An anthropomorphic personification is a natural process endowed with human form and personality. In the Discworld fantasy realm created in the novels of the same name by Terry Pratchett, personifications are fully fledged characters whose personalities have evolved beyond their "jobs". The difference between "god" and "anthropomorphic personification" in the Disc's pantheon is unclear; essentially it appears to be that a "god" is a being assigned a wide range of roles and powers by human belief, while personifications embody concepts and things that would exist whether people believed in them or not. However, Anthropomorphic Personifications of the disc would cease to exist if total belief in them stopped. (see The Hogfather.) Belief shapes how a personification manifests, not what it does. There are a number of ambiguities. For example, Death is certainly a personification (since living things die whether or not people believe they do), as are his fellow Apocralyptic riders Kaos, War, Pestilence and Famine. However, Fate and The Lady (i.e. Lady Luck), despite personifying concepts, are better thought of as gods, since one has to believe in fate or luck for them to exist. It might be the case that the "gods" in Discworld are personifications that people pray to, consciously or subconsciously, with some even evolving into fully fledged religions.
- 1 Personification seen in the novels
- 1.1 The Auditors of Reality
- 1.2 Bogeymen
- 1.3 The Creator
- 1.4 The Creator of XXXX
- 1.5 Death
- 1.6 The Hogfather
- 1.7 The Horsemen of the Apocralypse
- 1.8 Jack Frost
- 1.9 Kaos, aka Ronnie Soak
- 1.10 Old Man Trouble
- 1.11 The Sandman
- 1.12 Soul Cake Duck
- 1.13 The Summer Lady
- 1.14 Time
- 1.15 Tooth Fairy
- 1.16 The wintersmith
- 1.17 Other personifications
- 2 See also
- 3 References
Personification seen in the novels
The Auditors of Reality
The Auditors are Gray robes that despise life, as they keep order in the universe, and life causes chaos and illogicality. They prefer spheres moving in orbits to the chaos of the disc. They consult in groups of three to ensure that they don't become individuals with personalities, and if one is found to have done so they are immediately replaced with a new "blank" one, so to speak. There are exception to this rule, such as when the auditors create human bodies for themselves and differentiate in Thief of Time. They are the main antagonists in three of the Death novels: Thief of Time, Reaper Man , and the Hogfather.
See: Undead (Discworld)
The Discworld Creator appears in Eric. He is a little rat-faced man with a put-upon voice made for complaining, who created the Discworld while the main universe was being built, and it was obviously on a budget. It is clear that World Creation is purely a mechanical function and doesn't call for godlike attributes.
He was not responsible for creating the entire universe, and is somewhat disparaging of it, describing the Big Bang as "showy". After creating the Discworld, he left behind his personal grimoire, the Octavo. This was, apparently, typical absent-mindedness; he says he once created a world and completely forgot the fingles. No-one noticed, because they evolved there and didn't know there should be fingles, but they could tell there was something missing somewhere, and it caused them deep psychological problems.
Rincewind is believed to have had a hand in creating humans on the Discworld, as described in Eric, when he met the Creator he dropped an egg and cress sandwich (with no mayo) that the Creator had brought into being for him into a rockpool, and he believes that this may have kick started evolution, and isn't happy about it (possibly because this was the first good thing to happen to Rincewind, and he wasn't there to see it). Proving once and for all that the egg came before the chicken.
The various aspects of the Creator's act of Creation are remembered vaguely by the spirits of the Octavo, who spend a great deal of time arguing over which event was the true act of Creation. They are described in mythological terms but seem more mundane than they might appear -- the Cosmic Egg is described as "rubbery", for example -- and it is only later that we learn how mundane these events appeared when the Creator actually performed them (The Cosmic Egg being, for instance, the egg in Rincewind's sandwich).
It is strongly implied that the Creator's physical appearance is a reference to Terry Pratchett himself, and he is a self-parody of Pratchett's own act of creation in writing the novels.
The Creator of XXXX
The Creator of XXXX is not the same Creator who made the rest of the Disc. As described by "Scrappy" the kangaroo (a manifestation of a Trickster), after the world was made, there was a big space in an ocean with nothing in it, so another Creator added on another continent. Kangaroos are apparently a kind of signature--he includes them in every place he creates (implying that Australia itself was created by him, but also possibly in reference to Australian cartoonist Rolf Harris, who frequently includes "Rolf-aroo" self-caricatures in his work). The Creator is described as being an old aborigine man, with skin as black as space and deep set eyes. He wears just a loin cloth, and carries a spear, a leather sack that contains the universe (according to legend), and a boomerang--described as being a large, heavy, gently curving object that does not return on account of being stuck in the ribcage of what it was thrown at. He doesn't speak unless he has to, and only speaks in a whisper when he does--and the ground rumbles slightly at even that. As described in The Last Continent, he doesn't dare raise his voice in "the shadow world" lest he raise mountains as well.
