Pyramids (novel)

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AuthorTerry Pratchett
7th novel – 1st individual story
SubjectSchool stories, Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology, Quantum physics
Pteppic, Dios
Djelibeybi, Assassins Guild, Ankh-Morpork
Publication date
AwardsBritish Fantasy Award (Best Novel) 1989

Pyramids is a fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, published in 1989, the seventh book in his Discworld series.[1] It won the BSFA Awards[2] in 1989.

Plot summary[edit]

The main character of Pyramids is Pteppic, the crown prince of the tiny kingdom of Djelibeybi, the Discworld counterpart to Ancient Egypt.

Young Pteppic has been in training at the Assassins Guild in Ankh-Morpork for several years. The day after passing his final exam he mystically senses that his father has died and that he must return home. Being the first Djelibeybian king raised outside the kingdom leads to some interesting problems, as Dios, the high priest, is a stickler for tradition, and does not actually allow the pharaohs to rule the country.

After numerous adventures and misunderstandings, Pteppic is forced to escape from the palace with a handmaiden named Ptraci, condemned to death for not wishing to die so as to aid the last king in the afterlife. Meanwhile, the massive pyramid being built for Pteppic's father warps space-time so much that it "rotates" Djelebeybi out of alignment with the space/time of the rest of the disc by ninety degrees. Pteppic and Ptraci travel to Ephebe to consult with the philosophers there as to how to get back inside the Kingdom. Meanwhile, pandemonium takes hold in Djelibeybi, as the kingdom's multifarious gods descend upon the populace, and all of Djelibeybi's dead rulers come back to life. Also, the nations of Ephebe and Tsort prepare for war with one another as Djelibeybi can no longer act as a buffer zone between the two.

Eventually, Pteppic re-enters the Kingdom and attempts to destroy the Great Pyramid, with the help of all of his newly resurrected ancestors. They are confronted by Dios, who, it turns out, is as old as the kingdom itself, and has advised every pharaoh in the history of the Kingdom. Dios hates change and thinks Djelibeybi should stay the same. Pteppic succeeds in destroying the Pyramid, returning Djelibeybi to the real world and sending Dios back through time (where he meets the original founder of the Kingdom, thereby restarting the cycle). Pteppic then abdicates, allowing Ptraci (who turns out to be his half-sister) to rule. Ptraci immediately institutes much-needed changes.


The novel parodies the "Pyramid power" myth by portraying it as real on the Discworld. In a similar way to the "procrastinator" cylinders of the History Monks, pyramids on the Discworld can redirect the flow of time like a dam in a river. If built properly they can create a region of null time in the burial chamber, preserving the body of the Pharaoh forever. In Pteppic's time this has been forgotten and the body is mummified in the Egyptian manner. The High Priest Dios uses a small pyramid to rejuvenate himself from time to time. This has allowed him to live since the founding of the country, although he does not remember how he came to be in charge.

When a pyramid is complete it must "flare off" the Time in its reservoir. This is visible as light emitted from the peak at night. During the day the pyramid's black marble cladding is ice-cold from the effects of time diversion. The pyramid built for Pteppic's late father is so big that, before it can be capped to flare off all the Time in the stonework, it warps space and causes the country of Djelibeybi to disappear from the Discworld.

The novel also uses Pratchett's theme of the power of belief on the Discworld. As told in Small Gods, the gods of the Discworld gain their power from the belief of their followers. In Djelibeybi the people believe that the Pharaoh is a god, so Pteppic finds himself with godlike powers which he eventually uses. These are mostly powers of fertility, causing corn to sprout wherever he walks, but he also uses the power to part the waters of the river Djel. Also, as told in Hogfather, finite belief renders the Djelibeybian gods dead as they were great in number, many of which had overlapping jurisdictions or positions including that of Supreme God.

This novel is the first to feature a detailed description of the school of the Assassins Guild, and the nature of the Assassins' art and weaponry.


  1. ^ Fantastic Fiction Pyramids (Discworld, book 7) by Terry Pratchett Retrieved 2009-05-9
  2. ^ "1989 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-28.

External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by
Wyrd Sisters
7th Discworld Novel Succeeded by
Guards! Guards!
Preceded by
1st Individual Story
Published in 1989
Succeeded by
Moving Pictures