Ever since fourth or fifth grade, I have adored Terry Pratchett. I read Tolkien’s works at about the same age, but I haven’t returned to them with the same frequency as I have Pratchett’s imaginary world. His characters charmed me even before I could truly appreciate them. Each reading, as I got older and learned more about the world, became more complex. For instance, Wyrd Sisters, uses a lot of elements of MacBeth, and so while I loved the story long before reading Shakespeare’s play in high school, there were many more nuances for me to enjoy after having experienced the play.

The most pervasive aspect of the novels has come to life here in the streets of London: the city of Ankh-Morpork that most of the novels take place in. The city houses the prestigious Unseen University, where the most skilled wizards teach students. The wizards are characters in lots of novels. They are obsessed with ritual, can’t be seen in anything other than the traditional wizard’s robe and hat. They don’t care much for their students, but love to eat. The novels often satirize their obsession with food. The books in the Library are magical and so chained to the bookshelves so they can’t escape (they’re practically sentient, especially the really old ones).

I saw and loved the humor in these aspects and many more, but Pratchett’s world has gained a more vivid life in my imagination from seeing the roots of it in Pratchett’s. The most striking is how filthy Ankh-Morpork and its river is. In Discworld, the river is so thick with sludge that you can almost walk across it, no boats can sail up the river. Talking about Swift’s river of filth, seeing the dirty water of the Thames, and walking along the streets imagining how the filth of 200 years ago looked has given my imagination new scope in Pratchett’s city.

Exploring the Museum of London added another dimension to the story, with its description of the 6 meters of rubbish that London is built on, and of the guilds that used to run the city. I could go on for pages about all that I noticed about Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork connecting with London, but I think it best to leave you with my favorite one: that of filth.

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