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Eric is the ninth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. It was originally published in 1990 as a "Discworld story", in a larger format than the other novels and illustrated by Josh Kirby. It was later reissued as a normal paperback without any illustrations, and in some cases, with the title given on the cover and title pages simply as Eric. (The page headers, however, continued to alternate between Faust and Eric.)

Plot summary[]

The story is a parody of the tale of Faust, and follows the events of Sourcery in which the Wizard Rincewind was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions.

Rincewind wakes in a strange place, having been summoned by the 13 year old demonologist, Eric Thursley, who wants the mastery of all kingdoms, to meet the most beautiful woman who ever existed, and to live forever. He is disappointed when Rincewind tells him he is unable to deliver any of these things, and embarrassed when Rincewind sees through his disguise. Rincewind is disheartened to learn that the spells to confine the demon summoned are working on him; Eric's parrot tells him that because he was summoned as a demon, he is subject to the same terms.

The arrival of Rincewind's luggage causes Eric to suspect deceit on Rincewind's part. Eric's demands are renewed; he makes three wishes of Rincewind. Rincewind insists he cannot grant wishes with the snap of a finger, and discovers to his horror that snapping his fingers really does work.

  • To be Ruler of the World. Eric and Rincewind find themselves in the rain forests of Klatch, in the Tezuman Empire. The local people come forward to pay tribute to Eric and declare him Ruler of the World. During this tribute, Rincewind and the parrot explore the temple of Quezovercoatl, where they find a prisoner, Ponce da Quirm (a parody of Juan Ponce de León), who is to be sacrificed. Da Quirm tells Rincewind about the terrible fate the Tezumen have planned for the Ruler of the World, on whom they blame all life's misfortunes. Shortly, Rincewind, Eric and da Quirm find themselves tied up at the top of a pyramid, waiting to be sacrificed, when Quetzovercoatl makes his appearance. Unfortunately for him, the luggage also makes an appearance, trampling the six-inch-tall Questzovercoatl in the process. The Tezumen are pleased to see Quetzovercoatl destroyed, release the prisoners, and enshrine the luggage in the place of their god.
  • To Meet the Most Beautiful Woman in All History. Rincewind snaps his fingers again, and they find themselves in a large wooden horse (a parody of the Trojan Horse). Exiting, they are surrounded by soldiers, who take them for an Ephebian invasion force. Rincewind manages to talk their way out of the Ephebian guards and out of the city, only to fall into the hands of the invading army. Rincewind and Eric are taken to Lavaeolus, the man who built the horse, who tells them off for spoiling the war. They reenter Tsort through a secret passage, and find Elenor (a parody of Helen of Troy). Both Eric and Lavaeolus are disappointed to find that it has been a long siege, and Elenor is now a plump mother of several children, with the beginnings of a moustache, and that serious artistic licence had been taken in her description. The Ephebians escape the city while Tsort burns, and Lavaeolus and his army set out for home, with Lavaeolus complaining about voyages by sea (further reference to the Iliad and subsequent Odyssey). Eric notes that "Lavaeolus" in Ephebian translates to "Rinser of Winds", hinting that perhaps Lavaeolus is an ancestor of Rincewind.
  • To Live Forever. Rincewind snaps his fingers, bringing Eric and him outside of time, just before the beginning of existence. Rincewind meets the Creator, who is just forming the Discworld and is having trouble finishing some of the animals. Rincewind and Eric are left on the newly formed world, with the realization that "to live forever" means to live for all time, from start to finish. To escape, Rincewind has Eric reverse his summoning, taking them both to hell.

They discover hell steeped in bureacracy, where the Demon King Astfgl had decided boredom might be the ultimate form of torture. Rincewind uses his university experience to confuse the demons at their own game, so he and Eric can try and escape. While crossing through the recently reformed levels of hell (satirical forms of Dante's Inferno) they encounter da Quirm and the parrot, as well as Lavaeolus, who tells them where the exit is.

