4th novel – 1st Death story
|Awards||Came 65th in the Big Read|
Mort is a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. Published in 1987, it is the fourth Discworld novel and the first to focus on the character Death, who only appeared as a side character in the previous novels. The title is the name of its main character and also a play on words: in French, mort means "death".
As a teenager, Mort had a personality and temperament that made him rather unsuited to the family farming business. Mort's father, named Lezek, felt that Mort thought too much, which prevented him from achieving anything practical. So Lezek took him to a local hiring fair, hoping that Mort would land an apprenticeship with some tradesman; not only would this provide a job for his son, but it would also make his son's propensity for thinking into someone else's problem.
At the job fair, Mort at first has no luck attracting the interest of an employer. But just before the stroke of midnight, a man wearing a black cloak arrives on a white horse. He says he is looking for a young man to assist him in his work and selects Mort for the job. The man turns out to be Death, and Mort is given an apprenticeship in ushering souls into the next world (though his father thinks he's been apprenticed to an undertaker).
When it is a princess' time to die (according to a preconceived reality), Mort, instead of ushering her soul, saves her from death, dramatically altering a part of the Discworld's reality. However, the princess, for whom Mort has a developing infatuation, does not have long to live, and he must try to save her, once again, since the original reality will eventually reassert itself, killing her in the process. Both the princess and Mort end up consulting the local wizard, Igneous Cutwell, for various methods of assistance with the crisis.
As Mort begins to do most of Death's "Duty", he loses some of his former character traits, and essentially starts to become more like Death himself. Death, in turn, yearns to relish what being human is truly like and travels to Ankh-Morpork to indulge in new experiences and attempt to feel real human emotion with Happiness being the one he finds hardest to understand and so starts some research to try out happiness, something that he has never experienced, he tries a number of very human habits like getting drunk, going to a party, dancing and tries to find a new job that will make him feel happy.
Ultimately, the wizards of Unseen University perform the Rite of Ashk-Ente, which summons both the part of Death that has been taking Mort over, as well as Death himself. Death becomes furious when he learns about Mort's actions, including seducing his adopted daughter Ysabell, and fires him. Conclusively, Mort must duel Death for his freedom. Though Death wins the duel, he spares Mort's life and sends him back to the Disc.
The princess is saved from a second death when the alternate reality Mort created is reduced to a pearl-like state, after Death "has a word with the gods". This pearl is given to Mort for safe-keeping. At the end of the novel, Mort marries Ysabell, having been elevated to the title Duke of Sto Helit by Queen Kelirihenna. Their daughter Susan Sto Helit appears in later Discworld stories.
Mort has been adapted into a graphic novel, Mort: The Big Comic, 1994.
The novel has been adapted by Robin Brooks for BBC Radio Four. Narrated by Anton Lesser, with Geoffrey Whitehead as Death, Carl Prekopp as Mort, Clare Corbett as Ysabell and Alice Hart as Princess Keli, the programme was first broadcast in four parts in mid-2004 and has been repeated frequently, most recently on Radio 4 Extra.
On December 15, 2007 a German language stage musical adaptation premiered in Hamburg, Germany.
A brand new English musical adaptation of Mort was presented in Guildford, Surrey, UK in August 2008 by Youth Music Theatre: UK. The adaptation is by Jenifer Toksvig, sister of broadcaster and novelist Sandi Toksvig, and composer Dominic Haslam. A new production was staged at Greenwich Theatre in 2011, directed by Luke Sheppard.
Stephen Briggs also adapted the novel for the stage: http://www.amazon.com/Mort-The-Play-Discworld-Series/dp/0552144290.
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|Reading order guide|
|4th Discworld Novel||Succeeded by
|1st Death Story
Published in 1987