Other dimensions of the Discworld
Discworld, the fictional planet of a fantasy series by Terry Pratchett, exists at a point near the very edge of universe's reality spectrum. From here, the fabric of the fictional universe's reality is gossamer-thin, and excessive pushing can and often does break holes into other, often far less hospitable, domains. The most dangerous of these domains are the Dungeon Dimensions, a region beyond the narrative's reality itself, whose inhabitants (inspired by the formless horrors of H. P. Lovecraft) wait to swamp our reality with all the force "of an ocean warming itself against a candle." A number of minor fictional universes attach themselves tangentially to the Discworld universe, particularly Death's Domain, the home of the Disc's Grim Reaper, from which he descends to do his job, and the parasite universe of Fairyland, home of the sociopathic and vicious Elves. Additionally, the Dark Desert is a region that, according to the Discworld's Omnian religion, souls cross to pass into the next world. The Discworld character Death frequently takes souls here, and in recent books, it seems to have become the afterlife of choice for most Discworld characters, not just Omnians.
Pratchett has also established a version of Hell, similar to that described by Dante, (though rather than "Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here", the sign above its gates reads "You Don't Have To Be Damned To Work Here, But It Helps!!!") and, like Milton's Hell, its capital is Pandaemonium. Various other Underworlds have also been documented, similar to Hades or Annwn. Another universe connected to the Disc is Roundworld (our own universe), initially created, from an in-universe perspective, by the wizards of the Unseen University as a zone where the laws of magic did not apply. A final Pratchett-created dimension is L-Space, a dimension that connects every library and book depository in the universe. L-Space is portrayed as a natural outgrowth of the fact that "knowledge=power=energy=matter=mass" and mass warps space, and therefore, libraries in the Discworld universe are a very dangerous place indeed for the unprepared.
Additionally, other planets stated to exist in the Discworld universe include Bathys, a water world which is home to sea trolls; a world with a tree in the center whose roots form mountain ranges; and an unnamed world ringed by a giant serpent. The last two are clear references to different aspects of Norse mythology.
Death's Domain is the home of one of the series' principal characters, Death. It is shaped by human expectation and Death's own attempts to have (for a lack of a better word) a life beyond his allotted task. Death's Domain (ISBN 0-552-14672-2) is also a Discworld Mapp, drawn by Paul Kidby, with additional material by Pratchett and Stephen Briggs.
The first thing visitors notice is that the Domain is black. Everything in Death's Domain is either black, or bone white. On the Discworld, and congruent dimensions, splitting darkness with an eight-sided prism produces different colours of black. He has black peacocks with skull-shaped patterns on their tails, bees that produce black honey, plants and trout. They are all 'alive', as far as they can be in a place where time does not pass.
Everything in his garden is a copy of something he has seen elsewhere, since Death cannot create. Things that stand out are a swing that he built from scratch, with his own hands, for Susan (with some distinct flaws in its design to allow it to actually 'swing'), the cats, which come and go into the Domain as they please and vary in colour (Death likes cats), and the wheat field created at the end of Reaper Man, which is golden, and ripples in the wind (despite the fact that there is no wind). There are also distant mountains, and stars, neither of which belong to the Discworld.
The Domain gardens also include a hedge maze and a golf course. Since Death finds it impossible to get lost, nor has any difficulty hitting a sphere so it goes exactly where he wants, he doesn't really see the point, but they are part of his efforts to be more human. He even has an umbrella stand (despite the fact that it never rains in the Domain, but you have to put your scythe somewhere).
To one side of the Domain is the Well of Souls, which spirits briefly pass through on their way to wherever they think they're going. If one listens, they can hear the last words of souls as they enter.
At the centre of the Domain is Death's house. It is called "Mon Repos", (Quirmian for "my place of rest"). It looks like a fairly average detached house, apart from being black and bone-white and having an omega door knocker. Inside, however, it is of infinite size, (much larger on the inside, because Death has not quite mastered the art of scale), which can be crossed in an hour or an instant. Most humans who have stayed in the Domain can only deal with the size of the rooms by ignoring them, and staying on small patches of carpet surrounded by immensity. Although the interior maintains the black-on-black, skull-and-scythe motif it is, like its outside, very ordinary and average in its design. Some assume that Death's house would look like a mausoleum or a crypt, but in fact Death knows little of cemeteries, as very few people actually die in them.
