Small Gods Discussion *Spoilers*

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Postby swreader » Fri Dec 10, 2010 5:57 am

Have to totally disagree with you Jan (and possibly Pooh) about Dios and Vorbis. And it is the difference between these two villains or antagonists in the two novels that is a significant reason why Small Gods is probably the first major book of philosophical and/or moral significance. As Willem noted, we don't see much of the parody or pure slapstick comedy after this. (Spoiler alert) Even Jingo, where we have Colon, Nobby, Leonard & the Patrician as a team :shock: working cleverly (if only on the part of the Patrician) to save Anhk-Morpork.

Dios and Vorbis make look alike superficially--but in fact they are quite different. Poor old Dios has none of the intellectual power of Vorbis. And he has convinced himself that what he is doing is for the good of the country. The fact that he has become more or less immortal is, in his mind, just a temporary state until things are in better shape. Thus, he insists on repeating things over & over because that's the way it's always been done. He will neatly dispose of or frustrate any attempt at change. He has been happily "creating" gods for centuries--to fill a particular need in his society. When they actually appear, he is totally at a loss and has no idea what to do with them or how to deal with the imminent destruction of the country because of the newest pyramid.

Vorbis, on the other hand, is probably the most thoroughly amoral and evil character Pratchett has created. He is amoral because he believes in nothing--he has no concept of morality. He has become a control freak, a megalomaniac far removed from Dios. Two incidents make clear Pratchett's use of him. In the beginning of the book, Vorbis turns the tortoise (who happens to be Om) on its back and props it there--apparently for no reason but only because he can. He doesn't even stay to see how long it takes for the creature to die. He has no idea that he is dealing with (albeit at this point) a small god. He causes suffering and possible death because he can and because he likes the feeling of power it gives him. The other incident(s) have to do with the death of Vorbis and Brutha. When Vorbis finds himself confronting DEATH - he becomes paralyzed because when he looks within himself, he finds an empty space. When Brutha dies, he finds DEATH and Vorbis. Brutha is a bit disconcerted to think that Vorbis has been so long trapped in the desert. DEATH describes Vorbis: "HE WAS A MURDERER. ... AND A CREATOR OF MURDERS. A TORTURER. WITHOUT PASSION. CRUEL. CALLOUS. COMPASSIONLESS.

That characterization is quite different from that of Dios. And their eventual fates show Pratchett's wry humor. Dios "dies" and starts the whole cycle over again. Vorbis still cannot cross the desert without Brutha.
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Postby pip » Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:16 am

I agree completely.

Dios functions on a broken sort of logic resulting in his continuous routines. He is almost like an extreme representaion of obsessive compulsive disorder personified.
Ritual and tradition shapes all his actions and moves.
Vorbis is a different creature all together.
He , unlike Dios, actually thinks and plans.
His actions are for the purpose of forwarding himself.
Religion and structure are a tool for him to control and manipulate others.
He will kill to see what its like and i'm sure a lot of his methods follow the same principal.
The inquisitors are all shown to have a life seperate to there work but Vorbis is different .
As sharon said he has no sense of morals whatsoever.
He's a much scarier character than Dios could ever be.
Rather than Dios I would see him closer to a Mr Teatime, another character who sees death and torture as an interesting experiment and both strive to control in there differnet ways using belief.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:54 am

Not much time this morning but will address the Dios/Vorbis dichotomy later today when I've got time to put it more clearly. I agree that they're not identical but they are wholly similar in their beginnings and their differences are cast in Dios as the creator 'god' of gods and Vorbis as the ultimate product of a god who's not interested in his disciples and is therefore the destroyer of that god. The 2 nutjobs are the same denomination of coin but are obverse and reverse, so they are of the same absolutist stock, but one of them is naturally more dangerous and the other is essentially ignorant of anything that departs from his perceived pilosophical path.

Think of Dios as a hardline redneck fundamentalist and Vorbis as a terrorist who is the epitome of the fanatic who's become what his god and prophets deride. Similarities, but one's off the scale in sophistry of how he does his god's work with no belief whatsoever.
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:46 pm

OK Elaboration :lol: . Neither of them are believers except in the narrow definitions of their own perceptions of what their religion or philosophy means to them. No one else. So it is the usual treating people as things concept but in SG it's much more thought through and cogent. The books do not bear comparison in most respects because they're focussed on different aspects, and with Pyramids, this is not religion or even philosophy, but it is about time and stagnancy and what happens when people are not allowed to change, or to mix with the rest of the world, because their society is so closed in upon itself. There is a measure of that in SG, but there it's outward-facing and with Vorbis in the driving seat will become aggressively expansionist - indeed it's meant to be that way, but Lu-tze saves it by rescuing Om and making sure that Brutha finds him.

