This Who's Who was originally featured in Issue 4 - August 1997
Death has appeared in every Discworld book and even makes a cameo appearance in Good Omens. He soon developed into the most popular (according to our readers) character the Discworld has seen. Why is Death so popular? Is it because we all hope that when our time comes death will be like the Discworld Death? Or is it because HE TALKS LIKE THIS?
Death's weaknesses make him seem human. He can also be relied on to put things right when it really comes down to it.
The mechanics of his role are a little hazy: he seems to be ultimately responsible for all death on the Discworld, but presumably doesn't personally despatch each individual. In the early books this is formalised: Death appears to royalty (who get the sword, not the scythe), wizards, witches & other mystically inclined types, and the odd "special" case. This setup soon goes out the window, though, when we see Death turning up for every Tom, Dick and Harry whose passing will lend some comedic effect to the story.
Perhaps the only problem with Death is that by making him so likeable PTerry has removed any possibility of real tragedy from his books. How can you get upset about a character dying when he's still there chatting away after he's shuffled off this mortal coil?
An assistant demon turns up to top Rincewind at the end of The Colour of Magic, a fate which the perennial survivor avoids on the grounds that he merits Death himself. In Reaper Man we learn about Azrael, the ultimate Death of the universe (or something). Azrael not only shares Death's capitalised speech, although on a titanic scale, but also seems to have Death's concern for humanity at his core. And that concern is more or less the whole point with Death..
Death's weaknesses make him seem human. He can also be relied on to put things right when it really comes down to it, though. You've got this kind of parent figure in the background - perhaps, for the reader, he fulfills the role of a benevolent god, a job the Discworld deities have rejected.
William: For my money, is that sequence in Lords and Ladies when, after a big, totally sober build-up, Death says THANK YOU. I MUST SAY THESE ARE VERY GOOD BISCUITS. HOW DO THEY GET THE BITS OF CHOCOLATE IN?
Jason: For me it's the bit in Mort, just after Death has offered Mort a job. I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, he said, BUT I COULD MURDER A CURRY.
Richard: It has got be from The Light Fantastic. "I Said I Hope it is a good party," said Galder, loudly. AT THE MOMENT IT IS, said Death levelly. I THINK IT MIGHT GO DOWNHILL VERY QUICKLY AT MIDNIGHT. "Why?" THAT'S WHEN THEY THINK I'LL BE TAKING MY MASK OFF.