Flora and fauna of the Discworld
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2008)|
- 1 Fauna
- 1.1 Ambiguous Puzuma
- 1.2 Basilisk
- 1.3 Bookworm, .303
- 1.4 Chimera
- 1.5 Clock cuckoo
- 1.6 Curious Squid
- 1.7 Dragons
- 1.8 Drome
- 1.9 Hermit Elephant
- 1.10 Kickstool crab
- 1.11 Land Eel
- 1.12 Pointless Albatross
- 1.13 Quantum Weather Butterfly
- 1.14 Republican Bee
- 1.15 Salamander
- 1.16 Scalbie
- 1.17 Shadowing Lemma
- 1.18 Vermine
- 1.19 Vurm
- 1.20 World-bearing Turtle
- 2 Animal characters
- 3 Flora
- 4 References
A big cat with a unique black and white check coat, the ambiguous puzuma is the Disc's fastest animal. Due to the Disc's standing magical field, which slows down light to approximately the speed of sound, the puzuma can actually achieve near-light-speed. Therefore, seeing a puzuma in motion means it isn't there. Puzumas commonly die from complications caused by Sangrit Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle; they lose concentration because they cannot simultaneously know who they are and where they are, frequently causing them to crash into an obstacle. Many males also die from ankle failure caused by excessively running after females who aren't present.
A giant and nearly extinct snake, seen in Sourcery. It has similar powers to a traditional basilisk, such as deadly venom and the ability to kill something by looking at it. When the basilisk in Sourcery met the Luggage, it attempted to stare the Luggage to death. However, thanks to the luggage's penetrating eyeless stare, the basilisk was unable to win the resulting staring contest, and was forced to blink. It was then killed by the Luggage.
A bookworm that has evolved in magical libraries. Because of the constant danger of running into a volume containing spells (which release thaumic radiation), the .303 caliber bookworm eats quickly. So quickly, in fact, that it has been known to ricochet off walls after boring through a shelf of books. It is the second fastest thing on the Disc (the fastest being Casanunda in a nunnery).
A parody of the chimera of Greek mythology, an archetypal Greek "hybrid monster". The Discworld chimera pastiches this by having, according to a bestiary quoted in Sourcery, "thee legges of a mermaide, the hair of a tortoise, the teeth of a fowel and the winges of a snake. Of course, I have only my worde for it, the beast having the breathe of a furnace and the temperament of a rubber balloon in a hurricane."
A small species of squid, whose curiosity exceeds their ability at making connections. They are small, harmless and reckoned by many experts to have the foulest taste of any creature in the world. Due to this they are in great demand at a certain type of restaurant where skilled chefs with great care make dishes containing no trace of the squid at all (a spoof on fugu). Apparently the only place they can be found is in the area around the sunken island of Leshp, in the Circle Sea, approximately halfway between Al-Khali and Ankh-Morpork.
Possibly the original species of dragon, these Moon Dragons inhabit the Disc's moon. They are quite similar to Draco vulgaris, but have silver scales and flame from their rears. This allows them flight by means of the rocket principle. They subsist on a silvery plant which apparently covers much of the Moon and glows by means of phosphorescence, creating moonlight. This species is seen in The Last Hero. Errol from Guards! Guards! could also be an atavism to this species as by the end of the book he had turned pale from neck down and started flying around by shooting flame from his rear.
Noble Dragons are the large, graceful fire-breathing creatures of legend. Probably evolved from Draco vulgaris, these dragons use magic to combat the physical laws that would normally kill a flapping-winged creature weighing several tons and spitting burning substances. Because this requires more magic than the Discworld can in normal circumstances provide, Draco nobilis now exist mostly in a parasite universe closely connected to the human imagination. They can be briefly released from this universe by a sufficient expenditure of magic, or summoned on a more permanent basis in areas of high background magic. Examples of this can be found in The Colour of Magic and Guards! Guards!
Draco stellaris nauticae
The Star-voyaging Dragon is massive even when compared to Draco nobilis. Like Draco lunaris, this species flames from the rear to achieve propulsion. Their food is the various debris they trawl from the voids they travel. Smaller dragons voyage by attaching themselves to the hide of this species, much like the remora. The species was first observed by Leonard of Quirm during the events of The Last Hero, which may mean that they are either quite rare or avoid positioning themselves so as to be visible from the Disc. A hibernating specimen was viewed by Tethis during his involuntary interstellar sojourn in The Colour of Magic.
