Party's youth wing. Nineteenth century slang for someone involved in a temperance movement - or more generally a teetotaler - was a 'Blue Ribboner'. Logically the vampires should have chosen red for the colour of their ribbon but perhaps the association is too tough to handle for a group of reformed B-word addicts.
Salacia von Humpeding is the new recruit for the Watch:- She is trying to put a suffocating social system that offers little scope for amusement (Vampire society) behind her. She enjoys a drink and a laugh. There is a hint of a cheerful sexual promiscuity, possibly even bisexuality about her character. She is described as boyishly-built with short bobbed black hair. As well as her first name, there is much in common between her character and that of Berlin club singer and performer Sally Bowles, played by Liza Minelli in the film of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin memoir I am a Camera, (filmed as Cabaret). There are also similarities between Berlin in the 1930s and Ankh-Morpork; both facing marches and street fighting between the far-right Nazis and the far-left Communists in Germany and the Dwarfs and Trolls in Ankh-Morpork - the Dwarfs, with a populist right-wing politician with a finger firmly pointed at a scapegoat group (Trolls), who advocates their extermination and isn't above murdering fellow Dwarfs to advance his aims, much like Germany and Hitler. Sally's last name has similarities to Engelbert Humperdinck the well know British singer, with all the sexual connotations the name implies.
Near the end of the novel it is revealed that Sally is a spy for the Dwarf Low KIng when she sends him a coded message and signs it "aicalas" which is simply her name spelled backwards. Vimes laughs at this stupidity which really means he is also laughing at his own readers because this trick is so common in his novels, the reader should automatically look at unusual or ridiculous words with that in mind. Some examples include Klatchian coffee which makes you knurd (ultra - sober) the opposite of drunk. Similarly, Llamedos is "Sod 'em all" backwards which is a reference to Dylan Thomas's play Under Milk Wood which is set in a fictional South Welsh town called Llareggub (pronounced something like 'hlarregib') which is 'Bugger all' spelt backwards. This tradition is widespread in literature. Samual Butler's satirical Utopian novel Erehwon is 'Nowhere" spelled backwards with the 'w' and 'h' transposed is one example.
"Mr. Shine" is the leader of the Trolls. Trolls' names reflect types of rock or relate to rock in some fundamental way. Mr. Shine sparkles like a diamond - in fact he is so bright you can't look at him. Likely Pratchett is referring to the Pink Floyd song "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond" from the album Wish You Were Here with this reference.
The reference to “Koom Valley Day” and the line, "at the Battle of Koom Valley that mutual hatred became...Official" has many similarities in Roundworld. The theme of Koom Valley Day and the dwarfs and trolls reliving 1000 year old ancient battles again and again as if they occurred only yesterday is reminiscent of the parades held in Northern Ireland by Unionist and Republican groups reliving the Battle of the Boyne (Protestants' rally on July 12th) and the Easter Rising (Republicans). The Republican parades celebrating the Easter Rising can be large, but are not nearly as provocative as those organized by the Ian Paisley led Protestants, as they are not deliberately routed through Loyalist areas. There are also similarities to other religious and ethnic groups fighting over age old grievances; from the Bosnians, Serbs and Croats in the Balkans, to the Turks and Armenians, to the Turks and Kurds, to the Hutus and Tutsis, the list goes on in its stupidity forever. All these age old inter-ethnic rivalries seem to have started with a single battle that is remembered, embellished and revived century after century, like the Battle of the Boyne mentioned above. For the Balkans, one of the most relevant in our age is the Battle of Kosovo Polje between Serbia and the Ottoman Empire, which, despite having happened on 15 June, 1389, became of immediate importance during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The outcome of the battle is unknown but thought to have been a tactical draw, and the Serbian knez and Ottoman sultan both died during the fight. Another battle of Kosovo Polje was fought on the same spot in 1448.
Grag Hamcrusher's line "Beware of the troll...." bears a striking resemblance to the kinds of racist comments Adolf Hitler made in his book "Mein Kampf" as well as in public about the Jews.
"clang" is a reference to the American slang for gaudy jewelry, "bling"- ostensibly named from the "sound" of light hitting something shiny like diamonds, silver or platinum and often associated with swagger, machismo, and ostentatious display. "Clang" evokes the kind of heavier sound that Troll jewelry would make thumping off stone.
