Terry Pratchett is an English author, mainly of humorous fantasy novels; his most popular books are the Discworld series, taking place on a flat world that rides on the backs of four elephants that stand on the back of a giant turtle that flies through space.
Read enough Pratchett and you start to notice something: a lot of references to morris dancing.
- The dancers were all robots, although the fiddler was human.
- Thump, thump went the metal feet on the dark turf, while early bats hunted for insects overhead.
- The steps were perfect. How could they be otherwise? There were no men to hesitate or stumble. The world was too full of things for the few humans to do that they should concern themselves with this. Yet they knew that such things must be continued against the day men could once again pick up the reins. Back and forth, crossing and leaping, the robots danced their caretaker Morris.
Elsewhere in Strata Pratchett mentions a (fictitious (or, rather, it was fictitious)) morris tune called "Mrs Widgery's Lodger" -- and not for the last time.
Guards! Guards! (1989)Edit
- Men like Corporal Nobbs can be found in every armed force.... He tended to speak out of the corner of his mouth. He smoked incessantly... He was a small, bandy-legged man, with a certain resemblance to a chimpanzee who never got invited to tea parties...
- "As for [the Morpork Folk-Dance and Song Club] -- well, no problem there. You know you always wondered what Corporal Nobbs does on his evenings off?"
- Colon's face split into a watermelon grin.
- "No!" said Vimes incredulously. "Not Nobby?"
- "Yep!" said Colon, delighted at the result.
- "What, jumping about with bells on and waving his hanky in the air?"
- "He says it is important to preserve old folkways," said Colon.
- "Nobby? Mr Steel-toecaps-in-the-groin, I-was-just-checking-the-doorhandle-and-it-opened-all-by-itself?"
- "Yeah! Funny old world, ain't it? He was very bashful about it."
- "Good grief," said Vimes.
- "It just goes to show, you can never tell," said Colon.
Reaper Man (1991)Edit
The very first words of the book:
- The Morris dance is common to all inhabited worlds in the multiverse.
- It is danced under blue skies to celebrate the quickening of the soil and under bare stars because it's springtime and with any luck the carbon dioxide will unfreeze again. The imperative is felt by deep-sea beings who have never seen the sun and urban humans whose only connection with the cycles of nature is that their Volvo once ran over a sheep.
- It is danced innocently by raggedy-bearded young mathematicians to an inexpert accordion rendering of "Mrs Widgery's Lodger" and ruthlessly by such as the Ninja Morris Men of New Ankh, who can do strange and terrible things with a simple handkerchief and a bell.
- And it is never danced properly.
- Except on the Discworld, which is flat and supported on the backs of four elephants which travel through space on the shell of Great A'Tuin, the world turtle.
- And even there, only in one place have they got it right. It's a small village high in the Ramtop Mountains, where the big and simple secret is handed down across the generations.
- There, the men dance on the first day of spring, backwards and forwards, bells tied under their knees, white shirts flapping. People come and watch. There's an ox roast afterwards, and it's generally considered a nice day out for all the family.
- But that isn't the secret.
- The secret is the other dance.
- And that won't happen for a while yet.
Lords and LadiesEdit
In this book an entire morris side, the Lancre Morris Men, are supporting characters throughout the book. The members are:
- Jason Ogg (occupation: smith and farrier), apparently the squire/foreman
- Baker (weaver)
- Bestiality Carter (baker)
- Obidiah Carpenter (tailor, poacher, cesspit cleaner, and carpenter)
- Tailor (weaver)
- Thatcher (carter)
- Tinker (tinker)
- Weaver (thatcher)
Late in the story, they find themselves menaced by the Bad Guys:
- There was a tinkle in the darkness.
- 'What've you got there?' said Jason.
- 'It's the props sack,' said Carter. 'You said as how it was my job to look after the props sack!'
- 'You dragged that all the way down here?'
- 'I ain't about to get into more trouble 'cos of losing the props sack!'
- Carter started to shiver.
- 'If we gets back home,' said Jason, `I'm going to talk to our mam about getting you some of these new dried frog pills.'
- He pulled the sack towards him and undid the top.
- 'There's our bells in here,' he said, 'and the sticks. And who told you to pack the accordion?'
- 'I thought we might want to do the Stick and--'
- 'No one's ever to do the Stick and--'
- There was a laugh, away on the rain-soaked hill, and a crackling in the bracken. Jason suddenly felt the focus of attention.
- 'They're out there!' said Carter.
- 'And we ain't got any weapons,' said Tinker.
- A set of heavy brass bells hit him in the chest.
- 'Shut up,' said Jason, 'and put your bells on. Carter?'
- 'They're waiting for us!'
- 'I'll say this just once,' said Jason. 'After tonight no one's ever to talk about the Stick and Bucket dance ever again. All right?'
Morris dancing is central to the premise of this novel.
A collaboration between Sir Terry and the folk-rock group Steeleye Span resulted in the 2013 release of Steeleye Span's Wintersmith CD and concert tour. The CD feature the voice of Sir Terry on one track.
The Dark Morris is one of the tracks on this CD.
Johnny and the Bomb (1996)Edit
Morris dancing is mentioned a couple of times, in a rather don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it kind of way. Early on we learn that one of the local policemen dances with the Blackbury Morris Men, and later we find out Johnny's friend Yo-less also is a morris dancer, which is quite unusual for someone of Yo-less's... er, height.
Pratchett himself and the morrisEdit
All this leads one to wonder if Pratchett is, or has been, a morris dancer himself. The answer is (according to an email from the 1990s), he says he's "never waved a hankie in anger" nor knows any morris dancers personally, but he finds the morris kind of fascinating.
In fact, following a request (and approval) to Pratchett to name a Portsmouth-based ceilidh band "Mrs Widgery's Lodger", he made several phone calls with Morris-dancing related questions to requestor Rob Haskell, one-time dancer with Portsmouth's Victory Morris - much to the awe and delight of Rob's eldest son Daniel - a great fan of Terry Pratchett's early books.
There are somewhat darker reports of Pratchett being less than pleased when a local morris side turned out to dance outside a bookstore where he was doing a signing. One should remember, however, that by all reports, many book-signing tours are less than soothing to an author's state of mind. Others have reported more positive experiences with dancing in Pratchett's vicinity.
At the Discworld convention in 2008, a traditional English sword dance peformed by the Assassains Guild in the Maskerade was greatly enjoyed by Pratchett who declared it to be the 'Dark Morris' (see 'Wintersmith').
The morris and PratchettEdit
At least a couple of teams do Reaper Man's "other dance", in the fall.
The Minnesota team Ramsey's Braggarts do a dance called "Mrs Widgery's Lodger", to a tune by Jim Greenwood. (There's a video on YouTube.)
Another tune named "Mrs Widgery's Lodger", a.k.a. the "Stick and Bucket Dance", has been recorded by David Greenslade on his album, From the Discworld.