Terry Pratchett Book Club: Carpe Jugulum, Part IV

How do we fight a vampire infection? Lots of wizards, one confused follower of Om, and some Nak Mac Feagle.

Resume

After he is given the task, Verence finds it difficult to control and leaves Feagle’s camp. They go after him to keep him safe. Grandma wakes up and tells Oats that she feels better; their mule has run away, so he insists on walking. Agnes is in Escrow with Vlad and the rest of his family and is explaining that once they turn twelve, the children will be part of the blood lottery. Agnes tries to think of what she can do to stop any of it, between right and wrong, but Lacrimosa begins to argue with her father; they want to know whether they should listen to it forever or not. Suddenly, the vampires start to shake, not feeling well. The Count and Lacrimosa accuse Agnes, who Grandmother is sure is inside her somewhere. Agnes hits Lacrimosa and that one hit gives the townspeople enough hope to rise up and strike back at the vampires. In the ensuing fight, Vlad punched Agnes. Grandma and Oatmeal talk about religion, and Grandma tells her that if she really believed, she would do nothing but work for her faith, and that would be worse than not believing. Oats tend to agree and help grandma out of the quagmire. Death and Binky follow them at close range. Agnes wakes up to find a villager trying to kill her, thinking she has been turned into a vampire. He was bitten, but he asked for tea and assured them they were normal. They killed only two of the vampires and the rest ran away.

Jason and Shawn Werens (along with Nac Mac Feegle) are trying to break into the castle to get him back when he shows up and tries to go to him himself. As the Magpies return home, Grandma is trying to figure out who borrowed money to scare them and what to do about Escrow to stop other people from taking ideas. As they approach the castle of Uberwald, Igor begins to hit them with special weapons that he and his butler have invented. They seem to be working, so the magpies influence the weather and send them back. The nanny and Igor return to the castle, and the count decides to kill them all and start all over again with this group of people out of the way… but he’s starting to wonder if he’s gone overboard with his grandmother. Gribo kills a vampire who tried to sleep on top of him. Oat takes Grandma to the castle, and finally Grandma realizes that the bird she took with her is the second phoenix. He says he knows what vampires have done to his liver, and phoenixes don’t bear evil. When Nanny and Igor run out of weapons, the phoenix takes on its true form and starts burning the vampires to a crisp. The count decides that they should still survive, but all the holy symbols are starting to harm them, and the grandmother is at their head, because everyone is addicted to tea. Agnes brings all of Escrow’s villagers to the castle.

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The witches reunite and Nanny assures Magrat and the baby that they are safe behind the heavy cellar door…but Oats says he’s always heard that vampires can turn into mist. The nanny, Agnes and Igor rush to help him. Magrat grabs the countess, who entered through the keyhole, in a jar filled with lemons and garlic, and throws her into the well. Then the count looks like a butler, but doesn’t know his jokes, so he breaks down the door. When Nanny, Agnes and Igor arrive, they find Scraps dead and no sign of Magrat or the baby. They realize that the Magpies won’t get away because they all think like grandma, and grandma likes to race. Of course, everyone is gathering for a battle near the palace organ, with grandma over a cup of tea. Igor falls on the violin, goes to the coffin of the old Count of Magpiere and hits his hand, so that it bleeds; mist rises from the coffin. Granny tells the Magpies that she will choose justice or mercy. Mercy is to return baby Esme to Magrat and cut off their heads. He points out that he didn’t take his head because he didn’t need to—they drank his blood and invited him inside. The old earl appears behind his family, and the current earl tries to run with Magrat and the baby, but Oats appears behind him with an unholy ax and uses it to cut the earl’s head off.

