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Literature / Nation

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When much is taken, something is returned.

On an island in the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean, Mau has just finished the rite of passage to go from a boy to a man when a volcano creates a tidal wave that crashes down on the island, killing everyone and leaving him the sole survivor of his people, the Nation. At the same time, the ship Sweet Judy has crashed, with Ermintrude "Daphne" Fanshaw as the only one alive. Her father is 138 places from being king and her grandmother has raised her to be a "Proper Young Lady Who Has Been Taught To Maintain Standards." Scared and alone, she witnesses Mau sending the dead off into the sea.

Soon, other survivors begin to arrive and more things are stirring. There will be trials, terrors, and secrets revealed, and always the forever danger of Locaha, the God of Death.

A non-Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, Nation is about survival, the power of truth, lies, science, and faith.

A stage version, adapted by Mark Ravenhill, debuted in 2009. According to Rhianna Pratchett, it was one of her father's favourite books.

The Tropes That Happen:

  • Action Survivor: Everyone to some extent.
  • Action Girl: Daphne, but not in the "fighting" sense of trope, in the "she doesn't sit around waiting to be rescued" part. She's the one who insists that Mau move the big stone in front of the Cave of the Grandfathers, which ultimately saves the Nation. Oh, and she doesn't take anybody's crap. Especially considering the bit about her relative who is/was much like Cox and how she dealt with him.
  • Action Mom: The Unknown Woman and a cannon.
  • Actually, I Am Him: All of the survivors of the wave treat Mau as a boy, since he doesn't have his tattoos, and it takes a while for them to realize he is the chief. He has to play this straight when Cox is the Raiders' champion.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: Subverted. More people arrive to repopulate the Nation, and Daphne returns to England with her father.
  • Ain't No Rule: The rules of the Duel to the Death between Mau and Cox say that the fight begins as soon as one of them picks up their chosen weapon from off the beach. However there are no rules about what that weapon can be... Mau's real choice isn't his spear, it's the beach itself. He already picked up his weapon when he put his spear down, a handful of sand that he uses to blind the unprepared Cox.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Averted. Daphne's mother suggested a pony as a present for her 9th birthday. Daphne asked for a telescope instead and received it.
    Who'd want a pony when you could have the whole universe? It was far more interesting and you didn't have to muck it out once a week.
  • Alternate History: It's hinted at in the beginning with the "Russian influenza", but by the end, you know what it is. Pratchett even calls it in an Author's Note "The great big multiple-universes get-out-of-jail free card..."
    • Not to mention the two Australias on the map, the continent not having been circumnavigated yet, so they don't know it's one whole landmass.
    • ReUnited States of America.
    • Or the fact the monarch killed off by the epidemic was the king — at a time when, in our history, Victoria had been ruling for at least 22 years.
    • French history is revealed to be different too: according to Mr Black the last thing the French government want to see is a Frenchman on any throne, anywhere, but in the real world there was indeed a Frenchman on the French throne at the time: Napoleon III on the imperial throne of France. Also Captain Samson notes that the French killed the last king they had, which is not true in our world since there were in fact three more kings after the Great French Revolution,note  none of whom were killed.note 
  • Ancient Tradition: Less on the Grandmothers, more on the Grandfathers; the grumpy old men can't even hear someone respond, while the grannies are more sanity and helpfulness.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Mr. Cox quotes this exactly when Daphne tries to bluff that the rest of the Judy's crew is still alive and covering them.
  • Anticlimax: Originally, Mau and Daphne's tale ends this way with Mau going fishing after he says goodbye to Daphne. The children listening demand more, however, and receive a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Arc Words: "Does Not Happen" is said by more people than just Mau and "End of the World" is referenced: geographically (Nation/England), mythologically (the flood from the time when things were otherwise), and culturally with Daphne's new life, Mau's with the wave and Locaha's other worlds.
