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The Colour of Magic

Terry Pratchett

Cover artist

Josh Kirby

Publication information
Media type



Rincewind series

Preceded by


Followed by

The Light Fantastic

The Colour of Magic is a 1983 comic fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett, and is the first book of the Discworld series.

Publisher's summary[]

On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an avaricious but inept wizard, a naïve tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

Plot summary[]

The Colour of Magic[]

The story begins in Ankh-Morpork, the biggest city on the Discworld. The main character is an incompetent and cynical wizard named Rincewind, who is hired as a guide to naïve Twoflower, an insurance clerk from the Agatean Empire who has come to visit Ankh-Morpork. In the Agatean Empire, gold is as common as dirt so Twoflower, even though only a clerk, is rich compared to the inhabitants of Ankh-Morpork, which he keeps in a sentient pearwood chest that follows him everywhere on little legs (the Luggage). Knowing that displaying all that gold openly is likely to get them both killed, Rincewind attempts to flee with his advance payment for agreeing to be Twoflower's guide. However, he is captured by the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, who forces him to protect Twoflower, fearing the tourist's death might provoke an invasion by the Agatean Emperor. When Twoflower is kidnapped by a gang of thieves and taken to the Broken Drum tavern, Rincewind stages a rescue, but not before Twoflower persuades the Broken Drum's landlord to take out a fire insurance policy which leads to the landlord burning down the tavern to claim the insurance and which results in a fire that destroys the whole of Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind and Twoflower escape in the chaos. This first chapter of The Colour of Magic has many resonances with Fritz Leiber's Swords series but is also a parody of tourists and tourism.

The Sender of Eight[]

Rincewind and Twoflower travel towards the city of Quirm, unaware that their adventures on this journey are actually the subject of a board game played by the Gods of the Discworld. The pair are separated when they are attacked by a mountain troll summoned by Offler the Crocodile God. The ignorant Twoflower ends up being led to the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth, a being said to be the opposite of both good and evil, while Rincewind ends up imprisoned in a dryad-inhabited tree in the woods, where he watches the events in Bel Shamharoth's temple through a magical portal. The pair are reunited when Rincewind escapes into the temple through the portal, and they encounter Hrun the Barbarian, a parody of heroes in the Swords and Sorcery genre. The trio are attacked and nearly killed by Bel-Shamharoth, but escape when Rincewind accidentally blinds the creature with Twoflower's magical picture box. Hrun agrees to travel with and protect Twoflower and Rincewind in exchange for heroic pictures of him from the picture box.

Just as the first chapter of The Colour of Magic has many resonances with Fritz Leiber's Swords series, this chapter is a parody of the sword and sorcery genre. It can also be regarded as a light hearted parody of the works of horror author H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote many stories in a universe where unspeakable Evil lives, and where Ancient Gods (with unpronounceable names) play games with the lives of mortals. Lovecraft also wrote a story called The Colour out of Space, about an indescribable, unnatural colour. Bel-Shamharoth is a parody of the Lovecraftian abominations of the Cthulhu Mythos. Its name is suggestive of Yog-Sothoth, and the temple in which it dwells does not obey the normal laws of geometry, like Cthulhu's home of R'lyeh in "The Call of Cthulhu."

The Lure of The Wyrm[]

The trio visit the Wyrmberg, an upside-down mountain which is home to dragon-riders who summon their dragons by imagining them, and are separated when the riders attack them. Rincewind escapes capture but is forced by Kring, Hrun's sentient magical sword, to attempt to rescue his friends. Twoflower is imprisoned within the Wyrmberg, and because of his fascination with dragons, is able to summon one greater than those of the Wyrmberg riders, who he names Ninereeds, allowing him to escape captivity and save Rincewind from being killed in a duel with one of the three heirs of the Wyrmburg. Twoflower, Rincewind and Ninereeds snatch Hrun, but as they attempt to escape into the skies, Twoflower passes out from the lack of oxygen, causing Ninereeds to disappear. Hrun is saved by Liessa, but Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves falling to their deaths. In desperation, Rincewind manages to use the Wyrmberg's power to temporarily summon a passenger jet from the real world, before he and Twoflower fall into the ocean.

This chapter is a parody of the Anne McCaffery series The Dragonriders of Pern

Close to the Edge[]

The two of them are taken to the edge of the Discworld by the ocean currents and nearly carried over, but they are caught by the Circumfence, a huge net built by the nation of Krull to catch sea life and flotsam washed in from the rest of the Discworld. They are rescued by Tethis the sea troll, a being composed of water who had fallen off the edge of his own world and onto the Discworld, where he was subsequently enslaved by the Krullians. Rincewind and Twoflower are then taken by the Krullians to their capital, where they learn that the Krullians intend to discover the sex of Great A'Tuin by launching a space capsule over the edge of the Disc, and plan to sacrifice Rincewind and Twoflower to get the god Fate to smile on the voyage, Fate insisting on their sacrifice after they caused him to lose the earlier game. Rincewind and Twoflower attempt to escape, but end up stealing the capsule, which is launched with Twoflower inside, the tourist wishing to see the other worlds of the universe. Rincewind is unable to get into the capsule in time, and falls off the Disc alongside it, the Luggage following them soon after.

