My Favourite Quotes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
Even though I’ve mentioned that I miss reading, I will never tire of the Discworld. Terry Pratchett’s fantasy world, a flat world carried through space upon the back of a turtle (itself carried on the back of four elephants) will forever be my favourite fictional place to visit (and revisit). And certain quotes still resonate, years on from his untimely passing.
“And, while it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions.” — Feet of Clay
Pratchett was always good on themes like this — about how large crimes go unpunished when committed by the rich, and often aren’t seen as crimes at all.
“I believe in freedom...not many people do, although they will, of course, protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.”— Going Postal
Havelock Vetenari, the Patrician of the great city of Ankh-Morpork, is one of Pratchett’s most intriguing creations. Undeniably a brutal dictator (the city is described as having a “one man, one vote” system — the Patrician is the man, and he has the vote), he also frequently displays an excellent understanding of human nature, and a sense of justice. His quote here should be used every time someone quotes “freedom of speech” when saying something bigoted, without wanting to take the consequences of it.
“It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.”— Jingo
In these Brexit and Trump times, Jingo is possibly more relevant than ever. Exploring tribalism, racism and war, this passage does much with little, explaining how people come to blame a non-specific “Them” for their problems — often “They” are from foreign soil — even when it doesn’t make sense.
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little — ”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET — Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point — ”
MY POINT EXACTLY.” — The Hogfather
The above exchange between Susan and Death (he’s the one who talks in ALL CAPS, of course) is beautiful, arguing the need for escapism in fantasy. After all, aren’t all the things we hold dear, deem important, fantasies at their heart?
“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”” — Men At Arms
Probably my favourite passage from any Pratchett book. He explains such a complicated matter in so few words.
“Fear is a strange soil. Mainly it grows obedience like corn, which grows in rows and makes weeding easy. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.” — Small Gods
I must admit, Small Gods has never been one of my favourites, but this quote manages to be quirky, funny and uplifting all at once. Here’s hoping your potatoes of defiance continue to flourish.
“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.” — The Wee Free Men
Well…I mean…yeah. I feel called out by that one, to be honest.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share your favourite Discworld and/or Terry Pratchett quotes in the comments. And feel free to reach out on Facebook.