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Sourcery Cover Illustration by Josh Kirby

Sourcery was the fifth Discworld novel and the third appearance of Rincewind (fourth if Mort counts). It was first published in 1988 by Victor Gollancz and later republished in 1989 by Corgi. The cover illustration is by Josh Kirby.

Publisher's Summary[]

There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we'd better not go into), he had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son ... a wizard squared ... a source of magic ... a Sourcerer. Unseen University has finally got what it wished for: the most powerful wizard on the disc. Which, unfortuantely, could mean that the death of all wizardry is at hand. And that the world is going to end, depending on whom you listen to. Unless of course one inept wizard can take the University's most precious artefact, the very embodiment of magic itself, and deliver it halfway across the disc to safety...


The wizard Ipslore the Red was banished from the Unseen University for disobeying the Lore of Magic by falling in love and having children. This is forbidden because the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son is a sourcerer: an exceptionally powerful wizard who is a "source of magic", and who caused great damage to the Disc in the Mage Wars of the past. Ipslore, blaming the death of his wife in childbirth on the University, plans to hand over his unusual octiron wizard's staff to his infant eighth son, whom he names Coin. When Death comes to collect Ipslore's soul, he escapes by placing his spirit into his staff as he hands it over. This allows him to evade passing, steer his son into doing his bidding and plot revenge against the University. But Death makes him place a loophole in his son's destiny to appease the laws of fate: there will be a chance to defeat Coin if he throws away his staff, a very unlikely course for a wizard.

Eight years later, Coin strides into the University and kills the new Archchancellor, Virrid Wayzygoose. When the wizards see Coin's power, they welcome him and accept him as their new archchancellor. Meanwhile, Rincewind, The Luggage and the Librarian flee the university. At the Mended Drum, they meet Conina, the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian who works as a thief. She has stolen the Archchancellor's Hat at its own request: it has become sentient after being worn by hundreds of the Disc's most powerful wizards. The hat warns them of the danger that Coin poses to the Disc, and instructs them to take to it Al Khali in Klatch, where there is someone worthy of wearing it.

Under Coin's leadership, the wizards take over Ankh-Morpork and begin planning to take over the Disc. Coin abolishes the rules, orders the library to be destroyed and sends them to attack other countries. Wars break out between wizards across the Disc. Rincewind, Conina and travel to Al Khali, which is ruled by Creosote, the current Seriph, and his treacherous vizier Abrim. Rincewind is thrown into a snake pit where he meets the barbarian wannabe hero Nijel the Destroyer, Conina is taken to Creosote's harem and the Luggage, spurned by Conina, goes rampaging in the desert after getting drunk.

A group of Ankh Morpork wizards arrive and attack Al Khali. The heavy presence of magic causes Rincewind to gain abilities of his own and he uses them to rescue himself and Nijel from the snake pit. They meet with Conina (who falls in love with Nijel) and Creosote. Abrim tries on the Archchancellor's Hat, hoping to gain improved abilities. Instead, the Hat possesses him. He is directed to enlist other wizards to fight the invaders and demolish the palace to build a wizard's tower. Rincewind, Conina, Nijel and Creosote escape on a magic carpet. After hearing Creosote complain about wizards, Rincewind angrily leaves, flying back to Ankh-Morpork on a magic carpet. Abrim is killed by the invading wizards after being distracted by the Luggage, and the Hat and tower are destroyed. Coin becomes powerful enough to challenge the Gods, trapping them in an alternative reality. This frees the Ice Giants, allowing them to invade the Disc and fulfil the prophecy of the Apocralypse.

Back at the University, Rincewind discovers the Librarian has hidden the Library books in the Tower of Art. The Librarian convinces him to confront the Sourcerer. Armed with only a half-brick in a sock, Rincewind confronts Coin. He is too powerless to fight, but he causes Coin to doubt his father's will. Coin tries to throw away his staff, causing a fight between the two in which they draw on all the magic they have brought into the world. Rincewind aids Coin, and the sourcerer succeeds, allowing Death to take Ipslore's soul from the staff.

The resulting magical explosion throws Rincewind and Coin into the Dungeon Dimensions and leaves a portal open to the Discworld, around which are clustered the monstrous "Things" who will soon be able to invade and consume the world. Rincewind distracts the Things so Coin can escape and restore the gods, to prevent the Apocralypse. The plan works, and Coin undoes all the damage he has done, but Rincewind is trapped as the portal closes, with the Luggage catching up just in time to leap through and follow its master. When Conina and Nijel arrive looking for Rincewind, Coin makes them forget about him so that they can live in peace. Realising he is too powerful for the Disc, he then steps into a dimension of his own creation.

Popular References and Annotations[]

(Page number in bold and brackets refers to Corgi Edition)

(Page 11) "there is only one profession suitable for the eighth son of an eighth son, he became a wizard" In folklore around the world the seventh son of a seventh son held special powers. To qualify as "the seventh son of a seventh son" one must be the seventh male child born in an unbroken line with no female siblings born between, and to a father who himself is the seventh male child born in an unbroken line with no female siblings born between. The number seven has a long history of mystical and biblical significance, such as seven virtues, seven deadly sins, Seven Sleepers and Seven Heavens. In Discworld the number eight is the significant number: eight days in a week, eight colours of the rainbow. eight orders of wizardry etc. For more information see numerology.

