SPOILERS Equal Rites Discussion *Spoilers*

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Tonyblack

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#1
**Warning**

This thread is for discussing Equal Rites in some depth. If you haven’t read the book then read on at your own risk – or, better still, go and read the book and join in the fun.

For those of us that are going to join in the discussion, here are a few guidelines:

Please feel free to make comparisons to other Discworld books, making sure you identify the book and the passage you are referring to. Others may not be as familiar with the book you are referencing, so think before you post.

Sometimes we’ll need to agree to disagree – only Terry knows for sure what he was thinking when he wrote the books and individuals members may have widely different interpretations – so try to keep the discussion friendly.

We may be discussing a book that you don’t much care for – don’t be put off joining in the discussion. If you didn’t care for the book, then that in itself is a good topic for discussion.

Please note: there is no time limit to this discussion. Please feel free to add to it at any time - especially if you've just read the book.

And finally:

Please endeavour to keep the discussion on topic. If necessary I will step in and steer it back to the original topic – so no digressions please!

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Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Originally published 1987





Introduction

When the dying wizard, Drum Billet, hands his staff to the newly born eighth son of an eighth son, he makes a slight error. Eskarina Smith isn’t a son at all, but the damage is done and Esk has a destiny to fulfill. A life in Magic – but her magic is wrong for witches and the wizards won’t have her.

--------------------------------------------

Terry says early in this book that it is a story about sex. He’s right in more ways than one. It’s also one of the earliest Discworld books and his first real attempt at comic satire rather than parody. The book has the debut of one of his most beloved characters in Granny Weatherwax. For those of us who read the books in order as they were published, the evolution of Granny seemed more subtle – but getting to know Granny and then going back to see this early draft is a bit unsettling. However, characters do develop and change and it’s kind of nice to meet this version of Granny.

I think this book is underrated. It’s heaps better than the first two and there’s so much more depth – albeit, there’s not the skill in writing that Terry shows in some of the later books. I guess Terry’s writing developed as well. :)

But what did you think of it?
 

kakaze

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Jun 3, 2009
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#2
Was the apple tree Drum Billet? Or was he just kind of "hanging out" in the tree?

The tree was already there when Esk was born, and then grew "perceptably taller then the other apple trees" as she grew up.

Also, later at the end of the book, one of the ants is revealed to be Drum Billet, who had "finally decided to give life another chance."
 

kakaze

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#5
poohcarrot said:
It's a dead short book. Possibly the shortest after Eric.
It's still got plenty of stuff though.

I guess it's main theme is obviously gender inequality and the stereotypes that we make about men and women. Such as women (witches) being more in touch with nature, herbs and psychology (headology), while men are more ceremonial, elaborate, and ritual, and are better at mathematics ("jometery").

Terry makes an obvious reference to to Lucille Ball from I Love Lucy:
"Only dumb redheads in Fifties' sitcoms are wacky."

The Liber Paginarum Fulvarum is, like the Necrotelicomnicom, a reference to Lovecraft's necronomicon. Apparently, "Liber Paginarum Fulvarum" is Latin for "Book of Yellow Pages", although I've read that they got the shade of yellow wrong.

"RAMTOP" was the name of a system variable in the old Sinclair Spectrum computers. Wasn't Terry a computer programmer on an early type of computer?

The name Hoki ("'I've seen the thundergods a few times,' said Granny, 'and Hoki, of course.'") is a combination of 'hokey' (to be of flimsy credibility or quality) in combination with the Norse god Loki. The description of Hoki, however, is obviously the Greek god Pan.

We met Bel-Shamharoth in The Colour of Magic.
C'hulagen references C'thulhu.
"The Insider", is a reference to Lovecraft's "The Outsider".

"good fences make good neighbours." is probably my favorite pun in the book. :p

This is the book where Mrs. Palm is introduced (although we don't actually meet her). I was unaware of it, but apparently "Mrs. Palm" is a reference to male masturbation.

When Treatle says "Alma mater, gaudy armours eagle tour and so on." it's a reference to an old student's drinking song "Gaudeamus Igitur"

I thought that maybe Ksandra (the university maid) was the princess from the Weyreburg, but apparently it's a reference to Cassandra (the psychic) whom the Gods gave the gift of prophecy and the curse of no-one believing a word she said.

"Granpone the White. He's going to be Granpone the Grey if he doesn't take better care of his laundry." is an obvious reference to Gandolf the Grey

"the Creator hadn't really decided what he wanted and was, as it were, just idly messing around with the Pleistocene." The Pleistocene was an age of dinosaures, and sounds like Plasticine, a brand of moldable plastic clay.

I thought the duel between Weatherwax and Cutangle was a reference to The Sword in the Stone, but apparently it goes back farther than that, to an old song 'The Two Magicians'.