Swamp Dragons (Draco vulgaris) are small, fly badly and tend to explode, due to the generation of various flammable gases in their internal plumbing. They are, in short, dragons as they would have to be in order to work in reality. Swamp dragons are inexplicably popular as pets, and there are a number of different breeds. They will eat and drink anything that can be used as or converted to fuel for fire-breathing (and as such are fond of coal and fuel oil), and they have a corrosive saliva.
A male Swamp Dragon is called a pewmet between hatching and eight months, a cock between eight and fourteen months, a snood between fourteen months and two years, and a cobb between two years and death. A female Swamp Dragon is called a hen until her third clutch, and a dam thereafter. A dead Swamp Dragon of either sex is called a crater. A group of swamp dragons is called either a slump or an embarrassment. During mating season, male Swamp Dragons will compete when they see each other by attempting to inflate themselves as large as possible (hopefully without exploding). Because of this, dragon owners are discouraged from keeping mirrors.
The portrayal of dragon-breeders (such as Lady Sybil Ramkin) in the books is a parody of "horsey" upper-class people, although there are also similarities to pedigree dog-breeding (in particular, the Ankh-Morpork Cavern Club is a parody of Kennel clubs.) However, due to the nature of the creatures, a dragon house is typically constructed as one would an ammunition dump.
Dromes are large, blobby grey creatures, much like misshapen snowmen, with grey, doughy flesh, beady eyes and a small, toothless mouth.
Dromes have the unique ability to project and control dreams, trapping their victims within. If someone were to eat anything in the dream, they would be trapped forever until they starve to death. Once dead, the drome eats its victim (but not right away, as they have no teeth). Within a dream, dromes can shapeshift to blend in with their environment, but the one thing they cannot mimic is speech, which sounds like muffled gibberish. When several dromes gather together their powers increase and anyone nearby can be trapped within dreams within dreams within dreams until they are unsure of what is truly real or not. The only way to get out of a drome's dream is to slice off its head.
Dromes originated in a parallel reality; one of many visited by the floating parasite universe of the Elves. The Elf Queen abducted several of them to aid her in her selfish desires. The homeworld of the dromes is described as a twilight land of red rock against an unmoving sea under a great red sun, populated by crablike creatures, which they eat. This closely echoes the description of the far future Earth described by the protagonist of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine.
A native of Howondaland, the hermit elephant is a close relative of the more commonly known elephant. However, the Hermit elephant has an uncommonly thin and vulnerable skin by comparison to these. In order to protect itself, the hermit elephant will walk into a village, enter a house or hut and lift it upon its back, carrying it away. As it grows, the elephant will periodically shed its house in favor of a new, larger one, much like hermit crabs. Hermit elephants frequently travel in herds, and these can easily be mistaken for villages if found while the animals are resting. Mentioned in Men at Arms.
Black, slippery eels which slither on land. They are from the dark and mysterious Überwald. They live in deep underground caves, where there is not sunshine, not the lack of light, but the substance of darkness itself. An Überwaldean land eel will emit dark light when surprised, much as a salamander will emit light. One vampire iconographer in Ankh-Morpork, Otto Chriek, once attempted to use dark light for iconography. The results were unreliable in the traditional iconographical sense. Dark light seems to affect the psyche of humans and members of other humanoid species. When used in iconography, dark light seems to illuminate, if such word can be used, a sort of truth, such as who really was in a room a few hours ago, or a father who's constantly watching over a son's shoulder.
A species of migratory albatross. The bird's name refers not to its plumage but its migration habits, consisting of a series of lazy treks from Hub to Rim deemed pointless by most ornithologists of the Disc. One was sent to Lord Vetinari from the Agatean Empire in Interesting Times bearing a message for a "Great Wizzard". The name is a play on Wandering Albatross, while its odd migration pattern mimics that of the Arctic Tern.
