Susan Sto Helit (also spelled Sto-Helit), Duchess Of Sto-Helit a 1 square mile sized Duchy surrounded by the City of Sto Lat. This Duchess, was once referred to as Susan Death, is a character who has featured in three of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels: Soul Music, Hogfather, and Thief of Time.
She is the daughter of Ysabell, Death's adopted daughter (introduced in The Light Fantastic) and Mortimer, who was briefly his apprentice (in Mort). At the end of Mort they leave Death's domain and become Duke and Duchess of Sto Helit. Susan is their only child.
She is also recognised by Wen the Eternally Surprised and time as the personification of helpfulness.
She is first introduced as a sixteen-year-old pupil at the Quirm College for Young Ladies in Soul Music, shortly after the death of her parents (Death could not save them, only grant them eternal life at his Domain, which they refused). During this book, Death takes a holiday from his work in an attempt to forget his more troubling memories, thereby creating a metaphysical vacancy in the post, which 'sucks Susan in', as Albert puts it, forcing her to temporarily assume the role of Grim Reaper. After graduating—and despite technically being the current Duchess of Sto Helit—she begins a teaching career, first as a governess (in Hogfather) and then as a schoolteacher (in Thief of Time). She insists on being addressed as "Miss Susan".
Personality and traits
Susan is tall and thin; in The Discworld Companion, Pratchett describes her as "attractive in a skinny way." Her hair is pure white, but with a streak of black running through it from end to end. It tends to rearrange its style of its own accord depending on her mood or actions. Her age is uncertain, although as of Thief of Time she is probably in her early to mid twenties. Despite her relative youth, she projects a sense of great age. Susan possesses a birthmark that shows itself only when she blushes; it consists of three finger-like marks that were left on her father when Death slapped him in Mort. These marks glow when Susan is angry, as mentioned in Soul Music.
She has on several ocassions demonstrated a preference for the colour black, in that most of her childhood drawings were done in this colour (mentioned in Soul Music). This fixation is not as extreme as that which her mother possessed for the colour pink, and may in fact be a characteristic inherited from Death, who made most of the decorations for his Domain black. She does, however, possess an intense fixation on chocolate, one about which she is very defensive.
Another aspect of her personality which may stem from her relationship with Death is the fact that, by her own admission, she is "not very musical" (her grandfather also possessed a distinct lack of talent in the field of music, making several unsuccessful attempts to learn how to play the violin). However, Susan's lack of musical ability may be the result of an upbringing in which imagination and creativity were not encouraged to any degree (see below), making it more of an environmentally instilled trait than an inherited one. Susan also has a Look (always capitalized), which can be rather disconcerting, even to those in authority, such as her grandfather, and the headmistress of the school in which she teaches.
Despite being Death's adoptive granddaughter, she has inherited certain of his abilities: She can "walk through walls and live outside time and be a little bit immortal." As well as being able to "remember the future," she can make herself completely unnoticeable to humans if she so chooses. However, some people, such as Albert or Mustrum Ridcully, who are used to such things, are still able to see her if they concentrate. Susan can find anyone she seeks, a talent she refers to as a "family trait." She can see (or rather, is unable to ignore) things which are invisible to most people, such as tooth fairies and bogeymen. Susan also has the ability to use her grandfather's voice (Indicated, similar to Death's, "") to command or intimidate others.
Susan has, on several occasions, expressed rather unusual attitudes toward school and education in general: In Soul Music, it is mentioned that "She got on with her education. In her opinion, school kept trying to interfere with it". In Hogfather, Susan compares getting an education to having a communicable sexual disease, in that "It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on".
Her most obvious character trait is being sensible, an attribute carefully cultivated by her parents as a counterbalance to the influence of her grandfather. Initially, this manifested itself as a refusal to admit the supernatural side of the world (beyond basic magic) even existed. This is not surprising, given the fact that her parents had informed her from a very early age that there were no such things as the Soul Cake Duck, the Hogfather or the Tooth Fairy. It has even been suggested that her parents chose to name her Susan specifically because of the sensible and conventional connotations of the name. This upbringing has instilled in her a certain lack of romanticism; her personal appraisal of "a poem about daffodils" is, "Apparently the poet had liked them very much." Latterly, however, she accepts she is part of the same world as the Hogfather and the Tooth Fairy—she just wishes she wasn't. She can be relied upon to keep her head in a crisis, something she tends to view as a character flaw.
