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Headscratchers / The Bartimaeus Trilogy

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  • If spirits don't have genders, why are some referred to as "he" (ie: Bartimaeus) and some as "she" (ie: Queezle)?
    • Bart once said something like "Bartimaeus sounds male enough, I guess", though I really don't know how "Queezle" sounds female. But considering other Insistent Terminology I think they would all object to being called "it" or something, so rather than make up a weird new pronoun, Stroud just flipped a coin.
      • The vast majority of Bartimaeus' forms are male, and he says in the first book that he _can_ take on female forms. Queezle's primary form is female. Of the other demons we see, all have one or more preferred form, and so I always assumed that pronouns referred to apparent sex, rather than actual sex.
      • In book two he actually does take a female form in the hopes of impressing whoever summoned him, unaware that it was Nathaniel again.
      • Perhaps spirits have personalities which, in human terms, tend towards either masculine or feminine, and are thus referred to as a gender. Also, the troper above said that the preferred form usually has a gender; perhaps that's a result (or a cause).
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    • Word of God says that spirits gravitate toward whichever gender best suits their personality. So while they are sexless, they do accept or absorb the concept of gender once they start taking bodily forms.
    • Probably a personal thing. 'It' is demeaning, so they have the choice of either he or she. They probably pick whichever one they prefer and stick to it.

  • What the hell is with all the fanfics? nine out of ten are about how Nathaniel survived the ending of the book. Please, fandom, some originality?
    • Er...he does survive?
    • Not stated outright but it is heavily implied that he died.
      • I think tonnes of molten metal falling on a human and burying him is good enough to count as death, even if we never see the body
      • M-maybe he jumped backward? He certainly was hopping around rather impressively due to the boots earlier... yeah, I got nothing.
      • Actually, it does make a lot of sense that Nathaniel could have gotten away using the seven-league boots.
      • Wish it were the case, but improbable: Bartimaeus make a plain Gory Discretion Shot thing when avoiding to mention the injuries Nathaniel's body sustained, so even without the "bridge drop" he would not survive.
      • Stroud's played with the idea of Nathanial having been dragged into the Other World with Bartimaeus.
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    • Fanfics are wish-fulfillment, and only a small and frankly disturbing portion of the fandom would want to read 'The Continuing Adventures of Bartimaeus And A Few Shreds of Badly Burnt Flesh That Used To Be Nathaniel.' Ergo, Nathaniel has to un-die for the writer's purposes.
  • What are we meant to think about Ptolemy sort-of-but-not appearing as a disembodied voice in Ptolemy's Gate when Kitty invokes his name? Does he still exist, in some form? Possibly in the Other Place?
    • It was Bartimaeus speaking, using Ptolemy's voice. I like to think it was the true essence of Bartimaeus's nature showing through, what with it being described as "old," and "alien" but mostly importantly, like a child's.
      • No, I don't think so. Two problems: first, it was the voice's use of the language that felt alien and odd, which makes sense because Ptolemy spoke Egyptian. It was also being "dredged up from some incalculable distance"... Second, Bartimaeus warns Kitty to keep their conversation in the present, "for fear of what you might awaken ... [when you summon a Djinn], you summon their history with them". And then, of course, "you ought to know what names can do."
      • It was Bartimaeus's memory of Ptolemy being dredged up, not Ptolemy's literal ghost.
      • Well, Bartimaeus does make some brief mention of memory being reality in the Other Place (every interaction Kitty has with the spirits there either takes the form of one of her memories, i.e. Jakob, or one of the spirits' memories, i.e. the woman on the hill). Since Ptolemy spent so much time in the Other Place, perhaps his memory got imprinted on the spirits there moreso than most other magicians's did? This might give his "memory" more "reality."