Quantum Weather Butterfly
The Quantum Weather Butterfly ("papilio tempestae") is a butterfly which has evolved the curious trait of localized weather control. This is used as a defense mechanism and a sexual characteristic. The insect is yellow, with Mandelbrot patterned wings: these wings have an infinite wing perimeter, but only a finite area. A reference to the butterfly effect, it features mainly in Interesting Times.
A species of honeybee that, rather than being ruled by the traditional queen, runs its hives as democratic republics. Republican bees "committee rather than swarm, and tend to stay in the hive a lot, voting for more honey."
A small lizard mostly found in deserts and other sunny locations, the Salamander is unusual in that it has no orifices. It subsists on the magical energy contained in Octarine wavelengths of light, which it absorbs through its skin. Other wavelengths are also absorbed, but these are not "digested". The salamander must therefore occasionally "excrete" them, producing a bright but short-lived flash of light. Iconographers use this effect to enable flash iconography, by keeping the salamander(s) covered until needed and then scaring them when taking the picture.
A shabby and disreputable species of seabird (actually a corvid, but they won't admit to have it in their family), which looks like it has been in an oil slick, and eats carrion. The ultimate scavenger, it has been said that not only will scalbies eat things so disgusting they would make a vulture sick, they will even eat "vulture sick". Appears in Small Gods
This small rodent is a more careful variant of the lemming, as it only throws itself off small pebbles. It also abseils (rappels) down cliffs and builds rafts to cross lakes. Its fur coat is very valuable (particularly to the creature itself, which will do anything rather than let go of it). Many articles of expensive clothing, such as wizard's robes, tend to be lined with vermine. Its name is a play on vermin and ermine.
A small toothless scavenger insect native to the deep caves and dwarf mines of Überwald. They are very patient, and able to digest practically anything with any nutrient value (one character even claims that the exhalations of visitors is food to them). Vurms are bioluminescent, giving off a weak greenish-white glow. Dwarfish drudak'ak seem to have a special connection to the creature, possibly using vurm blood to tattoo a luminescent personal identifier (the draht) onto their forearms and apparently spreading the creature intentionally to new mines and territories. The creature is adapted from real-life cave glowworms (see Waitomo Glowworm Cave). Appears and is named in Thud!, and may have appeared in The Fifth Elephant.
See: Great A'Tuin
The Clan is a tribe of intelligent rats (and one cat) who gained their sentience through consuming the rubbish outside the Unseen University, much like Gaspode. They make their living by hiring a rather dull-witted young man to serve as their "piper", who then pretends to rid a local town of the rats who then conveniently leave, moving on to the next town.
Dangerous Beans is a small albino rat. He is one of the main characters in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Dangerous Beans is tiny, rather weak, and nearly blind. He is the most intelligent of the band of Changeling rats. He is quite idealistic and morally pure, which many other rats find puzzling. Due to his intellectual power, he is the only one who can withstand the psychic onslaught of Spider, the terrible rat king.
Darktan is a Changeling rat who appears in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. He is a tough, battle-hardened rat. Hamnpork, the leader of the rats at the beginning of the book, is wary and afraid of him; it is clear that Darktan, who is in his prime and much more accustomed to being sapient, is a better leader for the rats. When Hamnpork is trapped in a pit with a terrier, Darktan rescues him by bungee jumping into the pit and grabbing him. Soon afterward, Darktan is caught in a rat trap and has a near death experience. When he regains consciousness, he finds that Hamnpork has died. The rats elect him as their new leader and he uses his so-called "meeting with the Bone Rat" to rally them into action.
Maurice, the titular character in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, is a sapient talking cat. He has a rather tricky and money-grubbing personality, willing to swindle even his colleagues the Changelings (intelligent rats). However, over the course of the book, he develops a conscience and eventually sacrifices one of his nine lives to save his friend Dangerous Beans. He is last seen at the end of the book setting up a new scam, which seems to be related to the story of Dick Whittington.
