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The Carpet People

The Carpet People

4.5 8
by Terry Pratchett

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In the beginning, there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet . . .


In the beginning, there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“In the beginning... there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet.” Thus, in 1971, began one of the most celebrated careers in the history of fantasy literature. Later, in 1992, Pratchett revised his first novel, but neither version received an American edition until now. The Munrung live on a carpet with hairs as tall as trees, mining metal from a dropped penny and wood from matchsticks. Occasionally the godlike Fray strikes, a near-apocalyptic event that might correspond to the carpet being cleaned. When the Munrung are attacked by the evil “mouls” (“Creatures. From the Unswept Regions”), Snibril, the ingenious younger brother of Munrung chieftain Glurk, leads his people on a dangerous trek across the carpet to what they hope will be the safety of the rather boring Dumii Empire. Even as revised, this is minor Pratchett, but even minor work by the author of the Discworld series is well worth readers’ time. The story is inventive in its carefully worked-out central conceit, often very funny, and dotted with some genuinely scary bits, as well as Pratchett’s wiry 1971 spot illustrations. Ages 8–up. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"The perfect starting place for young readers; seasoned Pratchett fans will just revel in his wit, his subversion of tropes and his sense of humanity. . . . Small in scale but large in pleasure."

"This story is inventive in its carefully worked-out central conceit, often vey funny, and dotted with some genuinely scary bits, as well as Pratchett's wiry 1971 spot illustrations."
Publishers Weekly

"All of the big political ideas of mid-century epic fantasy are here writ literally small and carried along by Pratchett's signature wit and flawless pacing."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Sure to be sought after by Pratchett's fans, young and old, this adventure will also amuse children who have never heard his name."

"Fantasy with comedic flair is the Pratchett trademark . . . [This] book will entice young readers into a world with enough adventure, terror, and comic relief to keep them intrigued."

"The brisk narrative mixes sly wit and occasional puns with lively battle scenes and mysterious revelations. . . an excellent entree to Pratchett's work."
School Library Journal

VOYA - Judith A. Hayn
Multi-award winning UK author Pratchett wrote The Carpet People in 1971, when he was seventeen. The revised edition, originally published in 1992, is being published for the first time for an American audience. Fantasy with comedic flair is the Pratchett trademark, seen in this book and in his celebrated series Discworld. The Carpet is a flat landscape peppered with hairs instead of trees. A tribe of Mungrungs flees their home after it has been destroyed by a mysterious natural force called the Fray. The tribal shaman, Pismire, advises the chief Glurk, and his philosophical comments reveal the history of those they encounter on their way to the major city of Ware, and hopefully, to safety. Snibril, Glurk's younger brother, is the book's protagonist, and he is burdened by an inquisitiveness that can cause problems. Along the journey, the trio encounters all kinds of good and evil characters; as this is fantasy at its zenith, the differences are obvious. The novel ends with an epic battle between the Mungrungs and the nasty mouls, who utilize demon-like snargs in warfare. Pratchett argues the futility of war and the dangers of having to always fight to prove your worth and save civilization, even if it exists on The Carpet. The book will entice young readers into a world with enough adventure, terror, and comic relief to keep them intrigued. Reviewer: Judith A. Hayn
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—Pratchett's first novel, published at age 17 and then reworked by the author two decades later, appears in its first full U.S. edition. As the title suggests, people and creatures are all microscopic and exist in an actual carpet, where cities are dot-sized and the rim of a penny is an unscalable cliff. Within this clever premise, the author has created an engaging fantasy world filled with a rich variety of characters and a compelling plot in which the amusing Munrung people attempt to thwart an evil scheme to enslave all of the kingdoms of the carpet. The brisk narrative mixes sly wit and occasional puns with lively battle scenes and mysterious revelations. There's also a lot of discussion about war, religion, government, and free well delivered through engaging dialogue and the internal musings of the main characters. Pratchett's black-and-white line drawings sprinkled throughout the tale and within two sections of full-color plates, depict numerous characters and settings with appropriately lightheated verve. A 25-page addendum features the very first published appearance of the world of the Carpet, serialized for the teen author's local newspaper. It's interesting to contrast the bones of the story with the final version, which stands as a fully realized novel and an excellent entrée to Pratchett's work, especially for readers not quite ready for the "Discworld" (Corgi) series.—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
Kirkus Reviews
Pratchett's first children's book has finally crossed the pond, 42 years after its initial publication and 21 years after its second, revised edition (which this edition mostly matches). Before there was the Discworld, there was the Carpet. It's a world, if you're microscopically small, and where there's a world there's the possibility of adventure, magic and a bit of philosophizing. Deep in the Carpet, a small tribe finds itself drawn into a large story when Fray (a natural phenomenon that astute readers may suspect is a vacuum) destroys their village and mouls riding snarg-back attack. Led by chieftain Glurk ("He's a man of few words, and he doesn't know what either of them means"), his younger brother Snibril, and Pismire, a shaman who believes in the power of positive thinking and deduction more than magic, the Munrungs find themselves teaming up with a dark, mysterious wanderer and a small (even by their standards) but feisty king to save all of civilization. Pratchett's early foray into using humor and fantasy as a lens by which to examine the absurdities of the world may hold few surprises for his loyal legions, but it's the perfect starting place for young readers; seasoned Pratchett fans will just revel in his wit, his subversion of tropes and his sense of humanity. An addendum contains the original 1960s text. Small in scale but large in pleasure. (author's note; illustrations not seen) (Fantasy. 9 & up)

