The very first Discworld novel, from 1983 (followed by The Light Fantastic). Unlike most of the later ones, it was primarily a vehicle for Terry Pratchett to directly mock, play with, and deconstruct other fantasy series, rather than the much broader field of his later work. Introduced his interest in using nuclear physics (his previous area of expertise as a scientific journalist) as a metaphor and parody for how magic works.Written as a travelogue in which cowardly failed wizard Rincewind and Fish out of Water Twoflower, the world's first tourist, travel much of the Disc while running away from things with big teeth and men with swords.Was adapted (with quite a lot of Adaptation Distillation) by Sky TV in 2007, together with The Light Fantastic (but the whole thing was known as The Colour of Magic). It was also adapted into a graphic novel (again with The Light Fantastic) to celebrate the Discworld series' anniversary. Unlike the TV adaptation, this was mostly a straight adaptation of the book, even keeping significant amounts of narrative and not merely the direct plot.Unlike later Discworld novels, is split into six parts rather than a continuous chapterless piece.The titular Colour of Magic is Octarine, the eighth colour, the pigment of the imagination. Depending on the scene, it's either invisible or blacker than black if you aren't a creature that can see magic, like a wizard or cat. If you can see magic, it's a sort of disappointing purplish-greenish-yellow.Fantasy directly parodied includes:
Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (Bravd and the Weasel, and the whole opening chapters with Ankh-Morpork burning. The initial characterization of Death as an actively malevolent being who directly kills people was also taken from here. There are also some noticeable similarities between the plot and some of the characters in The Lure of the Wyrm and Leiber's The Lords of Quarmall. The name of the city Ankh-Morpork is only coincidentally similar to Leiber's Lankhmar, though; Pratchett has denied being consciously influenced).
Michael Moorcock The concept of the Eternal Hero and the Companion to Champions. Rincewind as an incompetent Elric who can neither cast spells nor use weapons. The Black Sword that sucks souls to Hell - here a sword that drags people into a Hell of boredom and ennui as it grabs the ear of the listener and will not let go. Capricious and chaotic Gods playing with human life for kicks.
Pern (The Dragons of the Wyrmbeg, especially since the riders use exclamation marks in their names in a similar way to how McCaffrey's Dragonriders use apostrophes)
Contains examples of:
Alien Geometries: Bel-Shamharoth's temple is made up of eight-sided stone slabs. Yes, only eight-sided stone slabs (although it doesn't say they're convex octagons...)
Anti-Hero: Rincewind, who is not merely cowardly but surprisingly greedy compared with his later appearances, debuts as a Type V.
At this point, he hasn't had his fill of cruel and unusual geography and still expects to be a great wizard, with all that entails, so being greedy is understandable.
Astronomic Zoom: Literary version. Most other Discworld books go on to start in this way, but The Colour of Magic has the most drawn-out one (unsurprising, as it needs to set the scene and describe the mechanics of the Discworld).
Blow Gun: The leader of the Assassin Guild uses a blowgun as his weapon.
Blue and Orange Morality: Bel-Shamharoth. "He was not Evil, for even Evil has a certain vitality; Bel-Shamharoth was the flip side of the coin of which both Good and Evil together make up only one side".
Cheap Gold Coins: played with. Ankh-Morporkian "gold pieces" are actually "gold-ish", containing less actual gold than seawater. The coins Twoflower brings with him, however, are solid gold - he comes from the Agatean Empire, where gold is a very common metal - and he frequently pays for meals with enough gold to buy the restaurant out of business.
Chekhov's Gun: The only spell Rincewind ever learned. Subverted, since he doesn't get to use it, at least not in this book.
The story takes place on a flat world. As in there's an edge. No points figuring out what happens towards the end.
Disproportionate Retribution: The dryad condemns Rincewind to death for accidentally peeling a strip of bark from her tree, and doesn't care that he was clinging to it to avoid a fatal fall. (Have to wonder what punishment she hands out to woodpeckers...)
Death acts psychotically, randomly killing people out of spite, unlike his later sympathetic view on humanity and seeing his role as a duty.
