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Literature: Xanth
What do you get when you take a rather witty (and long-running) American author, create a Fictional Counterpart of the entire state of Florida, give everyone in it magical powers(or "talents") to make a Magic Kingdom, if you will (...geddit?), fill it with various deconstructive parodies of fantasy tropes and top it all off with literally hundreds of reader-submitted puns?

In a nutshell... you get Xanth.

The Xanth series takes place in a small Florida-shaped realm of a dimension other than Earth. In Xanth, magic is real, with its own physical laws, often based on reader-submitted (and credited) puns. Billions, and billions of puns. For example — Pineapples? They're essentially hand grenades. Cherries (Cherry bombs) are smaller, but still dangerous. Tulips (two lips) will kiss you if you get too close. Boot Rear is a fizzy soda that, when drunk, causes you to feel a swift kick to your bottom. And beware the Catastrophe — a plaque with the back half of a cat stuck into it (a Cat-ass-trophy).

Yes, you're allowed to groan after reading some of those.

One important rule for Xanth is that every single native-born Xanth human has a unique "talent" — a magical quirk that only they can do. This can be anything from changing their hair color, to being able to talk to certain animals, to being able to rewind time or warp reality in their nearby vicinity. Talents are unique to the person who has them — no two talents are the same, but some are so similar that they are more or less identical; "turn stuff blue" versus "turn stuff azure", for example.

The first book, A Spell for Chameleon, was written in 1977, and the series continues to this day, recently entering its 2nd trilogy. In typical Piers Anthony fashion, he declared the first trilogy over after the 27th book (3 Cubed, or 3^3, is 27) Cube Route. Xanth has even inspired a "fan book", a novel-length work of collaborative fiction that Piers Anthony has mentioned positively in his official newsletter.


The Xanth novels contain examples of:

  • Ain't No Rule: Xanth's laws are clear that the ruler must be a king and there can be no ruling queens. It never specifies kings can't be female, and the rules of succession were changed as soon as someone pointed this out..
  • All Men Are Perverts: An unquestioned assumption of the setting.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: "Coloured" people, Immigrants from Earth circa the civil rights movement, whose kids (due to the rule of pun) grew up with every skintone under the sun.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Adult Conspiracy (to keep interesting stuff away from children).
    • The Adult Conspiracy is taken so seriously that children who manage to break it gain incredible power — one of the books has a whole miniplot before the main plot even starts where the main character has to drag her brother to a magic spring to make him forget how to swear, because it's a colony of goblins. She has to remove those words from his mind because he's a child and that sort of thing being repeated to the other goblin children will make them the worst generation ever, and since their goal is to improve the goblins as a species, he has to be stopped.
    • In Xanth, as in South Park, curse words really do invoke curses; saying them can do things like set the roof of your house on fire. So swearing is Serious Business.
  • Author Appeal: Many people have accused Piers Anthony of enjoying having his younger female characters end up naked more than would be considered healthy.
    • Lampshaded: The Adult Conspiracy is a magical censorship spell that prevents anyone under 18 from hearing curse words, seeing panties (nudity is still fine, however), or generally figuring out anything about sexuality. Added after a reviewer complained about nudity and sexuality in Xanth.
    • Two to the Fifth takes this and just runs with it — the hero gets a 12 year old girl princess chasing after him, so he tries to let her down easy. Mistake! She's a sorceress, so she artificially ages herself long enough to force him into a love spring and er, seduce him before the artificial age magic wears off. Love springs have the side effect of forcing the two people affected by it to mate, and making it guaranteed to work. This leaves him stuck in love with her, just in time for the stork to deliver their new child... Oh, and the Adult Conspiracy makes an appearance as well, a few hours too late — his new "wife" forgets all the details right after the age magic wears off.
  • Author Filibuster: A variant - Piers Anthony includes a chapter's long Author's Note after the end of every novel he writes, in which he talks about whatever was on his mind while he was writing the novel. If he doesn't people accuse him of being dead.
  • All Myths Are True: Lots of mythology references, including some silly ones — for example, Summoning the Stork — which is literally how babies are made in Xanth: After a certain ritual, the Storks fly in a baby to the new parents.
  • Badass Normal: A truly epic subversion in Bink. Despite having a godlike talent with a very intelligent mind of its own, combining Plot Armor with Gambit Roulette and Xanatos Speed Chess, Bink spent years unaware he had a talent, forced to learn to survive without one in Xanth, which was much more of a Death World in the early books. Thus, he was forced to develop the skill set of a Badass Normal and learned empathy for the disadvantaged, gaining the Power of Friendship. Since Lawful Stupid carries certain advantages in Xanth and Magnificent Bastard status has them everywhere, he can essentially have his cake and eat it too, allowing him to sway even the Demon XaNTH. The Badass Normal skill set his talent forced him to develop paid off when the demon reversed his talent, causing it to seek Bink's destruction: the Badass Normal ability to protect himself from magic it forced him to develop was powerful enough to defend himself against that very same talent, which also goes to show the extremely long game played by Bink's talent.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: "Evil Magician Trent" who, when he becomes the only known possible choice for king, proves himself such a capable ruler he becomes known as "Good King Trent".
  • Baleful Polymorph: Trent's talent is to transform any living creature in line of sight into any other creature. This includes turning soldiers sent to attack his army into fish and leaving them there to die according to the history books, anyway.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: a recurring theme is women who need to be 'tamed' (or at least seriously need to grow up.)