Given the title, it is not surprising that this chapter takes place at the edge of the world and is full of action packed adventure, a play on both meanings of the phrase. Ultimately it ends in a literal cliffhanger with Rincewind falling off the edge ... to be continued in the succeeding Discworld novel, The Light Fantastic. Whether Pratchett was also referencing the 1972 prog rock album of the same name by Yes is unknown.


The Colour of Magic is one of only ten Discworld novels to be divided into sections or chapters, the others being Pyramids, Going Postal, Making Money, and the six books for younger readers, specifically The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents and the five Tiffany Aching books, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight, and The Shepherd's Crown.

Popular References and Annotations[]

(Original hardcover page numbers. Corgi paperback edition page numbers in bold)[]

Title - The Colour of Magic resonates with the expression 'the colour of money" and in fact Twoflower's money plays a large role in the novel. However, the colour of magic itself is Octarine, or the King Colour. It is the eighth colour of the Discworld spectrum; visible only to wizards and cats. It is generally described as a fluorescent greenish yellow-purple which combines all the primary colours of the spectrum. The magic system is an obvious parody of Jack Vance's magic system from The Dying Earth. (This system may be best known for also being the original magic system used in Dungeons & Dragons.) Spells have to be memorized from books, and a wizard can only fit a certain number of them in his head. Rincewind's inability to do magic stems, in part, from the fact that he accidentally got one extremely powerful spell into his head, leaving no room for any others.

Page 7 (Page 11)- The prologue foreshadows The Light Fantastic when Pratchett says, in reference to A'Tuin, the great turtle that holds up the world, "[...] He stares fixedly at the Destination." In the Light Fantastic, the turtle's sex is not definite but here Pratchett tells the reader that he is clearly male. By the next page, the question on Discworld is "For example, what was A'Tuin's actual sex?" Turtles are difficult to sex because their sex organs are not obvious. Size and shell shape are common ways of identifying sex and require a comparison between two turtles (males being smaller with thicker tails)- difficult to do when there is only one like A'Tuin.

Page 8 (Page 12) - "[...] the theory that A'Tuin had come from nowhere and would continue at a uniform crawl, or steady gait, [...]" is a pun on the 'steady state' theory of explaining the size, origin and future of the universe. The best-known other theory is, of course, the Big Bang theory, referred to in the following sentence. In the Discworld, the Big Bang theory involves turtles having sex - an obvious play on the slang term "bang" meaning to have sex. The language used to describe "turtle sex" parallels that of the Roundworld "Big Bang Theory".

Page 9 (Page 17) - "Fire roared through the bifurcated city of Ankh-Morpork." Pratchett has said that the name 'Ankh-Morpork' was not inspired by the ankh (the Egyptian cross with the closed loop on top), or by the 'morepork' (a New Zealand and Tasmanian brown owl or 'ruru'). However in The Streets of Ankh-Morpork and The Discworld Companion, the Ankh-Morpork coat of arms, features a Morepork/owl holding an ankh. This is likely artistic license on the part of the illustrator rather than Pratchett's original idea. There is a clear resonance with the Hungarian capital of Budapest, which is made up of the two smaller cities on each bank on the Danube; Buda and Pest.

Page 9 (Page 17) - "[...] two figures were watching with considerable interest." These are the two barbarians, Bravd and Weasel who Pratchett said are parodies of Fritz Leiber's fantasy heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The stories in which they star (collected in the Swords series of books, starting with Swords and Deviltry) have probably had about as much influence on the genre as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.

Page 11 (Page 20) - "[...] two lesser directions, which are Turnwise and Widdershins." "'Widdershins' means 'to turn contrary to the direction of the sun's movement', ie counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern. "Turnwise" means 'right' so technically is only an antonym for 'widdershins' in the Northern Hemisphere. A synonym for 'turnwise' is the Gaelic word 'deosil', which helps explain Ankh-Morpork's Deosil Gate as found on the The Streets of Ankh-Morpork Mapp. Widdershins is also the name of the planet where Dom, the hero from Pratchett's novel, The Dark Side of the Sun lives. It has evil connotations and associations with the devil and witchcraft in Roundworld. You don't walk 'widdershins' around a graveyard or a church unless you want to bring forth evil spirits.

Page 12 (Page 20) - "Why, it's Rincewind the wizard, isn't it?' [...]" Rincewind's name comes from 1924, when J. B. Morton took over the column 'By The Way' in the London newspaper, the Daily Express. He inherited the pseudonym 'Beachcomber' from his predecessors (the column had existed since 1917), but it wasn't long before the name became synonymous with his own work due to his astonishing output and success: Morton wrote the column six times a week for over 50 years, until 1965, when the column became a weekly feature, and continued to the last column in November 1975. Morton used an eccentric cast of regular characters in his sketches, which frequently caricatured self-important and highbrow public figures. One continual theme was the silliness of the law courts, featuring amongst others Mr Justice Cocklecarrot and the twelve Red-Bearded Dwarves. In one sketch, the names of those dwarfs were given as Sophus Barkayo-Tong, Amaninter Axling, Farjole Merrybody, Guttergorm Guttergormpton, Badly Oronparser, Cleveland Zackhouse, Molonay Tubilderborst, Edeledel Edel, Scorpion de Rooftrouser, Listenis Youghaupt, Frums Gillygottle, and, last but not least, Churm Rincewind. Pratchett said:

"I read of lot of Beachcomber in second-hand collections when I was around 13. Dave Langford pointed out the origin of Rincewind a few years ago, and I went back through all the books and found the name and thought, oh, blast, that's where it came from. And then I thought, what the hell, anyway."

