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Literature / The Colour of Magic

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On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet...

The very first Discworld novel, from 1983. Written as a travelogue in which cowardly failed wizard Rincewind and Fish out of Water Twoflower, the world's first tourist, travel much of the Disc while running away from things with big teeth and men with swords. Unlike most of the later ones, it was primarily a vehicle for Terry Pratchett to mock, play with, and deconstruct specific other fantasy series, rather than the much broader field of his later work; introduced his interest in using nuclear physics (his previous area of expertise as a scientific journalist) as a metaphor and parody for how magic works; and, unlike later Discworld novels, is split into six parts rather than a continuous chapterless piece.

It was adapted (with quite a lot of Adaptation Distillation) by Sky TV in 2007, together with The Light Fantastic (but the whole thing was known as The Colour of Magic). It was also adapted into a graphic novel (again with The Light Fantastic) to celebrate the Discworld series' anniversary. Unlike the TV adaptation, this was mostly a straight adaptation of the book, even keeping significant amounts of narrative and not merely the direct plot.

Fantasy directly parodied includes:

  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Vancian Magic system, in which spells take up a certain amount of space in one's head, and are usually named after their creator—also a scene in which the gods literally play dice with the fates of men, teleporting a troll into Rincewind's path.
  • Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: Bravd and the Weasel, and the whole opening chapters with Ankh-Morpork burning. The initial characterization of Death as an actively malevolent being who directly kills people was also taken from here. There are also some noticeable similarities between the plot and some of the characters in The Lure of the Wyrm and Leiber's The Lords of Quarmall. The name of the city Ankh-Morpork is only coincidentally similar to Leiber's Lankhmar, though; Pratchett has denied being consciously influenced.
  • H. P. Lovecraft: Bel-Shamharoth's temple.
  • Conan the Barbarian: Hrun the Barbarian—note that Robert E. Howard used quite a few Eldritch Abominations, and indeed considered Cthulhu Mythos canonical in Conan's world.
  • Michael Moorcock: The concept of the Eternal Hero and the Companion to Champions. Rincewind as an incompetent Elric who can neither cast spells nor use weapons. The Black Sword that sucks souls to Hell - here a sword that drags people into a Hell of boredom and ennui as it grabs the ear of the listener and will not let go. Capricious and chaotic Gods playing with human life for kicks.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: The Dragons of the Wyrmberg, especially since the riders use exclamation marks in their names in a similar way to how McCaffrey's Dragonriders use apostrophes)

Followed by The Light Fantastic, a direct sequel to the story.


  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Death's scythe is mentioned to have bisected a breeze and spoken words, and sliced a candle flame into three parts.
  • Accidental Incantation: The heroes end up in the lair of Bel-Shamharoth, a.k.a. the Soul Eater, an Eldritch Abomination so horrible even Time doesn't go near it. Rincewind realizes exactly where they are; and since he knows that eight is its sacred number, tells everyone not to say the number that corresponds to the sum of seven plus one, or three plus five, or ten minus two... (Even the narration gets in on it, describing the 7a passages as branching off from the room with four times two walls). Cue Hrun's talking sword asking why Rincewind doesn't want them to say "eight"; the words "EIGHT, Hate, ate" echoing around the temple without fading away; and of course, Bel-Shamharoth waking up.
  • Alien Geometries: Bel-Shamharoth's temple is made up of eight-sided stone slabs. Yes, only eight-sided stone slabs.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Liessa Wyrmbidder and Hrun the barbarian.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: The Luggage shows some instances of dog-like behavior, such as shaking itself to get dry.
  • Androcles' Lion: A fairly straight example; Rincewind saves a frog from being swept over the Edge and it later turns out to have had The Lady "riding in its mind". Being that The Lady is... The Lady, it is implied she set this up herself.
  • Anti-Hero: Rincewind, who is not merely cowardly but surprisingly greedy compared with his later appearances, debuts as a Pragmatic Hero.