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Oddly averted, if not outright defied. Due to the magic of Xanth, virtually any two creatures can breed together as long as they can make the parts fit (and if they don't fit, you can always get an accommodation spell). So while beings tend to be attracted to their own species, there is very little stigma with Interspecies Romance. Lots of Mix-and-Match Critters and Half-Human Hybrids originate this way, especially with the prevalence of Love Springs. Centaurs, for example, came about when a man and his mare both drank from the same spring.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Bink's talent is immunity to harm by magic, including indirect harmnote . As there is very little in Xanth that is not in some way magical, the talent becomes "he can only be harmed by completely mundane things". Thus, it further protects him by disguising its own existence, making is seem he avoids harm through clumsiness, luck, or freak accidents, so that this weak point in his magic will not harm him, which would technically be harm by (a failure of) magic!. The price of this is that it constantly makes him the Butt Monkey of any situation- humilliation does not count as injury, as he has a humble and resilient personality. Minor scrapes and bruises apparently do not count, either.
    • A number of characters have talents that could qualify as this. The title character of The Dastard, for example, had the amazing talent of coming up with bad ideas. He ended up selling his soul for a better talent, but since the idea to do so came to him when he had his original talent, it was of course itself a bad idea.
    • Then there's beings like the Gorgon, who must cover her face or turn anyone who sees her into stone. Absent Mindedness has also appeared as a Talent. And Dishonesty. And Bad Luck. And Making Mistakes. And Mispronunciation. And having nobody ever get your name right.
    • And being able to make any wish and get half of what you wanted. Doesn't sound so bad, right? You'd settle for half a fortune (or just wish for two of them). Well, it sucks if your first wish was to be a Wit.
    • Bink wife, Chameleon's talent is that her physical beauty and intelligence go through a high/low monthly cycle. But cycle in opposite directions, so that she's a beautiful dolt (subject to being taken advantage of by the village louts) on one end and a genius hag no one can stand to be around on the other.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Centaurs view reproduction as natural, but someone possessing a magical talent is deeply obscene. Also, the greater demons, such as X(A/N)th: explaining the concept that cooperation produces the best results over time to him is important in one of the earlier books, and he eventually adopts that strategy.
  • Body Surf: The Sea Hag's talent, in a nutshell. But she can only do it after her current body dies.
  • Born Lucky: How Bink's magic talent seems to manifest itself to observers.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Over the course of the series, the Fourth Wall slowly deteriorates; by the fourteenth book, it's pretty much dissipated completely, probably so that Piers can use more Visual Puns...
  • Changing of the Guard: Save for the first four books (with Bink as the star of the first two, and his son Dor as the star of the next two), no two volumes in a row have the same main character. (Main characters can certainly repeat, they just take breaks between the books they feature in.)
  • Children Are Innocent: See above comment about the Adult Conspiracy.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Com Pewter is, anyway, at first.
  • Contemptible Cover:
    • One book has the awkward title The Color of Her Panties. (This one was Lampshaded before the book even appeared in print, which is a pretty good trick to pull off).
    • A number of the early books sported half to fully naked women on the cover, so the actual artwork had its own issues.
  • Continuity Drift: In the second book, Chameleon is pregnant. In later books, babies in Xanth are brought by the stork.
  • Contractual Immortality: Lampshaded. Being a Main Character of a Xanth novel (see Literary Agent Hypothesis below) ensures that one will eventually get a happy ending, because that's how magic works.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: The World Demons are always playing one of these, with the winner gaining status or territory from the loser.
  • Crapsack World: The first book goes into quite a bit of detail, generally via Trent, about how fragile human existence in Xanth is. The third and seventh books, as well as the sixth, go into more detail about what happens when there aren't Deus ex Machina popping up all over the place, and the book focusing on Magician Humphrey is about how much work went into creating the sort-of stability that Bink grew up in.
  • Creepy Centipedes: The dreaded nickelpedes. They have 500 legs and their bite can gouge out a slice of flesh the size of a U.S. nickel coin, hence the name. There are also dimepedes, which are smaller but twice as vicious.
  • Cross Over:
    • Jenny Elf is not native to Xanth, she's actually an elf from the world of ElfQuest.
    • Good Magician Humphrey is aware of other worlds, as demonstrated in Question Quest, when he references characters from Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality and Apprentice Adept series.
    • During the events of Cube Route, the protagonists actually cross into Phaze (from Apprentice Adept) to find a Xanthian dragon who had previously crossed over and whose aid was vital to their quest.
  • Cure Your Gays: With a pun-made-literal straightjacket.
  • Curse: Repeatedly. The Curse Fiends (or Curse Friends, as they prefer to be called) are humans with the magic talent of cursing, which can devastate whole regions if powerful enough. Numerous times throughout the series, the characters must figure out how to overcome or avoid a curse.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Almost every non-human female is considered vastly more attractive than her male counterpart. Except for Harpies. Harpies are ugly. They prefer it that way; they work at being ugly the way human women work at being beautiful. (The few male harpies that exist are handsome, however.)
    • Female ogres are another aversion, and also take pride in their ugliness; an average ogress can "curdle milk with half a glance."
    • For goblins this was actually justified, as the women were cursed to prefer nasty, ugly men, which after generations bred those traits into the species for the male goblins.
      • And the curse was lifted during the "time of no magic", so there are a few male harpies, good looking harpy women, and handsome goblin men now.
