Discworld/Mort

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There is no fair. There is no justice. There is just me.

Fourth Discworld book and the first to really develop the character of Death, going from the sadistic murderer of the earlier books to the complex sympathetic-to-humans figure who does his Duty. However, it did build upon themes raised in a brief foray to Death's house in The Light Fantastic.

Mort follows the story of Mort, a young boy who is chosen to become Death's apprentice.

Mort is one of the most popular early Discworld novels and won a contemporary award for best Gothic Novel of the year, despite Terry Pratchett's protest that it wasn't Gothic.

Disney at one point was going to adapt Mort as a hand-drawn animated feature. They had to put it to a close because they couldn't afford the rights. However an online petition has been created to bring this back into production.


Tropes employed include[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: One of the books chronicling Albert's life is from before they invented spelling. Believe it or not, prior to the spread of dictionaries, there was no one way to spell things; Spelling was done entirely phonetically, and two different spellings of the same word could be completely legitimate.
  • Apothecary Alligator: In Cutwell's workshop.

There was a large crystal ball with a crack in it, an astrolabe with several bits missing, a rather scuffed octogram on the floor, and a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling. A stuffed alligator is absolutely standard equipment in any properly-run magical establishment. This one looked as though it hadn't enjoyed it much.

  • Arc Words: "To tinker with the fate of one individual could destroy the whole world."
    • Also, "There is no justice. There is just me."
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: When Mort is about to enter Ysabell's room, she readjusts her clothes to be more revealing and mentions "I hope that you have not forced your way in here in order to take advantage of your position in this household." She is, in fact, entirely hoping this is the case.
  • BBW: Ysabell, "eleven stone of womanhood" at sixteen years of age. Her chest has "enough 'puppy-fat' for an entire litter of Dobermans".
    • Probably a result of Albert's cooking. Apparently, he fries everything. Even the porridge!
  • Berserk Button: Mort corrects people semi-patiently at first for calling him boy.....
  • Bigger on the Inside (Death's house)
  • Blue Blood: Mort and Ysabell are appointed as the duke and duchess of Sto Helit, so that they will unite with Sto Lat to keep the future Keli's uncle was supposed to make.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Though the butterfly effect is not part of the cataclysmic aspect of the Interface, it is referenced. On one side of the Interface, the clouds are distributed differently to the other, because the small changes added up to alter the weather patterns. When Mort sees the Interface sweep through a pub, not only does the name change from the Queen's Head to the Duke's Head as a direct result of the Retcon, but also the landlord's clothes change because he happened to decide to put on different ones in the altered timeline.
  • Catch Phrase: "Mort", Mort's response to being called "boy".
  • Characterization Marches On: Ysabell, who was introduced in The Light Fantastic as insane and near homicidal has calmed down a lot two books later.
  • Character Overlap: Rincewind and the Librarian feature in a cameo at the university.
  • Creative Sterility: Death can't create. He can only copy.
  • Delayed Ripple Effect: The Interface is a variation on this trope, but with the change travelling across space instead of time—the world as a whole is running on the 'proper' timeline and the pressure on the changed timeline causes it to collapse inwards towards Sto Lat.
  • Death's Hourglass: Every living thing is represented in Death's domain by an hourglass showing how long they have left to live. (There's also one for Death himself, but it has no sand in it.)
  • Do Wrong Right: A Grand Vizier tries to poison his emperor but is finally tricked into eating the poisonous object himself, then kept from leaving because the emperor knows he's leaving for the antidote. As he's dying the grand vizier actually compliments the emperor on his technique in killing him.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: this is what first gets Mort into trouble.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Keli of Sto Lat
  • First Girl Wins: Mort falls for Princess Keli at first, but eventually comes to realise that he and Ysabell have more in common.
  • Food Porn: Possibly inverted, creating Food Gorn. The description of a meal in Harga's House of Ribs is described thusly.

"[Customers] don't go in for the fancy or exotic, but stick to conventional food like flightless bird embryos, minced organs in intestine skins, slices of hog flesh, and burnt ground grass seeds dipped in animal fats; or, as it is known in their patois, egg, sausage, bacon, and a fried slice [of toast]."

