A Tiny Introduction to DiscWorld and Terry Pratchett

DiscWorld

Summary: Following the Great A'Tuin

So about a year ago, I was lurking on reddit and saw these absolutely long threads mentioning the death of a Mr. Terry Pratchett, and people were freaking out, and so much lament over this that I had to investigate further. Over that past decade and a half, I had spent way too much time reading books of a technical nature related to Unix, OpenSource, as well as various socio political titles. While I love to read a lot things that are non-fiction and directly related to culture, sociology, politics, history, and current events. Reading these kind of things were only robustly under-girding my anxiety and depression issues to say the least. I mean lately I always like to say "Knowledge is Knowledge" but sometimes it ain't always worth the price your soul pays... At least in the short term of your own personal history. Ya feel me?

This guy Pratchett had a posse and his own culture built up around him, and from where I stood investigating it didn't seem like his kingdom and legacy that he had left was anything but immortal. This guy was a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy genre along with Tolkien, Moorcock, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Niel Hancock for example to name a few.

So I thought to myself, that I must add "Terry Pratchett" to my reading list, and to run not just walk to pick some of his books up. But what really was starting to intrigue immensely was the fact that he had Alzheimer's and kept on writing, not just writing but also appearing on

, and

as well. Terry was also one the leading forerunners to staunchly support the act of assisted suicide for those unfortunate enough to be living with immense pain/suffering and/or terminal illnesses.

From the very outset of the series what drew me in, is that although Pratchett for the most part seems to follow traditional literary styles of the fantasy genre taking cue from many of the fantasy genre's predecessors he creates both a unique and simple cosmology and theology to go along with it, that is both intricate and complex all at once. However these intricacies and complexities that paints for the readers, are not as over detailed or simplistic Tolkien or Le Guin respectively. This is what make his writing style unique in my opinion and set it apart from his contemporaries. I found an inordinate number of his readership and fans, going to great lengths on advising what order to read the DiscWorld series in, but as a traditionalist in this regard, I am reading them in order.

In some ways I think personally that the reader must start with volume I, The Color of Magic, because of the awesome introduction and description Pratchett gives you in this book. Additionally the Color of Magic at least within the context of DiscWorld is "Octarine" this is extraordinarily important, and clearly demonstrates another awesome trait of the Author's prowess.

"Or perhaps it is the Rimbow, the eight-colored, world-girdling rainbow that hovers in the mist-laden air over the Fall. The eighth color is octarine, caused by the scatter effect of strong sunlight on an intense magical field." pg. 3

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

I had intended to do a single post for each book in the series that I had read, but at this point I have just finished the third book in the series. So I will cover these 3 books within this one meta-post.

Many people will tell you that Terry Pratchett infused parody, and satire into the series and I will surely agree with them, but he does not beat the reader over the head with either. He does subtly and add its to the grammatical minutiae at times, to where if the reader is not careful he may not notice it. At the opposite end of the spectrum he does make use of man off-kilter, indirect but overt references to pop culture in both film and modern day literature as well.

"Chapter 4: Close To The Edge" is a direct reference to the progressive rock band "Yes" album "Close To The Edge".

pg. 202

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

"It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might." pg.

-- Terry Pratchett Equal Rites

In "The Light Fantastic", we have Cohen the Barbarian - and Bethan instead of Conan the Barbarian.

“That’s Cohen the Barbarian you’re talking about!” said Twoflower, genuinely shocked. “He is the greatest warrior that—” pg. 118

-- Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic

In the Book 2, The Light Fantastic we find a Gingerbread Cottage** that is made out candy, in a Witch used to own/live in it, which is an overt reference to the Fairy Tale Hansel and Gretel.

“Good grief! A real gingerbread cottage! Rincewind, a real—” pg. 54

-- Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic

But I think must be compelled to state that my favorite thing about his writing is the level of detail he can all of sudden put into parts of the series concerning magic, dimensions and the fabric of reality.

One of the best examples of this talent, is taken from Book One of DiscWorld "The Color of Magic"

"Ripples of paradox spread out across the sea of causality. Possibly the most important point that would have to be borne in mind by anyone outside the sum totality of the multiverse was that although the wizard and the tourist had indeed only recently appeared in an aircraft in midair, they had also at one and the same time been riding on that airplane in the normal course of things. That is to say: while it was true that they had just appeared in this particular set of dimensions, it was also true that they had been living in them all along. It is at this point that normal language gives up, and goes and has a drink. The point is that several quintillion atoms had just materialized (however, they had not. See below) in a universe where they should not strictly had been. The usual upshot of this sort of thing is a vast explosion but, since universes are fairly resilient thivngs, this particular universe had saved itself by instantaneously unraveling its space-time continuum back to a point where the surplus atoms could safely be accommodated and then rapidly rewinding back to that circle of firelight which for want of a better term its inhabitants were wont to call The Present. This had of course changed history— there had been a few less wars, a few extra dinosaurs and so on— but on the whole the episode passed remarkably quietly." pg. 197

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

The level of construction and the quality of the characters in his books are extremely well constructed in every aspect of their unique personas.

