Use of the Prologue

Having mentioned about Terry Pratchett's frequent use of the prologue in Reaper Man, I felt obliged to check my facts and have assembled the following tables (see below) I'm sorry they're wide. I can't find out how to make them narrower. However I am rather chuffed I finally got them in here at all.

Maybe not everyone will agree with my choices of what is which, but I think this gives a reasonable impression of the frequency of his use of what that can be loosely defined as either a prologue (narrator's introduction or explanation) and/or a prelude (event), and multiple vignettes to set the scene. 

 

Considerations 

- difficulty defining what constitutes a prelude and what is the start proper, if such a thing exists. However it's clear from the tables that Terry Pratchett favours complex beginnings to his books. 

 

He uses patchworks of vignettes, sometimes clearly linked, like the beds sequence in Unseen Academicals, or the invisible, screaming Rincewind running in Eric; other times only linked by theme eg the may flies and trees in Reaper Man. 

 

Some of the prologues are principally world building, to establish that this is not round-world, therefore suspend some expectations and raise others, done by mentioning The Turtle, Magic, Witches or Gods. 

 

Some have a poetic, mystical or philosophical feel, thus creating an atmosphere as well as communicating actual information. I wonder if some of this was originally part of his aim to parody the fantasy genre. However being largely unfamiliar with most of that I can't know. 

 

I can find only a few books that go very directly into the main story, with little exterior explanation at the start. The overall most straightforward seem, naturally, to be the books written expressly for a younger audience ie the Tiffany Aching books, although I find they then have much more explanations built in as you go along, making the Tiffany books feel uncomfortably didactic at times, in my personal view. 


This initial complexity gives very distinctive feel to Terry Pratchett's work. It makes it more inclusive to those unfamiliar with the genre within which he's perceived to be writing, although I have come across a number of reflections in people's blogs and podcasts that for those who are at home in the world he's created can then find some of the prologue elements, especially the world explanations, tedious, irritating. 

 

I have found in studying these introductory elements in more detail that I may have glossed over useful details in my hurry to get on with the story. I find that this story building style adds to the cinematic feel of the work. 

 

It also establishes a strong narrator's voice from the beginning of each work where the devices are used. I find The Author very present in his work. So much so that he's part of the story, and recognising his voice adds to a feeling of anticipation from the beginning. Occasionally I find him just a bit too present and takes me away from the immersion experience in his world. That is probably a question of taste. 

 

In reordering the list by date of publication it is notable that his entry style into his books simplifies considerably. I wonder if this was part of his move away from   fantasy and comedy oriented content to his stronger emphasis on character and morality.

 

Updated and colourful table thanks to Josh Bulleid of The Unseen Academicals Podcast https://unseenacademicals.sounder.fm/

Wider version below

 

Books


Formal Elements

Narrative Device



Introducing






Complex Elements

NumberYearTitle
Pan InVignettes
Story So FarProloguePrelude EventStaight into Story
TurtleMagicGodsPlaceWeatherThemeKey Character
Pan InVignettes
11983The Colour of Magic
x


WorldBurning City

x

Ankh-Morpork
Exploration

x
21986The Light Fantastic

x
Tumbling PastSun Rose


xxxOff Edge
Put through Wringer


x
31987Equal Rites
x


This is a story aboutWizard staff, baby

xxxRamtopsStormMagic/gender

x
41987Mort
x


This is the room


xx
Timers / Ramtops
Chosen oneDeath/Mort
x
51988Sourcery




There was a man
Orphaning

x


Power / ControlCoin


61988Wyrd Sisters

x

Space, Gods' gamesWhen shall we 3

xxxRamtopsStormChance, theatricalitywitches

x
71989Pyramids

x

Space/pyramidsDios

x

Djel valley, Ankh-MorporkSun up/sundawnPower/sericeDios/ancestors

x
81989Guards! Guards!

x

Where dragons wentVimes in gutter, library theft


x
Ankh-MorporkDrizzle, night"Can't let her go"[?]Vimes, library theif

x
91990Eric

x


invisible running / screaming






Who is running?


