SPOILERS Discworld Dwarfs

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Tonyblack

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#1
This thread may contain spoilers.

Through my readings of the books, I have been fascinated by the way Terry uses the dwarfs as analogies for various groups. Quite apart from the fundamentalist types that rail against change, I also see a connection with the LGBTQ community. We have from the start had dwarfs nervous about standing out and daring to be different. We have awkward attempts to ascertain what gender a fellow dwarf is. I used to think that, in some way, the dwarf community had managed at attain a certain equality in so much that dwarfs could be whomever they wanted - as long as it was a dwarf.

And that's when I came to think about the connection to the LGBTQ movement. Starting with Cheery (it seems) dwarfs are daring to wear their gender on their shoulders - so to speak. More and more of them are "out" and increasingly proud. It's a form of liberation.

What do you all think?
 

Mixa

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#2
I absolutely agree! When you come to think about it, characters like Cheery are a little like transgender people... They show their true genre to the world. But yes, all these dwarves "coming out" and daring to be themselves remind me of the whole LGBTQ community.

Interesting topic, Tony! There's always something knew to say about the characters we love ;)

Mx
 
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#3
The Fifth Elephant created a totally new cultural paradigm (oh, I hate that word!) for dwarfs in the DW. While Cheery may have served as an analogy for LGBTQ in Feet of Clay, in Jingo her femaleness was no longer really an issue.

But to me, the dwarf world that Pterry created in TFE was one of the best things he ever did. Suddenly, dwarfs had a history, palace intrigues, factions, and conspiracies. And rather than being mostly figures of fun, the dwarfs of TFE were extremely well rounded characters.

Many people have created analogies of the TFE dwarves to different cultural and political belief systems, but I still believe that Pterry used Chasidic Jews as his reference point. LIke the dwarfs of TFE, Chasidic Jews were by nature very conservative. They used all kinds of mystical symbols to convey emotions. They were suspicious of outsiders and their insular, isolated lives were very much like the "down under" lives of the dwarfs. Many were very involved in the precious metals and gems trade (which, unfortunately, turned into a vicious stereotype of Jews loving money abouve all else.) Nothing was more important to them than keeping the Laws, and they wrote endless number of books explaining them They endlessly had squabbles over the interpretation of the Old Testament and The Talmud, whose words they considered to possess great power beyond their appearance on the page. They were a male-dominant culture, and women were expected to repress their femininity (at least in public) and had no leadership roles. And they wore long beards, kept their heads covered at all times and were always dressed in body covering clothes.

While you can say this about other fundamentalist religions, the main difference is that the Chasidim--like all Jewish sects-- valued literacy and study and understanding of the Laws above all else, whereas in many other religions people were encouraged to simply chant prayers, without necessarily understanding their real meaning.

Pterry himself denied that the dwarfs were based on the Chasidim or any other Jewish sect, but the parallels are so clear (at least in TFE) that I find it hard to believe that he never thought about this at all.
 

Tonyblack

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#4
And don't forget the language - Terry seems to have geeked out creating a dwarfish language. Although I sometimes think he only did it to make Stephen Briggs' job really hard in reading the audiobooks.

I think the Chasidic Jew example is a good one - there seems to be a certain class of dwarf that spends all their time studying Dwarf Law and how it pertains to everyday life. The city of Ankh-Morpork must have been a nightmare to them. I understand that the big cities and technology in general can become a real problem for certain Jews trying not to break any laws of Sabbath.
 

RathDarkblade

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#5
Only certain Jews. :) I'm Jewish myself, but I'm secular and don't let my Jewishness dominate my everyday life, to the exclusion of everything else. Having said that, I know a few people who do, and I respect that - it must be difficult.

Naturally, the Sabbath day is sacrosanct for most Jews, but there are some aspects that Jews would break the Sabbath for: births, deaths, funerals, and saving lives. Us Jews have been accused of many things over the years, but no-one has ever accused us of being so heartless as to deny medical treatment on the Sabbath - because we don't! ;) It'd be like a Christian doctor saying "Sorry, I can't give you a heart bypass because it's Sunday", or a Muslim doctor saying "I can't splint your leg, it's Friday." It just doesn't happen. ;)

But there is one aspect that all (or at least many) Jews, religious or not, respect and admire - and that is reading, learning and debating. What a Jewish person reads and learns differs for every person, naturally: for instance, I collect and read books of history and mythology, folklore and music, fantasy and sci-fi, and lots more besides. (I even have my own little library now). :) I also write stories, and have done since I finished high school (though some of the early ones aren't as good as the later ones - you know, you grow). ;)

