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Literature / Sourcery

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There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we'd better not go into), he had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son... a wizard squared... a source of magic... a Sourcerer.

The fifth Discworld novel and a return to Rincewind as central character. Very much a sequel to The Light Fantastic in style, plot and humor.

Wizards (in early Discworld books at least) are the eighth sons of eighth sons, and they are forbidden to marry. Why? Well, one wizard, Ipslore, runs away and defies the rules by wedding and having children. The first seven are as powerful from birth as any wizard in the world (and are never mentioned again). The eighth... the eighth is the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son. A wizard squared... a source of magic, not merely one who can manipulate the magic already present in the world... a Sourcerer.

Unfortunately, there's a very good reason why the Discworld has no Sourcerers. The Sourcerer's powerful magic makes him into a Physical God, and he unites the wizards of the Unseen University in an attempt to Take Over the World. The ensuing all-out magical war threatens the very existence of the Discworld itself. Once again, it falls upon the reluctant Rincewind to save the world... somehow.

The preface includes Pratchett's story about the Luggage being inspired by an American woman tugging a large, recalcitrant suitcase on wheels (which he later admitted he wasn't sure he hadn't made up or not) and adds, "This book does not contain a map. Please feel free to draw your own."

Pratchett has commented that Sourcery is his least favorite book of the series, saying he wrote it out of pressure by fans to do another Rincewind book.

Preceded by Mort, followed by Wyrd Sisters. Preceded in the Rincewind series by The Light Fantastic, followed by Eric.

Not to be confused with Sorcery!

Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ipslore cows Coin into committing evil actions and uses magical Electric Torture on him when he tries to disobey. It's implied that Ipslore treated his first seven sons no better, and possibly even worse.
  • Accidental Ventriloquism: When Rincewind is thrown into the snake pit, a voice speaks to him out of the gloom, and he assumes at first that it's a snake talking before he realizes that the previous person to be thrown in is still alive.
  • Action Girl: Conina. She'd rather be a hairdresser.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Coin, of course, is an Apocralypse Boy.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: Klatch.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Conina's voice can make "Good morning" sound like an invitation to bed.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Coin's ultimate destiny, and apparently the usual fate of Sourcerers.
  • Bad Guy Bar: There's a bar in the Shades that makes the Mended Drum look like a playground.
  • Barbarian Hero: Deconstructed with Nijel. Conina is more of a straight example, though she just wants to be a hairdresser.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Librarian has been described as a "mobile sigh" that, even when he catches smokers in his library, just looks sad and disappointed, and prefers his current form precisely because it lets him be nice and peaceful and not worry about too much. When all hell breaks loose, though, he reminds everyone just how strong an orangutan is.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Lord Vetinari spends most of the novel as a small yellow lizard after refusing to submit to the Sourcerer.
  • Big Bad: Technically Coin the Sourcerer, but really it's his not-quite-dead father, Ipslore, who possesses his staff (and sometimes by implication, Coin himself), and has been manipulating him his entire life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The world is saved, the gods are re-released out into the world, stopping the Apocralypse, Coin is free from the possession of his dead father, Ankh-Morpork is restored... but Coin realizes the saved world has no place for a Physical God like him and as a result ascends to a higher plane of existence while Rincewind, the one who saved it in the first place, is trapped in the Dungeon Dimensionsnote .
  • Book Ends: The book begins, "There was a man and he had eight sons," and this is repeated as the first line of the story the barmaid tells to Creosote near the end.
  • Brick Joke: In the beginning of the book, Rincewind mistakenly thinks that a geas is a type of bird. In the conclusion of the book, the narration mentions a flock of geas.
  • Brown Note: The geas revealed at the end (see above) protect themselves from predators by looking so incredibly ridiculous that anything attempting to stalk them collapses with laughter before it can get close.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The leader of the gang of wizards sent to burn down the library, who even after nearly getting his head pulled off by the Librarian tries to go back for seconds. The other wizards gang up on him after this.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Coin does this near the end of the book, when his reluctance to kill the pathetically non-threatening challenger Rincewind leads to an escalating argument with Ipslore that ends with Coin freeing himself from his father's influence and trying to throw his staff away.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • Nigel has a bad case of stating the obvious.
    • "The thing about the Ice Giants were that they were, well, giants. The other thing about them was that they were made of ice."