The first character that I was quickly introduced to was Twoflower, who is highly intelligent but still has the wild-eyed wonder of new born and just stoked-ness of someone that just learn to drop in on a bowl or ramp. He is fearless but in a innocent way. My Maltese dog that I rescued last year "Oscar"

Oscar

is the living embodiment of this character in every aspect, so much, that I really think his name should be Twoflower"

"Twoflower who hails from the city of Bes Palargic in the Agatean Empire." pg. 23

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

Another thing that Pratchett does is takes some objects know in contemporary technology and reinvents the actual technology or makes the technology quite "literal" in nature. For example Twoflower has a "Camera" and it is in this way that pratchett describes it within the context of DiscWorld;

“He’s got a box with a demon in it that draws pictures,” said Rincewind shortly. pg. 42

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

A hitherto unnoticed door opened in front of his eyes. A small, green and hideously warty humanoid figure leaned out, pointed at a color-encrusted palette in one clawed hand, and screamed at him. “No pink! See?” screeched the homunculus. “No good you going on pressing the lever when there’s no pink, is there? If you wanted pink you shouldn’t of took all those pictures of young ladies, should you? It’s monochrome from now on, friend. All right?”

“Sometimes I think a man could wander across the Disc all his life and not see everything there is to see,” said Twoflower. “And now it seems there are lots of other worlds as well. When I think I might die without seeing a hundredth of all there is to see it makes me feel,” he paused, then added, “well, humble, I suppose. And very angry, of course.” pg. 230-231

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic This right here, this is the essence of TwoFlower!*

Indeed from my own experience many "Tourists" and the way the can carry themselves, one could be inclined to interchange these two words with the meaning.

"Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant “idiot.”" pg. 88

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

But I think Rincewind is wrong here. I think also at the end end of the Light Fantastic Rincewind sees just how awesome a person TwoFlower is. Twoflower is the person all of us to some degree used to be, until the malignancy of reality soiled our souls. I hope I read more of Twoflower throughout the series in the books to come.

In the Color of Magic The Picture Imp is a ball breaker and pain in the ass, with a thought process all his own. That's all that I have to say about him for now.

"A hitherto unnoticed door opened in front of his eyes. A small, green and hideously warty humanoid figure leaned out, pointed at a color-encrusted palette in one clawed hand, and screamed at him. “No pink! See?” screeched the homunculus. “No good you going on pressing the lever when there’s no pink, is there? If you wanted pink you shouldn’t of took all those pictures of young ladies, should you? It’s monochrome from now on, friend. All right?”" pg. 48

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

Another favorite character of mine is Tethis, the Sea Troll. He is a very deep character with some of the best quotes from the 1st DiscWorld Volume.

“You soon learn what you’re made of, here on the Edge.” pg. 224

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

“Isn’t it obvious?” snapped the troll. “I fell off the edge!”

pg. 224 -- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

“Every night I come out here and look down,” he finished, “and I never jump. Courage is hard to come by, here on the Edge.” pg. 225

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

“They all talk like that in Krull,” said Tethis. “Those with tongues, of course,” he added. pg. 225

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

To enumerate a couple more characters of the series that I have run into so far that I found pretty awesome and core to the series of stories are as follows;

The "Octavo", is the most important books that all Wizards in the DiscWorld use, it is the bible of spells. The spell-book, kept and housed in "Unseen University"

"The episode had led to his expulsion from Unseen University, because, for a bet, he had dared to open the pages of the last remaining copy of the Creator’s own grimoire, the Octavo (while the University librarian was otherwise engaged). The spell had leapt out of the page and instantly burrowed deeply into his mind, whence even the combined talents of the Faculty of Medicine had been unable to coax it. Precisely which one it was they were also unable to ascertain, except that it was one of the eight basic spells that were intricately interwoven with the very fabric of time and space itself." pg. 50-51

-- Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic

The Librarian of "Unseen University" is a Orangutan.

"And several of the wizards later swore that the small sad orangutan sitting in the middle of it all looked very much like the head librarian." pg. 12

-- Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic

In the light fantastic it the Gnome named Swires, that leads Rincewind and TwoFlower to the safety of the Gingerbread cottage.

**"“Swee whee weedle wheet,” said a voice by his foot. He looked down. The gnome, who had introduced himself as Swires, looked up. Rincewind had a very good ear for languages. The gnome had just said, “I’ve got some newt sorbet left over from yesterday.”" pg. 51

-- Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic

In Equal Rites Granny Weatherwax is Eskarina's Grandma, who is a Witch.

