Discussion of social integration in Discworld

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Tonyblack

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#1
Listening to this week's Discworld Portal got me thinking about the integration of the various species in the Discworld, so I thought it might be fun/informative to discuss it here.

I'm not going to mark this as a Spoiler thread (although I won't rule out making it one) so I ask you to be thoughtful when you post.

A major theme in the books in the integration of various species into Ankh-Morpork. A-M seems to be mostly human, but we learn that it is also one of, if not the, largest dwarf communities on the Disc. There are also a lot of trolls, it seems as well as an increasing amount of undead, golems and such creatures as gnolls, goblins etc.

Ankh-Morpork is, it seems, becoming a cosmopolitan city - something that Vetinari has encouraged.

Is this Terry's message to our world that diversity is a good thing? That integration enriches a community?

What are your thoughts on this?
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#2
[Spoilers ahead]

I've forgotten a lot of the early books, but even though you do see mixing of people from different places in some of the earlier books, I'd probably tag Moving Pictures and Men at Arms as the first books where meaningful interactions between humans and other species occurred. Detritus became the symbol of one of the "lesser races" who gained recognition as a more or less equal in those two books, and the relationship between he and Cuddy was the first to really explore the idea that trolls and dwarfs didn't need to be enemies and could actually become friends. Soul Music continued this idea. And Feet of Clay introduced the idea of the vampire being able to integrate into a community of humans.

But I think it really took The Fifth Elephant for Pterry to truly delve deeply into the culture of one of the other races. Before it, DW dwarfs were still mired in traditional dwarfish stereotypes--living in mines, loving gold, drinking and fighting, and even in Feet of Clay Cheery's gender-bending turn was more of a rebellion against stereotype than a cultural sensation.

What Pterry did with the dwarfs in TFE (and, later, Thud!) was absolutely brilliant. He dove deeper into the cultural, religious and political mores of dwarfish society in a way he had never done with human society. I think TFE was really the genuinely first book where he really began to think about worldbuilding.
 

RathDarkblade

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#3
Hmm. I think Pterry did this even prior to TFE ... in "Feet of Clay", he delves deep into the world of golems, surely another "race" that have made an impact on A-M. And in "Sourcery", we see glimpses of Klatch, which are fleshed out in "Jingo" - more world-building. We also see yet more world-building in "Pyramids", "Small Gods", and "The Last Continent" (Djelibeybi, Omnia, Ephebe and Fourecks, respectively). Not to even mention all the world we see in the witches series - Genua (and other places) in WA, and Lancre, of course.

I don't think Pterry waited until TFE before building the world of the Disc. But I do agree that TFE marks the first time that we see the world beneath the Disc, i.e. the kingdom of the dwarves, with all its myriad aspects (especially the overall-malign influence of the grags). This is something that Terry returns to in "Thud!" and "Raising Steam". :)

I also agree that MAA marks the first dwarf-troll non-hostile interaction (i.e. Detritus and Cuddy), and that Detritus only became his own character in MP. Prior to that, he was simply hired muscle (e.g. in G!G!, when the owner of the Drum tells Detritus to "get [his] stony arse over here a minute" and take care of Carrot's trouble-making. ;)
 
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#4
Okay, I'll give FOC as a pre TFE deep dive on another race and even Carpe Jugulum does do a deep kind of dive into vampires--at least the new grade of vampires. The TFE is really the first book where a non-human race has as fully developed world as complex as the human's. This isn't so in FOC.

And I would argue that many of the other books do "visit" other places like Klatch, Omnia, Ephebe and Genua, these are all one-offs, except possibly for Lancre, which makes sense given that it is the witches' domain. Pterry doesn't visit these places again. With TFE, he really begins to get into creating a permanent world that isn't just a backdrop for wizards, watchmen or witches. In TFE, the sites are as important as the characters--they're much more than a DW analogy of a fairy tale land (Genua), or an Arabian nights locale (Jingo) or an ancient Egyptian locale (Pyramids). And what happens in TFE sets the stage for all of the Watch books (save NW), Moist books, and even one-offs like Unseen Academicals and Monstrous Regiment.
 