  • Characterization Marches On: Vetinari isn't nearly as much a Magnificent Bastard as he would eventually become, and as a result, comes off as a bit thick — or at least, compared to later books. While he very quickly realises that these are not the Wizards he is used to dealing with, he doesn't quite realise just how much. In his very next appearance, he demonstrates a much better grasp of knowing when to fold em — though presumably his time spent as a small lizard (though he can hardly remember it) played a large part in developing this instinct.
  • Chess with Death: More like a wager, but Death lampshades this trope when Ipslore expresses interest in negotiating with him.
    ...And at least this was a bit more original than the usual symbolic chess game, which Death always dreaded because he could never remember how the knight was supposed to move.
  • Child Mage: Coin.
  • Children Are Innocent: It becomes very obvious early on that Coin is not the real villain, just being manipulated by Ipslore. When he gets rid of him, he is far more pleasant to be around.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Ipslore the Red is a straight example, although Pratchett parodies this trope in other novels.
  • Combat Haircomb: In Conina's hands, even a normal comb can be lethal.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Literally. Rincewind is controlled by his conscience as if it was a split personality.
  • Continuity Nod: Rincewind mentions that the Luggage once ate a spellbook, and was sick for three days before spitting it up.
    • Also when told that the world is about to end, Rincewind responds with, "What, again?"
  • Correspondence Course: Nijel is taking one in Barbarian Heroism. By Cohen the Barbarian (though Rincewind highly doubts this fact, given what he knows of Cohen. Or at least, he highly doubts that Cohen wrote the Course, but does suspect that Cohen might have been involved on some level, due to his knack for rapidly gravitating to anything involving money).
  • Crapsack World: Not now, but was like this during the Mage Wars: it was apparently common to check when you got up if you had a species, let alone the one you had when you went to sleep. During the peak of the magical battle, it starts turning into this again.
  • Darker and Edgier: This book, while still having humorous moments, is full of surprisingly emotionally heavy moments as well. It depicts the beginnings of another major-scale magical war, instigated by a child controlled by an abusive father, and it all leads up to a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Abrim is Dastardly Whiplash meets Evil Vizier. "He twirled his moustache, probably foreclosing another dozen mortgages."
  • Death by Childbirth: Ipslore's wife dies of a heart attack while giving birth to Coin. Death assures Ipslore: "There are worse ways to die. Take it from me."
  • Defusing The Tykebomb: Coin benefits from a textbook example of this.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Conina fell for Nijel instead.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • Rincewind, twice. First, knocking Coin's staff out of his hand with a heavy object in a sock. Then using the exact same tactic on an Eldritch Abomination.
    • The Librarian even gets in on the act. After Coin offers to turn him back into a human, the Librarian's reaction has Coin quickly back off. Bear in mind that Coin is perhaps the most powerful being on the Disc. Also, he beats off one of the Things with a stick.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Double subverted — the jokey Temple of Doom traps Creosote's ancestor hid in the catacombs have decayed and are no longer functioning, and even so, only consist of things like "kick me" signs and buckets of white-wash above doors. Except the last one, a giant slab of stone that falls out of the ceiling on you, with the words LAUGH THIS ONE OFF engraved on the side.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: This was the first book to focus really heavily on the wizards and on Ankh-Morpork, and while it's a bit closer to the modern portrayal than the books before it there's still a lot of stuff that hadn't been established yet which comes off as odd today. Lord Vetinari, for instance, is a much more generic character.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia/Tastes Like Purple: Used with all senses simultaneously, to describe the bizarre reality-twisting effects when supercharged wizards' barrage of spells and counterspells reach critical mass.
    It looked the way a piano sounds when dropped down a well. It tasted yellow, and felt paisley. It smelled like a total eclipse of the moon. Of course, closer to the Tower it got really weird.
  • Empathic Weapon: Coin's staff has the spirit of his father Ipslore in it. This is not a good thing.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Very nearly happens this time.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Abrim was not allowed into Unseen University despite potential talent for magic, because he was mentally unstable. When he asks Rincewind if he can believe that, Rincewind thinks of some of the wizards that did get in and honestly answers no.
  • Evil Chancellor: Creosote's grand vizier, Abrim. Rincewind has him pegged as one on sight (the moustache was kind of a giveaway).
  • Evil Sorcerer: Ipslore the Red. With Coin, not so much.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Rincewind with Conina and later, Coin.
  • Expospeak Gag: The Magic Carpet flies to the command "down". When Conina asks why is that, Rincewind responds that it's because of "certain fundamental details of laminar and spatial arrangements", or in non-wizard talk because it was put on the floor upside-down.
  • Extreme Doormat: Coin, having grown up as his father's mindslave, has elements of this.
