Discworld is a comic fantasy book series written
by the English writer Terry Pratchett, set on the fictional Discworld, a flat disc balanced
on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great
A’Tuin. The books frequently parody, or take inspiration from, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert
E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft and William Shakespeare, as well as mythology, folklore and fairy tales,
often using them for satirical parallels with current cultural, political and scientific
issues. The series is popular, with more than 80 million books sold in 37 languages.
Since the first novel, The Colour of Magic, 40 Discworld novels have been published as
of November 2013. Pratchett, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, has said that he would
be happy for his daughter Rhianna to continue the series when he is no longer able to do
so. The original British editions of the first 26 novels, up to Thief of Time, had distinctive
cover art by Josh Kirby; the American editions, published by Harper Collins, used their own
cover art. Since Kirby’s death in October 2001, the covers have been designed by Paul
Kidby. Companion publications include eleven short stories, four popular science books,
and a number of supplementary books and reference guides. In addition, the series has been adapted
for graphic novels, for the theatre, as computer and board games, as music inspired by the
series, and repeatedly for television. Newly released Discworld books regularly top
The Sunday Times best-sellers list, making Pratchett the UK’s best-selling author in
the 1990s, although he has since been overtaken by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Discworld
novels have also won awards such as the Prometheus Award and the Carnegie Medal. In the BBC’s
Big Read, four Discworld novels were in the top 100, and a total of fourteen in the top
200. Composition
Very few of the Discworld novels have chapter divisions, instead featuring interweaving
storylines. Pratchett is quoted as saying that he “just never got into the habit of
chapters”, later adding that “I have to shove them in the putative YA books because my editor
screams until I do”. However, the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was divided into
“books”, as is Pyramids. Additionally, Going Postal and Making Money both have chapters,
a prologue, an epilogue, and brief teasers of what is to come in each chapter, in the
style of A. A. Milne, Jules Verne and Jerome K. Jerome.
Themes and motifs The Discworld novels contain common themes
and motifs that run through the series. Fantasy clichés are parodied in many of the novels,
as are various sub-genres of fantasy, such as fairy tales, witch and vampire stories
and so on. Analogies of real-world issues, such as religion, business and politics, are
recurring themes, as are music genres such as opera or rock music. Parodies of non-Discworld
fiction also occur frequently, including Shakespeare, Beatrix Potter and several movies. Major historical
events, especially battles, are sometimes used as the basis for both trivial and key
events in Discworld stories, as are trends in science, technology, and pop culture. There
are also humanist themes in many of the Discworld novels, and a focus on critical thinking skills
in the Witches and Tiffany Aching series. Storylines
To a greater or lesser degree, Discworld stories stand alone as independent works set in the
same fantasy universe. However, a number of novels and stories can be grouped together
into grand story arcs dealing with a set number of characters and events, and some books refer
to earlier events. The main threads within the Discworld series are:
Rincewind Rincewind was the first protagonist of Discworld;
a wizard with no skill, no wizardly qualifications and no interest in heroics. He is the archetypal
coward, but is constantly thrust into extremely dangerous adventures. In The Last Hero, he
flatly states that he does not wish to join an expedition to explore over the edge of
the Disc—but, being fully geared for the expedition at the time, clarifies by saying
that any amount of protesting on his part is futile, as something will eventually occur
that will bring him into the expedition anyway. As such, he not only constantly succeeds in
staying alive, but also saves Discworld on several occasions, and has an instrumental
role in the emergence of life on Roundworld. Other characters in the Rincewind story arc
include: Cohen the Barbarian, an ageing hero of the old fantasy tradition, out of touch
with the modern world and still fighting despite his advanced age; Twoflower, a naive tourist
from the Agatean Empire; and The Luggage, a magical, semi-sentient and exceptionally
vicious multi-legged travelling accessory, made from sapient pearwood. Rincewind has
appeared in eight Discworld novels as well as the four Science of Discworld supplementary
books. Death Death appears in every novel except The Wee
Free Men and Snuff, although sometimes with only a few lines. As dictated by tradition,
he is a seven-foot-tall skeleton in a black robe who sits astride a pale horse. His dialogue
is always depicted in small caps, and without quotation marks, as several characters state
that Death’s voice seems to arrive in their heads without actually passing through their
ears as sound. As the anthropomorphic personification of
death, Death has the job of guiding souls onward from this world into the next. Over
millennia in the role, he has developed a fascination with humanity, even going so far
as to create a house for himself in his personal dimension.