Tonyblack

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#5
I think the discussion is more about A-M really, and Vetinari's policy of inclusion. But certainly, discuss the world building in general. It's interesting that the vampires that seem to be tolerated in A-M are the Black Ribboners. I don't think the Magpyres would last long in A-M.
 

RathDarkblade

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#6
Carpe Jugulum is also when we start to see the Feegles! "Ach crivens, what about us, ye ken?" ;) I don't think the Discworld would be complete without the Feegles. :)

Hmm - wouldn't the Magpyrs last long in A-M? They would try to take over, of course, and they were incredibly "stronk". ;) Could anyone oppose them? Nanny Ogg and Agnes Nitt couldn't (at least to start with). Vetinari and Vimes probably could (strong willpower on both their parts, plus Vimes beat off much worse opponents - e.g. the Summoning Dark), and Angua certainly could (the whole werewolf/vampire thing), but the Magpyrs would have such a lot of choice of people to make their servants. *shudder* Could Carrot oppose the Magpyrs? And if he couldn't, could anyone?
 

Tonyblack

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#7
There are a lot of vampires in A-M who, presumably wouldn't fall under the Magpyre's thrall and wouldn't want them there - they have found a life for themselves in the city and the Magpyre family showing up would ruin that. Also, I think such races as the golems would be immune (would the golems be considered a race?).
 

Mixa

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#8
Is this Terry's message to our world that diversity is a good thing? That integration enriches a community?

What are your thoughts on this?
Nice topic, @Tonyblack ! ;)

I agree with all of you that Discworld in general talks about diversity and the consequences of not being tolerant.

He dove deeper into the cultural, religious and political mores of dwarfish society in a way he had never done with human society.
Yes, especially in Thud we can see what happens when a community closes itself off and refuses to embrace other cultures.

I think the discussion is more about A-M really, and Vetinari's policy of inclusion.
In Ankh-Morpork diversity can be a problem when people aren’t willing to collaborate with each other. So yes, I think integration is the key. And the Watch is clearly Vetinari’s “testing ground”.

Once different species learn to work together and are seen doing that on the streets, the whole city changes a bit more.

Mx
 
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#9
SPOILERS AVAST

Those species that do come to AM inevitably give up their traditionally socially disruptive features (dwarfs killing trolls and vice versa, vampires going after maidens, werewolves eating people) so they can pursue the more important goal of making money. The Magpyrs would never come to AM because they would never be able to suppress their desire for blood. Otto (and, to a lesser extent, Dragon) thrive in AM because they are willing to give up the neck thing (although Dragon seeks power in a different way). The species may be socially disruptive among their own kind (i.e., the grags in Thud!) and occasional threats of interspecies war do surface, but in the end more integration and interdependence and cross-species commerce emerge over time, until by the last books we're seeing trolls working as hairdressers and lawyers, dwarfs manufacturing beauty products, and goblins running clacks towers. It's the pursuit of money that brings everyone together in AM and--under Vetinari's subtle and not so subtle stewardship--keeps everyone focused on getting rich rather than grabbing power. Even the human community sublimates their own power lust by forming guilds to regulate activities that, if unchecked, could lead to undesirable instability. And people like Vimes and Moist serve as "Vetinari's terriers" to either keep things moving forward or to thwart attempts to subvert the economic and political power structure.
 
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Tonyblack

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#10
LOL! It's a sad message that capitalism is the thing that brings species together. :laugh:
 

RathDarkblade

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#11
Perhaps. But given that so many other things could tear species apart, I think capitalism is the least worrisome. Don't you? :)
 

RathDarkblade

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#12
WARNING: NOT EXACTLY A SPOILER, BUT AN EXTRACT FROM "RAISING STEAM". IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS BOOK YET, DO NOT READ ON.