Page 8 (Page 12) "'My son,' he said. 'I shall call him Coin.'" This is a play on the common boy's name 'Colin', with a nod to the expression "to coin a phrase".

Page 12 - "[...] this was a bit more original than the usual symbolic chess game [...]" The concept of a character playing a game with the gods, the devil or with Death is a common one in legend and myth, as well as in popular culture, throughout the world, usually with some dire consequence if the human loses. The idea is an exploration of good versus evil and the temptation toward the latter. In Christian mythology, God and Satan wager whether mankind will be tempted by the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden, which John Milton explores in his poem Paradise Lost. However, this concept predates christianity to at least the 5th century BC in Greek myths—Apollo had at least one musical duel, the Muses had another musical contest, and Athena had a weaving contest with Arachne which resulted in Arachne being turned into a spider. The Greek gods didn't take losing well and usually found some other way to avenge their loss, a bit like the Discworld gods in Dunmanifestin. In the 4th-century compilation of supernatural stories by Chinese author, Gan Bao, In Search of the Supernatural, the gods Bei Dou (the Big Dipper) and Nan Dou (the corresponding stars in Sagittarius) were playing Go, to determine the length of a person's life when the youth Yan Chao approached them to ask for a longer life - they reverse the number 18 (his determined lifeline) to become 81, much to his satisfaction. The Viking Gods play Hnefatafl, or Nefatavl during the creation of the world and the game plays a large part in the conflicts associated with it. The common theme in many of these legends is that the person is playing a game with Death or the gods for the chance to be granted a longer life. But there are as many stories involving people playing a game with the Devil in exchange for a particular skill, which Pratchett explores in Soul Music. In literature, Christopher Marlowe, Goethe and Thomas Mann all explore the idea of Faust selling his soul to the devil Mephistopheles, in exchange for pleasurable knowledge and knowledgeable pleasure explore the idea. The predecessor of Faustus in Christian mythology as told by "Eutychianus" was the 6th Century AD archdeacon of Adana, Cilicia, Theophilus ("Friend of God" or "Beloved of God") who sold his soul to the devil for a bishopric but was redeemed by the Virgin Mary. Ingmar Bergman's famous 1957 movie The Seventh Seal uses a chess game between the devil and the knight and Chris deBurgh's less famous 1975 song 'Spanish Train' describes a poker game between God and the Devil. Often, someone with extraordinary skill is deemed to have made a pact with the devil in order for ordinary people to explain that ability. Robert Johnson, blues guitarist is supposed to have met the devil at the crossroads and sold his soul in exchange for his ability on the guitar which he immortalized in his song "Crossroads Blues" (later popularized by Eric Clapton and Cream as Crossroads). In an earlier era, this included Niccolò Paganini (27 October 1782 – 27 May 1840), the famous Italian violinist, who may not have started the rumour of a pact with the devil but certainly used it to his advantage.

(Page 13) - "The metal was octiron, intrinsically magical. " In keeping with the powers of the number eight, octiron is a metal with magical properties. It takes its name from octo - eight and iron which is one of the key metals.

(Page 13) - I made (this staff) you know ....I put a lot of myself into it" - This foreshadows Ipslore the Red entering the staff himself, a point that Pratchett reinforces by having him repeat this line.

(Page 15) - Death says, "THE LAWYERS OF FATE DEMAND A LOOPHOLE IN EVERY PROPHECY" Prophecies traditionally have a twist in folklore and religion so that what seems impossible turns out to be inevitable - a twist of fate.

(Page 15)- Death says, "THERE IS NO HOPE FOR THE FUTURE" in response to Ipslore's statement that children are the hope for the future. When Ipslore replies "What does it contain then, he adds 'ME". From Death's point of view this is perfectly logical since all things ultimately end in death.

(Page 21) - Putting the finishing touches to a model of the University, carved for some inexplicable reason out of butter" The history of carving food into sculptured objects is ancient. Archaeologists have found bread and pudding molds of animal and human shapes at sites from Babylon to Roman Britain. The earliest documented butter sculptures date from Europe in 1536, where they were used on banquet tables. Butter sculptures (or Torma) are part of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition; yak butter and dye are still used to create temporary ritual offerings for altars during the Tibetan New Year and other religious celebrations. They are normally brightly colored with dye, and include milk, flour and other substances. Ideally yak butter is used.

(Page 22) Maleficio's Discoverie of Demonologie and the following books all have titles that give them a mysterious, ancient feel. Maleficio (Italian from the Latin maleficium) meaning an evil spell. The most famous book on the subject of demons was written by King James VI of Scotland, later James i of England who wrote Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogue, Divided into three Books: By the High and Mighty Prince, James &c.—first published in 1597 ) as a philosophical dissertation on contemporary necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination used from ancient black magic.