The source of Rincewind's demonic powers are revealed to be Lord Vassenego, a Demon Lord leading a secret revolt against Astfgl. Using Rincewind to keep Astfgl occupied while gathering support amongst the demons, Vassenego confronts his king just as Astfgl finally catches up to Rincewind and Eric. Vassenego announces the council of demons has made Astfgl "Supreme Life President of Hell", and that he is to plan out the course of action for demons. With Astfgl lost to the bureacratic prison of his own making, Vassenego takes over as king and releases Rincewind and Eric, so that stories about hell can be told.

Popular References and Annotations[]

Title - The subtitle to Eric ('Faust', crossed out) already indicates what story is being parodied in this novella: that of the German alchemist and demonologist Johannes (or Georg) Faust who sold his soul to the devil. There have been many adaptations of the Faust story, the most famous being Goethe's Faust, with Cristopher Marlowe's earlier play The Tragical History of Dr Faustus a close second. Pratchett previously explored the idea of selling one's soul to the devil in Sourcery and later revisits the idea in Soul Music. See annotation in Sourcery page 12 for a more detailed analysis.

Page 9 - ] "[...] where the adventuresses Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan, Red Scharron and Diome, Witch of the Night, were meeting for some girl talk [...]" Herrena is the swordswoman from The Light Fantastic who hunted Rincewind, and Red Scharron is the Discworld version of Red Sonja, a character from Conan the Barbarian (and later a comics hero ("the She-Devil with a Sword") in her own right). Diome might be one of four women of that name in Greek mythology who were nymphs or minor Greek goddesses or she might be a reference to Diana, the Huntress and Goddess of the Moon in Roman mythology.

Page 21 - The book Eric uses to summon his demon has the title Mallificarum Sumpta Diabolicite Occularis Singularum, or the Book of Ultimate Control. Google translate (never the best) translates the phrase as: "Heals the Costs of the Diabolicite of the Eye of the Singular" (perhaps a Latin scholar can give a better translation). The words are dog Latin and translated individually would say: The costs of witchcraft (enchantment) of the diabolical individual eyeglasses". But note the initials - MS DOS.

Page 31 - "In the centre of the inferno, rising majestically from a lake of lava substitute and with unparalleled view of the Eight Circles, lies the city of Pandemonium." This is a reference to Milton's Paradise Lost; Pandemonium was the city built by Lucifer and his followers after the Fall. Pratchett uses Paradise Lost references in many of his works when he wants to make a connection between good and evil.

Page 41 - The name of the Tezumen god, 'Quetzovercoatl', puns on the actual Toltec and Aztec plumed serpent god Quetzalcóatl. According to Aztec mythology, Quetzalcóatl was also supposed to return to his people at some particular future date but probably not wearing an "overcoat".

Page 46 - "There are quite a lot of uses to which you can put a stone disc with a hole in the middle, and the Tezumen had explored all but one of them." The Aztecs, on whom the Tezumen are modelled used stone discs with holes for money and for 'basketball' hoops in the Mexo-American ball game known variously as 'pelota mayan" (Mayan ball game) by the Spanish) or 'pitz' in classical Mayan, In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, it was called ōllamaliztli or tlachtli and in English is is known as pok-ta-pok. Tales of wholesale sacrifice of the losers are probably largely apocryphal until later than the Classical Mayan era but the game did serve as a substitute for warfare and the winners were allowed to take possession of any spectators they chose. None of the Meso-American civilizations explored the concept of the wheel, the missing stone with the hole in the middle.

Page 47 - "[...] a giant-sized statue of Quetzovercoatl, the Feathered Boa." Quetzalcóatl the Aztec God was in fact portrayed as a winged serpent. Pratchett is playing with the words and concept since a boa is a serpent and wings are made of feathers but in addition a feather boa is an item of women's clothing like a scarf that became popular in the 1920s.

Page 51 - Ponce da Quirm, looking for the Fountain of Youth, is of course based on Ponce de Leon, the 15th century Spanish nobleman who did the same.

Page 69 - "Fortunately, Rincewind was able to persuade the man that the future was another country." This is a reference to the opening words of The Go-between a novel by L. P. Hartley published in 1953 and subsequently adapted for film in 1971. See the annotation for p. 11 of Lords and Ladies .

