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NB This post contains LOTS of spoilers. Be warned!

I was going to start this post by saying that it’s hard, from reading his books, to say exactly what Terry Pratchett believed in, but actually that’s not true. I couldn’t tell you his political affiliations, but I can tell you that he believed in diversity, in giving everybody a fair chance (but maybe not more than one) in trying on the whole to do one’s best to do a decent days work whilst not mucking things up for other people, and in kindness to cats (friends of mine will see one of the reasons I like his writing….). He also seems to have believed very strongly in justice. Friends of his have said that he was a very angry man and that he channelled that anger into his writing. If this is indeed the case, the anger shows up in the way that bad guys get punished.

This does not of course mean that the Discworld is a world of sweetness and light where all the bad guys fail miserably and all the good guys end up happily ever after. It’s not a fairytale. As in the real world, bad things happen to good people and bad people end up doing rather nicely, thank you. Morality is a confused, flexible and grey sort of thing. Good people do bad things in the service of good ends. Sam Vimes is leader of the City Watch and one of the characters whom Pratchett uses as the conscience of the Discworld; he has terrible trouble with his own guilt about his ancestor, “Old Stoneface” Vimes, who executed the last King for being a cruel and corrupt b*stard.

Vetinari, that benevolent despot, has an interesting approach to crime and punishment which involves, amongst other things, the expressed opinion that if a crime takes place, it’s important for punishment to also take place. It’s slightly less important for the punishment to be inflicted on exactly the right person, on the basis that everybody is guilty of something. When Moist Von Lipwig asks Mr Trooper, the city hangman, on the way to the scaffold whether he, Mr Trooper, believes that capital punishment is effective, the hangman replies “Well, in the generality I couldn’t say, sir. But in the specificity, I believe it’s very effective, yes.” “Meaning what, exactly?” “Meaning I’ve never seen anyone up here more’n once.”

More tomorrow.