Product Details

Doubleday Canada
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.47(w) x 8.78(h) x 0.71(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

They called themselves the Munrungs. It meant The People, or The True Human Beings.
   It’s what most people call themselves, to begin with. And then one day the tribe meets some other people, and gives them a name like The Other People or, if it’s not been a good day, The Enemy. If only they’d think up a name like Some More True Human Beings, it’d save a lot of trouble later on.
   Not that the Munrungs were in any way primitive. Pismire said they had a rich native cultural inheritance. He meant stories.
   Pismire knew all the old stories and many new ones and used to tell them while the whole tribe listened, enthralled, and the nighttime fires crumbled to ashes.
   Sometimes it seemed that even the mighty hairs that grew outside the village stockade listened, too. They seemed to crowd in closer.
   The oldest story was the shortest. He did not tell it often, but the tribe knew it by heart. It was a story told in many languages, all over the Carpet.
   “In the beginning,” said Pismire, “there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet, which covered the flatness. It was young in those days. There was no dust among the hairs. They were slim and straight, not bent and crusty like they are today. And the Carpet was empty.
   “Then came the dust, which fell upon the Carpet, drifting among the hairs, taking root in the deep shadows. More came, tumbling slowly and with silence among the waiting hairs, until the dust was thick in the Carpet.
   “From the dust the Carpet wove us all. First came the little crawling creatures that make their dwellings in burrows and high in the hairs. Then came the soraths, and the weft borers, tromps, goats, and gromepipers, and the snargs.
   “Now the Carpet had life and noise. Yes, and death and silence. But there was a thread missing from the weave on the loom of life.
   “The Carpet was full of life, but it did not know it was alive. It could be, but it could not think. It did not even know what it was.
   “And so from the dust came us, the Carpet People. We gave the Carpet its name, and named the creatures, and the weaving was complete. We were the first to give the Carpet a name. Now it knew about itself.
   “Though Fray, who hates life in the Carpet, may tread upon us, though shadows grow over us, we are the soul of the Carpet, and that is a mighty thing. We are the fruit of the loom.
   “Of course, this is all metaphorical, but I think it’s important, don’t you?”

Chapter 1
It was the Law that every tenth year the people of all the tribes in the Dumii Empire should come and be Counted.
   They did not go all the way to the great capital city of Ware, but went instead to the little walled town of Tregon Marus.
   The Counting was always a great occasion. Tregon Marus would double in size and importance overnight as tribal tents were pitched outside its walls. There was a horse market and a five-day fair, old friends to be met, and a flood of news to be exchanged.
   And there was the Counting itself. New names were added to the crackling scrolls, which, the people liked to believe, were taken to Ware, even to the Great Palace of the Emperor himself. The Dumii clerks laboriously wrote down how many pigs and goats and tromps everybody had, and one by one the people shuffled on to the next table and paid their taxes in furs and skins. That was the unpopular part. So the queue wound round Tregon Marus, in at the East Gate, through the postern and stables, across the market square, and through the countinghouse. Even the youngest babies were carried past the clerks, for the quill pens to wobble and scratch their names on the parchment. Many a tribesman got a funny name because a clerk didn’t know how to spell, and there’s more of that sort of thing in History than you might expect.
   On the fifth day the governor of the town called all the tribal chieftains to an audience in the market square, to hear their grievances. He didn’t always do anything about them, but at least they got heard, and he nodded a lot; and everyone felt better about it, at least until they got home. This is politics.
   That was how it had always happened, time out of mind.
   And on the sixth day the people went back to their homes, along the roads the Dumii had built. They went east. Behind them the road went west, until it came to the city of Ware. There it was just one of the many roads that entered the city. Beyond Ware it became the West Road, becoming narrower and more winding until it reached the farthermost western outpost of the Rug.
   Such was the Dumii Empire. It covered almost all of the Carpet from the Woodwall to the wasteland near Varnisholme in the north.
   In the west it bordered Wildland and the uttermost fringes of the Carpet, and southward the roads ran as far as the Hearthlands. The painted people of the Wainscot, the warlike Hibbolgs, even the fire-worshippers of the Rug, all paid their tribute to the Emperor.
   Some of them didn’t like the Dumii much, usually because the Empire discouraged the small wars and cattle raids that, in the outlying regions, were by way of being a recreational activity. The Empire liked peace. It meant that people had enough time to earn money to pay their taxes. On the whole, peace seemed to work.
   So the Munrung tribe went east, and passed out of the chronicles of the Empire for another ten years. Sometimes they quarreled among themselves, but on the whole they lived peacefully and avoided having much to do with history, which tends to get people killed.
   Then, one year, no more was heard from Tregon Marus. . . .