This book introduced the "Million-to-one chance" theory.

Cutangle's saying "red sky at night, the city's alight" sounded like the saying "red sky at night, sailor's delight", though perhaps Terry was thinking of the "shepherd" version. :p
 

Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#6
:laugh: You haven't been to LSpace and read the annotations by any chance have you? :laugh: ;)
 

poohcarrot

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#7
I can't think of much to say about this book, so I'll wait for someone to say something stupid and then argue with them. :twisted:

(Jan's usually good for a stupid comment or two. So is SWReader, but she's incapacitated at the moment.)

It is rumoured that some people regard this book as being packed full of sexual innuendo. :eek:

Personally, I don't, but I'd love to hear from anyone who does. :twisted:

Example;

 

poohcarrot

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#8
Here's Kakaze's sexual innuendo;

kakaze said:
This is the book where Mrs. Palm is introduced (although we don't actually meet her). I was unaware of it, but apparently "Mrs. Palm" is a reference to male masturbation.
 

Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#9
:laugh: Oh I think you underestimate your own ability to make stupid comments Pooh! ;)

Rosie Palm and her five daughters, or various versions of that are well known references to male masturbation. Somehow I doubt Terry happened to name her that coincidentally.
 

Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#10
kakaze said:
Was the apple tree Drum Billet? Or was he just kind of "hanging out" in the tree?

The tree was already there when Esk was born, and then grew "perceptably taller then the other apple trees" as she grew up.

Also, later at the end of the book, one of the ants is revealed to be Drum Billet, who had "finally decided to give life another chance."
I don't think it's clear although it seems to me that Billet was haunting the tree until he finally made up his mind to be reincarnated. Death says that with his karma he'd be lucky to be reborn as an ant.

I liked the subtle hints that Death was following Drum Billet to the forge. The white cat certainly seems to have been able to see Death before anyone else. :)
 
Jul 27, 2008
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#11
A couple of lines I like from the book are :

'Million to one chances' Granny said crop up nine times out of ten.


Do you know how wizards like to be buried,
Yes
Well how
Reluctantly.

Your wizards Esk screamed well bloodly well wizz. :)
 

kakaze

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#12
Tonyblack said:
:laugh: You haven't been to LSpace and read the annotations by any chance have you? :laugh: ;)
Yes! I did! :laugh:

It seemed like a good way to get the thread going.

When Death said that he'd "be lucky to be an ant", I took it to mean that he had to be a tree before he qualified as an ant.

However, the timelines don't match up; the tree was planted before he died, and (presumably) was still around while he was an ant (unless Esk's dad cut it down soon after she left). Of course, with reincarnation lives don't have be consecutive.

Also, the reason he'd be lucky to be an ant is because of his karma, and he wasn't a very good tree (sour, wormy apples, and twisting branches to drop Esk's brothers), so I don't think that would have improved his karma very much.

I also read Why Gandalf Never Married, and he had some interesting things to say about gender inequality in fantasy. I'd like to add to that with Harry Potter. Rowling has been criticised by feminist groups for not being even-handed in her books. In the entire series, I can only think of three females who really do much; Hermione, McGonagall, and Bellatrix Lestrange. The rest stick in my mind as one-off or support characters. The main character (harry), his best friend (ronald), his favorite teacher (hagrid), the schoolmaster (dumbledore), his arch-enemy (voldemort), and voldimort's main liutenant (Lucious) were men.

Tonyblack said:
I liked the subtle hints that Death was following Drum Billet to the forge. The white cat certainly seems to have been able to see Death before anyone else.
I'm not sure if I'm remembering it correctly or not, but couldn't cats see Death in The Color of Magic, but were scared of him?
 
#13
Molly Weasley does a HECK of a lot - and its Molly Weasley that KILLS Bellatrix LeStrange - in defence of Ginny ... who also fights alongside Harry at the end of OotP - and stands loyally by him at the end of Half-Blood Prince ... in Deathly Hallows she stands up TO SNAPE in DEFENCE of Harry AFTER he 'murder's' Dumbledore.
They obviously have forgotten Lily ... A WOMAN who DEFEATED Voldemort NOT JAMES!!!!
TRELAWNEY had the prophecy that led to Voldemorts destruction - another woman - AND NARCISSA also leads Voldemort to his death - these might be subtle but still powerful!
I can think of several instances but don't forget - Delores Umbridge. Arabella Figg. Nymphadora Tonks. Nevilles Mum who was driven mad in her defence ....
Luna Lovegood was held as a prisoner in MALFOY'S Mansion for crying out loud.

Think that's enough ....
Sorry but there are PLENTY of women in HP world that do a lot ... The only thing that bugged me was that she went for the stereotype male Werewolf ...