(Page 22) "Necrotelicomicon" resonates with necromancy which is the practice of communicating with the dead, telicom which is short for telicommunications (British Telecom, Deutche Telekom) and comicon, which is a comic book convention (one-day event) with a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture, in which comic book fans gather to meet creators, experts, and each other. (Pratchett attended at least one in New York)

(Page 22) "True Artes of Levitatione had spent the last one hundred and fifty years up in the rafters" which is not surprising given that levitation is means to rise or float above the ground without visible means of support.

(Page 22) Ge Fordge's Compendyum of Sex Majick

(Page 22) "Grimoires and incunabula" Grimoires are books of spells with instructions on how to perform them. Incunabula are book, pamphlet, or broadside that were printed in the earliest stages of printing in Europe.

(Page 26) - Rincewind says, "We're sinking". The common legend is that rats leave a sinking ship. So when the rats leave Unseen University, Rincewind makes the natural assumption. Pratchett regularly uses logic and false logic in his novels, this case, Rats leave a sinking ship (A), rats are leaving Unseen University (B) therefore Unseen University must be a sinking ship (C)

(Page 29) - "A Ourcerer is umming! Eee orr ife!" If a gargoyle could speak, as Pratchett points out, it could not close its mouth so this is a good approximation of what it would say. The gargoyles in Discworld are in fact alive. One works for the Watch and pigeons and other birds know better than to nest in their mouths for fear of becoming a meal.

(Page 29) Page 22 - "It was quite possible that it was a secret doorway to fabulous worlds [...]" This is a reference to C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy story The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, in which the heroes are magically transported to the Land of Narnia through the back of an old wardrobe, which was made from a tree that grew from the seeds of a magical apple taken from that Land long before. The idea of a doorway or portal being an entry to another dimension or world is a common theme in modern literature, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to the Northern Lights (Golden Compass in North America) series by Phillip Pullman to Steven King's Dark Tower series, as well as Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series to name but a few. Pratchett himself uses the parallel universe idea in both his Long Earth series co-written with Steven Baxter and in his Discworld novel Night Watch.

Page 28 - "'I saw this picture of a sourcerer in a book. He was standing on a mountain top waving his arms and the waves were coming right up [...]'" The 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' segment in Disney's 1940 film Fantasia has just such a scene, the "sourcerer" being in fact the Apprentice, Mickey, dreaming of commanding the wind to blow, the waves to wave, the stars to fall, and so on. The image also resonates with Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest.

(Page 30) - The Luggage first appeared in The Colour of Magic as belonging to Twoflower, the tourist. Eventually Twoflower gives it to Rincewind. For more information see the link.

(Page 33) - "the complete carcass of a whole pig looked extremely annoyed at the fact that someone had killed it without waiting for it to finish its apple" A reference to the tradition of placing an apple in the mouth of a roast pig.

(Page 34) "hilarious booby-traps involving razor-sharp pendulums" This is a reference to Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Pit and the Pendulum".

(Page 35) - "I am reminded of the story about about the three legged pedlar and the, er, merchant's daughters". Pratchett is probably not thinking of a specific joke here because there are so many involving "travelling salesmen" and, usually, "farmer's daughters. Note that the pedlar has three legs which is a reference to the "three legs of man" his third leg being his penis. In these stories as in all fables there are three people, the third person being the one who solves the problem, usually the youngest and most handsome or beautiful, or else the person who leads into the punchline.

(Page 36) - I mean back in the old times thee were real wizards, there was nothing of this levels thing. They just went out and did it. Pow!" This line reflects the feelings of a lot of workers in the modern world where instead of just learning the job, you take endless courses and progress through a series of steps based on your "qualifications".

(Page 38) - Rincewind says, "It's a pity there aren't any of them around anymore." Foreshadowing of the rise of wizards under sourcerer Coin which threatens the world.

(Page 39) - "purple and vermine hood" Pratchett is playing with ermine (a member of the weasel family) and vermin (a pest - usually a rodent).

(Page 39) - The scene involving the arrival of Coin, knocking three times on the door, the rejection of the knock, etc has several connections to Roundworld - notably the role of Black Rod in English parliamentary tradition and Shakespeare's play Macbeth. In English parliamentary (and many Commonwealth countries) custom, the position of Black Rod is responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House of Lords and its precincts, as well as for ceremonial events within those precincts, particularly the State Opening of Parliament and the Speech from the Throne. Black Rod summons the Commons to attend the speech and lead them to the Lords. As part of the ritual, the doors to the chamber of the House of Commons are slammed in the approaching Black Rod's face. This is to symbolise the Commons' independence of the Sovereign. Black Rod then strikes the door three times with their staff, and is then admitted and issues the summons of the monarch to attend. The whole scene also resonates with Shakespeare's Macbeth, in Act 2, Scene 3, with the drunken porter who answers the knocking at the gate and who plays the role of a devil-porter at the gates of hell and the murder of King Duncan.

