Looking back at the Bromeliad: Terry Pratchett’s Truckers, Diggers and Wings

Posted: March 15, 2015 in Literature, TV
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

kirby-draws-terry-2Goodbye Mr Pratchett. Goodbye to the warm, funny and altogether brilliant mind that brought us Discworld – a book series that’s as old as I am.

But this wasn’t the first thing that rushed to my mind when I heard the sad news. For me, he’ll forever be remembered as the author of a wonderful series of children’s novels, often known as “The Bromeliad” or “The Nome Trilogy.”

Truckers – along with its sequels Diggers and Wings – follows a race of small, humanoid beings (“Nomes”) as they journey through our world. Their quest takes them through countryside, a department store, quarries and airports, ultimately looking towards outer space. It’s a big adventure with some big ideas about society, religion and the human condition.

Much of Pratchett’s distinctive humour comes from the Nomes’ worldly interpretations as they hold a mirror to our strange human ways. Many live beneath the floors of a department store and worship its founder “Arnold Bros Est. 1905” as a deity. In-store slogans are taken literally and spouted as religious dogma by those in power. When Masklin and his band of country dwellers arrive off a lorry, many outright deny their existence, quoting the Word of Arnold:

All Things Under One Roof. Therefore there can be NO outside. Therefore you people are NOT from it!”

This doesn’t bode well with the “Thing” (the Nomes’ black box recorder and supercomputer), who intercepts a message announcing the store’s impending demolition.

How can Masklin persuade the Nomes to evacuate when they believe that nothing exists beyond their five-storey utopia? And even if he does convince them, can he get them to stop grumbling long enough so that they might actually work together?

Bromeliad-Wallpaper-terry-pratchett-1150997_1920_1440

Stories about little folk have been told before; in Gulliver’s Travels, The Borrowers and even by Pratchett himself in The Carpet People. But it’s done so perfectly in the Nome trilogy, as the titular beings observe human life through their own special lens and ultimately ask “why are we here?” They develop a sense of purpose through exploration, technology (particularly vehicles) and books, all of which guide them to the place they truly belong. Or, to be more accurate, a place that truly belongs to the Nomes.

What I loved as a kid (and still do) is how silly characters behave when confronted with any challenge to the status quo. The presence of “Outsiders” sparks tantrums from authority figures, while others pretend they can’t see them at all. Eventually the Stationeri – essentially the store’s Vatican – are convinced of the impending doom and must reconcile their crises of faith to battle for their species’ survival. They’re also challenged by an Outsider named Grimma, who refutes the accepted notion that “women can’t read“ because ”their brains get too hot.” She proves them wrong, eventually becoming the most avid reader in the tribe. Guess who my favourite character is!

masklinIt was through Cosgrove Hall’s stop motion adaptation of that I first discovered the series Terry Pratchett’s Truckers (between this, Knightmare and Bad Influence I was a CITV kid and proud!) It’s a faithful adaptation, lovingly animated with great voice acting. It also features one of the best examples of dark humour ever televised; Nome funeral rites, complete with pointy hats and ceremonial fishing rods. Fun fact – I noticed on IMDB that the voice of the Abbott (Michael Horden) also did some voice work on some of my other childhood favourites – Labyrinth and Watership Down. Funny how it all seems to tie together! The full series of Truckers is available on DVD and I can heartily recommend it to absolutely anyone.

Another fun fact – Pratchett’s BBC News obituary might have pinpointed the inspiration for the Nome stories:

“He [Terry] vividly recalled a visit to London in 1954 when his mother took him to the Gamages department store in Holborn.

The small boy was overcome by the bright lights and vast range of toys. “Lots of my future writing started to happen on that day,” he later said.”

truckers1I have very fond memories of watching Truckers with my little sister at my Gran’s, who bought me the series on video because I loved it so much (thanks Gran – say hi to Terry for me!) Afterwards I read the books, which were even better, and waited patiently for the next TV series, which sadly never came. Such a pity, especially as the second book Diggers is mainly Grimma’s story. I’d love to hear her make the speech where she explains her fascination with the bromeliad flowers – an idea that changes her entire world view and provides the analogy that is the namesake of the whole series.

Great fiction like this makes us ask these questions ourselves. Will we be like the frogs living life inside one giant flower? Or will we venture beyond the petals and explore all the wonders the universe has to offer?

diggers

Thank you Terry Pratchett for sharing your worlds, your ideas and your marvellous humour with us all. But in the wise words of Arnold Bros Est. 1905, “Everything Must Go.”

Rest in peace Lx

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Comments
  1. Great post. This series was a childhood favourite me and therefore will always be special. I have tagged you in the chocolate book tag on my latest blog post. Hope you enjoy liken books to chocolate like I did 🙂

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