    • Technically, Chameleon. Well, two-thirds of the time, anyway. Her cycle is not a talent, but a magical mutation (for example, note Wynne's resemblance to nymphs, both physically and psychologically).
  • Death World: Xanth, especially in the early books. Multiple varieties of carnivorous trees and a multitude of other reasons not to wander off the enchanted paths. And if anything goes wrong with those enchantments...
  • Dumb Is Good: While there are a number of smart "good guys" in the Xanth novels, they're also almost all kind of snotty about it. For example, even the nicest of the centaurs (who are, as a race, intellectuals) is generally an unrepentant Grammar Nazi.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The greater demons, such as X(A/N)th: the second book goes into some detail, as does Swell Foop.
  • Elemental Plane: The Five Forbidden Regions: the void, the region of water, the region of fire, the region of earth, and the region of air. Each region is filled with terrain and weather that represent it: the region of water, for example, contains a lot of lakes and it rains often.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Well, the definition of "evil" is stretched a bit for Trent, but he notes that even during his rebellion, he would never intentionally transform someone in a way that would kill them. (e.g. turning them into fish while they are still on land.)
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In Spell For Chameleon. Trent's willingness to trust Bink with his sword while he sleeps convinces Bink and Chameleon that he is not really evil; an untrustworthy man would not have trusted them in turn.
  • Evil Overlord: Muerte A. Fid, the Alchemist King, is said to be by far the worst King that Xanth ever had. Yin-yang was said to be pretty bad himself, but his dormant good side kept him well above Fid's level. And Storm King Aeolus was also pretty bad, but more of a spoiled self-centered brat than actively malicious.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Centaurs take pride in being nude, they see it as having Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions and generally confirming their superiority to the rest of the world. One character has to take on this attitude after having gone through a transformation in order to be with her Centaur boyfriend, with limited success.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Fauns love chasing nymphs and simulating summoning the stork with them.
  • Feet of Clay - literally
  • Fetish: Rhythm enjoys being spanked. So much so to put subliminal messages into her boyfriends mind to make him bring it up.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Characters fall in love and marry shockingly quickly — and Word of God asserts that these marriages are always happy and never end in divorce. (That's magic for you.)
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: That evil dragon? He's actually a nice guy who breathes steam and is trying to keep you from falling to your doom. The damsel in distress? Only staying captured cause she's hoping to attract a nice prince to marry her. The "evil magician"? He's a nice guy, just happens to be from the opposite political party from the current king.
  • Funetik Aksent: Volev vpeak with a livp (Voles speak with a lisp). They, however, hear othersss asss having hissssing accsentsss.
  • Gambit Roulette: Just about everything the Good Magician Humfrey does counts as this. He is the Magician of Information, after all.
  • Genius Bruiser: Chester Centaur - though all centaurs are scholars as well as pretty big and strong, Chester is particularly aggressive.
    • Smash the Ogre becomes this in Ogre, Ogre when he gets infected by the Eye Queue, adding its curse of intelligence to his natural strength.
  • Genre Savvy: One character is aware she was meant to be a protagonist (she was bumped to make room for Jenny Elf) and spends most of her own novel trying to become a Main Character and gain Plot Immunity.
  • Gentle Giant: Lampshaded with Smash Ogre, with Tandy saying she and the other girls don't find him scary at all.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Piers has long held that kids don't talk to their folks about sex to a full extent. This (like so much else in Xanth) has a parodic complement in the form of the Adult Conspiracy.
  • Give Me a Sword: In Centaur Aisle, King Omen demands a sword to fight his Evil Uncle; this is shot down because on one hand, the sword is magical giving him an unfair advantage, and on the other hand, if the magic is not used, the king is wounded and so his uncle has an unfair advantage.
  • G-Rated Sex: "Summoning the Stork" is actually just hugging and kissing, naked, until the "..." appears.
    • In two books, it's mentioned that it's more than this. In The Color of Her Panties, when Gwenny Goblin, Che Centaur and Jenny Elf figure out the Adult Conspiracy, they mention that other contact is required, though they don't specify. In Xone of Contention, Chlorine and Nimby summon the stork the mundane way, and mention that it's the same, only slightly messier.
    • Storks at the dispatch literally get a ... on their receivers. Fauns and nymphs annoy the hell out of them, because they still receive the signal, but it just comes through as .. and is a waste of everyone's valuable time.
  • Green Lantern Ring: Some of the magical talents wind up as this, basically via someone doing some Rules Lawyering. At one point Ivy uses her magic talent of enhancement to enhance the empty space between molecules in a solid wall, making a hole in it. After that Ivy's power really should allow her to do anything at all... but like all unambiguously good and kind Piers Anthony-written females, she's not quite bright enough to come up with those uses on her own.
  • Green Thumb: Irene
  • Good Is Dumb: The Dastard, the genius villain who carefully calculates his every move, turns good upon getting his soul back. His talent is to have stupid ideas, making him an idiot.
    • He made a Deal With A Demon for the talent of Time Travel, which he used to Retcon away events that made other people more interesting so that he looked better in comparison. (For example, when he met a man with a Laser-Guided Amnesia talent, who met somebody who suggested erasing Princess Ida's knowledge of her own "it only works for people who don't know about it" talent, the Dastard RetConned that meeting.) Obviously, a better use of the Dastard's talent would be to cause these people to be interesting in the first second first place, so that they're indebted to him and tell other people about him and stuff like that.
