Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
There are very few starts. Oh, some things seem to be beginnings.
The curtain goes up, the first pawn moves, the first shot is fired* – but that’s not the start. The play, the game, the war is just a little window on a ribbon of events that may extend back thousands of years. The point is, there is always something before. It’s always a case of Now Read On.
*Probably at the first pawn. (LL)
Much human ingenuity has gone into finding the ultimate Before.
The current state of knowledge can be summarized thus:
In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded. (LL)
Other theories about the ultimate start involve gods creating the universe out of the ribs, entrails and testicles of their father.* There are quite a lot of these. They are interesting, not for what they tell you about cosmology, but for what they say about people.
*Gods like a joke as much as anyone else. (LL)
Also, there’s a certain glint in her eye generally possessed by those people who have found that they are more intelligent than most people around them but who haven’t yet learned that one of the most intelligent things they can do is prevent said people ever finding this out. (LL)
Nanny Ogg never did any housework herself, but she was the cause of housework in other people. (LL)
He had in fact been raised to be a Fool, a man whose job it was to caper and tell jokes and have custard poured down his trousers. This had naturally given him a grave and solemn approach to life and a grim determination never to laugh at anything ever again, especially in the presence of custard. (LL)
He had formed the unusual opinion that the job of a king is to make the kingdom a better place for everyone to live in. (LL)
Verence II was the most amiable monarch in the history of Lancre. His subjects regarded him with the sort of good-natured contempt that is the fate of all those who work quietly and conscientiously for the public good. (LL)
…Verence would rather cut his own leg off than put a witch in prison, since it’d save trouble in the long run and probably be less painful. (LL)
There are no delusions for the dead. Dying is like waking up after a really good party, when you have one or two seconds of innocent freedom before you recollect all the things you did last night which seemed so logical and hilarious at the time, and then you remember the really amazing thing you did with a lampshade and two balloons, which had them in stitches, and now realize you’re going to have to look at lot of people in the eye today and you’re sober now and so are they but you can both remember. (LL)
'Are you a hunter?'
I LIKE TO THINK I AM A PICKER-UP OF UNCONSIDERED TRIFLES. (LL)
The Librarian was always up early because he was an orang-utan, and they are naturally early risers, although in his case he didn’t bellow a few times to keep other males off his territory. He just unlocked the Library and fed the books. (LL)
And Mustrum Ridcully, the current Archchancellor, liked to wander around the sleepy buildings, nodding to the servants and leaving little notes for his subordinates, usually designed for no other purpose than to make it absolutely clear that he was up and attending to the business of the day while they were still fast asleep. (LL)
Ridcully never wasted time on small talk. It was always large talk or nothing. (LL)
‘We taught her everything she knows,’ said Granny Weatherwax.
‘Yeah,’ said Nanny Ogg, as they disappeared into the bracken. ‘D’you think ... maybe...?’
‘D’you think maybe we ought to have taught her everything we know?’
‘It’d take too long.’ (LL)
Mustrum Ridcully did a lot for rare species. For one thing, he kept them rare. (LL)
… all books, everywhere, affect all other books. This is obvious: books inspire other books written in the future, and cite books written in the past. But the General Theory of L-Space suggests that, in that case, the contents of books as yet unwritten can be deduced from books now in existence. (LL)
Other people would probably say: I wasn't myself. But Granny Weatherwax didn't have anyone else to be. (LL)
Perdita remembered Magrat bringing a guitar to a Hogswatchnight party once and singing wobbly folk songs with her eyes shut in a way that suggested that she really believed in them. She hadn’t been able to play, but this was all right because she couldn’t sing, either. (LL)
‘I don’t hold with paddlin’ with the occult,’ said Granny firmly. ‘Once you start paddlin’ with the occult you start believing in spirits, and when you start believing in spirits you start believing in demons, and then before you know where you are you’re believing in gods. And then you’re in trouble.’
‘But all them things exist,’ said Nanny Ogg.
‘That’s no call to go around believing in them. It only encourages ‘em.’ (LL)
Knowing the time of your death is one of those strange bonuses that comes with being a true magic user. And, on the whole, it is a bonus.
