Mark Reads ‘Sourcery’: Part 13

In the thirteenth part of Sourcery, Rincewind realizes his place just as it is taken from him, and the others find a genie in a lamp and there is no way I could have been prepared for it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


I’m hoping y’all are fine with me taking all the good Rincewind jokes and analyzing them totally seriously because… shit, they reveal so much about his character! This particular section got me thinking about how Pratchett has written Rincewind in a way that deliberately subverts the trope of the Chosen One. This isn’t necessarily a new revelation for me, since I understood that he was always the reluctant protagonist. He’d prefer to be doing nothing over saving the world, though he tends to do that a lot in the last few years. But so many fantasy novels follow a familiar formula: the hero is chosen for ~reasons~ because they’re ~special~. And even if they don’t want to be a hero, they inevitably figure out how to come to terms with that.

It’s not that Rincewind avoids this entirely, since he does have moments of self-reflection that help him to “save” the world. But Rincewind is not special. He is not designated as the hero of the books he’s in because he possesses a unique power or because he found some mystical item that’s imbued him with a new skill. He’s not part of a long line of destined swashbucklers. He’s not secretly half some sort of other supernatural creature. No, he’s a wizard, he’s a terrible one at that, and he has no aspirations to ever rise higher than where he is. And it’s that last part that struck me the most here: Rincewind, even while saving the world, never wants to elevate himself.

There’s a sad joke made about Rincewind sleepbuilding at the opening of this section, and when he finally does wake up, he’s subjected to Creosote’s sober fury. It’s understandable why Creosote was so quick to rage against the idea of wizardy; look what wizards have done to his life and his palace! But there’s an important distinction that Creosote misses, and it’s what inspires Rincewind to steal the magic carpet and return home. Well, part of the inspiration, at least. He’s compelled to go back to Ankh-Morpork because he knows his place there, and he knows how he fits into his city and the University and his life. So it’s no wonder that he’s so distraught about how much everything has changed! Rincewind’s life has been comfortable because he always knew where he belonged:

The whole edifice that operated as the balance wheel of magic was falling to bits. Rincewind resented that, deeply. He’d never been any good at magic, but that wasn’t the point. He knew he fitted. It was right at the bottom, but at least he fitted. He could look up and see the whole delicate machine ticking away, gently, browsing off the natural magic generated by the turning of the Disc.

All he had was nothing, but that was something, and now it had been taken away.

Again, I know that’s a clever bit of wordplay and it’s funny, but it’s also GUT WRENCHING to me. Rincewind is not looking to be a better wizard because he won’t know how to fit back into his world. He wants to save the world to keep things exactly the same. And goddamn, it’s such a fascinating thing for a fantasy novel to do, you know? And it fits in so perfectly with both of the “ancient and deeply meaningful sayings about wizards.” Both sayings share the same idea of fitting in. Rincewind can never go home again, and he can’t ever cross the same river twice.

Of course, a lot of my sadness hinges on the worst part of this section. And by “worse,” I mean, “utterly unfair and upsetting.” I know that we don’t see the Librarian’s body anywhere, so it’s possible he’s still alive. That’s slightly reassuring, but that doesn’t save the Library itself. They fucking burned it down, y’all. THEY BURNED DOWN THE LIBRARY. No, no. Is there a better representation of how everything has gone wrong? Because everything has gone so wrong.

Rincewind’s not the only character who gets development here, though, and I am a huge fan of the scene between Creosote, Nijel, and Conina early in this section. There’s a self-awareness there that’s refreshing. While calling Rincewind pathetic because he’s a terrible wizard, they all reflect on their own insecurities and what they lack. And it’s nice! It’s a nice moment of honesty between the three of them. At the very least, it gave me a sense that they started to grow closer to one another through this experience.

And lord, what an experience it is. Y’all, THE GENIE IN THE MAGIC LAMP IS ABSOLUTELY WILD. I’d like to think that I’m used to Pratchett taking my expectations and trampling them, but he still finds ways to surprise me. In this case, I expected some wonderful joke or complication to pup up once Nijel rubbed the lamp. Creosote set it up when he said that the “real” lamp had been traded years before. But holy shit, NOTHING COULD HAVE PREPARED ME FOR THIS:

A figure barrelled out of the beach, jerked to a stop, and groaned.

It was wearing a turban, an expensive tan, a small gold medallion, shiny shorts and advanced running shoes with curly toes.

From this point on, we’re treated to a rather stunning depiction of a genie who is… a developer? It’s the closest I could come to explaining him because that’s what he reminds me of. He’s diversifying into rings. He owns to many lamps. He is detached and uncaring and doesn’t listen or pay attention and he gives Creosote bubbly water when Creosote asked for alcohol. (To be fair, he did say he wanted a “drink.” Technically, that’s what that was?) Even when Conina gets the genie to return, he’s too busy on a cell phone??? Or something??? Does he have lamps in other universes? This was too much:

The genie explained wearily that in fact he had several lamps. There was a small but well-appointed lamp where he lived during the week, another rather unique lamp in the country, a carefully restored peasant rushlight in an unspoilt wine-growing district near Quirm, and just recently a set of derelict lamps in the docks area of Ankh-Morpork that had great potential, once the smart crowd got there, to become the occult equivalent of a suite of offices and a wine bar.


I have no idea if he’s actually sent the trio of characters to the correct place, but I suspect he was not successful. I also don’t really know who it was that killed those two wizards in the tower in Al Khali. I guess it could be Abrim? Maybe? WHAT’S GOING ON? Don’t the events of this chapter mean that the Luggage is heading to the wrong place? Rincewind is back in Ankh-Morpork. Look, I just feel really bad for the Luggage. I CAN’T HELP IT.

The videos contain use of the words “stupid” and “idiot.”

Video 1

Video 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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