Terry Pratchett, a British writer who specialized in humorous fantasy, was diagnosed in 2007 with early onset Alzheimer’s. When he passed away in 2015 he was 66 and had lost most of his connections to the world.
Typically when people are diagnosed with a devastating disease that marks the end of their creative output as they focus all of their attention on trying to fight it. There are obvious exceptions; Warren Zevon’s final album was written as he was slowly dying of cancer, for example, and includes a song to his wife that makes me cry even today, Keep Me In Your Heart.
Terry, though… Sir Terry Pratchett went above and beyond. After receiving his diagnosis – sought because of mental issues he’d been experiencing during the writing of his latest novel – he told his fans that he likely had a few books left in him before the disease made writing impossible.
He managed to produced five more books in the series which made him famous, Discworld. He also co-authored a book on the internal science of the setting. And co-authored another five books in a science fiction series with Stephen Baxter. And appeared in cameo roles in adaptations made from his books.
Most of all, he was knighted.
It is not uncommon for prominent figures to be given titles by the British government, and over the years a few popular culture icons have received knighthoods – Ringo Starr, Christopher Lee, Patrick Stewart, and Sean Connery have all been knighted, for example. Pratchett received his title in 2008, after he’d been coping with Alzheimer’s for more than a year. Unlike other modern knights, though, Pratchett was a fantasist with an appreciation for British history. For Pratchett’s sensibilities, a knight needed a sword.
He went about getting one… by making it himself.
Pratchett received authorization to dig in a field in his home town until he’d found roughly 175 pounds of iron ore. Then he sought instruction on how to properly smelt the iron, and with the resultant metal he worked under the guidance of an experienced craftsman to hammer out his sword.
He even added some meteorites to the final metal batch, in a nod to many fantasy stories… that last little push to include as much fictional magic into a very real weapon.
The only drawback was that after he made his sword, he wasn’t allowed to carry it around with him in public… it violated knife laws in most areas of England. Still, an impressive feat for someone, making their own sword, was made more noteworthy with the fact that Sir Terry created it while under the influence of a mind-damaging illness.
We have to take what life throws at us, but we don’t have to let it beat us down.
Question of the night: What famed weapon, real or imaginary, would you most like to own?