Many a wizard has passed away happily drinking the last of his wine cellar and incidentally owing very large sums of money. (LL)
Granny Weatherwax personally disliked young Pewsey. She disliked all small children, which is why she got on with them so well. (LL)
Nanny Ogg had a pragmatic attitude to the truth; she told it if it was convenient and she couldn’t be bothered to make up something more interesting. (LL)
The land between Ankh-Morpork and the Ramtops was fertile, well-cultivated, and dull, dull, dull. Travel broadens the mind. This landscape broadened the mind because the mind just flowed out from the ears like porridge. (LL)
When you're a cork in someone else's stream of consciousness, all you can do is spin and bob in the eddies. (LL)
‘Are you really an outrageous liar?’
‘Why are you trying to rob coaches, then?’
‘I am afraid I was waylaid by bandits.’
‘But it says here,’ said Ridcully, ‘that you are a finest swordsman.’
‘I was outnumbered.’
‘How many of them were there?’
‘Three million.’ (LL)
It wasn’t that Ridcully was stupid. Truly stupid wizards have the life expectancy of a glass hammer. He had quite a powerful intellect, but it was powerful like a locomotive, and ran on rails and was therefore almost impossible to steer. (LL)
The universe doesn’t much care if you tread on a butterfly. There are plenty more butterflies. Gods might note the fall of a sparrow but they don’t make an effort to catch them.
Shoot the dictator and prevent the war? But the dictator is merely the tip of the whole festering boil of social pus from which dictators emerge; shoot one, and there’ll be another one along in a minute. Shoot him too? Why not shoot everyone and invade Poland? In fifty years’, thirty years’, ten years’ time the world will be very nearly back on its old course. History always has a great weight of inertia. (LL)
He’d tried to introduce Ephebian democracy to Lancre, giving the vote to everyone, or at least everyone “who be of good report and who be male and hath forty years and owneth a hosue worth more than three and a half goats a year,” because there’s no sense in being stupid about things and giving the vote to people who were poor or criminal or insane or female, who’d only use it irresponsibly. (LL)
Strictly speaking, Hodgesaargh wasn’t his real name. On the other hand, on the basis that someone’s real name is the name they introduce themselves to you by, he was definitely Hodgesaargh.
This was because the hawks and falcons in the castle mews were all Lancre birds and therefore naturally possessed of a certain ‘sod you’ independence of mind. After much patient breeding and training Hodgesaargh had managed to get them to let go of someone’s wrist, and now he was working on stopping them viciously attacking the person who had just been holding them i.e., invariably Hodgesaargh. (LL)
… Verence, being a king, was allowed a gyrfalcon, whatever the hell that was, any earls in the vicinity could fly a peregrine, and priests were allowed sparrowhawks. Commoners were just about allowed a stick to throw*. Magrat found herself wondering what Nanny Ogg would be allowed – a small chicken on a spring probably.
There was no specific falcon for a witch but, as a queen, the Lancre rules of falconry allowed her to fly the wowhawk or Lappet-faced Worrier. It was small and shortsighted and preferred to walk everywhere. It fainted at the sight of blood. And about twenty wowhawks could kill a pigeon, if it was a sick pigeon. She’d spent an hour with one on her wrist. It had wheezed at her, and eventually it had dozed off upside down.
*If it wasn’t a big stick. (LL)
…the thaum, hitherto believed to be the smallest possible particle of magic, was successfully demonstrated to be made up of resons* or reality fragments. Currently research indicates that each reson is itself made up of a combination of at least five ‘flavours’, known as ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘sideways’, ‘sex appeal’ and ‘peppermint’.
* Lit: ‘Thing-ies’. (LL)
'Don't try to be paranormal until you know what's normal.' (LL)
Nanny Ogg looked under her bed in case there was a man there. Well, you never knew your luck. (LL)
It wasn’t exactly whiskey, and it wasn’t exactly gin, but it was exactly 90 proof, and a great comfort during those worrying moments that sometimes occurred around 3 a.m. when you woke up and forgot who you were. After a glass of the clear liquid you still didn’t remember who you were, but that was all right now because you were someone else anyway. (LL)
He had any amount of ways of passing the time, since guard duty in Lancre involved such an awful lot of it. There was Getting the Nostrils Really Clean, that was a good one. Or Farting Tunes. Or Standing On One Leg. Holding His Breath and Counting was something he fell back on when he couldn’t think of anything else and his meals hadn’t been too rich in carbohydrates. (LL)
The chieftain had been turned into a pumpkin although, in accordance with the rules of universal humour, he still had his hat on. (LL)
Granny Weatherwax seemed to generate a gyroscopic field – if you started out off-balance, she saw to it that you remained there. (LL)
‘Glamour. Elves are beautiful. They’ve got,’ she spat the word, ‘style. Beauty. Grace. That’s what matters. If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty cruel little bastards they are.’ (LL)
'Being alone isn't the same as not having other people around,' said Granny. (LL)
Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad. (LL)
'You ain't supposed to understand the jokes, this is a play,' said Jason. (LL)
It wasn’t that Nanny Ogg sang badly. It was just that she could hit notes which, when amplified by a tin bath half full of water, ceased to be sound and became some sort of invasive presence.
