The Annotated Pratchett File
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The Annotated Pratchett File
plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s mate/ I’m only plucking
pheasants since the pheasant plucker’s late.” (Another
variant substitutes “son/come” for “mate/late”.)
– [ p. 122 ] “ ‘[. . . ] he stuck it in the top pocket of his
jerkin [. . . ] whoosh, this arrow came out of nowhere,
wham, straight into this book and it went all the way
through to the last page before stopping, look.’ ”
Apparently there are “well-documented” cases of this sort
of miraculous escape, but it has become a much-parodied
staple of Boys’ Own-style ﬁction. One well-known
occurrence comes at the very end of the Blackadder III
television series. Another can be found in the 1975 movie
The Man Who Would Be King, starring Sean Connery and
– [ p. 126 ] “ ‘[. . . ] the moon rising over the Mountains of
the Sun’ ”
Medieval Arab legend identiﬁes the source of the Nile as
being in “the Mountains of the Moon”.
– [ p. 128 ] “ ‘My strength is as the strength of ten
because my heart is pure.’ ”
A direct quote from Tennyson’s poem Sir Galahad :
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
– [ p. 130 ] “ ‘The Klatchian’s Head. My grandad said his
grandad remembered when it was still a real one.’ ”
There is a pub in Bath called “The Saracen’s Head”,
which supposedly has a similarly colourful history. See
also the annotation for p. 55 of Sourcery.
– [ p. 138 ] “ ‘VENI VIDI VICI: A Soldier’s Life by Gen. A.
‘Veni vidi vici’ (‘I came, I saw, I conquered’) is a quotation
attributed to Julius Caesar, one of several great generals
who contributed to the composite ﬁgure of Tacticus. For
more on Tacticus, see the annotation for p. 158 of Feet of
There are similarities between Tacticus’ book, as
expounded later in Jingo, and The Art of War by the
Chinese general Sun Tzu.
– [ p. 142 ] “ ‘It is always useful to face an enemy who is
prepared to die for his country,’ he read. ‘This means that
both you and he have exactly the same aim in mind.’ ”
General Patton, addressing his troops in 1942: “No
bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won
it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his
– [ p. 143 ] “ ‘[. . . ] this note will self-destruct in ﬁve
seconds [. . . ]’ ”
From the beginning of every episode of the television
series Mission: Impossible.
– [ p. 143 ] “[. . . ] extending from the cylinder for all the
world like the horn of a unicorn [. . . ]”
Historically, the tusk of the narwhal has sometimes been
taken for that of a unicorn.
– [ p. 145 ] “ ‘But usually I just think of it as the Boat.’ ”
Das Boot (The Boat) was an epic German ﬁlm, made by
Wolfgang Petersen in 1981, telling the story of a German
submarine in 1941.
– [ p. 150 ] “ ‘[. . . ] which kills people but leaves buildings
Said of the neutron bomb, which delivers a very heavy
dose of radiation but relatively small explosive power or
fallout. Mind you, it could fairly be said of most
– [ p. 152 ] “ ‘Just me and Foul Ole Ron and the Duck Man
and Blind Hugh [. . . ]’ ”
Inconsistency alert: on p. 74, Carrot told Vimes that Blind
Hugh had ‘passed away last month’.
– [ p. 154 ] “ ‘I thought that was for drillin’ into the
bottom of enemy ships —’ ”
The ﬁrst working military submarine was a one-man,
hand-propelled vessel (more a diving boat than a
submarine) called the Turtle, designed to use an augur to
attach explosive charges to the hulls of enemy ships, the
enemy in this case being the British during the American
War of Independence. The Turtle attacked HMS Eagle in
New York Harbor on 6 September 1776, but the hull was
lined with copper and the screw failed to pierce it.
– [ p. 158 ] “D’reg wasn’t their name for themselves,
although they tended to adopt it now out of pride.”
This has several parallels in our own world, most notably
the Sioux, who adopted that name from their neighbours
and habitual enemies the Ojibwa.
– [ p. 165 ] “ ‘That’s St Ungulant’s Fire, that is!’ ”
The description matches St Elmo’s Fire, a corona
discharge of static electricity sometimes seen on highly
exposed surfaces (such as ships) during thunderstorms.
