Pratchett's golems emphasise the similarity between golems and robots, especially Asimovian robots. Their "Chem" (the magic writing in their heads) restricts their behaviour, and is described in similar terms to the Three Laws of Robotics, except that the Chem powers the golem, as well as programming it. However, the Three Laws are considered fundamental to a robot's construction and cannot be changed: by contrast a golem's Chem is in full control of its behaviour. Thus, as Moist von Lipwig discovers, the First Law of Pump 19 (Mr Pump) begins as normal, "A golem cannot harm a human being, nor through inaction allow a human being to come to harm", but has as an addendum '... Unless Ordered To Do So By Duly Constituted Authority."
Feet of Clay sees a golem, Meshugah the king, whose Chem has been made over-complicated, running to hundreds of laws. The golem therefore goes insane.
Like Hex, Golems are not alive, but act as though they are, to a certain extent. They see themselves as possessions, and, while they desire freedom, have decided that they can only get this freedom by buying themselves (a previous attempt to get freedom by creating a king proved dangerously unsuccessful). The first free golem, Dorfl, had the plan to buy other golems and give them to themselves. Since then, the Golem Trust has been established to facilitate the freeing of golems. Technically a charity, it refuses to accept donations from any other than the freed golems, because the golems are clear they must free themselves by their own work. The charity buys golems with money earned by the free golems and hires the acquired golems out in the same way as an agency might hire out butlers to the wealthy. The money earned in this way allows a Trust golem to eventually buy itself from the Trust and become free. The hiring service is run by Miss Adora Belle Dearheart from a tiny office in Ankh-Morpork; she is very, very protective of the golems' welfare. It is apparent that they are hired for Government purposes: Mr Pump is hired by the Patrician's office and programmed to act as Moist von Lipwig's probation officer, and later rehired to capture Mr Reacher Gilt.
Older golems have names, often somewhat Yiddish sounding, such as Dorfl, Meshugah, Bobkes, Shmata and Klutz. More recently built golems simply have descriptions such as Stitcher or Hammer, often with an associated number detailing their location in the workplace they were created for.
The creation of new golems is illegal due to the ethical questions it raises. Many still exist, however, and destroying them is also ethically tricky. Golems are distrusted by many on the Discworld, particularly the undead, who dislike the fact they are (generally) more accepted, despite being less human. Traditionally they get "all the messy jobs". Golems have, apparently spontaneously, formed the Ankh-Morpork volunteer fire brigade: their volunteer operations are a moral contrast with previous human fire brigades who were paid commissions to put out fires and therefore attempted to ensure that there were fires for them to be paid for. The Golems' approach to extinguishing a fire is to simply remove any burning or flammable materials from the building. (Interestingly, this is similar to Walter Plinge's answer to the question posed by Granny Weatherwax in Maskerade: "What would you take out of a burning building?" - "The Fire!")
Originally, golems were unable to speak, and instead carried around a slate and chalk with which they wrote down whatever they wanted to say. Near the conclusion of Feet of Clay, Dorfl was rebaked with a tongue and the ability to talk. Since then, numerous other golems, especially free ones, have also been given voices. Like Death, those golems capable of speech have a distinctive mannerism; whereas Death's speech is represented by being printed all in capital letters, transcriptions of golem speech capitalize the first letter of every word. When Golems write, their script is a corrupted version of the Hebrew alphabet altered to appear as Roman letters, which is possibly a reference to golems' origins in Jewish mythology. Golems also have their own language which is "said to be spoken by angels", and uses the Enochian alphabet.
The Golem standard[edit | edit source]
In Making Money, 4000 golems are found by the Golem trust, headed by Adore Belle Dearheart. When brought to the city, much is questioned about what to do with them. These Golems' chem is baked into their bodies, not written on paper, and so they cannot be freed. They do however, possess much skill; they were able to create a city and sustain a civilisation, under the orders of their original creators. Thanks to a sequence of Umnian commands handed down by a deceased wizard, Moist von Lipwig gains the ability to control them. However, the economist Hubert Turvy notes that the golems would effectively render the entire population redundant, resulting in a crash of consumption that would beggar the city. After much discussion it is decided that, because of their worth, they are to be buried. Their worth would back the new paper currency of Ankh Morpork. It becomes known as the Golem standard.
Golems featured in the series[edit | edit source]
Anghammarad[edit | edit source]
Anghammarad features in the novel Going Postal. He is almost nineteen thousand years old, having been baked by the priests of Upsa in the Third Ning of the Shaving of the Goat. Created as a messenger, it was necessery for him to be given a voice. However, Upsa was destroyed by the explosion of Mount Shiputu. He then spent two centuries under a mountain of pumice, before it eroded away. He then became a messenger for the Fisherman Kings of the holy Ult.
More recently, he delivered the decrees of King Het of Thut. That is, he delivered them until the land of Thut slid under the sea. He then spent nine thousand years in the deep ocean, before being netted by a fisherman. While having returned to civilization, he still carried the message warning Het that the sea goddess is angry, and hoped to deliver it (golems believe time is cyclical, and Anghammarad thought that if he waited long enough, he'd be able to get it right the second time around).