There had been plenty of singers whose high notes could smash a glass, but Nanny’s high C could clean it. (LL)
Royalty, when they marry, either get very small things, like exquisitely-constructed clockwork eggs, or large bulky items, like duchesses. (LL)
‘But they’re witches. I don’t like to ask them questions.’
‘They might give me answers. And then what would I do?’ (LL)
Verence suddenly looked like a man who had been expecting a frontal attack and suddenly finds nasty things happening behind him. (LL)
It was just that she had preferred him when he’d been a Fool. There’s something about a man who tinkles gently as he moves. (LL)
There are some people that would whistle 'Yankee Doodle' in a crowded bar in Atlanta.
Even these people would consider it tactless to mention the word 'billygoat' to a troll. (LL)
‘You can’t cross the same river twice, Archchancellor,’ he said.
Ridcully stared at him.
‘Why not? This is a bridge.’ (LL)
‘Witches! Let me tell you about the witches round here-’
‘Our mum’s a witch,’ said Shawn conversationally, rummaging in the sack.
‘As fine a body of women as you could hope to meet,’ said Ridcully, with barely a hint of mental gear-clashing. ‘And not a bunch of interfering power-mad old crones at all, whatever anyone might say.’ (LL)
‘This is the countryside,’ he hissed. ‘People do things differently here. And more often.’ (LL)
… Magrat had never been any good at acting. She’d always felt she wasn’t very good at being Magrat, if it came to that. (LL)
'I feel like a fish out of water.'
'Well, the way I see it, it's up to you to make you're own water,' said Nanny ... (LL)
‘Our stars are entwined,’ said Casanunda. ‘We’re fated for one another. I wants your body, Mrs. Ogg.’
‘I’m still using it.’ (LL)
‘You haven’t got the morals of a cat, Gytha Ogg.’
‘Now, Esme, you know that’s not true.’
‘All right. You have got the morals of a cat, then.’
‘That’s better.’ (LL)
'I’m the head wizard now. I’ve only got to give an order and a thousand wizards will … uh disobey, come to think of it, or say “What?”, or start to argue. But they have to take notice.’ (LL)
'You can't say "if this didn't happen then that would have happened" because you don't know everything that might have happened. You might think something'd be good, but for all you know it could have turned out horrible.' (LL)
‘Personal’s not the same as important. People just think it is.’ (LL)
Food as an aphrodisiac was not a concept that had ever caught on in Lancre, apart from Nanny Ogg’s famous Carrot and Oyster Pie.*
*Carrots so you can see in the dark, she’d explain, and oysters so’s you’ve got something to look at. (LL)
…Nanny Ogg was an attractive lady, which is not the same as being beautiful. She fascinated Casanunda. She was an incredibly comfortable person to be around, partly because she had a mind so broad it could accommodate three football fields and a bowling alley. (LL)
The Librarian, an ape of simple but firmly-held tastes, considered an episode with custard pies, buckets of whitewash and especially that bit when someone takes someone else's hat off, fills it with something oozy, and replaces it on the deadpan head, while the orchestra plays 'WHAH ... whah ... whah ... whaaa ...' to be an absolutely essential part of any theatrical performance. (LL)
News went around Lancre faster than turpentine through a sick donkey (LL)
‘This is damn good wine,’ she said, picking up another bottle. ‘What did you say it’s called?’ She peered at the label. ‘Chateau Maison? Chat-eau ... that’s foreign for cat’s water, you know, but that’s only their way, I know it ain’t real cat’s water. Real cat’s water is sharper.’ (LL)
'I just know where I am all the time,' said Granny.
'Well? I know where I am, too.'