The Battle of Koom Valley painting is clearly a cyclorama which is a panoramic painting painted on the inside of a cylindrical surface, designed to provide aviewer standing in the middle of the cylinder with a 360° view of the painting. As with a 3-D movie, the effect is to make the viewer feel as if they are standing in the midst of a the scene. Panoramas were invented by Irishman Robert Barker, who wanted to capture the panoramic view from Calton Hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland. He subsequently opened his first cyclorama in Edinburgh in 1787. Cycloramas were very popular in the late 19th century and often depicted military battles. One of the most notable cycloramas is one by Paul D. Philippoteaux depicting the Battle of Gettysburg, and another depicts Waterloo. Most cycloramas are considerably greater in circumference than "The Battle of Koom Valley".
Koom Valley itself is derived from the Welsh word for a cirque or glaciated valley - cwm, pronounced Koom. Like many place names translated into English where the local name simply means valley, mountain or river and the person naming it adds the English word for the geographical feature to the local name, it becomes Valley Valley.
The line, "Don't Talk to Me About Mondays" is likely a combination of two references: Marvin the Paranoid Android in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy regularly says "Life? Don't talk to me about life." and the Boomtown Rats' song I Don't Like Mondays, both of which Pratchett has used in other works. There is also the line from the comics, Garfield the Cat's "I hate Mondays" which is used ad nauseam in that strip.
Nobby says, "Why mess about with a cunning plan when a simple one will do?" This is a reference to Baldrick's cunning plans in the TV series "Black Adder" starring Rowen Atkinson.
The painting of The Goddess Anoia Arising from the Cutlery is a reference to The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. (lots of "i"s in his name). While there are no urns or a plinth in the painting, there are two cherubs which make it art. The reader met Anoia in Going Postal when Moist von Lipwig "prayed" to her and was rewarded with 150,000 Anhk-Morpork dollars which turned her from a minor goddess in charge of jammed cutlery drawer utensils into a celebrity.
The Koom Valley Codex explaining some huge secret being hidden in the painting of the Battle of Koom Valley is a clear reference to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown with its supposed hidden messages in the Mona Lisa. The craze of people buying the Codex and staring at the painting of Koom Valley are paralleled with Brown's work of fiction as well, which was a worldwide best seller in 2003 and prompted such speculation. The Da Vinci Code suggests that there is some hidden knowledge in the Roman Catholic church regarding the true nature of the Resurrection and the plot involves the murder of someone in the know in order to keep the information hidden. The Da Vinci Code was inspired by the "non-fiction" book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, which in the 1980's enjoyed a kind of vogue and Dan Brown's character Leigh Teabing is a direct homage to its authors. In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the authors link together a set of historical puzzles and anomalies, including the claim that occult secrets are encoded in a series of well-known paintings, to support the hypothesis that Jesus Christ did not actually die on the cross but was resuscitated from near-death, and smuggled to the South of France by Joseph of Arimathea to live out a quiet life in retirement. The book argues that he married Mary Magdalene, and their bloodline became that of the Kings of France and persists today in exceptionally able or gifted people around the world. If true, this claim would have the effect of wholly discrediting Christianity, and for this reason the truth has supposedly been suppressed by generations of Popes. It's worth noting that one of the authors has since acknowledged that the content of the book was a hoax but its premise spawn an industry of conspiracy theorists looking for the "truth", much like the Koom Valley Codex. In creating the obsessive searchers looking for clues in Rascal's painting, Pratchett may also have been drawing from the real-life searchers known as Masqueraders who tromped all over England looking for a jeweled-hare pendant from 1979 to 1982, guided by clues they found or imagined finding in Kit Williams' picture book "Masquerade". As in Thud!, the hare was initially found by searchers who resorted to unscrupulous methods (murder by the deepdowners in Thud! and milking Williams' ex-girlfriend for hints by the hare "finders" with Masquerade), but their fraud was exposed and the treasure retrieved/protected from them.
"That pea-brained idiot at the Post Office has only gone and issued a Koom Valley stamp!" - this is a cross-book reference and pun to Going Postal in which Stanley Howler has been put in charge of the Stamp Department by Moist von Lipwig. Stanley had been "raised by peas' (not on but BY) after the death of his parents.
