The Carpet People

The first version

Hbk, illustrated by the author: Colin Smythe, c.3000 copies, 16 November 1971 (0-900675-49-7), following a launch party at Heal’s Store, Tottenham Court Road, London, on the 15th.
The jackets were not laminated but had a Duraseal protective cover. The printers made a mistake (although perfectly correct in the final proofs), printing the illustration on p. 34 upside down, so this leaf had to be removed, and a corrected replacement, printed with pages 33 and 34, tipped in each copy.
The illustrations in a very few copies – certainly less than ten – were hand-coloured by the author. As far as I know, only two had all the illustrations coloured and extra pen and ink drawings added to some pages; others only had the full page illustrations coloured. Terry may have coloured all the illustrations in copies for friends, but I have not heard of any.
A facsimile reprint of this first edition, specially bound in carpet created by a member of Doubleday’s staff, was presented in a special case to the author by Transworld Publishers at his fiftieth birthday party in 1998. A copy in a trade cloth, but without any spine blocking was given to Colin Smythe and is in the Pratchett archive he donated to the University of London’s Senate House Library. There are no other copies of this printing, which therefore consisted of two copies. (News of this special printing had been printed and circulated prematurely in a fan newsletter prior to Terry’s birthday and his copy of the newsletter was waylaid and only given him after his birthday party.)

German: Alarm im Teppichreich, trs. Käthe Recheis, Sauerländer (cover & illus. Jörg Müller),  1972 (3-7941-0142-1)

The second version

Hbk: Doubleday, 18,100 copies on 30 June 1992 (0-385-40304-6)
 Bookproof: quantity uncertain
Hbk, 1,000 Signed & Numbered Collector’s Edition, in slipcase: Doubleday, October 2005, (0-385-61026-2), specially prepared for Waterstones.
Illustrated hbk: 1 October 2009 (978-0-385-61572-3). Contains a 16 page full colour section with all those illustrations relevant to the second version, together with some of the extra illustrations he drew in some of the hand-coloured copies.
Pbk: Corgi, 111,500 copies on 22 April 1993 (0-552-52752-1)
The 8th printing (October 1999) had a modified cover design
Reissued in two formats, with new cover illustration by David Wyatt, Corgi, May 2004 (B-format: 0-552-55105-8; mass-market: 0-552-55107-4)
B-format reissued with modified cover design on 7 June 2012 (978-0-552-55105-2)
New B-format edition, with cover illustration and chapter heads by Mark Beech: Corgi, 6 January 2017 (978-0-552-57336-8)
50th Anniversary reissue with purple cover and gold blocking, ‘Terry Pratchett 50 Years’, and printed in black at foot of cover  ‘Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first book Sir Terry Pratchett ever wrote’, with extra material, including an extract from a letter to Colin Smythe relating to Pratchett’s plans for a second Carpet People book (which did not materialise), a self-portrait drawn soon after publication of the first edition and Chapter 1 of Truckers: Corgi, 22 April 2021 (978-0-552-57336-8 – unchanged ISBN)

Double volume pack with Wings, ‘Only available at Tesco’, August 2012 (978-1-409-60749-6)

Large print: Spectrum [Thorpe/Ulverscroft], 1 October 2000 (0-7089-9527-6)

USA (with additional material not in UK 2009 edition): Clarion 5 November 2013 (978-0-544-21247-3)
Advance reading copies: 500 with white background to front cover (error), 3,500 with cream background (correct), neither with colour illustrations.
Apart from additional illustrations in colour and monochrome, this edition also contains TP’s first Carpet People story from The Bucks Free Press of 1965 as an Addendum.

