Small Gods Discussion *Spoilers*

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Postby Tonyblack » Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:28 pm

It's quite subtle, but it's mentioned that Lu-Tze isn't interested in gardening, just in making piles of compost etc. It's one of these piles that Om lands on and he makes the comment that it was amazing that he'd landed in one of the very few soft places around there.

So not only does Lu-Tze save Om from being roasted in the sun, but he also saves him from being smashed to bits by the eagle. :)
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Postby swreader » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:53 am

First, a request (generated this time by Quatermass's reference to The Doctor)--if any of us are referring to a character who is totally outside the Pratchett cannon, please identify them clearly and explain for those of us not familiar with that book/character why they are relevant. Tony explained that this was a reference, he said, to Dr. Who--a series I'm not familiar with.

Going back to the question of Lu Tze, or in fact to the first pages of the book--it is, in fact, the 493rd Abbot who sends him to deal with the "problem of Omnia". Clearly, Terry hasn't fully developed his ideas about the role of the History Monks, and even more about Lu Tze, in this book. He is described, in this opening passage, as one of the Abbot's most senior monksrather than as the sweeper role he plays in every other book. And he is a deus ex machina (even more than the Abbot intended) in making sure that Om not only survives but that he and Brutha are jointly educated by each other.

I think that Terry is using the monks in this book really as a plot device--a machine that makes sure that a certain small god survives and learns something. I think that Terry is really trying to explore religions and philosophy (not the nature of Time). But the question of Time and certain individual characters (or in at least one case deceased characters) is something that Terry begins to see more and more as a significant factor. But here, he is more concerned with the nature of gods, religions, and human beings (especially who creates whom).

And one last question to throw out for thought--how does Brutha become wise enough to encompass the material of the library and thus to create a somewhat better church. But, we know from later books, that the church has suffered from different problems after Brutha's death.
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Postby poohcarrot » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:33 am

...and of course not forgetting Lu-Tze's other major intervention in the story that saves countless lives! The bit that stops the 100 years of bloody war before it starts.:P
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:44 pm

Without Lu-Tse there to make sure that Om survives to make contact with Brutha and then to escape from nassssty Vorbis is the stuff of small miracles that Terry eventually moulds into the full-blown magnificence of ToT and NW. Also remember that we actually see the Monks right back in the early days in Mort - remember on his first night of deputising (or perhaps when Death showed him the ropes) Mort took the soul of the Abbot and dropped him off in the nearby village for him to be conceived again on the next notch of re-incarnation? :wink: Then of course we get the next Abbot as a bikkit and lephant demanding toddler dispensing wisdom for ToT in between acting his body age - genius! :lol:

So with that it's a case of Terry playing around with different ideas for the Abbot at least - the one around the 50th mark having to be removed because he placing bets too well and too much and with the 493rd Abbot sending Lu-Tse to Omnia but also to take in some other important bits and pieces of history along the way. It takes him 4 years to get to Omnia we're told, so no Procrastinators or even 'slicing' for SG either.

swreader wrote:And one last question to throw out for thought--how does Brutha become wise enough to encompass the material of the library and thus to create a somewhat better church. But, we know from later books, that the church has suffered from different problems after Brutha's death.

That's really another deus ex machina relating to Brutha's phenomenal 'photographic' memory and works in the same way that he remembers the way into and out of the Labyrinth - it's just something he can 'do', and can't understand why everyone else can't. In the Library he OD's on the scrolls and books effectively and hasn't got time anyway to commit all of them to his memory. Then afterwards on Urn's steam boat he's already assimilating some of the knowledge when he can identify the sea creatures and their classification and names without actually knowing what's been written - and that's how the books are restored once the adventure is over and he's the Cenobiarch - he has be taught how to read and write so he can get the non-illustrated works out of his head. Presumably this is also probably the reason, or part of it, why he has to live to such a great age - in order to get all that info out and re-written.

