I think they are. I noticed a lot of similarities on these two characters from the Unseen University: Spelter (from Sourcery) and the Senior Wrangler. The most important (and noticeable) is the physical appearance: they both do look like horses. Also Spelter is described as "wiry", and the Senior Wrangler (in the Last Continent) is described as "lightly built". They both come from a poor background, they both like long explanations (like the one when Spelter explains to Rincewind why an university can not sink). In The Last Continent one of the other wizards, when remembering the events in Sourcery, mentions that the Senior Wrangler was also there.

In the Sourcery novel, it is supposed that Spelter dies, but this is not fully clear: Death never comes for him and nobody says "Spelter is dead".

This is my theory: Spelter was sent to another dimension (maybe the Dungeon Dimensions). After a while, he managed to go back to the university ans scalated the rest of the magical levels.

The Senior Wrangler mentions in Hog Father that his name is Horace, so his full name would be Horace Spelter.

I'm sad because Pratchett doesn't make any joke about horses/the Senior Wrangler's physical appearance. It would be funny reading about the Dean pulling the Senior Wrangler's hair, and Ridcully saying "Dean, don't pull the Senior Wrangler's mane... err... hair!". :D

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    I was writing an answer but couldn't find anything that actually discounted your theory. Spelter was Bursar, replacing the 'muggle' who held the office before, and was blasted into ash by Coin's staff (but, you're right. No one says he's dead and DEATH doesn't come so...) His being in the DD would allow a new bursar to take the post; furthermore, there is no senior wrangler mentioned before Sourcery and they do indeed both look like horses. Furthermore, its not like anyone would have to recognise him: wizards aint the smartest and the Archchancellor keeps changing
    – Mac Cooper
    Nov 30, 2014 at 10:34
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    @Mac Cooper: You read my mind. There's no Senior Wrangler before The Grim Reaper novel, and Spelter's absence would make the Archchancellor choose a new bursar. Also the wizards don't know the names of each other and they simply don't care (including Ridcully). Nov 30, 2014 at 18:49
  • Seriously, if the Senior Wrangler's name is "Horace", that's a very Pratchetty pun on horses right there.
    – Spencer
    Nov 19, 2022 at 19:18

2 Answers 2


Nope... Spelter was most certainly killed in Sourcery. Although you only hear his death in the book you never see the character again. Also there is the reaction of the books in the library to tell you of what happened. The books do not scare easy!

Spelter info

After his death in Sourcery, Spelter was replaced by the new Bursar, Dr. A. A. Dinwiddie who is well known for his Dried Frog pills and is then the only Bursar to appear in any of the Discworld books.

However little known about the Senior Wrangler but there is enough known to suggest that he is a different character.

Beyond a few similarities in looks to the ex-Spelter, the Senior Wrangler is useless at maths, has a very specific diet (due to has family having had bad experiences with pineapple, clams, shrimps and a belief that beans, celery, rhubarb makes the eater grow taller. He also comes from a poor family (something that would have been mentioned in Sourcery, he hates silence and is a lot younger than Spelter was when he died.

While he did come out of no-where, it is conceivable that after the events of Sourcery there was a reshuffling of titles and ranks throughout the wizarding world. While there is little known about the title of Senior Wrangler it does seem to be one that was either revived or just given more status then before as the Senior Wrangler does not himself know what his job is nor do others and I believe there is a ongoing discussion about it.

  • I know Spelter dying in the Sourcery novel is oficial, but when I imagined the stories of Sourcery and The Grim Reaper as if they were a cartoon, I ended up having two characters that looked the same, despite the age difference, in the same place: the unseen university, so the question arised by itself: why can't they be the same person? (well, they can adding a few non-canon details). What I think it that Terry Pratchett loved the idea of having a horse-like character and he simply made him up... again. Jul 21, 2016 at 2:07
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    @Broken_Window I think it is a play on the character personally. The Horse Faced characters is one that is as well used as say the damsel in distress or the famed tall dark stranger who rides into town and saves every-one. It is in fact one of the many lesser character tropes that for a long time showed up in almost every book as the foolish but pompous man... often a rich man who new little or the man who wanted to be rich. In fact the use of the characters descriptions in the series to describe their personalities is rather fascinating :)
    – Rincewind
    Jul 21, 2016 at 18:04
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    @Broken_Window Discworld is a thing of many layers... It is wonderful to read them angain and again after you have read more of the fantasy genre and also read more about the themes most found in writing as well as some events in history, politics, people... it is just so fascinating!
    – Rincewind
    Jul 24, 2016 at 6:26

Spelter is confirmed (in The Ultimate Discworld Companion) to have been killed during the events of Sourcery. It does mark his similarity to a horse, which is possibly where the confusion has arisen.

Spelter: Fifth-level wizard and former bursar of Unseen University. A tall and wiry man, he looked as though he’d been a horse in previous lives and only just avoided it in this one. Killed for trying to prevent the Library’s destruction during the brief reign of Coin.

Note that while being dead doesn't preclude one from being either a wizard or a faculty member (q.v. Windle Poons), the same book addresses the Senior Wrangler by his correct name, Horace.

Senior Wrangler, the: Horace. One of the senior faculty at Unseen University. Looks rather like a horse.

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