  • Astronomic Zoom: Literary version. Most other Discworld books go on to start in this way, but The Colour of Magic has the most drawn-out one (unsurprising, as it needs to set the scene and describe the mechanics of the Discworld).
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: Bel-Shamaroth, which can be considered both type 1 and type 2.
  • Barbarian Hero: Hrun and Bravd.
  • Because I'm Good At It: The reason Dactylos keeps designing things no matter how many bits of him his employers remove.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Zweiblumen (The name of Twoflower's alternate dimension counterpart) is German for "Twoflower".
    • For that matter, perfectly reversed in the German translation, where Twoflower is named Zweiblum ("Zweiblumen" actually is the plural form and would correspond to "Twoflowers"; also, the German translator rendered Twoflower as Zweiblum to make it sound like a genuine German note  name). The name of the aforementioned counterpart is, obviously, reverse-translated as Jack Twoflower.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: Bel-Shamharoth is defeated when Twoflower's camera flashes in his eye.
  • Blow Gun: The leader of the Assassin Guild uses a blowgun as his weapon.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Bel-Shamharoth.
    He was not Evil, for even Evil has a certain vitality; Bel-Shamharoth was the flip side of the coin of which both Good and Evil together make up only one side.
  • Camera Obscurer: Rincewind uses a camera flash to defeat an Eldritch Abomination and later finds out that he only has a photo of his thumb to show for it.
  • Cargo Cult: The eventual fate of the first in-sewer-ants policy of Ankh-Morpork, blown out to sea, where a small island nation found it and worshipped it as a god, eventually prompting some of the Unseen University's wizards to come have a looksee.
  • Cats Are Magic: To an extent. It's mentioned that cats can see into the octarine, and so can also see Death.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Liessa. Played with, in that this is how all Dragonriders in the Wyrmburg dress, including the men.
  • Chandelier Swing: Mentioned by Twoflower as one of the things he's heard about people doing in tavern brawls.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Rincewind is almost kind of a Jerkass who shamelessly fleeces Twoflower out of his money and only protects him because the Patrician will kill him if he doesn't.
    • Death here is a sadistic murderer and casual killer, very much unlike his later sympathetic portrayal.
    • Could be said of the Assassin's Guild as whole, which here consists simply of dangerous thugs rather than the much more refined hired killers of the later books.
    • The Patrician, to the point where many fans refuse to believe it's the same person as the Vetinari of later books, despite the invoked Word of God.
  • Character Shilling: Twoflower loves going on about how great a wizard Rincewind is. Rincewind can't even spell the word correctly.
  • Cheap Gold Coins: played with. Ankh-Morporkian "gold pieces" are actually "gold-ish", containing less actual gold than seawater. The coins Twoflower brings with him, however, are solid gold—he comes from the Agatean Empire, where gold is a very common metal—and he frequently pays for meals with enough gold to buy the restaurant out of business.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A few:
    • The only spell Rincewind was able to learn. Subverted, since he doesn't get to use it, at least not in this book. In the next one, though..
    • The frog Rincewind saved near the Rimfall in the fourth arc of the book, which is revealed to be The Lady in the book's climax.
    • The fact that the Discworld is flat and the exposition about Great A'tuin the World Turtle doesn't become relevant until the end of the book, where our main characters find themselves near the Rimfall, the edge of the world, and are almost sacrificed for the sake of discovering the gender of said World Turtle.
    • Rincewind throws a wine bottle at the Guestmaster, who freezes it in the air with magic. The next time the Guestmaster comes in, the spell wears off and the bottle smashes into his head.
  • Chest Monster: The Luggage, a walking chest made of sapient pearwood. One of the few good-guy examples... for a given value of "good".
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Dragons at the Wyrmberg only materialize if the one who imagines them believes in them strongly enough, and vanish if their summoner falls unconscious.
  • Cliffhanger: The book ends with Rincewind thrown off the edge of the world, and the fates of Twoflower and The Luggage left ambiguous.