    "Please tell me what to do!"
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Archchancellor's Hat. How good it is at the beginning is debatable (it threatens to freeze Rincewind solid if he disobeys, for one), and seems primarily obsessed with defeating the Sourcerer, fearing what would happen to the Disc if it didn't. However, its true malevolence is not outright exposed until it manages to possess a worthy mind, whereupon it becomes as destructive to the world as the Sourcerer it opposes, revealing that all it is primarily concerned about is the same thing all wizards are concerned about: winning.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Klatch as the generalized 'cultured but decadent oriental state', evoking the Ottoman Empire, Xanadu, etc.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The Frost Giants, bizarrely enough. Despite generally being defined by their rivalry with the Gods, their leader declares the gods are "products of outmoded superstition".
  • Follow the Chaos: Nijel is once described as the kind of person who, if he was lost in a trackless desert, could be located by leaving out some valuable old heirloom and then hurrying back as soon as you heard it smash.
  • Forced Transformation: Carding turns Vetinari into a lizard early on, though Coin later undoes it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Death asking Ipslore about his relationship with his other seven sons is this. They all got fed up with their father's manipulations and left him behind, just as Coin eventually does.
    • The Patrician speaks approvingly of "the safety of a nice deep dungeon" should wizards rule the city. Within this book it seems to be just a jibe, but in Guards! Guards! we find he wasn't joking.
  • Forgot to Feed the Monster: The tiger's been ill and none of the other devices work, so Rincewind has to be thrown into the Snake Pit, itself possibly an example of this because they forgot it ought to have more than one snake.
  • Funetik Aksent: The Ice Giants get a vaguely Scandinavian one.
  • Geas: Parodied. And then it turns out Rincewind was right and a geas is a type of bird.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: With an actual genie, no less. The genie of the lamp talks like a 1980s yuppie for some reason.
  • Genre Savvy: Of course — it's Discworld. Rincewind is particularly genre savvy, as always; Abrim explains doing something evil by saying that the vizier has to be evil; Nijel is very aware of what's expected of a barbarian hero, since he's been studying for the role.
  • A God Am I: This would actually be a serious step down for Coin. He loses the attitude after he gets rid of his father's spirit. And to be blunt, with how powerful he is, it's pretty justified.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The only thing that is described when Carding dies from a horrible curse that is his skin began to blister.
    Most of the wizards managed to turn their heads away. A few — and there are always a few like that — watched in obscene fascination.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Ipslore the Red who made Coin a sorcerer and manipulates him through his staff.
  • Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: The magic carpet does the opposite of what it is commanded to do, because it was rolled out upside-down.
  • The Hat Makes the Man: The Archchancellor's Hat has absorbed power and personality from the Archchancellors who have worn it over the centuries. When it finds a wearer it likes, it's subsequently noted that it's more like that hat is wearing the man than the reverse.
  • Hat of Power: The Archchancellor's hat has the memories of all prior Archchancellors and can bestow them as it chooses on anyone who wears the hat, as well as possessing significant magical abilities of its own. At one point it freezes a thief solid for stealing it, and on the right head, it can go toe to toe with Coin by using his own power against him. As it ominously states, "Wizardry has learned a lot in the last twenty centuries."
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Conina. Her appearance is stated to be "calculated to hit the male libido like a lead pipe." Even the Luggage falls for her.
  • Hellbent For Leather: A would-be Barbarian Hero dressed in (a very small amount of) leather. He doesn't really have the attitude to pull off the look. (The fact that he's wearing the outfit over woollen underwear, because he promised his mum, doesn't help.)
  • Heroic BSoD: Rincewind, upon returning to the Library after Coin orders it to be burned. The description is tragic: he lunges into the ashes, scrabbling around for anything familiar, and sobs bitterly.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Famine and Pestilence get their horses stolen, and Death refuses to let them all ride on Binky. So they just get drunk instead.
  • I Am the Trope: The Archchancellor's hat states at one point: "I am Wizardry!" And to be fair, given its vast magical prowess (on and off the right head), it can back it up.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Nijel introduces himself to Rincewind "Nijel the Destroyer, son of Harebut the Provision Merchant". When he meets Conina, he changes it to "Harebut the Mighty".
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Rincewind is less than thrilled to learn that the delicious crunchy things he'd been eating in the Seriph's wilderness were actually honey-glazed locusts. Not the fruit, the insect.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Barbarian heroine Conina claims she just wants to be a hairdresser.
  • Improvised Weapon: When all you have is a pair of scissors and a comb...
