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Literature / Eric

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Eric is the Discworld's only demonology hacker. Pity he's not very good at it. All he wants is three wishes granted. Nothing fancy - to be immortal, rule the world, have the most beautiful woman in the world fall madly in love with him, the usual stuff. But instead of a tractable demon, he calls up Rincewind, probably the most incompetent wizard in the universe, and the extremely intractable and hostile form of travel accessory known as the Luggage. With them on his side, Eric's in for a ride through space and time that is bound to make him wish (quite fervently) again - this time that he'd never been born.

Sometimes counted as the ninth Discworld novel, although this is where numbering gets tricky as some prefer to count Faust Eric as a special. It's shorter than most Discworld novels, was published by a different publisher, and was originally intended to be an illustrated work. The title is officially simply Eric, but on most covers it is preceded by the struck-through title Faust, a reference to how the title character is a parody of Doctor Faustus.

Rincewind was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions at the end of Sourcery, but is now summoned back to the Disc by Eric, a young demonologist who was trying to summon a demon with a similar name. (For much of the book he's convinced Rincewind is a demon.) The story follows the two of them as they inadvertently travel through space and time to grant Eric's Three Wishes.

Meanwhile, the King of Hell, the demon Astfgl, is trying to find them, but is always one step behind. His subordinates are mutinous thanks to his attempts to instil modern business practices in Hell—prior to his rule, the damned souls had worked out that pain was purely subjective and thus all the whippings and flayings were purely for the look of the thing, but Astfgl instituted project planning, health and safety and so on and now Hell torments both the damned and its own demons.

This was the last Discworld novel to feature Rincewind (a character whom Terry Pratchett wasn't all that fond of writing, though the fans like him) until the retrospective Interesting Times. It is also the last to feature the early conception of Unseen University, with the staff changing with each book thanks to the wizards' practice of Klingon Promotion.

Preceded by Guards! Guards!, followed by Moving Pictures. Preceded in the Rincewind series by Sourcery, followed by Interesting Times.

Was adapted by The BBC as a short radio play in 2013.

Eric ontains examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes A-C 
  • Accidental Hero: Eric had intended to summon a demon to grant his every wish. He ends up rescuing Rincewind from the Dungeon Dimensions instead.
  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: Human example: the Tezumen can make wheels, they just never figured out how to use them. People wear them as hats, and complain that they don't roll when you lay them flat and give them a push.
  • Badass Fingersnap: How Rincewind appears to grant wishes, to his own immense astonishment. It's just Vassanego using his demon powers in synch with Rincewind's finger-snapping.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: When an attempt to travel to Ankh-Morpork by magic lands Rincewind and Eric at the gates of Hell, Rincewind notes that he can tell this isn't Ankh-Morpork by such subtle clues as the distant screaming — in Ankh-Morpork the screaming is usually much closer.
  • Batman Gambit: Vassenego's plan against Astfgl.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eric's wishes are (1) to rule all the kingdoms of the world, (2) to meet the most beautiful woman ever, and (3) to live forever. He and Rincewind first visit the Tezumen Empire who try to sacrifice him out of revenge for their absolutely abysmal living conditions, then meet Eleanor of Tsort about 20 years past her prime, and finally get to live forever starting from the Creation of the Discworld, meaning it will be quite a few millenia before any people show up.
  • Big Little Man: Big Little God: Quetzovercoatl has only appeared to the Tezumen priests in dreams, based on which they'd carved a giant statue of their demonic patron. When he actually has to manifest, it turns out he's six inches tall.
  • Big Red Devil: Lord Astfgl's form is described as looking like a stereotypical red-clad pantomime devil, complete with a cap with little horns on it and a pitchfork (whose point is liable to drop off). Ironically, he considers it more stylish than the Starfish Alien forms of the other demons, and when he loses his temper and destroys the outfit mid-transformation, it's noted that he's kept the same general concept, but looks far more threatening.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Lavaeolus' name is Canis Latinicus for "Rinser of Winds".
  • Brick Joke: Rincewind still can't remember how to pronounce 'eon'.
  • Boring Vacation Slideshow: One of the punishments in Astfgl's new Hell.
    In the next pit several chained and groaning people were being shown a series of paintings. A demon in front of them was reading from a script.
    “—this is when we were in the Fifth Circle, only you can’t see where we stayed, it was just off to the left there, and this is that funny couple we met, you’d never believe it, they lived on the Icy Plains of Doom just next door to—”
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Near the beginning of the book, it's mentioned that a demon named Vassenego was standing by to be summoned by Eric, but happened to be distracted at the crucial moment, so the summoning somehow latched on to Rincewind instead. Vassenego turns up again near the end, and it's revealed that in fact he went to considerable deliberate effort to divert the summoning to Rincewind, and has been masterminding the whole thing to distract Astfgl while he arranges a coup.
  • The Chessmaster: Vassenego. Which is appropriate, as he's a parody of Vassago, generally considered the wisest demon in Hell.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The current Archchancellor of the Unseen University, having gotten the job because the other wizards, having noticed a trend of late, don't want it, and as a result the current incumbent is in his nineties and senile. Most of the actual work is being done by the Bursar.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Creator briefly worries that he's forgotten something immediately after creating the Discworld. As revealed in The Colour of Magic, he's left the Octavo behind in "a characteristic bout of absent-mindedness".
    • Rincewind and Eric find themselves in the middle of the Tsortean (= Trojan) War, which the Ephebians and Tsorteans in Pyramids are still rather sore about ... even though neither side seems to remember which side did what, anymore.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Astfgl's use of boredom as torture. Specifically, the sort of boredom that occurs when A: you could be having a good time, and B: Is costing you money. Both demons and damned would rather go back to the old tortures.
  • Cool Tank: Not spelled out, but at the end, Lavaeolus' soul in Hell has the idea for using one of the conveyor belt treadmills as the basis for a new war machine.
  • Cosmic Egg: It turns out that bacterial life on the Disc was given a kick-start by Rincewind (who had gone back in time) tossing away the Egg-and-Cress sandwich given to him by The Creator.