Vimes says, "And just when the day couldn't get any worse, I've got to interview a damned vampire." which is a shout out to the Ann Rice novel and the movie, "Interview with the Vampire".
Sir Reynold Stitched, curator of the Ankh-Morpork Royal Art Museum, is combination of a couple of Roundworld personages from the art world. His first name is a reference to 18th century British painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds who was the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts and is best known as a portrait painter and one of the most important painters of the 18th century. Sir Reynold's surname, Stitched, is a take off on the art critic Brian Sewell (pronounce it Sew Well and the seamstress reference is clearer). Sewell wrote for the London Evening Standard Sunday paper and was a frequently used pundit on late night TV arts shows such as "Newsnight Review" and "The South Bank Show"). Sir Reynold Stitched bears a strong resemblance, in voice, manner and aesthetic to him.
The card that Vampires carry saying, "help, I have crumbled and I can't get up" is a reference to the 1980-1990s ads from Lifecall (LifeLine in Canada), a Medical Alert company designed for Seniors and the disabled, which used an ad which featured the line, "I've fallen and I can't get up."
In the discussion between Fred and Nobby where Fred talks about sending the "immigrants" who have moved to Ankh-Morpork back "where they came from", Nobby replies, "Most of 'em came from here". This reflects the common refrain from the ultra right in nearly every country in the First World, blaming the immigrant for every problem that has generally been created by government incompetence or design. Hitler blamed the Jews and Gypsies, The British Nationalist Party blames the Muslims, Le Pen blames the Algerians, Trump blames the Mexicans, etc. And in most cases the people they want to send back have in fact been born in the country trying to get rid of them.
In the same conversation between Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs, Fred says, "War, Nobby. What is it good for?" to which Nobby replies, "Dunno, sarge. Freeing slaves, maybe?" and Fred Colon admits, "Absol- Well, okay."
This is a reference to the popular 1970 anti- Vietnam war song by Edwin Starr. It was first recorded by the Temptations but not released because Motown didn't want to alienate the Temptations' conservative fan base so the song was re-recorded with Edwin Starr and given a much more edgy James Brown style feel. It was redone by Bruce Springsteen in 1986 and also by Frankie Goes to Hollywood in 1984 and Black Stone Cherry in 2016. It remains one of the most powerful anthems of the Vietnam War era and was on Clear Channel's do not play list after 9/11. The key lyric is, "War: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing" Nobby's suggestions that war might be good for freeing slaves or for defending yourself against a totalitarian aggressor refers to the American Civil War and World War II, often considered just or worthwhile wars for those reasons. There is a counter argument however, that if the victors in both wars had dealt with key issues that were instrumental in the war before hand, the wars might never have arisen.
Nobby's response though also reflects the scene in Monty Python's The Life of Brian, when Reg, the leader of one of the numerous rebellious groups that infest Judea, asks "What have the Romans ever done for us?" to which his (equally anti-Roman) collaborators reply in typical Monty Python fashion by reeling off all the incredible Roman achievements that made life far better for the peoples they subjugated.
The line, “Do not . . . what do they call it. . . go spare?” “Spare" in British slang means to get out of control and become furious or extremely, often irrationally, angry.