x
101990Moving Pictures

x

Space/realityDeath of keeper, It comes

x

Beach, Ankh-Morpork
Reality


x
111991Reaper Man

x

Morris dancers, mayflies/treesAuditors

x

Ramtops, timers, plains
Personality/IndividualityAuditors, Death

x
121991Witches Abroad

x

Discworld, stories, mirrorsSabbat, scarecrow

x

Ramtops, swamp
Narrative causality/resistencewitches

x
131992Small Gods




Now consider / eagle/tortoise





Desert/Omnia
Power/control/threat?Turtle


141992Lords and Ladies

x

world, elephant, irongirl running, land of ice, j ogg, crop circles, broomsticks

x



Magnets/desiresgranny, jason

x
151993Men at Arms

x - alternating
Carrot's Letter Home
Burial





MistWhat ought to beCarrot, d'eath

x - alternating
161994Soul Music

x
History
Crash/Miss Butts






MemoryChild

x
171994Interesting Times

x

They sayGames, Gods, Butterflies

x
x

Empires, fate/luck


x
181995Maskerade





When shall we 2




MountainsStormCHoices, 3, flight/running



191996Feet of Clay

x
Carrot Letter HomeDiscworldGolemn sale, murder, Vimes shaving

x

Ankh-MorporkFogToo perfect, master, crime, fightingGolemn, vimes

x
201996Hogfather

x

Blood, Story, SpaceGuild, Teatime

x



Blood, storiesTeatime

x
211997Jingo





Fishing weather clock






Land ownership, international relations



221998The Last Continent




Against the starsKeys

x
x

Legends



231998Carpe Jugulum

x

VampiresPhoenix, pictsies, lancre, coach

x - disc

Lancre
Invasion


x
241999The Fifth Elephant
x


They say... elephant, iron, goldStrange traveller on cart

x



Political problems, dwarf mines

x
252000The Truth

x

Rumour






Ankh-MorporkTruth, moneydwarfs, Artificers, Watch, Vetinari, de Worde

x
262001Thief of Time

x

Story weavesToast, birthing






Time made for man[baby]

x
272001The Last Hero

x

The place/reasonStilen fire, bird






Forbidden deeds, anger at dying


x
282001The Amazing Maurice

x

Mr Bunsy





Coach to Mountains
People/rats, storyMr Bunsy, Maurice, Rats, Malicia

x
292002Night Watch






Vimes shaving




Storm/spring coming
Vimes


302003The Wee Free Men






Shamble




RainDanger from other worldMiss Tick


312003Monstrous Regiment






Hair Cutting



Dutchess Inn
Gender Roles, GovernancePolly


322004A Hat Full of Sky

x-alternating

Feegles
It searched/"see me"





WillpowerHiver/Tiffany

x-alternating
332004Going Postal

x

GolemnClacks death






Death/madness


x
342005Thud!

x

Dwarf.Troll creation storiesClub head, vimes shaving






Race relations


x
352006Wintersmith




FeeglesDream of snow


W?


duty/protectionwintersmith/tiffany


362007Making Money




Waiting, the song
hard bargain





Need for actionMiss Dearheart


372009Unseen Academicals




Midnight museumBeds





Ankh-MorporkSocial ststus?????


382010I Shall Wear Midnight






Fair

W?


what it is to be a witch, responsibility, public serviceTiffany


392011Snuff




Vetinari reading goblin book







Drugs, persecution of minorities



402013Raising Steam

x


Captured elementl, fish, fruit, death of Mr S, library

x


Ankh-MorporkHarnessing power


x
412015The Shepherd's Crown




Crown in chalk






The chalkKingship?



 

Rince-wind

Device


Introducing 


Use of complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story


Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person


Pan in

Vignettes

1. The Colour of Magic


World

Burning city



Turtle

Ankh Morpork


Exploration



x


2. The Light Fantastic

Tumbling past

Sun rose




Turtle Magic  Gods

Off edge


Will be put through the wringer




x

5. Sourcery


There was a man


Orphaning


M



Immense power

Controlling parent





9. Faust Eric



Invisible running screaming






Who is running? Why?




x

17. Interesting times


They say

Gods games, butterfly



T, G



Empires, Fate/Luck?




x

22. The Last Continent


Against the stars

Keys



T, G



Legends 





27. The Last Hero


The place, the reason,

Stolen fire,

Bird






Forbidden deeds, Anger at just dying




x




DEATH

Device


Introducing


Complex format


Story

So far

Prologue explanation

Prelude

event/s

Straight in to story


Star Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme Suggested

Key person


Pan in

Vignettes

4. Mort


This is the room,

 …owner




T, M, 

LifetimersRamtops


Chosen person.

DEATH Mort


x


11. Reaper Man


Morris dance

Mayflies

Trees

Auditers



T

Ramtops, plains, Lifetimers


Personality comes to an end

Auditors Death



x

16. Soul Music

History


Crash/

Miss Butts






Memory

Child



x

20. Hogfather


Blood, story, space, 

Guild Teatime



T



Blood, stories.

Teatime



x

26. Thief of Time


Story weaves. 

