APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

[Cover Picture] [Cover Picture]


Annotations | Information | Quotes

- [title] Eric

The subtitle to Eric ('Faust', crossed out) already indicates what story is being parodied in this novella: that of the German alchemist and demonologist Johannes (or Georg) Faust who sold his soul to the devil.

The most famous version of the Faust legend is perhaps the one told by Goethe in Faust, with Cristopher Marlowe's earlier play The Tragical History of Dr Faustus a close second.

- [p. 9] "[...] where the adventuresses Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan, Red Scharron and Diome, Witch of the Night, were meeting for some girl talk [...]"

Herrena is the swordswoman from The Light Fantastic who hunted Rincewind, and Red Scharron is the Discworld version of Red Sonja, a character from Conan the Barbarian (and later a comics hero ("the She-Devil with a Sword") in her own right). I can't place Diome, though her name sounds horribly familiar. There was a minor Greek goddes called Dione, and a Greek warrior called Diomedes, but neither of those sounds appropriate.

- [p. 21] The book Eric uses to summon his demon has the title Mallificarum Sumpta Diabolicite Occularis Singularum, or the Book of Ultimate Control. But note the initials.

Also, the actual dog-Latin translates more or less to: "Evil-making Driver of the Little One-Eyed Devil".

- [p. 31] "In the centre of the inferno, rising majestically from a lake of lava substitute and with unparalleled view of the Eight Circles, lies the city of Pandemonium."

The name 'Pandemonium' originates with Milton's Paradise Lost; it's the city built by Lucifer and his followers after the Fall.

- [p. 41] The name of the Tezumen god, 'Quetzovercoatl', puns on the actual Aztec god Quetzalcóatl.

According to Aztec mythology, Quetzalcóatl was also supposed to return to his people at some particular future date.

- [p. 46] "There are quite a lot of uses to which you can put a stone disc with a hole in the middle, and the Tezumen had explored all but one of them."

This may refer to the Aztecs (who the Tezumen are obviously modelled on anyway) who, according to popular legend did not know about the wheel either, but reputedly used small discs with holes in them for money, and who had a basketball-like game where the baskets were also stone discs with holes in them. The tale that the losers got sacrificed is probably untrue. But the winners were allowed to take the possession of any spectators they chose -- no one hung around after the game in those days.

Other sources say that it was the winners who got the privilege of being sacrificed. Oh well, whether it was losers, spectators, or winners -- at least somebody got sacrificed.

- [p. 47] "[...] a giant-sized statue of Quetzovercoatl, the Feathered Boa."

Quetzalcóatl the Aztec God was in fact portrayed as a winged serpent. This is almost, but not quite, the same as a feathered boa. A feather boa is of course also an item of women's clothing that became popular in the 1920s.

- [p. 51] Ponce da Quirm, looking for the Fountain of Youth, is based on Ponce de Leon, the 15th century Spanish nobleman who did the same.

- [p. 69] "Fortunately, Rincewind was able to persuade the man that the future was another country."

Reference to the opening words of The Go-between. See the annotation for p. 11 of Lords and Ladies .

- [p. 70] "Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules, of Hector and Lysander and such great names as these."

This is actually the opening line to the march 'The British Grenadiers', an English song dating back to the 17th century with about the same jingoism factor as 'Rule Britannia' or 'Land of Hope and Glory':

Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules,
Of Hector and Lysander, and such great men as these;
But of all the world's brave heroes there's none that can compare
With a tow, row, row, row, row, row, to the British Grenadier.

- [p. 75] Lavaeolus is not only a dog-Latin translation of 'Rincewind', but the character is also a parody of Ulysses, tragic hero of the Trojan wars. It's really not necessary to annotate all the stuff about wooden horses and such, right? Right?

- [p. 81] "'It'll be fifteen choruses of 'The Ball of Philodephus' next, you mark my words.'"

Refers to an old and rather obscene British drinking song called 'The Ball of Kerrymuir', which, according to Terry: "[...] belongs in the same category as 'Colonel Bogey' -- everyone knows a line or two [sorry... everyone male and in the UK, anyway]".

For a sample of the lyrics to this song, see the Song... section in Chapter 5 of this document.

The song's title was changed into the slightly more convincing-sounding 'The Ball of Philodelphus' in the small-format UK paperback of Eric.

- [p. 82] "-- vestal virgins, Came down from Heliodeliphilodelphiboschromenos, And when the ball was over, There were --"

From one of the more printable verses of 'The Ball of Kerrymuir' (see previous annotation):

Four and twenty virgins
Came down from Inverness,
And when the ball was over
There were four and twenty less

One page later (p. 83) there is a final reference to the song: "-- the village harpy she was there --"

- [p. 96] "'Multiple choice they call it, it's like painting the -- painting the -- painting something very big that you have to keep on painting, sort of thing.'"

The British proverb this refers to is "it's like painting the Forth bridge". The Forth bridge can be found spanning the Forth river (no kidding) between the towns of North Queensferry and South Queensferry, just outside Edinburgh, Scotland. It is so large that when they have finished painting it, it is time to start over again.