The grandmother insists that the old earl teach her the foolishness of the family and allows the villagers to take the new earl to the violin and reflect on their mistakes for the next fifty years. They form into a flock and fly away, but not before the old earl tells Grandma that he knows her grandmother and that he used to take care of her, which pleases Grandma because it means that her grandmother was never dark. Verence arrives with Nack Mac Figgle and tells Granny Oats to let the king save the day, but it’s already saved. Oats thanks him because now he sees holy things everywhere he looks. Back in Lancr, a congregation arrives for Oats and he serves them. The king assumes he will, but Oats tells Verens that he plans to go to the Uberwald because he feels he is needed there. Instead of a turtle amulet, they made him a gold amulet shaped like a double-edged axe. Agnes gives her some powder for her boil and a jar of phoenix feathers from her grandmother. Far away in the Uberwald, Igor brings Scrapper back to life, which is good because it’s the only way to bring back the scythe of death. Grandma makes a sign to herself that says “I’m not dead yet” and takes the owl’s mind for a ride.

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Explanation

Oops, ok, I totally missed last time that this book included invitations.

The grandmother is upset because she thought she wasn’t invited to name the baby, but the magpies were, and that’s how they come in and cause all the trouble in Lancre. Nac mac Feegle gets an annual invitation with his butlers and his liquor cabinet. Oat comes to this because he is called when there is no regular priest. In the end, everything turned out well, because the vampires invited her to join them by drinking the grandmother’s blood.

Part of what this book shows us through these twists and turns is that you invite your own challenges as well as your own growth. The invitations, what to do after receiving them, all affect the grandmother’s thoughts about the choice and how life will be. Because at the end of the day, responding to invitations gives us a choice, even on the simplest of terms – do you come and bring a friend? Are you staying in a hotel block or making your own arrangements? Chicken or fish or steak? Calls set parameters and boundaries within which to operate. They make their expectations known.

Part of Grandma’s frustration at thinking that she wasn’t invited to name the baby was taking away her choice and giving her hope. Part of the problem with Magpies is that they believe they should be invited on demand. Escrow is what happens when you trust above the call; it turns people into things, Agnes is quick to point out.

Because at their core, invitation means agreement.

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I mean, it sounds dramatic, yes, but it’s plainly true – an invitation is a system for telling people what we agree with. We want you to witness this sacred event with our family; you are allowed to drink my liquor; yes you can touch me there but not here. Consent is fundamental to humanity, so it’s no wonder that this set of vampires consider themselves superior to the concept. After all, this is the last part of the “superstition” that the Count tries to destroy them, so that they completely rule the world.

That’s why the way grandma beats them is so good – she turns the disrespect for others’ consent back onto them. It opens their holes. As he does this, he strengthens Oat’s faith, forcing him to reckon with God in all things. When you are drinking tea, it is mud with water because there is no tea.

Even after all this, he still worries that he’s going bad, and feels better knowing that his grandmother watched over the old earl instead of giving him to him. That, and how well Phoenix and Oats do, help him go home and get back to life as usual. It’s the only thing Grandma really wants. We should be happy about that, because the other option is what the Magpies got.

Justice or mercy.

Small Thoughts and Thoughts:

  • I love that Gribo can kill vampires, and we don’t know if it’s cat powers or his special skill.
  • “Well?” Even allegories have to live,” says Grandma Weatherwax of Phoenix, and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.
  • Grandma’s snoring has never been “activated” because she has never lived with another person, which is exactly how it works if I can constantly nudge my partner.

Pratchettisms:

People were good at imagining hell, and some were captured during their lifetime.

When one boot leaves the turf, the other will inevitably leave the brotherhood.

When the eye of the story left the coffin on the stand, two things happened.

“So…they can’t turn themselves into some kind of mist, right?” – said Oats, roasting in the light of their staring.

“It’s something,” Grandma said. “Don’t spill allegory on your shirt.”

A cart of witches followed the coach at a perfect distance, but it was mostly snoring.

The light faded from the can to the impossible.

We’ll take a break next week and then we’ll be back The fifth elephant! We read up to:

“His walk. And he didn’t catch the orange,” Weemes said. “Mm. hmm”

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