Toast

Birthing






Time is made for man.




x




Witches

Device

Introducing 

Use of complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story

Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person

Pan in

Vignettes

3. Equal Rites


This is a story about

Wizard staff baby


M, T, G

Ramtops

Storm

Magic. Sex (gender)

Coin

x


6. Wyrd Sisters


Space, Gods’ games

when shall we 3


M,T,G

Ramtops

Storm

Chance, theatricality,

witches


x

12. Witches Abroad


D/W, stories, mirrors, 

Sabbat, scarecrow, 


T

Ramtops, swamp


Narrative causality, Fighting back.

Witches


x

14. Lords and Ladies


World, Elephant, Iron, 

Girl running,  land of ice, J Ogg, crop circle, 3 broomsticks


T



Magnetism/desires

Granny, Jason, Mrs 


x

18. Maskerade



When shall we 2



Mountains

Storm

Choices. Being 3 or flight (running away) or flight (bird)




23. Carpe Jugulum


Vampires

Phoenix, pictsies, Lancre,

Coach 


Disc

Lancre


Invasion



x




Watch

Device

Introducing 

complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story

TurtleMagicGods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person

Pan in

Vignettes

8. Guards! Guards!


This is where the dragons went

Vimes in gutter, Library theft



M

Ankh Morpork

Drizzle

Night

“I can't let her go.”


VimesLibrarian, thief.


x

15. Men at Arms

Letter home, Carrot


Burial




Mist

What ought to be?

Carrot d’Eath


Alternating,

19. Feet of Clay

5 Letter home, Carrot

2 Discworld


1  Sale of new golem 3 murder  4 Vimes shaving



T

Ankh Morpork

Fog

Too perfect? Master?

Crime fighting?

Golems

Vimes


x

21. Jingo



Fishing, Weather cock





Land ownership, international relations




24. The Fifth Elephant


They say that … elephant/iron/gold

Stranger traveller on cart, 

 

T



Problem from The Ramtops? Dwarf mines?


x


29. Night Watch




Vimes shaving



Spring, storm coming


Vimes



34. Thud!


Dwarf and Troll creation stories

Club head, Vimes shaving

 




Race relations



x

39. Snuff


(Vetinari reading) Goblins book






Drugs war. Persecution of minorities.






Tiffany

Device


Introducing 


Use of complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story


Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person


Pan in

Vignettes

30. The Wee Free Men




Shamble




Rain

Danger from another world

Miss Tick




32. A Hat Full of Sky


Feegles


It searched“See me”





Strong mind, mind with power

Hiver, Tiffany



Alternating

35. Wintersmith


Feegles

“Dream sequence” - snow



W


Snow, spring

“I am your witch, I will protect you.”

Wintersmith, Tiffany




38. I Shall Wear Midnight




At the fair


W



What it is to be a Witch, public service

Tiffany




41. The Shepherd's Crown


A Crown in The Chalk





The Chalk


Kingship?








Industries

Device


Introducing 


Use of complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story


Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person


Pan in

Vignettes

10. Moving Pictures


1.Space 2.Reality

3.Death of keeper

4. IT comes



T

Beach,

Ankh Morpork


Reality




x

25. The Truth



The rumour




Ankh Morpork


Truth

Money making

Dwarves, Artificers Watch, Patrician, De Worde



x

33. Going Postal


Golem

Clacks death






Death and madness?




x

36. Making Money


Waiting, the song


It was a hard bargain





Need for action?

Miss Dearheart




40. Raising Steam



Captured elemental

Fish, Fruit, death of Mr S, library.



T

Ankh Morpork


Harnessing power

Dick Simnel



x





In World

Device


Introducing 


Use of complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story


Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person


Pan in

Vignettes

7. Pyramids


Space, Pyramids

Dios



T

Djel valley, Ankh Morpork

Sun up

Sun down

Power, service

Dios

Ancestors



x

13. Small Gods


“Now consider” Eagle and Tortoise





Desert, Omnia


Power/control, vs the non threatening.

Turtle




28. The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents


Mr Bunsy

About  (Rats, people, story)





Coach to mountains from plains


People/rats

Story

Mr Bunsy,

Maurice

Rats

Malicia



x

31. Monstrous Regiment




Hair cut and leaving home



Duchess inn


Gender roles, Governance (Dutchess?)

Polly





5/41

29/41

28/41













 


Device


Introducing 


Use of complex formats


Story

So far

Prologue

Prelude

event

Straight in to story


Turtle/ Magic/ Gods

Place 

Weather/ time

Theme 

Key person


Pan in

Vignettes

1. The Colour of Magic


World

Burning city



Turtle

Ankh Morpork


Exploration



x


2. The Light Fantastic

Tumbling past

Sun rose




Turtle Magic  Gods

Off edge


Will be put through the wringer




x

3. Equal Rites


This is a story about

Wizard staff baby


M, T, G

Ramtops

Storm

Magic. Sex (gender)

Coin

x




4. Mort


This is the room,

 …owner




T, M, 

LifetimersRamtops


Chosen person.