'No, you don't. You just happen to be present. That's not the same.' (LL)
She’d have to stop thinking like this. She seemed to have spent her whole life trying to make herself small, trying to be polite, apologizing when people walked over her, trying to be good-mannered. And what had happened? People had treated her as if she was small and polite and good-mannered. (LL)
She was shaking. But she was still alive, and that felt good. That’s the thing about being alive. You’re alive to enjoy it. (LL)
Greebo had spent an irritating two minutes in that box. Technically, a cat locked in a box may be alive or it may be dead. You never know until you look. In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious. (LL)
But Magrat, like this, frightened him more than the elves. It was like being charged by sheep. (LL)
Going and fighting when you're a real person isn't like folksongs! In real life you die! In folksongs you just have to remember to keep one finger in your ear and how to get to the next chorus! In real life no-one goes whack-fol-a-diddle-di-do-sing-too-rah-li-ay! (LL)
I thought I’d show everyone what I’m made of. And now they’ll probably find out: I’m made of lots of tubes and greeny purple wobbly bits. (LL)
Night had fallen in Lancre, and it was an old night. It was not the simple absence of day, patrolled by the moon and the stars, but an extension of something that had existed long before there was any light to define it by absence. (LL)
People remember badly. But societies remember well, the swarm remembers, encoding the information to slip it past the censors of the mind, passing it in from grandmother to grandchild in little bits of nonsense they won't bother to forget. Sometimes the truth keeps itself alive in devious ways despite the best efforts of the official keepers of information. (LL)
The shortest unit of time in the multiverse is the New York Second, defined as the period of time between the traffic lights turning green and the cab behind you honking. (LL)
There was a long-drawn-out chord that by law must precede all folk music to give bystanders time to get away. (LL)
There are many recipes for the flat round loaves of Lancre dwarf bread, but the common aim of all of them is to make a field ration that is long-lasting, easily packed and can disembowel the enemy if skimmed through the air hard enough. Edibility is a kind of optional extra. (LL)
'Being noticed is what a witch is all about.' (LL)
'... folksongs have got a lot to answer for ...' (LL)
‘But look,’ said Ponder, ‘the graveyards are full of people who rushed in bravely but unwisely.’
‘What’d he say?’ said the Bursar, passing briefly through reality on his way somewhere else.
‘I think he said, “Sooner or later the graveyards are full of everybody”,’ said Ponder. (LL)
The Monks of Cool, whose tiny and exclusive monastery is hidden in a really cool and laid-back valley in the lower Ramtops, have a passing-out test for a novice. He is taken into a room full of all types of clothing and asked: Yo, my son, which of these is the most stylish thing to wear? And the correct answer is: Hey, whatever I select. (LL)
‘I love the way humans think. They think like songs.’ (LL)
She knew there was such a thing as heroic odds. Songs and ballads and stories and poems were full of stories about one person single-handedly taking on and defeating a vast number of enemies.
Only now was it dawning on her that the trouble was that they were songs and ballads and stories and poems because they dealt with things that were, not to put too fine a point on it, untrue.
She couldn’t now she had time to think about it, ever remember an example from history. (LL)
Humans are always slightly lost. It's a basic characteristic. It explains a lot about them. (LL)
'People've got enough to cope with just being people.' (LL)
'I ain't against gods and goddesses, in their place. But they've got to be the ones we make ourselves. Then we can take 'em to bits for parts when we don't need 'em any more, see?' (LL)
‘…I had to learn. All my life. The hard way. And the hard way’s pretty hard, but not so hard as the easy way.’ (LL)
'What don't die can't live. What don't live can't change. What don't change can't learn.' (LL)
Sometimes, if you pay real close attention to the pebbles you find out about the ocean. (LL)
.... there is noone like Magrat for getting in the way of her own life. (LL)
'A wizard's only a priest without a god and a damp handshake ...' (LL)
‘It’s not what you’ve got that matters, it’s how you’ve got it.’ (LL)
Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, especially simian ones. They're not all that subtle. (LL)
All she could do for all of them was be herself, here and now, as hard as she could. (LL)
‘The price for being the best is always…having to be the best.’ (LL)
‘Animals can’t murder. Only us superior races can murder. That’s one of the things that sets us apart from animals.’ (LL)
‘Act your age, Gytha.’
‘Act? Don’t have to act, can do it automatic,’ said Nanny. ‘Acting half my age…now that’s the difficult trick.’ (LL)