  • Arc Symbol: Mau's alaki axe, doubling as a Chekhov's Gun. When Mau rams it into a tree during his rite of passage into manhood, he reflects that the next boy to pull it out would really be a man. But Mau never got to finish the passage before a tsunami devastated his whole world. He lost the soul of the boy he used to be and didn't get the soul of the man he was supposed to become, leaving him soulless. As more survivors begun to wash up on his island, Mau in turns lead and saved and enriched them. Out of the ruins, he started to restore the Nation. In the climax, running out of breath underwater and cornered by the bloodthirsty Big Bad, Cox, who threatens to destroy his home, Mau spots a trunk... the trunk with the axe in it. The boy who would pull that axe out to become a man was Mau, and this was his new rite of passage; he had become a man by protecting what was his. He pulls it out, climbs up from behind and swings it at Cox, killing him and his threat to the Nation once and for all.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Subverted: Locaha offers to take Mau to Imo's "Perfect World". Mau refuses, wanting to stay and making ''this'' world perfect. Locaha reveals that everyone he ever makes the same offer to refuses as well, this being the whole point of the offer.
  • Atlantis: One possible interpretation.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Played with: Mau is already the Chief of the Nation, it's Daphne's father who is crowned King.
  • Ax-Crazy: First Mate Cox. There's a reason that if a ship already has a first mate, they'll quickly ask to be second mate if First Mate Cox comes aboard.
  • Batman Gambit: How Daphne kills Foxlip. She invites Foxlip and his companion to have beer and demonstrates how to make the beer safe, knowing that they wouldn't use a savage tradition with their pride and prejudice. The fact that it's a Batman Gambit plagues Daphne with guilt.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Nation survives and flourishes as members of the royal society. Daphne's father is crowned king. However, Daphne leaves the island and only sees Mau one more time. Although the girl who's being told the story insists that two dolphins were seen swimming together immediately after both Mau and Daphne died.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The sailfin crocodile, mentioned in a footnote.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: Daphne is given a pepper which makes her "lie down with her head in a stream for three minutes" after eating it.
  • Brick Joke: At first glance Mrs. Ethel J. Bundy’s Birthday Island seems like the sort of Snipe Hunt parents send their children on, its only relevance being that trying to find the tiny place is why Daphne studied the Mothering Sunday Islands so closely. Then Cookie later shows up and mentions his survival coffin washed ashore there.
  • Brown Note:
    "Because when a man hears that in the dark, he loses two pounds of... weight, quickly!"
    • Mau realizes that Grandad Nawi's trick for scaring sharks is one of these; sharks don't like loud noises underwater, so it doesn't matter what word you yell at them as long as you scream your lungs out.
  • Burial at Sea: The islanders' funeral rite involves dropping people into a particular riptide, where they're carried out to sea.
  • Character Witness:
    • Milo and Pilu serve as two for Mau when Ataba tries to destroy the fourth godstone and Mau saves the old man from drowning and sharks. Milo points out the flaws in Ataba's arguments and how Mau risked his life and is on the brink of death. Pilu's declaration that Mau "wet himself" showed that he was an ordinary man who felt fear but nevertheless faced the shark.
    • When Daphne's father comes, Daphne serves as this on behalf of Mau, which stops her father from colonizing the Nation.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
  • Chekhov's Lecture:
    • Daphne's time spent with Royal Society members was well spent, as she uses the science to perfect the method of making beer and uncover the nation's importance to the world.
    • Mau learning about the Royal Society also helps him Take a Third Option for the Nation.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The Gentlemen of Last Resort- Mr. Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Amber, and Mr. Red.
  • Coming of Age Story: Quite literally for Mau, as he was in-between being a child and man. In fact, he thought he lost his "child soul" and would gain a "man soul" when he got back to the Nation... but when he did, everyone was dead. So afterwards, the other survivors call him the Boy Without a Soul.
  • Combat by Champion: The Raiders force Cox to undergo this.
  • Continuity Porn: Daphne explaining Nation's history to her dad at the end.
  • Cool Old Guy: In flashbacks, Grandad Nawi, who, in spite of a crippled leg, was the best hunter and fisherman in the Nation, and knew a magic word to scare sharks away. Even though Mau learns that it's just a trick, it's no less awesome.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Gurgle (called so because Daphne can't pronounce her real name).