  • The Grim Reaper: Of course.
  • Groin Attack: From a skeleton. Think about that for a second.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: It's an extremely bad sign when Mort starts to develop them.
  • Hidden Depths: Albert.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: When Mort visits Ysabell's room late one evening, she adjusts the neckline of her nightgown before letting him in. His response: "Put something on, you're overflowing."
  • Internal Retcon: The "Interface" is the physical manifestation of the universe gradually retconning away Mort's 'mistake' in not taking Keli's life.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: It's revealed that Albert's presence in Death's country is a result of assuming this too much. Given that the Rite of AshkEnte summons Death and knowing that he was dying, he presumed that performing the Rite backwards would keep Death away from him. However, this turned out to invert the spell in a different way—instead of summoning Death to him, it sent him to Death.[1]
  • Matter of Life and Death: Mort demands that Ysabelle come help him in the middle of the night because it's this.
  • Meaningful Name: Mort is the French word for death. Lampshaded.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Cutwell's housekeeper is away. The resultant mess intimidates even Mort.
  • Narrating the Present: the books in Death's library write someone's life as a narratitive as it happens. The last scene of Mort is actually Mort reading that scene from his own book.
  • Never Say "Die": Obviously averted, but pops up in a behind-the-scenes anecdote. Allegedly, a meddling executive trying to make Mort into a movie told Terry Pratchett to "lose the Death angle." Terry Pratchett pretty much pulled out of the project then, because the entire point of the story is Death!
  • No Social Skills: This book introduces Death's inability to relate to people and normal life. Feelings are organic. He didn't feel sorry for Ysabelle, he thought sorry. Developing true empathy is more or less his character arc.
  • Older Than They Look: Ysabell has been 16 for 35 years.
  • Ontological Inertia: Played With heavily. When something happens that deviates from what should happen, the universe takes some time before realizing somethings wrong and tries to smooth it over.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Keli wears her mother's Vermine-trimmed dress for a coronation that is an attempt to avert reality trying to reassert itself.

Whoever had designed the dress didn't know when to stop. They'd put lace over the silk, and trimmed it with black vermine, and strung pearls anywhere that looked bare, and puffed and starched the sleeves and then added silver filigree and then started again with the silk.

  • Please Put Some Clothes On: This from Mort after Ysabelle's transparent attempt to seduce him: "And for heaven's sake, put on something sensible, you're overflowing."
    • Ysabell later gets one right back at Mort.

Mort looked down. "Oh. Who put me to bed?"
"I did. But I looked the other way."

Ysabel: Pardon me for living, I'm sure.
Mort: No-one gets pardoned for living.

    • Mort also later challanges death to one on one combat and calls him a bastard.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: At one point there's a cut from Keli telling Cutwell, "I think there's something you ought to know" to Death saying There is? because Mort has just said the same to him—which is immediately lampshaded with a footnote about the technique.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Death does this to a fisherman who was unhappy with his life but whose religious beliefs forbade deliberate suicide, and so was quite pleased to be drowning.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: subverted with Albert, who is quite happy living the repetitive tedium of being Death's manservant outside time, and considers his plan to achieve immortality a relative success.
    • Though this is because of an intense fear of the world after death, since he knows bad things will happen and he also showed missing a LOT of his actual living life when he goes back for a while and even plans to stay.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Time only passes in Death's domain as Death wills it: Ysabell has been 16 for over 30 years.
  • You Can See Me?: Played for humour. Mort asks this question to a random stallholder, who squints hard at him and concludes: "I reckon so, or someone very much like you."
  • You Can't Fight Fate: This story establishes that attempts to change the timeline are eventually self-corrected. Unless the gods decide otherwise.
  1. Alberto Malich knew exactly what he was doing - performing the Rite backwards sent him somewhere where he could not grow a second older and so his life would never end. Mort appears to give Albert credit for exactly this line of thought. The disadvantage, of course, is that being Death's housekeeper is not much different to being in Limbo for all eternity.