In our world, it’s supposed to be a good omen. For more
on St Ungulant, see the annotation for p. 208 of Small
– [ p. 167 ] “ ‘According to the Testament of Mezerek, the
ﬁsherman Nonpo spent four days in the belly of a giant
According to the Bible, the prophet Jonah did much the
same (Jonah 1:17).
– [ p. 174 ] “ ‘The Sykoolites when being pursued in the
wilderness [. . . ] were sustained by a rain of celestial
biscuits, sir.’ ”
The Israelites, while ﬂeeing from Egypt, were sustained
by a divinely provided rain of bread (Exodus 16:4).
– [ p. 175 ] “ ‘Fortune favours the brave, sir,’ said Carrot
Another Roman saying, coined by Terence (c.190–159
BC): “Fortune aids the brave.”
– [ p. 180 ] “The motor of his cooling helmet sounded
harsh for a moment [. . . ]”
For the story of Detritus’ helmet, read Men at Arms.
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– [ p. 181 ] “ ‘ “Give a man a ﬁre and he’s warm for a day,
but set him on ﬁre and he’s warm for the rest of his
life.” ’ ”
The original proverb is “Give a man a ﬁsh and he can eat
for a day, teach him to ﬁsh and he can eat for the rest of
– [ p. 183 ] “ ‘[. . . ] those nautical stories about giant
turtles that sleep on the surface, thus causing sailors to
think they are an island.’ ”
One of the many adventures of Sinbad, in The Thousand
and One Nights.
– [ p. 192 ] “ ‘ “If you would seek peace, prepare for
war.” ’ ”
From the 4th/5th century Roman writer Vegetius: “Qui
desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum” — “Let him who
desires peace, prepare for war.”
– [ p. 204 ] “ ‘ “Gulli, Gulli and Beti” ’ ”
The troop of entertainers that our heroes become is
modelled on the old time Music-Hall team of Wilson,
Kepple and Betty, whose act included ‘The Sand Dance’.
There’s also a nice resonance of names with the Paul
Simon song ‘Call Me Al’:
And if you’ll be my bodyguard,
I can be your long lost pal,
And I can call you Betty,
and Betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.
– [ p. 210 ] “ ‘[. . . ] I thought that a ﬂying column of
guerrilla soldiers —’ ”
Since getting into his ﬂowing white robes, Carrot appears
to be fast turning into Lawrence of Arabia. See also the
annotations for pp. 259 and 264.
– [ p. 215 ] “ ‘Egg, melon! Melon, egg!’ ”
Vetinari’s patter seems to be based on that of the
fez-wearing British comedian Tommy Cooper.
– [ p. 223 ] “ ‘En al Sams la Laisa’ ”
This is, as Vetinari later translates, almost-Arabic for
“where the sun shines not”.
– [ p. 224 ] “ ‘Oh, I’ve got a thousand and one of ‘em.’ ”
One of the best-known (in the west, at least) works of
Arabic literature is The Thousand and One Nights.
Several classics of children’s literature — including
Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor — appear in this collection.
Nobby’s version would appear to be rather more
– [ p. 224 ] “ ‘Especially the one about the man who went
into the tavern with the very small musician.’ ”
See the annotation for p. 195 of Feet of Clay.
– [ p. 227 ] “ ‘Donkey, minaret,’ said Lord Vetinari.
‘Minaret, donkey.’ ‘Just like that?’ ”
Another Tommy Cooper reference (see also the
annotation for p. 215).
– [ p. 229 ] “ ‘He had a city named after him. . . ’ ”
The most famous example in our world is Alexandria,
built by Alexander the Great.
– [ p. 230 ] “A statue must have stood here [. . . ] Now it
had gone, and there were just feet, broken off at the
A reference to Shelley’s sonnet Ozymandias. See the
annotation for p. 271/259 of Pyramids.
– [ p. 243 ] “We were going to sail into Klatch and be in
Al-Khali by teatime, drinking sherbet with pliant young
women in the Rhoxi.”
British ofﬁcers in the First World War, when encouraging
their men to go over the top, would quip that “We’ll be
eating tea and cakes in Berlin at teatime.” (Captain
Blackadder observed irritably that “Everyone wants to
eat out as soon as they get there”.)