  • Crazy-Prepared: Cookie, who always takes his coffin with him on sea voyages, in case he should die at sea... but has also made sure that the coffin can double as a lifeboat, and that it also includes supplies and fishing equipment. Daphne thinks that if there's any justice in the world, Cookie survived the tidal wave and managed to save himself with his coffin-lifeboat. In the same chapter, it's revealed that he did.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Although it doesn't happen onscreen, it's hinted that Daphne is not above pulling this when she has to. There's an interesting flashback when, as a child, she corners a particularly-Jerkass cousin, tells him to stop his antics, and promptly bursts into tears when the adults arrive. (The narrative also notes that her family could never have survived as long as it did without a mean streak.)
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Daphne and Mau are no older than thirteen at the most — Daphne is thirteen— and yet the Nation's people acts as a large Shipper on Deck for the two of them. Daphne tries not to laugh when the Nation's women suggest she would make a good wife for Mau.
    • The sailors like Cox and Foxlip invoke I Have You Now, My Pretty whenever they see Daphne, which makes them more disgusting since they are grown men. No wonder Daphne's father congratulates her when she confesses to killing Foxlip.
  • Determinator: Mau. See Survival Mantra.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The two leads don't end up together, though it's suggested they reincarnate as paired dolphins after their deaths.
  • Disappeared Dad: Daphne's father went off to be the head of a colony. She was going to follow him a few months later, but then the wave happened...
  • Disaster Dominoes: The destruction of the Grandfathers, in a literal domino effect.
  • Disney Death: The parrot. Just before the climatic battle with Mau, Cox shoots it for annoying him, and everyone assumes it died. However, it turns up again a few days later, missing a toe and a lot of feathers, but still as lively as ever.
  • Distant Finale: The entire book takes place in 1859 or '60, except for the Epilogue which is the "Present Day".
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Daphne's father makes the critical mistake of trying explain an Incredibly Lame Pun, only to have the Gentlemen of the Last Resort tell him it wasn't funny. Of course, he's king now, so they tell it to him in a more polite manner.
  • Don't Try This at Home: There's an afterword discussing the truth behind some implausible-sounding things that happen in the story, like bullets moving more slowly underwater; most of them are accompanied with warnings that you should not try this at home. The last one ends, instead, with "Whether you try it at home is up to you."
  • Duel to the Death: Between Mau and First Mate Cox.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The heroes just go from one trial to the next before the story's resolution, and they avoid the typical fate that hit most native nations in the Pacific.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Daphne, who is not Ermintrude.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Cannibals don't like First Mate Cox because he kills for no reason.
    • Vice-versa: he won't eat their diet...
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Not only with Mau being the last survivor of the Nation, but with Daphne, too. Europe (and America, it is hinted at) is also being ravaged by the "Russian Influenza".
  • Expy:
  • "Far Side" Island: Referenced, and justified in a footnote: there's a species of palm that poisons the nearby soil to keep competitors from shading it.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Part of the reason the crew of the Sweet Judy mutinied was Captain Roberts' habit of singing every hymn from The Antique and Contemporary Hymn Book while he was on watch.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist:
    • After the wave, Mau steadfastly refuses to believe in the gods ...even as the ghosts of the Grandfathers shout in his ear. Even as he talks to Locaha, the God of Death. In the end, it is said that he believes "Imo made us smart enough to realize he didn't exist." Lampshaded when priest Ataba points out that Mau needs the gods to exist just enough so that he can be angry with them for not existing.
    • Daphne gets a few shades of this too.
  • Footnote Fever: Relatively restrained for a Terry Pratchett novel, but there are a few footnotes about (entirely fictitious) wildlife like the tree climbing octopus.
  • Fowl-Mouthed Parrot: Implied to be invoked by First Mate Cox, who taught the ship's mascot to say things that would infuriate Captain Roberts.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The Nation's fate at the beginning of the story.
  • Going Native:
    • Lampshaded by Daphne in the text when she starts to wear less petticoats and make beer on the island.