Page 70 - "Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules, of Hector and Lysander and such great names as these." This is the opening line to the march 'The British Grenadiers', an English song dating back to the 17th century with about the same jingoism factor as 'Rule Britannia' or 'Land of Hope and Glory':

Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules,
Of Hector and Lysander, and such great men as these;
But of all the world's brave heroes there's none that can compare
With a tow, row, row, row, row, row, to the British Grenadier.

Page 75 - Lavaeolus is a dog-Latin translation of 'Rincewind', The character is a parody of Ulysses, tragic hero of the Trojan wars, with the wooden Trojan horse, etc

Page 81 - "'It'll be fifteen choruses of 'The Ball of Philodephus' next, you mark my words.'" Refers to an old and rather obscene British drinking song called 'The Ball of Kerrymuir', which, according to Terry: "[...] belongs in the same category as 'Colonel Bogey' -- everyone knows a line or two [sorry... everyone male and in the UK, anyway]".

For a sample of the lyrics to this song, see the Song... section in Chapter 5 of this document.

The song's title was changed into the slightly more convincing-sounding 'The Ball of Philodelphus' in the small-format UK paperback of Eric.

Page 82 - "-- vestal virgins, Came down from Heliodeliphilodelphiboschromenos, And when the ball was over, There were --" This line is from one of the more printable verses of 'The Ball of Kerrymuir' (see previous annotation):

Four and twenty virgins
Came down from Inverness,
And when the ball was over
There were four and twenty less

Page 83 - "-- the village harpy she was there --" This is one more reference to the Ball of Kerrymuir.

Page 96 - "'Multiple choice they call it, it's like painting the -- painting the -- painting something very big that you have to keep on painting, sort of thing.'" In British lore this refers to the expression "it's like painting the Forth bridge". The Forth bridge spans the Forth river between the towns of North Queensferry and South Queensferry, just outside Edinburgh, Scotland. Until 2002, the bridge was painted continually but longer lasting paints make this unnecessary now. In the USA, the Golden Gate bridge is painted continuously.

Page 97 - "'Centuries [...]. Millenia. Iains.'" Rincewind has problems with the word 'aeons'. See p. 94/86 of Sourcery for the first documented occurrence of this particular blind spot when he says "Do I mean aeons? Right. Aeons. Go back aeons to the time when raw magic ruled."

Page 100 - "Some ancient and probably fearful warning was edged over the crumbling arch, but it was destined to remain unread because over it someone had pasted a red-and-white notice which read: 'You Don't Have To Be 'Damned' To Work Here, But It Helps!!!'"

The original notice (according to Dante, in the translation by Rev. Francis Cary) would have been the famous: "Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye. Justice the founder of my fabric moved: To rear me was the task of power divine, Supremest wisdom, and primeval love. Before me things create were none, save things Eternal, and eternal I endure. All hope abandon, ye who enter here." The more obvious reference is of course to the cheesy legend "You Don't Have To Be Mad To Work Here, But It Helps!" which appears on coffee mugs, bathroom walls and T-shirts everywhere.

Page 101 - "'Multiple exclamation marks [...] are a sure sign of a diseased mind." Pratchett clearly is not a fan of multiple exclamation marks as he uses this and similar lines in other novel; in Reaper Man on page 189 he says "Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind". In Maskerade he takes the concept of insanity-defining exclamation marks to a whole new level.

Page 101 - "'[...] I think it's quite possible that we're in Hell.'" The whole sequence in Hell is based loosely on Dante's Inferno (which in turn is based on Vergil's Aeneid) in much the same way the book as a whole is based on Faust. Rincewind and Eric correspond to Vergil (who is Dante's guide to Hell) and Dante in the same way that they are Mephistopheles and Faust. The various references to the geographical topology build on how Dante organised Hell in nine concentric circles (this of course had to become eight circles for the Discworld version!). The outer circles contained lesser sinners, such as Julius Caesar and Socrates, while the inner circles were reserved for mortal sinners (mostly Dante's political enemies; some people down there weren't dead at the time of publication, but got a mention anyway). At the centre, in the 9th circle, Lucifer sits chewing away on Brutus, Crassus and Judas. If you climb over him you get to Purgatory, meeting Cato the younger on the way.