    • On the one hand, Bink releasing the demon X(A/N)th is called this in-story. Of course, since this results in all of his descendants having magician-level talents instead of carrying Chameleon's mutation among with more and more benefits over time, it seems to be one of Anthony's occasional Aesops about why the Power of Trust is awesome and Lawful Stupid isn't necessarily.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Many. There's centaurs (half-horse), nagas (half-snake), harpies (half-vulture), mermaids (half-fish), and probably several others, too. Some of them have magic that allows them to transform into fully human and fully animal forms in addition to their normal hybrid shape.
  • Hammered into the Ground: In Ogre Ogre, the ogres have a fighting technique called "the nail", which consists of repeatedly pounding your opponent on the head until he is driven into the ground.
  • Happily Ever After: Lampshaded. Being a Main Character of a Xanth novel (see Literary Agent Hypothesis below) ensures that one will eventually get a happy ending, because that's how magic works.
  • Healing Factor: Jordan the Barbarian has regeneration as his magical talent, allowing him to recover from anything (anything) up to and including death... so long as his body parts are fairly close to each other. However, after being reunited with himself at the end of a 400-year period of being sliced up and scattered, he did need a lot of food to fully recover.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Several supposedly weak talents, when used with a clever mind, are downright deadly.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Considering their frequency, Great Red Spot of Puns might be more accurate...
    • In one of the books they also use the Great Red Spot
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: In Crewel Lye, Jordan and Threnody swap bodies temporarily and gain a greater understanding of what the other deals with. Threnody, after experiencing a male sex drive, is amazed that men can keep their lust under control at all.
  • I'm Not Hungry: In A Spell For Chameleon, Bink and Fanchon turn down Magician Trent's offers for accommodations in general. Then he gives them cake and wine anyway, just to screw with their heads.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun / Stealth Pun: The series thrives on these, however, they are mostly submitted by young readers, which Mr. Anthony thanks at the end of every book at the end of his author notes (which takes an entire chapter).
  • Inertia Is a Harsh Mistress: Che Centaur and his family can remove the weight from things for a short period of time, but they cannot remove inertia, and at one point he warns a female not to bounce off the walls since it will still hurt.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Most of the Half Human Hybrids don't wear clothing, and as a whole, nudity isn't treated as a big deal in the setting. Lampshaded by a woman who chose to become a Centaur to live with her beau: She's still getting used to the whole "no shirt" thing, but she's doing her best to fit in — with the Centaurs, that is. Most of the main female characters end up naked at least once in any given book, with little emotion given to it other than annoyance.
    • On the other hand, panties on a woman will Freak Out any male who sees them.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The Color of Her Panties — to say nothing about the various PunnyNamed titles.
    • Isle of View is another example, with Anthony warning about the possible awkwardness of saying it out loud to strangers in the Author's Note.
  • Interspecies Romance: All over the place! This is how most of the Half-Human Hybrids come about. When you drink from a Love Spring, you immediately fall in love with the next creature of the opposite sex you lay eyes on. When a man and his mare unwittingly get a drink from the same spring, well, the result is a Centaur. These actually come in several varieties, some cause actual romantic bonds but most just cause immediate mating with guaranteed pregnancy.
  • Jury of the Damned: Prince Dolph has to protect the skeleton Grace'l Ossein from one of these in Heaven Cent, though it's less a jury of the damned and more a jury of characters met earlier in the book.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: One established possible talent is changing your hair color.
  • Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand: Trent with Bink and Chameleon in A Spell For Chameleon.
  • Knowledge Broker: Good Magician Humfrey.
  • Lawful Stupid: Most of his heroes are Lawful Stupid. Trick one into giving his word not to oppose you and he will just watch as you commit atrocities.
    • Piers Anthony believes it's right to be Lawful Stupid, as he explains in his Author's Notes.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Ted and Monica. But no one knows for how long.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The Xanth novels are written by one of the Muses of Greek myth, and a certain writer has been sneaking copies of them to Mundania.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Mostly a result of the series simply being so long and spanning multiple generations of the same royal family. He also (usually) comes up with ways to keep the older characters from dying of old age.
  • Long-Running Book Series: 35 books in 34 years, and at least three more have been announced. And he has no intention of stopping.
  • Lost Him In A Bet: Dug makes a bet with his friend Edsel that the latter won't be able to find a game that Dug would be interested in, with the stakes being Ed's motorcycle and Dug's girlfriend Pia. When Dug tells Pia about the bet, she is fine with it, and hints that she wouldn't mind becoming Edsel's girlfriend. Dug finds himself really getting into the Companions of Xanth computer game, and ends up losing the bet. At that point, he doesn't care about losing, and by the completion of the game, he has fallen for Kim, the other person that was competing in the game.
  • Love Potion: Mostly subverted. If you drink from a "love" spring, you will be compelled to mate with summon the stork with with the next compatible mate you see. That wouldn't be too bad in itself, except that next compatible mate means "whatever creature happens to be in front of you". Centaurs, for example, were the result of the first explorers of Xanth leading their horses to drink, the magic of the spring made it work. More traditional love potions, which cause love instead of lust, also exist, but are less common.
  • Magitek: Magical Items tend to react in very specific, predictable ways, on which civilization in Xanth has come to depend. For example, in lieu of hospitals, Xanthians keep a few healing potions in their homes.
  • Male Gaze: Female characters are always evaluated by how attractive the male characters find them.
  • Malicious Slander: Trent got this in the Back Story before A Spell For Chameleon
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In Castle Roogna, a ring claims to be magical, a wishing ring. When Dor makes a wish on it, it answers, "I'm working on it." Every wish made on it comes true through outside factors — except that every wish made on it does come true, and it never claimed that it could pull off instantaneous wish granting.
