There's a plot hole in Reaper Man that I've never been able to understand.

Ned Simnel failed to destroy the scythe so Bill Door was unable to use it against the New Death. However Miss Flitcroft then gives him a few extra moments from her own life-timer. Now he's alive again so why doesn't he just pick up his original scythe? Instead he messes around with another scythe that happens to be lying around.

  • I felt my answer to this was pretty comprehensive. Is there anything else you'd want me to address before considering an acceptance?
    – Valorum
    Jul 1, 2016 at 9:34
  • I'm afraid I don't agree with your answer for several reasons: he's either alive or dead, sharing a timer is irrelevant; he's not constrained by normal time and space while alive; the quote refers to himself and the little girl; and your claim that the weapon ultimately didn't matter which clearly Death himself didn't believe a few hours earlier. it's not a bad answer but I feel the matter is still not satisfactorily explained. Jul 1, 2016 at 14:43
  • The quote refers to Bill sharing his timer with the little girl, but the same situation clearly applies when Bill shares his timer with Miss Flitwick, if anything (three people sharing a timer) it makes things even more unreliable.
    – Valorum
    Jul 1, 2016 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


The very short answer is that he was already sharing his timer between himself and the little girl. He wasn't sure how much time he had left, courtesy of Miss Flitcroft's timer (possibly only seconds) and grabbed for the first weapon he could reach.

Renata Flitcroft was able to give Bill Door some of her time, but given that she was also almost dead (of a heart attack) her "borrowed time" didn't seem sufficient for him to do anything than try to attack the new Death with the old scythe he'd used for the harvest.

The fancy scythe he'd crafted was all the way on the other side of town. The working scythe was directly behind him. If he'd gone for the other scythe, his extra time may simply have run out, leaving him in an even worse position:



Between her hands, in the air in front of her hovered the faint outline of a lifetimer, its sand pouring away in a torrent...

...But Bill Door was already rising and unfolding like the wrath of kings. He reached behind him, growling, living on loaned time, and his hands closed around the harvest scythe.

Ultimately it didn't really matter what weapon he used. His sense of purpose gave the blade a (metaphorical) edge that couldn't be beaten.

The crowned Death saw it coming and raised its own weapon but there was very possibly nothing in the world that would stop the worn blade as it snarled through the air, rage and vengeance giving it an edge beyond any definition of sharpness. It passed through the metal without slowing.

Also drama!

  • So move the scene back to the forge when the extra time will allow him to use his original scythe. Pratchett is violating "Chekhov's gun" here after wasting all that time sharpening his scythe on a cobweb etc Nov 2, 2014 at 16:38
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    @themathemagician - Subtly inverting it, perhaps. The conflict couldn't be won through force of arms, it was ultimately won because he's learned to care for the stalks that he's harvesting.
    – Valorum
    Nov 2, 2014 at 17:35
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    The fact that the 'Chekhov's gun' was ultimately useless (the tools do not make the "man") and completely dispensable was very much the point of the entire thing, in my opinion. Moving back the scene would have made the book much poorer.
    – Shisa
    Nov 3, 2014 at 3:36
  • By 'drama' I presume you mean 'Narrative Causality' Jul 14, 2015 at 17:40
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    @DJClayworth: “DRAMA” is significant in Reaper Man: Death first scoffs at others’ dramatic touches, but later comes up with some of his own.
    – PJTraill
    Jul 1, 2016 at 9:28

Although Door kept the physical form and mental abilities of Death, he was no longer the personification of death and could not use Death's tools. When an Auditor became Death Door had to fight using mortal weapons.

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