Discworld / The Light Fantastic

The second Discworld novel, from 1986 and a direct sequel to The Colour of Magic. It opens with the Octavo saving Rincewind and Twoflower from their No One Could Survive That! fate in the first book by changing the entire world around them to stop them from falling off the edge of the Discworld. They are dropped in a secluded forest where they befriend a gnome named Swires.

At the same time, power struggles rage at Unseen Universities when Ymper Trymon schemes to take the job of Deuteragonist Arch-Cancellor Galder Weatherwax. After summoning Death to question about the sudden changing of the world, the wizards set out on their own quest to find Rincewind.

And unbeknownst to the citizens of the Disc, Great A’Tuin continues to travel straight towards an inevitable collision with a malevolent red star.

Rincewind and Twoflower eventually meet and team up with Cohen the Barbarian, an elderly barbarian who was once a legendary hero known widely across the Disc, and a young woman named Bethan, whom Cohen rescues from being sacrificed by a group of druids, not that she’s grateful about it.

The Light Fantastic shows itself to be a much more developed Discworld story than its predecessor: the novel abandons the episodic of the first novel in favour of a single interconnected plot.

This book is also notable for introducing several characters and concepts that would later become pillars of the Discworld series, including Unseen University (mentioned in passing in The Colour of Magic, but explored as a setting here) and the Librarian (who gets turned into an orangutan by the Octavo’s Change spell), the Weatherwax family (through Galder Weatherwax, believed to be a cousin of the much more well known character Granny Weatherwax of the later novels), pixies, trolls, dwarves (and Swires, who would go on to become a member of the City Guard in later novels), Cohen the Barbarian, and Death's Domain and family (through the character of Ysabell, Death’s daughter).

Preceded by The Colour of Magic, followed by Equal Rites. After a brief cameo role in Mort, Rincewind next went on to star in Sourcery.

