Who could ignore a book with a title like that? We’ve got that proud creed of carpe diem (seize the day) so when I saw Carpe Jugulum, which in the book gets translated to go for the throat, I had to give it a read.
Yes, you’re reading another review of a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel. There are quite a lot of them to begin with and I’m late getting started.
Carpe Jugulum tells the story of a group of vampires that moves to the kingdom of Lancre and set up shop trying not to be like other vampires. The ‘family’ includes a son who falls in love with a girl. He’s intrigued by this girl and none of the others because he can’t get inside her mind. He attempts to woo her, to invite her to meet the family, and to show her what life could be like.
At this point, you’re thinking my gosh, that sounds familiar, maybe it’s from a certain Mormon’s tales of dearth in the city of Forks?
Luckily for Terry Pratchett, that’s where the similarities end. He wrote his in 1999, way before that other… stuff. So, worry not.
Anyway, the girl getting wooed by the vampires is none other than Agnes Nitt, one of the witches of Lancre. She’s the gal who is described as follows
“they say inside every fat girl is a thin girl and lots of chocolate”
Spoiler alert: Agnes beats the holy hades out of the vampire and assists the other witches in overthrowing the family, trapping one in a bottle with lemons and garlic and letting a mob destroy the others. Those that are left get to deal with the revived old Count Magpyr, of which the family is the son, daughter, and grandchildren.
So, the vampire isn’t able to get in Agnes’s head because it’s already crowded. Agnes admits that the thin girl’s name is Perdita while she herself is the lot of chocolate. Perdita thinks all the thoughts that are true, blunt, probably a lot of fun, and rude.
These vampires invading Lancre are different, however, as mentioned above. They have trained themselves to tolerate religious symbols instead of shrinking from them, they can eat garlic and rather enjoy it, and with concentration they can enjoy a sunrise, though they still prefer an overcast day like any other vampire. Their arrival in Lancre castle for the naming of the princess sends up a red light for local witches Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax. But there’s something about Granny Weatherwax that has the vampires intrigued, and they pursue her as a means of accomplishing their goals.
Now, that all sounds completely straightforward, doesn’t it? Not very Pratchett-ish, is it?
Then we get to throw in the majority of Nanny Ogg’s family, which is big enough to be a mob, the Nac Mac Feegles (six inch tall blue skinned, red haired sheep thieves with a penchant for destruction and drinking), a phoenix, and a priest of Om.
I think out of all the Discworld books, or at least the ones that I’ve read, this may be the one that people were using to claim that Pratchett found religion.
I’m not sure this is the case. Through Mightily Oats and Granny Weatherwax, he gets to the core of what religion is supposed to teach: Don’t treat people like things. I think what Pratchett would be against is the dogma, which he explained quite well in Small Gods. It continues to astound me that throughout the shenanigans on the Disc Terry Prachett manages to sneak in these most basic life lessons in a way that reminds us that we need to be doing some better, from Death who will go out of his way to save cats that had drowned when usually he only comes personally for witches, wizards and sometimes a king or other royalty. It’s not big enough that we think that was his purpose all along, but small enough that we pay attention to it. He teaches us Religion, not a religion.