    • Inverted by Mau and the members of the Nation when they start to use more "trouser-men" tools.
    • Missionary the Rt. Rev. Toppley, who turns down a chance to be Archbishop because "they'd make me wear shoes".
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil:
    • Daphne has a hard time explaining Cox's behavior to the islanders. They can cope with cannibals, but not someone who shoots people and dolphins because they're there.
    • Mau himself worries that if he starts to understand Cox, it'll mean he's becoming him. He eventually gets over this fear, reasoning that a hunter can understand how prey thinks without becoming an animal.
  • The Grim Reaper: Locaha, and he's not as nice as Pratchett's other Grim Reaper. He acts cruelly uncaring, though some or even all of this might be a ploy to make Mau figure things out himself. He's also more eager to claim lives than Discworld's Death. However, the "Just So" Story that opens the book depicts his creation as a necessity to avoid overpopulation and shows him taking a stand against Imo when Imo wants to wipe out the already-populated world and start over.
  • Guile Hero: Daphne and Mau are this, and Mau's strength also makes him a Genius Bruiser.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Mau does this during his duel against Cox.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Mau goes through a pretty extreme version of this when he's sinking the bodies of his tribe in the ocean. Basically, his body's moving, but his mind isn't there any more. He doesn't even notice Daphne standing directly in front of him. He only wakes up just before drowning himself.
    • Daphne gets a beneficial one via the Grandmothers to help her birth a baby.
  • Heroic RRoD: Happens to Mau after saving Ataba's life and facing down a shark.
  • Hidden Backup Prince
  • Humans Are Bastards: Daphne's proof that no Westerners had been in the Islanders cave before her (and thus could not have planted the artifacts she found there) stems from this trope. Specifically, the fact that there was a door made from eight tons of solid gold in there, and nobody had stolen it.
  • I Choose to Stay:
    • Near the end of the book, the Locaha dubs Mau worthy to join the Perfect World, but Mau turns him down, believing it's more important to try to make this world perfect. Which is exactly what makes him worthy in the first place, Locaha revealing with pride that everyone he's ever given the offer to has made the same choice.
    • Also towards the end of the book, Daphne decides that this is what she will tell her father when he finds her, as she has built a role for herself in the Nation where she is useful and helps people - if she went back to Port Mercia with him she would go back to being a useless high society girl not allowed to do anything. She realises she must accompany him back to England once it is revealed he is the King, as she will be the only person who knows him as himself, and not just 'the King'. And a small tropical island on the far side of the world isn't where the heir to the throne can live.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The cannibal Raiders. Cox joins forces with them, but claims not to have adopted the diet.
  • I Am Spartacus: Subverted; when the Raiders come, Mau considers having Milo face one of the Raiders in hand-to-hand combat, posing as the Nation's chief. When the Raiders choose Cox, however, who will just shoot the champion, Mau (who is a twelve-year old boy) reveals himself as the chief and reveals his Guile Hero skills.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the Alternate History aspects of the story, the present day epilogue suggests many major scientific figures still exist and work in the same fields.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): The Great Southern Pelagic Ocean is the Pacific under an assumed name.
  • Jerkass: A few characters
    • Ataba, a priest, who believes that since Mau doesn't have a soul he must have a demon, especially when Mau claims he doesn't believe in the gods. Slowly becomes a Jerkass Woobie as the story goes on, culminating in his death.
    • Daphne's grandmother, who nearly becomes an Evil Matriarch. Fortunately once Daphne's father is crowned, he takes Grandmother down a peg.
  • Kick the Dog: First Mate Cox is the embodiment of this trope.
  • Klingon Promotion: What Daphne's afraid may have happened after 137 people die, leaving her father as king.
    Daphne: “Has my grandmother been doing anything… silly? With knives and guns, perhaps?”
  • Let Them Die Happy: Mau inadvertently allows this for Ataba after they open the Grandfathers' Cave; because Ataba saw the stone statues of the gods, his faith is restored right before Foxlip kills him.