I've heard the "Discworld Dwarves = Roundworld Jews" thing before, and I can't say it ever struck me as plausible. Possible, yes; plausible? Not really, because TP himself says that it isn't. From "The Art of Discworld":

"There's a schol of thought that says Discworld dwarfs are Jewish, although the Jewish fans who have said so seem quite content with this (the dwarfs are hard-working, you see, and law-abiding, argumentative; they pay a great heed to written tradition - while arguing about it - and feel mildly guilty about working in cities a long way from the mountains and mines, and respect the ultra-traditionalists back home even though they seem unable to move with the times...) Each to their own; I was just trying to come up with dwarfs that fitted the modern fantasy tradition but worked."
There we are - Word of God! :)
 

Penfold

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#6
The whole Cheery coming out very much reminded me of gay people feeling safe to come out back in the eighties and the reactions of her Dwarf colleagues was very similar to the reactions of the person's colleagues in the real world. More than a few straight people genuinely thought a person that they had known for many years had 'turned' gay overnight and was now a threat to their own sexuality or, shock horror, was going to try and get in their pants. Others felt it was safe for themselves to come out and declare their sexuality.

On the whole, considering that Terry was hampered by Section 28 of the Local Government Act (which effectively said "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" and "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship"), I think he did pretty well with the allegory.

Just to add that Section 28 was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and finally in 2003 by the rest of the UK and by sheer coincidence, Monstrous Regiment was published at around the same time.
 

Tonyblack

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#7
Wow - I didn't know Section 28 was a thing. That's just plain stupid.
 
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#8
Sorry, but I seriously doubt that Pterry paid the slightest bit of attention to "Section 28." After all, he was writing this years after Elton John, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, George Michael and countless other UK authors and artists had openly promoted their lifestyles in their lives and in their work. Truly, when the last time this piece of idiocy was ever enforced?
 

Penfold

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#9
I think the law was designed more for local government buildings such as schools and libraries and I don't recall seeing anything positively promoting homosexuality in those days, although admittedly I wasn't looking. About all we saw over here was the usual comic stereotypes.

To be honest, I wasn't aware of Section 28 until it was pointed out in a discussion that Terry never had any openly LGTBQ+ characters in his books until MR. Whether or not he or his publishers paid any attention to it or not is a moot point really. This is the wiki write up for you Raisindot & Tony. I'm afraid us Brits weren't quite as liberal as many Americans seem to think.

Section 28
 
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#10
Side tangent and spoilers ahead!!!!!!

It's been a long time since I read MR (definitely not one of my favorite DW books), but I don't seem to remember that the members of the regiment were actually gay, were they? They pretended to be men because in their country soldiers could only be men. I really always thought the cross-dressing thing was much more a spoof of the whole Pirates on Parade thing.

Remember, too, that Nobby spent much of Jingo dressed as a harem girl as part of his exploration of his "sexual nature."
 

Tonyblack

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#11
There was one couple that seemed to be gay - two of the girls that escaped and burned down the Girls School. Terry leaves it up to the reader to decide - they are certainly very close.

It's an interesting thing that I looked up after reading MR that there were a lot of cases of girls dressing as men to join up. Some went on for many years without being found out and, presumably there were many more that were never discovered.
 

RathDarkblade

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#12
Sure. The whole "Polly/Oliver" thing is a reference to a folk song about a girl who disguises herself (as a "sudden fancy") and goes traipsing about to look for her love, with many a fa-la-la and fol-de-rol. ;) Robins get a mention for some reason, as do roses in May, etc., etc.

In real life, there were many women who disguised themselves and joined the army for exactly that reason - although there were many more who did the same because they wanted to serve their country, or to make money, or to get away from the drudgery of housework. There were quite a few famous women pirates, too (Anne Bonny, Shi Xianggu and Chen i Sao among them). In New Zealand, Amy Bock took up cross-dressing for a different purpose: to "marry" vulnerable widows and run off with their savings. For a more "honourable" case, the Chevalier d'Eon is worth a look. ;) If anyone is interested, here is a list of wartime cross-dressers - and someone as famous as Achilles is one of the first. ;)

Cross-dressing in the army occurred as late as WW1 (and even WW2 and beyond), a fact that the TV series "Blackadder" made fun of with the character "Bob" - a girl who, according to Captain Blackadder, has as much talent for disguise as a polar bear wearing sunglasses and trying to get into a giraffe-only nightclub. ;) She begs him not to give her away, because she wanted to see how war is fought so badly. His reply: "Well, you've come to the right place, Bob. A war hasn't been fought this badly since Olaf the Hairy, Chief of all the Vikings, ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside." :)
 

=Tamar

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#13
The issue with Section 28 and writers was that any government funded institution was forbidden to supply any books that someone could claim "promoted" homosexuality in any manner. Libraries are government funded institutions. Libraries were and are a major source of book sales, and any author who hoped that a book would be bought by libraries had to write so that no easily-frightened administrator could forbid the library to supply the book. Publishers, hoping for library purchasers, would reject what they imagined would be rejected by libraries. There's a whole sequence of "what we're afraid they will think" involved, as well as the specific legal restriction. I theorize that there was some public mention or news leakage about the repeal of the law, which allowed Sir Terry to include gay characters in a book that would become available as soon as libraries could legally buy it.
 

