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This article is about the Discworld novel. For other uses, see Mort (disambiguation).
Author Terry Pratchett
Language English
Series Discworld
4th novel – 1st Death story

Anthropomorphic personifications and death

Death, Mort, Ysabell, Albert
Death's Domain
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Victor Gollancz in association with Colin Smythe
Publication date
November 12, 1987
Awards Came 65th in the Big Read
ISBN 0-575-04171-4

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". The French language edition is titled Mortimer.

In the BBC's 2003 Big Read contest, viewers voted on the "Nation's Best-loved Book"; Mort was among the Top 100 and chosen as the most popular of Pratchett's novels.[1]

In 2004, Pratchett stated that Mort was the first Discworld novel with which he was "pleased", stating that in previous books, the plot had existed to support the jokes, but that in Mort, the plot was integral.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

As a teenager, Mort has a personality and temperament that makes him unsuited to the family farming business. Mort's father Lezek takes him to a local hiring fair in the hope that Mort will land an apprenticeship; 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, saying that 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 finding a job.

Mort, as well as Death's adopted daughter Ysabell, discover that Albert, Death's manservant, is in fact Alberto Malich, a centuries-old wizard who has been living with Death in order to put off his own demise, due to the fear of enemies awaiting him in the afterlife. With reality in danger due to Death's absence, Albert returns to Unseen University and has the wizards 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 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.


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.[3]

On December 15, 2007 a German language stage musical adaptation premiered in Hamburg, Germany.[4]

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.[5] A new production was staged at Greenwich Theatre in 2011, directed by Luke Sheppard.

Stephen Briggs also adapted the novel for the stage.[6]


  1. ^ BBC - The Big Read - Top 100 Books April 2003, Retrieved 2009-05-9
  2. ^ Terry Pratchett, interviewed on Bookclub; broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 4 July 2004; retrieved 25 March 2016
  3. ^ Mort at BBC Radio Listings website
  4. ^ Mort Musical website of the Hamburg stage adaptation.
  5. ^ Toksvig/Haslam Musical website of the UK Aug 2008 adaptation
  6. ^

External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by
Equal Rites
4th Discworld Novel Succeeded by
Preceded by
1st Death Story
Published in 1987
Succeeded by
Reaper Man