DEATH Mort


x


5. Sourcery


There was a man


Orphaning


M



Immense power

Controlling parent





6. Wyrd Sisters


Space, Gods’ games

when shall we 3



M,T,G

Ramtops

Storm

Chance, theatricality,

witches


x


7. Pyramids


Space, Pyramids

Dios



T

Djel valley, Ankh Morpork

Sun up

Sun down

Power, service

Dios

Ancestors




8. Guards! Guards!


This is where the dragons went

Vimes in gutter, Library theft




M

Ankh Morpork

Drizzle

Night

“I can't let her go.”


VimesLibrarian, thief.


x


9. Faust Eric



Invisible running screaming






Who is running? Why?




x

10. Moving Pictures


1.Space 2.Reality

3.Death of keeper

4. IT comes



T

Beach,

Ankh Morpork


Reality




x

11. Reaper Man


Morris dance

Mayflies

Trees

Auditers



T

Ramtops, plains, Lifetimers


Personality comes to an end

Auditors Death



x

12. Witches Abroad


D/W, stories, mirrors, 

Sabbat, scarecrow, 



T

Ramtops, swamp


Narrative causality, Fighting back.

Witches



x

13. Small Gods


“Now consider” Eagle and Tortoise





Desert, Omnia


Power/control, vs the non threatening.

Turtle




14. Lords and Ladies


World, Elephant, Iron, 

Girl running,  land of ice, J Ogg, crop circle, 3 broomsticks


T



Magnetism/desires

Granny, Jason, Mrs 


x



15. Men at Arms

Letter home, Carrot


Burial





Mist

What ought to be?

Carrot d’Eath



Alternating,

16. Soul Music

History


Crash/

Miss Butts






Memory

Child



x

17. Interesting times


They say

Gods games, butterfly



T, G



Empires, Fate/Luck?




x

18. Maskerade



When shall we 2




Mountains

Storm

Choices. Being 3 or flight (running away) or flight (bird)





19. Feet of Clay

5 Letter home, Carrot

2 Discworld


1  Sale of new golem 3 murder  4 Vimes shaving




T

Ankh Morpork

Fog

Too perfect? Master?

Crime fighting?

Golems

Vimes



x

20. Hogfather


Blood, story, space, 

Guild Teatime



T



Blood, stories.

Teatime



x

21. Jingo



Fishing, Weather cock






Land ownership, international relations





22. The Last Continent


Against the stars

Keys



T, G



Legends 





23. Carpe Jugulum


Vampires

Phoenix, pictsies, Lancre,

Coach 



Disc

Lancre


Invasion




x

24. The Fifth Elephant


They say that … elephant/iron/gold

Stranger traveller on cart, 

 


T



Problem from The Ramtops? Dwarf mines?



x


25. The Truth



The rumour




Ankh Morpork


Truth

Money making

Dwarves, Artificers Watch, Patrician, De Worde



x

26. Thief of Time


Story weaves. 

Toast

Birthing






Time is made for man.




x

27. The Last Hero


The place, the reason,

Stolen fire,

Bird






Forbidden deeds, Anger at just dying



x


28. The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents


Mr Bunsy

About  (Rats, people, story)





Coach to mountains from plains


People/rats

Story

Mr Bunsy,

Maurice

Rats

Malicia




29. Night Watch




Vimes shaving



Spring, storm coming


Vimes





30. The Wee Free Men




Shamble




Rain

Danger from another world

Miss Tick




31. Monstrous Regiment




Hair cut and leaving home



Duchess inn


Gender roles, Governance (Dutchess?)

Polly




32. A Hat Full of Sky


Feegles


It searched“See me”





Strong mind, mind with power

Hiver, Tiffany



Alternating

33. Going Postal


Golem

Clacks death






Death and madness?




x

34. Thud!


Dwarf and Troll creation stories

Club head, Vimes shaving

 




Race relations





x

35. Wintersmith


Feegles

“Dream sequence” - snow



W


Snow, spring

“I am your witch, I will protect you.”

Wintersmith, Tiffany




36. Making Money


Waiting, the song


It was a hard bargain





Need for action?

Miss Dearheart




37. Unseen Academicals


Midnight museum


Beds




Ankh Morpork


? Social strata?

XXXXX




38. I Shall Wear Midnight




At the fair


W



What it is to be a Witch, public service

Tiffany




39. Snuff


(Vetinari reading) Goblins book






Drugs war. Persecution of minorities.






40. Raising Steam



Captured elemental

Fish, Fruit, death of Mr S, library.



T

Ankh Morpork


Harnessing power

Dick Simnel



x

41. The Shepherd's Crown


A Crown in The Chalk





The Chalk


Kingship?







 

 

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