Gaspode is a small terrier-like dog featured in seven novels. He possesses human-level intelligence and the ability to speak, as well as an extensive collection of diseases (including 'Licky end' which is only found in pregnant sheep); he claims that the only reason the diseases haven't killed him is that they're too busy fighting amongst themselves to focus on him. However, since everyone knows that dogs can't speak, people tend to interpret his speech as their own personal thoughts, a tendency which Gaspode regularly uses to wangle food from passers by. (In fact it has been mentioned in the books that a passerby kicked Gaspode into the gutter, and had gone no more than five steps before he thought "I'm a bastard, aren't I"). The exceptions to this are Carrot Ironfoundersson (who eventually figures out the truth himself), Angua (whom he tries to court because she's a werewolf), the staff of the Times (whom he needs to pass some information to), and the Canting Crew (who believe in much stranger things than talking dogs). Gaspode's ability to speak also has uses against other dogs, particularly against the misanthropic Dog Guild in Men At Arms, shouting commands in human tongue (e.g. "Sit!", "Bad Dog!") that cause dogs to reflexively respond, in spite of better wishes. Gaspode frequently feels conflict between his desire to be a Good Dog and his belief that he has to look out for himself, because no one else will. Despite being given a home with happy children and suchlike, he ran away from this for the life he's always known.
As a newborn pup, Gaspode was thrown into the River Ankh in a brick-weighted sack. Since it was the Ankh, Gaspode was subsequently able to crawl ashore and find shelter in an alley, though not before forming a rather confused parental relationship with the brick.
Gaspode originally gained his intelligence and ability to speak in Moving Pictures as the result of a "wild idea" which sought to (re)create a Discworld version of Hollywood. Descended from dogs that fled the destruction of the first appearance of this idea, Gaspode was "selected" to fill the movie role of the Wonder Dog. Unfortunately, he looks nothing like the common conception of what a Wonder Dog is, and so lost the position to Laddie (an obvious Lassie analogy), whereupon he became an agent for Laddie and the human actors Victor Tugelbend (renamed Victor Maraschino) and Theda "Ginger" Withel (renamed Delores de Syn). After the wild idea was contained/defeated, Gaspode lost the unwanted gifts that had been bestowed on him, and returned to being a homeless street dog.
In Men At Arms, Gaspode has regained his intelligence and speech as a result of sleeping too close to the High Energy Magic Building in Unseen University and being exposed to magical seepage. In this and the rest of the books he appears in, Gaspode is portrayed as something like a Dickensian urchin, scrambling to survive the harsh life of the streets while maintaining a lovable (if filthy) nature. He has in the past been described as "didn't look as though it could talk but looked as though it could swear." Gaspode becomes the "thinking brain" dog (like a "seeing eye" dog) for Foul Ole Ron, and eventually joins the Canting Crew, a group of variably sane homeless people who have, as aforementioned, no difficulty in believing in talking dogs. Overall, within his disreputable appearance, Gaspode has acquired a survivor's intelligence that combines the street smarts of his upbringing with book smarts from reading badly-chewed-up books.
Gaspode also appears in the second Discworld game, Trouble with Dragons, which is largely based on Guards! Guards! but features Rincewind. He makes a small appearance at the inn where he gives the player trouble by using Rincewind like a doll and let him anger a nearby Sailor.
Gaspode enjoys using his powers of speech to antagonize Angua and poke fun at her. During the events of Men at Arms he often points out that Angua can not hide her attraction to Carrot from him because he can "smell" her feelings. In one instance, Angua is forced to change into a human with no clothes on, finding herself in Carrot's bedroom, Gaspode tells Carrot to "kiss her", prompting Angua to throw the luckless dog out of the room.
Gaspode is named after "the famous Gaspode", a dog who, upon his master's death, stayed at the graveside howling until he died (possibly because the gravestone was on his tail). This is a reference to Greyfriars Bobby.
This section refers to the Discworld character. For the UK subculture term the character is named after, see Grebo
Greebo is a foul-tempered one-eyed grey tomcat whose owner, Nanny Ogg, insists against all the evidence that he is a sweet, harmless kitten. In the course of the books, he has killed two vampires, eating at least one of them in the novel Witches Abroad:
"The bat squirmed under his claw. It seemed to Greebo's small cat brain that it was trying to change its shape, and he wasn't having any of that from a mouse with wings on."
And in Maskerade, Magrat recalls when Greebo once killed an elf.
- Greebo had spent an irritating two minutes in that box. Technically, a cat locked in a box may be alive or it may be dead. You never know until you look. In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.
