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Literature / Nomes Trilogy

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A trilogy of novels for younger readers by Terry Pratchett, consisting of Truckers, Diggers and Wings. It is sometimes known as the "Bromeliad Trilogy", which is both a reference to something that happens late in the series and a pun.

It begins with a small (and shrinking) tribe of Nomes, tiny people who live in woodland near a motorway. Among their few and valued possessions is the Thing, a black cube that is reputed to talk and give good advice.

And one day it does talk, and reveals that it knows the true history of Nomes, how they came to be where they are, and how they can get Home.

There's just one or two small problems they need to overcome first...

Whilst Truckers is unambiguously the first in the trilogy, the second and third are a little more tangled. In short, the first part of Diggers is the direct sequel to Truckers, the end of Diggers and most of Wings happen simultaneously, and the end of Wings is the end of the trilogy.

The first book of the trilogy has been adapted for television by Cosgrove Hall. A movie version was in Development Hell for years, but firmly shut down by Pratchett in 2013.

The trilogy provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The basic plot of Truckers (and some of the jokes) first appeared in a short story Pratchett wrote in 1972, later reprinted in the collection The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner. The novel has many more characters (in the short story, only two gnomes get much characterisation), more detailed descriptions of the nomes' lives, and adds the Thing and the related plot thread about the nomes' origins.
  • Alien Fair Folk: The Nomes are actually aliens.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Nomes are implied to be the cause of the various "little people" legends of humanity — all stories of fairies, elves, gnomes, dwarves, pixies, etcetera ultimately stemming from the early Nomish attempts to communicate with and educate humans before they eventually devolved to the point that it became impossible and lost all knowledge of their ancestry.
  • Buffy Speak: The nomes tend to describe new things in terms of things they already understand, leading to this. For example, a JCB is "a truck with teeth" and a space shuttle is a "going-straight-up jet".
  • Canon Welding: The first book is set in the real town of Grimethorpe, although it mentions the Neil Armstrong Shopping Centre. Since the Neil Armstrong Shopping Centre is a major location in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, the later books (and the TV series) say the Store was in Blackbury.
  • Cargo Cult: The Store nomes worship Arnold Bros (est. 1905), and the nomes of Florida worship NASA. Somehow, "Prices Slashed" becomes the devil/boogeyman, who wanders The Store at night, eating the unworthy (actually the Night Watchman). "Bargains Galore" is interpreted as a Gender Flipped St. George; who's armed with a Roaring Soul-Sucker (actually the cleaning lady and her vacuum cleaner).
  • City in a Bottle: The nomes who live in the Store never go outside, and many regard "the Outside" as a myth.
  • Dinky Drivers: Occurs in all three books.
    • Truckers - the nomes drive a truck.
    • Diggers - the nomes drive a JCB digger.
    • Wings - Subverted; Angalo wants to fly a Concorde jet, but is foiled. A plan to fly the Space Shuttle was also briefly considered...
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The chapter headings feature epigraphs from The Book of Nome (a religious text) in the first two books and A Scientific Encyclopedia For The Enquiring Young Nome (which misunderstands things almost as much, but in a different way) in the third.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The Nomes keep making humorously inaccurate deductions on how the world works, like thinking the wind is produced by the tree leaves moving. More importantly, it takes them a long time to finally understand that most built things in the world have been created by humans instead of the humans simply moving around them like cows in a field.
  • Giant Flyer: Relatively speaking, the migrating geese.
  • Gulliver Tie-Down:
    • Discussed in Truckers after one of the Nomes sees the illustration in a copy of Gulliver's Travels. Masklin concludes that the most impressive thing about it is the amount of co-operation required; if a group of Nomes tried it, they'd start arguing and never get the job done.
    • In Diggers, Masklin turns out to be wrong; the Nomes achieve it after becoming very, very angry at poison being put down for what the humans think are rats.
  • Happy Ending Override: After the Nomes escape the store to go on living in the quarry at the end of the first book, the second and third book show that living outside is easier said than done for people used to the controlled environment and plentiful food of the store, and even the rations brought along run out — and the new places aren't safe from being demolished by the humans either.
  • Happiness Realized Too Late: After finally managing to get hold of the ancient Nome ship, Masklin briefly finds himself wishing that he was living in a hole in the ground again: despite all the effort he spent at the start of the trilogy struggling to escape it, he admits that even if the burrow was cold, wet and surrounded by dangers, he at least had Grimma and he didn't have to spend his days chasing goals he barely understood. In the end, he uses the ship to rescue Grimma and the rest of the quarry Nomes, allowing him to gain new happiness in a lifestyle among the stars.
  • Human Aliens: Aside from their size and the Time Dissonance issues, the Nomes are more or less identical to humans.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: A very rare example where this does not impress or intimidate the Nomes. Humans are huge and incomprehensible, but at the same time they are slow, the Nomes don't understand how many there are or how powerful they are (they actually believe humans are less intelligent than rats are, because of their inability to understand what humans do), and most importantly humans not only have problems noticing the Nomes, but seem to be quite docile. In a world where every fox, dog, cat, hawk, owl or even an oversized frog is a potential killer, the giant creatures that are actively apathetic to your presence just aren't scary.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The Nomes, as mentioned above, find humans quite baffling because they just don't comprehend what they are.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Basically none of the nomes on Earth knew of their true origins as beings from another world; Masklin's tribe and the nomes of the Store just got lucky as the ones who had the Thing.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Nomes referring to space shuttles as "Going Straight Up Jets".
    • "Grandson Richard, 39" is always referred to as that, because that's what the newspaper called him (Masklin does wonder at one point if that means there were thirty-eight other Grandson Richards or that's just a newspaper way of saying he's 39 years old, but never brings that up to anyone else).
  • Internal Reveal: Masklin had been starting to wonder whether humans weren't that different from nomes for a while, but when he and Gurder are wondering what the humans in the cockpit of the Concord are saying while they're looking for Angelo, he's shocked when the Thing blandly offers to translate, explaining that human noises are only nome noises slowed down.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Humans are consistently referred to as "it" by the nomes and the narration alike, since the nomes fail to really understand the power and purpose of humans and view them as intelligent as cows or maybe even rats. Only at the very end does Masklin begin to use "he" to refer to humans, when he finally realises how similar to them humans actually are.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Duke De Habedasheri. He is initially quite contemptuous of the outsiders. When his son (Angelo) goes missing on a lorry, however, he resolves to give Masklin all the help he can give (which, as the head of a Department, is considerable) for a chance to see his son again.
  • Life Will Kill You: Masklin is so used to his tribe being killed by animals or the elements, he's left somewhat baffled at the notion that the Abbot is (as described by Granny Morkie) "dyin' from being alive for such a long time".
  • Lilliputians: The big point about the nomes.
  • Masquerade: Nomes have concluded that dealings with humanity are too risky, and put a fair amount of effort into remaining hidden.
  • Matter Replicator: There's a food replicator onboard the spaceship.
  • Mouse World: The nomes are small, although big enough to keep rats as (relatively large) pets.
  • Mr. Exposition: The Thing.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Granny Morky is one tough old Nome and everybody knows it.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Grandson Richard is very clearly based on Richard Branson, right down to the name.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They're tiny (but very sturdy) Human Aliens who exist on Earth because, untold centuries ago, their scouting vessel crash-landed, leaving them stranded and with no way to get back to their mothership.
  • The Outside World: Initially, Masklin has to venture beyond his original home, and force his family to come with him; later, he has to make all the store nomes first leave the store, and then go much further.
  • Reactionless Drive: The Nomes' Ship has one, which initially confuses Masklin in how it can hover 'without flames or smoke coming out'. The Thing reassures him that 'flames and smoke are not required'.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Abbot of the Stationaire publicly rejects the existence of Masklin's tribe, but meets with him in private to confirm that he is willing to listen to Masklin's warnings, and his last words are to offer support to Masklin's efforts to save the Store Nomes and take them home.
  • Scavenged Punk: Smarter nomes are very inventive with fragments of human junk.
  • The Shangri-La: The Klothians, a mystical society of Store nomes who live on the top floor of the Store, and get their food from the staffroom rather than the delicatessen (meaning they live on tea and yoghurt).
  • Take a Third Option: To quote the back cover blurb of Diggers:
    "And Grimma said, We have two choices. We can run, or we hide. And they said, Which shall we do? She said, We shall Fight."
  • Technology Porn: Especially in the description of Concorde.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The plot of Truckers involves having to get the various squabbling factions of Store nomes to work together to avoid disaster.
  • Time Dissonance: As with Reaper Man (which includes a similar description at the beginning), because nomes only live about ten years usually, they also experience time ten times faster than humans—which is the main reason why humans are unaware of their existence, they move too fast.
  • Wainscot Society: A literal instance, especially with the store nomes, who live in the walls and under the floors of a human building.

