The Luggage

“The interview: Interview your favourite fictional character.”

When I first saw this latest of WordPress’ ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ looming on the horizon, I must say that it sounded quite interesting. After all, in the sixty-odd summers that I’ve been shuffling around this mortal coil, I’ve read a fair number of works of fiction and seen plenty of movies. So I thought the worst that could happen would be that I’d be spoilt for choice.

To an extent this has proved correct. It’s certainly very hard to pick out a single favourite when so many possibilities sprang to mind more or less immediately. Unfortunately, though, a fair few of the fictional characters that have stuck in the memory haven’t necessarily done so for the right reasons. Which would obviously make the interview process a bit fraught. For example:

  • I can’t imagine I’d have much to ask the odious Melmotte from Trollope’s ‘The Way We Live Now’, apart perhaps from ‘why are you such an evil, crooked bastard? and ‘how did your creator know about Robert Maxwell before he was even born?’
  • Obviously it wouldn’t matter what question I posed to Travis Bickle because the answer would be ‘You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?’
  • And as for Hannibal Lecter’s favourite food and wine, well they’re already a matter of public record.

Even with more sympathetic – even heroic – fictional favourites, the interview process could prove less than straightforward:

  • Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Well, my Lord, thank you for sharing your views on the misery of life and the fearful uncertainty of death, but I only wanted to know whether you’d ever seen Star Wars. And for God’s sake, just make your mind up.
  • Leopold Bloom from James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’: Sorry to interrupt, but I’m really not interested in what you had for breakfast and nor are my readers; in fact, I don’t even remember asking.
  • Jude Fawley (Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude The Obscure’): oh, cheer up; you’re making the rest of us miserable.

However, I finally found the perfect subject for this project: The Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ books: a creation of sheer literary genius, and genuinely one of my favourite fictional characters.

Now I assume that pretty well everyone has heard of Discworld (and if not, then there’s really no hope for you unless you immediately rectify the situation by starting with ‘The Colour of Magic’). However, for the uninitiated, the Luggage is, to quote the ‘Daily Telegraph’ (and that’s not something I do every day of the week, believe me):

“Speechless, lethal and heralded only by the patter of thousands of tiny feet, this ambulant, man-eating suitcase is one of Pratchett’s most disturbing and brilliant creations. Constructed from “sapient pearwood” and faithful unto death to its owner…the Luggage can snap up predators or dirty socks with the same blank abandon, popping open its lid again to reveal piles of clean laundry smelling of lavender.  

At this point I must apologise in advance for a bit of name-dropping. About twenty years ago, when we lived in Scotland, our next-door-but-one neighbours were the parents of the novelist Iain Banks (now, very sadly, no longer with us). We met him once at a drinks do at Tom and Effie’s. He was quite charming, very interesting and highly amusing.

It so happened that I’d been reading a Discworld book just recently, so the conversation naturally turned to the series, and I mentioned that The Luggage was one of my favourite ‘characters’. Iain agreed with enthusiasm; as an author, he said he was envious of a character that could convey so much without ever actually uttering a word.

Of course, it’s the genius of Pratchett that brings the speechless character alive, as when he writes of the Luggage having ‘a particularly malevolent look about its keyhole, the sort of look that says “Go on — make my day”‘.

Now, even with my rapidly sinking boredom threshold, that’s exactly the kind of character I could listen to all day.



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