  • Collapsing Lair: Bel-Shamharoth's temple collapses after the Eldritch Abomination retreats back to its own dimension. The description of how Time re-asserts its claim upon the site is fairly vivid.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Innovation Comics published one in 1991. Having come out some time after the original, it alters some of the Early-Installment Weirdness, such as removing Death's casual murders and having Vetinari more in line with his later depiction.
  • Con Man: Rincewind, technically speaking, who takes it upon himself to spin a few tales for Twoflower's benefit in exchange for gold. Unfortunately (for Rincewind) things don't work out as he hoped.
  • Cool Sword: Kring, Hrun's talking sword.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: The gods of Discworld influence the events on the Disc by playing a game that involves rolling dice and moving pieces around a world map.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The Wyrmberg's halls are mostly deserted, their contents rusting and covered with dust. This is because the level of ambient magic is weaker than it used to be, limiting the ruling family's dragon-summoning powers, which have also weakened over the generations.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Pterry himself in a 1985 speech described the book as "an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns."
  • Determinator: Nothing will stop the Luggage following Twoflower.
  • Deus ex Machina: A literal example, crossed with a Chekhov's Gun in the reveal that the frog Rincewind saved was really Lady Luck, a literal God. This is, of course, Played for Laughs.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: See Blinding Camera Flash above.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Eldritch Abomination Bel-Shamharoth turns out to be this.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The dryad condemns Rincewind to death for accidentally peeling a strip of bark from her tree, and doesn't care that he was clinging to it to avoid a fatal fall. (Have to wonder what punishment she hands out to woodpeckers...)
  • Downer Ending: Rincewind and Twoflower fall off the edge of the world. However, they survive in the next book.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Spoofed, since there are no guns in this setting, it's a Dramatic Crossbow Cock instead. Several of them.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: A LOT. Let's see—
    • Death acts psychotically, randomly killing people out of spite, unlike his later sympathetic view on humanity, seeing his role as a duty and not being the one who decides who dies and when. Also, some of the details of his job aren't quite ironed out, showing him actively taking souls, rather than just severing the link between corpse and spirit, and mentioning Famine as an underling, rather than a co-worker.
    • The Patrician is flabby, capricious and eats rare delicacies. Despite the invoked Word of God, many fans refuse to believe it's the same Patrician as the thin, coldly logical, ascetic Vetinari.
    • The plural and adjective for dwarf are dwarves and dwarven respectively, as in The Lord of the Rings (and its many imitators). Pratchett would not switch to 'dwarfs' and 'dwarfish' until a few books later.
    • After encountering dryads, Rincewind reflects he thought they were extinct, and believed that the only non-human races still around were elves and trolls, specifically mentioning that gnomes and pixies had died out. This is almost the reverse of later books, where there are no (pure-blood) elves on Discworld, only occasional extradimensional invaders, and gnomes and pixies are commonplace.
    • A peculiar one is that the King of the Wyrmberg calls himself a 13th-level wizard, while the next book will say that there are only 8 levels. Odd because this is the book that introduces and emphasises the number 8 being important, and indeed the idea of wizarding levels is barely brought up in books after Sourcery. In any case, this was justified in the Discworld Companion by saying that levels higher than 8 are just made up by foreign wizards trying to inflate their own titles.
    • It's stated that wizards are usually very skinny, when in later entries rather the opposite is true.
    • Relatedly, there's no mention of wizards practicing Klingon Promotion at all. That won't be until the next book.
    • Pratchett's trademark Footnote Fever isn't really established yet, either. Not that there are no footnotes in The Colour of Magic, but they're few and far between.
    • The Ankh is treated as an actual river, wherein it's entirely possible to drown with ease, as opposed to the highly euphemistic river (or more accurately, mud with some water in it) of later books. Though it is described as being very polluted.
    • The Assassin's Guild is depicted as a bunch of thuggish cutthroats as opposed to their later characterization as refined, elegant gentlemen.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Bel-Shamharoth, the Sender of Eight, is a stock one.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: The Rimbow, the great rainbow caused by the sunlight shining through the Rimfall as it pours from the Edge, which—due to the magical field—has eight colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and octarine. We finally get to see an artistic representation of this in The Last Hero.
