I've just finished my reread of Wyrd Sisters, the first novel about the three witches, and had intended to reread the next, Witches Abroad, in which Nanny, Granny and Magrat head for Genua, the Discworld New Orleans, which is currently being ruled by Granny's horrible sister Lily, now calling herself Lilith, who is determined to make fairytales come true ... and if you remember some of those fairytales ... Urk!
But my paperback copy of that book is missing till I tidy up(I have it in ebook, but by bedtime the iPad really needs charging) so I picked up Mort, the first of the Discworld novels in which Death had developed into the loveable character he remains for the rest of the series. In the first couple of books, he was just pursuing Rincewind the klutzy wizard who has embroidered the word "wizzard" on his hat in case you hadn't picked up what he is, and you were just happy Rincewind managed to elude him.
In this book, though, which was the first of the Discworld books I bought, he has decided to take an apprentice, to be company for the daughter he adopted, Ysabell. She is seventeen and now he doesn't know what to do with her.
This is the novel in which you discover he loves cats, enjoys the occasional curry and has a horse called Binky. Binky looks an awful lot like Shadowfax of Lord Of The Rings fame. Death also lives in a cottage that's bigger on the inside than the outside, with Ysabell and his manservant Albert, and has an umbrella stand, although it never rains there.
Death is fascinated by humans, especially by their ability to invent boredom, and actually cares about them, though, as he says himself, he never gets to see them at their best. By Hogfather, he is posing as the Discworld Santa Claus himself, as someone has made the real Hogfather disappear by removing children's belief in him. Death puts on the suit, with a pillow to pad himself out, takes up the sack and the sleigh and goes out to deliver the toys, to hold a space for the real Hogfather when his granddaughter Susan has managed to find out what's going on and save the Hogfather from the Auditors, the personification of dreary bureaucracy, who want the universe to be rocks floating in circles in space so they can get on with their filing.
Actually, it has just occurred to me - who else do we know who has a home bigger on the inside than out, cares about humans and has a granddaughter called Susan? Just a thought, we can't ask the author any more, though I hope when he left us he met his own version of Death. He would have liked that.
In this one, Death goes missing for a while himself, taking a holiday as a short order cook and leaving the Duty to his apprentice, Mort, who stuffs it up, of course, or there would be no story.
It is the first time he does this in the series, though it won't be the last. In Reaper Man he is sacked from his job as Death and gets a job on a farm, calling himself Bill Door. In Soul Music Susan has to take over the Duty for a time while Albert searches for him. He is making an effort to learn to forget, doing everything from joining the Klatchian Foreign Legion to getting drunk. That novel became an animated film with the wonderful Christopher Lee voicing Death.
He also appears in some non-Discworld novels, such as Good Omens, which has a scene in a cafe, while the Horsemen are gathering for the Apocalypse. There's a trivia slot machine in the cafe and in response to "Which year did Elvis Presley die?" he protests, "I never laid a hand on him!" (Elvis appears in a fast food joint, flipping burgers and singing to himself)
Who would have thought you could take the end of life and personify it into such a delightful character?
I will be carrying my copy of Mort with me and reading it at bedtime, even as I make my way through the huge TBR pile of review copies.
So, who else loves the Discworld Death? Any thoughts? Agreement, disagreement?