Bulgarian: Кидимените Хора, trs. Svetlana Komogorova, Prozoretz, 4,100 copies on 17 September 1996 (954-8079-40-1)

Chinese (mainland, simplified): 地毯一族,  trs. 白翮 [Bai He], Tomorrow Publishing

Czech: Kobercové, trs. Jan Kantůrek, Talpress, June 2001 (80-7197-156-1)
With TP’s monochrome illustrations in the text and a colour section, and addendum (‘Tales of the Carpet People’, story published in the Bucks Free Press, 8 October-23 December 1965): Talpress, 2015 (978-80-7197-551-9)

Danish: Tæppefolket, trs. Torben Nilsson, Borgens, 1,500 copies on 4 February 1993 (87-418-6633-9)
e-book and audio: Gyldendal [contracted, but not yet released]

Estonian: Vaibarahvas, trs.Eva Laur, Tiritamm, 1500 copies in May 1999 (9985-55-073-0) Used illustrations by Hieronymus Bosche on cover

French: Le Peuple du Tapis, trs. Patrick Marcel, J’ai Lu, December 1997 (2-290-04669-8)
New cover: 1999 (978-2-277-30268-1)
New cover: illus Frédéric Sorrentino, J’ai lu, 9 April 2009 (978-2-290-01761-6)

German: Die Teppichvölker, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Heyne, c.8,071 copies in January 1994 (3-453-07369-X)
Heyne, with their – at that time – usual disregard for using appropriate cover designs,  used Kirby’s cover illustration for a book called Benedict’s Planet.
Reissue: Piper, July 2004 (978-3-492-28516-2)
Issued as an ebook 14 May 2012
Issued as a double volume, with Strata, Piper, October 2012 (978-3-492-26878-3)

Greek: Οι Χαλιμαντζαροι, trs. Ms. Anna Papastavrou, Patakis, 3,000 copies on 5 December 1996 (960-360-753-3)

Hebrew: אנשי השטיח, Opus Press, 1994 (348-260, and Doubleday ISBN)

Italian pbk: Il Popolo del Tappeto, trs. Angela Ragusa, Superjunior/Mondadori, March 1995 (88-04-39627-X)
Smaller pbk: I Miti Junior [Junior Myths]/Mondadori, May 1996 (88-04-41617-3)
New publisher: trs. Angela Ragusa, Kappalab, March 2018 (978-88-85457-08-9)

Polish: Dywan, trs. Jarosław Kotarski, Rebis, 4,850 copies on 13 May 1997, 150 proofs (83-7120-489-2), reprinted 2002, 2006, 2011 (978-83-7510-607-7)

Russian: Vladimir Sekatchev [partner of Eksmo] c.2,000 copies

SerbianNarod iz Tepiha, trs.  Nevena Andrić, Laguna, 7 December 2019 (978-86-521-3559-2) 

Slovak: 1) Koberčania, trs. Vladislav Gális, Columbus, 2003 (90-7136-085-6)
2) Koberčania, trs. Vladislav Gális, Slovart, May 2018 (978-80-556-3288-9)


Terry Pratchett, 23, was putting the world to rights over a glass of beer with a friend one evening when the friend got up to emphasise a point and started to pace across the room. ‘Don’t do that’, said Terry suddenly, ‘You’ll disturb the carpet people.’ To this day he doesn’t quite know what made him say it. But from such chance beginnings was born an extraordinary book The Carpet People – all about the little people who live in the carpets under your feet. . . . It all adds up to a strangely gripping story – for children of all ages from 9 to 90.  Peter Grosvenor, Daily Express, 9/12/71.
[It is uncertain whether this is something Terry made up for the benefit of this reviewer at the Heal’s launch party, but if so it pre-dates all his Bucks Free Press writings about the Carpet People, and he was too young to be drinking in a pub…]

The Carpet People (all about the little people who live in the towns and villages in the deep pile carpets under our feet) has the same sort of exciting quality that world markets found in Walt Disney and Hans Anderson, and I recommend it as one of the most original tots’ tomes to hit the bookshops for many a decade.       ‘Whitefriar’ [pseud. of Eric Hiscock], in Smith’s Trade News, 16/10/71

