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The Discworld Portal

Discworld is a comic fantasy book series by the British author Sir Terry Pratchett (1948 — 2015) set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle, the Great A'Tuin. The books frequently parody or at least borrow ideas from J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and William Shakespeare, as well as myth, folklore and fairy tales, often using them for satirical parallels with current cultural, technological and scientific issues.

Since the first novel, The Colour of Magic (1983), the series has expanded, spawning several related books and maps, five short stories, cartoon and theatre adaptations and even music inspired by the series. The first live action screen adaptation for television (Hogfather) was broadcast over Christmas 2006. Another one for the cinema (The Wee Free Men) is currently in development.

Newly released Discworld books regularly top The Sunday Times bestsellers list, making Pratchett the UK's best-selling author in the 1990s. He has since been overtaken by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, but still holds the record for the most shoplifted books. Discworld novels have also won awards such as the Prometheus Award and the Carnegie Medal. In the BBC's Big Read, four Discworld books were in the top 100, and a total of fourteen in the top 200.

Character of the day

Discworld's Death is a parody of several other personifications of death. Like most Grim Reapers, he is a black-robed skeleton carrying a scythe and, for royalty, a sword (It's the rules, he once told Mort). Unlike many of them, he has a personality beyond this.

Death is one of the most popular Discworld characters and makes an appearance in every Discworld book except The Wee Free Men. His steed is a great pale horse called Binky who is very much still alive. His hollow, peculiar voice is represented in the books by unquoted small caps; it is peculiar because since he is a tall skeleton, he has no vocal cords to speak with, and thus, speaks through other means. In The Colour of Magic (the first Discworld novel), and in Faust Eric, all direct written references to Death are proper nouns, thus, for example, "he" is written as "He". This is usually reserved for the Discworld gods and is not featured in any of the other novels.

Death is not invisible. Most people just refuse to acknowledge him for who he is, unless he insists. Under normal circumstances, only those of a magical disposition (e.g. witches and wizards), children and cats can see him, or allow themselves to see him. Death can of course ignore things like walls or magic spells that stand between him and his object: this is because he's much "realer" than they are. A castle might stand for centuries, but Death has existed for billions of years: to him, the walls of the castle are less substantial than a cobweb. However, he can only go where people can die, as shown in Hogfather.


Article of the day

Unseen University coat-of-arms

The Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, staffed by a faculty composed of mostly indolent and inept old wizards. The official motto of UU is "Nunc Id Vides, Nunc Ne Vides", loosely translated as "Now you see it, now you don't". The unofficial motto is "η β π," or "Eta Beta Pi." (Eat A Better Pie). The university's name is a pun on the real-world Invisible College.

The coat of arms is a livre des sortilèges, attaché en cuivre, sur un chapeau pointu, on a field, azure. (That is: a book of magic spells, with copper clasps, over a pointed hat, on a blue background.) As usually rendered, the coat bears a strong resemblance to the coat of arms of the University of Oxford.

The University is centred around the 800-foot Tower of Art, out of which it grew; any further attempt at grasping its geography is close to pointless. Due to the high levels of background magic in the vicinity, a typical map of UU vaguely resembles an exploding chrysanthemum and is usually only valid for a day or so. This is also the cause of the various physical and biological anomalies that plague it. In some rooms the direction of gravity moves around as a day passes, and some rooms contain other rooms which contain the room you started with (especially problematic for a conga line). The University's gargoyles have taken on a life of their own (not that this is anything unusual for Discworld gargoyles in general), and both a colony of ants in the main university buildings and a flock of ravens roosting in the Tower of Art show unnatural intelligence and, for the ravens, an ability to speak. The fabric of the University is said to absorb knowledge, since all students enter university knowing absolutely everything, and leave admitting they know very little.



