Mark Reads ‘The Color of Magic’: Part 9

In the ninth part of The Color of Magic, both Hrun and Twoflower accept quests. Sort of. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


I admit that it’s refreshing and fun to read a comedic book for this site, and it’s also a bit of a challenge. So much of what I do is based on critical analysis, and there are few things less enjoyable than deconstructing a joke. But goddamn it, this is so funny. And I think there’s a way to talk about why this humor works – particularly as a commentary of fantasy tropes – that won’t actually ruin the joke. SO LET’S ATTEMPT THIS.

I really didn’t expect that Hrun would play such a large part in this novel, but a great deal of the humor here wouldn’t exist without him. I mean, COME ON:

“Dragons don’t exist,” said Hrun flatly. “Codice of Chimeria killed the last one two hundred years ago. I don’t know what we’re seeing, but they aren’t dragons.”

Of course, this was initially super funny to me because YOU JUST RODE ON THE BACK OF ONE. How far must your denial go? But it’s actual part of the worldbuilding that will play largely into Twoflower’s characterization later in this section. Because everything we’d seen up to this point wasn’t really a dragon. At least, not in the biological sense that the Wyrmberg subscribes to; these are lesser dragons, way too small and not at all like the “traditional” dragons most people (including myself) thought about when they heard the word. Even then, it wasn’t until much later that I understood that even these dragons – the “swamp” dragons” – weren’t around for hundreds of years, either. It seems that Codice of Chimeria really did kill them off!

But even though I didn’t know this, this whole part of the book is still a hilarious commentary on pervasive tropes found in hero-based fantasy stories. When Twoflower asks Hrun what they’re supposed to do next, Hrun rattles off a breathless, punctuation-free sentence that’s a cookie-cutter version of what every fantasy hero goes through when they’re captured. There’s the battle for their life in an arena! And rescuing a princess! And finding the secret passage! And escape! And Hrun knows all of this is to be expected, so HE FUCKING TAKES A NAP. OH MY GOD, NAPPING HEROES. That alone did me in, but the Liessa arrives to fulfill the trope and… well, things don’t go like I expected them to.

That is a fascinating part of how this is written, too. Pratchett could easily keep these characters within the framework of a fantasy and have them follow the “rules” about how these stories go, and then use them to comment on all of it. Instead, the plot itself openly defies our expectations. After Liessa compels Hrun to kill her brothers as part of his “test” of worthiness, we’re forced to acknowledge that she’s doing this solely for her own benefit. She’s not a damsel in distress by any means. Even more interesting, the narrative deliberately moves away from Hrun, following Twoflower instead. We don’t cut back to Hrun for the next twelve pages, as Pratchett focuses on something entirely different:

Twoflower’s imagination.

Now, I get that a large part of the joke surrounding Twoflower’s characterization is that he’s as naive as one can be. I think that’s also why I love what happens next so much. His absolute adoration of the idea of a dragon actually works to his benefit, and I can’t help but see this as a loving bit of commentary about why fantasy narratives are wonderful. I admire criticism of genre fiction as much as the next person, but I also love how Twoflower’s Power is a celebration of the imagination. Because isn’t that what this is about? Twoflower has wanted to see a dragon his entire life, despite that he was repeatedly disappointed by others telling him he could never see one because they weren’t real. And yet, he’s rewarded for his imagination by the Power when HE CONJURES ONE UP OUT OF PURE NOTHING. Well, technically, Ninereeds is from another dimension of existence, but the point is that by simply believing, Twoflower got a dragon.

It’s also not lost on me that Ninereeds and Twoflower walk through the halls of the palace and witness how the world of the dragons was basically left behind and forgotten. It had been hundreds of years since the dragons were once honored with tapestries and statues, and yet, here’s Twoflower WITH HIS OWN REAL DRAGON. When Twoflower finally meets Greicha the First, Liessa’s dead father from earlier, it’s all made clear:

“The true dragon, on the other hand, is a creature of such refinement of spirit that they can only take on form in this world if they are conceived by the most skilled imagination.”

“The most skilled imagination.” Would you have thought of Twoflower if someone had said this about him earlier in the novel? He’s been portrayed as rather simple and silly at times, but truthfully, his whole tourist shtick is much more about his own creativity and excitement than anything else. His trip to Ankh-Morpork was always about satisfying his imagination, wasn’t it? He admired it from afar, and so he broke the cultural rules of the Empire to come visit it and make it a reality.

I shouldn’t ignore that Twoflower is (once again!) getting involved in something he doesn’t quite understand, of course. Greicha, who constantly isn’t sure what tense he should use, having transcended time, explains about the little war going on between his three children over the throne. (OH GOD, EVERYTHING MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE NOW.) (I WAS SO CLOSE, YET SO WRONG ABOUT THE FADING DRAGONS.) He urges Twoflower to rescue his friend (Rincewind, not Hrun!) because it may happen? It already has? WHO KNOWS WHEN YOU’VE TRANSCENDED ALL SPACE AND TIME. I actually loved that Greicha simply wasn’t used to being some sort of omniscient being, so he kept spoiling Twoflower for the future. BLESS. Also, I have to quote this:

“Liessa comes to see me sometimes. She still comes to see her old dad, my little girl. She was the only one with the strength of character to murder me.”


Thus, we finally catch up with Rincewind, who had let go of Lio!rt at the end of the previous section, and we discover how it is that he doesn’t die: Twoflower shows up perfectly on time to catch him before he is torn to pieces on the cave floor. However, there’s a bit of irony in this moment. Rincewind was just about to say the eighth word that “would appear in corruscating octarine and seal the spell.” HE WAS GOING TO SAY THE ONLY SPELL HE KNOWS. I’m fully expecting the spell to be something utterly ridiculous when it’s ever revealed. Of course, it’s possible that we’ll never actually learn what it is that Rincewind knows, but goddamn, WE GOT SO CLOSE. SO CLOSE.

The original text contains the word “craze.”

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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