Page 103 - "I mean, I heard where we're supposed to have all the best tunes," This refers to the old Roundworld saying "the devil has all the good tunes". This expression is often credited to the English Anglican cleric George Whitefield, but it is now commonly attributed to the English evangelist and hymn writer Rowland Hill (1744–1833). Hill used the expression in reference to Charles Wesley's habit of setting his hymns to popular secular tunes.

Page 107 - "'[...] his punishment was to be chained to that rock and every day an eagle would come down and peck his liver out. Bit of an old favourite, that one.'" Most people will associate this particular punishment with Prometheus (who stole the secret of fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind), but in fact Prometheus underwent his punishment chained to a rock in the Caucasus (from which Hercules later freed him). The chap who had to go through to the same thing in the Underworld was the giant Tityus, who had tried to rape Leto, the mother of Artemis and Apollo. As the demon says: this particular punishment is a bit of an old favourite with Zeus.

Page 108 - "'Man who went and defied the gods or something. Got to keep pushing that rock up the hill even though it rolls back all the time--'" Eric is thinking of king Sisyphus of Corinth, who betrayed Zeus to the father of the girl Aegina, whom Zeus had abducted (the girl, not the father).

Page 110 - "'According to Ephebian mythology, there's a girl who comes down here every winter.'" In Greek mythology, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, was abducted by Hades, imprisoned in the underworld, and taken as his wife. Demeter went into mourning and there was a worldwide death of crops and famine. The gods negotiated a deal with Hades whereby he would release Persephone from the underworld, but only if she had eaten nothing while down there (she hadn't thus far, being too upset). Upon hearing of her impending release, Persephone's heart was gladdened, and before she could be stopped, she started eating a pomegranate. She spit it out, but it was found she had swallowed six pomegranate seeds. Hades therefore demanded that she should spend 6 months out of each year in the underworld. During the 6 months that Persephone is down below, her mother, Demeter, neglects her duties and this causes the winter. Hence: "'I think the story says she actually creates the winter, sort of.' 'I've known women like that,' said Rincewind, nodding wisely."

Page 110 - "'Or it helps if you've got a lyre, I think.'" This is a reference to the legend of Orpheus (see also the annotation for p. 93 of The Light Fantastic ), who charmed Hades and Persephone into releasing Eurydice by virtue of his lyre-playing.

Page 124 - "Pour encouragy le -- poor encoura -- to make everyone sit up and damn well take notice." "Pour encourager les autres." The phrase originates with Voltaire who, after the British executed their own admiral John Byng in 1757 for failing to relieve Minorca, was inspired to write (in Chapter 23 of Candide) a sentence that translates to: "in this country we find it pays to shoot an admiral from time to time to encourage the others". See the annotation for p. 104 of Guards! Guards!


The novel has been adapted as:

  • a stage play for the professional stage scripted by Scott Harrison & Lee Harris (2003)


  • Eric (1990) by Terry Pratchett also appeared as:
    • Variant: Eric (1990) [as by Josh Kirby and Terry Pratchett]
    • Translation: Eric [German] (1990)
    • Translation: Faust Erik [Dutch] (1994)
    • Translation: Eric [French] (1997)
    • Variant: The Illustrated Eric (2010)
    • Translation: Erik [Hungarian] (2021)
    • Translation: Ерик (Bulgarian, Macedonian)
    • Translation: Erik (Croatian, Serbian, Slovak)
    • Translation: Eric (Estonian, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish)
    • Translation: Faust Erik (Czech)
    • Translation: Eryk (Polish)
    • Translation: Fausto Eric (Portuguese - Brazil)
    • Translation: Фауст Эрик (Russian)

External links[]

! colspan="3" | Reading order guide


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia.

The original article was at Eric (novel). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Discworld Wiki, the text of Wikipedia:Wikipedia is available under the Wikipedia:GNU Free Documentation License.