Midnight Enchantments: Terry Pratchett’s Death
by Devon Ellington
I adore Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Not only do they fill me with true delight, I think he’s one of the most brilliant social satirists we have. He takes his alternate, well-built universe, makes it reflect enough familiarities so we’re not entirely lost, and then shows us the absurdities of many of our assumptions and prejudices. He uses humor to make us pay attention.
A friend from a writing class gave me MORT for my birthday one year. She couldn’t believe I’d never read Terry Pratchett. In MORT, a kid named Mort who never really fit in, becomes Death’s apprentice. I was next guided to WYRD SISTERS, which gets some of its inspiration from MACBETH, and from there to MASKERADE. MASKERADE makes fun of many things, including taking digs at PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, CATS, and MISS SAIGON. I read it backstage between cues when I was working on MISS SAIGON, and I laughed so hard and so loud they were ready to drive me to Bellevue when the curtain went down! And from there, I just read whatever Discworld novels I could get my hands on, as fast as I could get my hands on them.
One of the most persistent characters in the Discworld novels (and in all our lives), is Death. Death is quite a character — thoughtful, resourceful, intelligent, kind when appropriate, gets the job done. AND HE ALWAYS SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS. One of my favorite novels in the series is HOGFATHER, where Death steps in to take over when the Hogfather (a Discworld variation on our Father Christmas) disappears. His genuine puzzlement when he sits down and takes small children on his lap to hear their wishes for Hogfather Night and how that does not go well, is both touching and hilarious.
Death is logical. Death knows when our time is up. Death likes a good conversation as much as the next fellow. Death does not suffer fools gladly. Death is practical. Death has a sense of humor, albeit a (ahem) deadly one.
Personifying Death the way Pratchett does makes the inevitable more palatable, somehow. The method of your personal death may not be particularly pleasant, but Death is there to give you a hand up to your next destination. The destination is determined by the way you’ve lived your life, and what you BELIEVE you deserve, but you are not alone. And so many of us don’t want to die alone.
Death will always win. But sometimes he likes to put his feet up by the fire and have a cuppa, just like anybody else.
Find out more information on Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels here.
–Devon Ellington is a full-time writer, publishing under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. Her latest release, under the Annabel Aidan name, is the romantic suspense, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, available in print and digital versions from Champagne Books.