In the ninth part of Sourcery, the Luggage mopes, and Rincewind choose interest over boredom after experiencing the most shocking thing in his entire life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
The Luggage was feeling crossed in love and was doing what any sensible person would do in these circumstances, which was get drunk.
I know I don’t need to remind y’all, but I am reading a book in which a sapient box is making me feel sad for it. This is a thing that’s happening, and despite what the text says, this is not the strangest thing in the Discworld.
And neither is Nijel, the wannabe barbarian who clearly has never seen a barbarian before. (Allow to draw a completely unintended parallel once more to cultural appropriation here: It doesn’t matter how much you study a culture or claim to appreciate it and revere it. It won’t ever hold a candle to actually living it. That’s not to say that this metaphor fully works in ever sense, because I’d say that Nijel’s predicament doesn’t totally fit, but it simply reminded me of it!) Rincewind meets the well-meaning and endearing Nijel down in the snake’s pit, and I could not help but laugh. Seriously:
“It’s all right, isn’t it? All this leather stuff was very expensive.”
Oh god, Nijel is like those kids in junior high and high school who I knew who came from well-off families but wanted so desperately to be punk rock and they’d go buy the most expensive jeans and flannels and band t-shirts and were utterly unaware that they’d kind of missed the point. But Nijel is wearing wooly underwear so he doesn’t get colds! THIS IS SO UNBELIEVABLY CUTE TO ME.
I know I’ve done this before, but I also couldn’t help but get REALLY SAD about Rincewind wanting a boring life. Look, his life sucks sometimes! And while it’s certainly funny that he’s the “hero” in three of these books so far when he wants absolutely nothing to do with heroism, I also found that there’s a compelling commentary written into his character. Let’s look at this particular section:
Rincewind sighed. He liked lettuce. It was so incredibly boring. He had spent years in search of boredom, but had never achieved it. Just when he thought he had it in his grasp his life would suddenly become full of near-terminal interest. The thought that someone could voluntarily give up the prospect of being bored for fifty years made him feel quite weak. With fifty years ahead of him, he thought, he could elevate tedium to the status of an art form. There would be no end to the things he wouldn’t do.
I can’t deny that this is super funny, but the guy just wants the universe to leave him alone! Is that so much to ask? Of course, the answer is a resounding YES. But that’s precisely why I am SO COMPLETELY INTO WHAT PRATCHETT DOES NEXT. Rincewind’s development here is based on books worth of characterization. He is a terrible wizard, uncomfortable with magic, and unable to pull off even the most basic of spells. And even after getting one of the Octavo’s spells out of his mind, it’s not like he’s progressed enough to catch up with other wizards. So that’s why the big plot twist here is so shocking and so meaningful:
“I’m not very good at it,” said Rincewind. “Never got the hang of it, see, it’s more than just pointing a finger at it and saying ‘Kazam –'”
There was a sound like a thick bolt of octarine lightning zapping into a heavy rock slab and smashing it into a thousand bits of spitting, white-hot shrapnel, and no wonder.
Rincewind just did magic.
RINCEWIND JUST DID MAGIC.
HAVE YOU SOUNDED EVERY ALARM BECAUSE OH MY GOD.
And if it was just a single spell, this would still have been surreal, but Rincewind, rendered speechless by the experience, begins to cast a number of totally chaotic and random spells, but he still does it. He does it over and over again, and for the first time in his life, he’s experienced a power that has been completely out of reach for him. Now, the text doesn’t let us forget that it’s because of the magic spilling out around him that he’s able to do all of this, but I don’t think that negates the importance of this moment, either. (It also doesn’t negate how silly this is. I mean, a dripping ceiling made of lime custard? Bless this book.)
So how does this all affect Rincewind? When he and Nijel make it up to the surface, they discover that a massive white tower has sprouted up in the middle of Al Khali. Hey, I’ve read enough Discworld books at this point to know that unplanned, improvisational towers sprouting up in cityscapes are ALWAYS A SIGN THAT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO GO TO SHIT. However, that’s not the worst thing that these two witness. It’s the careless murder of half a dozen of the Seriph’s guards in the span of a few seconds. I think that Nijel’s commentary on this speaks volumes to how fucking disturbing this is.
“I didn’t think wizards were like that,” he said, as they hurried down a passageway. “I thought they were more, well, more silly than sinister. Sort of figures of fun.”
Well, they used to be. It became clear to me that these had to be Coin’s wizards, and that Coin had decided to spread his dominance to other continents. (Haha, remember when I said that I didn’t know how these two stories would converge? Continue cackling. I give you permission.) And having Nijel’s innocence and naïveté shattered in front of Rincewind messes him up, at least enough that he snaps out of the shock he experienced due to himself. He alternates between anger and pity, which the text even points out is unusual for someone like Rincewind. But it’s Nijel, in all his innocence, who drops the biggest shock for Rincewind, even bigger than that whole “magic” thing:
“All you have to do is stop wearing that silly robe and get rid of that daft hat and no one will even know you’re a wizard!”
What’s so fascinating to me is that I initially thought that Nijel was being utterly reasonable here. But Rincewind’s reaction forced me to re-think what a wizard was. To Rincewind, this wasn’t just an outfit or a hat with “Wizard” stitched to the front. As he states:
“I don’t think you understand. A wizard isn’t what you do, it’s what you are. If I wasn’t a wizard, I wouldn’t be anything.”
I think it’s a powerful realization for him, and I actually wonder how this’ll affect his perception of wizardry in the future. But for now, it spawns him to action. He is a wizard, goddamn it, and he’s going to choose interest over boredom because he is a wizard. And there’s a hat that can be worn if you’re a wizard, and goddamn it, he’s going to find it!
Bless Nijel, by the way, because this is just beautiful:
There were a few seconds of total silence as everyone waited to see what would happen next. And then Nijel uttered the battle cry that Rincewind would never quite forget to the tend of his life.
“Erm,” he said, “excuse me…”
The videos contain use of the word “mad.”
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