  • Meaningful Name: Many, and they're usually a Punny Name as well. For example, there's Evil Magician Murphy, whose talent is making things go wrong.
  • Mermaid Problem: Just how do mermaids summon the stork anyway? The same way everyone else does.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Particularly in evidence with Trent's transformational magic, which causes anyone hit with it to obtain the nature and instincts of the new form along with the physical attributes.
    • Also (especially) Chameleon, whose cyclic changes of form carry her personality along for the ride.
  • Moral Dissonance: Chameleon's attempt to prosecute the man who essentially raped her (he should have known that Wynne was not able to give informed consent) in the first book. Bink's response, hearing the story presented at the trial by the judge (not her), which wasn't what was going on at all and was incredibly biased against her, is that it's understandable: what was a man going to do with a beautiful woman asking him to sleep with her? Since, at the time, he didn't know about the consent issue and thought that since she'd said yes at the time and 'changed her mind later' it was unfair to accuse the man of rape. The first time Bink encounters Chameleon in Wynne-phase knowing what's going on, however her attempts to seduce him occasionally edge into molestation, and to a modern reader it's a pretty clear analogue for someone given a date rape drug. Keep in mind that Wynne-mode Chameleon is essentially a nymph, and it's made clear in the first book that young men are encouraged by older men to use nymphs for guilt-free sex, as opposed to real women. Since nymphs, like Chameleon herself, are magically mutated humans... And then, just to bring things full circle, Bink has sex with Wynne-mode Chameleon, despite her having the intelligence of a child. He briefly feels bad about this, the key word being "briefly."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Several, but Demoness Metria stands out even among the others - and she knows it.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: In a strange example, Bink's magical talent, which is that he can't be harmed by magic, appears to twice deliberately have Bink end up in places where there is no magic, not even itself. At first it seems like this is obvious, because without magic his talent wins, until you remember his magic keeps itself secret so he won't be harmed by other means, which means that his talent includes itself among the magic that cannot harm him. And in both cases, without magic, he's in mortal danger. So it was all a plan of his talent, to set things up so that he returned to magic safely, and much better off. That's right, an inanimate magical talent erased itself twice, secure in the knowledge it had set things up so Bink would end up back somewhere magical so it could exist again.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jordan had a revelation along these lines when he realized he'd been the Unwitting Pawn, bringing about Xanth's dark age.
  • New Technology Is Evil: After the writer got annoyed by automated spell-checkers and a PC crash destroyed an entire novel, the evil Com-Pewter appeared in Xanth. (Amusingly, he famously switched to Linux after the crash.)
  • Noble Demon: Trent. His designation as the "Evil Magician" in the first book proves to be largely untrue. He never used his talent in a way that killed or physically harmed anyone and some of his transformations were even done with the well-being of the one transformed in mind. (For example, when he changed Cynthia Centaur, his decision to give her wings wasn't made out of malice, but because he didn't want her to join the centaurs, as he knew how critical and judgmental they could be.) It's later explained that he was largely only ever called "Evil" because he was opposed to the rightful King of Xanth. In "A Spell for Chameleon" he admits that he was at least untrustworthy, but his traits were exaggerated. His stay in Mundania cures him of a lot of his faults.
  • Not Completely Worthless: Lacuna has a magic talent that allows her to alter printed text, or make printed words appear. It's not very useful in most cases, except the occasional prank at a wedding ceremony, but then she has a run-in with the evil Com-Pewter, who can alter local reality with the words printed on his screen. She gives him a Heel-Face Brainwashing by making "I will be good instead of evil. Save and compile." appear on his screen.
  • The Obi-Wan: Humfrey.
  • Offered the Crown: Evil Magician Trent, at the end of A Spell for Chameleon is told that his exile will be rescinded on two conditions. First, he must marry; second, he must accept the crown.
    • Humphrey and Jonathan have been offered the crown more than once; Jonathan took it because there were no other possible successors, then abdicated when he could, and later served temporarily when Dor (who was Trent's designated successor and was serving temporarily) had to leave to rescue Trent. Likewise, Humphrey was the only option when his predecessor died; he eventually abdicated, was offered the crown again when his successor died and refused (with Trent assuming the throne instead).
    • During the Nextwave invasion (in Night Mare), when Trent was suddenly incapacitated, nine new Kings (starting with Dor, Jonathan and Humphrey, who had all served before, though Jonathan's status as a former King was not yet revealed at the time) were chosen as their predecessors suffered the same fate. The tenth king, Mare Imbri, was the one to finally defeat the person who'd incapacitated her nine predecessors, and subsequently freed them all from the prison their minds were being held in.
  • Offstage Villainy: "Evil" Magician Trent did many bad things as a young man, before the start of the series, but he has already reformed by the time of the first book (and some of it was Malicious Slander).
  • One-Gender Race: Male harpies are extremely rare (and were in fact extinct for the longest time); female harpies reproduce by mating with males of other species, which always produces female offspring.
  • Once per Episode: In every book, at least one character will go to Good Magician Humfrey's castle, where they must win through three challenges in order to be able to ask him a question. (Which they must then pay for with some sort of significant service; the Good Magician's time ain't cheap.) This pattern was maintained even during a period of time when Humfrey had mysteriously vanished from Xanth.
  • Opposites Theme Naming: The princesses Dawn and Eve.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: They're a race of scholars and researchers who consider magic to be an obscenity.