  • Exotic Entree: The Patrician enjoys delicacies like candied jellyfish.
    • During Rincewind and Twoflower's captivity in Krull, they're offered a large quantity of exotic seafood.
  • Expospeak Gag: reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits->echo-gnomics->economics.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos pretty much knows he's going to die when he finishes his latest construction, and sure enough, his current employer has him shot in the chest with a crossbow. He calmly examines the bolt and comments on its shoddy workmanship before expiring.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: Rincewind measures the Wyrmberg's magical field in (milli)Primes. In every other book it's (milli)thaums. This was explained in the Discworld Companion as being two competing measurement systems, like Fahrenheit and Celsius.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Wyrmberg area suffered a direct hit by one during the Mage Wars, and the ensuing Fantastic Fallout means that it is home to an upside-down mountain, imaginary dragons, and coins land on their edge or don't come down at all.
  • Fantasy Aliens: Tethys the water troll hails from another planet and arrived on the disc by falling off his previous world.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Agatean Empire here seems mainly based on Japan (both the fact that it is closed to outsiders and has only one port, like Tokugawa-era Japan, and Twoflower's tourist stereotype seems mainly based on Japanese tourists). However, its naming conventions are based on Aztec names rendered literally into English. When Pratchett actually sets a book there, it's mostly based on China, with Japanese items thrown in.
  • Fate Worse than Death: When the dryads are going to execute Rincewind for damaging their tree, but nonetheless say he's fortunate compared to Twoflower who is trapped in Bel-Shamharoth's temple—
    "Your friend is going to meet Bel-Shamharoth. You will merely die."
  • Fictional Colour: The titular Colour of Magic is Octarine, the eighth colour, the pigment of the imagination. Depending on the scene, it's either invisible or blacker than black if you aren't a creature that can see magic, like a wizard or cat. If you can see magic, Rincewind describes it as a sort of disappointing purplish-greenish-yellow. This may be based on the colour of the afterimages one sees after looking into a bright light.
  • Flat World: The introduction of the Discworld.
  • Foreign Queasine: Rincewind's reaction to the food in Krull, such as the 'salty' wine made of 'sea grapes' (actually tiny jellyfish) and a biscuit made of pressed seaweed which is described as having a 'masochist' flavor.
  • Genre Savvy: Hrun the Barbarian is used to the world being one big dungeon crawl: "You find chokeapples under a chokeapple tree. You find treasure under altars."
    • He also specifically requests to fight both of Liessa's brothers at the same time, claiming he'll have them outnumbered one to two. Interesting Times and The Last Hero will confirm that Discworld heroes really do expect for the outnumbered warrior to be the one who triumphs.
  • Gilligan Cut: Rincewind thinks about rescuing Twoflower or buying a fast horse and legging it. A man would have to be a total heel to leave Twoflower to the mercy of Ankh-Morpork's crooks... the next paragraph begins with Rincewind having been dragged before the Patrician, after his men caught him trying to flee the city via horse.
  • Gravity Screw: After Rincewind threw a wine bottle at the Guestmaster, he retaliated with Atavarr's Personal Gravitational Upset, a spell that left Rincewind standing on the wall, unable to get back to the floor.
  • Gun Twirling: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, the head of the Assassins' Guild spins, then holsters his blowpipe after firing off a poisoned dart.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Figures rather prominently.
  • Heads, Tails, Edge: Rincewind confirms his suspicions that they have entered a magical fallout zone when he successfully calls a tossed coin as 'edge'.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Down in the darkest trench of the Disk's oceans, there exist things so unspeakably disgusting and horrific that even kraken dare not go near them. One falls afoul of the Luggage, and washes ashore on a remote island. The islanders who find it note that on its face is an expression of terror.