Old Grimm Orkson, chieftain of the Munrungs, had two sons. The eldest, Glurk, succeeded his father as chieftain when old Orkson died.
   To the Munrung way of thinking, which was a slow and deliberate way, there couldn’t have been a better choice. Glurk looked just like a second edition of his father, from his broad shoulders to his great, thick neck, the battering center of his strength. Glurk could throw a spear farther than anyone. He could wrestle with a snarg, and wore a necklace of their long yellow teeth to prove it. He could lift a horse with one hand, run all day without tiring, and creep up so close to a grazing animal that sometimes it would die of shock before he had time to raise his spear. Admittedly he moved his lips when he was thinking, and the thoughts could be seen bumping against one another like dumplings in a stew, but he was not stupid. Not what you’d call stupid. His brain got there in the end. It just went the long way round.
   “He’s a man of few words, and he doesn’t know what either of them means,” people said, but not when he was within hearing.
   One day, toward evening, he was tramping homeward through the dusty glades, carrying a bone-tipped hunting spear under one arm. The other arm steadied the long pole that rested on his shoulder.
   In the middle of the pole, its legs tied together, dangled a snarg. At the other end of the pole was Snibril, Glurk’s younger brother.
   Old Orkson had married early and lived long, so a wide gap filled by a string of daughters, who the chieftain had carefully married off to upright and respected and above all well-off Munrungs, separated the brothers.
   Snibril was slight, especially compared with his brother. Grimm had sent him off to the strict Dumii school in Tregon Marus to become a clerk. “He can’t hardly hold a spear,” he said. “Maybe a pen’d be better. Get some learning in the family.”
   When Snibril had run away for the third time, Pismire came to see Grimm.
   Pismire was the shaman, a kind of odd-job priest.
   Most tribes had one, although Pismire was different. For one thing, at least once every month he washed all the bits that showed. This was unusual. Other shamans tended to encourage dirt, taking the view that the grubbier, the more magical.
   And he didn’t wear lots of feathers and bones, and he didn’t talk like the other shamans in neighboring tribes.
   Other shamans ate the yellow-spotted mushrooms that were found deep in the hair thickets and said things like ‘Hiiiiyahyahheya! Heyahey-ayahyah! Hngh! Hngh!’ which certainly sounded magical.
   Pismire said things like ‘Correct observation followed by meticulous deduction and the precise visualization of goals is vital to the success of any enterprise. Have you noticed the way the wild tromps always move around two days ahead of the sorath herds? Incidentally, don’t eat the yellow-spotted mushrooms.”
   Which didn’t sound magical at all, but worked a lot better and conjured up good hunting. Privately some Munrungs thought good hunting was due more to their own skill than to his advice. Pismire encouraged this view. “Positive thinking,” he would say, “is also very important.”
   He was also the official medicine man. He was a lot better, they agreed (but reluctantly, because the Munrungs respected tradition), than the last one they had had, whose idea of medicine was to throw some bones in the air and cry ‘Hyahyahyah! Hgn! Hgnh!’ Pismire just mixed various kinds of rare dust in a bowl, made it into pills, and said things like ‘Take one of these when you go to bed at night and another one if you wake up in the morning.”
   And occasionally he offered advice on other matters.
   Grimm was chopping sticks outside his hut. “It’ll never work,” said Pismire, appearing behind him in that silent way of his. “You can’t send Snibril off to Tregon again. He’s a Munrung. No wonder he keeps running away. He’ll never be a clerk. It’s not in the blood, man. Let him stay. I’ll see he learns to read.”
   “If you can learn him, you’re welcome,” said Grimm, shaking his head. “He’s a mystery to me. Spends all his time moping around. His mother used to be like that. Of course, she got a bit of sense once she got married.”
   Grimm had never learned to read, but he had always been impressed by the clerks at Tregon Marus. They could make marks on bits of parchment that could remember things. That was power, of a sort. He was quite keen to see that an Orkson got some of it.
   So Snibril went to Pismire’s village school with the other children, and learned numbers, letters, and the Dumii laws. He enjoyed it, sucking in knowledge as though his life depended on it. It often did, Pismire said.
   And, strangely, he also grew up to be a hunter almost as good as his brother. But in different ways. Glurk chased. Snibril watched. You don’t have to chase around after creatures, Pismire had said. You watch them for long enough, and then you’ll find the place to wait and they’ll come to you. There’s nearly always a better way of doing something.
   When old Grimm died, he was laid in a barrow dug out of the dust of the Carpet, with his hunting spear by his side. Munrungs had no idea where you went when you died, but there was no reason to go hungry once you got there.
   Glurk became chieftain, and would have to take the tribe to the next Counting. But the messenger to summon them to Tregon Marus was long overdue, and that worried Glurk. Not that he was in a hurry to pay taxes, and actually going to see why the messenger was late seemed a bit too, you know, keen, but usually the Dumii were very reliable, especially over tax gathering.
   But as he and his brother wandered homeward that evening, he kept his thoughts to himself. Snibril grunted as he heaved the pole onto his other shoulder. He was shorter than his brother, and he was going to get shorter still, he thought, if he couldn’t shed the load for a minute or two.
   “I feel as though my feet have worn right off and my legs have turned up at the ends,” he said. “Can’t we stop for a rest? Five minutes won’t hurt. And . . . my head aches . . .”
   “Five minutes, then,” said Glurk. “No more. It’s getting dark.”
   They had reached the Dumii road, and not far north of it lay the Woodwall, home, and supper. They sat down.
   Glurk, who never wasted his time, started to sharpen the point of his spear on a piece of grit, but both brothers gazed down the road, which was shining in the dim evening air. The road stretched west, a glowing line in the darkness. The hairs around it were full of growing shadows. It had fascinated Snibril ever since his father had told him that all roads led to Ware. So it was only the road that lay between the doorway of his hut and the threshold of the Emperor’s palace, he thought. And if you counted all the streets and passages that led off the road . . . Once you set foot on it, you might end up anywhere, and if you just sat by the road and waited, who might pass you by? Everywhere was connected to everywhere else, Pismire had said.
   He put his head in his hands. The ache was worse. It felt as though he was being squeezed.
   The Carpet had felt wrong, too, today. The hunting had been hard. Most of the animals had vanished, and the dust between the hairs did not stir in the breathless air.
   Glurk said, “I don’t like this. There hasn’t been anyone on the road for days.”
   He stood up and reached out for the pole.
   Snibril groaned. He’d have to ask Pismire for a pill . . .
   A shadow flickered high up in the hairs, and flashed away toward the south.
   There was a sound so loud as to be felt by the whole body, hitting the Carpet with horrible suddenness. The brothers sprawled in the dust as the hairs around them groaned and screamed in the gale.