Characters that often appear with Death include his butler Albert; his granddaughter Susan
Sto Helit; the Death of Rats, the part of Death in charge of gathering the souls of
rodents; Quoth, a talking raven; and the Auditors of Reality, personifications of the orderly
physical laws and the closest thing Death has to a nemesis. Death or Susan appear as
the main characters in five Discworld novels. He also appears in the short stories Death
and What Comes Next, Theatre of Cruelty and Turntables of the Night.
Death also appears in the non-Discworld novel Good Omens, written by Pratchett and Neil
Gaiman. Witches Witches in Pratchett’s universe are largely
stripped of their modern occultist associations, and act as herbalists, adjudicators and wise
women. That is not to say that witches on the Disc cannot use magic; they simply prefer
not to, finding simple but cunningly applied psychology far more effective.
The principal witch in the series is Granny Weatherwax, who at first glance seems to be
a taciturn, bitter old crone, from the small mountain country of Lancre. She largely despises
people but takes on the role of their healer and protector because no one else can do the
job as well as she can. Her closest friend is Nanny Ogg, a jolly, personable witch with
the “common touch” who enjoys a smoke and a pint of beer, often leading to her singing
several folk songs including the notorious “Hedgehog Song”. The two take on apprentice
witches, initially Magrat Garlick, then Agnes Nitt, and then Tiffany Aching, who in turn
go on to become accomplished witches in their own right, and, in Magrat’s case, Queen of
Lancre. Other characters in the Witches series include:
King Verence II of Lancre, a onetime Fool; Jason Ogg, Nanny Ogg’s eldest son and local
blacksmith; Shawn Ogg, Nanny’s youngest son who serves as his country’s entire army and
civil service; and Nanny’s murderous cat Greebo. The witches have appeared in numerous Discworld
books, but have featured as main protagonists in seven. They have also appeared in the short
story The Sea and Little Fishes. Their stories frequently draw on ancient European folklore
and fairy tales, and also parody famous works of literature, particularly by Shakespeare.
City Watch The stories featuring the Ankh-Morpork City
Watch are urban-set, and frequently show the clashes that result when a traditional, magically
run fantasy world such as the Disc comes into contact with modern technology and civilization.
They centre around the growth of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch from a hopeless gang of three to
a fully equipped and efficient police force. The stories are largely police procedurals,
featuring crimes that have heavy political or societal overtones.
The main character is Sam Vimes, a haggard, cynical, working-class street copper who,
when we first meet him in Guards! Guards!, is the drunken/alcoholic Captain of the 2-person
Night Watch: lazy, cowardly, and none-too-bright Sergeant Fred Colon, and Corporal Nobby Nobbs,
a petty thief in his own right. Then Carrot Ironfoundersson, a 6-foot-tall dwarf-by-adoption,
comes down from the mountains to join the Watch and do real policing. The Night Watch
manages to save the city from a dragon, we learn that Carrot is possibly the rightful
heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork, and the Patrician decides to allow Vimes to create
a real police force. Other main characters include Angua, a werewolf;
Detritus, a troll; Reg Shoe, a zombie and Dead Rights campaigner; Cuddy, a Dwarf who
appears in Men at Arms; Golem Constable Dorfl; Cheery Littlebottom, the Watch’s forensics
expert, who is one of the first dwarves to be openly female; Sam’s wife, Lady Sybil Vimes;
and Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. The City Watch have starred in eight Discworld
stories, and have cameoed in a number of others, including the children’s book, Where’s My
Cow? and the short story Theatre of Cruelty. Pratchett has stated on numerous occasions
that the presence of the City Watch makes Ankh-Morpork stories ‘problematic’, as stories
set in the city that do not directly involve Vimes and the Watch often require a Watch
presence to maintain the story—at which point, it becomes a Watch story by default.
Wizards The Wizards of the Unseen University have
represented a strong thread through many of the Discworld novels, although the only books
that they star in exclusively are the Science of the Discworld series and the novels Unseen
Academicals and The Last Continent. In the early books, the faculty of UU changed frequently,
as rising to the top usually involved assassination. However, with the ascension of the bombastic
Mustrum Ridcully to the position of Archchancellor, the hierarchy has settled and characters have
been given the chance to develop. The earlier books featuring the wizards also frequently
dealt with the possible invasion of the Discworld by the creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions,
Lovecraftian monsters that hunger for the magic and potential of the Discworld.
