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Sir Terry Pratchett

by Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To pay tribute to the writer, whose death was announced on 12 March.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Reader 1: At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.

    Reader 2: Terry took death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

    Reader 3: The end.

  2. Leader: These tweets were taken from Terry Pratchett’s Twitter feed just after 3 p.m. on 12 March 2015. Shortly afterwards, it was announced that Sir Terry Pratchett had died. His writing career spanned 44 years, and he sold over 70 million books. He was just 66, and had been living with Alzheimer’s disease for the last 8 years.

  3. You might well have read books from Pratchett’s Discworld series. The planet Discworld is flat, and is resting on the back of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of the great turtle, A’Tuin, as he swims through space . . . If you know the books, you’re probably smiling as I read that. If you don’t know the books, it’s never too late to start.

  4. The books are full of quirky humour and asides and are always deeply thought-provoking. Here are three samples:

    Reader 1: Thud: When Commander Sam Vines of the City Watch investigates the ancient story of the Battle of Koom Valley, between the dwarves and the trolls, he finds ancient prejudice that depends on which side of the community you occupy. It challenges us to consider our own similar prejudices.

    Reader 2: Going Postal is the story of how a con man extraordinaire, sentenced to death, found himself given a reprieve if he could resurrect the Post Office. Through this process, he undergoes radical change and discovers he prefers life working for the community. We are challenged to consider whether people can change, and that community is better than a solitary life.

    Reader 3: Nation is one of Pratchett’s more recent offerings, written just as he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He takes an island which seems to have just two inhabitants, a young native lad and a white girl who are flung together after a tsunami devastates the region. Slowly the island gains more survivors, but the leadership of the boy remains, despite his seeming inability to lead.

  5. You get the idea? His books are diverse and always a great read, but they carry questions that challenge the reader just as you’re lost in laughter. He writes in a challenging way, looking in a new and different way at many things that we take for granted. It’s never dull, and at times his imagination takes your breath away.

  6. Knighted by the Queen in 2009, Pratchett always appeared in public dressed in black, with a black fedora hat. But despite his seeming ‘up and at ’em’ personality, he was in fact a shy man, never so happy when at home with his wife and daughter.

  7. In the last few years, since his diagnosis, Pratchett has been promoting the idea of assisted death for people, like himself, who have a terminal illness. But he continued to write, aided by his assistant Rob, as his mind played more tricks upon him. On 12 March, he died naturally, at home, with his family.

  8. In all the Discworld books, the figure of death is a tall skeleton in a robe, carrying the traditional scythe and riding a white horse called Binky. Thus the tweets with which we began:

    Reader 1: At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.

    Reader 2: Terry took death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

    Reader 3: The end.

Time for reflection

Show the slides of Terry Pratchett and play some gentle music.

In a moment of quiet, let’s think about the incredible creativity of Sir Terry Pratchett:

            of the books that he wrote;
            of the laughter and joy he brought to millions.

Let’s think about the questions he gently raised in us as we read:

            his questing after a better world;
            his challenges to us and our prejudices.

And let’s be grateful for his amazing legacy.

Publication date: March 2015   (Vol.17 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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