– [ p. 245 ] “ ‘That’s “Evil Brother-in-Law of a Jackal”,’
See Pyramids for the Discworld convention on the
naming of camels.
– [ p. 246 ] “ ‘That is a reason to ﬁeld such a contemptible
little army?’ ”
In 1914, the Kaiser apparently made a similar observation
of the British Expeditionary Force sent to oppose the
German advance through Belgium. The soldiers later
proudly adopted the name ‘Old Contemptibles’.
See also the annotation for p. 158.
– [ p. 249 ] “ ‘That’s a Make-Things-Bigger device, isn’t it?
[. . . ] They were invented only last year.’ ”
Judging from the name, this could be one of Leonard’s
creations — but actually we’ve learned in Soul Music
(p. 137) that this particular invention was the work of
Ponder Stibbons at Unseen University.
– [ p. 257 ] “ ‘And Captain Carrot is organizing a football
There’s a famous but true story of how, on Christmas Day
1914, troops from British and German units came out of
the trenches and played football in No-Man’s Land.
– [ p. 259 ] “ ‘Why don’t you take some well-earned rest,
Sir Samuel? You are [. . . ] a man of action. You deal in
swords and chases, and facts. Now, alas, it is the time for
the men or words, who deal in promises and mistrust and
opinions. For you the war is over. Enjoy the sunshine. I
trust we shall all be returning home shortly.’ ”
This speech is very similar to the end of the ﬁlm
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962). Prince Feisal
tells Lawrence: “There’s nothing further here, for a
warrior. We drive bargains, old men’s work. Young men
makes wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of
young men: courage and hope for the future. Old men
make the peace and the vices of peace are the vices of old
men: mistrust and caution.”
– [ p. 264 ] “ ‘The trick is not to mind that it hurts.’ ”
Early in the ﬁlm Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence is sitting
in an ofﬁce drawing maps and talking to his compatriot
about the Bedouin attacking the Turks. Another man joins
The Annotated Pratchett File
them and Lawrence lights a cigarette, putting the match
out with his ﬁngers. The newcomer tries the same trick,
but drops the match with a shout of “it hurts.” To which
Lawrence replies: “The trick, William Potter, is not
minding that it hurts.”
– [ p. 268 ] “ ‘Say it ain’t so, Mr Vimes!’ ”
‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson was the star player of the Chicago
White Sox during the 1919 World Series. When it
emerged that he had (allegedly) accepted bribes to throw
the series, the fans’ collective reaction was of shocked
incredulity: the line “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” became the
canonical form of begging someone to deny an allegation
that is too shocking to accept, but too convincing to
– [ p. 282 ] “ ‘It is a far, far better thing I do now [. . . ]’ ”
At the end of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney
Carton, good-natured layabout and occasional drunk,
goes to the guillotine in the place of his beloved’s beloved.
The book’s famous last line is not a direct quote from
Sydney (since he’s already dead by then), but rather what
the narrator feels he might have said: “If he had given
any utterance to his [thoughts], and they were prophetic,
they would have been these: ‘[. . . ] It is a far, far better
thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better
rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ ”.
The Last Continent
– [title ] The Last Continent
The title puns on “The Lost Continent”, a literary phrase
associated with vanished worlds, both literal (e.g. Col
James Churchward’s 1931 The Lost Continent of Mu) as
well as metaphorical (Bill Bryson’s 1990 The Lost
Continent, about his rediscovery of and journey through
the lesser known parts of his native USA).
– [ p. 9 ] “[. . . ] one particular planet whose inhabitants
watched, with mild interest, huge continent-wrecking
slabs of ice slap into another world which was, in
astronomical terms, right next door — and then did
nothing about it because that sort of thing only happens
in Outer Space.”
This is pretty much what happened in 1994 when comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into Jupiter.
– [ p. 10 ] “It is a general test of the omnipotence of a god
that they can see the fall of a tiny bird.”
Matthew 10:29. Terry has referred to this “test” before,
see e.g. the annotation for p. 35 of Hogfather.
– [ p. 11 ] “ ‘The Archchancellor’s Keys!’ ”
This ceremony spoofs a ritual conducted at the Tower of
London, where “The Queen’s Keys” are used to lock up
– [ p. 16 ] “ ‘Grubs! That’s what we’re going to eat!’ ”
Witchety grubs, a traditional Aboriginal food. Taste a bit
like nuts, apparently.