The Discworld's version of Father Christmas or Santa Claus. He wears a red, fur-lined cloak, and rides a sleigh pulled by four wild boars (or, in modern portrayals, cute pink piggies), Gouger, Rooter, Tusker and Snouter. In earlier times he gave households pork products, and naughty children a bag of bloody bones. Earlier than that, he was a winter god of the death-and-renewal kind. The modern version is a jolly toymaker, with vestiges of the earlier myths (such as his Castle of Bones, a vast palace of ice which has nothing notably bony about it, except for the suggestion of a protruding femur or scapula here and there) still clinging to him.
In the book Hogfather, the Hogfather first appears in the manifestation of a wild boar. Death and his granddaughter Susan manage to save him, in order that the sun might rise in the morning. Without the Hogfather, according to Death, the Discworld would be ' illuminated by a ball of glowing gas.'
The Hogfather is one of a number of beings that hover on the boundary between "god" and "personification", yet probably is best thought of as the latter, since people still receive presents at Hogswatchnight, even if they no longer believe in him. The Hogfather was first mentioned in Reaper Man and dealt with extensively in Hogfather.
The Horsemen of the Apocralypse
Besides Death, the Horseman of the Apocralypse are War, Famine and Pestilence (and, originally, Kaos). Like Death (and many other anthropomorphic personifications) they have developed beyond their roles. They make a brief appearance in The Light Fantastic and subsequently have more significant roles in Sourcery and Thief of Time. War and his children also make an appearance in Interesting Times.
- War is an overly jolly and enthusiastic man, something like the less sadistic kind of gym teacher, in red armour. He is married to a former Valkyrie, who does his thinking for him. They have two sons (Terror and Panic) and one daughter (Clancy). Clancy appears to be about seven years old, and wears a hard hat and a Pony Club badge. (Terror and Panic are obviously the Discworld versions of Phobos and Deimos, in which case Clancy might be Harmonia).
- Famine is, as his name suggests, permanently hungry (or at least, permanently eating, although this may be merely to ensure others go hungry). While he enjoys good food, he also enjoys salad cream sandwiches. Among the personality traits he has picked up from humans is arrogance.
- Pestilence's sense of self has led to a sense of self-preservation. Beyond that, his most notable personality trait is an annoyance with soap, although he likes hospitals, which gather sick people together. In early appearances he spoke in italics (representing a voice that sounds contagious), but this was dropped by Thief of Time.
Leaves frosty tracings on icy windows. Can draw anything, but happens to really like fern patterns. Mentioned in Hogfather, when the newly created Verruca Gnome (a household god that went around dispensing foot warts) convinced him to branch out from ferns, feathers, and paisley, and there are references throughout the rest of the book to a window forming a picture such as three puppies looking out of a boot.
Kaos, aka Ronnie Soak
An anthropomorphic personification of Chaos, originally spelled with a "K". Fifth horseman of the Apocralypse who left before they became famous (a play on the fifth Beatle), known for his disruptive behavior whenever the horsemen attempted to interact with mortals, a parody of various stories of temperamental rock stars. Rides a chariot rather than a horse and wields a sword so cold that it has negative heat – it radiates cold, symbolizing in general Kaos' power to reverse entropy and violate laws of probability.
His abandonment of the Four Horsemen coincided with a decreasing sense among humans of the nature of the unpredictable Kaos from which the universe sprang as their world became increasingly civilized; was persuaded to return to power in a new form by Lu-Tze, one of "his creatures" (an individual naturally defiant of odds and of the way things ought to go), after learning how to exist in a symbiotic rather than hostile relationship with order, and also that the vastly increasing complexity of civilization and laws only made their effects more widespread and unpredictable. In Thief of Time, he changes from the ancient Kaos of old to a slicker, altogether more modern and mathematically complex Chaos (Pratchett uses the butterfly effect and fractals as recurring themes leading up to this). His intervention is decisive in giving the other four horsemen the power to defeat the "overwhelming odds" of the Auditors, for whom he holds a special hatred and whom he refers to as "The Law".
When not heralding the destruction of all that is (or saving it from the Auditors), he runs a very fine dairy, using his super-cold sword and his ability to move outside of time to be able to sell any dairy product in existence (derived from any species' milk, including alligator), perfectly fresh, perfectly cold, and always arriving at precisely 7:30 a.m. simultaneously at every household in the city to sell his wares. Known for being the only person punctual enough to please Jeremy Clockson's preternatural awareness of time.