The wizards of UU employ the traditional “whizz-bang” type of magic seen in Dungeons & Dragons games,
but also investigate the rules and structure of magic in terms highly reminiscent of particle
physics. Prominent members include Ponder Stibbons, a geeky young wizard; Hex, the Disc’s
first computer/semi-sentient thinking engine; the Librarian, who was turned into an orangutan
by magical accident; the Dean; the Bursar; the Chair of Indefinite Studies; the Lecturer
in Recent Runes; and the Senior Wrangler. In later novels, Rincewind also joins their
group, while the Dean leaves to become the Archchancellor of Brazeneck College in the
nearby city of Pseudopolis. The Wizards have featured prominently in nine
Discworld books and have also starred in the Science of Discworld series and the short
story A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices.
Tiffany Aching Tiffany Aching is a young apprentice witch
and star of a series of Discworld books aimed at young adults. Her stories often parallel
mythic heroes’ quests, but also deal with Tiffany’s difficulties as a young girl maturing
into a responsible woman. She is aided in her task by the Nac Mac Feegle, a gang of
blue-tattooed, 6-inch tall, hard-drinking, loud-mouthed pictsie creatures also called
“The Wee Free Men” who serve as her guardians. Both Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have
also appeared in her stories. She has, to date, appeared in four novels. Major characters
in this series include Miss Tick, who discovered Tiffany; Annagramma Hawkin, Petulia Gristle,
and Nac Mac Feegle chieftain Rob Anybody. Moist von Lipwig Moist von Lipwig is a professional criminal
and con man to whom Havelock Vetinari gives a “second chance” after staging his execution,
recognising the advantages his jack-of-all-trades abilities would have to the development of
the city. After setting him in charge of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office in Going Postal,
to good result, Vetinari ordered him to clear up the city’s corrupt financial sector in
Making Money. A third book, Raising Steam published on 7 November 2013 features Lipwig’s
further exploits as a pioneer to the newly invented locomotive. Other characters in this
series include Adora Belle Dearheart, Lipwig’s acerbic, chain-smoking wife; Gladys, a golem
who develops a strange crush on Lipwig, Stanley Howler, a mildly autistic young man who was
raised by peas and becomes the Disc’s first stamp collector, and the very old Junior Postman
Groat, who never got promoted to Senior Postman because there was never a Postmaster alive
long enough to do so. Discworld cultures
Several other books can be grouped together as “Other cultures of Discworld” books. They
may contain characters or locations from other arcs, typically not as a main protagonist
or antagonist but as a supporting character or even a throwaway reference. These include
Pyramids, Small Gods, and Monstrous Regiment. Characters
Short descriptions of many of the notable characters that Pratchett has populated Discworld
with can be found on the following pages: Bibliography
Novels Future works
Pratchett has occasionally hinted at other possible future Discworld novels. These include:
Scouting for Trolls A fifth Tiffany Aching novel
Short stories There are also a number of short stories by
Pratchett based in the Discworld, including published miscellanea such as the fictional
game origins of Thud. All are available in the 2012 anthology A Blink of the Screen as
well as in the following locations: “Troll Bridge” – in After The King: Stories
in honour of J. R. R. Tolkien; reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy edited by
Mike Ashley; available online “Theatre of Cruelty”; available online
“The Sea and Little Fishes” – in Legends, anthology of novellas taking place within
popular fantasy cycles edited by Robert Silverberg “Death and What Comes Next”; available online
“A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices”; available online
Seven of the short stories or short writings were also collected in a 2004 compilation
of the majority of Pratchett’s known short work named Once More* With Footnotes.
Additionally, another short story “Turntables of the Night” is set in England but features
Death as a character; it is available online and in both anthologies.
Mapps Although Terry Pratchett has said, “There
are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humour,” there are four “Mapps”: The Streets of Ankh-Morpork,
The Discworld Mapp, A Tourist Guide to Lancre, and Death’s Domain. The first two were drawn
by Stephen Player, based on plans by Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, the third is a collaboration
between Briggs and Kidby, and the last is by Paul Kidby. All also contain booklets written
by Pratchett and Briggs. Twin cities
Several Discworld locations have been twinned with real world towns and cities. Wincanton,
in Somerset, UK, for example is twinned with Ankh-Morpork, and the town is the first to
name streets after their fictional equivalents. Science books
Pratchett has also collaborated with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen on four books, using the Discworld
to illuminate popular science topics. Each book alternates chapters of a Discworld story
and notes on real science related to it. The books are:
The Science of Discworld The Science of Discworld II: The Globe
The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day
Quiz books Two Discworld Quiz books have been compiled
by David Langford: The Unseen University Challenge, parodying
the TV quiz show University Challenge The Wyrdest Link, parodying the TV quiz show
The Weakest Link Diaries Most years see the release of a Discworld
Diary and Calendar, both usually following a particular theme.
