After reviewing Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology (see our previous issue), I went on a journey down memory lane.
In the early 90s, books on magic and paganism were few and far between. I had an insatiable desire to read about magic, and when I inevitably ran out of nonfiction books, I needed something to fill the gap. This is where my mother stepped in. After moaning about my lack of reading material, she literally threw this book at me. She actually hit me with it too! I grumbled, put it to one side, and forgot about it until the type of boredom only a petulant tween can experience set in. I picked up the book and was hooked by page 3.
The Colour of Magic is the first book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I have read it more times than I count. The sign of a great book is being able to read it over and over again and find something you missed, something that you see in a new light, or something that seems super apt to your life right now. The Discworld series is also full of moments and quips that focus on, and take aim at, the idiosyncrasies and injustices of our world. They are as apt and clever now as when The Colour of Magic was written in 1983. Rest assured, this series, and this opening book, really doesn't show its age.
The novel opens with a brief description of the Discworld, then focuses in on a description of its main City, Ankh Morpork. The story follows Rincewind, the world's worst wizard, who, after at first trying to fleece him, finds himself with a very important job: official guide and protector of the world's first tourist, Twoflower.
"Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant 'idiot'."
What follows is an exciting, danger filled, journey across the Disc where we are introduced to almost every aspect of the world. From the various guilds of Ankh Morpork, to the dragons of Wermberg Mountain, right to the very edge of the Disc itself. Meeting Gods, pirates, trolls, a barbarian, and Death himself (who only speaks in capital letters) along the way. All overseen and driven by The Gods, playing a game with, and thereby controlling, the fate of our two hapless protagonists.
"On the Disc, the Gods aren't so much worshipped, as they are blamed."
The Colour of Magic is the first in a very long line of Discworld books. 41 to be exact, published over 32 years. They can be read in any order you like, everyone has their own preferences. Various lists and suggestions can be found online, including the chronological list on the Terry Pratchett website. He goes on to write novels about witches, wizards, thieves, guards, poverty, inequality, and revolution with sharp humour, keen insight, and an unrivalled eye for detail.
I was very lucky to hear Terry Pratchett speak at a pagan conference some years ago. He never openly said what his religious affiliations were, though many speculated, and his speaking at the pagan conference was always seen as a quiet nod in that direction. Whatever his personal beliefs were, his writing shows an interesting, humanising, relationship with the Gods. At times you find yourself thinking that he must have communed with them regularly to be able to speak of them the way he does.
I have lost count of the number of pagans I have met over the years that began their path with a Terry Pratchett book or 20!
Terry Pratchett died in 2015.
"No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away." - Reaper Man