  • How do spirits reproduce? They don't seem capable of it, but there must be something going on because spirits eat each other all the time, or are sealed away by their masters. If they didn't reproduce, there should be none of them left.
    • Perhaps for every spirit "eaten", another pops into existence in the Other Place, sort of evening things out. Or they reproduce by budding.
    • Same way they came into existence in the first place, a magician makes up a name, therefore defining them. It'd take a stronger magician than most seen in the series, but I do remember them saying something about that.
      • Yes: that reference suggests that until they're pulled out of the Outer Place, they don't have much sense of individuality - may not even be sentient in the human sense. They may bud from "larger" spirits or split like single-celled organisms.
    • Are we even sure eating a spirit kills it? All spirits are one in the Other Place, so any spirit that gets eaten might be able to be summoned again the moment the spirit that did the eating goes back. But there was a mention of essence being torn and killing the spirit... I assume its a mutual choice. They sort of 'merge' temporarily, mix their essence, then pull away from that bit of mixed essence, and voila! a new spirit. Though I assume most are created by magicians as stated above.

  • Why, Why, WHY did Nathaniel give Kitty the Amulet of Samarkand? That could have saved his life when he fought Nouda and didn't help her at all!
    • He did it because he was worried the Amulet would absorb some of the energy released by the staff decreasing the overall power of the blast and allowing his target to survive the explosion.
    • Actually, the feeling I got from Bart's explanation was that he was making stuff up (And was being asked to do so by Nat). Also, Nat had been hit by a Detonation at that point and it had been implied that he was already going to die. Giving her the Amulet was probably just to make sure the Staff wouldn't kill her.
    • ^ This. When Kitty is running away from the building, its mentioned she's thrown to the ground by the explosion and that the Amulet is busily absorbing magical energy around her. Nathaniel gave it to her because he and Bartimaeus both knew she couldn't get far enough away from the blast to make it out otherwise.
    • Yes, you can definitely tell from the way it's worded that he was making it up, the Amulet would not have actually absorbed the energy released.
    • Nathaniel was already dying by that point, and both he and Bartimaeus knew it. There was no point in him keeping the Amulet just so he could maybe survive the huge magic blast and then die slowly and painfully of his wounds from the earlier battles.
      • Also, even if the amulet could have protected him from the magic, and even if Nathanial wasn't already dying, the other half of their plan involved collapsing the building on them. That tends to be fatal.

  • Why is it that, for example, Faquarl has a different form on the seventh level than he does on all of the others? The demons' don't actually have set bodies in and of themselves, right, they just create various forms and guises to go about the human world. So how is it that sometimes the demons can 'put on disguises' and look like ordinary humans or animals on the first level instead of having tentacles and antennae and such when it's made explicitly clear that they don't actually even have a 'true' form to begin with? And if they do actually have the tentacles and antennae and other bizarre physiology on some other levels of seeing, why is it that the body mass of that doesn't seem to be of any consequence? For example, when Faquarl is a crow how can he fly if it's just an illusion he's creating and he's actually the tentacle monster that Bartimaeus mentions seeing of him on the seventh level?
    • Bartimaeus said in the books that in the Other Place they don't have a definite shape or gender, but they tend to acquire both as a result of being individualized in this world is like a default form. Also, not many spirits appear to like transforming as much as Bartimaeus does, they tend to restrict to few shapes. Is stated that the effort of transformation is energy taxative, that could be a motive. In regard to illusions, they are not "visual" illusions, a lot of other constraints of each shape apply, like weight, height, etc. The body mass apparently changes accordingly. Imagine, just as an example, that the bodies they use are made of living clay: they would be solid, have some of the properties of the object imitated, but they will be an illusion as in "not the real thing".

  • How in the world did magicians see anything above the first plane before the invention of glasses and contact lenses? Did they really rely only on what they could see with their boring, everyday human sight?
    • Fridge Brilliance!!! It is mentioned in a footnote in the first book that cats can see on multiple planes. So what would the magicians do? They would probably each have a cat. All Witches Have Cats anyone?
    • Also, The Mercenary mentions that he can see on seven planes. So at least some humans can naturally see more than the first.
    • The odds are good that they had to rely on objects like Nathaniel's scrying glass, enslaving an imp to be their seeing eye dog.