The diaries feature background information about their themes. Some topics are later
used in the series; the concept of female assassins and the character of Miss Alice
Band were two notable ideas that first appeared in the Assassins’ Guild Yearbook.
The Discworld Almanak – The Year of The Prawn has a similar format and general contents
to the diaries. Other books
Other Discworld publications include: The Discworld Companion An encyclopaedia of
Discworld information, compiled by Pratchett and Briggs. An updated version was released
in 2003, titled The New Discworld Companion. A further updated version was released in
2012, titled Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion . . . So Far.
The Discworld Portfolio A collection of Paul Kidby’s artwork, with notes by Pratchett.
Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook A collection of Discworld recipes, combined with etiquette, language
of flowers etc., written by Pratchett with Stephen Briggs and Tina Hannan.
The Art of Discworld Another collection of Paul Kidby’s art.
The Discworld Almanak An almanac for the Discworld year, in the style of the Diaries and the
Cookbook, written by Pratchett with Bernard Pearson.
Where’s My Cow? A Discworld picture book referenced in Thud!. and Wintersmith, written by Pratchett
with illustrations by Melvyn Grant The Unseen University Cut Out Book Build your
own Unseen University, written by Pratchett with Alan Batley and Bernard Pearson, published
1 October 2006. Wit and Wisdom of Discworld A collection of
quotations from the series. The Folklore of Discworld A collaboration
with British folklorist Jacqueline Simpson, discussing the myths and folklore used in
Discworld. The World of Poo Another in-universe children’s
book, referenced in Snuff. The Compleat Ankh-Morpork: City Guide The
complete guide to the city of Ankh-Morpork Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook
Reading order Rather than reading the books in publication
order, another approach would be to read each storyline chronologically.
The books take place roughly in real time and the characters’ ages change to reflect
the passing of years. The meeting of various characters from different narrative threads
indicates that all the main storylines take place around the same period of time.
Many stories nominally stand alone but, nonetheless, tie in heavily with main storylines. Many
of these “standalone” stories deal with the development of the city of Ankh-Morpork into
a technologically and magically advanced metropolis that readers will find analogous to real-world
cities: for example, The Truth catalogues the rise of a newspaper service for the city,
the Ankh-Morpork Times. Some main characters may make cameo appearances
in other books where they are not the primary focus; for example, City Watch members Carrot
Ironfoundersson and Angua appear briefly in Going Postal, Making Money, and Unseen Academicals.
A number of characters, such as members of staff of Unseen University and Lord Vetinari,
appear prominently in many different storylines without having specific storylines of their
own. Krzysztof K. Kietzman has assembled a graphical
suggested reading order broken down according to the various story threads and cross-thread
appearances by characters. Adaptations Stage
Stage adaptations of 15 Discworld novels have been published. The adaptations are by Stephen
Briggs, and were first produced by the Studio Theatre Club in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. They
include adaptations of The Truth, Maskerade, Mort, Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! Stage
adaptations of Discworld novels have been performed on every continent in the world,
including Antarctica. A stage version of Eric, adapted for the stage
by Scott Harrison and Lee Harris, was produced and performed by The Dreaming Theatre Company
in June/July 2003 inside Clifford’s Tower, the 700-year-old castle keep in York. It was
revived in 2004 in a tour of England along with Robert Rankin’s The Antipope. Small Gods
was adapted for the stage by Ben Saunders and was performed in February 2011 at the
Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham by Ooook! Productions and members of Durham Student Theatre. Ooook!
productions also staged an adaptation of Thief of Time, adapted by Tim Foster, in February
2013 at the Assembly Rooms Theatre. Film and television
Due in part to the complexity of the novels, Discworld has been difficult to adapt to film –
Pratchett is fond of an anecdote of a producer attempting to pitch an adaptation of Mort
in the early 1990s but was told to “lose the Death angle” by US backers.
A list of adaptations include: Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather: In the UK, Sky
One commissioned a £6 million ‘made for television’ adaptation of Hogfather with David
Jason playing the role of Albert. It was first broadcast in December 2006 and features Terry
Pratchett in a brief cameo role as the Toymaker. Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic: David
Jason played ‘Rincewind’. This adaptation aired in the UK over Easter 2008 and also
features Terry Pratchett in a brief cameo role as an Astrozoologist.
Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, produced by Sky1. It stars Richard Coyle, David Suchet,
Charles Dance, Claire Foy, Steve Pemberton, Andrew Sachs and Tamsin Greig. Terry Pratchett
also appears in a cameo role as a postman. It was first broadcast in May 2010.