    • Or a sock and some debris...
    • Or, according to Conina's description in The Discworld Companion: a hairgrip, a piece of paper, a hamster...
  • Incredibly Lame Pune: See Instant Soprano, below.
  • Instant Soprano: The slaver leader asks Rincewind if he can sing, then starts making coy references to the unique opportunity he'll face as a harem servant.
  • In the Blood: Conina is one of Cohen's (many) children, and it's clear where she inherited her badassitude.
  • Klatchian Coffee: First reference in the series. Also, first appearance of Desert Orakh, a Gargle Blaster that was actually created to mitigate the effects of said coffee.
  • Lampwick Joke
  • Lamarck Was Right: Due to the odd nature of Discworld inheritance, Conina inherited not only her mother's looks (not surprising), but Cohen's lightning reflexes (semi-plausible), and tendencies towards a) habitual theft, and b) extreme violence (less plausible). This is a pity because she'd much prefer hairdressing.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Coin wipes Conina and Nigel's memories of events, and it's implied he's done similar nudging to all the non-wizards as well, in a slightly less laser-guided sense.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • The Disc gods, usually cruel, lackadaisical and indolent, get a briefly described moment at the end when they are released from Coin's spell and effortlessly throw back the Ice Giants' glaciers. While bickering.
    • The Wizards themselves under the effects of sourcery, when people are used to them being stuffy, harmless background characters — they even give Vetinari pause, just by their expressions. In fact, the entire point of the book is what happens if Wizards discard the fundamental principle of modern magic: not doing it.
  • Living Battery: After Coin goes to Unseen University, the wizards, including the utterly inept Rincewind, all get massive power-ups. Unfortunately, With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, and the Mage Wars nearly start all over again, with the Apocralypse as background material.
  • Love at First Sight: Parodied when Nijel and Conina first meet: "The world had suddenly separated into two parts — the bit which contained Nijel and Conina, and the bit which contained everything else. The air between them crackled. Probably, in their half, a distant orchestra was playing, bluebirds were tweeting, little pink clouds were barreling through the sky, and all the other things that happen at times like this."
  • Mage Tower: Towers are deeply rooted in a wizards' psyche. Even Rincewind, who is barely a wizard at all, instinctively tries to make one in his sleep. True to form, he isn't very good at it.
  • Magical Seventh Son: Except on Discworld, the magic number is eight. And while the eighth son of an eight son is just a wizard, the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son is a sourcerer, and almost too powerful for the world to bear. (This is one of the reasons wizards are discouraged from having sex.)
  • Magic Hat: The Archchancellor's Hat.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Applies three times over, which is how Coin came to be.
  • Mauve Shirt: Spelter, the Bursar of the Unseen University, and Carding, who get some character development before dying in hideous ways (Carding manages to last right up until the climax, at least).
  • Mind Hive: the Archchancellor's Hat houses the spirits of hundreds of deceased Archchancellors.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Rincewind gets an up-close look at a Thing at the end. It's described as a mix of a dead horse and an octopus, along with a few other things, which mercifully go undescribed.
  • Mood Whiplash: Done deliberately by Creosote's ancestor in designing his deathtraps: the first few are all pathetic jokes along the line of a bucket of whitewash tipping on your head, while the last one catches you off guard by being a massive slab of stone crashing down.
  • Mortality Phobia: Ipslore the Red takes extreme measures in an attempt to avoid being carried away by Death before his revenge against the wizards is complete.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: parodied with Nijel the Destroyer. He chose the title according to a chapter in his book on Barbarian Heroism.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Ipslore's deal with Death that he can have a kind of life until Coin throws away his staff. Death specifically notes that every prophecy must have some kind of loophole, however small, because the only absolute certainty is Death himself.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Referenced when Rincewind is on a Flying Carpet and says he's "afraid of grounds." When asked "Don't you mean heights?" he replies that it's the grounds that kill you.
  • Old Magic: Sourcery is an older form of magic that turns out to have been effectively suppressed (mostly by preventing wizards from having children, because an eighth son of an eighth son is always a wizard, and if he has an eighth son, they'll be a sourcerer); this was necessary because sourcery is self-reinforcing; the cost of using it is the growing danger of destroying the world.
  • One-Word Title: As the story relates to Sourcerers being connected to the Source of Magic, and, so, deals with Sourcery.
  • Out Sick:
    • Played for laughs when it's explained that inspiration is an actual substance that hits random people/animals. At one point, some inspiration is aiming for a man but he's in bed with shingles, so it hits a frog instead.
