A Time for Om

Back when newsgroups were still a thing, there were some attempts on the Terry Pratchett fan groups to create a Discworld timeline. I believe this was the result of the discussion, although it only goes up through The Fifth Elephant. Notably, this was before Thief of Time, in which Pratchett left himself an out for timeline issues. I also came across this timeline, which dates from 2007 and runs up through Wintersmith. For the most part, we can assume that the books take place in roughly chronological order, with each new one occurring after the last one. Well, except when time travel is involved like in Eric and Night Watch, but even then that book’s present fits the rule. The one possible exception is Small Gods, the story of the nation of Omnia and its god Om.

As the book opens, Omnia is the home to the Discworld’s only monotheistic religion, and its people hold on to the rather primitive notion that their world is spherical. It’s sort of the Disc’s version of Israel, but the religion is closer to medieval Catholicism in many ways, including the hierarchy and the use of heresy hunters. The god of this religion learns that only one person, a long-time novice named Brutha, truly believes in him. Brutha is initially used as a pawn in an attempt at the conquest of nearby lands, but he later reforms both Omnia and its religion. Then he dies one hundred years later. The question is whether the main story or this ending bit is set in what we could loosely call the present. There are some clear hints as to the former. Brutha mentions that it’s the Year of the Notional Serpent, the same year in which Reaper Man takes place. He chats with some of the same Ephebian philosophers as Pteppic does in Pyramids, and Djelibeybi taking part in the invasion of Omnia is unlikely to have happened before the events of that book. The Death of Rats, who didn’t exist until Reaper Man, puts in an appearance, although admittedly Death and his family can exist outside of time.

So is the hundred years a projection into the future? Well, maybe not. In Feet of Clay, we’re introduced to two recent Omnian immigrants to Ankh-Morpork, Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets and Smite-The-Unbeliever-With-Cunning-Arguments, their names reflective of the change in Omnianism from a violent religion to one of peaceful (if annoying) evangelism. But were they born with these names, or did they adopt them after Brutha’s revolution? Carpe Jugulum brings in another Omnian, the Quite Reverend Mightily-Praisworthy-Are-Ye-Who-Exalteth-Om Oats, who speaks of Brutha as a figure from the past rather than someone who’s still alive and well. As I mentioned earlier, Pratchett sort of addresses this in Thief of Time. This book concerns the History Monks, who are actually introduced in Small Gods.

Their job is to make sure time and history flow properly, and ToT mentions that they’ve had to make some quick fixes after an earlier time crash. Susan Sto Helit visits the Guild of Historians to do some research, and we’re told, “Seen through her business eyes, history was very strange indeed. The scars stood out. The history of the country of Ephebe was puzzling, for example. Either its famous philosophers lived for a very long time, or inherited their names, or extra bits had been stitched into history there. The history of Omnia was a mess. Two centuries had been folded into one, by the look of it, and it was only because of the mind-set of the Omnians, whose religion mixed the past and future with the present in any case, that it could possibly have passed unnoticed.” It’s still not fully explained, but it sounds like the century that occurred in Omnia didn’t happen in the rest of the Discworld, more or less the opposite of the witches making Lancre skip over fifteen years in Wyrd Sisters. That would presumably explain how the Omnians could think of Brutha as someone from the past, yet have just started migrating to other countries. The end of Small Gods suggests that Omnia was going to start making connections with the world at large pretty much immediately. It’s interesting to note that Lu-Tze presumably changes Omnian history in SG anyway, since he mentions that “the books say that Brutha died and there was a century of terrible warfare.” Presumably this was part of his trying to put history back together. Only on a world carried around by a turtle, I suppose.

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