  • This is really nitpicking, but how is it that Bartimaeus mistakes an actual footstool for a djinni in the second book? Djinn can see all planes, so Bartimaeus should have seen that the footstool was a footstool on all the planes, and not a demon in disguise. (Yeah, I know, it was just a funny moment, I shouldn't over-analyse it.)
    • Possibly he didn't look? The books seem to make specific mention that djinn have to actually consciously choose to look on the different planes (I think it refers to cycling through them), so maybe he hadn't bothered to check the other planes before speaking?
    • Rule of Funny in this case, and having just reread the scene, Bart was also trying to irritate Nathaniel.

  • If magicians make a point to never reveal their actual names, how is it that the historical magicians all have the same names as their real world counterparts? Shouldn't that not be the case?
    • Why? When they chose their magician names, they just so happened to pick the names that we are familiar with. Sure that's a bit of a Hand Wave, but its still a logical conclusion.

  • Why does Mrs.Underwood completely support her husband in the raising of Nathaniel/John with no reaction to his care? It is fairly clear early on that Mr. Underwood is subjecting Nathaniel to emotional and social abuse-especially so when he did not protect his apprentice from Lovelace at the party-and proceeded to cause Nathaniel to lash out in the first place. If she had spoken up against his treatment of Nathaniel, the boy would never have had such anger towards his master in the first place, which I can't blame him for.
    • It's been awhile (browsing this page has actually made me want to do a reread), but while the way Underwood treats Nathaniel is certainly horrible, is it implied to be particularly egregious in how a magician treats their apprentice? Perhaps she thinks (or hell, maybe she did try to call him on it and he told her) that this is simply how it's done and Nathaniel will appreciate it once he actually becomes a magician.
    • Someone who treats a small child as badly as Mr Underwood treats Nathaniel certainly lacks enough empathy to abuse others. It's not hard to imagine that he abused Mrs Underwood too— physically, verbally, or both. First, she might be too afraid of what he'd do to her to really object to what he does to Nathaniel, or fear that he'd be harsher towards the boy out of spite to her. Second, she might have internalised that kind of behaviour as normal and reasonable discipline. Parents whose children are abused by their partner do often get abused themselves, and do often let their partner get away with it in order to "keep the peace".

  • How exactly do Spirits get summoned for the first time anyway? Is there a special ritual for summoning a spirit for the first time? or is it just like any other summoning, except you use a new name?
    • The implication is that it's a different process, almost forgotten in the modern era. Binding a brand-new creature with absolutely no experience of Earth just isn't as useful to magicians as summoning an experienced slave.
    • Plus, how did the first magicians figure out how the whole summoning-business works? When no one summoned anything before, there shouldn't be a hint that the other place exists in the first place, let alone how to reach out for it and summon its entities, right?
      • Bartimaeus implies in a couple of footnotes that shamans (as opposed to modern magicians) invited genies rather than compelling them to appear. Possibly the first visitations from the Other Place were curious explorers, taking name and form just to see who keeps calling them.

  • In Ptolemy's Gate, Nouda speaks to Faquarl of things not being as he had promised, as if they had discussed the plan before. But when was this? Did Faquarl actually take it upon himself to summon a powerful spirit such as Nouda before the implementation of this plan? And, if not, is it possible for spirits to somehow communicate information to each other while in the Other Place?
    • Kitty's brief sojourn into the Other Place would seem to indicate that it's possible for spirits to communicate with each other in the Other Place, since she communicated with several while she was there. As for the implementation of Faquarl's plan, it's made clear that Hopkins and Makepeace summoned Faquarl after the Honorius affair, interested in learning about demonic possession. This probably gave Faquarl the idea to use them to take over the ruling magician class, a plan which he then shared with Nouda and other spirits, leading to the demon invasion of Earth.

  • In the climax of the first book, Lovelace's master fights Nathaniel, and he is explicitly described as firing black plasma from his hands, and it is mentioned that the plasma fades when he dies. How does that even work in terms of spirits? Was there like some invisible one sitting in his hands making the plasma, or what?
    • Despite Bartimaeus' claim that genies are the only source of magician's magic, most of the truly skilled ones make use of spells directly. To name one obvious example, magicians can summon and compel a genie using their own innate skills.
    • Early Installment Weirdness. Also in the first book, Nathaniel spies on Lovelace while the latter is using a laptop, technology which doesn't appear outside that scene or in the other books. The most advanced communications technology that appears is the landline telephone.


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