Dios, as you say is mostly a passive tyrant and his obsession does not hurt the living as such because he does not seek to dominate his nominal lords outside of the rituals he's devised for his imaginary gods and the culture of life after death. The gods are irrelevant and so aren't small gods. They don't manifest for thousands of years, because they're not worshipped and have no existence whatsoever, outside of being the raison d'etre for Dios' pointless rituals and customs. So long as the High Priests and Priestesses toe the line for him in return for the power they wield, and with nothing to smite back at them because the cycle of renewal for Dios is sustained through the powerful magic perpetuated by the pyramids. So really Pyramids has very little to do with faith because nobody actually cares about the 'gods' - and belief such as it is, is all directed to the funeral myths and continuance of their kings lives after death, such as it is.

It's the gods that make the difference between these two priests. No question Vorbis is vile and vicious but, like Dios he moulds his god to fit him, even though Om is very much 'authentic' and does exist. Like Dios Vorbis finds his way to power through manipulating the faith for his own ends and, like Dios, he has no belief beyond what suits him and his aims. They are alike, but follow different paths. Om cannot do anything about Vorbis except through Brutha - the small gods cannot get through his adamantine mind, so he's useless to them. Even though he sees himself as a believer and the deliverer of truth, it's all in terms of the power he can wield and the fear and dominance of everyone that he glories in. He ruthlessly pares everything and everyone down to the core, the bone, and holds it all in contempt in the name of a faith he does not have. He appears to serve but, in the centre of his being he is alone and knows it. When he is hailed as the new Prophet he fears Brutha, yet it is Brutha who is his only friend and is the one who has to take him through the last desert.

Dios too, is alone in his faith, the difference being that of course he's the one who created it and fuelled it with continuity. He's a more sympathetic character than Vorbis in that he's not a torturer, except of himself in most senses. With most of Terry's villains there's a spark of humanity or some quality or saving grace (like Mr. Pin's belief in potatoes or Reacher Gilt's swashbuckling style), that makes them not wholly despicable, but Dios has few admirable qualities to merit sympathy and Vorbis, none at all. We're glad to see him completly frozen, surrounded by the fear of his victim's ghosts. We're pleased he stays there for 100 years of Brutha putting Omnia back onto a healthier path, whilst for him every second lasts 1000 years. Although there's satisfaction in seeing Dios, deposited still living, right back at the beginning of the time cycle, there's a kind of horror to it, because he's achieved his ultimate aim. Dios is a self-created god, immortal and stuck on an eternal wheel of his own creation with nothing to look forward to and no respite from a life that staves off death, but otherwise has no meaning and no end.

Terry's version of death honours belief. A desert to cross seems to be a constant in the majority of the books, but people do get what they're expecting by and large. Dios and Vorbis are the only ones who don't want and truly fear death and so get the 'end' they deserve.
Last edited by Jan Van Quirm on Sat Dec 11, 2010 3:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby matrim » Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:01 am

As I see it, Dios is a more terrifying character than Vorbis. Vorbis applies all the schemes for personal gain while Dios manipulates people to "serve the country". The lack of personal interests gives him an invincible sense of self-righteousness which lasts throughout the book. He regards the rituals, building pyramids, and other routines as the only proper way things should be. I feel Dios is kind of personification of tradition which is old, rigid and resists any reasoning and change. At the end Dios is still alive and wants to carry on his supervising; this is significant.

As I come from a country with a history of thousands of years, I know perfectly well what tradition means to some people and how they would suffer if it was changed. The funny thing is, sometimes what behind the tradition is not important; as long as everyone follows it, it would be fine. An example. When Manchus took control of China and established Qing dynasty, they forced Hans to change their traditional hair style and clothes as a sign of conquest. What Hans had were two alternatives: cut your hair or die. Many chose death out of unbearable humiliation but more submitted to the rule. Several hundred years passed, and people were so accustomed to their plaits that some were grieved to death when the Revolution of 1911 took place and many cut their plaits.
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Postby poohcarrot » Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:34 am

:shock: :lol:
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:02 pm

I wrote: With most of Terry's villains there's a spark of humanity or some quality or saving grace (like Mr. Pin's belief in potatoes or Reacher Gilt's swashbuckling style), that makes them not wholly despicable, but Dios has few admirable qualities to merit sympathy and Vorbis, none at all.

Whoops - boo-boo! :lol: I of course meant Mr. Tulip but the comment stands because Mr. Pin, frantic to get himself a decent afterlife kills Mr. Tulip for his tuber. And even then Terry's just reward system comes full circle yet again and Pin literally jumps from the fire into the
frying pan in his potatoey form... :twisted:

One constant in Discworld - don't fear the Reaper. It's the author's call you should worry about! :shock: :wink:
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Postby Tonyblack » Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:52 pm

This is the first book that we meet Lu-Tze and the History Monks. They seem to have developed over the series.

