Preface to v7

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The one song that all Discworld fans will be familiar with, is of course Nanny Ogg’s favourite ballad: ‘The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All’ (see also the annotation for p. 36/35 of Wyrd Sisters).

I will start this section with the complete text to the song that might have been the prototype for the hedgehog-song—except that it wasn’t. It can be found in Michael Green’s book Why Was He Born So Beautiful and Other Rugby Songs (1967, Sphere UK), it is called ‘The Sexual Life of the Camel’, it probably dates back to the 1920s/30s, and it goes:

“The carnal desires of the camel

Are stranger than anyone thinks,

For this passionate but perverted mammal has designs on the hole of the Sphinx, But this deep and alluring depression Is oft clogged by the sands of the Nile, Which accounts for the camel’s expression And the Sphinx’s inscrutable smile.

In the process of Syphilization

From the anthropoid ape down to man

It is generally held that the Navy

Has buggered whatever it can.

Yet recent extensive researches

By Darwin and Huxley and Ball

Conclusively prove that the hedgehog

Has never been buggered at all.
And further researches at Oxford

Have incontrovertibly shown

That comparative safety on shipboard

Is enjoyed by the hedgehog alone.

But, why haven’t they done it at Spithead, As they’ve done it at Harvard and Yale And also at Oxford and Cambridge By shaving the spines off its tail!”

The annoying thing about the hedgehog song is of course that Terry only leaks us bits and pieces of it, but certainly never enough material to deduce a complete text from. So readers decided to write their own version of the song, which is available for downloading from the Pratchett Archives.

The first version of the song was written and posted by Matthew Crosby (who tried to incorporate all the lines mentioned in the Discworld novels), after which the text was streamlined and many verses were added by other readers of the newsgroup. Currently we have thirteen verses, which makes the song a bit too long to include here in its entirety.

Nevertheless, I thought it would be fun to show what we’ve come up with, so I have compromised and chosen to reproduce just my own favourite verses:

“Bestiality sure is a fun thing to do

But I have to say this as a warning to you:

With almost all animals, you can have ball But the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.


The spines on his back are too sharp for a man

They’ll give you a pain in the worst place they can The result I think you’ll find will appall:

The hedgehog can never be buggered at all!

Mounting a horse can often be fun

An elephant too; though he weighs half a ton Even a mouse (though his hole is quite small) But the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.

A fish is refreshing, although a bit wet

And a cat or a dog can be more than a pet Even a giraffe (despite being so tall) But the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.

You can ravish a sloth but it would take all night

With a shark it is faster, but the darned beast might bite We already mentioned the horse, you may recall But the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.

For prosimian fun, you can bugger a lemur

To bolster your name as a pervert and schemer The lemurs cry Frink! as a coy mating call But the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.”

Finally, we come to the old drinking song mentioned in the annotation for p. 99/82 of Eric: ‘The Ball of Kerrymuir’. This song can, coincidentally enough, also be found in Michael Green’s Why Was He Born So Beautiful and Other Rugby Songs. That version appears to have the dirty words replaced by rows of asterisks—a rather useless form of editorial restraint, since in this particular case it means the song now contains more asterisks than normal alphabetic characters. Enter correspondent Tony D’Arcy, who was kind enough to fax me an uncensored copy of the song. ‘The Ball of Kerrymuir’ has 43 verses, a small subset of which I now reproduce for your reading pleasure, just to give you a feel for the song. From here on down this section of the APF is rated X.

“Oh the Ball, the Ball of Kerrymuir,

Where your wife and my wife,

Were a-doing on the floor.

Balls to your partner,

Arse against the wall.

If you never get fucked on a Saturday night You’ll never be fucked at all.

There was fucking in the kitchen

And fucking in the halls

You couldn’t hear the music for

The clanging of the balls.

Now Farmer Giles was there,

His sickle in his hand,

And every time he swung around

He circumcised the band.

Jock McVenning he was there

A-looking for a fuck,

But every cunt was occupied

And he was out of luck.

The village doctor he was there

He had his bag of tricks,

And in between the dances,

He was sterilising pricks.

And when the ball was over, Everyone confessed:

They all enjoyed the dancing,

but the fucking was the best.”

...And Dance

When you mention ‘Discworld’ and ‘dance’ in the same breath, you can only be talking about one thing: Morris Dancing, a subject that most non-Brits will be almost completely in the dark about. Brewer has this to say on the subject:

Morris Dance: brought to England in the reign of Edward III, when John of Gaunt returned from Spain. In the dance, bells were jingled, and staves or swords clashed. It was a military dance of the Moors or Moriscos, in which five men and a boy engaged; the boy wore a ‘morione’ or head-piece, and was called Mad Morion.

Which is interesting, but doesn’t really explain anything in a 20th century context. Luckily, a newsgroup like attracts contemporary Morris Dancers like flies, and for the rest of this section I will give the floor to Rich Holmes:

“In a number of books (including Strata, Guards! Guards!, Reaper Man, and Lords and Ladies) Pratchett refers to morris dancing. These allusions may be lost on the typical American reader. Picture, then, six men in white shirts and trousers, decorated with ribbons, wearing bells on their legs, in a two-by-three formation—the men, not the bells. To a tune played on fiddle or squeezebox, they dance up and down, back and forth, gesturing with big white handkerchiefs in their hands—or, maybe, clashing yard-long willow sticks with one another. That’s morris dancing, or at least the species of morris dancing that was done in the late 19th century in the Cotswolds region of England.

It’s also done today, throughout the English-speaking world (though in America it’s not exactly an everyday sight), these days by women’s teams and mixed teams as well as by men. There are several hundred morris teams in England as well as 170 or so in the US and Canada and God knows how many in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and other odd places.

As for where it came from, and when, and what it all means, no one really knows. Some of its roots seem to go back to the European continent sometime in or before the 15th century. Similar, possibly related dances were and are found in Europe and even as far away as India. For a while in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were commonly claimed by folklorists to be a remnant of a pre-Christian fertility rite performed by a male priesthood; there’s really no hard evidence to support such a theory, though.

Terry Pratchett tells us he’s “never waved a hankie in anger” nor knows any morris dancers personally, but that he finds the morris dance kind of fascinating.

Those interested can contact either Tom Keays ( or Rich Holmes ( about the Morris Dancing Discussion List. You knew there was an ulterior motive here, didn’t you?”

There is also a web page for the Morris Dancing Discussion List. The URL is: <>.

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