Page 12 (Page 21) - "Since the Hub is never closely warmed by the weak sun the lands there are locked in permafrost. The Rim, on the other hand, is a region of sunny islands and balmy days." This is a favorite debate among Discworld fans. On average, the sun is closer to the hub than the rim, so the hub would be warmer if it followed the same rules as Roundworld, but after all this is an imaginary world so Pratchett could create whatever rules he wanted. The Turtle Moves! section in Chapter 5 has more information about the physical aspects of the Discworld.

Page 16 (Page 26) - "[...] found himself looking up into a face with four eyes in it." Four eyes is a derogatory term for someone who is wearing glasses, but on the covers of the first two Discworld books, Josh Kirby actually drew Twoflower with four physical eyes. Whether this was Pratchett's intended interpretation of Twoflower or Kirby visually playing with the whole idea the same way that Pratchett puns on concepts and popular ideas is unknown.

Page 18 (Page 28) - The inn called 'The Broken Drum' is burned down in this book. The later Discworld novels all feature its replacement - 'The Mended Drum'. The novel Strata contains (on p. 35) an explanation of why you would call a pub 'The Broken Drum' in the first place: "You can't beat it".

Page 22 (Page 32) - The line "Some might have taken him for a mere apprentice enchanter [...]" suggests that Rincewind is a relatively young wizard and other references in the text point in the same direction. It is suggested that he was born in the year 1932 UC which makes him 32 in The Colour of Magic and 57 in The Last Hero. For some reason, all the cover artists and the 2008 TV movie The Colour of Magic depict him as an old wizard - at least in his sixties. Perhaps all his escapades and narrow escapes have made him look older than he is or perhaps "young wizard" is truly a relative term.

Page 22 (Page 32) - "Unseen University, [...]", which becomes a fixture throughout the novels and is the name of the Discworld's premier scientific institution, is likely drawn from the 17th century Invisible College, formed by the secret organization of the Rosicrucians, whose members were called the Invisibles because they never dared to reveal themselves in public. The Invisible College was a conclave of scientists, philosophers and other progressive thinkers which, in later times and under Stuart patronage, became the Royal Society. In the Brief Lives arc of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic, Dream visits the Invisible College, where a scientist is happily dissecting a dead orangutan, a shout out to the librarian of Pratchett's university.

Page 24 (Page 34) - Pratchett's character's names usually have some connection to a Roundworld figure or culture or are a pun or play on words. This is not the case with 'Twoflower'. Pratchett said, "[...] there's no joke in Twoflower. I just wanted a coherent way of making up 'foreign' names and I think I pinched the Mayan construction (Nine Turning Mirrors, Three Rabbits, etc.)." Twoflower hails from Bes Pelargic on the Counterweight Continent.

Page 26 (Page 36) - "If you mean: is this coin the same as, say, a fifty-dollar piece, then the answer is no." One might wonder why a British writer would use the dollar instead of the pound as the currency of Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett said: "The dollar is quite an elderly unit of currency, from the German 'thaler', I believe, and the use of the term for the unit of currency isn't restricted to the US. I just needed a nice easy monetary unit and didn't want to opt for the 'gold pieces' cliché. Sure, I live in the UK, but I haven't a clue what the appropriate unit of currency is for a city in a world on the back of a turtle.

Page 28 (Page 38) - "Barely two thousand rhinu." 'Rhino' is a very old British slang word for money stemming from the 1600s. Some think it relates to the phrase 'to pay through the nose', since 'rhinos' means 'nose' in Greek but there is no evidence to support this.

Page 44 (Page 55) - The line about "'Reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits?'" is one of Pratchett's more clever puns (easy to miss until he explains it explicitly on page 71) - 'economics' or 'echo' (reflected sounds) plus 'gnomonics' (gnomes-underground spirits). The reference is easy to miss because modern usage doesn't associate gnomes with spirits like ghosts. However, a gnome (as defined in Encyclopedia Britannica) was originally a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus in the 16th century. It is typically said to be a small humanoid that lives underground - a spirit that guards treasure. Throughout his novels Pratchett uses puns, sometimes leaving the reader to figure out the most complex ones and sometimes gilding the lily by explaining in detail the very obvious ones.

Page 49 (Page 62) - "Let him but get to Chimera or Gonim or Ecalpon and half a dozen armies couldn't bring him back."