Any clocks brought into Death's Domain get depressed and stop working. The only working clock is the special grandfather clock in the hall with a scythe for a pendulum. The 'minute' hand takes thousands of years to go around. The 'hour' hand will only go around once. The Inscription on the clock reads; "Too Late".
As well as the 'ordinary' rooms, maintained for appearance and the benefit of Albert, the Domain contains the life-timer room, where the sands of everyone's lives drain away. Off of the life-timer room, there is another room in which the life-timers of the gods rest (as seen in Hogfather). And there is the Library, where everyone's "autobiography" is being written by itself. Both of these rooms are even more conceptual and arbitrary in dimension than the rest of the Domain, and the clearest example of its status as a refined metaphor.
In Interesting Times, Death says that he lives in a parasite universe, though his domain does not appear to feed off the main universe in the same manner as the Elves' Fairyland. Most likely it is parasitic because it could not exist without the Discworld, and everything in it is copied, although not stolen.
Very few living people have entered the Domain, but among the notable exceptions are Albert, Ysabell, Mort, Susan, Cutwell, Twoflower, Rincewind (and, arguably, the Luggage). Cats also come and go as they please.
The Dungeon Dimensions are the endless wastelands outside of space and time.
The sad, mad things that live there (a pastiche of Lovecraftian horrors) have no understanding of the world, simply craving light and shape. Therefore, they try to warm themselves by the fires of reality. It has been noted that should they ever break through, the Universe would be destroyed, rather like an ocean warming itself around a candle. Some of them can survive in this world under special circumstances, and become something rather like demons (though they cannot be seen as demons per se, first because their existence is not dependent on human belief, and second because, as they are completely lacking in vitality, they are neither good nor evil, but the opposite of both). For most though, the reality they crave is soon fatal, due to their lack of a natural morphic field.
They are jealous of all things alive and so far as their emotions can be understood, they feel mostly hatred, stemming from that jealousy, of all 'real' creatures. They are lured by heavy concentrations of magic that thin reality and may allow them an easier point to break through. Sometimes they break through into a mind, using that being's mind and body to further their own ends. Magical minds shine like beacons to them. The number eight also seems to attract most of them (especially Bel Shamharoth, although this one might be less angry than the others as it has acquired physical existence, which, however, makes it easier for it to harm creatures) which is why wizards are advised to avoid saying it.
- For the classical F-spaces Lp and spaces, see Lp space
- For topological L-spaces see L-space (topology)
- For abstract normed Riesz spaces, see Banach lattice.
L-space, short for library-space, is the ultimate portrayal of Pratchett's concept that the written word has powerful magical properties on the Discworld, and that in large quantities all books warp space and time around them. The principle of L-space revolves around a seemingly logical equation; it is an extension of the aphorism 'Knowledge is Power':
Large quantities of magical and mundane books create portals into L-space that can be accessed using innate powers of librarianship that are taught by the Librarians of Time and Space to those deemed worthy across the multiverse. Because libraries with enough books to open a portal are often large and sprawling, those venturing into L-space may not necessarily know that they have arrived. The floor and ceiling of L-space follow the floor and ceiling of the library used to access it; the best example of this is that the central dome of Unseen University's library is "always overhead". In every direction and as far as the eye can see bookshelves stretch off, meaning the nature of any walls are unknown.
Essentially, all bookstores are potentially infinite in extent; gateways into literary hyperspace: "[a] good bookshop is just a genteel blackhole that knows how to read."