  • How We Got Here: The first segment (not counting the prologue) is structured like this, with Ankh-Morpork already in flames, and Bravd and the Weasel asking Rincewind for an explanation.
  • I Lied: The Arch-astronomer of Krull, after the spaceship is completed, promised that Dactylos would be simply be released from his services, rather than mutilated as he was by previous employers. The Arch-astronomer has him shot with an arrow, even admitting that he lied about it.
  • I Like Those Odds: Hrun the Barbarian declares he'll fight both dragonlords at once:
    Liartes: That's pretty uneven odds, isn't it?
    Hrun: Yah. I outnumber you one to two.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Greicha, ruler of Wyrmberg, who's actually Dead All Along, won't give up his domain until one of his children proves their worth. Liessa, his incredibly headstrong daughter, hires Hrun the Barbarian to kill her brothers so she'll get the position by default. She's also the one who killed Greicha in the first place.
  • Insurance Fraud: While captive, Twoflower sells Broadman an Inn-sewer-ants policy for the Broken Drum. Naturally, when he gets a chance to slip away, Broadman goes to burn it down, mostly because Inn-sewer-ants was described as a bet that the Drum won't burn down.
  • In Mysterious Ways: The gods not only play dice with the universe, they play Dungeons & Dragons. Many of the seemingly capricious plot events that befall Rincewind and Twoflower are manifestations of an exciting tabletop gaming session between Fate and The Lady.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: An ocean-based hovercraft works by having hydrophobic mages, who don't hate but loathe water, stare at it and repel it with their loathing. They're very expensive, Rincewind says. Have to be trained on dehydrated water.
  • King on His Deathbed: Greicha, the ruler of the Wyrmberg gets poisoned by his daughter. However, since she is still in a power struggle with her two brothers, he refuses to pass on, lingering as a lich until he makes sure she is fit to rule on her own.
  • Load-Bearing Boss/No Ontological Inertia: Done interestingly with Bel-Shamharoth's temple—as soon as he retreats, the thousands of years of time that was held at bay by his power comes rushing in and the temple not only falls apart but is ground down to dust in seconds.
  • Magical Land: The whole Disc to some extent, but some regions such as the area around the Wyrmberg are particularly magical. However, this is because they are suffering from the magical equivalent of nuclear fallout from a war at the dawn of time between the gods and the First Men.
  • Meaningful Name: Suitably for a wizard, Galder's name sounds like galdr, an ancient Norse magical incantation.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: One of the worlds Tethys passed while drifting in space had a "mountain range" consisting of the spinal ridges of a continent-sized sleeping dragon.
  • Naïve Animal Lover: Referenced:
    (Rincewind) always held that panic was the best means of survival; back in the olden days, his theory went, people faced with hungry sabre-toothed tigers could be divided very simply into those who panicked and those who stood there saying "What a magnificent brute!" and "Here, pussy."
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever it was that caused Rincewind and Hrun to meet previously (which might have something to do with the fact they're both favoured by The Lady).
  • Offhand Backhand: Hrun instinctively reaches out and grabs the dagger-holding hand of Liessa in mid-stab... while fast asleep. Then again, a few moments later (now awake), when he stands up and casually disarms and incapacitates the guards 'out of habit'.
  • Old Magic: The dryad Druellae calls her magic "Not your weasel-faced tame magic, but root-and-branch magic, the old magic. Wild magic." Rincewind remembers just enough magical theory to understand what she's doing (which, ironically, is a magitek Faraday disc), and that UU strictly forbids it.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: This introduces the two breeds of dragon, Draco(nis) vulgaris the small realistic swamp dragon, and Draco(nis) nobilis, huge dragons as we expect them to be, and can only exist thanks to strong magic or belief (also, because they're not exactly real, they're often mostly transparent). The books describe the dragons repeatedly as having horse-like heads, although the graphic novel adaptation doesn't in any way correspond to that image.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Greicha, late king of the Wyrmberg, used his wizardly knowledge to stick around after death until one of his children could defeat the other two and thus prove worthy of the throne.