Contains examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan".
  • All Trolls Are Different: The first Discworld book to introduce the idea of trolls being silicon-based life forms made of stone that simply stop being able to function in the heat of day.
  • The Anticipator: Galder manages this by being Crazy-Prepared:
    "A floorboard creaked. Galder had spent many hours tuning them, always a wise precaution with an ambitious assistant who walked like a cat. D-flat."
    • That meant he was just to the right of the door. However, his Anticipator status kicks in when he automatically recognizes who it is.
    "'Ah, Trymon,' he said, without turning, and noted with some satisfaction the faint in drawing of breath behind him. 'Good of you to come. Shut the door, will you?'"
  • Apothecary Alligator:
    Like all wizards' workshops, the place looked as though a taxidermist had dropped his stock in a foundry and then had a fight with a maddened glassblower, braining a passing crocodile in the process (it hung from the rafters and smelt strongly of camphor).
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Rincewind refuses to believe in talking trees, even though he's a wizard who lives on a disc carried by four elephants standing on the back of a gigantic space-turtle.
  • Astrologer: Trymon orders an astrologer to make Rincewind's horoscope in order to find him. Unlike most examples the advice is pretty helpful and specific: "Beware of druids [...] We really mean it about the druids."
  • Ax-Crazy: Ysabell.
  • Badass Grandpa: Cohen the Barbarian. Except when his old back is betraying him.
  • Barbarian Hero: Deconstructed/parodied with Cohen the Barbarian, an octogenarian hero who's still at it because he's had a lot of experience at not dying.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Eventually, Rincewind hauls the Eighth Spell out of hiding within his psyche, despite its attempts to conceal itself among dusty old memories and anxieties.
  • Better Than Sex: When Rincewind accidentally casts some real magic, he suddenly discovers why wizards don't care that much about being celibate.
  • Big Bad: Ymper Trymon, the first major antagonist of the series.
  • Book Burning: The star people, a cult that blames magic for the star, starts to burn books of magic.
  • Born in the Saddle: Lampshaded;
    Cohen explained that the Horse Tribes of the Hubland steppes were born in the saddle, which Rincewind considered was a gynaecological impossibility.
  • Brick Joke: Cohen paying Lackjaw to craft some dentures for him after Twoflower explained the concept to him.
  • But Now I Must Go: At the end of the book, Twoflower decides once and for all to return home.
  • Cave Mouth: Twoflower's kidnappers inadvertantly settle in the mouth of an enormous troll, mistaking it for a cave. They probably would have been fine if they hadn't lit a fire inside it, ironically to ward off trolls.
  • Chainmail Bikini and Breast Plate: Averted and parodied, Herrena the barbarian heroine is introduced with a long aside mentioning how the cover artist is expected to start slavering over black leather and whips and chains and thighboots, before noting how impractical such things are and that she's in fact dressed quite sensibly. "All right - maybe the boots are leather. But not black!"
  • Characterisation Marches On:
    • The Librarian here is a very passive and nonthreatening figure, and even gives up dangerous, world-ending information to Trymon in return for a banana.
    • Death is transitional here. Rincewind's still scared of him, but he's much closer to the character we all know and love than the psychotic version from The Colour of Magic. Strangely enough, it's his daughter Ysabell who comes across as creepy and crazy this time, and her characterisation again changes when she next appears in Mort.
    • Rincewind jumped straight into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory in this book. He's much more sympathetic in both senses of the word, so much that all the greed from the previous book is very much gone.
      • It's acknowleged as Character Development when Twoflower gives Rincewind gold to deliver to Cohen and Bethan.
    "I'll hand it over the first chance I get," he said, and to his own surprise realized that he meant it.
  • Character Shilling: Twoflower loves going on about how great a wizard Rincewind is. Rincewind can't even spell the word correctly.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Bethan says that instead of drinking mead with the moon goddess, she's got eight years of staying at home on Saturday evenings down the drain.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Bethan is actually rather upset when she's saved from being a human sacrifice. (Partly, it would seem, because she'd maintained her chastity in anticipation of being a sacrifice, and could have been dating instead.)
  • Cosmic Egg: One of the many origins of the Discworld universe given by the Great Spells
  • Cult: The Star People, who also engage in book-burning sessions - as the books in question include Tomes of Eltrich Lore like the Necrotelicomnicon, this would be rather dangerous if the star wasn't reducing the strength of magic on the Disc.
  • Dark Action Girl: Herenna, who would be a straight up Action Girl if not for Trymon hiring her.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Galder Weatherwax is the main protagonist for the Unseen University storyline for the first quarter of the book, until he is suddenly devoured by the Luggage.
  • Demonic Possession:
  • Determinator: Rincewind Lampshades this quality of the Luggage to intimidate the hell out of Weems.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him/Killed Offscreen: Galder Weatherwax is unceremoniously devoured by the Luggage about a quarter of the way through the book. It's a Blink-and-You-Miss-It moment, he's there one second and the next, the Luggage is there instead.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Twoflower teaching the Horsemen of the Apocalypse Bridge.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? What Rincewind does in the climax... as well as elbow him in the ribs, bite him, Groin Attack him...
  • Disney Death: Twoflower, sort of. After being poisoned by a druid, he's sent to Death's house with his lifeline still attached and Rincewind has to get him back.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: What is believed will happen as the magic fails.
  • Everythings Better With Primates: This is the book where the Librarian of Unseen University is turned into an orangutan. Oddly - to those who have read the later books first - he's very upset at no longer being human.
    • Can be justified in that, having just been changed, he hadn't yet stumbled on all the perks this form afforded him.
  • Evil Chancellor: Ymper Trymon to Galder Weatherwax.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: This is the first book where thaums are mentioned (Rincewind talking about the gingerbread cottage) as a unit of magic, rather than Primes as in the previous book. This would be explained by the Discworld Companion as being two competing units of measurement, like Fahrenheit and Celsius.
  • Foreshadowing: At one point close to the end of the book, the Octavo uses Rincewind to say "The star is life, not death." At the end of the book, it's revealed that the red star is producing baby Discworlds. This also explains why Great A'Tuin was so eager to reach the star.