– [ p. 17 ] “ ‘Strewth!’ ”
Exclamation, archaic in Britain but much more current in
Australia. Shortened form of “God’s truth!”.
– [ p. 19 ] “Ridcully was to management what King Herod
was to the Bethlehem Playgroup Association.”
Matthew 2:16: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was
mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent
forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem,
and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and
under, [. . . ]”
– [ p. 22 ] “[. . . ] trying to teach Hex to sing ‘Lydia the
Tattooed Lady’, [. . . ]”
‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady’ is one of Groucho Marx’ most
famous songs, originally performed in the 1939 Marx
Brothers movie At the Circus. Kermit the Frog did a great
cover of ‘Lydia’ on the Connie Stevens episode of The
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
And a torso even more so.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia,
Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it, The Wreck of the Hesperus, too.
And proudly above waves the red, white, and
You can learn a lot from Lydia!
Teaching artiﬁcal intelligences to sing songs, recite
poetry, or tell jokes is a well-established science ﬁction
theme, with probably the most famous example being
HAL in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey reverting back
to his ‘childhood’ and singing ‘Daisy’ for Bowman.
Possibly, that scene might not have been quite as
poignant had HAL sung ‘Lydia’, instead. . .
– [ p. 23 ] “A man sits in some museum somewhere and
writes a harmless book about political economy [. . . ]”
Karl Marx spent a lot of time in the old Reading Room of
the British Museum when he was writing Das Kapital.
– [ p. 28 ] “ ‘You see, we think he’s on EcksEcksEcksEcks,
Archchancellor,’ said Ponder.”
See the annotation for p. 132 of Reaper Man for much
more information on why the Last Continent is called
– [ p. 31 ] “ ‘ “Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual
Geography”,’ he said.”
‘Egregrious’ originally meant “distinguished, eminent”,
but is now a term of abuse. It also puns on the Regius
(meaning: “sponsored by the crown”) professors at some
– [ p. 34 ] “ ‘ “Little is known about it save that it is girt by
sea.” ’ ”
One of the few lines of the Australian national anthem
that most Australians actually know is “Our home is girt
by sea”. Possibly it sticks in the memory because, at the
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age when kids ﬁrst learn it, nobody knows what “girt”
means. (It means “encircled, enclosed”.)
– [ p. 35 ] “ ‘Sir Roderick Purdeigh spent many years
looking for the alleged continent and was very emphatic
that it didn’t exist.’ ”
The Discworld Mapp chronicles Sir Roderick’s career in
some detail, his principal achievement being three epic
voyages of discovery around the Disc, during which he
completely failed to ﬁnd XXXX, the Counterweight
Continent, or indeed any land of any consequence at all.
– [ p. 35 ] “ ‘[. . . ] in that country the bark fell off the trees
in the winter and the leaves stayed on.’ ”
This is what happens with Australian gum trees, such as
– [ p. 35 ] “ ‘[. . . ] men who go around on one big foot’ ”
C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, book three
of the Narnia series, features the island of the Dufﬂepuds,
who do this. Terry himself traces the story back much
“Two things inﬂuenced this. One is that, in accounts of
very early long-distance voyages, ‘people who go around
on one foot’ are among the usual freaks encountered
(memory creaks, and recalls some about them in The
Saga of Eirik the Red. . . ). The other is that, when I was a
kid, I’ll swear we had a class reader of Robinson Crusoe
and a pic showed him in his goat skins marvelling at the
one footprint he’d found in the sand. The illustrator had
obviously been told to draw the picture of RC ﬁnding ‘a
footprint’ and had done just that.”
– [ p. 35 ] “ ‘It says the continent has very few poisonous
snakes. . . ’ ”
In fact, the snakes of Australia are noted for their
lethality. According to one source, 14 of the world’s top
15 poisonous snakes are Australian.
– [ p. 37 ] “If you made a hole in the soles and threaded
the twine through it [. . . ]”
. . . you’d have a thong sandal. Pretty much acceptable as
footwear in most of tropical Oz, although not in most
– [ p. 39 ] “[. . . ] expanding circles of dim white light.”