The TV series provides examples of:

  • Bowdlerise: In the original broadcast of Episode 1, there was a brief scene showing Mr Mert being grabbed and eaten by a fox. The VHS release edited this scene so that we didn't actually see it happening (nor did we hear his subsequent screams). The scene was restored for the DVD release.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Many of the characters were modeled on recognisable TV personalities. The Abbot, for example, was based on Malcom Muggeridge.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Granny Morky does this to one of the Bandits in Episode 4, flooring him with a punch while he's showing off his skills.
  • In Memoriam: Episode 13 was dedicated to the memory of Paul Simpson, who was a model, set and prop maker for The Wind in the Willows, Noddy's Toyland Adventures, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and the series itself.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: When the series was released on VHS, some licensed music was changed. For example, in Episode 1, the radio in the lorry that the Nomes stow away on to go to Arnold Bros (est. 1905) plays "2-4-6-8 Motorway" by the Tom Robinson Band. This was changed in the VHS release to generic rock music.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the sequence in Episode 10 where the Nomes are searching for the bottle of 'Drink Me' (in itself a shout out to Alice in Wonderland), we get a brief glimpse of some Danger Mouse VHS tapes, with the old Video Collection International and Thames Video logos visible. Shortly afterwards, a Nome turns on a television in Prices Slashed's office showing clips from both Danger Mouse and Cosgrove Hall's version of The Wind in the Willows.
    • In one episode, as in the book, Masklin delivers the line, "It's a small step for man, but it's a giant leap for Nomekind."

Alternative Title(s): Truckers, Diggers, Wings, The Bromeliad Trilogy