They called themselves the Munrungs. It meant The People, or The True Human Beings. It's what most people call themselves, to begin with. And then one day the tribe meets some other people and give them a name like The Other People or, if it's not been a good day, The Enemy. If only they'd think up a name like Some More True Human Beings, it'd save a lot of trouble later on."This book had two authors, and they were both the same person"
A novel by Terry Pratchett
which was originally published in 1971, but was later re-written
by the author when his work became more widespread and well-known. The Carpet People
contains much of the humour and some of the concepts which later became a major part of the Discworld
series, as well as parodies of everyday objects from our world. Before creating the Discworld, Terry Pratchett wrote about two different flat worlds, in this novel, and Strata
The story follows the journey of a tribe called the Munrungs, across a world known as the Carpet. Instead of trees, the landscape is a forest of hairs, littered with large grains of dust. Below the surface is the Underlay, riddled with caves, and below that the Floor. The Munrungs cross the carpet to find a new home after their village is destroyed by the powerful and mysterious natural force known as Fray. The origins of Fray are never explained in the book, but it is described in a way to suggest sweeping or vacuuming. (Or possibly a human stepping across the carpet? Pismire does say the incidents all lie in a straight line, and it's described in terms of pressure downwards...)
The tribe is led by Glurk
, who is advised by Pismire
, a philosopher and the tribal Shaman. Glurk's younger brother Snibril, however, is the book's protagonist, and is described by Pismire as having the kind of enquiring mind
which is "dangerous". Snibril also has the unique ability to detect Fray a few minutes before it strikes
- this ability manifests itself as an extremely painful migraine.
This book contains examples of the following tropes:
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Mouls look like this, although the Chief Moul later is treated like Worthy Opponent.
- Arc Words: "Always choose a bigger enemy. It makes him easier to hit."
- Backhanded Apology: Pismire got sentenced to death for one.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": "Horses", which are said to have compound eyes.
- Cargo Cult: Kind of, with examples like "the fire-worshipers of Rug", who worship the great fire in the sky, and the Vortgorns: living on a dropped penny, referred to as the High Gate Land because a British penny has a portcullis inscribed on it, and their battle cry is On Epen Ny (i.e. "ONE PENNY") and they have also found words on the other side reading "...Izabethii" (i.e. "ELIZABETH II").
- The Corrupter: Mouls prefer to work this way on enemies too strong for brute force.
- The Empire: The Dummii Empire, which extends all the way from the Woodwall (a matchstick) to the western outpost of Rug, where the natives worship the fire in the sky.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Dummii are Carpet Romans.
- Follow the Leader: The original book was essentially The Lord of the Rings IN A CARPET! The rewrite makes it more uniquely Pratchettian.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: Whatever Fray is, it seems to be some kind of human activity.
- Load-Bearing Hero: Glurk.
- Meaningful Name: Pismire's name is an antiquated word meaning "ant" (specifically, Myrmicinae, a subfamily of ants of whom some species retain a functional sting; note that the present day Swedish word for said subfamily is pissmyra).
- More Dakka: This is the Dummii's approach to ranged warfare, focusing on just having regimented squads of archers sending a continuous hail of arrows at the enemy. It negates the need to aim, and seems to be rather effective.
- Mouse World: Not quite Beneath the Earth, but only very, very slightly above it.
- Non-Linear Character: The wights, who can 'remember what's going to happen'—effectively they already know the script for their entire life and see time deterministically. When destiny really does change, they are traumatised and see it like being blind, and it takes time for them to start 'remembering' the new history instead.
- A few wights, called thunorgs, are born with a different perception that lets them see probabilities, alternate possibilities that history could go down, rather than a single deterministic narrative. They appear to be shunned by the others.
- Old Shame: So much so that the older Pratchett re-edited and re-released it.
- Our Wights Are Different: Very different indeed - more like Our Elves Are Better with a different name, even. Given that 'Wight' simply means 'person' in Old English, this is another case of a tribe name meaning 'The People' or 'The True Human Beings'
- Precursors: They live in a carpet. Also, most of the ecosystem is based on human litter and debris.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Deftmenes
- Shorter Means Smarter: Glurk and Snibril.
- Spider-Sense: Snibril and the Mouls can sense when Fray will strike.
- Supporting Leader: Bane, who was in fact a stand-in for Aragorn in the earlier "LOTR set in a carpet" form of the book.
- Taken for Granite: The termagant's victims.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Subverted: Before the climactic battle one of the heroes throws a sword to kill a bad guy. It works. Seconds later, enemy forces attack and he asks whether anybody can lend him a spare one...
- To Serve Man: One of the reasons the Mouls take prisoners. Also implied to be the fate of a traitor who worked for them.
- Trojan Prisoner: Attempted.
- Warrior Poet: General Baneus.
- We Are Humanitarians