The actual method by which he memorises the scroll is, I think, partially inspired by this film, a spoof of James Bond in which the Brown Cow character (Barbara Windsor) also has a photographic memory and absorbs secret plans simply by looking at them and blinking them into her head (unfortunately I can't find a clip of her doing this, but Brit Carry On fans will know what I'm on about...) :wink:
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:19 pm

A very minor point, but one of the Ephebian philosophers - Xeno (with the theory of a tortoise outrunning an arrow?) gets mentioned in several books and even in one of the Science series and it struck me re-reading that depending on how you pronounce that name it's similar to the title of the top cleric the Cenobiarch (if you go with a soft 'C' and 'X' as in circus and xylophone)? :?

What made it click with me was thinking about the general politics of Omnia and it's central xenophobia of the surrounding countries and indeed the rest of the Disc, seeing all non-Omnians as a threat to their theocracy...? :lol:
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Postby Tonyblack » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:49 pm

What about the Ephebian (Grecian) Urn? :lol:
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:13 pm

Did he have short fat hairy legs d'you think? :lol:
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Postby swreader » Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:34 am

The philosophers think they'll have to teach Brutha to read & write so he can transcribe the scrolls (while they're on Urn's ship).And initially, he is puzzled and frustrated by all the knowledge in his head--but feels it's not something he can comprehend. But Brutha (and Vorbis) are both washed ashore, and Brutha & Om begin to have a lot more philosophical insight than can be accounted for by your description, Jan.

I think that Terry rather pulls a fast one by giving us a slight suggestion that although Brutha can remember and even "read" the scrolls while on board the ship, he can't understand what he's read. He knows about the squid being cartilaginous--but doesn't know what the word means. There is no time for him to have been tutored on reading--so we are left with the fact that Brutha (who seems the slowest of the slow) ends the book with not just the ability to think (which would be significant) but with the power to modify a religion, to stop (with Om's help) a new war, and to spend 100 years developing the church. Terry uses Brutha, I think, to expore some sophisticated ideas about men and gods and organized religion, and war and peace. But just how Brutha becomes so brilliant and thoughtful is (perhaps understandably) never explained.
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Postby poohcarrot » Thu Dec 16, 2010 8:57 am

poohcarrot wrote:...and of course not forgetting Lu-Tze's other major intervention in the story that saves countless lives! The bit that stops the 100 years of bloody war before it starts.:P

As everyone is ignoring me. :roll:

The reason there is no 100 year civil war is because the moving turtle/tank breaks down. It breaks down because the starting lever snaps. It snaps because after being made, it was supposed to be cooled slowly, but Lu-Tze pours cold water on it, thus making the metal brittle.

But I'm sure you all knew that (even though nobody mentioned it). 8)

I'll fade back into the background again. :lol:
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Postby pip » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:13 am

poohcarrot wrote:
poohcarrot wrote:...and of course not forgetting Lu-Tze's other major intervention in the story that saves countless lives! The bit that stops the 100 years of bloody war before it starts.:P

As everyone is ignoring me. :roll:

The reason there is no 100 year civil war is because the moving turtle/tank breaks down. It breaks down because the starting lever snaps. It snaps because after being made, it was supposed to be cooled slowly, but Lu-Tze pours cold water on it, thus making the metal brittle.

But I'm sure you all knew that (even though nobody mentioned it). 8)

I'll fade back into the background again. :lol:


sorry did Pooh say something :lol:
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Postby Jan Van Quirm » Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:46 pm

poohcarrot wrote:
poohcarrot wrote:...and of course not forgetting Lu-Tze's other major intervention in the story that saves countless lives! The bit that stops the 100 years of bloody war before it starts.:P

As everyone is ignoring me. :roll:

The reason there is no 100 year civil war is because the moving turtle/tank breaks down. It breaks down because the starting lever snaps. It snaps because after being made, it was supposed to be cooled slowly, but Lu-Tze pours cold water on it, thus making the metal brittle.

