Title: Small Gods. Terry Prachett. Britain: Victor Gollance
The Great God of Om is back, but not better than ever! He is shocked to find that he has the body of a tortoise. He also realizes that his powers are not exactly what they used to be. The only one who can hear him is the caretaker of the melon patch, Brutha. Brutha takes some persuasion to believe that Om actually is a God. He is not easiliy convinced that a God worth following would choose to he heard by only one person or be in body of a tortoise. Brutha is no ordinary melon patch worker, he has a miraculous photographic memory. Brutha doesn’t forget anything! Once his talent is discovered Vorbis, the leader or the church, chooses him to go on a trip to the land of Ephebe. It is here that Om realizes his only hope of becoming powerful again is left up to his only believer, Brutha. This is were the battle begins and Om and Brutha battle the church and try to break the strong grasp that fear has on the people of the church.
Religion is strongly questioned in the novel by Terry Prachett. He represents God and the church in several different ways during the story. Om can only find one believer, this is because all others fear questioning from the church’s Quisitioners. These Quisitioners induce fear into the people of Omnia by inflicting physical punishment to those who question the words and beliefs of the church. Brutha, is the only follower after many attempts of convincing and solely because he is the only one that can hear him. The society as a whole does not form their own opinions or thoughts about how the kingdom should truly be ran. The church actually encourages not thinking. They have restricted the citizens of Om to spend time together becasue that would evolve thinking or collaboration of thoughts. It is this mentality of the people that eventually ends the unquestioned war of the people over the churches struggle to remain the one in power.
Self realization is another predominant theme that can be found in “Small Gods.” Brutha’s amazing memory did not translate into intelligence when the reader is introduced to Brutha. Brutha did not use his own mind for his own benefits. He was not encouraged by the church to think for himself, thus, never creating his own opinions. Once Brutha has the realization that his talent is useful and it should be respected he begins to think for himself. This new found understanding of his power allows him to start calling his own shots with the Great God of Om. He helps Om regain power back from Vorbis and demands that changes are put into place. Brutha demands that the new church must care for its people, and become more open minded to different religious beliefs of others. He raises that there is the possibility of people believing in different Gods because more than one God can exist and that should be accepted and seperate from politics.
I would pair this novel with a lesson discussing the differences between the church and God. Pratchett brings to light how sometimes the people of the church begin to struggle for power and demand to be respected and worshipped. These evenets distort the true meaning of church and take the focus away from God himself. This novel would be very controversial in the classroom. I would use this text as a ground for young adults to grow into their own thoughts and take pride in their individual opinions and beliefs. I would reinforce that everyone has a right to their own opinions and beliefs. This lesson would focus on their selves and having ownership of their feelings.
I was very surprised by the complexity of the plot and subject content of this novel. I was also expecting the focus age group to be much younger. Pratchett took on some large and controversial topics for a Young Adult novel. He was able to disguise these themes in fantasy characters who are not expected to be able to represent such serious themes. The seriousness of the novel topic did not become clear to me until more than half way throught the novel. Presenting this novel to a high school class will require focused discussions, pre-novel discussions, and research about the themes of the novel. Without this prior knowledge, most of the students will not realize the importance of the characters actions throughout this fantasy story.
Small Gods, by Terry Prachett has been highly regarded as one of the great Young Adult Fantasy novels. Its’ serious themes and topics are generously wound in creative, quirky characters. “Prachett’s at the peak of his powers; it’s hard to think of any humorist today who can match him,” Diminic Wells of Time Magazine states. David Pringle, from the White Dwarf review states, “Simply a pure joy.. less coarse than Tom Sharpe, less cynical than Douglas Adams.” This novel has received positive attention world wide. Pratchett never disappoints.