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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Great Fictional Characters: You Bastard

Continuing with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2015

Pardon my Klatchian, but Y is for You Bastard.

You Bastard is the greatest mathematician on the Disc. He is also a camel, which explains the name, as camels believe their name is whatever people shout at them.

Most people's experience of camels would lead them to believe that they are stubborn, stupid creatures who can barely control their own legs but, as Pratchett explains in Pyramids:

“The fact is that camels are far more intelligent than dolphins. They are so much brighter that they soon realised that the most prudent thing any intelligent animal can do, if it would prefer its descendants not to spend a lot of time on a slab with electrodes clamped to their brains or sticking mines on the bottom of ships or being patronized rigid by zoologists, is to make bloody certain humans don't find out about it. So they long ago plumped for a lifestyle that, in return for a certain amount of porterage and being prodded with sticks, allowed them adequate food and grooming and the chance to spit in a human's eye and get away with it.”  

Artist credit
It's not such a bad life. Living in the desert provides an abundance of time to think: there are few distractions and the rhythmic plodding of hoof on sand is a pleasant accompaniment to methodical calculation. It's no wonder that, on the Disc, camels evolved to be so intelligent, if only for something to do to pass the time. It explains why they take so long to get going, too. Imagine if your head was filled with this:

“You Bastard was thinking: there seems to be some growing dimensional instability here, swinging from zero to nearly forty-five degrees by the look of it. How interesting. I wonder what’s causing it? Let V equal 3. Let Tau equal Chi/4. cudcudcud Let Kappa/y be an Evil-Smelling-Bugger* differential tensor domain with four imaginary spin co-efficients. . .”  

(* Renowned as the greatest camel mathematician of all time, who invented a math of eight-dimensional space while lying down with his nostrils closed in a violent sandstorm.)

What makes You Bastard such a great character for me is the simple fact that Pratchett has taken the most belligerent, bloody-minded and seemingly dumb animal on Earth and recreated it as a complex, deep-thinking genius that can out-think us all.

It certainly made me look at them in a different light... although I'd still prefer to look at them from a safe distance :)

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