Once again Lady Vimes has given Sam a dayminder/cell phone equivalent and like the Roundworld equivalents it is full of useful and useless features. The "Gooseberry's" Roundworld equivalent is the BlackBerry made by the Ontario, Canada company Blackberry Limited (originally called Research in Motion). It is a wireless handheld device. Sam's imp driven device is a "gooseberry" which also a fruit like the blackberry (somewhat more sour) but is also slang for an unwelcome intruder on a romantic assignation; a fifth wheel. The imp in the Gooseberry asks Sam if he would "like to engage the handy-to-use Bluenose™ Integrated Messenger Service?". This is an obvious reference to Bluetooth, which is an industrial specification for wireless personal area networks. A "bluenose" is a person from Nova Scotia but the likely reference in this case is the slang meaning of a priggish or morally self-righteous person who crusades against pornographic ("blue") material - blue nosers being surprisingly good at finding pornography considering they are offended by it. These two sexual references are clearly Pratchett pointing out the irony that the main use of "social" media devices are for ruining human interaction and solo sex. The imp mentions the feature in the Gooseberry of the "game of Splong!™, specially devised for the Mark Five ..... have the bats right here." This is a direct reference to Pong, the very first graphical video game, which was similar to ping-pong/table tennis, but it also resonates with all the other time wasting games on computers and mobiles from "Angry Birds" to solitaire. The imp tells Vimes that the "My iHUM™ function enables me to remember up to one thousand five hundred of your all time—". This is a reference to the digital media player application developed by Apple Computers, for playing and organizing digital music and video files, and for transferring them to its iPod portable MP3 players. There's also a reference to LucasArt's iMUSE™ technology, which changed the music throughout some of its most popular third-person adventures, like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and predated the iPod. The word "iHUM"; suggests that the imp simply hums the tune in question rather than replicating it exactly, much like those apps which turns a tune into elevator style muzak, or which delete the vocal track so that the listener can sing along off key like in Karaoke bars. (Shades of the robotic Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Company Choir in Douglas Adams' HItch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy singing Share and Enjoy a flattened semi-fifth out of tune).
The symbol chalked on the wall over the door of a circle, with a horizontal line through it is the "Long Dark" rune, the symbol for a mine, is the same as the sign for the London Underground.
The symbol for the “Following Dark” which Helmclever makes with his spilled coffee and which Carrot makes later with the Vurms is a circle with two diagonal lines through it. This is similar to British road sign meaning “No Parking.”
Brick's psychedelic "giant wooly elephants" is a variation on the old standard of "pink elephants" in the halucinations of alcoholics. Brick, being a Troll of timeless rock would naturally see mammoths remembered from a time when he was a young troll.
The line about "metamorphorical rock" is a combination of "metamorphic rock" which is in rock that has been changed under intense pressure and heat; and "metaphorical" which is a symbol used to portray something else.
The line, "In, Out, and Shake It All About" are three of the motions performed in the party dance the "Hokey Pokey" as it is known in most parts of the world or "Hokey Cokey" as it is known in Britain. It is originally from a British folk tradition and the song was popularized in the 1940s.
Vimes thinks, "Whose side are you on?" This is a reference to the well known union protest song made famous by Pete Seeger, "Which Side Are You On?" by Florence Patton Reece.
The imp in Vimes' Gooseberry says, "I am, therefore I think. This is a reference to Rene Decartes famous philosphical line, I think therefore I am.
The reference to "dusty black sedan chairs....There were no windows" has man parallels in Roundworld. The kings of Persia during the Classical era travelled in closed-off sedan chairs so that they might never be seen by common folk; the kings of France, meanwhile, are reputed to have travelled in closed-off carriages so as not to see the land outside their palaces. In modern times, dignitaries, celebrities and Mafia type hoodlums travel in limousines with darkened windows so that people on the outside cannot see in to identify those riding inside, keeping them "safe" from prying eyes, kidnapping and assassination. Each puts a distance between the elite and the hoi polloi.
The line, "if only the pawns united..." reflects the age old problem which Pratchett touches on many times in his novels - the people revolt and then fall into their old ways of being "pawns" of the new ruler - Pratchett often quoting the Who's song Won't get Fooled Again with the line Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The Dr. Who serial "The Curse of Fenric" includes a chess problem whose resolution requires the pawns joining together and turning against the king much like Vimes' ancestor did when he murdered the king of Ankh-Morpork.
The line, "There were twists and turns, in dim tunnels that all seemed alike." is a computer game reference to the 1976 text-based computer game Colossal Cave Adventure, which contains the memorable line "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike". Colossal Cave Adventure was the first known work of interactive fiction and, as the first text adventure game, is considered the precursor for the adventure game genre.
The discussion with Chrysoprase about Troll drugs “And dey cuts Slab wi ‘ bad sulphides an’ cooks it up wi’ ferric chloride and crap like dat. You thought that Slab was bad? You wait till you see Slide.” Pratchett uses words that would be typical in the world of Trolls as in a "Slab of RocK" and a "Rock Slide" to create a parallel between the kind of drug usage and problems among Trolls in Discworld and the problems that are found in Roundworld; specifically with cocaine and the introduction of crack cocaine and the problems it caused because it was so cheap compared to snorting it as was originally done. Ferric chloride, not surprisingly, has a nasty effect on trolls' silicon brains. It is used to cut circuit boards. All the Troll drugs start with an "S".