He worked for the Ankh-Morpork Post Office (in the honorary position of Extremely Senior Postman) before his briefly white-hot ceramic body was engulfed with cold water while fighting a catastrophic fire in the post office building. The resulting explosion ended his life. He asked Death to allow him to remain at the entrance to the afterlife, equating an absence of tasks to perform with perfect freedom. (He would not have become bored, as golems are incapable of boredom).
Dorfl[edit | edit source]
Dorfl joined the Watch during the events of Feet of Clay when Captain Carrot brought him his freedom. He was destroyed but later rebuilt with a voice, the first golem in Ankh-Morpork to have a voice. He is the apparent founder of the Golem Trust, although this is never conclusively stated.
Meshugah/The King[edit | edit source]
In Feet of Clay, a consortium of golems originally attempted to gain their freedom by creating a king for themselves. They stole raw clay from a troll potter, and used bits of their own to strengthen it. With the support of a sympathetic holy man and the curator of the dwarf bread museum, they succeeded in building and animating a king.
However, while making its chem, the golems put too many commands in its head, driving it slowly insane. Even worse, the golems did not provide their king with a means of opening its head to allow its chem to be altered. In the meantime they sold it to a candlemaker, who named it Meshugah (Yiddish for crazy or insane), because a golem - even a king - must work and must have a master.
As part of Dragon King of Arms' plot to incapacitate the Patrician, the candlemaker used the silent Meshugah to create poisoned candles. Both apparently viewed its lack of a voice as an asset to the plot, making it unable to leak information. However, the golem's tremendous productivity soon forced the candlemaker to lay off practically his entire workforce, except for packing and sending people to find materials. Even worse, whenever the king ran out of materials it would wander out into the streets and scream. It also killed the humans who had helped manufacture it.
The golems, connected to it through their clay, were aware of what it was doing, and soon began to commit suicide in shame. However, Officers Carrot Ironfoundersson and Angua von Überwald confronted the candlemaker in his factory and were forced to fight Meshugah. They were saved only by the intervention of Dorfl, the first free golem, who, despite terrible bodily damage and the loss of his chem, managed to kill the king by destroying its head. Its last act was to smile and welcome death.
Unlike most golems, the king was built to resemble a human perfectly, like a statue, complete with molded-on crown. However, thanks to being baked in an oven suited to dwarf bread rather than pottery, Meshugah's body was unstable, constantly cracking and resealing, occasionally leaving behind grey dust. Perhaps because of this instability, perhaps its powerful chem or perhaps its links to other golems, it was also able to reassemble itself when dismembered or broken, a trait shared by no other golem seen on the Disc thus far, although it is noted that it had some difficulty with the pieces.
Gladys[edit | edit source]
While no golem is really female, no golem is really male either and when Miss Maccalariat, the head cashier at the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, demanded that only females could clean the female toilets, a golem was given a cotton blue print dress and a woman's name to do the job. Over time, largely due to "her" interaction with the counter girls, who frequently handed her rather old fashioned books on female etiquette, Gladys began to assume more feminine characteristics until, by Making Money, her employer, Moist von Lipwig, was fairly certain she had begun to develop a rather disturbing romantic obsession with him. Fortunately, Moist's fiancee, Adora Belle Dearheart, who understood that golems tend to believe what they read, cured her by handing her a "modern" book by a radical feminist. Appeared in Going Postal and Making Money.
Pump 19 (Mr. Pump)[edit | edit source]
Appeared in Going Postal. More commonly referred to as Mr. Pump, he received his name from his previous position, where he spent over two hundred years operating one of a series of underwater pumps. He has since entered the employ of the Patrician, who uses him as a parole officer. He has been extremely successful in this, as he can follow his target anywhere by tracking their Karmic signature, and though he cannot run, golems never need to stop, or rest, or eat: as the Patrician put it: "Four miles an hour is 672 miles in a week. It all adds up" - although as a Discworld week has eight days rather than seven, golems are apparently obliged to stop on the eighth day as their holy day to ensure that their words still work. Mr. Pump has an unusual behavior for a golem. Due to his interaction with the Patrician and alterations to his chem, he bends the rules occasionally; lying, being capable of hurting and threatening people. He is the first golem doing such. A reference from Asimov's laws of robotics, at one point Moist Von Lipwig states that a golem "cannot harm a person, or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm." As it turns out, Mr. Pump continues this line by saying "...Unless Ordered To Do So By A Duly Constituted Authority." How much so is unknown because Mr. Pump never actually harms anyone.
The Original Red Army[edit | edit source]
The Original Red Army, a legendary fighting force of Agatean Legend, is said to have been created when the Great Wizard moulded some Earth into figures of soldiers, and infused them with lightning, animating them and also making them invincible warriors. They are made from terracotta, parodying the Terracotta Army. They apparently do not obey verbal orders, and can only be controlled when one dons some magical armour, in which case the entire army will mimic the actions of the armour-wearer. The only two people to have done so appear to be One Sun Mirror, the first Emperor of the Aurient and friend of the Great Wizard, and Rincewind, who discovered them by accident. They appear in Interesting Times.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Pratchett, Terry: "Maskerade", Victor Gollancz, 1995
- Pratchett, Terry: "Feet of Clay", Victor Gollancz, 1996
- Pratchett, Terry: "Going Postal", Doubleday, 2004