Night spread across the Disc like plum jam, or possibly blackberry preserve.
But there would be a morning. There would always be another morning. – Terry Pratchett
The next book in my revisit of the epic Discworld series is Sourcery. This book is part of the Wizards mini-series, and sees the return of the Death-defying Rincewind. In Equal Rites we learn that the eighth son of an eighth son will grow up to become a wizard. We also learned that wizards don’t get into relationships. And in all honesty most wizards have forgotten the real reason why, but follow the rule out of tradition.
One wizard, however, chose to break with tradition on this point. Ipslore the Red left the Unseen University to follow his heart, starting a family. And he has children, including eight sons. This is why wizards don’t have relationships-the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son becomes a sorcerer, the most powerful type of wizard. And this is where this story begins – at the end. Well, the end of Ipslore’s life. But when Death arrives, Ipslore evades him, transferring his consciousness into his staff, which his eighth son holds. And it is said that you cannot take a wizard’s staff from him.
Over the years the staff guides the boy, named Coin, moulding him, teaching him and refining his powers, growing in strength. At the age of ten, his power is great and, urged on by his staff (inhabited by Ipslore), Coin heads to Ankh-Morpork to overthrow the Unseen University and become Archchancellor, returning sorcery to the Disc.
Once again, Pratchett wonderfully parodies real world history here. Not satisfied with taking over the university, the spirit of his father urges Coin to take over Ankh-Morpork, then, before long, the Disc. Like so many historic figures, power starts to warp the mind and corrupt the soul.
Whether for the betterment of their fellow man, or for sheer greed and power, someone has risen up and wrested power from those already at the top. And in much the same way as Coin in Sourcery, this first taste of power is only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. Rather than sating their thirst, often this first taste of power leads to delusions of grandeur and a desire for an even bigger power grab.
And as so often is the case in the round world, Coin is coerced and cajoled into it all be the spirit of his father, residing in the young sorcerer’s staff. When a student of the University, Ipslore found himself thrown out for his desires to have a family, cast out in disgrace. Without significant achievement to his name, and a disgraced past, the spirit of the wizard lives vicariously, and vindictively, through his son – pushing him towards power no matter the outcome.
Years of inactivity and status quo see the wizards, excluding Rincewind, back their young leader, enjoying their new found powers and the elevated status it affords them. As with so many Roundworld examples throughout history, people have a nose for power and so follow the tides as they swing towards victory, wealth or power. History repeats itself, with the wizards striking out against their brothers in for’n parts and the power of sorcery grows on the Disc. In the past, the Disc was left scorched and scarred by the last battle between sorcerers. Large areas are uninhabitable due to latent magic, and many aspects have been altered immensely. It was these wars that lead to the end of sorcery, and is the reason why wizards don’t have children.
The battle heads towards an inevitable zenith – the Apocraplypse (a bit like the Apocalypse). The Four Horseman, however, get waylaid due to the theft of their horses by Rincewind and his merry band of misfits, well, that and the significant amount of alcohol they imbibe. The Ice Giants even march forth across the plains to reclaim the world.
Thankfully, sense prevails. As Rincewind tries to reason with Coin, or hit him with a half-brick in a sock, Coin begins to question the blind faith he puts in his father’s words. As has happened all too often on Roundworld, realisation hits and suddenly those in power don’t seem quite like the best people to follow after all.
Rather than destroy the sorry figure of Rincewind, Coin turns on the staff. A quick trip to the Dungeon Dimensions as a result of destroying his staff, and the entrapment of Rincewind there, see a complete change of heart for the young sorcerer.
He offers to make the University good as knew, but the Librarian insists on it being made good as old. He can see the Disc is too fragile for the almost-limitless power of sorcery, so creates a new world into which he can go and live, in an alternate dimension.
Obviously the story ends happily ever after, sort of. Rincewind may well be trapped in the Dungeon Dimension, but the Apocralypse is averted, and the wizards realise a sedentary life is far better, and easier than one of limitless power.
This book is one of my favourites that have featured Rincewind so far. Firstly, it makes a nice change that impending doom and the end of the world isn’t the fault of the luckless wizard. But also, Terry Pratchett continues his use of Roundworld events to make a light-hearted parody on the Disc. While the outcomes are different, the ideas presented in Sourcery are very similar. You only need look at the numerous wars throughout history – civil, world, revolutionary, crusading or just plain power grabbing – to see the parallels. Where there is power to be taken, someone, often led by someone of greed behind the scenes, will make a grab for it. And seeing an opportunity for easy glory, many will follow these people into the fray.
And often, as happens in this book, when the tables turn against them, the followers flee, claiming only to have acted on orders, leaving a misguided, misinformed soul to face the music their actions and rhetoric has earned them.
While I will be continuing my Discworld read through, I will be taking a brief pause for my next book. Following its release, I am keen to read the lecture Sir Terry Pratchett wrote for the BBC Richard Dimbley Lectures – Shaking Hands With Death. It touches on some divisive subject matter, so am keen to read his views, and give my thoughts on it.
2 thoughts on “Sourcery – Terry Pratchett”
I taught a class on comics a few years ago called “Absolute Power” and your title grabbed me, so at last, Steve, I am forced to stop thinking about making a comment and actually comment. I’ve enjoyed your posts and I do intend to read through all of them, but there never seems to be the time. In any case, reading literate people read literature is always fun. Keep up the good work and remember lack of comment does not mean no one is reading and enjoying!
Hi Wendy. Thank you for your comments! It’s nice to hear from the people reading the assortment of words that leave my mind.
I am by no means a Shakespear, King or Pratchett. But I really enjoy writing, and I love reading. So this blog is a way for me to indulge n both passions. The next post will be up very shortly, and I’ll be sure to keep going. I hope you continue to enjoy my thoughts!