    • Fully justified in that they are well aware of the crossbreeding effect of life in Xanth, and know their entire race is originally descended from soldiers and Mundane mares. This has led them to strive to better the mind and to outright loathe magic.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They're much closer to the Voodoo "magically reanimated slave" version than the Night of the Living Dead "flesh eating aggressive horde" version. Created by and (theoretically) under the control of the (not evil) Zombie Master Johnathan, they are sentient and retain memories of their lives, though they are typically dull witted due to brain rot. They can retain their magical talents, like Zora's ability to age others. And they have the supernatural ability to always have more flesh to rot away, no matter how much they have already lost. In the seventh book, however, it's "revealed" that if you show a Zombie love and affection, the decaying process begins to reverse, until they look like people who have been dead a couple of minutes instead of several years — nearly indistinguishable from a living human.
  • Parental Bonus: You're likely not going to realize the extent of the puns when you're on the early end of the target audience range. The odd bit of Fetish Fuel may also be a case of this.
  • The Phoenix: The legendary Simurgh—a giant bird who lives on Mount Parnassus. She has seen the universe remade three times and lived through it.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: Originally, magicians were rare enough that the Council had to accept the Evil Magician as King: they didn't have a choice not when Bink's talent was determined to remain a secret. Time-travel confirms that there tended to be two or three magicians at most at any given time, and they often kept the competition for the crown down by eliminating the competition. However, after Bink's meeting with the demon XaNTH, it ensured that all of Bink's descendants would have magician-level talents. Since then, other magicians have come out of the woodwork like a centaur whose talent would likely never have been noticed if it wasn't needed to rescue Bink and people involved with the family like Irene have gained power-ups. Quite a lot of people that are not acknowledged as magicians in the later books have talents that in previous eras would have qualified them not just as magicians, but as the most dangerous and powerful type of magician, those who could control the magic of other people and artifacts, multiplying their power like the creator of the Deathstone and Bink.
  • Power of Friendship: Practically weaponized by Bink. Saves his life at the end of the first book, among other examples.
  • Power of Trust: Trent giving Bink and Chameleon his sword as he slept in the first book convinced them that he wasn't evil. In the same way, Bink released Xanth because it was the right thing to do, hoping that the demon wouldn't just leave and destroy Xanth's way of life. X(A/N)th does return because of this, and blesses Bink's descendants with magician-level talents, changing Xanth forever.
  • Power Perversion Potential:
    • Hypnosis, reality warping, scrying, shapeshifting, control over your own clothing. If you can't think of any use for those, you haven't been reading the books closely enough. Then there are talents like undressing women with your eyes or making people bare. Barring an attack by evil garments, it's very unlikely these talents will get much legitimate use.
    • Millie the Maid's canonical magic talent is "Sex Appeal". After she's restored, Queen Iris pops an illusion of a French maid outfit on her.
  • Pretty in Mink: In the fourth book, Irene is given a fur garment, with a silver lining sewn in.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot, Tuckerization:
    • Jenny Elf, as noted in the introduction.
    • Good Magician Humfrey and his wife the Gorgon were modeled after Lester and Judy Lynn del Rey; after Judy Lynn died and Anthony left Del Rey Books, the Magician and his family disappeared from Xanth for a while because Anthony felt awkward writing them.
  • Recursive Reality: Princess Ida of Faun And Games has a baseball-sized moon orbiting her, which has another Princess Ida with her own moon, and so on.
    • Which eventually returns to Xanth itself. So Xanth is ultimately orbiting itself. It's one big Escher reality.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The Region of Madness
  • Reality Warper: Princess Ida could be considered this, although her talent is a passive one: She can make any stated idea come true, but only if the idea comes from someone who doesn't know about her talent.
  • Retcon:
    • Lacuna is permitted to ret-con her own life, provided she can do it before the statue of limitations runs out (that's not a typo, by the way).
    • The "Adult Conspiracy" isn't entirely consistent with some of the earlier books.
    • "Geis of the Gargoyle" was written specifically because so much that had been laid down wasn't consistent with earlier/later books and it all needed straightening out.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: The early books depicted a Xanth that was a Death World outside of the 'safe' areas, and a humanity that was doomed to descend into mindless hybrid animals without periodic invasions of the genodical or looting and raping varieties. Of course, this was no match for Bink's talent. When an Eldritch Abomination and sending him outside of Xanth, where theoretically his talent shouldn't have been able to send all those Deus ex Machina to protect him couldn't pose a challenge either, it's no wonder Anthony gave up the pretense that there was some possiblility characters could lose as the ripple effect of Binks' effect on Xanth spread.
  • Rewriting Reality: Com-Pewter's schtick is that anything he types becomes real.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Becka's 'talent', the awareness she was given by Humfrey.
  • Rule of Funny: More like Rule of Punny. The only rule that really matters in Xanth.
  • Rummage Fail: Good Magician Humfrey during the climactic battle in The Source of Magic. A few of the vials he opens are useful in combat, but most of them contain random and completely worthless items like spoiled yogurt, a poncho, a pack of cough drops...
  • Sapient Steed: Demon X(A/N)th in "Yon Ill Wind", a dragon with the head of a donkey that a girl named Chlorine rides.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer:
    • This is why the Demoness Metria is Ms. Fanservice.
    • To some degree, Iris, although in her case it's all illusion. She can still look however you want.