Meet the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett, the author of more than three dozen novels, is one of the world's best-selling and best-loved novelists writing in the English language. He wrote his first published story when he was 13 and his first novel, THE CARPET PEOPLE, when he was 17. His books have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. 
In addition to his phenomenal—and phenomenally popular—Discworld series for adults, Terry is the multi-award-winning author several children's books. These include the books of the BROMELIAD TRILOGY (HarperCollins, 2003), as well as THE WEE FREE MEN (HarperCollins, 2003), A HAT FULL OF SKY (HarperCollins, 2004), WINTERSMITH (HarperCollins, 2006), I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT (HarperCollins, 2010), NATION (HarperCollins, 2008)—a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner, and LA Times Book Prize for YA Literature winner—and DODGER (HarperCollins, 2012), for which he won his second Michael L. Printz Honor. He was awarded Britain's highest honor for a children's novel, the Carnegie Medal, for THE AMAZING MAURICE AND HIS EDUCATED RODENTS (HarperCollins, 2001). The recipient of several honorary doctorates, Sir Terry was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 for his services to literature. And in 2011, he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lasting Contributions to Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association.
He passed away in 2015 from Alzheimer's Disease. Find out more about Terry at terrypratchettbooks.com and the Facebook page https//www.facebook.com/pratchett (610K fans).

Brief Biography

Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Date of Birth:
April 28, 1948
Place of Birth:
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

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The Carpet People 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great for younger Children
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The stories of 'carpet people', microscopic people living in a carpet. Funny, intelligent and with a sharp wit. Anything Terry Pratchett writes is well worth reading, and this is just another wonderful example.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Opinion it was a great plot though
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Y u sad...a...?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aleah lost all color in her face and gets sick in her stonach "oh my god i dint mean to hurt you im so sorry"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Says you dumb ass