Chrysoprase, like most Trolls, is named after a type of rock, in his case an apple-green variety of chalcedony containing nickel, used as a gemstone. Brick, is clearly named after bricks because he is a city Troll so has taken on the characteristics of city type material. Gabbro, the Troll who plays Thud well from the Dwarf side is named after a type of igneous rock which forms most of the Earth's oceanic crust and which is similar to basalt.
The line, "Lips that touch Ichor shall never touch Mine" is a play on the temperance movement slogan and 1874 song, "Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine" written by Sam Booth with music by George T. Evans. In Greek mythology, Ichor is the blood of the gods but has come to mean any thin watery discharge of fluid, not something you would want your lips to touch in any case. In Discworld, Ichor is one on the gods, so the reference is somewhat atheistic.
The line "with only a slit for the eyes" draws comparison with conservative Muslim women and their burqas.
The line regardisng Ankh-Morpork's river - "Even the river catches fire in a hot summer!" is a reference to the Cuyahoga River, which runs through eastern Ohio in the United States and was so polluted that it caught fire on several occasions between 1936 and 1969. The negative publicity was responsible in a large part for the environmental movement in the USA and led to massive cleanups since then which have restored the river in a major way.
Pratchett uses he line, "The leopard doesn't change its shorts" many times in his works (most recently in Going Postal) and several times in this novel alone. It is a malapropism play on the old saying "the leopard doesn't change its spots" (people don't reform or change) as well as the idea of 'having to change one's shorts" after having an accident in them from being scared.
Sally says, “Well here’s another fine mess.” which is a variation of the catch phrase from Laurel and Hardy: “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Pratchett has used this line in other novels as well
Nobby says, "Tawnee’s actually only her pole name ....‘She says no one would be interested in an exotic dancer with a name like Betty. She says it sounds like she’d be better with a bowl of cake mixture.” This is an obvious reference to Betty Crocker cake mixes. However, Pratchett is also poking fun at the whole concept of a stripper needing an appropriate name like Candi or Tawnee and not normal names like Betty, while knowing full well that there was a famous stripper named Betty Howard in the 1950s as well as the iconic 40s/50s burlesque perfomer Betty Page, whose dark beauty inspired the Goths) and acts of modern burlesque strippers such as Dita von Teese.
The Pink PussyCat Club is a play on the Playboy Club with its "Bunnies" but is also likely a play on the combination of the names of the "Kit Kat Club" and the "Pink Panther", the former a political Whig club in London in the 1920s and the other the movie starring Peter Sellers.
Nobby and Colon's discussion of what is pornography and what is art reflects a similary common debate in Roundworld society and has been played out in visual art and literature through the years, from DH Lawrence's Women in Love to Robert Mapplethorpe's nude photographs. The religious right, of which Pratchett is no fan, sets a much tighter set of parameters than more liberal ideologues.
The Club serves drinks with names such as "Just Sex, Pussy Galore and No Brainer " which all have connections to Roundworld and sex. "Relax...It’s Just Sex "is a 1998 romantic comedy film directed by P. J. Castellaneta. The drink is likely a variation of "Sex on the Beach" without the tropical beach, in other words just the non-tropical items - vodka and peach schnapps. "Pussy Galore" was the name of Honor Blackman's character in the James Bond movie Goldfinger, the sexual reference is obvious and a "No Brainer" is something that requires little or no mental effort often used in a sexual context like sex with a desirable woman. There is also a cocktail called the "Brain Eraser" which contains Goldschlager (cinnamon schnapps), Kahlua, and vodka. Later the women try drinks such as the "screaming orgasm" and the "pink, big and wobbly" which are also obvious sexual references and clearly "Girlie drinks".
The derogatory reference to dwarfs as "lawn ornaments" is an obvious comment on the Roundworld tendency to place plastic figures of the seven dwarfs on one's lawn as a decoration. Pratchett uses this term throughout his works.
