I’m going to do something a bit different for this visit to ‘Sourcery’, book five of the Discworld, and use this re-read to focus on one character. That character is Rincewind, the cowardly wizard who we already know and love from ‘The Colour of Magic’ and ‘The Light Fantastic’.
Rincewind is the very first main character that we ever come across on the Disc, and in this, his third adventure, I like to think that I have a pretty good handle on who he is. As you might remember from my previous re-reads, the first time I read Discworld, I did not like Rincewind. He has grown on me so much this time around that I want to dedicate an entire article just to him and the growth he has had as a character in these first five books.
‘Sourcery’ – and I’m being honest here – is the most boring instalment of early Discworld. The fact it is not a great story, coupled with my Rincewind problem, made this a painful read the first time round. It is still pretty boring, at least in comparison to the others, but now I like the main character, it became a lot easier to deal with. Early on, the animals who inhabit the Unseen University are fleeing, being able to sense that something bad is about to happen (in this case, an all-powerful sorcerer is coming.)
Pratchett says, ‘Something horrible was about to happen. You can tell, can’t you? You’re not the only one.’ Immediately afterwards, we come to Rincewind, who can also sense the impending doom. It is a clever way to bring the reader and Rincewind together once more, and it illustrates what he really is for a new reader; a still point in a world that is forever evolving and changing in the hands of the author. We know where we are with Rincewind. He’s been our loyal companion up until now, and he isn’t about to change. Not that much anyway.
I say not that much because he does and has changed, or maybe it is more correct to say that we know him better than we did. He still has the same opinion of himself as he has always done – cowardly, pretty awful at magic, all round loser – but we know better. He has been proving himself braver and smarter than he knows since ‘The Colour of Magic’, and he does the same here. When he is fleeing the university, he goes back to save the Librarian and the Luggage, his two closest friends. He goes back to face the sorcerer armed with nothing more than his determination and the belief that he should. He ends the novel trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions, after he sacrifices himself to save Coin, the little boy controlled by his father into being said sorcerer. These are not the actions of someone who is a coward. In taking on the sorcerer, he is perhaps the bravest person on the whole of the Disc, and certainly the bravest wizard.
And he is a wizard – that much at least, he seems to be sure of. When Conina the Barbarian asks him, ‘Are you sure you are a wizard?’, he replies, ‘It’s the only thing I’ve ever been sure of’. His conscience, in one of their little chats, tells him ‘The word ‘Wizard’ is engraved on your heart’. Compared to the pre-first adventure Rincewind, this conviction is really great to see.
In ‘The Light Fantastic’, he was so angry at his own ineptitude, and it was this rage that drove him forwards into doing any of the vaguely heroic things that he did then. He is sure of himself now; whilst he still doubts the strength of his magic (with good reason!) he sees now that being a wizard isn’t all about that. It’s about heart as much as it is about brains. He gives young Coin some advice at the end of the book, just before he ends up in the Dungeons – ‘It’s vital to remember who you really are. It’s very important. It isn’t a good idea to rely on other people or things to do it for you, you see. They always get it wrong.’ Everyone, including us as readers and, I think, also Pratchett, have been wrong about Rincewind. He is our first and, I am inclined to think, best hero.
Favourite Quote: ‘Talent just defines what you do…It doesn’t define what you are. Deep down, I mean. When you know what you are, you can do anything.’
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