(Page 41) - "He's no wizard...where's his hood then...where's his hat" Pratchett discusses the importance of symbols throughout the novel. Is it the hat that makes a wizard or is it the character of the person themselves and is the hat or robe incidental?" This is intertwined with the old saying "clothes make the man" - people's perceptions of others are often based on first impressions. Rincewind, throughout his life comes across as a bumbling, terrified, shabby looking individual - anything but a powerful wizard (he can't even spell it properly on his hat) yet in each of his novels he demonstrates something that goes beyond appearances to show his true power and character to save the day.

(Page 42) - "Puissant" comes from the French and means "having great power or influence".

(Page 42) - "Skarmer Billias, head of the Order of the Silver Star". His name resonates with bilious meaning full of bile.

(Page 44) - Maligree's Wonderful Garden is a spell created by the sourcerer Maligree to give him a quiet place for a smoke and a think. The name has connotations of Malgre as well as Mall, the former meaning despite and the latter bad in French. The garden's idylic setting is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden in Genesis.

(Page 51 - 51) - "Spelter had been drawing the signs of Megrim's Accelerator under the table". The duel between the two wizards has many parallels in spy movies and action movies as well as westerns in Roundworld, where the two "gunslingers" face off at either end of a table (often over a crooked card game) and shoot each other from below the table with a hidden revolver, a gun strapped to the table, etc.

(Page 52) - The scene where Spelter describes the rivalry between the various levels of wizardy has its parallel in English boarding schools with the various forms. Pratchett uses the English public school system (which to North Americans means private school) in other novels too, notably Soul Music.

(Page 55) - "There are artists that will paint an entire chapel ceiling, this was the kind of thief that would steal it" This is a reference to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Page 44 (Page 57) - "'Psst,' it said. 'Not very,' said Rincewind [...], 'but I'm working on it.'" This is a play on the word 'pissed' which is a common British and Commonwealth expression for being 'drunk' - hence Rincewind is working on drinking more so that he becomes 'pissed'. Not to be confused with being 'pissed off' as in 'to be annoyed about something.'

(Page 59) "Woddeley's Ocult Primer" continues the school boy and classroom type theme as in the annotation for (page 52)

(Page 59 and following) The scene of the brawl in the Mended Drum had parallels in action movies from James Bond, to Kill Bill - the list is endless.

(Page 62) "She...scattered a handful of small metal objects on the floor behind them." These are caltrops which the assassins in Discworld use regularly. They are designed to discourage pursuit by landing with points up, regardless of how they are thrown in both Discworld and Roundworld.

Page 51 (Page 66) - "Of all the disreputable taverns in all the city you could have walked into, you walked into his, complained the hat." This line is a paraphrase of the famous Humphrey Bogart line from the 1942 movie, Casablanca: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."

(Page 68) - '"Murderers, muggers, thieves, assassins, pickpockets, cutpurses, reevers, snigsmen, rapists and robbers,' he said, 'That's the Shades you're going into!"' The reader will be familiar with most of these terms. Cutpurses were thieves who stole by cutting the purse from a belt. Reevers is a play on reaver (a border cattle thief) and reeve (an alderman, who as a government official had a lot of scope to be a thief). Snigsmen take their occupaton from snig meaning to cut with a knife, ie someone who uses a knife to hold a victim up and perhaps slit their throat.

Page 55 (Page 70) - "By the way, the thing on the pole isn't a sign. When they decided to call the place the Troll's Head, they didn't mess about." This line is a reference is to traditional British pub names such as King's Head, Queen's Head or Nag's Head, all occurring quite frequently, where the appropriate head (a nag being a horse) is displayed on a sign outside, often on a pole in front of the building. Pub names in Britain have a long and interesting history. Initially they were often named in honour of a particular reigning monarch but when kings were being deposed at an alarming rate and you didn't want to be backing the wrong one, the more generic "King's Head" became more popular. As well, during the period of Henry VIII's reign and dissolution of the monasteries, it was not a good idea to name your pub "the Pope's Head".

(Page 75-76) - Conina asks Rincewind "What have you wizards got against women, then?" Rincewind replies, "We're not supposed to put anything against women., ...That, the whole point." Pratchett is making an obvious sexual reference to the fact that wizards are supposed to be celibate.

Page 66 (Page 83) - "The study of genetics on the Disc had failed at an early stage, when wizards tried the experimental crossing of such well known subjects as fruit flies and sweet peas. Unfortunately they didn't grasp the fundamentals, and the resultant offspring -- a sort of green bean thing that buzzed -- led a short sad life before being eaten by a passing spider."

Gregor Mendel, considered the father of modern genetics, was an Austrian monk who experimented with sweet peas in his 1960s genetic experiments. American embryologist Thomas Hunt Morgan is considered the founding father of Drosophila (fruit fly) research, and arguably the father of genetics in the USA. Thomas started working with Drosophila in 1908. Fruit flies are used in contemporary genetics. At the time Sourcery was written it was believed that you could only cross individuals within each species, not across and that, transferring genes between plants and animals was not remotely - the 'fundamentals' to which Pratchett refers. Since that time however, genes from one species have been routinely inserted into another - the basis of GMO food. One of the earliest was the insertion of a flounder anti-freeze gene in a tomato to attempt to make it more cold weather tolerant.