In Aboriginal art, a waterhole is generally shown
radiating concentric circles outwards into the desert.
– [ p. 41 ] “ ‘Many a poor sailorman has washed up on
them fatal shores rather than get carried right over the
The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes, is one of the seminal
history texts concerning the British colonisation of
Australia and the transportation of convicts.
– [ p. 46 ] “Ridcully’s own eyes were burning bright. [. . . ]
‘Tigers, eh?’ he said.”
The ﬁrst stanza of William Blake’s famous poem The
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
– [ p. 48 ] “ ‘Turned out nice again,’ he said.”
“Turned out nice again” was the catchphrase of the
1940s/50s British comedian George Formby. In his ﬁlms,
he invariably said this just as he realised that he was in
trouble and a split second before he started running.
– [ p. 52 ] “Some of the trees lining the beach looked
hauntingly familiar, and spoke to the Librarian of home.
This was strange, because he had been born in Moon
Pond Lane, Ankh-Morpork, next to the saddle-makers.”
This name may be related to the famous Australian
suburb of Moonee Ponds, which gave the world Dame
Edna Everage and Tina Arena.
– [ p. 55 ] “ ‘Oh that means “come quick, someone’s fallen
down a deep hole” ’ ”
Scrappy the Kangaroo parodies Skippy the Bush
Kangaroo, an Australian children’s television series. See
also the annotation for p. 83 of Guards! Guards!.
– [ p. 60 ] “It looked as though the artist hadn’t just
wanted to draw a kangaroo from the outside but had
wanted to show the inside as well.”
A characteristic of Aboriginal art, sometimes known as
– [ p. 61 ] “What it showed, outlined in red ochre, were
dozens of hands.”
Important Aboriginal tribe members often had their
handprint put on a rock face by having the artist ﬁll their
mouth with water and ochre, and then squirt the “paint”
over the hand leaving the silhouette on the rock.
– [ p. 68 ] “ ‘I don’t mind putting my hand up to killing a
few spiders,’ ”
See the annotation for p. 99.
– [ p. 75 ] “ ‘Are you coming the raw prawn?’ ”
Australian for lying or pulling someone’s leg. See also the
annotation for p. 132 of Reaper Man.
– [ p. 81 ] “ ‘There’s only one of everything.’ ”
In Hobbyist, a short story by science ﬁction writer Eric
Frank Russell, the hero ﬁnds a planet where there is,
indeed, only one of every kind of animal and plant. It
turns out to be run by an alien super-being who creates
– [ p. 87 ] “ ‘Most people call me Mad.’ ”
Refers to Mad Max, eponymous hero of the classic
Australian ﬁlm series that made Mel Gibson a star. Max
drove the V8 Interceptor (matching Mad’s eight horses),
with a supercharger (which Mad also engages, although
Max’s version didn’t involve feedbags). The description of
the pursuing road gang certainly looks as if it might have
been inspired by a scene from the movie Mad Max 2: The
– [ p. 91 ] “ ‘Mental as anything’ ”
The name of a well known Australian rock band.
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The Annotated Pratchett File
– [ p. 97 ] “[..] The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars
[. . . ]”
Appropriately enough, Rincewind’s birth sign, according
to The Light Fantastic.
– [ p. 98 ] “ ‘[. . . ] the important thing is not to kill your
own grandfather.’ ”
The “grandfather paradox” is a common philosophical
objection to time travel. Science ﬁction writers have
developed numerous ways of dealing with it, of which
what Terry calls “the trousers of time” is only one. This
scene looks at a couple of others (see also the annotations
for pp. 99, 101).
– [ p. 99 ] “ ‘You might . . . tread on an ant now and it
might entirely prevent someone from being born in the
In Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder, the
killing of a butterﬂy in the distant past completely
changes history. See also the annotation for p. 86 of
Lords and Ladies.
– [ p. 101 ] “ ‘Because, in fact, history already depends on
your treading on any ants that you happen to step on.’ ”
The “closed loop” theory of time travel — that all the
loose ends will be tied up, even if it’s not immediately
obvious how — contrasts with the “trousers of time”
model. It was well expressed in the ﬁlm The Terminator,
although the sequel promptly abandoned the idea.