Lords and Ladies: A fan movie adaptation of Lords and Ladies by Almost No Budget Films
was completed in Germany. Mort: A fan movie adaptation of Mort by Orange
Cow Production, 2001, 26 minutes. Run Rincewind Run!: A Snowgum Films original
story created for Nullus Anxietas. Stars Troy Larkin as Rincewind, and features Terry Pratchett
as himself. Cosgrove Hall produced 6×30 minute animated
adaptations of two books for Channel 4 in 1996. These were made available on DVD and
VHS in the US from Acorn Media, though they are now out of print. Both series are available
on a DVD boxset in Region 2 Soul Music – Starring Christopher Lee as
Death, also featuring Neil Morrissey and Graham Crowden. First episode broadcast on 18 May
1997. The soundtrack to Soul Music was also released on CD.
Wyrd Sisters – Starring Christopher Lee as Death, also featuring Annette Crosbie,
June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks and Les Dennis. First episode broadcast on 28 December 1998. A list of adaptations in pre-production include:
Troll Bridge: Australian group Snowgum Films has completed principal photography and is
working through post-production. The Wee Free Men: In January 2006 it was announced
that Sam Raimi would direct an adaptation of The Wee Free Men for Sony Pictures but
he then moved on to other projects. On 1 November 2013, Rhianna Pratchett announced on Twitter
that she was adapting Wee Free Men into a feature length film.
The Watch: Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna, announced in August 2012 an establishment
of a new production company, Narrativia, which will produce a 13-part TV series based on
the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals, announced
commencement of production in 2011. Radio
There have been several BBC radio adaptations of Discworld stories, including Wyrd Sisters,
Guards! Guards!, Mort, and Small Gods. On 27 February 2008, BBC Radio 4 aired the first
of a five-part, weekly adaptation of Night Watch. These were also repeated in April 2011
and March 2014 Pratchett’s latest work to feature on Radio
4 is the 1990 discworld novel, Eric. The 4-part dramatised adaptation started on 6 March 2013.
Audio books Most of Pratchett’s novels have been released
as audio cassette and latterly CD audio books. Unabridged recordings of books 1–23 in the
above list, except for books 3, 6 and 9, are read by Nigel Planer. Books 3 and 6 are read
by Celia Imrie. Book 9 and most of the books from 24 onward are read by Stephen Briggs.
Abridged versions are read by Tony Robinson. Fantastic Audio also recorded two Discworld
novels: Thief of Time & Night Watch. The audio books are available for download via online
retailers in unabridged format with some abridged versions also available.
Comic books The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic,
Mort and Guards! Guards! have been adapted into graphic novels.
Merchandise Various other types of related merchandise
have been produced by cottage industries with an interest in the books, including Stephen
Briggs, Bernard Pearson, Bonsai Trading, Paul Kidby and Clarecraft.
Musical releases include: Dave Greenslade: Terry Pratchett’s From the
Discworld, 1994. Keith Hopwood: Soul Music — Terry Pratchett’s
Discworld, 1998, soundtrack to the animated adaptation of Soul Music.
Pratchett co-authored with Phil Masters two role-playing game supplements for Discworld,
utilising the GURPS system: GURPS Discworld
GURPS Discworld Also Video games:
The Colour of Magic Discworld MUD
Discworld Discworld II: Missing Presumed…!?
Discworld Noir Discworld: The Colour of Magic
Miniature figures: A selection of figures has been produced by
Micro Art Studio The board game Thud was created by puzzle
compiler Trevor Truran. Two further board games were released in 2011. The first, Guards!
Guards! A Discworld Boardgame, was created by designers Leonard Boyd & David Brashaw
and published by Z-Man Games. The first copies went on sale on July 8, 2011 at the North
American Discworld Convention, exactly twenty years after Leonard had conceived the first
draft in 1991. The box cover and 90 Discworld character cards were illustrated by Stephen
Player. The second, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, was designed by Martin Wallace and released
by Treefrog Games in three different editions, each with different content and different
game boards; the collectible editions also have different numbering system. A follow-up
game called The Witches, also by Wallace, will be released by Treefrog in September
2013. The card game Cripple Mr Onion is adapted
from the novels. See also Discworld characters
Discworld geography Other dimensions of the Discworld
The North American Discworld Convention References External links
Discworld Wiki Discworld & Pratchett Wiki
Discworld Covers Wiki Book covers collection from all over the world.
Discworld Convention The UK Discworld Convention NADWCon The North American Discworld Convention
Nullus Anxietas The Australian Discworld Convention Discworld Monthly monthly email newsletter
/ website about Terry Pratchett and Discworld. Gallery of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld- TV

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