How Stories Change Us

He had always been there. Just one of the many writers whose work I’d devoured growing up. His passing had saddened me, but I only felt a true sense of loss when finishing Terry Pratchett’s final book; The Shepherd’s Crown. I realised that was the final time I would read his words.

I was probably in my early teens when I first began reading Sir Terry’s novels. terryTruckers, Diggers, Wings, and then on to the Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic. Over the years, I came across other Discworld novels that I would read. I have a vivid memory of discovering a copy of Soul Music in the school library, the familiar cover art surprising me, not having realised there was another of his books I hadn’t read. 

It became that birthday and Christmas gifts would regularly include a copy of Terry’s latest wonder. I was given a Discworld themed diary that I kept for a while. My Dad read some of them too. I remember buying him the map of Death’s Domain for his birthday, and then poring over it for hours, Death being one of my own favourite characters.

I had never realised quite how much the Discworld universe had permeated my life. I knew all the characters, relished the feeling of how reading each new book was like talking to an old friend. How the twists always surprised even though you knew they were coming. How the footnotes always referred to something you’d read before. How Terry encouraged his characters to deal with situations so relevant to todays changing world – often revolving around the theme of a society coming to terms with a new understanding of equality for all. Vampires, goblins, dwarves, zombies, elves, and even Death himself; all had their redemption via Terry’s skilful pen. These characters typically looked down on or despised were brought into focus and redeemed, teaching us that though we are different, and come from many different backgrounds, this is not what controls the type of person we are, or choose to be.

The power of story to shape our lives is undeniable. Even though I didn’t realise it, Terry’s work has shaped mine. I have learned from his world, from his ideas and from his creation. He helped me love stories, and magic, and writing. I understood, through him, what it was to be able to make a world inside your head, and then pour it out onto the paper. To tell a story. To have people love hearing it. To hold a reader in the palm of your hand.

I wish I could say I had the chance to meet Terry Pratchett. But truly, truly, through his work, I feel I already have. I would never claim to know him, but I know I would have enjoyed talking to him. About his world, his universe. About the characters and what they were, what they meant. About Rincewind, and the luggage, and Maurice, and Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, and Mustrum Ridcully, and so many more. So many lives, so large a world so full of wonder and magic.

The Shepherd’s Crown is a very poignant finale. It explores conclusions, and moving on. The passing of mantles and filling of shoes. The character Death help fans of Terry’s work to achieve a sort of closure. Beautifully written and delicately crafted, Death speaks of how some candles will go on flickering for a long time before they are blown out. Sir Terry has left a legacy that I know others will enjoy, learn from, and be surprised by, as I was. His candle is not yet out.

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