    • More subtly, although he's aware of what will happen if things go wrong, Death is puzzled by the red star's wider significance, indicating that it's a harbinger of birth rather than of anything in his purview.
  • Genre Savvy Narrator: The narrator starts to describe the mooks following the female warrior Herrena, and goes ahead Breaking the Fourth Wall by saying there's no point describing them in a story like this in which they're all going to get killed anyway.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Then they prefer brunettes, then blondes, then what they look for in a woman is... patience.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The remaining three make their first appearance, playing Thing You Put Over A River in Death's house. Pestilence speaks in italics, at least until Thief of Time.
  • Least Is First: It's Twoflower who sets out to save the day at the end, with only a sword he can't really use, while wizards dither.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Unfortunately for one of the petrified wizards, his stone form was accidentally dropped all the way down to the cobbles at street level when they were moving him.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday:
    • Twoflower reveals that he bought the Luggage from such a shop.
    • A shop the group stumbles into while on the run from some cultists. It turns out the owner pissed off a sorcerer who cursed his shop to wander around and in and out of existence, never able to stay in the same place for long. It becomes a very convenient way for the group to get back to Ankh-Morpork in a hurry, as the shop is able to just materialize on an empty wall there.
  • Mad Mathematician: Ymper Trymon believes language should be replaced with an easily understood numerical system.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Galder Weatherwax magically lifts himself to the top of the Tower of Art by using stone falling from it as a counterweight.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Starts to happen as the Star's solar wind begins to strip the Discworld's magical field away.
  • May–December Romance: The very old Cohen and the much younger Bethan decide to get married.
  • Metaphorgotten: Played With. It is mentioned a few times that past Patriarch Olaf Quimby II passed measures that required authors to be literal, so Pratchett must either further explain his metaphors or take them back.
    • As the ultimate example, he describes light, which moves slowly on the Disc due to magical fields, as "pour[ing] like molten gold," but then has to clarify.
    Not precisely, of course. Trees didn't burst into flame, people didn't suddenly become very rich and extremely dead, and the sea didn't flash into steam. A better simile, in fact, would be "not like molten gold."
    • He later replaces it as "like syrup" instead.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: Some mountains in Discworld are revealed to be very old trolls who simply sat down to think and never got up again. Old Grandad is one such troll, and Herrena's band make the mistake of setting up camp inside his Cave Mouth.
  • Multipurpose Monocultured Crop: The Horse Nomads evidently eat very little besides horse, although one warrior is mentioned to have spiced up his mare's milk with snowcat blood.
  • Noodle Implements: It's unrevealed what Chancellor Weatherwax planned to do with silver tweezers, cat blood, a whip and a small chair. Or what would've happened to the volunteer, had any been available as an alternative.
  • One-Winged Angel: An Eldritch Abomination-possessed Trymon near the end. Subverted in that he's still a pretty frail and a lousy fighter even after transforming, given that Rincewind is able to punch him out anyways. Not quite a Clipped Wing Angel though, since the sprouting claws and tentacles do give him a boost (he was very much a Squishy Wizard before transformation).
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The first appearance of Discworld dwarfs; industrious and quiet, but very handy with an axe if you cross them.
  • Portal Cut: Implied to have befallen one of the pursuing UU wizards, who activated his Seven League Boots without the proper safety precautions.
  • Prophecy Twist: "The star is life, not death."
  • Red Shirt: After introducing Herrena, the narrator mentions she has a couple of mercenaries with her who will probably die soon, so there is no reason to introduce them. Although most of them last about as long as Herrena does. They don't die, however, but are written out of the story when Rincewind and Twoflower escape, and Herrena is later mentioned in passing as being in Ankh-Morpork in Eric.
  • Shout-Out: Mostly to the film Conan the Barbarian (1982), from which direct quotes are satirized and some plot elements, lifted wholesale.
  • The So-Called Coward: Not for the last time, Rincewind saves the world by accident.
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: A large part of the plot is caused by a very bright, malevolently red star appearing in the sky, and this drives the inhabitants of the Disc to start doomsday cults (Death himself finds them creepy).
  • Squishy Wizard: How Rincewind is able to beat Trymon in the end. While Rincewind is a wizard at heart, he's more physically fit than the average wizard (and a dirty fighter).
  • Technicolor Science: Invoked. Galder's workroom includes a complicated arrangement of colored liquid bubbling through pipes — which is there entirely for effect.
  • Title Drop
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Octavo.
  • Turned to Stone:
    • This happens to the heads of the eight orders of wizardry after they go to 'congratulate' Trymon on making contact with the Dungeon Dimensions.
    • And, in the movie adaptation alone, this is also what happens to Trymon by... himself.
    • Inverted, then played straight, with the trolls, who are temporarily paralyzed by daylight and revive again at dusk.
  • Watch the World Die: One of the evacuees claims that's why he's heading for the mountains: the Red Star will kill everyone there too, but at least the view will be better when it happens.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: when one member of the Star People cult tries to intimidate Cohen by saying that that if he is killed, more will take his place. Cohen replies that it doesn't matter since he will be dead anyways. The cultist wisely backs off.
  • Western Zodiac: The Discworld version of astrology is mentioned. It's much harder than on our world, because the constellations keep changing as Great A'tuin swims along. The wizards try to locate Rincewind by working out his exact horoscope; Rincewind's birth sign is "The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars", which later features in The Last Continent, set thousands of years in the past, as a much larger nebula in the sky.
  • You Can See That, Right?:
    Shaman: You didn't just see two men go through upside down on a broomstick, shouting and screaming at each other, did you?
    Apprentice: Certainly not.
    Shaman: Thank goodness for that. Neither did I.
  • Your Size May Vary: A rare literary example. When Old Grandad wakes up, his fingers are the size of ships... and a few paragraphs later, his hand is the size of a house.