A reviewer who stumbles upon a book of what he considers to be quite extraordinary quality also finds himself in some difficulty. In the first place, he could be wrong which would make him look no end of a fool if dozens of copies of the book were to turn up in a year or so on the remainder counter in Woolworths.  But, far more important, the language of praise has become so debased – notably by book reviewers – that it’s not easy either to sound convincing or to do justice.
     So I approach the task of reviewing Terry Pratchett’s The Carpet People, with some care, picking my way to avoid the various traps of this unusual situation. Terry Pratchett has written a fantasv based on the proposition that there’s a whole new world in the carpet, and a whole new under-world under it. Having established this idea, he sustains and develops it with great skill, considerable inventiveness and a child’s eye for detail. Further, he tells the story of the inhabitants of the Carpetlands in fine epic style.
     Fantasy is hard to manage, from the writer’s point of view. Many are the children’s writers who, ambitious as latter-day Mary Nortons or C.S. Lewises, have foundered on the degree of imagination which is necessary to turn a fancy into a fantasy. For this reason, I had the direst expectations of The Carpet People on reading the blurb, which in truth is exception­ally badly-written. Reading that this was a book ‘sure to delight children of all ages’, my gloom deepened. But The Carpet People soon proved to be something very different from the clumsy bit of whimsy that I had steeled myself to expect.
     In fact, Terry Pratchett has suc­ceeded in making the jump from mere story-telling in an unusual setting to the creation of a whole new fantasy world, with its own social structure, religion, raw materials for daily living and – most important of all – concern for moral and personal values. This is not a matter of mere kiddielit intellectualisation. Children, even quite young children, know when fantasy is being handled right and when they’re being cheated. They will enjoy the detail with which Terry Pratchett, for example, explore the possibilities of his invented world. Odds and ends dropped on the carpet – a sugar grain, a coin, fragments of coal – find their way into the story quite naturally and inevitably, so that the reader is torn between admiration for Mr Pratchett’s ingenuity and recognition of the coarseness of life in the Carpetlands. And this quality will send children back to the book, after it has been read to them, to read it for themselves and at a different level of appreciation. The Carpet People has that onion-skin quality which is the mark of children’s books that never stay long on the library shelves.
    There are overtones, of course, of Tolkien, Lewis and BB’s Forest of Boland. Because of this, the children’s book pundits may well, having picked it up and looked at it from both sides, find it wanting. But both the concept and the story gave me a lot of pleasure and will, too, I think, to children who are still young enough to enjoy a story of heroic derring-do as well as to those who are old enough to glimpse some of the inner pleasures.
    Like most good fantasy, The Car­pet People is well-suited for reading aloud, and it made me, I confess, wish that I was back with a class I knew some years ago with which I used to discover and rediscover Narnia. The queue they would have formed to read it would have forced me to indent for half-a-dozen library copies; and the teeming life of the Carpet-lands would have entered into our daily classroom lives as surely as did Aslan, the White Witch and the Beav­ers.            Michael Pollard in Teachers’ World,  7/3/72

The drawings (by the author) are truly imaginative – one of a poor weeping dragon where even his horny scales seem to weep – is hilariously sad. They’re wonderful brave people and the story is full of episodes that capture the attention, and there is lots of reading – am I too enthusiastic? Well, it’s that I feel it’s a new dimension in imagination and the prose is beautiful. It is exciting and adventurous.        Rosemary Doyle in The Irish Times, 7/1/72

Mr Pratchett’s lively invention and neat characterisation will please readers if they have the staying power to grasp the identities of so many races and folk.
Margery Fisher in The Sunday Times, 5/12/71.

Older children, particularly those conditioned to science fiction and Norsemen tales, will certainly appreciate the cleverness of the idea, but for younger ones it is too sinister and heavy for enjoyment, contrary to what the blurb thinks. And then, most Indian children do not live in homes with heavy carpets anyway.
The Sunday Statesman (India) 16/7/72