RathDarkblade

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#14
Um, hold on ... so cross-dressing was OK in the UK, but homosexuality wasn't? That doesn't make any sense. :confused:

I mean, what about all the stuff they got away with on TV during the 70s and 80s (i.e. the bits that Mary Whitehouse was always complaining about?) ;) Mr Humphries being camp all the time, Captain Peacock strutting about in ladies' underwear, basically everything in 'Allo 'Allo, all the cross-dressing on The Two Ronnies.

Gah! How appalling and outrageous! I shall write a letter to The Times about our declining morals and the permissiveness of society!!! How dare anyone have fun while I'm not!!! :p

(Wow. Take a chill pill, Mary, would you?) ;)
 

Penfold

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#15
That's the thing, Rath, gay men on tv (such as Mr Humphries) were almost always portrayed as over-camp stereotypes to be laughed at rather than as people. Definitely not the most positive portrayal that could have been made.

Back in those days, transgender wasn't a recognized thing and cross-dressing for purposes other than entertainment was more than likely to result in physical assault (or extreme verbal abuse at best) if seen out in public.

The Dwarf's reactions to Cheery 'coming out' as a female was a very accurate description of what happened to those who felt it safe to come out in the workplace along with their straight colleague's reactions of shock, horror, and disgust against people they had known for years and been friends with. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then but I still got a fair bit of grief because of my professional involvement with Worthing's 2nd Pride event.
 

Tonyblack

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#16
Also, cross-dressing does not necessarily indicate homosexuality. A lot of cross dressers are cis males - Eddie Izzard for example.
 

Catch-up

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#17
I think you're comparison to the LGBTQ+ community is a really good one Tony. Since it's been announced that the character of Cheery will be non-binary in The Watch series, I've seen some really depressing and ugly comments about that. I always thought of TP readers as overall a progressive group. Sadly, a lot of them aren't. Not to mention that the whole discussion about the casting was one long, miserable wail about the changes, people declaring they'll never watch it, etc. Dear god. You'd think it was life ending for them. How do people who are that negative and miserable even get through the day?
 
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#18
The issue with Section 28 and writers was that any government funded institution was forbidden to supply any books that someone could claim "promoted" homosexuality in any manner. Libraries are government funded institutions. Libraries were and are a major source of book sales, and any author who hoped that a book would be bought by libraries had to write so that no easily-frightened administrator could forbid the library to supply the book. Publishers, hoping for library purchasers, would reject what they imagined would be rejected by libraries. There's a whole sequence of "what we're afraid they will think" involved, as well as the specific legal restriction. I theorize that there was some public mention or news leakage about the repeal of the law, which allowed Sir Terry to include gay characters in a book that would become available as soon as libraries could legally buy it.
Again, honestly, I doubt that by the late 1990s that this law was enforced at all. There were certainly many, many books published around that time that featured gay characters that most likely weren't library banned . And, certainly, by the time the law was repeated Pterry was a global best-selling author who didn't need to worry at all whether any library would refuse to shelve a book of his that featured gay characters.
 

Tonyblack

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#19
Interestingly, I know for a fact that Terry approached at least one of his fans in the LGBTQ spectrum and asked for advice so that he didn't put his foot in it when it came to his writing. As to that law - I suspect it's one of those laws that lost its teeth a long time ago and is too much trouble to bother removing from the statutes.
 

=Tamar

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#20
Again, honestly, I doubt that by the late 1990s that this law was enforced at all. There were certainly many, many books published around that time that featured gay characters that most likely weren't library banned.
It's not a matter of enforcement. It's a matter of what easily-frightened administrators feared might possibly happen. Libraries had to fight for their funding then (and still do). Also, libraries could buy books with gay characters as long as they weren't heroes, and as long as nobody approved of their relationships if they even had any. If they did something heroic, they did it in another country and usually died before the book ended. I remember reading a UK mystery series and wondering why the author did that so consistently, because I didn't know about the law.
 

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