    • When Rincewind is sent to be executed, they plan to throw him in with a tiger, but the tiger is sick so they throw him in with a snake instead.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Like any Sourcerer, Coin is this. To put it into perspective: the Disc is already full of magic in the way our universe has energy, albeit to a rather lesser degree than it used to (which is why classical dragons can't exist anymore on the Disc without some form of magical empowerment). While Wizards of the Disc only act as conduits for the innate magic that already exists, a Sourcerer actually creates new magic from nothing — when the Sorcerer uses magic, they actually create it rather than just using what's there. This is akin to taking a bathtub that's already full of water and turning on the faucet until the bathtub overflows, wrecking the bathroom with water seeping into and rotting the floorboards, and eventually causing the whole house to collapse. In short, a Sourcerer being born on the Disc pretty much spells doom for the Disc itself.
  • Perspective Magic: When the wizards are up in Coin's tower of sourcery, one of them remarks that the mountains at the Hub look almost close enough to touch... and Coin reaches out and touches one of them.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Only without the first part, because Nigel did promise his mom he wouldn't.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In-universe example; after the Archchancellor's Hat is stolen, Spelter and Carding create a fake one that looks a lot more like an Archchancellor's hat than the actual one did.
  • Reality Warper: Coin can do anything. Anything. Including imprisoning the entire Discworld pantheon.
  • Recursive Reality: At one point, the supporting cast end up inside the lamp that they themselves are carrying. The genie asks them not to think too hard about it, or the laws of physics might start catching on.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Out of sight for Spelter and in plain sight for Carding. Both had spent most of the book enabling Coin's rise to power, and each realizes what a mistake that was. Spelter is presumably vanished while striking against Coin's staff with a meat cleaver, and Carding realizes that they've opened a highway to the Dungeon Dimensions, goes somewhat mad to the point of frightening Coin, and makes a grab for the staff (which ends badly).
  • Reset Button: What Coin does at the end.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    Ipslore: And what would humans be without love?
    Death: Rare.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Rincewind's hat bears the word "WIZZARD" in sequins.
  • Royal Harem: The Seriph has a seraglio, and Conina is sent there. Rincewind doesn't know what one is, having mistakenly formed the impression that it's something like an iron maiden. For that matter, it doesn't seem that the Seriph himself has much idea what it's supposed to be for, since what he mostly does there is be told stories and recite bad poetry — or, as the book suggests, he has a similar problem to Rincewind's later potato fixation.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Just when he was supposed to die, Ipslore the Red seals himself inside his son's staff and becomes a sort of spirit guide to him (read: his corrupter).
  • Sequel Hook: A wizard always comes back for his hat.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rincewind and Creosote use expressions from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" when they talk about Creosote's "Wilderness". There's also a few ShoutOuts to The Rubaiyat and the Arabian Nights. Combined with It Will Never Catch On when Rincewind says "Telling stories in a harem? That's not bloody normal! It'll never catch on!"
    • Creosote's compliments to women are either inspired by or directly lifted from the Song of Songs — "thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead".
    • Rincewind describes his half-brick in a sock with 'it kills people, but leaves buildings standing', which is a famous description of the neutron bomb.
  • Scenery-Based Societal Barometer: Throughout the Discworld series, Ankh Morpork is a squalid but weirdly likeable Wretched Hive, and Unseen University is a cosy, tawdry, lovably dysfunctional Wizarding School with only vague pretensions to grandeur. As such, when Coin begins altering Unseen University to make it more impressive, it signifies a very worrying change to the status quo; in turn, when the Sourcery-empowered wizards transform the filthy square outside into a polished Shining City — against the wishes of the people - it's a sign to all and sundry that a new, tyrannical Magocracy is being formed on the Disc. When Coin is finally freed from his abusive father's control, he undoes the changes to the University and the city — a microcosm of the repairs he's making to the world as a whole.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: More like shot down by the analogy, as Creosote's efforts to charm a barmaid with his poetic metaphors run head-on into her stubborn insistence that he explain how her hair is like a flock of goats.
  • Significant White Hair, Dark Skin: Conina is explicitly described as having this combination of dark skin and blonde hair. Her description in the text also proves The Cover Always Lies.
  • Snake Pit: The method of last resort for execution. It contains one snake that doesn't want any trouble.
  • The So-Called Coward: Subverted when Rincewind fights the monstrous Things from the Dungeon Dimensions with a handful of sand in a sock, allowing Coin to escape. Then he runs for his life.