Page 68 (Page 86) - SEE ALSO: thee Apocralypse, the legende of thee Ice Giants, and thee Teatime of the Goddes."

In Norse mythology, the "Twilight of the Gods" refers to Ragnarok, the final conflict at the end of times between the gods and their enemies, which include the Ice Giants. See also the annotation for page 308/222 of Lords and Ladies

Page 69 (Page 86) -' "Anus mirabilis?'" "Annus mirabilis" translates to "year of wonder". "Anus mirabilis" does not. The 'anus' is the "inferior opening of the alimentary canal," from Old French anus, from Latin anus "ring, anus," from PIE root *āno- "ring." So called for its sha (Page 86) pe; compare Greek daktylios "anus," literally "ring (for the finger)," from daktylos "finger." The popularization of the term originates with John Dryden’s epic poem “Annus Mirabilis” published in 1667 after the 1666 great fire of London and two naval victories over the Dutch." Queen Elizabeth II popularized the counter phrase, "annus horribilus" in 1992 after a particularly miserable year for the royal family which involved scandals, divorce and a major fire at Windsor Castle.

Page 71 (Page 90) - "'From these walls,' said Carding, 'Two hundred supreme mages look down upon you.'" Napoleon said to his troops before the Battle of the Pyramids in Egypt in 1798: "From the summit of these pyramids, forty centuries look down upon you".

Page 75 (Page 94) - "'[...] that would be the Patrician, Lord Vetinari,' said Carding with some caution." Vetinari is based on the famous de Medici family, who were the enlightened rulers of Renaissance Florence. His name is also a play on the word 'veterinary'.

Page 76 (Page 95) - "[...] his chair at the foot of the steps leading up to the throne, [...]"

In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the Stewards of Gondor also sat on a chair on the steps below the real throne, awaiting the return of the king. The prophecy in that case also included a magic sword, although Tolkien neglects to make any mention of a strawberry-shaped birthmark. Other occurrences of the legend can be found in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time epic fantasy series, in Raymond E. Feist's Prince of the Blood, and in David Eddings' Belgariad quintet. All of these references stem from much older myths and legends, such as King Arthur and Pratchett uses them later in other novels, notably Men at Arms, Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! While the image of the chair at the foot of the throne is not a specific legend it refers to the idea of the man behind the throne (or in this case in front). The person who wields considerable power in the ruling of the kingdom without actually being accountable. In medieval England the most notable example would be Richard Neville, the 16th Duke of Warwick who deposed two kings and was known as "the kingmaker". In the court of Czar Nicholas II, the monk Rasputin played a similar behind the scenes role.

(Page 106) - Rincewind says to Conina "They'll throw you in a seraglio". And adds "It's got all these spikes and when they close the door-" A seraglio is a harem or women's apartment in an Ottoman palace. The object with spices with which Rincewind is confusing the seraglio is an Iron maiden which was believed to be a medieval torture instrument (since generally discredited as an 18th century fabrication.

Page 76 (Page 96) - "[...] the sort of man you'd expect to keep a white cat, and caress it idly while sentencing people to death in a piranha tank [...]" This is a reference to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE and arch enemy of James Bond. Pratchett references him and his cat in Night Watch as well.

(Page 109) - the leader of the pirates asks Rincewind if he can sing and says there might be a job in the harem for him, to which Rincewind replies "I'm not cut out for that kind of thing". This is a reference to the eunichs who guarded the harem women - men who were castrated to ensure they were no competition for the sultan. The cut reference relates to castrato. A castrato was a male singer who underwent castration before puberty in order to retain a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, or contralto. Castration as a means of subjugation, enslavement or other punishment has a very long history, dating back to ancient Sumer. In a Western context, eunuch singers are known to have existed from the early Byzantine Empire. In Constantinople around 400 AD, the empress Aelia Eudoxia had a eunuch choir-master, Brison, who may have established the use of castrati in Byzantine choirs, though whether Brison himself was a singer and whether he had colleagues who were eunuch singers is not certain. By the 9th century, eunuch singers were well-known (most in the choir of Hagia Sophia) and remained so until the sack of Constantinople by the Western forces of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Their fate from then until their reappearance in Italy more than three hundred years later is not clear. It seems likely that the Spanish tradition of soprano falsettists may have hidden castrati. Much of Spain was under Muslim rulers during the Middle Ages, and castration had a history going back to the ancient Near East. Stereotypically, eunuchs served as harem guards, but they were also valued as high-level political appointees since they could not start a dynasty that would threaten the ruler.