The Patrician is flabby, capricious and eats rare delicacies. Despite Word of God, many fans refuse to believe it's the same Patrician as the thin, coldly logical, ascetic Vetinari.
The plural and adjective for dwarf are dwarves and dwarven respectively, as in The Lord of the Rings (and its many imitators). Pratchett would not switch to 'dwarfs' and 'dwarfish' until a few books later.
After encountering dryads, Rincewind reflects he thought they were extinct, and believed that the only non-human races still around were elves and trolls, specifically mentioning that gnomes and pixies had died out. This is almost the reverse of later books, where there are no (pure-blood) elves on Discworld, only occasional extradimensional invaders, and gnomes and pixies are commonplace.
A peculiar one is that the King of the Wyrmberg calls himself a 13th-level wizard, while the next book will say that there are only 8 levels. Odd because this is the book that introduces and emphasises the number 8 being important, and indeed the idea of wizarding levels is barely brought up in books after Sourcery. In any case, this was justified in the Discworld Companion by saying that levels higher than 8 are just made up by foreign wizards trying to inflate their own titles.
Everything's Better with Rainbows: The Rimbow, the great rainbow caused by the sunlight shining through the Rimfall as it pours from the Edge, which—due to the magical field—has eight colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and octarine. We finally get to see an artistic representation of this in The Last Hero.
Exotic Entree: The Patrician enjoys delicacies like candied jellyfish.
Fantastic Measurement System: Rincewind measures the Wyrmberg's magical field in (milli)Primes. In every other book it's (milli)thaums. This was explained in the Discworld Companion as being two competing measurement systems, like Fahrenheit and Celsius.
Fantastic Nuke: The Wyrmberg area suffered a direct hit by one during the Mage Wars, and the ensuing magical fallout means that it is home to an upside-down mountain, imaginary dragons, and coins land on their edge or don't come down at all.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Agatean Empire here seems mainly based on Japan (both the fact that it is closed to outsiders and has only one port, like Tokugawa-era Japan, and Twoflower's tourist stereotype seems mainly based on Japanese tourists). However, its naming conventions are based on Aztec names rendered literally into English.
Fate Worse Than Death: When the dryads are going to execute Rincewind for damaging their tree, but nonetheless say he's fortunate compared to Twoflower who is trapped in Bel-Shamharoth's temple—
"Your friend is going to meet Bel-Shamharoth. You will merely die."
Fictional Colour: Octarine, the titular Colour of Magic. It's said to resemble a sort of disappointing fluorescent greenish-yellowish-purple.
This may be based on the colour of the afterimages one sees after looking into a bright light.
Genre Savvy: Hrun the Barbarian is used to the world being one big dungeon crawl: "You find chokeapples under a chokeapple tree. You find treasure under altars."
He also specifically requests to fight both of Liessa's brothers at the same time, claiming he'll have them outnumbered one to two. Interesting Times and The Last Hero will confirm that Discworld heroes really do expect for the outnumbered warrior to be the one who triumphs.
Gun Twirling: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, the head of the Assassins' Guild spins, then holsters his blowpipe after firing off a poisoned dart.
Liartes: That's pretty uneven odds, isn't it? Hrun: Yah. I outnumber you one to two.
Inadequate Inheritor: Greicha, ruler of Wyrmberg ( who's actually already technically dead), won't give up his domain until one of his children proves their worth. Liessa, his incredibly headstrong daughter, hires Hrun the Barbarian to kill her brothers so she'll get the position by default. She's also the one who killed Greicha.
Incredibly Lame Pun: Noted in-universe when Rincewind has an inner monologue of exposition about Bel-Shamharoth and how wizards never say the number between seven and nine because "you'll be eight alive" as the saying goes. (The Discworld Companion later lampshaded the way that apparently saying 'ate' doesn't summon Bel-Shamharoth despite sounding identical to 'eight').
It Runs on Nonsensoleum: An ocean-based hovercraft works by having hydrophobic mages, who don't hate but loathe water, stare at it and repel it with their loathing. They're very expensive, Rincewind says. Have to be trained on dehydrated water.