Fantastic Invention
More than any other form of invention, fantasy needs to convey an absolute conviction; where the author flags or fails, the reader also dies. Are there thin places in Grimm, or in Tolkien? This applies to magic themes in younger books no less than the older and more sophisticated: all those considered here, indeed, test-pieces every one, are for the under-tens or so. Conviction certainly keeps The Carpet People in motion. It’s a strange and tangled book, not for everyone’s digestion; the obvious reader seems to be once who has raced through Norton (The Borrowers), Sutcliff, Kipling perhaps (the Roman British items) and Tolkien, and looks around for more. (The Tolkienian echoes may draw in some older readers, even.) Derivative, yes – but the idea also generates a disturbing energy of its own. Quotation best suggests the flavour:
“In the beginning”, Pismire, “there was nothing but the endless Flatness. Then came the Carpet, Mother of us all.  . . . Then came the dust, which fell upon the Carpet, drifting among the hairs, taking root in the deep shadows. First came the little crawling creatures that make their dwellings in burrows and high in the hairs. Then came the soraths, and the weft borers, tromps, goats, gromepipers and the snargs. But there was a thread missing from the weave on the loom of life.  . . . “
And so, from the dust, the Mother Carpet wove the Carpet People. They are minuscule. Each carpet hair is a mighty trunk, each colour of the pattern a vast region. Beyond the uttermost fringes is the Woodwall; beneath is the mysterious Underlay, with its “deep crevasses and windy caves”. The people include the deftmenes (good), the mouls (appalling), and wights, the first created of all. (“They are now of another age, those wights, who polish wood and carve trinkets for everyone who will buy. Now their time has gone.”) But the wights once built the beautiful city of Jeopard, glittering with jet from the hearthlands and crystals of sugar and salt, and now in deadly danger. The story tells how Snibril the Munrung, a sort of Frodo, goes forth with his brother Glurk into the unknown Carpet lands, and becomes involved in countering the advancing power of Fray. Travel  along with Snibril if it’s your kind of road; you will drink  groad beer, eat fried tromp, baked gromer, behold strange beasts, see tumblers leap to the sound of the flutleharp, and battle with bone-tipped spears.  One need not worry too much about the allegory; which is about human rifts in the larger world: it rises up from time to time, but only when the action clears sufficiently.  Times Literary Supplement,  28/4/1972


2nd, revised edition (1992)

Pratchett is the multi-mega-cosmic best-seller of such sci-fi books as the Truckers trilogy and the Discworld series. Now we have The Carpet People, being a novel T.P. wrote while a teenager. Some 26 years later the author has revised and rewritten the story. The notion of a carpet hiding a universe of characters and actions is similar to that seen in Clive Barker’s blockbusting Weaveworld. In The Carpet People we find the Munrungs (True Human Beings), and then soraths, weft borers, tromps, goats, grome-pipers, snargs. This typifies the novel’s mouthwatering attention to names and place names – Tregon Marus, Snibril, Glurk, Woodwall, Fray, Dumii and Damion Oddfoot adding greatly to the story’s enjoyment factor. And the story itself – part saga, legend, and adventure – swings along at a fair old clatter. Terry Pratchett’s writing is vivid and immediate. He wastes no time. There is little padding. The swiftness of the storyline is everything – ‘When it began to seem to Snibril that the dark Carpet had no ending they reached the road again and, ahead of them, torches burning along its walls, was the city of Jeopard.’ For young readers unaware of Pratchett’s oeuvre (can there be any left?) The Carpet People is a fine introduction. One can see it generating a new surge of sales for the Truckers and the Discworld series. Success breeding success.
The Junior Bookshelf

In true Pratchett form, it is a hilarious, imaginative fantasy which fans will love… Eight to 80-year-olds should join this fantasy world for an hour or so. Its inhabitants are delightful, their story enjoyable, and all in all it is great entertainment.
Dunedin Star Weekender

US edition 2013

“In the beginning… there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet.” Thus, in 1971, began one of the most celebrated careers in the history of fantasy literature. Later, in 1992, Pratchett revised his first novel, but neither version received an American edition until now. The Munrung live on a carpet with hairs as tall as trees, mining metal from a dropped penny and wood from matchsticks. Occasionally the godlike Fray strikes, a near-apocalyptic event that might correspond to the carpet being cleaned. When the Munrung are attacked by the evil “mouls” (“Creatures. From the Unswept Regions”), Snibril, the ingenious younger brother of Munrung chieftain Glurk, leads his people on a dangerous trek across the carpet to what they hope will be the safety of the rather boring Dumii Empire. Even as revised, this is minor Pratchett, but even minor work by the author of the Discworld series is well worth readers’ time. The story is inventive in its carefully worked-out central conceit, often very funny, and dotted with some genuinely scary bits, as well as Pratchett’s wiry 1971 spot illustrations. Ages 8–up. (Nov.)
Publishers Weekly, 30/9/13

