Recommended Reading: Thud!

 Topic: Recommended Reading: Thud! 

Today we are talking about the Discworld novel Thud by Terry Pratchett, published 2005, and its message of hope and inclusion. 

Most of this book takes place in the city of Ankh-Morpork, which is the biggest and most cosmopolitan city on the Disc. Our primary protagonist is Sam Vimes, a regular policeman who married way above his station and was then promoted to Duke by the Patrician. There is unrest in the city, as the resident trolls and dwarfs, enemies of old, are gearing up to commemorate an ancient battle in which both sides ambushed each other. There are minor altercations in the days prior to the important anniversary, and Sam discovers there is more going on than anyone realizes. 

One of the things I find interesting about the Discworld, and the city of Ankh-Morpork in particular, is that there is no racism. It is explained that the humans on the Disc recognize their similarities long ago and instead choose to discriminate against the other sentient species. While this “humans first” mentality is not much of an improvement, it is encouraging that even “speciesism” becomes less socially acceptable over the course of all the Ankh-Morpork books. Trolls, dwarfs, gnomes, and even zombies, werewolves, and vampires live in relative peace and harmony in the city, with their own eateries and neighborhoods. While there are those few with less accommodating views, they are openly mocked and never taken seriously. One character in a different Discworld novel does express a racist idea, but he is challenged and questioned and eventually ends up back-pedaling. It is assumed by most people on the Disc that at the very least, all humans are equal. 

Sam Vimes himself is remarkably progressive in many ways, treating almost everyone he encounters with the same degree of dignity and kindness, although he enjoys using his position of privilege to make other privileged people uncomfortable. He is a champion of the poor and disenfranchised, seeking justice in both the legal and social sense. In Thud, he learns more about dwarf and troll society, but Sam never treats dwarfs and trolls as lesser species. The clash between dwarfs and trolls, and its effect on the humans within Ankh-Morpork, can be taken as a metaphor for the clash between different tribes of people, especially in America. In the end, though, we are encouraged to see these different species as people, and to respect their customs and traditions. Very few individuals in the Discworld series seem to believe that different species must put away their traditions and act more like humans; this idea is explicitly expressed and then dismissed as the nonsense it is. We can apply that same Patience and Compassion toward those we meet who may come from different cultures and be willing to meet them where they are. We have so much to learn from those around us, and it robs us of rich experience to expect others to behave exactly like us. 

People from different backgrounds can be fascinating. Have you spent any time learning about another culture? If not, is there a culture you would like to learn more about? 


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