King on His Deathbed: The ruler of the dragon riders gets poisoned by his daughter. However, since she is still in a power struggle with her two brothers, he refuses to pass on, lingering as a lich until he makes sure she is fit to rule on her own.
Load-Bearing Boss / No Ontological Inertia: Done interestingly with Bel-Shamharoth's temple—as soon as he retreats, the thousands of years of time that was held at bay by his power comes rushing in and the temple not only falls apart but is ground down to dust in seconds.
Magical Land: The whole Disc to some extent, but some regions such as the area around the Wyrmberg are particularly magical. However, this is because they are suffering from the magical equivalent of nuclear fallout from a war at the dawn of time between the gods and the First Men.
Magic Sword: Kring, Hrun's (and later Rincewind's) talking sword.
Offhand Backhand: Hrun instinctively reaches out and grabs the dagger-holding hand of Liessa in mid-stab... while fast asleep. Then again, a few moments later (now awake), when he stands up and casually disarms and incapacitates the guards 'out of habit'.
Our Dragons Are Different: This introduces the two breeds of dragon, Draco(nis) vulgaris the small realistic swamp dragon, and Draco(nis) nobilis, huge dragons as we expect them to be, and can only exist thanks to strong magic or belief (also, because they're not exactly real, they're often mostly transparent). The books describe the dragons repeatedly as having horse-like heads, although the graphic novel adaptation doesn't in any way correspond to that image.
Our Liches Are Different: Greicha, late king of the Wyrmberg, used his wizardly knowledge to stick around after death until one of his children could defeat the other two and thus prove worthy of the throne.
Ouroboros: Tethys once passed a world that was an equally common world myth as the turtle-elephant-disc structure, that of a world entwined by a serpent ouroboros.
Palate Propping: Rincewind props open the Luggage's lid before he dares remove some packed food and water from it. Soon as he's finished doing so, the Luggage subverts this trope by ever-so-deliberately closing its lid, grinding the wooden prop into powder.
Powers That Be: One of only two Disc novels to mention the Old High Ones "to whom even the gods are answerable", who intervened to prevent the destruction of the Disc in the aforementioned war by banishing the gods to Cori Celesti and remaking men a good deal smaller.
Required Secondary Powers: When Ninereeds snatches up Hrun and carries him off, it's specifically mentioned that the dragon "momentarily sychronised their bodily rhythms" so the abrupt acceleration wouldn't hurt him.
Retcon: Needless to say, as this is the first book there are quite a few later on...
One paragraph particularly stands out, when Rincewind is surprised that dryads still exist. His monologue mentions that it's thought that only trolls and elves survived the "coming of men to the Disc" and that gnomes and pixies have died out. Later books instead state that there are no elves on the Disc and gnomes and pixies are very much still there.
Considering how badly Rincewind did at University, he may simply have misremembered his history lessons. For that matter, the lessons themselves could've been wrong, given how many other things the UU wizards are clueless about.
Hrun says that swamp dragons are extinct; they prominently appear in later books, like Guards! Guards!
Rincewind notes to himself that he's never seen Hrun outside of Ahnk-Morpork before, and when Hrun is out doing the heroing thing he's very different from the drunken lout Rincewind has previously seen. It's quite possible that swamp dragons are extinct apart from being kept as pets and he's never noticed them in cities because on arrival in any city Hrun goes into the first tavern and drinks until he runs out of money or bartender's patience.
Scenery Porn: The epic descriptions of Great A'tuin, the elephants and the Disc. This is often briefly recapped at the start of later novels, but The Colour of Magic has such descriptions throughout (particularly called-back at the end, where Tethys holds Rincewind over the Edge and he sees them for himself). We finally got to see some of these wonders realised as artwork in The Last Hero.
Serial Prostheses: Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos. His backstory consists of him inventing marvels for various royals, only for his employers to mutilate him so that he couldn't repeat the invention for anyone else. When his latest employer asks why he didn't just give it all up and try flower arranging, he replies "I'm good at it."