Page 88 (Page 111) - "The market in Sator Square, the wide expanse of cobbles outside the black gates of the University, was in full cry." This is a clever play on the famous magic square dating back to the times of the spread of Christianity in Europe. This magic square is considered the oldest unsolved puzzle - a double acrostic. The complete square is palindromic in all directions and reads: Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas,. There is a great deal of debate about the meaning of the words in the sentence. Various interpretations are: "The sower (or, farmer) Arepo holds the wheels with care (or, with care the wheels)". "The farmer Arepo works his wheels", or "Arepo the sower (sator) guides (tenet) the wheel (rotas) with skill (opera)" or "The sower [i.e. God] in his field controls the workings of his tools [i.e. us]". The magic Sator square also has the property that it can be 'unfolded' into two "A PATER NOSTER O" strings that form a cross with the 'N' as a pivot element; the 'A' and the 'O' standing for 'alpha' and 'omega', the beginning and end in the Greek alphabet and the title of God in the Book of Revelations. The actual magic square appears throughout Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa on walls, in books and manuscripts It is considered to be the closest thing to a meme of the era. It even appears in several early and late medieval medical textbooks such as the Trotula, and was employed as a medieval cure for many ailments, particularly for dog bites and rabies, as well as for insanity, and for relief during childbirth. The earliest one dates from pre-62 BC in Pompeii Italy. All are laid out as follows:


(Page 116) - Conina says "Um, sort of like one free wizard with every concubine sold" to which Rincewind replies, "I don't see what vegetables have got to do with it." Pratchett uses the confusion between concubine and cucumber in several of his novels, notably The Last Hero

Page 107 -] "'And I seem to remember he spoke very highly of the soak. It's a kind of bazaar.'" Pratchett is playing with the words 'souk', meaning a Middle Eastern marketplace or bazaar; and the verb 'soak', meaning to charge (and get) exorbitant prices.

Page 107 -] "'And I seem to remember he spoke very highly of the soak. It's a kind of bazaar.'" Pratchett is playing with the words 'souk', meaning a Middle Eastern marketplace or bazaar; and the verb 'soak', meaning to charge (and get) exorbitant prices.

Page 122 - "the kind of spaghetti that would make M. C. Escher go for a good lie down [...]" Maurits C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist of the 20th century who made mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations. He is well-known for his tangled, paradoxical pictures of optical illusions and plane-filling tilings - endless impossible staircases, flying geese that morph into fields, into geese flying in the opposite direction. Despite wide popular interest, Escher was for most of his life neglected in the art world, even in his native Netherlands. He was seen as technically proficient but lacking in that emotional quality associated with art. He was 70 before a retrospective exhibition was held. In the late twentieth century, he became more widely appreciated, and in the twenty-first century he has been celebrated in exhibitions around the world.

Page 122 - "'It looks like someone has taken twice five miles of inner city and girded them round with walls and towers,' he hazarded." This is one of several reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan:

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girded round

Page 122 - "[...] 'sherbet and, and -- young women.'" For the benefit of North American readers, 'Sherbet' is a fizzy sweet powder that comes in a carboard strawlike tube with a liquorice 'straw' at the top. To get to the sherbet you bite off the end of the liquorice and suck through it. In North America sherbet is a frozen dessert like ice cream. Pratchett, being British is clearly referencing the former. See also the annotation for p. 104 of The Light Fantastic .

Page 125 - "'[...] pretty much of a miracle of rare device.'" This is another reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan:

It was a miracle of rare device
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

Page 125 - "My name is Creosote, Seriph of Al Khali, [...]" Pratchett makes a number of word plays here. Creosote is an oily liquid mixture of organic chemicals, produced as a by-product from the industrial burning of coal or wood. It was used as a wood preservative (less so nowadays as it is not environmentally friendly). Creosote parodies Croesus, 6th C BC king of Lydia in what is now Turkey and is the source of the expression "rich as Croesus", 'Serif' is a small line added to a letter in a font (for example across the bottom of each of the legs in "A". This font style has its roots in Roman capital letters. It is also a play on 'caliph' the title of the chief Muslim civil and religious ruler, regarded as the successor of Muhammad. The caliph ruled in Baghdad until 1258 and then in Egypt until the Ottoman conquest of 1517; the title was then held by the Ottoman sultans until it was abolished in 1924 by Atatürk. Finally 'Al Khali' is pronounced 'alkali' which is a chemical that can dissolve in water, combine with acids to form salts, and make acids less acidic. It is also a reference to the Rub' al Khali desert in Arabia.

Page 126 - The hashishim as the "original Assassins". The English word 'assassins' was originally used to denote a group of fanatical Ismailis (a Shi'ite Muslim sect) who, between 1094 and 1273, worked for the creation of a new Fatimid caliphate, targeting prominent individuals. Later, 'assassin' in English came to mean any politically motivated murderer. The name is supposedly derived from the Arabic "hashashin" which shares a common origin with 'hashish' - Marco Polo and other European chroniclers claimed that the Assassins used hashish to stimulate their fearless acts but this view is becoming increasingly discredited. Brewer writes:

"Assassins. A band of Carmathians, collected by Hassa, subah of Nishapour, called the Old Man of the Mountains, because he made Mount Lebanon his stronghold. This band was the terror of the world for two centuries, when it was put down by Sultan Bibaris. The assassins indulged in haschisch (bang), an intoxicating drink, and from this liquor received their name."