- Shawn dived sideways as Greebo went off like a Claymore mine.
- "Don't worry about him," said Magrat dreamily, as the elf flailed at the maddened cat. "He's just a big softy."
In Witches Abroad he was transformed, for reasons that seemed to be a good idea at the time, into a human. He was confused by the differences between human and cat morphology and social relationships, but picked some aspects up quickly. In this incarnation, the character is reminiscent of Red Dwarf's Cat; he looks like a 'beautiful, brainless bully' who has raided a leather goods store for the discerning pirate, and appears ready to unbuckle any amount of swash, radiating an aura of raw sex that can be felt several rooms away, and of a megawatt magnitude. He is typically covered in scars, has retractable nails (or more accurately, claws) and maintains a slitted left eye.
The incident left him with an unstable phenotype, that is, a tendency to temporarily switch forms when completely cornered, which causes some excitement. In Maskerade he once more took longer-term human shape, attending the Ankh-Morpork Opera in the guise of the Le Comte de Gribeau.
In a passing reference in Witches Abroad Nanny Ogg said that Greebo was a demon ("Just between you and me, he's a fiend from hell"), possibly indicating that Greebo is indeed demonic, partially due to Nanny's insistence otherwise that Greebo is a gentle kitten. This might just refer to Greebo's temperament. It is mentioned in Wyrd Sisters that, in addition to his other qualities, he is pursuing a study in inbreeding with all of the other cats in Lancre that are related to him (which by dint of some effort is all of them, as he is currently every male ancestor for at least 30 generations), which may be involved in the "raw sex" aura he possesses mentioned above. The same book mentions that he has also seriously surprised a she-bear and chased a female wolf up a tree.
To date, Greebo is known to fear only three things:
- the Nac Mac Feegle; (in Carpe Jugulum).
- the black cockerel Legba, who belongs to the voodoo witch Mrs Gogol (although this is more of a mutual respect—as the familiars of powerful witches, neither one is going to admit being scared of the other despite Greebo's claws and teeth and Legba's razor-sharp spurs; (in Witches Abroad).
- You, a small white kitten owned by Granny Weatherwax. Their first encounter ended with You burying her claws in Greebo's face and his subsequent retreat. He now hides behind the pots and pans whenever she is in the same house as him; (in Wintersmith).
In Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell series, Mrs Tachyon owns a cat named Guilty who has many qualities similar to Greebo.
Quoth the Raven
Mr. Tiddles is a very old cat with a very set routine of walking through the Ankh-Morpork Post Office. He follows it exactly; if there is an obstruction he will butt against it until the path is clear. When the Post Office burns down in Going Postal Moist goes back into the burning Post Office to save Mr. Tiddles. Ultimately Mr. Tiddles and Moist are saved by the diligent, unrelenting firefighting efforts of the city's golems, many of them Post Office employees themselves. In Making Money Moist wonders why he prefers to get up every day at 11:30 AM and move a chair so that Mr. Tiddles can pass by it. Implied, but not stated, is that he could just move the chair once and leave it in the new, non-obstructing position.
A small dog of indeterminate breed belonging to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari. By the time of “The Truth” he is sixteen years old, and has a rather interesting smell (“It’s his teeth… “) He partially foils the attempt to discredit the Patrician by attacking and biting one of the perpetrators of the deed, and his subsequent evidence (interpreted by Gaspode) helps to uncover the plot.
By the time the events of "Going Postal" occur Wuffles has died, and is buried in the grounds of the Patrician's Palace. Lord Vetinari leaves dog biscuits on his grave. Seeing as this is one of the few instances where Vetinari shows any emotion, this implies a very strong bond between them.
Apples in the Discworld include the Lancre Blackheart, the Golden Disagreeable and the Green Billet (which goes immediately from ripe to rotten upon being picked). All these varieties are used to make Scumble.
An alcoholic beverage made mainly with apples and drunk in very small cups some months apart (or served to strangers in pint mugs, as a sort of initiation test).
It was first introduced in Mort which tells us:
"A lot of stories are told about scumble, and how it is made out on the damp marshes, according to ancient recipes passed down rather unsteadily from father to son. It's not true about the rats, or the snakes' heads, or the lead shot. The one about the dead sheep is a complete fabrication. We can lay to rest all the variants of the one about the trouser button. But the one about not letting it come into contact with metal is absolutely true..."