These places are all references to Roundworld; 'Chimerical' means 'mythical or imaginary like an impossible dream and comes from 'Chimera' the fire-breathing monster from Greek mythology (see the annotation for p. 171 of Sourcery). The name is also a play on Cimmeria, Conan the Barbarian's mythical homeland. Go-Nim, is a mix of two ancient Chinese board games, 'Go' and 'Nim', as well as being two computer programming languages. Ecalpon is 'Noplace' spelled backwards. This is a variation on Samuel Butler's idealistic commonwealth 'Erewhon,' described in the novel of the same name. (Erewhon is 'Nowhere' almost spelled backwards. 'Nehwon' is 'no when' spelled backwards which is the universe where Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Fritz Lieber comic series have most of their adventures.

Page 50 (Page 63) - "The Empire was not built by allowing things to get out of place" This type of line is common throughout the Discworld series and originates from the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin by David Nobbs when CJ says "I didn't get where I am today by ...l"

(Page 67) - "Lightning is the spears thrown by the thunder giants ... You can't harness lightning" In Roundworld, in most religions lightning is associated as a weapon of the gods, In Greek mythology, Zeus throws thunderbolts, in Norse mythology Thor hurls lightning with his hammer, Mjölnir. In Christianity, it symbolizes the wrath of God. There have been many attempts to harness the power of lightning (although the imp and Rincewind's discussion centres around attaching it to a cart - harnessed in the other sense of the word). None have been successful because of the huge charges involved and the variability of the current. Contrary to popular believe, Ben Franklin's, kite was not struck by lightning but picked up the ambient charge from the storm and transferred it to the jar.

(Page 68) - "Captain Eightpanther's Travelling Digestives is based on Royal Navy hard tack and just as hard and inedible. Pratchett does not usually choose his character's names without a reason but beyond the fact that eight is the key number in the Discworld universe, there are no obvious reasons why it is "Panther". This section and the bottled water in the luggage poke fun at tourists not trusting the local food stuffs and bringing something from home so they can be "safe". Similarly, Twoflower using his phrase book and talking in a loud voice to make the locals understand, parodies tourists in a foreign country where they don't speak the language.

(Page 73) "Possibly I could kill only one of you.....but I suggest you ask yourselves - which one?" This is a variation on the kind of quotes Clint Eastwood makes in Dirty Harry as well as those in various action movies.

Page 62 (Page 78) - Death's line, "I WAS EXPECTING TO MEET THEE IN PSEPHOPOLOLIS [...] I COULD LEND YOU A VERY FAST HORSE." is a reference to the Somerset Maugham's, short story Appointment in Samarra, which is itself a retelling of an ancient Jewish tale from the 6th century Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 53a.5-6. A similar story called When Death Came to Baghdad is an old ninth century Middle Eastern Sufi teaching story, told by Fudail ibn Ayad in his Hikayat-i-Naqshia ('Tales formed according to a design').

Page (Page 86) - "You inn-sewered the Drum?" - Another of Pratchett's puns, since Twoflower has "insured" the Broken Drum Inn and the Drum is located in the cesspool that is Ankh-Morpork.

Page 73 (Page 90) - "'Here's another fine mess you've got me into,' he moaned and slumped backwards." This is a well-known Laurel and Hardy catchphrase. Hardy (the fat one) always says it to Laurel (the thin one), who then usually responded by ruffling the top of his hair with one hand and whimpering in characteristic fashion. Hardy never actually said: "fine mess", though, but always: "nice mess".

Page 75 (Page 96) - The home of the gods is 'Dunmanifestin' at the top of Cori Celesti. This the first mention of the name in the series but it is used regularly throughout the novels. 'Dun' is an Old English word for hill an appropriate name for the gods home at the top of the mountain. It is also Gaelic for fort or castle. There are many towns in Scotland that include it in their names; Dunbarton, Dunblane, Dundee. In addition, Pratchett is punning on those 'cute' vacation cottage and retirement home names like "Dunroamin"- "done roaming". The gods have therefore 'Dunmanifestin' (done manifesting).

Page 76 (Page 96) -"[...] Zephyrus the god of slight breezes." Zephyrus was in fact the Greek god of the soft west winds and Spring. The interactions of the gods in 'The Sending of Eight' resembles the Godshome scenes in Leiber's Swords series which Pratchett parodies throughout the novel.

(Page 101) - "bee-humming air" is a romantic poetry reference, used by English poets from Keats to Wordsworth. Later on he uses a daffodil reference which ties in to this romantic view of the world as seen through the tourist Twoflower's eyes - in spite of the reality outlined in the fever ridden and tumbledown villages they pass through.

(Page 102) - "The Law of Conservation of Reality" is a reference to the law of conservation of mass.

(Page 106) - "...Perhaps there was a ... he racked his brains trying to remember what sort of accommodation forests traditionally offered...perhaps there was a gingerbread house or something?"

(Page 112) - "The Temple of Bel-Shamharoth" Bel-Shamharoth (also known as the "Soul-Eater," the "Soul-Render," or the "Sender of Eight") is an ancient, dark god-like creature with plenty of suckers, tentacles, mandibles, and one giant eye. It also has the ability to materialise tentacles. The use of 2 X 4, the number between 7 and 9, etc all play on the western superstitions in Roundworld against the number 13, as well as the Japanese aversion to 8 and the Chinese to 4.