For more information, see also the Hawkwind song 'Hassan I Sabbah' on their album Quark, Strangeness and Charm.

Page 126 - Creosote's poetry is based on Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaïyat of Omar Khayyam. The poem parodied on this page goes:

A book of verses underneath the bough
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou

Page 127 - "'They spent simply ages getting the rills sufficiently sinuous.'" This is another reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan: "And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills."

Page 127 - "'Wild honey and locusts seem more appropriate, [...]'" Because John the Baptist ate those, according to Matthew 3:4 (also Mark 1:6): "And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." The locusts in question are the seeds of honey locust trees, not the crop ravaging grasshopper, also known as carob and (subsequently, from this story) as St John's Bread.

Page 127 - "'You can't play a dulcimer, by any chance?'" This is one of several reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan:

It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played.

Page. 128 - "'Has anyone ever told you your neck is as a tower of ivory?'"

This, and Creosote's further compliments to Conina ("your hair is like a flock of goats that graze upon the side of Mount Gebra", "your breasts are like the jewelled melons in the fabled gardens of dawn", etc.) are all very similar to the compliments in the Biblical 'Song of Solomon':

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair;
thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks:
thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury,
whereon there hang a thousand bucklers,
all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins,
which feed among the lilies.

Page 129 - "Get up! For the morning in the cup of day, / Has dropped the spoon that scares the stars away." This is a parody of lines from The Rubaïyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald who supposedly translated the original poetry of the Persian astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyam, (1048–1131), dubbed "the Astronomer-Poet of Persia":

Awake! for morning in the bowl of night
Hath flung the stone that puts the stars to flight.

Page 130 - "[...] a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slopping over the edge of the bath." An apple, a kettle and bath water are all apocryphal stories about how each helped Sir Isaac Newton, James Watt and Archimedes respectively make significant contributions to science. A falling apple supposedly helped Newton discover the Law of Gravity, a boiling kettle helped Watt revolutionise the steam engine (see also the annotation for p. 153 of Reaper Man ), and Archimedes, according to legend, discovered the principles of fluid displacement while taking a bath.

Page 132 - "The Seriph's palace, known to legend as the Rhoxie, [...]" There is no connection to the original Croesus in this reference, but rather to the Alhambra, the palace of the Emirs of Granada in 15th century Spain. Pratchett said, "Incidentally, the Seriph's palace, the Rhoxie, is indeed a 'resonance' with the Alhambra -- a famous Moorish palace which became a synonym for an impressive building, and later became a common cinema name as in Odeon and, yes, Roxy."

Page 141 - "Nijel the Destroyer" may be a suitably heroic-looking name, but 'Nijel' is of course pronounced as 'Nigel', a name that is traditionally associated with wimpy rather than with heroic males. A Nigel is an Australian slang term among youths for someone who is socially awkward and nerdy with no friends.

Page 142 - "'For example, do you know how many trolls it takes to change a lamp-wick?'" Pratchett is making the Discworld version of the old Roundworld racist style joke of "How many <insert ethnic group> does it take to change a light-bulb?".

Page 142 - "'[...] it's more than just pointing a finger at it and saying "Kazam--"'" This is a reference to the American comic book character, Captain Marvel, was able to transform himself into his superhero alter-ego by saying the magic word 'Shazam'.

Page 154 - "[...] the Librarian dropped on him like the descent of Man." Pratchett is making a very clever play on Charles Darwin's landmark 1871 book on evolutionary theory, The Descent of Man. The Librarian is an orangutan and the the common understanding of Darwin's theory is that man descended from the apes.

Page 162 - "'He asked me to tell him a story.'" This is the first, but not the last time in the book that Creosote asks Conina for a story. This is a reference to One Thousand and One Nights, and the stories Scheherezade had to tell every night to her Caliph, Shahryār.

Page 167 - "'I'm looking up the Index of Wandering Monsters', said Nijel." 'Wandering Monsters' is a phrase that comes from the world of fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons And Dragons, and it more or less means just what you think it means. Nijel is of course exactly the type of stereotypical nerd who would, in our world, actually play D&D.

Page 171 - "'It have thee legges of an mermade, the hair of an tortoise, the teeth of an fowel, and the wings of an snake.'" More reputable witnesses than Broomfog describe the chimera or chimaera (from Greek mythology) as a fire-breathing monster having either the hindquarters of a serpent and the head of a lion on the body of a goat, or else the back of a goat, the wings of a dragon, the front half of a lion, and three heads (one each for goat, lion and dragon). Clearly Broomfog's beast could not exist, even in myth since mermaids have tails not legs, tortoises have a shell not hair and snake slither on the ground and do not fly. As for the "teeth of an fowel", another impossibility, this is a play on the old French idiom "Quand les poules auront des dents!" which translates literally to "When hens have teeth" which is the equivalent of the English expression for something that is never going to happen -"When pigs fly". ""Woody Allen somewhere describes a mythical beast called the Great Roe, which has "the head of lion and the body of a lion, only not the same lion".