  • Ouroboros: Tethys once passed a world that was an equally common world myth as the turtle-elephant-disc structure, that of a world entwined by a serpent ouroboros.
  • Palate Propping: Rincewind props open the Luggage's lid before he dares remove some packed food and water from it. Soon as he's finished doing so, the Luggage subverts this trope by ever-so-deliberately closing its lid, grinding the wooden prop into powder.
  • The Perils of Being the Best: A short section focuses on a great architect who has built a number of masterpieces, only for his employers to decide to mutilate or cripple him afterward so that he could never build a better work for another country. After finishing his latest work, he only wants to be let go and left alone. Instead his employer kills him.
  • Pet the Dog: Rincewind, who has been our Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist for a majority of the book, saves a frog from going over the edge, not realising that it's The Lady in disguise.
  • Pocket Protector: Rincewind is saved from a sword thrust to the heart by a bag of Twoflower's gold he has concealed under his robe.
  • Powers That Be: One of only two Disc novels to mention the Old High Ones "to whom even the gods are answerable", who intervened to prevent the destruction of the Disc in the aforementioned war by banishing the gods to Cori Celesti and remaking men a good deal smaller.
  • Quiet Cry for Help: A variation on this trope is seen when Rincewind tries to take advantage of the fact that only he speaks Twoflower's language to warn Twoflower about his choice of lodging.
  • Raging Stiffie: Just before he's rescued from Liessa, Hrun is described as 'priapic'.
  • Relieving the Reaper: Late in the book, Death sends Scrofula to collect Rincewind's soul when he falls off the edge of the Disc, as he has a plague to deal with on another part of the Disc.
  • Rejected by the Empathic Weapon: Kring, the magic talking sword, is picked up not by the mighty hero he expects but by freakin' Rincewind. The sword realizes it has to make the best of the situation, but is passive-aggressive and snarky the entire time until Rincewind is finally able to hand it off to Hrun, to their mutual relief.
  • Required Secondary Powers: When Ninereeds snatches up Hrun and carries him off, it's specifically mentioned that the dragon "momentarily sychronised their bodily rhythms" so the abrupt acceleration wouldn't hurt him.
  • Retcon: Needless to say, as this is the first book there are quite a few later on...
    • One paragraph particularly stands out, when Rincewind is surprised that dryads still exist. His monologue mentions that it's thought that only trolls and elves survived the "coming of men to the Disc" and that gnomes and pixies have died out. Later books instead state that there are no elves on the Disc and gnomes and pixies are very much still there.
    • Hrun says that swamp dragons are extinct, but they prominently appear in later books, such as Guards! Guards!. For that matter, the description of swamp dragons in this book — as acid-spewing monsters — is very different to the small fire-breathing pets of later books.
    • The nature of the Patrician simply changes completely between this and later books, without explanation; see Characterization Marches On and Early-Installment Weirdness.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: Twoflower's money is made of pure gold, which in his homeland is considered Worthless Yellow Rocks and only used as a fiat currency. As a result an amount of money that would keep going for a month at home makes him effectively the richest man in the city. The Patrician actually points out what this would do to the value of gold if he kept spreading it around, but Rincewind doesn't get it. Twoflower himself apparently never figures this out, and for example rents a room at the Drum for more than the worth of the Drum.
  • Scenery Porn: The epic descriptions of Great A'tuin, the elephants and the Disc. This is often briefly recapped at the start of later novels, but The Colour of Magic has such descriptions throughout (particularly called-back at the end, where Tethys holds Rincewind over the Edge and he sees them for himself). We finally got to see some of these wonders realised as artwork in The Last Hero.
  • Serial Prostheses: Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos. His backstory consists of him inventing marvels for various royals, only for his employers to mutilate him so that he couldn't repeat the invention for anyone else. When his latest employer asks why he didn't just give it all up and try flower arranging, he replies "I'm good at it."
  • Shoot the Builder: Dactylos (see above) has been suffering this on the installment plan, as it were. His current employer has promised to let him go free, but he doesn't hold out much hope.