Because L-space links every library, (and also possibly Death's Autobiography Library) it is possible to reach any one of these throughout space, time and the multiverse. This means that there are potentially other forms of data storage other than books as it represents every library anywhere. Additionally, one can read any book ever written, any book that will be written at some point and books that were planned for writing that were not, as well as any book that could possibly be written (note that this does not mean knowledge of everything; how would you distinguish the "correct" books from the "incorrect" ones?). As this is a form of interdimensional and time travel, there are strict limits on its use, and the Librarians of Time and Space, that is those who have access to L-space have developed three simple rules to ensure abuse is kept to a minimum:
- Books must be returned by the last date stamped
- Do not interfere with the nature of causality
Senior librarians are also taught how to deal with the dangers of navigating L-space, such as the "harmless kickstool crabs, large and heavy wandering thesauri, the .303 bookworm and the dreaded cliches, which must be avoided at all costs". Adventurers may find markings and scribbled notes on the shelves to help them navigate.
The Librarian moves through L-space back in time to discover when the book on the summoning of noble dragons was stolen and to confirm that it was stolen by the Elucidated Brethren. During his journey he sees himself asleep at his desk and is tempted to communicate, but realises that this would be breaking the third rule and stops himself. He does however leave the library and follow the thief through the streets, demonstrating how L-space can be used for time travel outside of the library itself.
The Librarian joins the wizards in a Lancre adventure to stop elves from ruining the wedding, and ending the lives, of the new royal family, which includes former witch Magrat Garlick. Within this we learn "the thaumic mathematics are complex, but boil down to the fact that all books, everywhere, affect all other books." From there the nature of bi-directionalism is revealed to demonstrate that any book ever to be written can be found in any book not yet written. In mathematical terms, as noted in The Science of Discworld, L-Space represents a form of phase space. This made possible the study of invisible writings.
After Vorbis has ordered the soldiers and Brutha to burn down the Ephebian library, and the flames start to rise higher, there is a paragraph describing how the Librarian appears with a sack, and then describes how several scrolls that were thought to have been destroyed in the great fire appear in the Unseen University Library.
A parasite universe (a play on parallel universe and parasite) is a universe cut off from the past and future, like a pond that grows stagnant because water cannot flow into or out of it. A creature from such a world experiences the flow of time as a sensation akin to constantly falling forward, which soon drives it mad. Like the fairylands of legend, time doesn't pass in any meaningful sense in a parasite universe; after what may feel like only a few months, one could return to one's home world to find generations have come and gone. A parasite universe will latch onto another universe to syphon off time for itself. If this occurs while the borders between universes are weak which is known as "circle time" (when crop circles appear around the Discworld) then lifeforms may travel between these universes. Gateways to parasite universes, such as stone circles, often demonstrate delays in time; the sun will take longer to fade from inside a circle than outside it, for instance.
The Disc's principal Parasite Universe, known as Fairyland, is the domain of the Queen of the Elves and her sociopathic brethren. The crossing over of the elves into the Discworld is featured in the novels Lords and Ladies and The Wee Free Men. Fairyland is described similarly in both novels, though the details are different. It is a land of eternal winter, where the sun does not shine, nor night ever fall. It was, at one point, a far more pleasant place, with summers and flowers, but was frozen over when the Queen, furious at the departure of the King, ceased to be happy. The sky of Fairyland is described in Lords and Ladies as having all the colours of the aurora, though in The Wee Free Men it is described as having little definition at all, as if the featureless white ground and the featureless horizon were one and the same. Objects like trees don't become clearer the closer one gets to them; rather they sketch themselves into existence as if added by a hasty artist.
It is home not only to Elves but also to various other fairytale creatures such as grimhounds, unicorns and Jenny Greenteeth, though the Nac Mac Feegle, themselves former residents of the place, claim that nothing in Fairyland is actually native to it, unless it was made by the Queen herself. Creatures from such places are very vulnerable to iron. One race captured by the Queen and pressed into her service are the dromes; huge, vaguely humanoid beings with grey, doughy flesh, toothless mouths and tiny eyes. They can project dreams and make them real, using them to ensnare their prey until it starves to death.
The Queen uses dromes to herd dreams, in much the same way that a shepherd herds sheep, and indeed dreams are her main mode of enslavement for those she captures. Someone trapped in a web of dreams within dreams within dreams soon loses any sense of what is real.
