SPOILERS Sergeant Detritus Discussion

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Tonyblack

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#1
Perhaps one of the most beloved characters in the DW books - from Splatter chained to a wall in a pub to senior and much trusted sergeant in the City Watch - married and with an adopted son. He has had one of the biggest character arcs in the books.

It occurred to me recently that he was also quite a tragic character and I'll get into that later in the discussion.

But what do you all think of him?
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#2
Agree totally. Perhaps Vimes is the only character in any of the DW series who goes through a more dramatic transformation than Detritus. Compare the troll chained to a wall in Guards! Guards! to the would-be adoptive father in Thud! who forcefully reminds Vimes that his different attitudes towards dwarfs versus trolls is hurtful to trolls and you see how far he comes.
 

RathDarkblade

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#3
Detritus has definitely come a long way, but what (at the risk of derailment) about Esk? Or - a better example - Dorfl? *thinks* Anyway, just something to think about. I'm not trying to start a "whose character arc is most dramatic" thread. ;)

I'm not sure how to view Detritus. If you take the long view, he's a subtle character. For a long, long time, I viewed him as a "jokey" character, based on the way he speaks and acts. But every so often, he says something profound - e.g. at the start of Jingo, where he tells Vimes ... I can't remember what he says, exactly -- only that it was about a smell coming from the sea, a new sea-change. Perhaps he meant Leshp, perhaps he meant Al-Khali. But it gives Vimes pause.

I had to stop and wiped away a tear in Thud, when Detritus points to the sleeping kings, thumps Brick on the back of the head and says: "Remember", one word that conveys so much about the dwarf-troll wars and parallels so much of the earth's own wars. Sadly, on earth, we often don't have sleeping kings to show us how many stories were lies, concocted for the benefit of Warmonger X or King Z.

Anyway, those are just some random thoughts. Don't be surprised if I'm rambling; I've been very sick and taking painkillers over the last couple of days ... :confused:
 

RathDarkblade

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#5
Thanks, Tony. I went to see my doctor earlier today and found out I have pharyngitis. Hopefully it goes away soon.

Anyway, let's get back to discussing Detritus, our favourite troll! :)
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#7
Tragic... yes. He's like Algernon, in Flowers for Algernon. Detritus has the ability to be a supergenius, but only if he lives in the cold mountains, and he wants to live in Ankh-Morpork. The heat of the lowlands affects his brain even more than the brains of other trolls. The late lamented Cuddy built him a cooling helmet, which cools his brain enough so that he can think as well as the average Ankh-Morpork human. Even then, he is misjudged and underestimated - even by Vimes - because he speaks the troll dialect of A-M, which is his second language. (Does anyone in the books ever realize that all city trolls are bi-lingual?)

Detritus's cooling helmet is a prosthetic device. He's not the only major character with a handicap. Angua has what could be considered a recurring disability. Plenty of minor characters have ailments, old soldiers tend to be missing a limb or an eye, etc. But Detritus is vulnerable to ordinary weather; damage his helmet and he's in trouble (of course, so are you). His closest human equivalent is Foul Ole Ron, whose equivalent to a helmet is Gaspode, the Thinking Brain Dog.
 

RathDarkblade

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#8
Yep. Some other quotes from Detritus ...

Detritus (in extreme cold): “Of course! Superconductivity!”
Cuddy: “Wha‘?”
Detritus: “You know? Brain of impure silicon. Problem of heat dissipation. Daytime temperature too hot, processing speed slows down, weather gets hotter, brain stops completely, trolls turn to stone until nightfall, i.e., colder temperature, however, lowertemperatureenough, brainoperatesfaster.”
--------------------------------------
Detritus: “Swore ’em in, sir. Used troll oath.”
Flint: “He said he’d kick our goohuloog heads in if we didn’t join up and do what we’re told, sir.”
Detritus: “Very old troll oath. Very famous, very traditional.”
--------------------------------------
“You listen up good right now! You in the watch, boy! It a job with opportunity! I only been doin’ it ten minutes and already I get promoted! Also got education and training for a good job in Civilian Street! This your club with nail in it. You will eat it. You will sleep on it! When Detritus say jump, you say… what colour!”
--------------------------------------
Detritus: “Corporal Carrot says there’s some good buried somewhere in everyone.”
Vimes: “And what’s your job, Detritus?”
Detritus: “Engineer in charge of deep mining operations, sah!”
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“Boys, if dere was a PhD in bein’ fick, youse wouldn’t be able to find a pencil.”
--------------------------------------
And, of course, Detritus's war on Drugs:
Slab: Jus' say "AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH"

:)
 