Old Man Trouble
Comes round your door if you ain't got rhythm and you ain't got music. It's best if you don't mind him. Mentioned in Soul Music and Hogfather as one of the gods who, having lost his purpose, has truly gone insane. Also mentioned as being in an Anhk-Morpork bar in Feet of Clay. A reference to the George and Ira Gershwin tune I Got Rhythm.
Presumably the personification of slumber, The Sandman uses bags of sand to put people to sleep, though in Soul Music it is mentioned that he doesn't take the sand out of them, implying that he uses the bags to knock his clients out.
Soul Cake Duck
An analogue of the Easter Bunny, it comes on Soul Cake Tuesday (the Disc's equivalent of Halloween). Soul Cake Tuesday is also the start of the duck-hunting season, which complicates the story somewhat. The first duck to appear on Soul Cake Tuesday is considered very lucky, although this luck clearly doesn't apply to itself. Mentioned in Soul Music and Hogfather , with further details from The Discworld Companion. Soul Cakes are a real-world feature of Halloween in some parts of England.
The Summer Lady
The spirit of Summer, she is asleep when the wintersmith is awake and vice versa; they meet only at the Spring and Autumn Morris dances. She appears towards the end of Wintersmith as resembling Tiffany Aching, but says her real form is "the shape of heat on a road, the shape of the smell of apples". She is, at her core, the element of Fire. Her natural home, her "heart", lies in the blasted deserts where all life dies. She speaks in a hiss and has golden, snakelike eyes. She carries a cornucopia, and plants grow where she walks. Like all elementals she doesn't understand humans, which makes her somewhat petulant when forced to deal with them.
Originally a dark-haired woman who resided in a palace of glass, she had an affair with the founder of the History Monks, Wen the Eternally Surprised, which led to the birth of two sons, or, more accurately, two different versions of the same son. One, Lobsang Ludd, eventually became a History Monk himself under the tutelage of Lu-Tze; the other, Jeremy Clockson, became a brilliant if socially maladjusted clockmaker. The Auditors eventually fooled Jeremy into constructing a truly accurate clock, which halted the passage of time. Able to move outside of time, both "brothers" eventually met and fused, becoming the new personification of Time, allowing history to recommence from where it had left off, and their mother to go on a long honeymoon with Wen. Appeared in Thief of Time.
Unlike our concept of the Tooth Fairy, the Discworld Tooth Fairy is operated as a franchise. Tooth collection is subcontracted to ordinary young women who walk the streets at night with money, ladders and pliers (The pliers are necessary in case the tooth collector finds herself without the correct change - a second tooth can be taken to balance the books). The Tooth Fairy lives in an unreal place shaped by the idea of a child's painting. The entity that became the Tooth Fairy personification was originally the first bogeyman. The bogeyman's stated purpose in establishing this was to prevent the teeth from falling into the wrong hands, as they could be used to control the children. It seems that centuries of watching children had given it an affection for them. The role is eventually delegated to Banjo Lilywhite by Susan Sto Helit. Appears in Hogfather.
The personification of Winter, he appears in Wintersmith, where he believes he's fallen in love with Tiffany Aching. At his core he is the elemental personification of ice. Originally just a shape in the snow, with two violet eyes, he later formed a "snowman" out of all the elements that make a human body. He creates snowflakes and icebergs, and also the patterns of ice on windows (which may make him the same as Jack Frost, although this does not appear to be the case. Possibly Jack Frost is a subordinate, or an avatar of some kind, or merely formed from the extraneous belief like the Verucca Gnome). Despite there apparently being only one wintersmith, the word is never capitalized, and appears to be more of a job description than an actual name.
In the novel Hogfather the "demise" of that personification led to the uncontrolled random generation of a number of anthropomorphic personifications as the excess belief that would have normally gone into sustaining the Hogfather sought other outlets. Some, such as Bilious, the Oh God of Hangovers, appear to have survived the Hogfather's return to power. The fate of the rest is unknown, though they are likely to simply have vanished. These personifications included the Cheerful Fairy, a kind of motivational speaker with a whistle and a tracksuit, the Blue Hen of Happiness, a pun on the "bluebird of happiness" that accompanies the Cheerful Fairy, the Scissor Man (a play on the "great, long, red-legged scissor man" from Shock-Headed Peter), the Oh God of Indigestion, the Hair Loss Fairy and the Eater of Socks, which lives near washing machines and has an elephant's trunk. The Verruca Gnome was created by Mustrum Ridcully when remarking about his own opinion that a gnome to hand out verrucas has just as much probability of existing as a tooth fairy. The first of these personifications to be created was the Glingleglingleglingle Fairy, which makes the jingling sound that occurred whenever one of the new personifications manifested, and thus, as Pratchett notes, could be considered a kind of "meta-personification."
T. Pratchett and S. Briggs, The New Discworld Companion, Gollancz (London), 2003.