Study Guide

Nation Summary

By Terry Pratchett

Nation Summary

First comes the wave. (No, not street dancing 101). This is a deadly wave, one that kills almost an entire island nation, leaving just one survivor: a young boy named Mau. Also caught up in the wave is a European ship called the Sweet Judy. It crashes on Mau's island, also killing everyone aboard except one: a young girl named Ermintrude. (But please, call her Daphne. She insists. Anything's better than Ermintrude.)

It's your typical boy-meets-girl story: Mau thinks Daphne's a ghost; Daphne tries to shoot Mau. Don't you hate it when that happens? But, surprise surprise, they become friends and co-survivors after overcoming their initial embarrassing miscommunications. More people arrive, including the priest Ataba, who doesn't take kindly to Mau's blaspheming of the gods. These two get along about as well as Twinkies and hot sauce. While they're bickering, Daphne's finding her place in the Woman's Place, making beer and birthing babies.

One day, Mau, Daphne, and Ataba explore the cave of Mau's ancestors. Inside, they find a great stone statue that proves that Mau's people were some of the world's earliest scientists and explorers. It's like the Thinker to the power of a hundred. Their discovery could change the world, since at this point (the 1860s in an alternate universe), most people are convinced that Europeans invented everything awesome. (Totally unlike our world, of course.)

As they leave the cave, they discover that white European explorers have arrived. Not the friendly type, either: these guys were mutineers aboard the Sweet Judy. They shoot Ataba dead and take Daphne hostage. She's no wilting English rose: she poisons one, injures the other, and gets out of there. Finally, Mau defeats their leader in a duel, scaring them off for good and returning peace to the island.

The peace doesn't last long before Daphne's father arrives, and surprise! Thanks to an epidemic that swept through Europe, he's now the king of the British Empire, and Daphne is the heir. Thankfully, he's a little more understanding than the mutineers. Daphne convinces him that Mau's island is an asset to the world and that it deserves preservation. Daphne leaves Mau and sails back to England. Then Mau goes fishing. The end!

Well, not exactly. In the epilogue, we learn that Mau and Daphne became wise rulers of their respective peoples. When they died, they were laid to rest together at the bottom of the sea. Anyway, it's all very sweet, but it raises the question: do sailors wear black to funerals at sea?