But I'm sure you all knew that (even though nobody mentioned it). 8)

I'll fade back into the background again. :lol:

Sulkypants - we got the bit about Lu-Tse. :lol: What you're talking about there is part of why they avoided the 100 years war, but it's not the reason it's a CATALYST. Will come back to that part of the book with the tank shortly as you want to talk about it *pats head* :twisted:

Sharlene - you were asking how Brutha became so wise specifically when he absorbed the Library. That's just knowledge - :lol: :wink:
Wisdom is quite another thing. He was already becoming wise before that, from the moment he began to hear Om because he was having to challenge his own belief in the Great God from then on. By the time he'd got to Ephebe he'd had several hard, sharp knocks to his dogma-defined image of Om as Om himself was pouring scorn on all the stupid narrow 'mysteries' of his cult and so pushing Brutha into questioning his beliefs - from the start they're working on a new rendering of Omnism making it more rational, less belligerent and unquestioning and far more humane and forgiving. What Brutha is doing right from the start of the book, being provoked and inadvertently inspired by Om, is redefining his belief. He questions everything right down the line but he never stops believing even when he downright disagrees with Om because they both need each other to make sense of their world. They negotiate and develop a new understanding and in effect learn wisdom together by this process - the massive download of knowledge in Ephebe is merely complementary to that struggle for a mutual creed, so that Brutha can then set Omnia onto a more practical and rational understanding of the rest of the Disc and how to live in it. He is the first true Prophet not only because he's such a staunch and compassionate believer, but because he and Om are invested in each other and together overthrow the old ways and together make the new 'rules' and philosophy.

In the desert, with Vorbis comatose and Om terrified of one of his rival small gods stealing Brutha away from him, the god's finally driven to realisation of just how important Brutha is to him and so Om at last 'get's it'. Omnipotence and absolute faith and loyalty don't work - there has to be understanding and acceptance of the justness of belief and how the underlying philosophy works. We all see the links with the Inquisition and with Roman Catholicism in particular and how a religion goes off the rails and into 'jobsworth' territory when absolutism takes hold and the stupid, unscrupulous and psychopathic turn faith onto it's head and makes a mockery of the original ground on which belief is formed.

The desert is a metaphor familiar to the main modern monotheist behemoths of faith - one god, one way, one load of essentially common sense on how to live your life kindly and not annoy your neighbours. We say the words but we don't honour them and Thou Shalt Not Kill becomes Except When It Suits The People In Power. With Brutha and Om the new deal is forged in the desert. They have to work together and depend on each other absolutely. Vorbis is their instrument in a way, even though he has no part in their ordeal, his hijacking their feat in crossing the desert is necessary to the faith's reception and re-establishment on a surer footing which is not Brutha's spectacular rescue from the turtle but in his averting the war.

OK - the steam boat/tank. :lol: It's just a thing - a very useful and practical thing and as such is used by people for their own ends. Urn is rather like Leonard of Quirm - he has no conception of his inventions use for military purposes, that comes from Simony. Lu-tse sabotages it yes, and that's why it's a catalyst - the actual EVENT that he needs to manipulate has to be resolved by people and people with a certain mindset. Brutha is the one who understands that war is not the answer. If it had been Vorbis on the beach alone then they would have had 100 years of war. If Simony had been on the beach alone then they would still have had 100 years of war. If Urn and his uncle had been on the beach alone then they would still have had 100 years of war. It had to be Brutha because he had the right sort of belief. Vorbis and Simony are extremist - terrorists if you like even though our sympathies are far more with Simony and even though neither of them have a belief in Om - they only see things in black and white and both only think of fighting for their own belief (or to impose it forcibly in Vorbis' case) or anti-belief if you like.

Extreme atheism is as fundamentally wrong as religious terrorism - it scorns and belittles belief and counts believers as fools who need to be taught they're wrong. Didactylos is seen by Simony as a true Prophet of Science in effect. Didactylos sees himself as a blind man who knows people and how the world works. He has nothing to hang his faith on except the truth and so his dispassion cannot inspire the Turtle followers to mobilise and take action - anti-belief needs passion too and it is Simony who provides that not the Ephebians. No belief (with or without a god) is wrong unless it harms someone. It's just a philosophy and one of many ways to live your life quietly and respectfully. In this book that is the true message. It's not anti-belief - we all believe in something. It's not even anti-religion. The deal Om and Brutha sort out in the desert is a true way where the god is gentle and respectful to his believers in return for their faith and being human we like to belong to a herd or flock. The Quisition is distorted tarnished and it tramples faith into the dust and replaces it with terror. Believe it or else in other words.

