The Colour of Magic

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This article is about the book. For the TV film, see Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic.
The Colour of Magic
The Colour of Magic (cover art).jpg
Author Terry Pratchett
Language English
Series Discworld
1st novel – 1st Rincewind story

Fantasy clichés, Role-playing games

Rincewind, Twoflower, The Luggage
Ankh-Morpork, Krull
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Colin Smythe
Publication date
November 24th 1983
Awards 93rd in the Big Read
ISBN 0-86140-324-X

The Colour of Magic (also known as The Color of Magic) is a 1983 comic fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett, and is the first book of the Discworld series. The first printing of the British edition consisted of 506 copies.[1] Pratchett has described it as "an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns."[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The main character is an incompetent and cynical wizard named Rincewind. He involuntarily becomes a guide to the rich but naive tourist from the Agatean Empire, Twoflower. Forced to flee the city of Ankh-Morpork to escape a terrible fire caused by a bartender who misunderstood the concept of insurance, which Twoflower told him about, they begin on a journey across the Disc. Unknown to them, their journey is controlled by the Gods playing a board game. Rincewind and Twoflower are controlled by the Lady and are pitted against the champions of Zephyrus, the god of slight breezes, Fate, and Offler the Crocodile God in the game supervised by Blind Io, an obvious take on Thor/Zeus/Jupiter.

Twoflower and Rincewind face a mountain troll summoned by Offler and are separated. The ignorant Twoflower ends up being led to the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth, and after a near brush with Death, Rincewind ends up in a tree-nymph-inhabited tree in the woods. Rincewind escapes when the tree-nymphs try to kill him and is reunited with the tourist. Together with Hrun the Barbarian they escape from the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth the Soul Eater, which collapses. This is shown in the Gods' game as the Lady winning by beating Fate, her last opponent. Later, Hrun agrees to travel with and protect Twoflower and Rincewind in exchange for Heroic pictures of him from Twoflower's magical picture box.

They visit Wyrmberg, an upside-down mountain which is home to dragons that are summoned by their riders imagining them. The names of the dragons' riders feature punctuation in the middle (parodying the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey). The three are captured by the riders and separated; Twoflower, because of his fascination with dragons, is able to summon one greater than those of the Wyrmberg riders and meets Greicha, the now-dead Wyrmberg's previous ruler. Rincewind finds Kring, Hrun's sentient sword, and later fights Lio!rt, one of Greicha's sons. He is saved from death by Twoflower and his dragon. Hrun meanwhile meets Liessa, Greicha's daughter, who convinces him to go through three trials so that he may rule the Wyrmberg alongside her. Hrun passes the first two trials: an assassination attempt and combat with both of Liessa's brothers. Before he can start the third, implied to involve sex with Liessa, he is rescued by Twoflower, much to his annoyance. Hrun subsequently leaves the group to live with Liessa, while Rincewind and Twoflower end up far away from the Wyrmberg.

They nearly go over the waterfall on the edge of the Disc, but are rescued and taken to Krull, a city perched on the very edge of the Discworld and inhabited by hydrophobic wizards. The Krullians wish to discover the gender of Great A'Tuin, the giant turtle who carries the Discworld through space, so they have built a space capsule to launch over the Edge. They intend to sacrifice Rincewind and Twoflower to get Fate to smile on the voyage, Fate insisting on their sacrifice in revenge for their role in his loss of the game. Instead, Rincewind, Twoflower, and Tethis the sea troll hijack the capsule and are launched off the Disc themselves. The story segues immediately into the beginning of The Light Fantastic; the two books can therefore be seen as one two-volume novel.


The Colour of Magic is one of the few of the forty Discworld novels to be divided into sections or chapters, some others being Pyramids, Going Postal, Making Money, and some of the books for younger readers, specifically The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents and the five Tiffany Aching books, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight and The Shepherd's Crown.

The sections are:

  • The Colour of Magic – Prologue
  • The Colour of Magic
  • The Sending of Eight – Prologue
  • The Sending of Eight
  • The Lure of the Wyrm
  • Close to the Edge

The four main parts are lengthy, and have been likened to short stories[3] or novellas rather than chapters.

In the section "The Colour of Magic", the characters Bravd and The Weasel relate to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser from Fritz Leiber's Sword series. "The Sending of Eight" has Lovecraftian references, and "The Lure of the Wyrm" parodies Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight.[3][4]


Graphic novel[edit]

A graphic novel, illustrated by Steven Ross and adapted by Scott Rockwell, was first published as a four-part comic in 1991 by the Innovative Corporation, of Wheeling, WV and then published as a single volume by Corgi on November 12, 1992. Part 1 was originally announced for publication by Innovative on 10 December 1990, but it was delayed as Terry Pratchett had not been shown the artwork for approval as contractually required and disliked it, so the first issue had to be redrawn. The graphic novel is split up into several chapters like the book, and is faithful to the source material in that it is built up like classic barbarian stories (in this case comics a la Red Sonja). Crucial differences between the book and comic include the cutting-out of some of the adventures in Ankh-Morpork and Krull, along with combining the characters of Galder Weatherwax and Ymper Trymon. Also, in the book, the female Dragonriders are described as being topless, as barbarian women in fiction tend to be. However, in the graphic novel the women wear chain-mail chestpieces as well as the clothing described in the book. It has been published in hardcover along with the graphic novel of The Light Fantastic, as The Discworld Graphic Novels. (ISBN 9780061685965)

TV adaptation[edit]

The Mob Film Company and Sky One have produced a two-part adaptation, combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, directed by Vadim Jean and broadcast over Easter of 2008. David Jason starred in the role of Rincewind.[5] Sean Astin, best known for his role as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings film series, took the role of Twoflower. Christopher Lee took over the role of Death from Ian Richardson[6] (a role Lee previously portrayed in the animated series Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters).

Computer game[edit]

The plot was adapted for a text adventure computer game in 1986, by Delta 4 and released by Piranha, a Macmillan subsidiary, in Amstrad/CDC, Commodore and Spectrum formats.


  1. ^ "Terry Pratchett Bibliography". 
  2. ^ Why Gandalf Never Married, by Terry Pratchett, originally presented at Novacon 15 (1985), collected in Xyster 11 (1986); archived at
  3. ^ a b Allbery, Russ (2007-12-23). "Review: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett". Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Breebaart, Leo; Kew, Mike (2 February 2008). "Discworld Annotations: The Colour of Magic". The Annotated Pratchett File, v9.0.5. L-Space Web. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "Del's spells as David lands role". The Sun Online. 24 April 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Colour of Magic Cast". Paul Kidby official website. July 31, 2007. 

External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by
1st Discworld Novel Succeeded by
The Light Fantastic
Preceded by
1st Rincewind Story
Published in 1983
Succeeded by
The Light Fantastic