Here's something I found about social integration on the Disc. :) I was in the library earlier today, and just out of boredom, picked up a copy of "Rising Steam" and opened to a random page. As it turned out, this was a revelation. From pp. 105-107:

He (Bedwyr Beddsson, a mountain dwarf -Ed.) loved Bleddyn, his wife of many years, and his children were doing just fine in the school in Lancre, but today he was troubled. The grags had called and were quite polite this time, although either he nor Bleddyn really cared for politics ... He just wanted to provide for his family as best he could. What was a dwarf to do?

...

Bleddyn had cooked a good rat supper and was upset when she saw his face and said, 'Those damn grags again! Why don't you tell them to put their nonsense where the light shines too much!' (FOOTNOTE: Humans would have said, 'Put it where the sun don't shine.')

Bleddyn didn't usually swear, so that surprised him, and she continued, 'They had a point once. They said that we were being swallowed up by the humans and the trolls, and you know it's true, except that it's the wrong kind of truth. The kids've got human friends and one or two trolls as well and nobody notices, nobody thinks about it. Everyone is just people.'

He looked at her face and said, 'But we're diminished, less important!'

But Bleddyn was emphatic and said, 'You silly old dwarf. Don't you think the trolls consider themselves diminished too? People mingle and mingling is good! You're a dwarf, with big dwarf hobnail boots and everything else it takes to be a dwarf. And remember, it wasn't so long ago that dwarfs were very scarce outside of Uberwald. You must know your history? Nobody can take that away, and who knows, maybe some trolls are saying right now, "Oh dear, my little pebbles is being influenced by the dwarfs! It's a sin!" The Turtle moves for everybody all the time, and those grags schism so often that they consider everyone is a schism out there on their own ...'

When he laughed she smiled and said, 'All that's good in the world is that it's spilling over us as if we're stones in a stream, and it'll leave us eventually. Remember your old granddad telling you about going to fight the trolls in Koom Valley, yes? And then you told your son how you went back to Koom Valley and found out the whole damn thing was a misunderstanding. And because of all this, our Brynmore won't even have to fight unless someone is extremely stupid. Say no to the grags ... You're a dwarf. You won't stop being a dwarf until you die. And you could be a clever dwarf or you could be a stupid dwarf, like the ones who knock down clacks towers.'

Bedwyr ... as a wise husband does ... thought about things.

Two days later ... Bedwyr found two dark dwarfs setting fire to the base of a clacks tower. All he had on him were his tools and it was amazing how useful a simple miner's tools could be. A number of clacksmen and goblins joined him hastily in putting out the fire, and they had to stop Bedwyr from using his heavy boots to show his disdain to those who resort to arson. He told them, 'My brother's daughter, our Berwyn, she works on the clacks down in Quirm ... All this stuff you don't notice until it's on your doorstep, and now I think I've woken up.'

Bedwyr didn't kill the delvers, he just, as it were, disabled them ... From the point of view of people working in an undefended clacks tower in the wilderness, the world was seen as black and white, and for these delvers it went black.
(Terry Pratchett, "Raising Steam" 2013, pp. 105-107)
 
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Tonyblack

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#13
That was always a very poignant scene, I thought. I think it said a lot about religious (I know the Dwarfs claim they aren't religious) intolerance when it came to mixed race/marrying out of the religion. It was such a great scene as it showed how the influence of A-M was spreading throughout the Disc. Everyone apart from the grags seemed happy enough with the situation and the couple were genuinely in love and hurting no one else (maybe a parallel to same-sex marriages could also be drawn here). It was the religious extremists (the grags) who were trying to hold the world back.
 

RathDarkblade

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#14
Yes, that scene inspired me to start re-reading RS yesterday. I'm nearly up to page 90, and the scene where the grags disrupt a mixed-race marriage is so sad. :cry: From pg. 50-52:

The country of Llamedos prided itself on being sensibly dwarfish. In truth, there were as many humans as dwarfs who called Llamedos home but since most of them were miners, and as a rule, were either small or almost permanently concussed, you really owuld have to look carefully to tell the species apart ... the Goddess of Love saw to it that her spell covered all alike ...