Tonyblack

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#9
Yes =Tamar, that was something like I was thinking. What was Detritus's plan when he left his home? I assume he had a very clear plan that disappeared as he got into lower altitudes. His meeting up with, and becoming friends with, Cuddy, really changed his life for the better.
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#10
I have to assume that Detritus left the mountains willingly, because considering how strong he is, how could anyone force him to leave? When we first see him, he is literally in chains. He is capable of breaking them, but much later on we learn that he is able to read a situation and decide whether to react. Was remaining chained a deliberate decision, or was he just too heat-stunned to remember that he could break loose? Were the chains a sort of uniform, just a part of the job, that was intended to let the regular patrons of the Drum feel safe? I could imagine the job of "Splatter" being something trolls new to the city would do, since it probably involved a lot of sitting quietly during which they could observe the crowd and learn more of the language.
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#11
I don't see Detritus as a tragic figure at all. He doesn't consider the "heat/intelligence" issue to be a very serious one that impedes his ability to do his job, and only rarely does he complain about it (in MAA and in Jingo, when he's concerned about what the desert heat will do to his intelligence). Most of the time he functions quite well in whatever temperature. His role is not to solve crimes or conspiracies, but to provide muscle and to keep the peace, even if he needs to use the threat of the ballistic Peacekeeper to do it.

Again, I keep turning to TFE as a turning point, because (outside of MAA) it's really the place where Detritus comes into his own as being intelligent in any climate. His understanding of the "politics" of a troll being in a dwarf community is far deeper than VImes's, and the scene where he (gently) accepts the bag of gold from Rhys and shakes the King's hand as thousands of nervous dwarfs look on is one of Pterry's best little scenes where a simple action has, as Vimes realizes, worldwide repercussions.
 

RathDarkblade

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#13
Now that I've seen how some of you view Detritus, if I had to choose a word to describe him, it would be "stoic".

Think about it. Whatever happens to him (unless it's life-threatening, like the cold in the Pork Futures Warehouse or the heat in the desert in Jingo), he doesn't complain. Even when Vimes strikes a match on him (in Jingo), Detritus confines himself to saying "Dat was me, sir. Don't worry about it." :)
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#14
Detritus is only "stoic" physically. But he can be quite the opposite emotionally. Witness his reactions to the death of Cuddy, his absolute hatred of troll narcotics dealers, his general disgust with Crysoprase and other troll mobsters, and his fatherly attitude toward Brick. (not to mention his relationship with Ruby, which I don't discuss because it's been so long since I read Moving Pictures I don't remember anything about it).
 
#16
I'd have to say Detritus's dominant emotion in his budding relationship with Ruby in Moving Pictures is befuddlement. He starts with traditional troll wooing methodology, which Ruby, under the influence of Holy Wood magic, utterly rejects. When he attempts to satisfy her demands for "human" romance, she becomes more and more upset with his efforts. In the end of course, after the effects of moving pictures have been lifted, she smacks him with a rock and all is well. Ah, love. Ain't it grand!
 
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#17
Back to Detritus quotes for a moment. When Vimes names him Cultural Ambassador for the coronation of the Low King, he takes his duties very seriously. [describing A-M’s Opera House to Genua’s cultural attaché] -“and den dere’s.... dem big gold babies climbin’ up dear pillar, only don’t worry, ‘cos dey’re not real gold babies, dey’re only made of plaster or something...” He thus shows his encyclopedic knowledge of the Opera House and demonstrates concern for real gold babies everywhere. Not only Detritus the diplomat, but also Detritus the humanitarian.
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#18
He also shows his awareness that some people are very literal. Had he been talking to a dwarf new to the city, his explanation might have been necessary.
 

Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#19
I always loved the bit where Detritus got annoyed with Vimes for mocking his beliefs (in Thud!). He could have got REALLY annoyed, but he controls that emotion. The same goes for when Sybil's old friend says that he can sleep in the barn. Vimes gets annoyed, but Detritus handles the situation diplomatically. Vimes respects Detritus and even feels protective when he feels people are treating trolls badly. I totally understand this outrage by proxy and Detritus shows himself to be the better man/troll
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#20
I always loved the bit where Detritus got annoyed with Vimes for mocking his beliefs (in Thud!). He could have got REALLY annoyed, but he controls that emotion. The same goes for when Sybil's old friend says that he can sleep in the barn. Vimes gets annoyed, but Detritus handles the situation diplomatically. Vimes respects Detritus and even feels protective when he feels people are treating trolls badly. I totally understand this outrage by proxy and Detritus shows himself to be the better man/troll
Totally agree. Detritus is at his best in Thud! Not only does he demonstrate finesse in the points you make, but especially near the end when he and Brick are "captured" by Rhys's advance party. Vimes is outraged to see Detritus and Brick in thin shackles they could have easily broken, which would have tempted them to make a break for it which would have justified the dwarfs killing them. But Detritus is smart enough to see the larger political picture, and does exactly the opposite of what a troll is expected to do in a dwarf mine.

The one thing I never quite understood in Thud! is why Detritus was so hesitant about discussing Mr. Shine with Vimes. It almost seemed that he was embarrassed, which is rather perplexing given how intelligent and powerful the real Shine really was (and the fact that Detritus in general doesn't seem be embarrassed by anything).
 

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