  • Loophole Abuse: Defied. The Magna Carta (the ratified version) states that the heir to the throne must set foot on English soil within a year of the death of their predecessor, or forfeit the crown. Captain Samson guesses the boxes that the Gentleman of Last Resort are loading aboard his shop are filled with English soil which the heir will step on while still in the Pelagic Ocean. Unfortunately, Magna Carta specifies that the English soil must be firmly attached to England, though Mr Black complements Samson on his cleverness.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Locaha and the ancestors are described as speaking to other characters, but always within their own subjective experiences, and Mau's struggles with religion are a major theme.
  • The Men in Black: The Gentlemen of Last Resort wear black suits and are named after colours. They mostly run things without bothering the government.
  • Metaphorically True: When discussing the notion that the 'spirit' of the beer goes to the Grandfather's when the actual beer is drunk by the Grandfather birds, Daphne suggests this, but Mau is having none of it.
    Daphne: Perhaps things can be true in special ways?
    Mau: No. That's what people say when they want to believe lies. And they usually do.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: In a rare justified example, several new bird species converge on Mau's island after the tsunami, presumably because their native isles were completely inundated and they had nowhere else to go. The Fowl-Mouthed Parrot, also a foreign species, was shipwrecked along with Daphne.
  • Missing Mom: We are given massive hints that Daphne's mother and little brother died (most likely through Death by Childbirth). She was completely traumatized by the sight of the "little coffin."
  • Mood Whiplash: Though the story is Darker and Edgier than most of Pratchett's fare, Daphne and Mau develop a sweet friendship in rebuilding the nation and saving each other's lives. They find the idea of marrying hilarious, since they're only kids. Then they have to say goodbye for real, not only sinking the ship but also ending their friendship. Both are saddened while they understand why this has to happen. With that said Daphne makes one more visit and insists on a Nation burial when she dies.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-universe examples, presented by the Nation.
    • Foxlip shoots Ataba for shaking a stick at him. Daphne makes Foxlip pay with a Batman Gambit. Of course, Daphne wonders if she has crossed the horizon and asks the Nation to judge her.
    • In his backstory, Cox crosses it for the Nation when Daphne describes how he shot a dolphin. For the Nation, dolphins are the souls of people who have yet to reincarnate, and if you kill a dolphin, you are killing a soul. Even the Raiders don't stoop that low.
  • The Multiverse: As explained by Locaha:
    Everything that can happen must happen, and everything that can happen must have a world to happen in.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter:
    • The parrot says a lot of words that girls Daphne's age shouldn't know, although the words she really doesn't know concern her even more.
    • The last few chapters also contain a lot of "Cox swore" — but then, he is the one who taught the parrot.
  • Nay-Theist: Mau claims not to believe in the gods, but he also hates them. For not existing.
    Mau: Perhaps they do exist. I want to know why they act as if they don't - I want them to explain!
    • A line relatively early in the book hints that Daphne's father is also this, due to what happened to his wife and son:
      And perhaps at the other end of the world there is a place where the screaming can't be heard, and I may find it in my heart to grant God absolution!
  • Near-Death Experience: Both Daphne and Mau. Daphne does it on purpose to save Mau from Locaha.
  • Near Misses: In the Duel to the Death between Mau & First Mate Cox, the former dives for cover in a lagoon. The bullets fired from the latter's gun are dramatically slowed down upon hitting the water, making them mostly harmless. Despite this, Mau loses an ear in the course of this scene.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Cox impulsively shooting twice at the parrot after it annoys him by announcing to the islanders that "Cox is the spawn of the devil!", and giving it a Disney Death alerts Daphne to the fact that his gun is a 6-shot revolver, allowing her to forewarn Mau of his advantage prior to their Duel to the Death, with Mau exploiting Cox's need to reload the gun to surprise attack him with the axe he finds lodged in the debris washed up on the island reef they's fighting upon. It's Downplayed however, as Mau knowing about Cox having 6 shots still doesn't outright negate his advantage at the start of their duel, especially since it's taking place in a wide-open beach, and it's only through trickery on Mau's part that he can dive into the ocean to get some cover from Cox's attacks.