Page 185 - "Next to it was a small, sleek oil lamp and [...] a small gold ring." The magic lamp and magic ring, which summon a demon when rubbed, appear in the legend of Aladdin from 1001 Arabian Nights. On page 208 Creosote tells the story of how "one day this wicked old pedlar came round offering new lamps for old [...]". This is also part of the original Aladdin fairy tale.

Page 210 - "It was a Fullomyth, an invaluable aid [...]" This is a reference to the 'Filofax' system: a small notebook (the more expensive versions are leather-bound) with loose-leaf information sheets, diary, calendar, notes, wine lists, London underground maps, etc. In the UK the Filofax at one time became the badge of the stereotypical 80s Yuppie, seen working in London's "square mile", walking around with a mobile phone clamped to his ear while referring to his Filofax to find a free appointment. Hence the Genie: "'Let's do lunch...'". The original Filofax name was an abbrevation of "file of facts", while Pratchett's name for the "invaluable aid" is a play on 'full of myth' reflecting both the overrated value of the product and the value of the information written inside by the user. Now the item has been replaced by the smart phone.

Page 215 - "'Like not thinking about pink rhinoceroses,' said Nijel [...]" I always thought that the impossibility of trying not to think of something specific was a general concept, but a correspondent informs me that the writer Tolstoy actually founded a club as a boy, which you could be admitted to if you managed a test. The test was to sit in a corner, and not think of a white bear.

Page 215 - Significant Quest is obviously a play on the board game Trivial Pursuit.

Page 227 - "Other things besides the cream floated to the top, he reflected sourly." Pratchett uses Tom Swifty's in many of his novels. See the annotation for p. 26 of The Light Fantastic . Tom Swifties are plays on the style of writing popularized in the Tom Swift series of of boys' adventure novels with a pun thrown in that connects the quoted sentence to the adverb or verb. Examples:

"I'm going to visit the tomb" said Tom cryptically.
"Pass me the shellfish," said Tom crabbily.

Page 257 - "'Oh, yes. It's vital to remember who you really are. It's very important. It isn't a good idea to rely on other people or things to do it for you, you see. They always get it wrong.'" Rincewind, nerving himself up to distract the Things in the Dungeon Dimensions so that Coin can escape, is anticipating Granny Weatherwax in this little speech. The theme is clearly important to Terry from the humanist angle, but its roots are in the occult -- actively holding in mind who and what you are is a traditional exercise in a number of mystical teachings. Note that this statement is the result of the inspiration particle which hit Rincewind on page 165.

Page 259 - "For a moment the ape reared against the darkness, the shoulder, elbow and wrist of his right arm unfolding in a poem of applied leverage, and in a movement as unstoppable as the dawn of intelligence brought it down very heavily." This is a subtle reference to the scene with the bone and tapir skull in the 'Dawn of Man' portion of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Main Characters[]

Minor Characters[]


  • Death and the temporarily Horse-less men of the Apocralypse:
  • Skarmer Billias
  • Gravie Derment, of the Sages of the Unknown Shadow
  • Ice Giants
  • Larry the Fox or perhaps Fezzy the Stoat
  • Ovin Hakardly, a 7th level wizard who can speak punctuation
  • Wuffles
  • Ardrothy Longstaff, seller of pork pies
  • Miskin Koble, who runs a jellied starfish and clam stall, and is killed by a wizard he attempts to hit
  • Benado Sconner, leader of a group of wizards who burn down the library. The text specifically informs us that his name is "not worth committing [...] to memory"
  • Genie of the lamp of Creosote's grandfather, who is somewhat over-committed
  • Blind Io


  • Maligree, a sourcerer
  • Gritoller Mimpsey, vice-president of the Thieves' Guild
  • Cohen, Conina's father
  • Hashishim, a group of mad killers named after the vast quantities of hashish they consumed
  • Thugs, a nastier group of cut-throats
  • Ly Tin Wheedle, arguably the Disc's greatest philosopher (at least, he always argued that he was)



  • Sourcery [1988] by Terry Pratchett also appeared as:
    • Translation: Der Zauberhut [German] (1990) - The Magic Hat
    • Translation: Betoverkind [Dutch] (1992)
    • Translation: Sourcellerie [French] (1995)
    • Translation: Bűbájos bajok? [Hungarian] (1999)
    • Translation: O Oitavo Mago [Portuguese] (2003)
    • Translation: Svartkonster [Swedish]
    • Translation: Магизточник [Bulgarian]
    • Translation: Rechicero [Spanish]
    • Translation: Velhous verissä [Finnish]
    • Translation: Посох и шляпа [Russian]
    • Translation: Stregoneria [Italian]
    • Translation: Чаротворство [Ukrainian]
    • Translation: Magický prazdroj [Czech]
    • Translation: Hasbüyü [Turkish]
    • Translation: 大法 [Simplified Chinese] (2007)


External links[]