(Page 114) - The dryad's name is Druellae. Druella is a German name meaning an "Elfin vision" but it also resonates with Cruella de Vil the evil villainess from 101 Dalmations.

(Page 117) - "The circle began to spin widdershins" Widdershins means counter-clockwise. It relates to going in the opposite direction to the sun in the northern hemisphere.

(Page 118) - "Eight was the number of Bel Shamharoth, which was why a sensible wizard never mentioned the number....Or you'd be eight alive". Another of Pratchett's more obvious puns using "eight" to refer to "ate" .

(Page 122) - Hrun the Barbarian is a parody of all the fantasy heroes; muscle bound, slow witted, good with a sword and with a fondness for virgins.

Page 98 (Page 124) -"The floor was a continuous mosaic of eight-sided tiles, [...]. It is physically impossible for convex octagons to tile a plane, unless, of course, space itself would somehow be strangely distorted (one of the hallmarks of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos). It is possible, however, to tile a plane with non-convex octagons and naturally Pratchett does not specify convex.

Page 101 (Page 127) -"[...] the disposal of grimoires [...]" echoes the main methods of nuclear waste disposal: sealing drums in deep salt mines, and dropping the drums into trenches at subduction zones, the latter only a theoretical application; it hasn't been used yet. A grimoire is a book of spells or textbook of magic.

Page 114 (Page 142) - Kring the sword says "I spent a couple of hundred years on the bottom of a lake once." This is an obvious reference to the sword Excalibur from the King Arthur legends. The intelligent black sword itself is reminiscent of Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer, albeit with a rather annoying habit of talking continuously and at the most inappropriate times, as when it says the word "eight".

Page 114 (Page 142) - Kring then adds "What I'd really like to be is a ploughshare. I don't know what that is, but it sounds like an existence with some point to it." The reference is to the phrase in the Bible, in Isaiah 2:4: "[...] and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more". Beating swords into ploughshares is a very common theme of the peace movement and it has a 'point to it' both in the concept of ending war and in the fact that a plough has a pointed tip.

Page 117 (page 145) - Death says to Rincewind "I'LL GET YOU YET, CULLY, [...]". Cully is a mild northern British epithet for a stupid or gullible person (someone who is easily duped). Pratchett explains: "Cully still just about hangs on in parts of the UK as a mildly negative term meaning variously 'yer bastard', 'man', 'you there' and so on. It's quite old, but then, Death is a history kind of guy." There is no clear etymology for the word. Some suggest it is a contraction of 'cullion', (testicle) which was used to mean "a despicable creature" in the 17th Century. Cullion came from the Middle English coilon (testicle) from the Old French coillon from Vulgar Latin cōleō cōleōn. This is the same root that generates the Italian coglione and the slang cojones (testicles or balls).

Page 118 - 124 (Page 149 - 157) - The entire Lure of the Wyrm section parodies the Pern novels (a sf/fantasy series) by Anne McCaffrey. The heroine of the first Pern novel Dragonflight is called Lessa, and the exclamation mark in Discword's dragonriders' names parallels the similar use of apostrophes in McCaffrey's names. In addition, "The dragons sense Liessa's presence." is another Pern reference and is the way McCaffrey depicts the mental communications of the dragons.

(Page 149) - Wyrmberg - The upside down mountain where the dragonriders live. Its name is a combination of "wyrm" or "worm" and "berg" the German word for "mountain". The Germanic and Scandinavian dragon was usually called “wurm”, which in Old High German meant “worm” and “serpent”, and which, according to the Merriam-Webster, came from the Latin “vermis” (meaning “worm”), and so the word “wurm” would originate the Old English “wyrm. Therefore the name means 'dragon mountain".

Page 125 (Page 157) - "Oh, you know how it is with wizards. Half an hour afterwards you could do with another one, the dragon grumbles." This is a play on jokes made about Chinese food.

Page 128 (Page 160) - The sword Kring says, "Did I ever tell you about the time I was thrown into a lake..." This is reference to the King Arthur legend of Excalibur when Arthur on his deathbed orders the sword to be thrown into the lake and a hand appears and takes it into the depths.

Page 128 (Page 161) - The line, "This could have been an anvil" is a reference to King Arthur's sword Excalibur, which he pulls out of either a stone or an anvil to become king.

Page 130 (Page 162) - When Rincewind fights K!sdra, Kring "[...] appeared to be singing to itself." The long running comic strip Prince Valliant includes a singing sword and there are many others in myths and folklore. In addtion, Pratchett was familiar with many old computer games, so the description of Kring may have be a passing reference to the prototypical computer adventure game ADVENT (later versions of which were also known as Adventure or Colossal Cave). In this game, a room exists where a sword is stuck in an anvil. The next line of the room's description goes: "The sword is singing to itself".

(Page 164) -K!sdra say, "If you kill me, nothing will prevent Psepha killing you". Although Pratchett's facts are generally consistent, he states that he does not let consistency get in the way of improving the story line. Since dragons are created by the imagination of the rider, if Rincewind kills K!sdra, by definition, the dragon should cease to exist because K!sdra's mind would not be able to imagine him - being dead. Alternately, perhaps Psepha has been created by Liessa and given to K!sdra to ride for her, possible only if they stayed within range of her imagination.