– [ p. 104 ] “ ‘Dijabringabeeralong: Check your
You can actually get doormats and house name plates
with the inscription “didjabringabeeralong”. The ﬁrst
description of the town, including the sign, is similar to
Bartertown in the movie Mad Max 3: Beyond
– [ p. 104 ] “ ‘It’s run by Crocodile.’ ”
Signals a shift in the ﬁlms being parodied, from the Mad
Max series to Crocodile Dundee. (In the ﬁlm, Crocodile
was a human, nicknamed for his prowess at wrestling or
otherwise dealing with crocs.)
– [ p. 105 ] “ ‘[. . . ] one day he found a footprint in the
sand. There was a woodcut.’ ”
The book the Chair is talking about is known, in our
world, as Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. See the
annotation for p. 35.
– [ p. 106 ] “ ‘If you were marooned on a desert island, eh
Dean. . . what kind of music would you like to listen to,
Desert Island Discs is a long-running BBC radio
programme, in which celebrity guests are asked to pick
eight records to be stuck with on a hypothetical desert
Terry was himself a guest on 9 September 1997, and
chose the following list:
- ‘Symphonie Fantastique: Dream of a Witches’
Sabbath’ — Berlioz, London Symphony
Orchestra/Sir Eugene Goossens.
- ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ — Steeleye Span.
- ‘The Race for the Rheingold Stakes’ —
- ‘The Marriage of Figaro: Voi che sapete’ —
Mozart, Petra Lang, ms; Royal
- ‘Bat out of Hell’ — Meatloaf.
- ‘Silk Road Theme’ — Kitaro.
- ‘Great Southern Land’ — Icehouse.
- ‘Four Seasons: Summer’ — Vivaldi, Israel
Philharmonic Orchestra/Itzhak Perlman, v.
– [ p. 109 ] “ ‘An’ I expect you don’t even know that we
happen to produce some partic’ly ﬁne wines [. . . ] yew
bastard ?’ ”
Expresses a phenomenon known in Australia as ‘cultural
cringe’ — a nagging inferiority complex, based on a
deep-seated suspicion that perhaps the country is not
quite on a par with Britain or even America when it
comes to “culture” — with the result that the cultural
“high points” get aggressively promoted, while the
regular beer and suchlike are regarded with something
close to embarrassment.
– [ p. 109 ] “ ‘This is what I call a knife!’ [. . . ] ‘No
worries. This [. . . ] is what I call a crossbow.’ ”
Two ﬁlm references for the price of one. The competitive
knife-sizing is straight out of Crocodile Dundee; Mad’s
move of trumping the whole issue by pulling a crossbow
comes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Harrison Ford
pulls a revolver on a show-off swordsman.
– [ p. 112 ] “ ‘Er. . . there’s a great big spider on the toilet
Spiders on the toilet are a big problem in Australia — it’s
always worth having a good look before you sit. A small
number of people per year, apparently, suffer nasty bites
from redbacks (a kind of black widow) when sitting on the
toilet. A mid–90s UK TV commercial for Carling Black
Label (a brand of beer) showed an English tourist in
Australia faced with this problem.
There is also a well-known Australian folk song that goes:
There was a redback on the toilet seat
when I was there last night
I didn’t see him in the dark
but boy I felt his bite
And now I am in hospital
a sad and sorry plight
I curse the redback spider
on the toilet seat last night
– [ p. 124 ] “ ‘Everything is so completely selﬁsh about
Possibly a reference to The Selﬁsh Gene, a book on
evolution by Richard Dawkins. The term has stuck in the
current consensus about the mechanics of evolution.
– [ p. 129 ] “ ‘ “Tie my kangaroo up”. Bloody good fong.’ ”
Rincewind’s version of the famous Rolf Harris song ‘Tie
me kangaroo down’. Of course, in Rincewind’s case, what
he really wants is for someone to keep Scrappy away
from him. . .
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– [ p. 129 ] “ ‘[. . . ] playing Two Up. [. . . ] Kept bettin’ they
wouldn’t come down at all.’ ”
See the annotation for p. 151 of Soul Music. Back in The
Colour of Magic, Rincewind witnessed a coin being tossed
in the air and not coming down at all.