    "I Lied." (arrow shot)
    "Sloppy workmanship."
  • Shout-Out: Besides the direct parodies noted above;
    • The place name "Ecalpon" ('noplace' spelled backwards) is a reference to Erewhon (almost 'nowhere' backwards).
    • The name Rincewind is derived from J. B. Morton's "Beachcomber" column in the London Daily Express — specifically, it was the name of one of the dwarves in the "Mr Justice Cocklecarrot and the twelve Red-Bearded Dwarves" features.
    • Twoflower mentions having read The Octarine Fairy Book as a child; this is the Discworld version of the Andrew Lang series of colour-named fairy tale compilations such as The Blue Fairy Book.
    • Death sawing at the tree in which Rincewind is curled up is an homage to The Seventh Seal.
    • Kring the talking sword mentions a notch that came from an enemy wearing an octiron collar. Likely a reference to Gimli and Legolas' Body-Count Competition in The Lord of the Rings, Gimli's axe was notched from the forty-second orc, who had an iron collar.
    • One of Kring's escapades, which he grumbles about, was spending some time at the bottom of a lake.
    • Kring also mentions a wish to be forged into a ploughshare, a reference to Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3
    • Death telling Rincewind that they have an appointment in a far away city and offering him to loan him his horse to get there is an inverted version of the Appointment in Samarra folktale.
    • Rincewind's explanation of hydrophobic wizards' ability to levitate over water is a rewording of the way levitation was controlled by the protagonist of Randall Garrett's What The Left Hand Was Doing:
      The Colour of Magic: “You mean they hate water?” said Twoflower. “No, that wouldn’t work,” said Rincewind. “Hate is an attracting force, just like love. They really loathe it, the very idea of it revolts them.”
      What The Left Hand Was Doing: He didn’t hate it. That would be deadly, for hate implies as much attraction as love... Only loathing could save him. The earth beneath was utterly repulsive to him.
      • Garrett's levitator ended up flying home over an ocean that he'd persuaded himself to loath.
      • Garrett is not usually listed among Pratchett's influencers but was in the right time and genre to be one.
  • Shown Their Work: Before he created the Discworld, Pratchett wrote science fiction, and put some thought into the nature of climate and physics for a functional discworld. Hence the hub is arctic, the edge equatorial (because the sun passes close to the edge). It would also have eight seasons (two summers, when the sun sets or rises near you, two winters when it doesn't, two springs and two falls), hence the general affection for the number eight. The earliest books are really the only ones to make much mention of it, thought the characterization lasts. He just focuses more on the stories and people than on The Science of Discworld. With one or two exceptions.

    Every other book ignores the fact that a Disc year is 800 days long and treats 'a year' as being like one on Earth. This was explained in the Discworld Companion as farmers treating the 400 days' single cycle through the seasons as 'a year' and ignoring the fact that the sun rises on different sides in alternating years, and most ordinary people use the farmers' definition rather than the wizards' one. "You plough, you sow, it grows, you harvest — that's a year, no matter what some daft man in Ankh-Morpork says".
  • Slave Market: Because Ankh-Morpork is the quintessence of a classic Sword and Sorcery city at this point, of course it has a slave market, which Twoflower regards as one of the sights he has to see — though we don't get details.
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: As an Establishing Character Moment for Ankh-Morporkians as a whole: a fire started in the rougher part of town soon spreads. Rich citizens are soon selfishly hacking down the bridges that span the river so the panicking crowds won't be able to invade.
  • Speak of the Devil: Bel-Sh*mh*roth, the Sender of [6+2]. Inverted with The Lady, the goddess who only aids those who never invoke her, and speaking her name makes her flee away... who, in case you haven't guessed, is Lady Luck.
    • The Bel-Shamharoth example is subject to an Running Gag of Discworld and Rincewind, and even the book's narration dancing around the number:
      Rincewind: Hrun, listen. If you add four to four, or take two from ten, you get a number. In here, whatever you do, don't say it, and we might get out of this alive.