The Dark Desert is a transition phase between life and afterlife on the Discworld. It is described as having brilliantly-lit black sand, under a black sky studded with cold bright stars, stretching away to distant mountains. Living people can cross into it, however, it is then harder to come back. Thousands, possibly even millions of people cross it at any one time, and are generally totally unaware of each other, though glimpses may be caught of their movement. It is very important not to fall asleep in the desert, as such sleep is endless (unless broken by another). According to Death, at the end of the desert lies judgement. It has been noted that Death does not specify which end of the desert this is.
It has been mentioned in the following Discworld books:
- Small Gods – The desert is encountered multiple times, each time a character dies.
- Interesting Times – Mr Saveloy dies and comes here.
- The Truth – Mr Tulip and Pin die and come here.
- A Hat Full of Sky – Tiffany Aching enters here to show the hiver how to die.
- Going Postal – The golem Anghammarad dies and stays here, noting that because there is nothing, and therefore no more orders, it is perfect.
Also in Small Gods, it has been shown that sometimes the paths of dead people can cross. This is shown at the very end of the book, when Brutha dies, he finds himself traveling with Vorbis, with whom he has already traveled across a desert. Death watches on as they walk across, seeming bemused.
Roundworld is the Discworld term for both planet Earth and the "real" universe itself. From the Discworld's point of view it exists in a glass sphere at Unseen University, where it is cared for by Rincewind. It was created by Hex as a completely magicless zone, a magical black hole, in order to consume the huge excess of magic created after the wizards split the thaum. The vast influx of magic into a magicless space, followed by the Dean wiggling his fingers in the jar, created a new universe. The key point of Roundworld is that it doesn't contain any magic, but the wizards are fascinated by the fact it does seem to have rules of its own.
Roundworld is the focus of all four Science of Discworld novels. While it is not referred to as Roundworld yet, it makes its first appearance (so to speak) during a scene in The Colour of Magic when Rincewind and Twoflower are transported into the bodies of Earth people aboard an airplane for a brief time. However both our world and a Discworld feature in Strata.
Also known as Tabernae Vagrantes. These are the mysterious shops from which people buy magical items, only to return when there turns out to be a problem (as there always does), and find the shop is vanished (as seen in H.G. Wells' "The Magic Shop", and various other fantasy stories).
One of these shops appears in The Light Fantastic, under the name "Wang, Yrxle!yt, Bunglestiff, Cwmlad and Patel. Estblshd Various. PURVEYORS". The proprietor explains that he operates under a curse, having failed to supply an item requested by a sourcerer, and being irritating about it. Twoflower apparently gained the Luggage from a similar shop, although this was contradicted in a later book where it states that luggages like Twoflower's are fairly common in his home country, although The Luggage is considered singularly angry, aggressive and homicidal. Perhaps both are true and this particular example just happened to be bought in one of these shops.
Another, a pawn shop specialising in enchanted musical instruments, was encountered by some members of the Band With Rocks In during the events described in Soul Music, while they were trying to replace a ruined musical instrument. This proprietor of this shop appears to be based on Auntie Wainwright in the BBC programme Last of the Summer Wine – an extremely resourceful old lady. They were there able to buy the guitar which brought the Band fame (or which caused all the trouble, depending on your point of view). When two members of the Band came back to try to get more information about the guitar they were wholly unsuccessful, but after leaving, the presence of a faded '1' on the guitar caused one Band member to wonder who could have pawned the guitar: "... but, I mean, number one. Even the conch shell was number fifty-two. Who used to own the guitar?" to which his companion responds: "Don't know, but I hope they never come back for it."
- Pratchett, T. Guards! Guards!, Corgi Books, 1989. ISBN 0-552-13462-7 (all quotes in this article come from this book)
- The L-Space Web, popular site with details of many Discworld aspects, including the Annotated Pratchett File; annotations of all the Discworld books.
- "What is this L-Space thing?" at The L-Space web.