Mort is a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett and also the name of its main character. Published in 1987, it is the fourth Discworld novel and the first to focus on the Death of the Discworld, who only appeared as a side character in the previous novels.
In a 2003 BBC contest called "the Big Read", Mort was among the Top 100 and chosen as the most popular of Pratchett's novels.
As a teenager, Mort had a personality and temperament that made him rather unsuited to the family farming business. Mort's father, named Lezek, felt that Mort thought too much, which prevented him from achieving anything practical. Thus, Lezek took him to a local hiring fair, hoping that Mort would land an apprenticeship with some tradesman; not only would this provide a job for his son, but it would also make his son's propensity towards thinking someone else's problem.
At the job fair, Mort at first has no luck attracting the interest of an employer. Then, just before the stroke of midnight, a man concealed in a black cloak arrives on a white horse. He says he is looking for a young man to assist him in his work and selects Mort for the job. The man turns out to be Death, and gives Mort an apprenticeship in ushering souls into the next world (though his father thinks he's been apprenticed to an undertaker).
When it is a princess' time to die (according to a preconceived reality), Mort, instead of ushering her soul, saves her from death, dramatically altering a part of the Discworld's reality. Although, the princess, for whom Mort has a developing infatuation, does not have long to live, and he must try save her, once again, from a seemingly unstoppable death.
As Mort begins to do most of Death's "duty", he loses some of his former character traits, and essentially starts to become more like Death himself. Death, in turn, yearns to relish what being human is truly like and travels to Ankh-Morpork to indulge in new experiences and attempt to feel real human emotion. Conclusively, Mort must duel Death for Mort's freedom.
Ideas and ThemesEdit
The title of the book Mort comes from the French word for "death," which in turn is derived from the Latin word, "mortuus", which also means "dead". The two words serve as the root of several English words (for example mortal and post mortem).
Popular References Edit
Page 17 "'They call me Mort.' WHAT A COINCIDENCE, [...]" As stated, not only does 'Mort' mean 'death' in French, but in The Light Fantastic (p. 95), Pratchett says that Death's own (nick)name is Mort. Continuity
Susan Sto Helit, who is the daughter of Mort and Ysabell ("grandaughter" of Death), stars in Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time. It is also revealed that she was present to witness Mort and Death's duel.
Page 30 "'How do you get all those coins?' asked Mort. IN PAIRS." Death's reply is a reference to the old Eastern European practice of covering a dead person's eyes with coins. In the Greek version of this custom, a single coin or obulus was put under the tongue of a deceased person. This was done so that the departed loved one would have some change handy to pay Charon, the ferryman who transported departed souls over the river Styx towards the afterlife.
Page 31 "The answer flowed into his mind with all the inevitability of a tax demand." Thisis a reference to the old line by Benjamin Franklin that "nothing is certain but death and taxes" . There is a variation on this line in Reaper Man on page 133.
Page 33 "'I shall call you Boy', she said." This line resonates with Charles Dickens' Great Expectations where Estelle insists on calling Pip 'Boy' all the time just as Ysabell does to Mort.
Page 40 "AND WHY DO YOU THINK I DIRECTED YOU TO THE STABLES? THINK CAREFULLY NOW."
The whole section on Mort's training, resonates with the TV series Kung Fu and other martial arts style films like The Karate Kid, or The Empire Strikes Back, where a young student is given many menial tasks to perform, which are supposed to be integral to his education.
Page 93 "[...] if Mort ever compared a girl to a summer's day, it would be followed by a thoughtful explanation of what day he had in mind and whether it was raining at the time." Pratchett references Shakespeare in many of his works and reuses (both inadvertently and deliberately) his jokes throughout the series, not surprising given the number of novels he has written and the number of jokes and puns in each one of those novels. This particular Shakespeare-inspired joke is repeated two books later in Wyrd Sisters on page 213 of that book.
Page 110 Caroc cards and the Ching Aling are obvious references to Roundworld's Tarot cards and I Ching.
Page 118 When DEATH takes up fishing as a pastime he says, "I SHALL CALL IT -- DEATH'S GLORY." In the fishing world, a popular dry fly is called Greenwell's Glory, named after its inventor, a 19th century parson.
Page 126 "'-- and then she thought he was dead, and she killed herself, and then he woke up and so he did kill himself, [...]'" Ysabell is referred to the various tragic romances such as Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet which in turn draws from Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe .
Page 195 "'Alligator sandwich,' he said. 'And make it sna--'" This line refers to an old one-liner: "give me an alligator sandwich and make it snappy!"
Page 197 "'Fireworks?' Cutwell had said." The stuff about wizards knowing all about fireworks is a reference to Tolkien's The Hobbit, where the great Wizard Gandalf was famed (in times of peace) for entertaining everybody with fireworks.
- Морт (Bulgarian)
- 死神学徒 (Sǐshén xuétú, "Death's Apprentice") (Chinese mainland)
- Dødens lærling (lit. Death's Apprentice') (Danish)
- Magere Hein (lit. Grim Reaper') (Dutch)
- Mortimer (French)
- Gevatter Tod (lit.' Godfather Death') (German)
- תרועת מוות (Tru'at Mavet, lit. Cry of Death) (Hebrew)
- Θανατηφόρος Βοηθός (Thanatiforos Voithos, "Death's Assistant") (Greek)
- Mort, a Halál kisinasa (lit. Mort, the apprentice of Death) (Hungarian)
- Morty l'apprendista (lit.' Morty the Apprentice') (Italian)
- Dødens læregutt (lit. Death's Apprentice') (Norwegian)
- O aprendiz de Morte (lit. Death's Apprentice') (Portuguese-Brazil)
- Мор, ученик Смерти (Mor, uchenik Smerti: Mort, Death's Apprentice') (Russian)
- Mort (Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish)
The novel has been adapted by Robin Brooks for BBC Radio Four. Narrated by Anton Lesser, with Geoffrey Whitehead as Death, Carl Prekopp as Mort, Clare Corbett as Ysabel and Alice Hart as Princess Keli, the programme was first broadcast in four parts in mid-2004 and has been repeated frequently, most recently on BBC7.
On December 15 2007 a German language stage musical adaption premiered in Hamburg, Germany.
A brand new English musical adaptation of Mort will premiere in Guildford, Surrey, UK in August 2008. The adaptation is by Jenifer Toksvig, sister of broadcaster and novelist Sandi Toksvig, and composer Dominic Haslam.
An adaption by Disney was abandoned due to rights issues, and the filmmakers created Moana instead.