    Tropes D-F 
  • Dead All Along: Baffled by his apparent new-found demon powers, Rincewind speculates that he might have died in the Dungeon Dimensions and been sent to Hell as one. Considering how terrified, and how busy running, he'd been during his sojourn among the Things from the Dungeon Dimension, he supposes he might not have noticed the difference. He's wrong, his "magic" finger-snaps are Vassenego's doing.
  • Deal with the Devil: Eric was shooting for one of these, but accidentally summoned Rincewind instead of the demon who was going to make a deal with him.
  • Delegation Relay: Happens to a chain of soldiers trying to find someone to look after a lost child during the Tsortean War.
  • Door of Doom: Hell has an impressive one, except the new regime adds a badly-installed doorbell and a jaunty sign.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Old Tom, Unseen University's bell, is stated to be made of bronze, and used to be normal until its clapper fell out, causing it to toll silences instead. Later books retcon it so that the quirk is a result of being made of the magical metal octiron.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Of a sort. The demons traditionally inflict all sorts of physical torture on the souls of the dead, but as soon as they realize they have no actual physical body to be tortured, they stop feeling any pain and the whole thing goes on mostly out of habit.
  • Eternal Recurrence: Death watches the final end of the universe and is about to hang up his scythe when he notices matter spontaneously popping into existence and has a Here We Go Again! realization.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Most of the demons are unhappy because Astfgl found the ultimate torture weapon: boredom. (This could just be because it affected them as well.)
    • They also consider Vassengo's scheme to get rid of him a bit much, and are amazed that humans came up with something like that on their own without any "hints" from them.
    • This has hints of a Mythology Gag, considering it echoes Crowley's own attitude to being a demon. Good Omens and Eric were published in the same year, which suggests that they were written at roughly the same time.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Rincewind has spent much of his life in pursuit of boredom, on the grounds that excitement in his experience tends to involve mortal peril, but even he is horrified by the sheer soul-destroying tedium inflicted on the damned under Astfgl's regime.
  • Exact Words: Rincewind's realization about the wishes goes like this: to be ruler of the world means getting the ire of the people, to meet the world's most beautiful woman never mentioned her being in her prime (or single, for that matter), and to live forever means to start from the first day of creation.
  • Executive Ball Clicker: Astfgl has "a complicated assembly of chromed wire and balls" on his desk.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Eric, the demonologist who summoned Rincewind back to the material world and proceeds to order him around, turns out to be a thirteen-year-old boy.
  • False Reassurance: Lavaeolus, an Odysseus parody, asks Rincewind if he'll get home all right. Rincewind figures that You Can't Fight Fate and tells him yes, and they'll write stories about him getting home.
  • Feathered Serpent: Quetzovercoatl is depicted as a feathered boa, he actually looks nothing like that.
  • Following in Relative's Footsteps: In addition to the whole getting his heart's desire thing, it's pointed out that Eric became a demonologist following in the footsteps of his late grandfather whom he'd had a special bond with.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Inverted by Astfgl, who dresses in royal diabolic regalia of his own design ... which is, basically, a kid's cheap Halloween devil-costume, complete with silly hood-mounted hornlets and a trident that keeps falling apart.
  • Fountain of Youth: What Ponce da Quirm is searching for. In a typically Pratchett subversion, he actually finds it - but his soul in Hell muses that someone should've told him 'boil the water first'.