(Page 169) -"[...] 'I am Lio!rt Dragonlord,' said the hanging man, pronouncing the word with the harsh click in the back of the throat that Rincewind could only think of as a kind of integral punctuation." As in the Roundworld's International Phonetic Alphabet, the ⟨ǃ⟩ is used to indicate the alveolar click, where the tip of the tongue is pulled down abruptly and forcefully from the roof of the mouth, sometimes using a lot of jaw motion, and making a hollow pop! like a cork being pulled from an empty bottle - common to some African languages like Zulu.

Page 141 (Page 175) -"[...] he had been captivated by the pictures of the fiery beasts in The Octarine Fairy Book." This is a reference to Roundworld's Blue, Brown, Crimson, Green, etc., Fairy Books, edited by Andrew Lang, Octarine also known as the colour of magic or the king colour in Discworld is the eighth colour of the Discworld spectrum. It can only be seen by wizards and cats.

(Page 177) -"There are three of them (tests)" - The idea of passing three (it is almost always three) increasingly difficult challenges is a universal theme throughout legend, children's fables, action movies, and epics.

(Page 183) - Twoflower names his dragon Nine Reeds in honour of the master accountant in Bes Palargic under whom he apprenticed.

Page 156 (Page 191) - "'It is forbidden to fight on the Killing Ground,' he said, and paused while he considered the sen of this." This line echoes a famous line from Stanley Kubrick's 1964 movie Dr Strangelove, which has President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) saying: "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room."

Page 156 (Page 191) - The origins of the names of Liessa's brothers Lio!rt and Liartes are unknown. The do however conform to the cutesy tricks some parents have for naming their children with a common first syllable or letter (in this case "L" or "Li"), LIessa comes from "Lie" and would be pronounced like the common female name "Lisa". Lio!rt and Liartes sound like "liar" and the latter also resonates with Laertes from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

(Page 195) - The scene where Liartes directs the dragon fire to burn the various hiding places where Hrun might be located resonates with the Monty Python skit How not to be seen involving the exploding bushes.

(Page 202) - "A theory being ...hatched in the mind of an early psychiatrist in an adjacent universe....the psychiatrist saw the girl on the dragon". This is a reference to Sigmund Freud's theories about sexual symbolism and phallic images. The dragon or wyrm is an obvious phallus and the nude woman on his back is riding him. So we in Roundworld have Discworld to blame for inventing Sigmund Freud.

Page 168 (Page 205) -"At that moment Lianna's dragon flashed by and Hrun landed heavily across its neck. Lianna leaned over and kissed him." In the rest of the novel the girl's name is Liessa. Pratchett said that the error in names must have been introduced sometime during the publishing process: it is not in his original manuscript. The error was corrected in the 1998 Corgi reprint.

Page 169 (Page 206) -After Rincewind and Twoflower escape from the Wyrmberg they are flying on a dragon one moment and in a modern jetliner which has been hijacked, the next. In other words they have shifted to another 'plane' or dimension. And in case anyone missed this obvious pun, Pratchett gilds the lily by explaining it at the end of the section (something that Pratchett seems to think is required, all too often). The "powerful travelling rune TWA" appearing on the Luggage continues the word play as it is a reference to the old Roundworld airline Trans World Airlines, which is clearly transferring them out of one world into another.

Page 172 (Page 208) -Dr Rjinswand is "[...] a specialist in the breakaway oxidation phenomena of certain nuclear reactors." This is a well-known example of doubletalk. Dr Rjinswand is an expert on uncontrolled fires in nuclear reactors. Prior to becoming an author Pratchett was a press officer for four nuclear power stations with the Central Electricity Generating Board. This was shortly after the 3 Mile Island Nuclear disaster and he cited this as an example of his unerring sense of timing.

Page 171 (Page 209) - Zweiblumen' means 'Twoflowers' in German.

(Page 210) - "A noble comet died as a prince flamed across the sky". The comet was seen as an omen of death of kings from early times. When Julius Caesar was murdered a comet appeared in the sky shortly afterwards and King Harold, as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry is shown with an arrow in his eye and Halley's comet in the sky. In fact, people’s belief in linking comets to the death of kings was so strong that many were surprised when no comet appeared in 814 after the death of Charlemagne. Here Pratchett parodies the expression and shows that time and space are out of joint by reversing the order of the saying.

The line, "Turning To Animals is an Eighth Level spell" is a reference to Dungeons & Dragons. In his younger days, Pratchett was a Dungeon Master and there are many references to the game in his novels.

- [p. 176] (Page 210) - "'I am Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos,' said the craftsman."

'Dactylos' comes from the Greek dáktylos which means digits (ie fingers or toes). See also the annotation for p. 159/115 of Small Gods .

The fate of Dactylos has been suffered by craftsmen in Roundworld as well. In 1555 Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of St Basil's Church in Moscow. He was so pleased with this piece of work by the two architects, Postnik and Barma, that he had them blinded so they would never be able to design anything more beautiful.