I liked Equal Rites as an introduction to Granny Weatherwax but that's it really.
 
#14
And on her site she has Wizard of the Month - One of them was a Female Minister of Magic in the early 1800'S ... SO Rowling's world has equality long before the parallel world ... I.E Ours. Can't remember her name.

I love both authors for various reasons and dislike both for OTHER various reasons ... But I think Rowling has created many good, powerful women of differing backgrounds... and there are various types of women in the world... My mum could CLOUT any Feminist if she hurt any of us even NOW... and she's a housewife ... by choice ... that's true feminism allowing women to do what they want without condemning them for their choice.
 

Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#15
I think you make a good points about women in fantasy. The first two DW books were very much parodies of the genre and, the more I think about it, the more I can see that this one is to a degree as well.

In fantasy magical men were wizards and magical women were witches. Terry has stirred that up in this book and said - suppose a woman was a wizard? Why not? What is it that makes a wizard a wizard and a witch a witch? And then he uses the book to explore the differences using Esk as a sort of gender challenged magical practitioner. :)
 

poohcarrot

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#16
”One of our correspondents recalls that he interviewed Terry in 1987 for a university magazine. In that interview Terry said that tickled him about Josh Kirby’s artwork for the Equal Rites cover was that it subliminally (accidentally?) reflected the Freudian overtones of the book (references to “hot dreams”, the angst of adolescence, things that might be called “magic” envy)…Kirby’s artwork “coincidentally” draws Esk with the broom handle where a penis would be (traditionally supposed to be the basis of the “witches flying around on broomsticks” myth).”
 

kakaze

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#17
But most of those characters you mentioned were minor or supporting roles. When I think of Molly, I think "good cooking". When I think of Tonks, I think "purple hair and funny noses". Trelawney's only there to provide information and comic relief as a lush. Narcissa has almost no role except at the very beginning & end of the last book, and even then doesn't do much except show weakness in resolve in favor of her son (I'm not criticizing). Loona mainly just stands around and says weird things.

I didn't mean that there were more men than women in the books. Every character in the books did stuff, but I feel that the major characters were predominately male.
___________________________________________________

I don't know about you guys, but I didn't like the way that Esk was so incompetent until she was "officially" made a wizard. The whole point in the beginning was that she was the eighth child of an eighth son. She had no skills, no knowledge, and no control; everything was done by the staff through her. It seems like anyone who had the staff could be as good a wizard as her.
___________________________________________________

Equal Rites said:
Granny lay back in an ancient cane chair and let the unseasonal warmth creep around her ankles. She idly watched a team of city ants, who had lived under the flagstones of the University for so long that the high levels of background magic had permanently altered their genes, anthandling a damp sugar lump down from the bowl on to a tiny trolley. Another group was erecting a matchstick gantry at the edge of the table.

[snip]

The sugar lump crashed to the flagstones and was immediately surrounded by another team of ants, ready to harness it to a long line of red ants enslaved from the kitchen garden.
Some species of ants, such as Protomognathus americanus, do enslave other ant species and make them do labor.
 

Phoenix

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#18
kakaze said:
I don't know about you guys, but I didn't like the way that Esk was so incompetent until she was "officially" made a wizard. The whole point in the beginning was that she was the eighth child of an eighth son. She had no skills, no knowledge, and no control; everything was done by the staff through her. It seems like anyone who had the staff could be as good a wizard as her.
It's been a while since I've read Equal Rites and my memory is slightly fuzzy around the edges, but I thought that the staff making anyone as good a wizard was sort of the point. It was after Esk broke away from the power of the staff that she started making her own decisions and saved (...tootles off to look at the book again...) Simon. I think one of the main themes in the book was that whether they were witches or wizards, in the end it was about knowing when *not* to use magic- something that is mentioned in other DW books too.

Eh, I've quite probably said something silly in the above, so please be gentle with me and leave some linbs attached ;)
 

kakaze

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#19
yeah, "not using magic" has been a recurring theme after this book but the whole point, up until the end there, was that she was a wizard who was special because she was female. But I don't think there was anything special about her at all. From what I could see, a dog could have replaced her, as long as he was big enough to hold the staff in his mouth.

Of course, Gaspode could curse, so he could probably make it as a witch, but he's a special case. ;)
 

poohcarrot

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Sep 13, 2009
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#20
poohcarrot said:
I can't think of much to say about this book, so I'll wait for someone to say something stupid and then argue with them. :twisted:

(Jan's usually good for a stupid comment or two. So is SWReader, but she's incapacitated at the moment.)
Phoenix said:
Eh, I've quite probably said something silly in the above, so please be gentle with me and leave some limbs attached ;)
Um... I was only joking! Only trying to wind up Jan and hopefully bring a smile to the face of SWReader. :oops:
 

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