    Tropes G-S 
  • Good Old Ways: While not necessarily good - it is Hell and they are demons - pretty much every single occupant of the place bar Astfgl prefer "how things used to be" to the new tortures their leader has thought up. After all, one of the main perks of being a demon is not being the one getting tortured, and Astfgl's new policies don't discriminate.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Astfgl recommends learning from humans in order to inflict really horrible torment.
  • Identical Grandson: In an extreme example, Rincewind's distant ancestor Lavaeolus bears a passing resemblance. He also shares Rincewind's keen survival instinct as well as, judging by his ten-year journey home, Rincewind's bad luck. Not to mention his name, if you speak Latin... Er, Latatian.
  • In the Blood: Lavaeolus is a Combat Pragmatist who avoids trouble as much as he can, and ends up earning the ire of gods and being their plaything. Qualities his descendant Rincewind takes on.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Astfgl's final fate. Subverted in that he's quite happy there, though it's also open to debate if he even realized this happened.
  • The Kid with the Remote Control: Played With with Eric himself, whose attempt to summon a fearsome demon that will grant him his every desire lands him with the ineffectual and very human Rincewind instead.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The first story to establish that the events of Sourcery are under a blanket ban from the wizards. Anyone who might've been there will swear blind they were actually visiting their aunt out in the country, or doing some really, really solid research in the library. Part of the reason they're so reluctant to bother rescuing Rincewind is because he was there and they think he might start naming names.
  • Literal Metaphor: While climbing out from hell, Rincewind notices the stairs are made of stone letters spelling common well meaning justifications for actions with undesirable results. He figures out that the road to hell really is paved of good intentions.
  • Mayincatec: The Tezumen.
  • Mind Rape: The sheer unmitigated boredom of Hell under Astfgl's administration is so very abusive to the psyche that even Rincewind, who normally craves being bored as an alternative to his usual terrifying ordeals, is repelled by the place.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Astfgl is just the first one.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: and King of Hell.
  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Justified due to "sheer idiot terror" with the jaguar that gets eaten by the Luggage.
  • Parody: As well as the titular parody of Faust, the sequence in Tsort mercilessly sends up The Trojan War.
  • Place Beyond Time: Gods and demons exist outside of time, and Astfgl travels to the heat death of the universe and back without too much difficulty. It's mentioned that in theory this should make them omniscient, but the universe is so huge and complicated that it's simpler for them to just pick a starting point and watch from there.
  • Punny Name: Quetzovercoatl, a pun on the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and 'overcoat'.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The Tezumen believe Quetovercoatl created the world. They'd like to have a word with him about it.
  • Real Dreams are Weirder: Discussed in the narration when describing the demon guarding the gates of hell.
    It would be a lazy use of language to say that the thing that answered the door was a nightmare. Nightmares are usually rather daft things and it's very hard to explain to a listener what was so dreadful about your socks coming alive or giant carrots jumping out of hedgerows. This thing was the kind of terrifying thing that could only be created by someone sitting down and thinking horrible thoughts very clearly.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: It turns out that this is the literal case on the disc. Only those who deep down believe they deserve Hell end up in it, and people who don't believe or don't know about it are safe. Which is why the narrator suggests shooting missionaries on sight.
    • Another instance is the demons inflicting the newly designed tortures. Since they consist mostly of causing inhumane amounts of boredom, and the demons have to be there to inflict them, it's just as bad for them as for the intended victims.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Astfgl's summary of Tezumen history paraphrases Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
    • Astfgl's stereotyped Big Red Devil look is carefully described to invoke, not an actual Satanic Archetype, but the Demon King in a Pantomime. This is further invoked when the continual betrayal of Demon Kings by their underlings is represented as a voice in their head saying "Look out, he's behind you..."
  • Slave Galley: Discussed. The Tsortean officer interrogating Rincewind and Eric (presuming them to be Ephebean spies) threatens to set them to work as trireme rowers.
  • The Starscream: Vassenego. And he's not only successful, he's so good at his scheming that his backstabbee is grateful to him for it!
  • The Strategist: Lavaeolus, who uses his cowardice to help him develop plans with a low chance of getting him (or anyone else) killed.
  • Succubi and Incubi: Parodied. It is said that there was a lonely old demonologist who wanted to conjure up a succubus but only ever managed a Neuralgia, "a demon what comes and has a headache at you," as the talking parrot puts it.
  • Summon Binding: Eric summons a denizen of the Dungeon Dimensions into a runic circle that shocks it if it tries to leave, and later uses a "conjuration of duress" to confine it to a room with a verbal order. The spells are quite effective—only, instead of a demon that would trade wishes for its freedom, he summoned a hapless human by mistake.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: Absolutely every single character gets their happy ending; this includes the demon king that gets effectively dethroned and imprisoned and, most surprising of all, the souls in the eternal torture of hell.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Turns out that being the ruler of the world means you’re responsible to the people for any problems with it. Rincewind compares the title with a landlord’s position, as in both cases people need to complain to someone.
    • The most beautiful woman in the world, after ten years of being with another man, is bound to be middle-aged and matronly.
    • Water, even from the Fountain of Youth, needs to be boiled to remove any disease-causing viruses from it. Especially if it comes from a jungle laden with all sorts of lifeforms.