In reality, I'm told, they simply look for bits of the Forth bridge that need painting and paint them. So it is true that they keep on painting, but they do it discretely, not continuously.

(One correspondent reports that a similar story is told about the Golden Gate bridge being in a perpetual state of corrosion control painting, and it would not surprise me to find other very large man-made structures will have given rise to their own local versions of the proverb.)

- [p. 97] "'Centuries [...]. Millenia. Iains.'"

For some reason, Rincewind has problems with the word 'aeons'. See p. 94/86 of Sourcery for the first documented occurrence of this particular blind spot.

- [p. 100] "Some ancient and probably fearful warning was edged over the crumbling arch, but it was destined to remain unread because over it someone had pasted a red-and-white notice which read: 'You Don't Have To Be 'Damned' To Work Here, But It Helps!!!'"

The original notice (according to Dante, in the translation by Rev. Francis Cary) would have been the famous: "Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye. Justice the founder of my fabric moved: To rear me was the task of power divine, Supremest wisdom, and primeval love. Before me things create were none, save things Eternal, and eternal I endure. All hope abandon, ye who enter here."

The more obvious reference (included here only to stop the email from people who thought I missed it) is of course the cheesy legend "You Don't Have To Be Mad To Work Here, But It Helps!".

- [p. 101] "'Multiple exclamation marks [...] are a sure sign of a diseased mind."

People like using this particular quip in Usenet conversations or in their .signatures, and every time somebody will follow-up with "hey, you're wrong, that's a quote from Reaper Man!".

The answer is of course simply that similar quotes occur in both books (in Reaper Man it's on p. 189, and goes: "Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind").

Since then, Maskerade has been released, which of course takes the concept of insanity-defining exclamation marks to a whole new level.

- [p. 101] "'[...] I think it's quite possible that we're in Hell.'"

The whole sequence in Hell is based loosely on Dante's Inferno (which in turn is based on Vergil's Aeneid) in much the same way the book as a whole is based on Faust. Rincewind and Eric correspond to Vergil (who is Dante's guide to Hell) and Dante in the same way that they are Mephistopheles and Faust. The various references to the geographical topology build on how Dante organised Hell in nine concentric circles (this of course had to become eight circles for the Discworld version!). The outer circles contained lesser sinners, such as Julius Caesar and Socrates, while the inner circles were reserved for mortal sinners (mostly Dante's political enemies; some people down there weren't dead at the time of publication, but got a mention anyway). At the centre, in the 9th circle, Lucifer sits chewing away on Brutus, Crassus and Judas. If you climb over him you get to Purgatory, meeting Cato the younger on the way.

- [p. 103] "I mean, I heard where we're supposed to have all the best tunes,"

Refers to the old saying "the devil has all the good tunes".

- [p. 107] "'[...] his punishment was to be chained to that rock and every day an eagle would come down and peck his liver out. Bit of an old favourite, that one.'"

Most people will associate this particular punishment with Prometheus (who stole the secret of fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind), but in fact Prometheus underwent his punishment chained to a rock in the Caucasus (from which Hercules later freed him). The chap who had to go through to the same thing in the Underworld was the giant Tityus, who had tried to rape Leto, the mother of Artemis and Apollo. As the demon says: this particular punishment is a bit of an old favourite with Zeus.

- [p. 108] "'Man who went and defied the gods or something. Got to keep pushing that rock up the hill even though it rolls back all the time--'"

Eric is thinking of king Sisyphus of Corinth, who betrayed Zeus to the father of the girl Aegina, whom Zeus had abducted (the girl, not the father).

- [p. 110] "'According to Ephebian mythology, there's a girl who comes down here every winter.'"

In Greece she was called Persephone, daughter of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. Hades abducted Persephone, imprisoned her in the underworld, and took her for his wife. Ceres went into mourning and there was a worldwide death of crops and famine. The gods negotiated a deal with Hades whereby he would release Persephone from the underworld, but only if she had eaten nothing while down there (she hadn't thus far, being too upset). Upon hearing of her impending release, Persephone's heart was gladdened, and before she could be stopped, she started eating a pomegranate. She spit it out, but it was found she had swallowed six pomegranate seeds. Hades therefore demanded that she should spend 6 months out of each year in the underworld. During the 6 months that Persephone is down below, her mother, Ceres, neglects her duties and this causes the winter. Hence: "'I think the story says she actually creates the winter, sort of.' 'I've known women like that,' said Rincewind, nodding wisely."

- [p. 110] "'Or it helps if you've got a lyre, I think.'"

A reference to the legend of Orpheus (see also the annotation for p. 93 of The Light Fantastic ), who charmed Hades and Persephone into releasing Eurydice by virtue of his lyre-playing.

- [p. 124] "Pour encouragy le -- poor encoura -- to make everyone sit up and damn well take notice."

"Pour encourager les autres." See the annotation for p. 104 of Guards! Guards!

[Prev Page] [Up] [Next Page]
The APF is maintained by Leo Breebaart and Mike Kew,
who always welcome corrections, questions or new annotations.

The L-Space Web is a creation of The L-Space Librarians
This mirror site is maintained by Colm Buckley