The bootlegger's turn performed by Vimes with the coach and four is a reference to the bootlegger's turn performed by rum runners in their high performance cars when escaping from the police in the southern USA. A real bootlegger's turn is done by dropping down into a lower gear (like second) and spinning the steering wheel. The car turns abruptly as the rear wheels break loose and spin and ends up in the opposite lane facing the other way from which it came, letting it quickly accelerate away from the pursuing police. The turn that Vimes performs is not technically a bootlegger's turn. It is a handbrake turn, which is done by applying the handbrake to lock up the real wheels and spin the car when the wheel is turned.
The line, "That’s a feast for vurms." is a reference to a 1620 book of poems by English poet Francis Quarles of the same name. The titular poem related to human mortality, and the title itself has entered the language as a sort of memento mori akin to "ashes to ashes". Quarles' title is likely a reference to Henry IV, Part One where the line started by Hotspur and finished by Hal is -"no, Percy, thou art dust And food for--" "...for worms, brave Percy..."
Lady Sybil tells Vimes that "tomato ketchup is not a vegetable." This is a reference to the 'brilliant' lobbying job the fast food industry did on the Department of Agriculture during Ronald Reagan's presidency in the United States when he was slashing public school food subsidies. This rule attempted to rationalize that burgers and fries were nutritional lunches for schools and led to a serving of tomato ketchup or pickle relish being counted as a "vegetable". The rule was retracted after much popular ridicule; during the Clinton administration, however, salsa (which, if prepared correctly, does have a substantial nutritional content) was classified as a serving of vegetables under the same conditions.
Willikins, Vimes' butler, and his hat with sharpened pennies in the brim is a reference to gangs during the last century using their hats as weapons to blind or maim their rivals. The Birmingham gang during WW I, known as the Peaky Blinders supposedly sewed razor blades into the brims of their peaked hats and after the popularity of the British TV show of the same name, this type of weapon has been showing up among British gang members. Similarly, ball caps with lead weights are available to use as a blackjack or cosh. No sharpened pennies though.
The weapon "numknuts" is obviously a reference to the martial arts weapons nunchaku (popularly nunchucks), a Chinese flail consisting of two wooden shafts connected by a chain or cord. "Numb nuts" is slang for an idiot.
The "thin brown streak" is a play on the famous "thin red line" which was a reference to the fact that the British army wore red uniforms and fought in a series of long lines, stretching across the battlefront which fired, knelt and reloaded while the line behind advanced and fired, then stood and fired again. This was a change from the square deployment of troops which provided coverage on all sides, including the flanks. The Thin Red Line made it possible for the army to rain a withering fusillade on the enemy with no break for the enemy to regroup so the counter-strategy was to try to break the line with an all out charge or turn the flank so that you could attack the weaker sides. The name itself was first used by "London Times" correspondent, William Russell during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean in October 1854 where the 93rd Highlanders under Colin Campbell, turned aside a Russian cavalry charge using this tactic. Russell said, that he could see nothing between the charging Russians and the British regiment's base of operations at Balaklava but the "thin red streak tipped with a line of steel" of the 93rd. This was popularly condensed into "the thin red line", the phrase becoming a symbol of British composure in battle. Naturally the enemy used the same tactics and the battlefield casualties were horrendous. The red uniforms however made easy targets for snipers and, with the development of guerrilla warfare the uniforms and tactics vanished. The term was picked up by by Rudyard Kipling for use in his poem Tommy, which goes in part:
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
The phrase was also used as the title of James Jones' novel (and the 1998 movie based on it) telling the story of the United States capture of Guadalcanal during World War II. Pratchett changes it to the "thin brown streak" because a small force caught between two large combatants, whether Trolls and Dwarfs or Catholics and Protestants would be quite likely to crap their pants in fear, leaving a thin brown streak in their underwear.
The line, "We few, we happy few" is a quote and reference that Pratchett has used many times in his novels - a reference to the St. Crispin Day speech of Henry V in Shakespeare's play of the same name.
The discussion between Pessimal and Vimes regarding magic includes the dismissive query from Vimes, "turn them into ferrets?" This is a reference to JK Rowling's Harry Potter series where "Professor Moody" turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret.