  • Noodle Incident: 137 out of 138 ahead of Daphne's father in the line of succession fall victim to the Russian Influenza, but "Uncle Bernie"'s death is only known to involve something to do with lions.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Mau in Chapter 8, causing him to briefly meet Locaha, his people's God of Death. Daphne helps him get better.
  • Our Souls Are Different: The island people believe that male children have a "boy soul" that they leave behind on the island where they live for a month as a coming-of-age ceremony. Once they return to the Nation, they receive a "man soul" via ritual tattooing and (implied) circumcision. As Mau left the Boy's Island but found no one left alive to perform these ceremonies, it's assumed by most that he has no soul.
  • Plucky Girl: Daphne, Blibi.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Foxlip suspects Daphne of trying this, but it doesn't matter which bowl he takes; they both contain poison that turns into beer when you do the ritual, and she knows he won't.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: First Mate Cox believes this; cannibal-leading, dolphin-shooting, racist, psychopathic mutineer Cox.
    Cox: He didn't try to mess you up, did he? I'd shoot him if he tried anything unsavoury.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Daphne's father, more so when he becomes crowned king.
  • Refusing Paradise: Locaha, the god of death, offers Mau the chance to ascend to the "Perfect World". Mau refuses, preferring to make his own world a little more perfect. Locaha notes with pride that everyone he's chosen has made the same choice.
  • Rite of Passage: The men of Mau's tribe take boys on the verge of manhood to a small island some way away from their home island, and leave them to find a way back home. Because the tribe values cooperation alongside individual achievement, stashed on the island for the boys to find - and later leave behind for later generations - is a multi purpose tool than can, if the boy is skilled and diligent, be used to make a boat.
    • After the wave, the rite of passage changes to a night spent on the beach with a spear, guarding the Nation as Mau once did.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Daphne's father, who works all night in his role as a Foreign Office minister, shows every signs of becoming one of these.
    • The chiefs of the island civilizations are implied to have a large role in all of the island's battles.
  • Saved by the Coffin: Invoked. A ship's cook prepares for the possibility that his vessel might sink by bringing a coffin on board for himself ... and outfitting it with fresh water, fishing gear, and a small collapsible sail. In the wake of the tsunami, he's found sailing his coffin by a rescue ship.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Pilu is telling the story of a shark encounter.
    Pilu: It was the biggest one I have ever seen! It was as long as a house! It had teeth like, like, like huge teeth!
  • Shipper on Deck: A good percentage of Nation's population are implied, offscreen, to ship Mau and Daphne. Ultimately their hopes are averted.
  • Shout-Out: To Moby-Dick. The Distant Finale also mentions various modern scientists visiting the island and doing pretty much what they've done in our world; Richard Feynman playing drums, Dawkins being harassed by an intelligent tool-using animal, Carl Sagan filming for Cosmos: A Personal Voyage...
    • Mau's first conversation with Locaha is reminiscent of El-ahrairah's's attempt to bargain with the Black Rabbit of Inle. Likewise, his letting the brothers address the Raider chieftains in his stead resembles how Bigwig was mistaken for the Down rabbits' leader, because who would expect a teenager or a lamed buck to be in charge?
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    "We've got four loaded pistols, missy", said Polegrave, waving one at her, "and they'll stop anything, d'you hear?"
    "They won't stop the fifth man, Mr Polegrave"
  • Sibling Seniority Squabble:
    'Which of you is the older?'
    'Me,' said the girl.
    'Huh, yes, six minutes,' said the boy.
  • Small, Secluded World: the main character's world only includes a few islands since no one in his tribe ever sailed far enough to see the continent.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Mau is angry not only with the gods (which he refuses to believe in), but the Grandfathers, who shout in his head.
  • Soft Water: Averted, just like in real life, water can stop bullets.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: As soon as people on the island learn that Daphne and Mau are working together, they assume the two will make a perfect couple. Daphne finds it amusing but keep reminding the locals that she's only thirteen, and Mau as the de-facto chief just can't marry a random girl. Mau agrees, telling people that the bigger focus is rebuilding the Nation and staving off the threat of the Raiders. And then it kicks in sadly when Daphne has to leave the island as her father's heir to the crown, so she has to go back to England. She and Mau say goodbye and only see each other once more. The narrative confirms they never got together in their lifetimes, and maybe not even in death.