But today it went horribly wrong, because Blodwen Footcracker was getting married to Davy Counter, an excellent miner and fisherman and, importantly, a human, although the importance of this fact did not seem to most people locally to be, well, important ... they had known one another since they were toddlers ... love was certainly there in abundance and, besides, whose business was it anyway? He and she were compatible and loving and, as the mines and the boats took their toll of miner and fisherman alike, there were always plenty of orphans anxious for a new home in their own country ... they wished the happy couple, who were, it must be said, very nearly the same size, all the very best.

Alas, the grags and the delvers must have thought otherwise, and they broke down the doors of the chapel, and since people in Llamedos didn't go armed to their weddings the grags had it all their own way. And it might have been a complete massacre were it not for old Fflergant sitting hitherto unnoticed in the corner, who, as everyone ran for shelter, threw off his cloak and turned out to be exactly the kind of dwarf who would take heavy weaponry to a wedding.

He swung a heavy sword and axe together in a wonderful destructive unison, and in the end there were only two casualties among the wedding party. Unfortunately one of those was Blodwen, killed by a grag whilst clinging on to her husband's arm.

Covered in blood, Fflergant looked around at the shocked wedding guests and said, "You all know me. I don't like mixed marriages, but like you I can't abide those bloody grags, the bastards! May the Gap take them!"
By the way, it seems significant to me that later (on pg. 71), Rhys Rhysson (the Low King) gives Albrecht Albrechtson the floor, and even Albrecht - as conservative as he is - is so appalled by the grags that he calls down "a murrain" upon them. (I'm not sure what a murrain is? A plague of some kind? Please enlighten me if I'm wrong).

I'm also struck by the fact that after the furor, Albrecht continues, "A murrain, I said ... and a Ginnungagap for those that say different."

Do the Discworld dwarves now believe in the Ginnungagap, or have they perhaps learned about it from their Norse cousins? :) I wonder, also, if - when Fflergant mentions "the Gap" - he means the Ginnungagap. Very curious! What do you think? :)
 

Tonyblack

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#15
Murrain is indeed a plague or blight of crops. As to Ginnungagap - unlike Rhys, who seems to be based on Celtic (and Welsh in particular) tradition, Albrecht being from Uberwald, is from a more Norse/Germanic tradition (although Uberwald seems to mean pretty much the same as Transylvania, as in Beyond the forest, seems to suggest a more Hungarian/Romanian culture ) So I would say you are probably correct.
 

=Tamar

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#16
Wasn't it rumored that the Oggs had a bit of dwarf blood? I seem to recall Nanny Ogg's skull having some unexpected strength, both in WS and in M!!!!! - she is only mildly concussed by blows that would fell a typical human.
 

RathDarkblade

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#17
Tony - yep, you're right. But Uberwald means "Over the forest", which seems appropriate for vampires (after all, they can fly). Sorry for being a "smart donkey". ;)

=Tamar ... yes, that's right - but I'm not sure what the famously thick Ogg skull has to do with different kinds of dwarfs? I'm confused.
 

Dotsie

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Actually I could see the uber and trans as both meaning 'across', so Ubervald translates directly to Transylvania.

Wouldn't dwarf skulls have to be thicker, since they bang their heads in mines a lot?

'The gap' is the one you have to mind ;)
 

=Tamar

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#19
Rath: If Nanny Ogg's family intermarried with a dwarf family long ago and thus acquired the genes for a dwarf-thickness skull, then there has been some connection between dwarfs and humans for generations. It is book-canon in Maskerade that there were such stories, and although some rumors are made up out of whole cloth, sometimes there is a reason for them. The hint about her thick skull might be one rumor based in fact.
 

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