  • Sock It to Them: Rincewind uses this technique twice. First against the sourcerer—his staff, specifically. Then later against the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
  • Star Scraper: The New Tower, built entirely of solidified magic.
  • Stealth Pun: Conina wants to be a hairdresser. Which would make her Conina the Barber.
    • Rincewind's description of the half-brick in a sock: it kills people, but leaves buildings standing.
    • Rincewind being told "You can't spell" is a reference both to the fact that he actually misspelled wizard on his hat and to the fact that Rincewind is an Inept Mage so he can't do any spells.
  • This Banana is Armed: Played with. Rincewind is desperate enough to attack Coin's staff with...a half-brick in a sock. Not that it actually works or anything, but Coin is so fascinated by the concept (half-bricks in socks don't ever really occur to you when you have limitless magic at your disposal) that he spares Rincewind.
  • Truth-Telling Session: While watching Rincewind incompetently trying to build a tower in his sleep (because all wizards are doing that) Nijel confesses that he's "not exactly a barbarian hero", Conina says that she lacks "a certain something when it comes to hairdressing" and Creosote admits that his poetry "leaves a lot to be desired".
  • Tyke-Bomb: Coin, of course, shaped from infancy by his malevolent father to be one.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: 90-lb. weakling and nerd Nijel with Head-Turning Beauty Conina.
  • Unnecessary Time Precision: While Rincewind is an Inept Mage, he's had his fair share of adventures. When he meets Nijel, a rather unimpressive Barbarian Hero, he thinks he's found kinship with him. Spending too long away from civilization is bad for one's notion of time, after all. Nijel has only been three days on the road, making his earlier question of what year it is unneeded.
    Rincewind: Exactly how long have you been a barbarian hero?
    Nijel the Destroyer: Er. What year is this?
    Rincewind: Out on the road, then? Lost track of time? I know how it is. This is the year of the Hyena.
    Nijel: Oh, in that case about... about three days.
  • Volatile Second Tier Position: Addressed in the confrontation between Spelter and Carding; because wizards ascend the ranks by means of Klingon Promotion, the struggle to reach the top grows proportionately with each level. However, though wizards of the 6th grade have it tough, wizards of the 5th grade have it even worse, being targeted by both those above and below them; even fellow 5th-graders can't be trusted. As such, at this point in history, 5th-grade wizards are among the most ruthless, driven and dangerous of all the inhabitants of Unseen University.
  • The Unreveal: When Rincewind and the Librarian are at the bar, Rincewind wonders how the Librarian is paying for his drinks. The Librarian gives him an explanation, but since the Librarian is an Intelligible Unintelligible, the explanation is "Oook."
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: the book has many sources of humour... but Ipslore the Red is not one of them, almost singlehandedly being responsible for the book being Darker and Edgier.
  • Water Wake Up: Conina does this to Rincewind after he faints during a battle and accidentally gets the Archchancellor's hat stolen.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: "Have you ever been bitten by a snake?" "No." "Then you'll know exactly what it feels like, because it isn't like a snake bite at all."
  • Wham Line: "All the wizards were wazards".
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Rincewind says he doesn't like snakes much, and promptly gets thrown in the snake pit. Justified in that it was apparently the only functioning torture device in Al-Khali that day.
    • Also hilarious, in that there's really only one snake, and that one doesn't attack. The narration is split on whether it's because the snake sees Rincewind as a sort of possible mongoose, or whether it's just got a good thing going and doesn't want to spoil it by going around biting people.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Poor Coin.
  • The Worf Effect: Kind of a hindsight example, in that Coin (or rather, Carding, powered up and emboldened by Coin) easily dispatches Lord Vetinari, that most Magnificent of Magnificent Bastards. But at the time the book was written, the Patrician's character had not yet been developed, being merely an intelligent politician rather than the nigh-omniscient figure of the later series, so it was probably unintentional. However, it does neatly underline Coin's nature as an Outside-Context Problem and what Wizards are actually, theoretically, capable of.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child:
    • The customers of the Mended Drum might murder each other, but "a child could go in for a glass of lemonade and be certain of getting nothing worse than a clip round the ear when his mother heard his expanded vocabulary."
    • Rincewind intends to clobber the Sourcerer with a half-brick in a sock, but finds himself at a loss for what to do when he sees the Sourcerer is a child. Luckily it soon becomes clear who the real villain is.
  • Wrote the Book: It's said of the Evil Vizier that he wrote the book on dirty tricks — or, more probably, stole it from someone else.