  • Survival Mantra: When Daphne is caught by an undertow and Mau pleads with Locaha for her life, he is told that there is no pleading with Death; there is only what happens and what does not happen. When he pulls her back to the shore, he calls back with a defiant "Does not happen!" From then on, the phrase is repeated throughout the book as Mau continues to stave off death.
  • The Unreveal: Daphne's question is never answered, if her grandmother managed to kill 138 people to make her father king. It's unlikely, but you never know . . .
  • Those Two Guys: Foxlip and Polegrave, Cox's cronies.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Subverted by Daphne, who kills one the mutineers by poisoning. She did warn him, but she knew he wouldn't listen, and so she begs to be put on trial by the Nation. They find her innocent.
  • Threatening Shark: Mau confronts a shark while trying to raise the god anchors; Cox is eaten by several of them later on.
  • Together in Death: Discussed by the children in the Framing Device, who insist that the "proper" ending to the story is that two dolphins were seen swimming in the lagoon after Daphne and Mau's funerals.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The only coronation shorter than Henry's was that of Bubric the Saxon, who crowned himself with a very pointy crown on a hill during a thunderstorm and reigned for one and a half seconds.
    • Daphne claims that Foxlip is this when her Batman Gambit kills him. She's crying as she says this, though, so it's hard to see if she's saying that objectively.
  • Translation Convention: Mau's language is rendered as English. So, obviously, is Daphne's English. This makes it a bit odd when they both appear to speak the same language but can't understand one another.
  • Unexpected Successor: Daphne, to the throne of England.
    • Her father was 139th in line for the throne. The improbability is Lampshaded when her father gets the news. We only hear his side of the conversation, but...
      Henry: "Me? ... What, all of them? ... What about Uncle Bernie? I know for a fact that he is in America! ...They have lions there?"
  • The Voiceless: The Unknown Woman and some of the other survivors. They have good reason.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Mau and everyone on the island except Daphne, even the women. Some pull it off better than others.
  • Wars of the Roses: One of Daphne's ancestors fought in them — wearing a pink rose, and lived because everyone thought it was bad luck to kill a madman. With the exception of Daphne and her father Henry the Fanshaws are... interesting.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Ataba found the Nameless Woman and her baby on a raft while making his way to the Nation. It was a hard enough journey for an old man alone, but there is never any indication that he even considered not bringing them with him to what he thought was safety. When he realises this, Mau becomes a lot less angry with the old man.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Daphne and Mau. They don't, much to the disappointment of the children listening to the story in the framing narrative.
  • Witch Doctor: Mrs. Gurgle
  • Women's Mysteries: Which include the secret of beer, which is for when a woman has had "too much husband" (needs to get him out of her hair for a while). This causes problems for Mau when the Grandfathers demand their beer.
    • On the Men's Mysteries side, there's the... thing with the knife where you must not scream, heavily implied to be a ritualized circumcision.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Daphne got away with considerable mischief when she was younger, by virtue of being a 9-year-old girl with blonde curls- such as breaking the fingers of her cousin for mistreating animals, then bursting into tears when the adults came running.
  • Writer on Board: A little bit of this towards the end, when the whole "Science vs. Religion" debate that's been going on in the background of the story is subtly but definitely tipped towards "science". The way the whole story plays out, it seems to say this: There is nothing wrong with faith and worship, but it's much better to put time and effort into tangible good (Science in this case, but it also uses food and hard work as examples). The priest who gets on Mau all the time isn't shown as a bad guy, just annoying and counterproductive at times, and in the end Mau, who got the brunt of the priest's lectures and negative faith, still forgave him in the end, knowing the priest only did what he thought was best. Which is consistent with the "Here and now we are alive, so make the effort to do real good here rather than in some intangible heaven" message from Small Gods.