What struck me after a few readings of Small Gods was the important role that Lu-Tze plays. My initial reading had placed him there as some sort of observer - but he has a much bigger role.

What do you think? :?
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Postby mystmoon » Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:09 pm

he's meant t be an observer, doesn't he get in trouble for sticking his oar in further than he should in this?
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Postby swreader » Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:19 am

mystmoon wrote:he's meant t be an observer, doesn't he get in trouble for sticking his oar in further than he should in this?


Not really. While Terry hasn't quite worked out what he's going to do with the influence of Time and with the History Monks (6 ft. tall books rather than procrastinators), when Lu Tze returns he tells the Abbot, he's had to nudge things a bit.

The Abbot's response is "I wish you wouldn't do that sort of thing," said the abbot, fingering a pawn. "You'll overstep the mark one day." And when Lu Tze mentions that he's eliminated the century of terrible warfare, the abbot says, "Just so long as it turns out right in the end."


Matrim, I can see how your cultural background may make Dios a frightening "god-like" creature. But consider this--whether it's Dios or an Emperor, who insists that things be done this way because they've always been done that way and it's for the good of the country--the real reason may be personal, but it's also because they believe their actions are for the good of the country. Vorbis, on the other hand, couldn't give a xxx (insert local idiom) about whether his actions are for the good of the country. What he is interested in is having his own power for his sake--not because a god tells him or because he thinks it's for the good of the country. He wants (unconsciously) to become the kind of god-like figure that Terry portrays when Om goes up to Cori Celesti and finds the gods treating their worshipers as playthings. Vorbis is, in some ways, Terry's first attempt at figuring out what is truly evil.
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Postby CrysaniaMajere » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:20 am

I agree with what Swreader said above, and that exactly why I also agree with Matrim, Dios is more terryfying.
An evil person, who is clearly evil, you can recognise him without much difficult as an evil person is terrible, much more terrible, yes, but people that maybe inside are not that evil because they think they do everything for the greater good, or something, come in disguise and are not always easy to recognise. On a book, while you know what they do even if other characters don't, that's scary.
I mean, I don't know if I really understand all the fuss behind changing tradition etc, but when you read about people like Dios they're even more irritating and scary than the true evil ones , because they are more difficult to recognise for what they really do or cause to other people.
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Postby CrysaniaMajere » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 am

Tonyblack wrote:This is the first book that we meet Lu-Tze and the History Monks. They seem to have developed over the series.

What struck me after a few readings of Small Gods was the important role that Lu-Tze plays. My initial reading had placed him there as some sort of observer - but he has a much bigger role.

What do you think? :?

I think that I didn't get it :?
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Postby pip » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:26 am

Tonyblack wrote:This is the first book that we meet Lu-Tze and the History Monks. They seem to have developed over the series.

What struck me after a few readings of Small Gods was the important role that Lu-Tze plays. My initial reading had placed him there as some sort of observer - but he has a much bigger role.

What do you think? :?


Isn't it mentioned again in Thief of Time that Lu TZu was pretty much responsible for the whole buisness :?:
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Postby Quatermass » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:41 am

Tonyblack wrote:This is the first book that we meet Lu-Tze and the History Monks. They seem to have developed over the series.

What struck me after a few readings of Small Gods was the important role that Lu-Tze plays. My initial reading had placed him there as some sort of observer - but he has a much bigger role.

What do you think? :?


He's basically like the Doctor. He can't help but get involved. And he gets his way, more often than not. If I recall, he's the one who actually saves Om at the very start after Vorbis flips Om onto his back. I believe that Lu-Tze is basically a utilitarian History Monk, but one who is concerned for the little fellow as well. Very like the Doctor.
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Postby pip » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:46 am

Quatermass wrote:
Tonyblack wrote:This is the first book that we meet Lu-Tze and the History Monks. They seem to have developed over the series.

What struck me after a few readings of Small Gods was the important role that Lu-Tze plays. My initial reading had placed him there as some sort of observer - but he has a much bigger role.

What do you think? :?


He's basically like the Doctor. He can't help but get involved. And he gets his way, more often than not. If I recall, he's the one who actually saves Om at the very start after Vorbis flips Om onto his back. I believe that Lu-Tze is basically a utilitarian History Monk, but one who is concerned for the little fellow as well. Very like the Doctor.


LuTzu has become one of my favourite non main characters over time.
Thief of time aside he's been background in a few of the others.
He definitely played a huge if understated role in Omnias move forward. He's a form of loan agent who makes his own rules up and is tolerated because sometimes thats what you need to get things done.
Finally got the Book of enlightenment diary so i'm looking forward to perusing it over Christmas :D
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