[p. 179] (Page 219) - "[...] the incredibly dry desert known as the Great Nef." The Great Nef Desert and its negative humidity and its Dehydrated Ocean, plus the strange ships that sail on it is a parody of the deserts of Dune. Neff is an oven manufacturer but there is also a desert in Saudi Arabia called An Nafud or Al-Nefud and perhaps Pratchett has combining this with the Grand Erg in the Sahara. "Nef" is "fen" spelled backwards - the very opposite of a desert but quite appropriate in Discworld.

Page 184 (Page 225) - "The captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying." This line echoes Woody Allen, who said: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying".

Page 184 (Page 226) -"'His name is Tethis. He says he's a sea troll.'" In Greek mythology Tethys or Thetis was the personification of the feminine fecundity of the sea. She was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia, and the youngest female Titan (or Titanide). Eventually she married her brother Oceanus, and together they had more than 3000 children, namely all the rivers of the world. In Discworld, trolls traditionally are given mineral names but Tethis is not really a mineral type troll being a sea troll so perhaps this convention doesn't apply to him.

Page 189. (Page 230) -Twoflower is sampling the hospitality on offer in Krull to those who are about to be sacrificed.

"Ghlen Livid" he said. "The fermented vul-nut drink they freeze-distil in my home country.... "from the western plantations in, ah, Rehigreed Province, yes?" "Ghlen Livid" is an obvious play on the whiskey "Glenlivet" and "vul-nut" on "Walnut". The 18 year old YO single malt Glenlivet has been described as tasting of "... of nutmeg, allspice and a bit of cinnamon, followed by hints of vanilla and then walnut."

Page 189 (Page 230) - The circumfence, even without Pratchett's seeming need to explain the pun ad infinitum is obviously a play on circumference (the perimeter of an object - in this case Discworld) and circum (to go around as in circumnavigate) and fence (a barrier).

Page 193 (Page 236) -"He told them of the world of Bathys, [...]" 'Bathys' is Greek for 'deep', as in bathyscape deep-sea diving equipment.

Page 194] (Page 236) - "[...] the biggest dragon you could ever imagine, covered in snow and glaciers and holding its tail in its mouth." The snow and glaciers seem to point specifically to the Norse mythology where the Midgard serpent Jormungand circles the world in the manner described.

Page 196 (Page 239) - Tethis says "Just because I'm made of water, doesn't mean I'm made of wood....You're made of dirt" to Twoflower. This resonates with Pinocchio but is a statement on the fact that humans are a carbon based lifeform. Thetis whole demeanor in this section has a strong similarity to Marvin the Paranoid Android in Douglas Adam's character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Page 196 (Page 239) - "I'm suffering from chronic tides". Hence Tethis gets larger when the moon is in alignment with him and smaller when it is out of phase.

Page 198 (Page 241) - He picked up a large mallet that hung on a pillar beside a bell and used it to tap out a brief carillon". This message is passed from lengthman to lengthman. This sequence has it Roundworld parallel in the old telegraph system across the North American continent(amongst other places) using Morse telegraphy.

Page 198] (Page 241) - "'Well, the disc itself would have been created by Fresnel's Wonderful Concentrator,' said Rincewind, authoritatively." Augustin Fresnel was the 19th century inventor of the Fresnel lens, often used in lighthouses to concentrate the light beam. A Fresnel lens consists of concentric ring segments; its main advantage is that it is flat in comparison to a normal (spherical) lens. The disc Rincewind is referring to is a transparent lens twenty feet across.

(Page 251) - This sequence is another play on words in French and English. "A base canard!" interupted Garhartra "What's a canard?" said Twoflower. "I think it's a kind of duck", said Rincewind.

The now common English expression does come from the French word "canard meaning both "duck" and "an absurd story or outlandish tale"

(Page 253) Garhartra says, "I didn't enjoy doing that you know." This too is a line from Marvin the Paranoid Android in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

(Page 259) - The Lady is "the goddess who must not be named" in Discworld. In Roundworld it was Persephone Goddess of the Underworld and also Goddess of Curses. She unleased the Erinlyes or Furies on those who used her name in vain, hence the epithet "she who must not be named. The reference is also a shout out to John Mortimer's Rumple of the Bailey series of novels and is a variation on the name Rumple gives to his wife - "she who must be obeyed". That line originally came from Rider Haggard's 1886 novel, She, A History of Adventure.

(Page 260) - Knowing the sex of the Great A'tuin seems rather pointless to Rincewind until the Lady points out that if he meets another turtle and mates that could cause problems for Discworld. Since male turtles mount the female and Discworld in on the back of the Turtle, the chaos is obvious.

Page 221 (Page 266) - "Whoever would be wearing those suits, Rincewind decided, was expecting to boldly go where no man [...] had boldly gone before [...]" This is from the famous opening voice-over to the Star Trek television series: "Space... the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations -- to boldly go where no man has gone before." This was changed to "where no-one has gone before" in the newer, more politically correct Star Trek incarnations.