Together Om and Brutha bring the faith back on track and effectively start over, working together to be wise in their faith. The Library scrolls will help with that, but they essentially have nothing to do with faith and how Omnia will fare in it's reinvention, because it's just facts and Science (and of course they're important) because the truth is subjective and belief is ultimately reassuring and what supports you through strife. When your world is falling all around you it doesn't really matter whether it's a disc or a globe doesn't it? :wink: Your belief can sustain you through the most apalling times and it doesn't matter what name or face you give it.
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Postby poohcarrot » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:19 pm

Jan Van Quirm wrote:
poohcarrot wrote:The reason there is no 100 year civil war is because the moving turtle/tank breaks down. It breaks down because the starting lever snaps. It snaps because after being made, it was supposed to be cooled slowly, but Lu-Tze pours cold water on it, thus making the metal brittle.

Sulkypants - we got the bit about Lu-Tse. :lol: What you're talking about there is part of why they avoided the 100 years war, but it's not the reason it's a CATALYST. Will come back to that part of the book with the tank shortly as you want to talk about it *pats head* :twisted:

Jan, you're talking bollux. If the tank thing had worked, Brutha would have died a matyr as Simony wanted. There would have then been a 100 year civil war.
And "we" all don't know this as it was never mentioned once on the CA site, and it's just as important as Lu-Tze putting the compost heap there (which was mentioned).

And as for why did Lu-Tze give Brutha a bonsai mountain? It's blindingly obvious to me.

"If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain."

Prov. If things do not change the way you want them to, you must adjust to the way they are.

But the mountain did come to Brutha. So he could adjust things to the way he wanted.
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Postby swreader » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:01 pm

poohcarrot wrote:
poohcarrot wrote:...and of course not forgetting Lu-Tze's other major intervention in the story that saves countless lives! The bit that stops the 100 years of bloody war before it starts.:P

As everyone is ignoring me. :roll:

The reason there is no 100 year civil war is because the moving turtle/tank breaks down. It breaks down because the starting lever snaps. It snaps because after being made, it was supposed to be cooled slowly, but Lu-Tze pours cold water on it, thus making the metal brittle.

But I'm sure you all knew that (even though nobody mentioned it). 8)

I'll fade back into the background again. :lol:


Sorry Pooh, I wasn't quite sure what you were referring to by the 100 years of bloody war--and you're right to remind me of that significant action of Lu Tze. And thanks to the breakdown + Om's attack on the other gods, they hide under the metal machine and end up working together to rescue the survivors. So Lu Tze helps Om & Brutha still another time and way. Good point, old boy! 8)
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Postby pip » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:08 pm

swreader wrote:
poohcarrot wrote:
poohcarrot wrote:...and of course not forgetting Lu-Tze's other major intervention in the story that saves countless lives! The bit that stops the 100 years of bloody war before it starts.:P

As everyone is ignoring me. :roll:

The reason there is no 100 year civil war is because the moving turtle/tank breaks down. It breaks down because the starting lever snaps. It snaps because after being made, it was supposed to be cooled slowly, but Lu-Tze pours cold water on it, thus making the metal brittle.

But I'm sure you all knew that (even though nobody mentioned it). 8)

I'll fade back into the background again. :lol:




Sorry Pooh, I wasn't quite sure what you were referring to by the 100 years of bloody war--and you're right to remind me of that significant action of Lu Tze. And thanks to the breakdown + Om's attack on the other gods, they hide under the metal machine and end up working together to rescue the survivors. So Lu Tze helps Om & Brutha still another time and way. Good point, old boy! 8)

Don't encourage him :shock:

Hit him with a newspaper
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Postby swreader » Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:19 pm

They have to work together and depend on each other absolutely. Vorbis is their instrument in a way, even though he has no part in their ordeal, his hijacking their feat in crossing the desert is necessary to the faith's reception and re-establishment on a surer footing which is not Brutha's spectacular rescue from the turtle but in his averting the war.


You make some good points, Jan. This is just a niggling (but nonetheless important) minor revision of your analysis at the quoted section.

Brutha tried to avert the war, BUT HE FAILED and goes stomping off the apparent field of battle which is precipitated by the appearance of Urn's now functioning "tank". The war is stopped, rather, by Om's intervening and forcing the other gods to agree to his understanding of the proper relationship between man and his god(s). It is the storm (caused by Om's actions) that puts the various parties together in a shelter and makes them see the wisdom of working together rather than fighting when the storm ends.
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