  • She Is the King: The King of Xanth is defined as its ruler (at least among the human inhabitants) while The Queen of Xanth is defined as the King's spouse. Turns out, they never explicitly defined the King as being male, that had just been assumed to be the case for centuries due to the requirement that the office (which is not hereditary) has to go to a Magician. Since females with powerful magic were called Sorceresses, it was believed that they didn't qualify. Until somebody pointed out that a Sorceress is defined as a female Magician, and thus is also a Magician.
    • Which not only paved the way for this trope, but for its inversion: a female King of Xanth's spouse is a male Queen.
    • Not that it necessarily would have been impossible to just change the rule, but in the book where they figured this out, they had to replace the king regularly and quickly until they could defeat the villain who kept putting the kings into enchanted sleep, some of the most qualified successors were female, and this way was less headache.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Most of the women in this series. Mela Merwoman gets an entire book dedicated to her search for a new husband (her first husband had been killed by a dragon a few years before).
  • Skirts and Ladders: Not exactly ladders, but don't wear a skirt if you're planning to use the invisible bridge to cross the Gap Chasm. Unless you want to risk someone walking below looking up and finding out what color your panties are.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series started out somewhere in the middle, and steadily got more and more idealistic.
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Type III. The zombies continually rot, but they always have more flesh to shed. Some can even be restored to near-normality and hardly rot at all (becoming Type II).
  • Slow Transformation - Threnody, introduced in Crewel Lye, has this as her talent as a result of her demon heritage. She can change shape, size and density, but only one at a time, and it takes a while for each, even after her eventual husband figures out how to speed up the process somewhat.
  • Smart Ball: The Eye-Queue vines literally have this effect, making even the dumbest characters, such as barbarians and ogres, smarter. (Although with the exception of special, magically enhanced ones, the increased intelligence is only an illusion.)
  • Spin-Offspring: The first Xanth books starred Bink. Most of the next few starred Bink's son, Dor. After that it was Dor's daughter, Ivy, then his son, Dolph. A few involved Good Magician Humfrey's line, but that wasn't shown until after the fact.
  • Spock Speak: Centaurs, who are much more educated than your average human peasant.
  • Super Empowering: Ivy's ability can selectively supercharge people's properties, including their magical talents. Her husband Grey can do the same thing by canceling out magical properties, when they're turned back on the built-up energy causes their talents to come back by multiple times. And the Demon X(A/N)th can do this both at will (as he did to Breanna of the Black Wave) and by simply existing, as he is the source of magic that saturates Xanth and causes people to develop their own magic.
    • This is the weakest level of Ivy's Talent. At higher levels, it can also act as a Care Bear Stare (why Stanley didn't just kill her despite being rejuvenated to a baby) and approach Reality Warping.
  • Superpower Lottery: Every human (born in Xanth) has a special, unique talent, and people with particularly powerful magical talents are Magicians and are able to serve as king (or Sorceress, the female equivalent). There are weak but useful abilities, for example determining the direction of anything (including 'Source of Magic'), or speak any language. The relatively few useless talents are called 'Spot on the Wall' talents. Magician levels are Illusion (at a range, that you can see through, that encompass all five senses), the ability to turn anyone but yourself into any other living creature, the ability to turn yourself into any other living creature, making things true by agreeing with them (only barely avoiding Story-Breaker Power status by the fact that the thing agreed with has to come from someone unaware of her talent), knowing damn near everything, enhancement (of anything, without apparent limit, and including "enhancement" of negative traits), nullification of magic (no matter how powerful), and being immune to magical harm.
    • The "immune to magical harm" talent hides itself as well, so that people don't wise up and try to hurt him by mundane means either. Not there are very many entirely mundane means available; Xanth is so thoroughly infused with magic that even the simplest objects are probably at least a little bit magical. The talent also stops indirect magical harm in its protections, so something like magically hiding the edge of a cliff from him and trying to get him to fall off wouldn't work either. It's even theorized in-universe that when the omnipotent demon that's the source of all magic in Xanth left, shutting all the magic down, the talent made him come back very shortly afterward, as removing magic and leaving nothing but nonmagical danger could be considered indirect magical harm. That's right, it's so powerful that it can even affect its own omnipotent source.
    • Bink even (without trying to) makes winning the Superpower Lottery a hereditary trait; he impressed the above-mentioned omnipotent demon, who decided that all of the character's descendants would also be Magicians/Sorceresses. The demon never told him about this reward, though.
    • Surprise Golem, perhaps the ultimate winner of the Superpower Lottery, has the talent of having whatever talent she wants. Each talent can only be used once but eventually regenerates. However, using minor variations can easily overcome that flaw, and a little creativity can produce an almost infinite number of variations on any given talent. Unaddressed is what would happen if she simply picked "omnipotence" as her current talent and never switched to a different one.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Bink causes this in the book The Source of Magic when he allows the aforementioned source - the Demon X(A/N)th - to leave. He also causes it to return by getting the demon to come back. While the magic was gone, though, most of Xanth suffered weird aftereffects and many people were distraught to find their talents unusable. This is referred to as "The Time of No Magic." It's later explained in The Dastard that the magic was never really gone: each of the World Demons have their own magic ambiance, and thus when the Demon X(A/N)th left, the magic he'd left behind was not eliminated outright, but merely suppressed by the ambiance of the Demon E(A/R)th's own magic from his neighboring realm. When X(A/N)th returned, so did his ambiance, allowing the Xanthian magic to return to full strength.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: No matter how obscure or specialized a main character's talent is, you can bet they'll get a chance to use it to save the day- justified in that many of the tales begin with someone getting an Answer to their Question from Humphrey, who gets rid of the annoying morons by enables them to discover their own answer by sending them on a quest they are perfect for.