In Mort it was drunk on the Sto Plains, but in later books it is associated with Lancre, where it is distilled by Nanny Ogg (whose particular variant is known as "Suicider"). The consumption of scumble in Lancre has earned the populace of the area a reputation for having "Four brain cells, huddling together for warmth". The word scumble is a pun on the West Country cider known as scrumpy, but scumble is clearly stronger than cider and distilled, therefore it is the Discworld version of applejack.
When scumble is mixed with dwarfish beer, it creates a highly intoxicating cocktail known as "Fluff".
The only known example of borrowed evolution, counting pines alter their genetic code to adapt to outside forces. This unique ability has run into a snag when dealing with humans however. When humans first started cutting them down, the counting pines assumed that they wished to count their rings, and so adapted by displaying their age in numbers on their trunks. Unfortunately, this adaptation led to them being nearly exterminated by the demand for exotic house number-plates.
In addition to the more common annual plants, biennial plants and perennial plants, Discworld harbors a small number of re-annual plants. These are plants which, due to a rare 4-dimensional twist in their genetic structure, flower and grow before their seed germinates. This is usually only possible in areas with considerable amounts of background magic. Farmers who grow re-annual plants are usually very careful about dates of sowing, lest they cause devastating temporal paradoxes (such as dying of starvation because the food one lived off months ago was never grown). The Discworld Almanak also mentions how a garden implement carelessly strewn among re-annuals months later can cause serious damage today.
When re-annual plant products undergo fermentation, the product is time-reversed alcohol (such as counterwise wine), a rare substance much sought by fortune-tellers and the like, as ingesting it allows some ability to foretell the future, which from the point of view of the plant is the past. Time-reversed alcohol produces inebriation in the normal way, but the hangover is thrust backwards in time to several hours before the actual ingestion of the alcohol. This is known as a hangunder, and is usually very strong since one feels so dreadful one imbibes large amounts of alcohol to get over it.
The only revealed re-annual plants are the vul nut vine, which is remarkable in that it can begin to flower as much as eight years before being sown; and re-annual grapes (the source of counterwise wine), which are harvested a year in advance of being sown.
A type of semi-intelligent wood that grows in areas of high residual magic. Impervious to magic, it is used in the manufacture of wizards' staffs. Mostly extinct outside the Agatean Empire where it is still quite common, and used to make a number of aggressively ill-tempered artifacts, such as The Luggage. An artifact made of sapient pearwood will follow its owner anywhere. One of its earliest uses was in the manufacture of grave goods for which the well-worn phrase "You can't take it with you" is manifestly incorrect.
A fruit that grows in Howondaland. It is highly prized by connoisseurs as they rarely prize something common; the colour (earwax) and smell (like a sick anteater) make most people feel ill. It is also covered in spikes.
A parody of the real world sauce of the same name. The Discworld version was invented by an uncle of Mustrum Ridcully, and its ingredients include grated wahoonie, asafoetida, scumble, sulphur and saltpetre. It is a highly unstable substance and believed to be responsible (when combined with a charcoal biscuit and an after-dinner pipe) for the elder Ridcully's explosive death. (See Black powder for why the combination might be problematic.) A presumably different uncle of Ridcully's used to swear by (or rather, swear at) Wow-Wow Sauce as a hangover cure; according to Ridcully, "He seemed very peaceful when they came to lay him out". Ridcully also advised that Wow-Wow Sauce must never be consumed when sweat is condensing on the bottle (a reference to the danger posed by dynamite that has begun to sweat its nitroglycerin).
- Pratchett, Terry; Kirby, Josh (1991). Reaper Man. Discworld series. London: Victor Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-04979-0.
- Pratchett, Terry (1996). Pyramids; a Discworld Novel. London: Corgi Books. p. 61. ISBN 0-552-13461-9.
- Pratchett, Terry (1990). Moving Pictures. London: Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-04763-1.
- Pratchett, Terry; Briggs, Stephen (1997). The Discworld Companion (2nd ed.). Books Britain. pp. 450–452. ISBN 0-575-60030-6.