    Tropes T-Z 
  • Threat Backfire: Breaking into the Tsortean citadel via a secret passageway, Laveolus at once recites a prepared speech demanding the enemy's unconditional surrender. As the only person in the room is a small child on a potty, his well-rehearsed demand rather falls flat.
  • Too Many Halves: Quetzovercoatl is described as "half-man, half-chicken, half-jaguar, half-serpent, half-scorpion and half-mad", making him three homicidal maniacs.
  • Too Many Mouths: Urglefloggah, although where they are isn't specified.
  • Tranquil Fury: Astfgl provides a page quote.
  • Tsortean Horse: Doubly Subverted. The Ephebians build a wooden horse and leave it outside the Tsortean city gates. The Tsorteans bring the horse inside their walls... Except they saw right through the ruse, and when night falls, they're wide awake and waiting outside the horse to ambush whoever comes out... Except the horse was only a distraction so that the Ephebians could sneak in a different way.
  • Under New Management: Hell has recently come under new management, so the traditional punishments get scrapped in favor of mind-numbing eternal boredom.
  • Unexpectedly Real Magic: Eric, the titular amateur demonologist, believes Rincewind to be a summoned demon and orders him to grant his wishes. Rincewind sarcastically asks if Eric thinks that happens with a snap of Rincewind's fingers... and they find themselves deep in the jungle. Rincewind looks at his fingers with deep suspicion after that. There's a demon lord casting all the magic when Rincewind snaps his fingers, all part of a complex plot to overthrow the current king of Hell.
  • The Unpronounceable: Most demonic names are this. When Astfgl tries to look up Rincewind's name in the registry of demons, he notes that "Rincewind" has far more than the usual number of vowels in it.
  • Verbal Tic: Eric's parrot, who constantly substitutes the catchall metasyntactic variable "wossname" for random words, along with, to a lesser extent, "Polly want a biscuit," described in the narration as being in the same tone that a human would say "Err..."
  • We Have Reserves: The usual attitude of the Ephebian and Tsortean generals—Lavaeolus is considered a bit of a cheater because he actually tries to win battles without huge casualties.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We don't see the pair actually emerge again on the Discworld after their foray into Hell, and only Rincewind appears in later books, so it's left unstated what became of Eric.
  • Womanliness as Pathos: The Trojan War is parodied in the novel, where the noncombatants are shown to be rather uninterested in the whole war and wish Elenor would just choose which king she wanted to stay with.
    [...] and that bloody woman would have to make up her mind whose side she was on, the hussy.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Elenor of Tsort. Eric wishes to meet her, and he does, but she's well past her prime, married, and the mother of several small children.
  • Zerg Rush: "The consensus seemed to be that if really large numbers of men were sent to storm the mountain, then enough might survive the rocks to take the citadel. This is essentially the basis of all military thinking."