  • Triang Relations: In Heaven Cent, Dolph becomes engaged to two girls: Nada, who he loves, and Electra, who loves him. Both girls have external reasons why they need to marry him, and Dolph decides to maintain both betrothals until they can come up with a solution; the tangle is resolved two books later in Isle of View.
  • Tribute to Fido: While Piers Anthony was writing Demons Don't Dream, his dog Bubbles died, so he decided to put her into the book at that point. Mare Imbri is also based on Blue, a horse he owned at the time. Blue died right before he started writing the same book, so, as he pointed out in the author's note, it seemed right that Mare Imbri would lead Bubbles into Xanth.
  • Un-Sorcerer: Bink appears to be one of these at the beginning of the first book. He later learns that he does have a talent, one that's extremely powerful, but nobody can figure out what it is - and, as far as the law is concerned, if he can't demonstrate it, it's the same as not having one and he'll be exiled anyway. Eventually, someone figures out exactly what his talent is: he cannot be harmed by magic. Furthermore, because the talent itself is magic, it has to protect him from itself, too - which means keeping itself secret so that other people don't try to hurt him using non-magical means. As a result, it only acts via Contrived Coincidence; it winds up blowing its cover when Bink ends up in so much danger that the coincidences needed to save him become so contrived that they couldn't possibly have happened naturally.
    • Aside from Bink, anyone from Mundania who ends up living in Xanth is effectively one of these.
  • Unwitting Pawn: In the eighth book, there's Jordan, who not only blundered into a journey being promised as a prophesied hero. The whole thing was an Evil Plan by Magician Ying-yang to bring Threnody to him to marry so he could become king. This brings Xanth into it's Dark Age for four hundred years, until Trent shows up.
  • Utility Magic: A lot of the magic has mundane purposes. For example, the Gorgon's face, when exposed, can turn people to stone. However, after her marriage to Humphrey, she mainly uses its stiffening effects on a certain type of food to create Gorgon-zola cheese.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Becoming vain is often seen as a positive sign of female growth. Of course, there are downsides....
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Notably and almost universally averted throughout the series, beginning with the first book, in which the villain, Trent, turns out to have lots of redeeming qualities and is essentially convinced to become the Big Good. Occasional exceptions include Castle Roogna and Night Mare.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Were-creatures, demons, certain crossbreeds (like nagas, who go from human to snake and have an in-between form as well, or merfolk, some of whom can switch from having a tail to having legs, or even Smash Ogre, an ogre/human who learns to switch between his two aspects), and Prince Dolph are notorious for this.
  • Watching the Reflection Undress: In Demons Don't Dream, Nada Naga insists to Dug that he must not try to see her naked. When she changes in one scene, he attempts to sneak a peek at her anyway with his belt buckle, and the "computer game" that he's playing to connect him to the world of Xanth ends up booting him out because of it.
  • Welcome to the Real World: Mundania, the world outside of Xanth in which magic does not exist, is supposed to be the same place that the reader lives in. Characters sometimes travel between Mundania and Xanth. (The nature of the border between Xanth and Mundania is complicated, but you can get there by entering just about any peninsula in Mundania.)
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: referred to in-story as "Spot-On-The-Wall talents"
    • Heart Is an Awesome Power: A lame talent used efficiently and with intelligence often is just as useful as a Magician-level talent.
  • When Trees Attack: Tangle Trees
  • World of Pun: There's been a steady increase in puns throughout the series. The first two books had only a handful of puns. After that, Piers Anthony started making the series more comedic, and adding more puns as part of the process. Then he started accepting reader-submitted puns and it and got completely out of control. Naturally, a great many Xanth fans were thrilled by this opportunity to actually be a part of their favorite series, even if only in a small way, so the puns flooded in ever-greater numbers, to the point that Anthony frequently has several books' worth of pun backlog.
  • Writer on Board: When the "Colored People" accidentally arrived in Xanth they were specifically treated as equals, and several pages are spent talking about this. (They're still called "colored people" — but now those colors include blue, green, red, yellow, pink, etc., etc...)
    • Mr. Anthony's views on sexuality (it's not bad, and it springs into our minds a lot sooner than 18 or even 16 years old) and nudity ("Some time we'll have to discuss why the sight of a naked woman as God made her should be considered to harm a child, but that's another issue") appear as a subtext in nearly every book. Even "worse" with the nonhuman characters, who, almost as a rule, have little or no nudity taboo.
      • A further writer on board thing deals with how his centaurs reject magic as obscene. This is then directly compared to humans rejecting nudity and bodily functions as obscene. (In Book 2 — The Source of Magic — for those who are about to say "WHEN?")
  • You Can't Fight Fate: This is essentially how Bink's talent works — no matter how you try to use magic against him, bizarre circumstances will prevent him from being hurt.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here: "Isle of View" introduces Jenny Elf from ElfQuest's World of Two Moons. When she arrives on Xanth, her telepathy no longer seems to work. But she develops another ability never shown in her home environment; singing daydreams and trapping the unaware within them.

XalaLiterature of the 1970sZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Wheel of TimeLong-Running Book SeriesTortall Universe
The Worst WitchComic FantasyZeus Is Dead
Wrong Time For DragonsFantasy LiteratureXenos

alternative title(s): Xanth
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