      Kring: Strange. Why can't he say eight?
  • Talking Weapon: Kring the magical talking sword.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Double-subverted in the encounter with the troll on the road from Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind tries throwing his sword at it, and misses it completely... but then, due to divine intervention, the sword ricochets off a rock and strikes the troll a lethal blow from behind.
  • Time Stands Still: When Rincewind hurls a bottle at the Guestmaster, the latter wards off the attack by stopping time for the bottle, leaving it hanging in midair. Thanks to the Lady, the effect wears off just in time for it to knock its intended target unconscious the next time he enters the room.
  • Time Travel: Spoofed. As well as the more usual three categories of plants, annuals (you plant it this year, it comes up the same year), biannuals (you plant it this year, it comes up next year) and perennials (you plant it this year, it keeps coming up every year), Discworld also includes re-annuals, which you plant this year and come up last year. Wine made from reannual grapes is highly prized, but gives you the 'hangunder' before you drink it.
  • Title Drop: "It was octarine, the colour of magic. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself. But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple."
  • Tongue Trauma: The usual fate of any poor sod caught by the Empire of Krull is their tongue gets cut out.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: The book establishes the principle that Discworld magic-workers have a unique gift, but still need training and competence to use it safely. (Even Rincewind has the gift, though he lacks any competence whatsoever.) The gift is defined here as the ability to see octarine light (see above), though that is largely forgotten in later books.
  • Translation: "Yes": A running gag with the beTrobi language; for instance, the beTrobi for "remarkable" is more literally "a thing which may happen but once in the usable lifetime of a canoe hollowed diligently by axe and fire from the tallest diamondwood tree that grows in the noted diamondwood forests on the lower Slopes of Mount Awayawa, home of the firegods or so it is said".
  • Translator Microbes: Twoflower is able to read the words directing travelers to the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth, even after he realizes he's unfamiliar with the language they're inscribed in.
  • Vancian Magic: The narration states this is how spellcasting works (at least with wizards), though nobody is shown using magic at least to a point where this would be demonstrated in practice. This does not seem to be the case in any later books.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The book is a constant stream of them.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Bel-Shamharoth. So ancient that most of his kind have gone extinct long ago, so repulsive that Time itself dares not touch his temple or its surroundings, and it's stated (though in jest) that Death might not have dared to touch him. So powerful that his existence is the reasons why wizards should not say the word eight, so alien that looking at him drives to insanity... and cripplingly weak to bright light.
    • Also, when two hydrophobes on Krull try to apprehend the pair, a quick-thinking Twoflower incapacitates one of them by spitting on his hand.
  • Weapon Wields You: Kring the magical talking sword does this several times during the rescue it forces Rincewind to carry out.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Tethys the water troll is last seen getting into the space capsule with Twoflower and plummeting over the edge. When Twoflower is magically rescued along with the capsule in the next book he isn't even mentioned. A rare example where all options are positive; he can survive travel in space unassisted and wanted off the Disc anyway, or the spell used could easily have just sent him home.
    • The Discworld Companion suggests he's still in the lake that Rincewind lands in in The Light Fantastic.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: One worker on the Circumfence nearly falls afoul of the Luggage, and spends several hours clinging to a rock. It instils in him such a hatred of water he moves to the most arid desert he can find... and it's still too moist for him.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Twoflower, which Rincewind attempts to take advantage of.
  • World of Pun: Later Discworld novels love their punes, or plays on words, but they are omnipresent here.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: Rincewind and Twoflower meet in the stereotypical fantasy inn the Broken Drum, which is also filled with heroes and adventurers. The name, incidentally, is explained in another Pratchett book, Strata: "Because you can't beat it".
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Subverted, as the words "THE END" are followed immediately by a few more pages of story.
  • You Said You Would Let Me Go: This was the reward the High Priest of Krull promised his architect, a man so brilliant he had already been mutilated by three previous employers so he could never surpass his work for them. Unfortunately for the architect, he lied.