With its peculiar setting, cheerful wordplay and feeling of amiable humanity, “The Carpet People” (Clarion, 304 pages, $17.99) could have been written by the English fantasist Terry Pratchett. And it was—twice! The prolific Mr. Pratchett first wrote this comic epic at the age of 17, when, he says, he “thought fantasy was all battles and kings.” Returning to the story more than two decades later, he softened the emphasis on battles but preserved the core tale of infinitesimal tribes living in the fibers of a colorful carpet. That the carpet is located in someone’s dining room we deduce from the fact that flakes of ash and crystals of salt and sugar sometimes drop from the sky. From above, too, comes the terrifying Fray, an ambiguous roaring force of destruction that might be a vacuum cleaner but more likely a human foot, which only some of the carpet’s tiny denizens ever seem able to anticipate.
Our sympathies in this jolly if sometimes bewildering tale, now published for the first time in the U.S., lie with two brothers. Glurk and Snibril are Munrungs, as distinct from such clans as Deftmenes and Vortgorns. When Fray destroys their village and mouls riding snargs suddenly attack—you can see how it might get confusing—the brothers set off on a heroic journey that will bring them into contact with winged pones, all-knowing wights and not one but two whining, ineffective heads of state. Along the way they learn that “history isn’t something you live. It is something you make.” It’s a sensible message and altogether a rollicking read for anyone 9 and older, though some children may find themselves squeamish about treading on carpets afterward for fear of whom they might crush.
Wall Street Journal, 1/11/13

Reviewed from galleys.                                                 R[ecommended]  Grades 5-8
Originally written when he was seventeen and revised when he was forty-three, Pratchett’s first novel, now published for the first time in the U.S., traces the exploits of the diminutive races that inhabit the Carpet. Complete with an evolutionary cosmology, an ecosystem, and a complex social structure, the peoples of the Carpet are menaced by Fray, an atmospheric force that seeks to eliminate life in the Carpet, but they are also at war among themselves. Each race has its own attitudes toward warfare for its own sake and for the sake of expanding a totalitarian Empire, but there is emerging among the more thoughtful individuals a radical idea that peace and self-governance might not be a bad thing. To achieve this goal, however, they must defeat the nasties who seek to enslave as many people as possible to work the grit mines and convince the mystics to seize their own destinies rather than give in to their deterministic visions. There are hints of Tolkien but also of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and even Adams’ Watership Down (BCCB 4/74); indeed, all of the big political ideas of mid-century epic fantasy are here writ literally small and carried along by Pratchett’s signature wit and flawless pacing. Subtle drolleries adorn profound ideas and challenge conventional wisdom, and character types—the sniveling accidental emperor, the unrepentant warrior king, the reflective wanderer—all bring their diverse talents to the fight and uncover surprising new aspects to their personalities as they do. For readers who are attracted to epic but not quite ready for the weightiness of Tolkien, this is a perfect entrée; for those who have loved or will love Pratchett, it’s simply a must read. Bonus material includes Pratchett’s charming pen and ink spot art as well as full-color insets (not seen), and reprints of the original columns from the Bucks Free Press that formed the basis of the novel.  KC
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, 12/13

The Munrungs are a tribe living in the Carpet, a vast landscape with its own peoples, creatures, villages, cities, fringes, and stories. When the dreaded Fray returns, wreaking havoc on the village, the Munrungs leave their ruined homes and take to the road. Snibril, younger brother of the village chieftain, proves his mettle in the adventures that follow. As explained in the author’s note, The Carpet People came out in 1971, when Pratchett was 17. Before his British publisher republished it more than two decades later, he rewrote the book, which is now available for the first time in the U.S. The story is a bit of a hybrid, combining battles and philosophy with the occasional zing of wit (Snibril’s stout-hearted but thick-headed brother is described by his fellow Munrungs as “a man of few words, and he doesn’t know what either of them means”). Playful black-and-white line illustrations and full-color inserts (not available at time of review) round out the package. Sure to be sought after by Pratchett’s fans, young and old, this adventure will also amuse children who have never heard his name.

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Fans of the author will want to check out the book that was published before Pratchett was, well, Pratchett.
Carolyn Phelan in Booklist 1/12/13 and Review of the Day on Booklist Online, 11/12/13

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