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The Librarian

This Who's Who was originally featured in Issue 16 - August 1998

The librarian of the Unseen University has a propensity for bananas and sleeps in a box under the desk in the centre of the library. This is not as unusual as it seems because unlike every other librarian in the universe he is an orang-utan. This wasn't always the case though; after all who would employ an ape? - "Congratulations you have the job and your salary will be three bananas a day." The Librarian was transformed into his present shape when a huge magical event took place at the beginning of The Light Fantastic. He has since refused all offers of help to turn him back into human form - even going as far as ripping the page out of the yearbook that had his picture in. He considers having four hands and good balance excellent skills for a librarian.

He has since refused all offers of help to turn him back into human form

The Librarian is one of the most popular characters from the Discworld. This is despite his role as part of the supporting cast, but then one of the features of the series is the success of the minor characters: the members of the Faculty, the beggars, the Death of Rats, for example. Like the latter, the Librarian wins our sympathy and support even though he doesn't speak, or at least not in the usual manner.

It could be the mystery that makes the Librarian so appealing. Like any mime artist, you never really know what he is thinking. After all, what do orang-utans think about and what are their values (probably nothing to do with books, but this is fantasy). Few people can be considered a friend of the Librarian, and he's certainly not a person you want to get on the wrong side of. But consider the pathos of a sad looking, long limbed, furry orange sack, totally removed from its normal habitat, wandering alone around Unseen University, keeping to his own agenda - how could anyone possibly not like the Librarian?

As we mentioned some time ago (way back in issue 1 in fact) the Librarian's development seems to have been a matter of chance. When PTerry originally transformed him into an ape I doubt he had any intention of using the joke again; the skill with which he expanded upon it is an excellent example of his ability as a humourist and a writer. Having said that, the Librarian's role in The Last Continent was perhaps not what many fans were expecting. Let's hope the both author and character revert to type on their next outing.

My all time favourite Librarian quote has to be Oook!