This question about magic in Discworld set me thinking a bit. The earliest books in the series are qualitatively different from the later volumes. The Colour of Magic is an episodic tale, parodying a number of other famous fantasy (and science fiction stories). In The Light Fantastic, Pratchett introduces more of a coherent plot, although one based around the magic system—a parody of the Vancian magic from The Dying Earth—that was introduced in the first book.

I think I am probably very much in the minority in thinking that The Colour of Magic is, by a significant margin, the best Discworld novel. (I do not really care for Pratchett's plots, it turns out, and The Colour of Magic has relatively little plot.) However, I have never seen a comprehensive list of all the works that Pratchett decided to parody in the first book.

So I am asking: What are all the specific parodies present in The Colour of Magic? (Lest anyone think this kind of list question should be off topic, I point out that it is not really very different from questions that show a poster image and ask to have every element in the image identified.)

1 Answer 1


I am creating this community wiki answer, to start off the list with parodic elements of the The Colour of Magic that I could clearly identify on my own.

  • The magic system is an obvious parody of Vance's magic system from The Dying Earth. (This system may be best known for also being the original magic system used in Dungeons & Dragons.) Spells have to be memorized from books, and a wizard can only fit a certain number of them in his head. Rincewind's inability to do magic stems, in part, from the fact that he accidentally got one extremely powerful spell into his head, leaving no room for any others.

  • Bel-Shamharoth is a parody of the Lovecraftian abominations of the Cthulhu Mythos. Its name is suggestive of Yog-Sothoth, and the temple in which it dwells does not obey the normal laws of geometry, like Cthulhu's home of R'lyeh in "The Call of Cthulhu."

  • Ankh-Morpork seems to be a based on Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, including the presence of the characters of Bravd and The Weasel, echoing Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

  • The dragon riders of the Wyrmberg, including the character of Lio!rt, are parodying the Dragonriders of Pern, with its apostrophe-laden proper names.

  • The (sort of) intelligent black sword Kring is obviously reminiscent of Micheal Moorcock's Stormbringer.

  • While Cohen the Barbarian was not introduced until later, Hrun the Barbarian was parodying Thrud the Barbarian, who is himself a parody of Conan

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    Cohen the Barbarian is obviously based on Conan the Barbarian. However, I don't think he was introduced until The Light Fantastic. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 8:38
  • The chaotic nature of the number eight may be derived from Michael Moorcock's "Eternal Champion" cycle, where the sign of Chaos is a circle with eight arrows pointing out (a feature later borrowed by Warhammer). Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 8:41
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    @KlausÆ.Mogensen the number 7 (and indeed 8) being magically significant predates modern SFF.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 11:02
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    Pterry had said that while Bravd and The Weasel are certainly Lieber parodies, Ankh-Morpork itself is not a parody of Lankhmar. INdeed, there's another question about the source of the name that specifies this. Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 1:04

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