Did you know...
  • This man was so absent-mindedly clever that he could paint pictures that didn't just follow you around the room but went home with you and did the washing-up.
    -- The Last Hero
  • 'Listen, Peaches, trickery is what humans are all about,' said the voice of Maurice. 'They're so keen on tricking one another all the time that they elect governments to do it for them.'
    -- 'The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
  • His movements could be called cat-like, except that he did not stop to spray urine up against things.
    -- Night Watch
  • '"You take the high road an' I'll take your wallet!"'
    -- Wee Free Men
  • 'I've starved a few times. There's no future in it. Ate a man's leg when we were snowed up in the Ibblestarn campaign but, fair's fair, he ate mine.' He looked at their faces. 'Well, it's not on, is it, eating your own leg? You'd probably go blind.'
    -- Monstrous Regiment


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Book of the day

The Wee Free Men is the 30th Discworld novel, and was written for younger adults. It is the second Discworld book written as such, after The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. It was published in 2003, and is the first book in the story arc concerning 9-year-old witch Tiffany Aching.

The story is the first since Carpe Jugulum to feature the Nac Mac Feegle, or Pictsies, six inch tall blue-painted red-haired fairies, who, according to their own history, rebelled against the wicked rule of the (or possibly "a") Queen of the Fairies, and were therefore exiled from Fairyland. According to everyone else (including the Nac Mac Feegle themselves if they forget this story) they were kicked out for causing fights and being drunk at two in the afternoon. They speak what can only be described as some sort of variation on the Scots language, usually Glaswegian (examples include "Waily, waily, waily!", "Crivens!", and "They can tak' oour lives but they cannae tak' oour troousers!"), and have an innate fear of writing and lawyers - in the presence of whom their swords glow blue.

Preceded by
1st Tiffany Aching Story
Published in 2003
Succeeded by
A Hat Full of Sky
Discworld reading order Full article

Deity of the minute

Libertina: The Goddess of the Sea, Apple Pie, Certain Types of Ice Cream and Short Lengths of String

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Terry PratchettStephen BriggsPaul KidbyJosh KirbyIan Stewart and Jack Cohen


Tiffany AchingAlbert (Discworld)|AlbertAngua • The Auditors of RealityThe BursarCarrot IronfounderssonCohen the BarbarianFred ColonDeathDetritusCut-Me-Own-Throat DibblerGaspodeGranny WeatherwaxGreeboHexIgorBloody Stupid JohnsonLeonard of QuirmThe LibrarianLu-TzeThe LuggageMagpyr familyMort and YsabellNanny OggC.W. St J. NobbsMoist von LipwigMr PinMr TulipMustrum RidcullyThe Great God OmRincewindSusan Sto HelitPonder StibbonsGeneral TacticusTwoflowerVerence II of LancreHavelock VetinariSam VimesLady Sybil VimesThe WitchesDiscworld godsmore...


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City WatchThieves' GuildAssassins' GuildBeggars' GuildFools' GuildClacksGuildsMagicPost OfficeStealth Chess


The Colour of MagicThe Light FantasticEqual Rites Mort Sourcery Wyrd Sisters Pyramids Guards! Guards! Eric Moving Pictures Reaper Man Witches Abroad Small Gods Lords and Ladies Men at Arms Soul Music Interesting Times Maskerade Feet of Clay Hogfather Jingo The Last Continent Carpe Jugulum The Fifth Elephant The Truth Thief of Time The Last Hero The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents Night Watch The Wee Free Men Monstrous Regiment A Hat Full of Sky Going Postal Thud! Wintersmith Making Money Unseen Academicals I Shall Wear Midnight Raising Taxes

Short Stories:

Troll BridgeTheatre of Cruelty The Sea and Little Fishes Death and What Comes Next

Other books:

The Discworld CompanionThe Science of Discworld The Science of Discworld II: The Globe The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch The Pratchett Portfolio The Art of Discworld The Unseen University Challenge The Wyrdest Link The Streets of Ankh-Morpork The Discworld Mapp A Tourist Guide to Lancre Death's Domain Nanny Ogg's Cookbook The Discworld Almanak Where's My Cow? The Unseen University Cut Out Book The Discworld Diaries Once More* With Footnotes A Blink of the Screen


The Colour of MagicCripple Mr Onion Discworld Discworld 2 Discworld MUD Discworld Noir GURPS Discworld Stealth Chess Thud

Films and TV series:

Welcome to the DiscworldSoul Music Wyrd Sisters Hogfather The Colour of Magic Going Postal Troll Bridge

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