A Conversation for The 'Dirk Gently' Novels of Douglas Adams
Stones in Wales
Whaleo Started conversation May 1, 2011
Can anyone tell me the significance of Thor's counting all the stones in Wales? It's brought up in Chapter 22 when he first goes to Kate's apartment. He says very fiercely that he thinks he lost count, but he's not doing it again.
At the end, in Chapter 32, Kate, who seems pretty on the ball and you think would remember the earlier conversation, brings it up again, trying to get him to tell her in exchange for the answer to Odin's linen problem. He basically gives her the same answer again, adding "Think, girl, think!"
Next we hear, she's apparently given him the solution. Did she just give in? Did he give in and give her a number, even though they knew it was probably wrong? The re-emphasis, and being part of the big wrap-up, smacks of a mystery that should have some kind of answer (perhaps due to several things in other Douglas Adams novels that just seemed weird or mysterious at the time having later fallen into place, sometimes years later, and added depth and meaning to the stories for me.)
Anyone have any background? What did it mean to you? Been driving me a little crazy. Thanks.
Stones in Wales
Whaleo Posted May 1, 2011
Here's the long version, some of the factors I've considered that might be important.
At first I thought it might be an allusion to some folklore or mythology I wasn't aware of. Something about the number of stones in Wales, or some clever tricksters solution to a similar problem that got the answer without having to do the counting. But Thor is not known as clever, and I didn't see anything that might indicate he brought in Loki or Toe Rag or someone to be clever for him.
I did find some legends about various groups of standing stones in England (though I found none in Mid-Glamorgan) that said it was impossible to count them, or to count them twice and get the same result, sometimes saying that trying to count them more than once would make you go mad or die (and perhaps these legends are more common knowledge in England, so he just dropped it in without any further detail, thinking people would immediately know what he was talking about?)
Then there's several comments I've seen with people being unsatisfied with the endings of the Dirk Gently books, saying he ties things up a little too quickly, neatly, deus-ex-machina, whatever. This is possibly partly because Adams had a reputation for procrastinating and might have been pressured to just wrap it up and get it to the printers. So maybe he just brought in an element from earlier to try and tie it to the ending, add a little artificial drama where Thor got to yell some more, and the "Think, girl, think!" is just reprimanding her to remember what they'd already talked about, and not to work out for herself what he'd actually done about it?
That's kind of the simplest, if most unsatisfying answer. That there is no answer, no mystery. For me, it would make it's inclusion, and re-emphasis in the final act even more maddening. A lot at the end is kind of told in hints. You can make it all out if you concentrate, think a bit, and catch all the info you can connect it to other events and work it all out.
Is it something to do with the Guilt God? The "interconnectedness of all things"? Thor uses a similar gesture describing the smallest rocks he had to count and when referring to molecules (there are as many ways to get to Asgard as there are tiny pieces)...does that mean something?
The question of the stones is actually brought up a third time, by the god Dirk sits next to at the Challenging Hour feast. He mentions Thor won't tell anyone the answer, and always replies "Count 'em yourself" and goes off and sulks when asked. His response always seems to be a combination of anger at people who ask him to just give up the answer it took him years to get, and anger at himself for (presumably) not knowing the answer, at least not the correct answer.
Probably totally unrelated, but the old Seer who sits on top of the poles in Mostly Harmless also makes the point "You think I'm going to tell you just like that what it took me forty springs, summers and autumns sitting on top of a pole to work out?" Obviously I'm grasping at straws here...
Some kind of point about humans (even good-natured humans in the process of trying to help these gods fallen on hard times) wanting to quantify the gods, gain their knowledge of the universe, take from them the one thing that makes them special, or different from us? Or just Thor getting tricked and bested again, faced with a problem he can't solve with might and a hammer?
Stones in Wales
Gnomon  Posted May 1, 2011
I'd have to re-read the book to figure this out. I always thought that the task of counting the stones in Wales was just a meaningless punishment that Odin gave to Thor.
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