The line, "Brick thought. . . the future was looking so bright that he had to walk along with his eyes almost shut. . .” A reference to the 1986 hit by Timbuk 3 “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”.
Pseudopolis Yard, the home of the Watch is a reference to Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service in London, England.
Brick explains the Vimes that he "floated down like a butterfly" when he fell down the mine shaft. This was heavy weight boxing champion Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali's tag line "Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee!"
"I'm not a bondage kind of person," added Angua, is a reference to David Nobbs Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin series, in which Reggie's son in law Tom is always saying, "i'm not a ...... kind of person." to explain why he doesn't do something.
The line, "Who knows what old evil exists in the deep darkness under the mountains?" is a reference to the old radio program, The Shadow, and its opening line, "Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men, the Shadow knows!" Pratchett has used this reference on many occasions: in The Truth, Death utters this line and then adds, "Well yes, obviously me". Additionally this line could also be a reference to the line from the Lord of the Rings: "There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world." And: "They delved [...] too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled: Durins Bane."
Angua's line "But it's pretty much a 24/8 job for us." is a reference to the Roundworld saying about working 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), but in Discworld the week contains 8 days, so they workd 24/8. There are examples of eight day weeks in Roundworld. In the Burmese version of Theravada Buddhism, the week has eight days. Wednesday is divided into Wednesday proper (midnight to noon) and Rahu (noon to midnight). Each day is associated with a compass direction, a planet, and a totem animal. In the Celtic calendar, the Celts used periods of darkness such as night and winter to begin their calculations of time. This meant that the first period of time in a "week" was a night, followed by a day. Furthermore, they also counted the ending night period, giving rise to periods of time with more nights than days. In Irish, the term nómad is used to signify a small number of days and is exactly the length of the nine night week as in co cend nomaide - a period of time with nine nights bracketing eight days. The nine nights divided nicely into a sidereal month of 27 nights. In Welsh a similar word wythnos meaning "a week" literally means "an eight-night" since it started and ended with a period of night bracketing seven days.
Vimes' truncheon which has "Protector of thee Kinge's Piece" stamped on it is an obvious pun on the legal term "the King's Peace" (or the Queen's Peace in the reign of Elizabeth II). Vimes' truncheon is a "piece" (weapon) for maintaining the "peace". Finally, the King or anyone else's piece is also his "piece of tail" or mistress.
When confronting the Dwarfs for their failure to stop the deepdowners, Vimes mentions that the Dwarf, Grabpot Thundergust, has just opened "'Ladies Secrets' range of perfumes and cosmetics". This is an obvious reference to "Victoria Secrets". Opening such a shop could only be opend by a Dwarf in Ankh-Morpork who does not follow the ways of the fundamentalist deep downers because Dwarfs traditionally do not dress to show whether they are male or female. "Coming out" as a female Dwarf has only been a recent development and mainly confined to Ankh-Morpork. He then mentions that another Dwarf, Gimlet Gimlet, is the owner of Yo Rat! Yo Rat! is a reference to the UK restaurant chain Yo! Sushi!
The line about "Turd races in the gutter... ...with the name Poosticks" is a reference to the game of Pooh-sticks from the Winnie the Pooh stories, where the characters have races with sticks floating under a bridge combined with the obvious pun of Poo being another slang term for turd. There is also a mention of 'Tiddley-rats', the Ankh-Morpork gutter version of Tiddlywinks. 'Dead Rat Conkers' is an obvious reference to the Roundworld game of conkers which is played with hardened chestnuts on a string which are whacked together by swinging them into each other - the winner being the one whose chestnut does not break. The image of playing the same game with rats attached to the string by their tails is particularly graphic.
Fred says, "There's throwin' up and yellin' and unladylike behavior and takin' their vests off and I don't know what. 'S called...' he scratched his head '... minge drinking." This is an obvious pun on Binge drinking combined with "Minge" which is slang for female pubic hair.
The symbol for the summoning dark (the eye with the long squiggly tail) has many parallels in Roundworld from the Third eye of enlightenment in the middle of the forehead in Buddhism to the "evil eye" painted on the bows of fishing boats in the eastern Mediterranean to ward off evil and misfortune. In literature,beginning with Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island the Black Spot is given to a pirate if he is about to be deposed as leader, usually by violent means so is a source of great fear. In the JK Rowling, Harry Potter series, the dark mark that appears on the arms of Voldemort's supporters is a sign that he is summoning them. The symbol Pratchett uses has an obvious resemblance to a sperm.