"The midwife’s name was Granny Weatherwax. She was a witch. That was quite acceptable in the Ramtops, and no one had a bad word to say about witches. At least, not if he wanted to wake up in the morning the same shape as he went to bed." pg. 18

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

Bad Ass, is the name of the town in the Ramtop mountains that Granny Weatherwax and Eskarina live in.

“Well, well,” said the smith again. “A wizard in Bad Ass, eh?” pg. 10

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

The Ramtop Mountains is where the Village of Bad Ass is located.

"It was good thunderstorm country, up here in the Ramtop Mountains, a country of jagged peaks, dense forests and little river valleys so deep the daylight had no sooner reached the bottom than it was time to leave again." pg. 6

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

Eskarina is a girl from Bad Ass who in the reality of DiscWorld is predestined to becomes a wizard, and stuttering Simon is a young boy Wizard Acolyte with immense Wizardry talents and potential.

"She was named Eskarina, for no particular reason other than that her mother liked the sound of the word, and although Granny Weatherwax kept a careful watch on her she failed to spot any signs of magic whatsoever." pg. 25

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

"“Simon,” said Treatle." pg. 174

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

“Because you’re saying that the real power is when you go right through magic and out the other side.” pg. 356

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

Hands down, the simple fact that the series is an astounding 31 books is an outstanding feat. Yes, Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, and just thinking about the appendices to the "Return of the King" in and of themselves was a labor of love, I consider the thought of continuing a series of fantasy books into 31 volumes sits neck and neck with Tolkien's achievements just from a labor overhead perspective. All of these things have led me to be in great admiration of all the other great fantasy writers before him, and that hopefully will try to fill his shoes in the future of great quality works of fantasy.

Fantasy gave me hope and an escape that no drugs ever could in my youth, and Terry has given me this gift back even as he transitioned to another place.

Enough! I really don't want to be a spoiler and give to much away and to be quite honest now that I think about it, I have already gone way too far down the spoiler road itself. So what I want to give you all the what I like to call the "Bottom line" for each book. Which when I say "Bottom line" I don't mean to literally give you the ending, but more or less the take away or the "lesson" the book is trying to give us... At least in the way I see or interpret it. You mileage may or most definitely will vary.

In the Color of Magic, the end is so packed with action that as far as I concerned there really isn't any underlying or cryptic nugget of truth I am sorry and I don't want to give away the ending of the very first DiscWorld book someone might read.

If that's a cop out or you know something I don't then speak up, I would love to get some dialogue going on this.

In the "The Light Fantastic" We have Rincewind who is a mediocre Wizard at best, with not a lot self-confidence, whose mind has one if not the most powerful spell's from the Octovo locked in his mind. This walk-away is basically a lot like "the only thing we have to Fear is Fear itself" and that our "Problems" and "suffering" is not as hard to "conquer" and "let go of" than we "believe". Rincewind comes off as someone whom does not and cannot believe in himself, and what his potential is. But when all 4 walls were falling down around him, he rose to the occasion and it was not as hard as he originally thought it would be. He dislodged the 8th heaviest spell in the Octavo from his mind, and he saved the DiscWorld and the Great A'Tuin from losing it's offspring. He ensured that stability of the DiscWorld remained intact for everyone in doing so, in conquering his fear, in overcoming his faulty self-concept of his persona.

In Equal Rites, at the end obviously we have the overt lesson that sexism is a weak ticket. But... there is also the lesson that whatever "magic" or talents as mere humans we possess are to be cherished and NOT to be used for showboating or evil. Also, sometimes we don't need magic to solve our problems or to fight magic being used against us at all. The magic lies in the NOT using of our magic, against other enemies or to solve our problems. That maybe being humble and humility laden is an and of itself personality traits or characteristics that have their innate yet plausible power. Then again maybe I am a clueless dolt but this is pretty much what I took away from my reading of Equal Rites.

“Oh, those. They only exist inside our heads. If we didn't’t believe in them, they wouldn’t exist at all.” pg. 354

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

“They’re sort of—reflections of us,” said Esk. “You can’t beat your reflections, they’ll always be as strong as you are. That’s why they draw nearer to you when you start using magic. And they don’t get tired. They feed off magic, so you can’t beat them with magic. No, the thing is…well, not using magic because you can’t, that’s no use at all. But not using magic because you can, that really upsets them. They hate the idea. If people stopped using magic they’d die.” pg. 355

-- Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

Pratchett lives forever

A man is not dead while his name is still spoken. GNU Terry Pratchett.

We ensure his immortality by adding this code to our http-headers and other software.

We are eternally grateful Terry, Sleep Long... Sleep Well...

To Volume 4 and beyond 4.