Page 222] (Page 267) -"'? Tyø yur åtl hø sooten gåtrunen?'" This sentence has the look of a Scandinavian language (the letters used are from the Danish/Norwegian alphabet), but it is not. The words used, although close to, have no basis in any of the Scandinavian languages. For example, "yur" resonates with "your" åtel means "carrion" in Swedish, "hø means "hay" in all Scandinavian languages, "sooten" resonates with "sudden" and "gåtunen" is a "walkway" in all Scandinavian languages. Sooten also resembles a verb meaning to "suit up". However, Pratchett commented that "The point is that Krullian isn't Swedish -- it's just a language that looks foreign. In the same way, I hope the hell that when Witches Abroad is translated the translators use some common sense when dealing with Nanny Ogg's fractured Esperanto."

(Page 262) The reactions of the "hydrophobes" when they contact water reflect what hydrophobes do in Roundworld as well - except that in Roundworld a hydrophobe is a molecule or substance that is seemingly repelled from a mass of water whereas someone who is afraid of water is said to be aquaphobic. Hydrophobia is specifically a fear of water related to a late-stage rabies infection. People with hydrophobia have muscle spasms when they hear, see or taste water. Aquaphobia is an extreme fear of water not related to a physical condition or illness.

(Page 282) - Rimfishers are clearly a take off on the Roundworld's kingfishers.

(Page 284) - Scrofula appears to take Rincewind instead of Death because Death is busy with the plague in Ankh-Morpork. Scrofula is now called “cervical tuberculous lymphadenitis”: Cervical refers to the neck. Lymphadenitis refers to inflammation in the lymph nodes, which are part of the body's immune system. It was called the King's Evil because until the 18th century, doctors thought the only way to cure the disease was to be touched by a member of a royal family. Clearly Scrofula cannot claim Rincewind because, as a wizard, he entitled to be claimed by Death. Scrofula also confirms that there is such a thing as reincarnation.

(Page 285) - The novel literally ends on a cliff hanger with Rincewind hanging off the edge of the world until his branch breaks and he flies off into space.

Graphic novel[]

A graphic novel, illustrated by Steven Ross and adapted by Scott Rockwell, was published by Corgi in 1992. The graphic novel is split up into several chapters like the book, and is faithful to the source material in that it is built up like classic barbarian stories.

Crucial differences between the book and comic include the cutting-out of some of the adventures in Ankh-Morpork and Krull. Also, in the book, the female Dragonriders are described as being topless, as barbarian women in fiction tend to be. However, to keep the graphic novel child-friendly, the women wear chain-mail bras as well as the clothing described in the book. It has been published in hardcover along with the graphic novel of The Light Fantastic, as The Discworld Graphic Novels. (ISBN 9780061685965)

TV adaptation[]

The Mob Film Company and Sky One have produced a two-part television adaptation, combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic broadcast over Easter 2008. Sir David Jason starred in the role of Rincewind.[1] Sean Astin took the role of Twoflower. Christopher Lee took over the role of Death from Ian Richardson[2] (a role Lee previously portrayed in the animated series Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters). As in the Graphic Novel, sections have been eliminated to reduce the scope of the TV show, notably the Sender of Eight section.

Computer game[]

The plot was adapted for a text adventure computer game in 1986.





Deities and anthropomorphic personifications[]

Food and drink[]






Reception by Public[]

Dave Langford reviewed The Colour of Magic for White Dwarf #64, and stated that "It's one of those horrible, antisocial books which impel the reader to buttonhole friends and quote bits at them. My ceiling is covered with brown spots from when I tried to read Pratchett's jokes and drink beer at the same time. Only native sadism makes me recommend this disgraceful work."

Colin Greenland reviewed The Colour of Magic for Imagine magazine, and stated that "Terry Pratchett does for sword and sorcery what Douglas Adams did for science fiction."

In 2015, Sam Jordison at The Guardian gave a positive review of The Colour of Magic. He discussed the arguments that it may not be the best introduction to the series: later books are more highly regarded; it does little to develop its characters and ideas; and modern readers may not be familiar with the "pre-1990s fantasy conventions" it lampoons. However, he argued that the book is "still more than worth reading in and of itself", praising its gags and satire. "Indeed, The Colour of Magic is the perfect introduction because it leaves me hungry for more."


The Colour of Magic (1983) by Terry Pratchett also appeared as:

  • Variant: The Color of Magic (1983)
  • Translation: Die Farben der Magie [German] (1985)
  • Translation: Il colore della magia [Italian] (1989)
  • Translation: De kleur van toverij [Dutch] (1991)
  • Translation: Die Farben der Magie [German] (1992)
  • Translation: La huitième couleur [French] (1993)
  • Translation: La huitième couleur? [French] (1996)
  • Translation: A cor da magia [Portuguese] (2001)
  • Translation: 魔法的颜色 [Simplified Chinese] (2007)


  1. Del's spells as David lands role. The Sun Online (24 April 2007). Retrieved on June 8, 2024, 2007.
  2. Colour of Magic Cast. Paul Kidby official website (July 31 2007).

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia.

The original article was at The Colour of Magic. 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.