As the novels progress, Susan proves to be quite good at handling small children, a skill that is attributed to her sensible and practical nature.
This is reflected in her novel approach to children's problems. When a child complains about a monster in the cupboard or under the bed, most parents would go to great lengths to carefully explain to the child that there is no monster. Susan, on the other hand, simply hands the child a suitable weapon with which to assault the monster, or goes and does it herself. Monsters from a wide area have come to dread the fireplace poker she uses for this task, although as word of Susan has quickly spread among the city's resident monsters, she lately has only needed to deal with newcomers.
Her approach in other areas is also unusual. For example, in her role as a governess she has found that her charges' reading progress has been greatly enhanced by using interesting books which are slightly too difficult for them, and which therefore present something of a challenge. Parents may, however, have reservations about her choice of General Tacticus' Campaigns as a reader, since it may be argued that the ability to spell 'disembowelled' is not necessarily needed by children under ten.
As a schoolteacher she is sufficiently successful to have parents clamouring to have their child included in her class. Her approach to history and geography, often subjects which children find rather dull, has particularly captured her class's attention. The occasional need to remove from their children's clothing dried-in bloodstains or ground-in swamp mud is generally seen by parents as more than compensated for by the broad education being received—a child's description of one of the classic battles from Ankh-Morpork's long history, for example, might be sufficiently vivid and detailed to make the parent think that the description could not have been improved upon if the child had actually seen the battle at first hand.
Her role as a caregiver to children combined with her no-nonsense style and almost magical flair for stick-like weaponry (e.g. her grandfather's scythe, field hockey sticks, a fireplace poker) could be seen as a punnish pormanteau of Mary Poppins who also had a very similar attitude (but actively encouraged positive imagination where Susan tends to say things like "Real children don't go hoppity-skip unless they're on drugs."), took children on magical adventures (Susan did so to teach geography) and had a magic umbrella (which, while not used as a blunt object, was magical much like Death's scythe). Neither character openly acknowledges their magical powers. In fact, both tend toward being actively insulted when reminded of their use.
Susan is one of the Discworld series's principal protagonists; she is a main character in Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time. As the granddaughter of Death, she is frequently (and reluctantly) forced away from her "normal" life to do battle with various malign supernatural forces or, barring that, to take on her grandfather's job in his absence. Death tends to employ her in his battles against the Auditors of Reality, particularly in situations where he has no power or influence (For instance, since children have no concept of death, he cannot enter the Tooth Fairy's castle, which is constructed from the imaginations of children. In another instance, he could not influence or even see the son of Time in Thief of Time because—being only "mostly human"—he was not subject to death).
In The Art of Discworld, Pratchett describes Susan as "rather chilly." She has yet to demonstrate much affection for others, though her relationship with her grandfather, once strained, improves over the course of the series.
Though Susan was previously infatuated with rocker Imp Y Celyn (Soul Music), Thief of Time ended with an unspecified "perfect moment" between Susan and Lobsang Ludd, the new anthropomorphic personification of Time. Though the moment itself was not described, Ludd caught her attention by levitating metallic silver and gold stars and setting them spinning about near the ceiling of the Stationary Cupboard, and dimming the lighting to velvety darkness, both rather romantic gestures. Also, Myria (later known as Unity) bluntly questioned Susan as to whether or not she had romantic intentions in regards to the boy, to which Susan responded with the defensive attitude she usually reserves for her fondness of chocolates.
Appearances in other media
In the Cosgrove Hall animation of Soul Music, Susan was voiced by Debra Gillett. In the Sky One live-action adaptation of Hogfather the character was played by Michelle Dockery.
She also appears in the computer game, Discworld 2: Missing Presumed...!?.However, this Susan is a little girl, implying that the game takes place before the events of Soul Music.