Constable Visit-the-Ungodly-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets with his door-to-door evangelical zeal is a reference to Roundworld Jehovah’s Witnesses, who distribute their religious pamphlets in a similar manner. His god, Om’s, name is a mystical or sacred syllable in the Indian religions, including Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Detritus's crossbow which fires multiple arrows is called the "Piecemaker" which is a take off on the Colt 45 Army revolver known as the Peacemaker,
The line, "Something happens at thirteen miles an hour. I don't know what." with the speed limit and the flaming cabbages is probably a nod to the Back To The Future films, where the DeLorean traveled through time when it reached 88 mph, leaving flaming trails behind it.
The line He pulled out a battered volume entitled Walking in the Koom Valley, by Eric Wheelbrace..." is a play on the walker, author, and illustrator Alfred Wainwright. A "wainwright is an old occupation - a repairer of carts - and a Wheelbrace is lug wrench used for tightening or loosening the wheel of a vehicle.
As they fly along in the coach, Vimes says, "The roads up there are pretty bad, you know,' to which Willikins replies, "So I believe, sir. However, that will not, in fact, matter." This is likely another reference to Back To The Future, in particular to Doc Brown's line: "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads".
Pratchett says, "... Brick ... had not picked a good day to go cold turkey, it was turning out to be frozen Roc." which is a play on a number of words; rock (stone) and roc (giant mythical bird). The line resonates with the 1980s move Airplane with Leslie Nielson and its running gag of the air-traffic controller saying, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking/drinking/taking amphetamines/sniffing glue!"
Sybil’s friends from the Quirm College for Young Ladies “all seemed to have names like Bunny or Bubbles” – a reference to stereotypical British public-school girls' nicknames.
The line, "The other thing he noticed was that the landscape ahead was strangely bluish, while behind them it had a relatively red tint" is a reference to the blue and red shift, a physical phenomenon caused by the Doppler effect. When you move towards an object, the observed wave propagation speed of the light emitted by that object is reduced by your own velocity. A lower propagation speed, while retaining the frequency, results in a smaller wavelength. Therefore, given the right speed, something green in front of you is observed as blue (-> blueshift). The speed of approximately one hundred miles per hour, at which the coach drives, is far too low for the effect to be observed, but the allusion is a clear one. This may also be justified by the fact mentioned in several earlier books that Discworld light travels a lot slower than Roundworld light.
The scene where the deep downers try to destroy the calcified Dwarfs and Trolls playing Thud together is typical of zealots through history trying to shape the world view in their own narrow, bigoted fashion by eliminating the symbols of their opponents - from the Taliban destroying the beautiful 1700 year old UNESCO Bamiyan Buddhist statues to various revolutionary forces (Russian and French come to mind immediately) destroying the trappings of their royal masters (paintings, palaces, statues) to both the protestant and catholic church getting rid of the trappings of their rival.
When the Dwarfs and Trolls get together at the end of the novel to discuss ways of keeping the peace, Pratchett, as he has done in many of his novels, is once again showing his contempt for the bureaucratic wrangling of government and business which lead endless committee meetings, resolutions, task forces, etc. threatening the whole project. In The Last Hero, Pratchett refers to these kinds of "workshops" as a system "where people who don't know anything get together to pool their ignorance."
At the end of the book, Colon and Nobbs are on guard duty in the Cave of the Kings. After discussing the relationship between Nobby and his pole-dancer girlfriend Tawneee, Colon, perhaps by association of ideas, reins in an over-enthusiastic Dwarf with the rebuke "No touching, sir, or I'm afraid I shall have to cut your fingers orf". The no touching rule resonates with museums and art galleries everywhere but is also a policy in strip clubs, where there is usually a strict rule about touching, enforced by the equivalent of the club policemen - the bouncers.
- Information from L-Space.org
- Thud! at Discworld & Pratchett Wiki
- Discussion about the book at Thudgame.com
! colspan="3" | Reading order guide