– [ p. 131 ] “The purple cart rumbled off. Painted crudely
on the back were the words: Petunia, The Desert
The scenes with Letitia, Darleen and Neilette resonate
with The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the
1994 movie about two transvestites and a transsexual
crossing Australia in a bus.
– [ p. 133 ] “[. . . ] enquiries as to whether it required
something for the weekend [. . . ]”
“Something for the weekend”, in barber shops up until
the mid–20th century, meant ‘condoms’.
– [ p. 136 ] “ ‘You’re not going to say anything about
woolly jumpers, are you?’ ”
The punchline to an ancient joke: “What do you get when
you cross a kangaroo with a sheep?”.
– [ p. 137 ] “ ‘Why Snowy? That’s an odd name for a
Because Banjo Patterson, poet and author of many ﬁne
Australian tales, wrote a narrative poem called The Man
from Snowy River, telling of a man who rode a creature
“something like a racehorse undersized”.
Patterson’s other writing credits include the lyrics to
‘Waltzing Matilda’, which gives him a strong claim to
have invented the idea of the Australian hero, which is
what the old man is trying to turn Rincewind into. See
also the annotations for pp. 145, 146, 148, 170.
– [ p. 137 ] “ ‘Why din’t you tell him about the drop-bears
over that way?’ ”
Drop-bears are the standard story to tell gullible
foreigners. Basically a sort of predatory koala that has
evolved to drop, leopard-like, out of trees onto unwary
– [ p. 145 ] “ ‘Old Remorse says [. . . ]’ ”
The Man from Snowy River (see the annotation for
p. 137) describes the pursuit of a horse identiﬁed as “the
colt from old Regret”.
– [ p. 146 ] “Snowy’s nostrils ﬂared and, without even
pausing, he continued down the slope.”
Rincewind’s ride across the canyon, while the rest of the
gang can’t follow, again echoes The Man from Snowy
– [ p. 148 ] “ ‘Where was it he wanted to go, Clancy?’ ”
Clancy of the Overﬂow was another poem by Banjo
Patterson, and Clancy also plays a major role in The Man
from Snowy River.
– [ p. 154 ] “It was the front half of an elephant.”
In the early 1990s, the British artist Damien Hirst caused
much controversy by exhibiting animals cut in half and
preserved in formaldehyde.
– [ p. 155 ] “ ‘Beetles?’ said Ponder.”
There are over 400,000 distinct, named species of beetle
in the world, and possibly twice as many unnamed ones.
When asked what his studies of Creation had revealed to
him about the nature of God, the Scottish geneticist
J. B. S. Haldane (1892–1964) supposedly answered: “He
seems to have had an inordinate fondness for beetles.”
(According to science writer Stephen Jay Gould, the quip
is undeniably Haldane’s, who often repeated it, but the
story of it being a riposte to an actual theological
question cannot be veriﬁed.)
Haldane was also the author of a children’s book, My
Friend Mr Leakey, which has a very Pratchettian tone,
and is strongly recommended by my correspondent.
– [ p. 157 ] “ ‘Big bills, short bills, bills for winkling
insects out of bark [. . . ]’ ”
One of the key things Darwin noticed, which led him to
his detailed theory of evolution, was the slight differences
in bills between ﬁnches on different islands in the
– [ p. 161 ] “Embarrassment ﬁlled the air, huge and pink.
If it were rock, you could have carved great hidden
rose-red cities in it.”
‘Petra’ (a Greek word meaning ‘stone’) is the name of an
ancient pre-Roman city in Jordan. Victorian traveler and
poet John William Burgon describes the city in his poem
Petra, ending with the line: “A rose-red city, ‘half as old as
– [ p. 170 ] “Once a moderately jolly wizard camped by a
waterhole under the shade of a tree that he was
completely unable to identify.”
Banjo Patterson’s (see the annotation for p. 137)
best-known work, by some margin, is ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
Unfortunately, his words are not the same as those sung
to the world-renowned tune. Even more unfortunately,
although every Australian knows this song, no two of
them seem to agree on all the lyrics, so this version
should not be taken as authoritative:
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolabah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited for his
‘Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?’
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited for the
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?
Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his
‘You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.’
Down came the squatter, a-riding on his
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