Shoot The Builder: Dactylos (see above) has been suffering this on the installment plan, as it were. His current employer has promised to let him go free, but he doesn't hold out much hope.
Shout-Out: Besides the direct parodies noted above;
The place name "Ecalpon" ('noplace' spelled backwards) is a reference to Erewhon (almost 'nowhere' backwards).
The name Rincewind is derived from J. B. Morton's "Beachcomber" column in the London Daily Express — specifically, it was the name of one of the dwarves in the "Mr Justice Cocklecarrot and the twelve Red-Bearded Dwarves" features.
Twoflower mentions having read The Octarine Fairy Book as a child; this is the Discworld version of the Andrew Lang series of colour-named fairy tale compilations such as The Blue Fairy Book.
Death sawing at the tree in which Rincewind is curled up is an homage to The Seventh Seal.
Kring the talking sword mentions a notch that came from an enemy wearing an octiron collar. Likely a reference to Gimli and Legolas' Body-Count Competition in The Two Towers, Gimli's axe was notched from the forty-second orc, who had an iron collar.
Shown Their Work: Before he started Discworld, Pratchett wrote science fiction, and put some thought into the nature of climate and physics for a functional discworld. Hence the hub is arctic, the edge equatorial (because the sun passes close to the edge). It would also have eight seasons (two summers, when the sun sets or rises near you, two winters when it doesn't, two springs and two falls), hence the general affection for the number eight. The earliest books are really the only ones to make much mention of it, thought the characterization lasts. He just focuses more on the stories and people than on The Science of Discworld. With one or two exceptions.
Every other book ignores the fact that a Disc year is 800 days long and treats 'a year' as being like one on Earth. This was explained in the Discworld Companion as farmers treating the 400 days' single cycle through the seasons as 'a year' and ignoring the fact that the sun rises on different sides in alternating years, and most ordinary people use the farmers' definition rather than the wizards' one. "You plough, you sow, it grows, you harvest—that's a year, no matter what some daft man in Ankh-Morpork says".
Speak of the Devil: Bel-Sh*mh*roth, the Sender of [6+2]. Inverted with The Lady, the goddess who only aids those who never invoke her, and speaking her name makes her flee away... who, in case you haven't guessed, is Lady Luck.
The Bel-Shamharoth example is subject to an Overly-Long Gag of Rincewind dancing around the number:
Rincewind: Hrun, listen. If you add four to four, or take two from ten, you get a number. In here, whatever you do, don't say it, and we might get out of this alive.
Time Travel: Spoofed. As well as the more usual three categories of planets, annuals (you plant it this year, it comes up the same year), biannuals (you plant it this year, it comes up next year) and perennials (you plant it this year, it keeps coming up every year), Discworld also includes re-annuals, which you plant this year and come up last year. Wine made from reannual grapes is highly prized, but gives you the 'hangunder' before you drink it.
Title Drop: "It was octarine, the colour of magic. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself. But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple."
Translator Microbes: Twoflower is able to read the words directing travelers to the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth, even after he realizes he's unfamiliar with the language they're inscribed in.
Weaksauce Weakness: Bel-Shamharoth. So ancient that most of his kind have gone extinct long ago, so repulsive that Time itself dares not touch his temple or its surroundings, and it's stated (though in jest) that Death might not have dared to touch him. So powerful that his existance is the reasons why wizards should not say the word eight, so alien that looking at him drives to insanity... and cripplingly weak to bright light.
Also, when two hydrophobes on Krull try to apprehend the pair, a quick-thinking Twoflower incapacitates one of them by spitting on his hand.
You All Meet in an Inn: Rincewind and Twoflower meet in the stereotypical fantasy inn the Broken Drum, which is also filled with heroes and adventurers. The name, incidentally, is explained in another Pratchett book, Strata: "Because you can't beat it".
You Said You Would Let Me Go: This was the reward the High Priest of Krull promised his architect, a man so brilliant he had already been mutilated by three previous employers so he could never surpass his work for them. Unfortunately for the architect, I Lied.