The Last Continent

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The Last Continent
Written by: Terry Pratchett
Central Theme: Creators are exempt from the rules of time
Synopsis: The wizards want Rincewind to help their out-of-shape librarian - but he's in the desert while they're stuck in a prehistoric paradise. What kind of name is Mono Island, anyway?
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: Discworld
Preceded by: Jingo
Followed by: Carpe Jugulum
First published: 1998
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The 22nd Discworld novel and the sixth in the Rincewind theme. Was written at the same time as The Science of Discworld and there is some obvious relationship, such as the mention of Slood and the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet.

At Unseen University, the wizards are concerned as the Librarian has contracted a form of magical flu which interferes with his morphic field, turning him into random beings and objects every time he sneezes. In order to cure him of these transformations, they need to know his real name, but he refuses to tell them as he's afraid someone will turn him back into a human. The wizards realize that beside the Librarian, only Rincewind knows this name.

Unfortunately, the events of Interesting Times have left Rincewind stranded in XXXX, the Last Continent, and he's still there, somehow surviving on the burning desert. This is because, a Trickster posing as a kangaroo named Scrappy tells him, he's been kept for a purpose: he has to bring rain back to the arid continent. Rincewind immediately runs away, of course, but these quests have a way of sneaking up on you regardless.

Back in Ankh-Morpork, the wizards, looking for the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography to help them navigate to XXXX, discover that he's missing and his office conceals a portal to a nice sunny island. They, and housekeeper Mrs Whitlow, all end up trapped there.

Meanwhile, Rincewind travels haphazardly across XXXX, meeting (and running away from) strange people and having (and running away from) adventures.

Will Rincewind bring back the rain? Will the wizards find their way back home? Will Ponder Stibbons discover the truth about evolution on the Discworld? And what's up with that weird kangaroo guy?

Tropes used in The Last Continent include:
  • Airport Novel: Referenced/parodied when it's stated that any novel taken to a beach will spontaneously turn into a Doorstopper conspiracy thriller with at least one Greek letter in the title. The Lecturer in Recent Runes' book turns into The Omega Conspiracy.
  • Australian Wildlife: disturbingly accurate in that Everything Really Does Try To Kill You down under. Yes, this includes the spiders, the snakes, the kangaroos, the koalas and the earth itself. Also, a surprisingly accurate analogy of the Melbourne underworld (... and no, sadly enough, this is not a joke).
  • Author Filibuster: There's a brief one (also referenced in The Science of Discworld) where it talks of a famously stupid race somewhere in the cosmos that watched a world-shattering comet strike a neighbouring planet - and then did nothing about it "because that sort of thing only happens in Outer Space". This is a reference to the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet and the bit about outer space is in fact a real Too Dumb to Live quote from some woman on the news. Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, evidently.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Bugarup University tower is about twenty feet high from the outside, and about twenty feet high when you're climbing it. When you look out from the top, however, you're half a mile above ground.
  • Break the Haughty/Break the Cutie: Ponder Stibbons penultimate Break the Haughty crossed with Break the Cutie comes in this book, courtesy of A) being stranded on an island which has some very strange ideas about evolutionary process, and B) being stranded on aforementioned island with Ridcully and the UU faculty.

Dean: Is there any breakfast?"
Senior Wrangler: Stibbons found some soft-boiled eggs.
Dean: What a useful young man he is. Where did he find them?
Senior Wrangler: On a tree
Dean: A soft-boiled-egg tree? You'll be telling me next he found a spoon tree...
Senior Wrangler: Of course not.
Dean: Good.
Senior Wrangler: It's a bush.
Dean: A bush that fruits spoons...
Senior Wrangler: Young Stibbons said it makes perfect sense, Dean. After all, he said, we'd picked them because they're useful, and then spoons are always getting lost. Then he burst into tears.

  • Butterfly of Doom: The wizards have a long discussion about the risks of altering the past after realizing that they have been stranded in the past. Ponder tries to use an ant as an example to warn them about temporal paradoxes, without much success as Ridcully himself is a believer in a Stable Time Loop.
    • Fridge Brilliance: From what we've seen in other Discworld novels, Ridcully may be right. Dios' eventual fate in Pyramids and Susan's inspiring Death to spare her father in Soul Music suggest that Stable Time Loops may be how time travel actually works in Discworld. Night Watch is a sort of example, but that one involved the Meddling Monks.
  • Canis Latinicus: Nullae Sheilae Sanginae" and "Nullus Anxietas", the BU mottoes.
    • For those whose Latin is a bit rusty, those translate to "No Bloody Sheilas" and "No Worries" respectively
  • Continuity Nod: The wizards notice the stars over Mono Island are unfamiliar and at first think they are on another world. Ponder figures out that it's actually the past (the stars on Discworld change as Great A'tuin swims through space) by noting that a much larger nebula in the sky is, in their time, known as the Small Boring Group of Faint Stars. This was mentioned way back in The Light Fantastic as Rincewind's zodiacal sign.
  • Death World: where spiders use their web as trampolines to jump on your face and have venom capable of making wood smolder. Also, see Everything Trying to Kill You below.
  • Doorstopper: Dangerous Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Fish, Jellyfish, Insects, Spiders, Crustaceans, Grasses, Trees, Mosses, and Lichens of Terror Incognita, Volume 29c, Part Three.
  • Drop Bear: On Roundworld, a Drop Bear is a malicious koala variant made up by Australians to frighten tourists. On Discworld, a Drop Bear is a malicious koala variant that actually exists.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The wizards can't use magic on the Librarian, because for that, they should know his real name. They don't know each other's names either:

Ridcully: One of us must know his name, surely? Good grief, I should hope we at least know our colleagues' names. Isn't that so... Dean?

  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Non-deadly creatures of XXXX are ... um ... some of the sheep.
    • This applies to non-people as well. XXXX has numerous species of snakes...most of which have been eaten by the spiders.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: According to the preface, XXXX is not Australia, it just happens to be, here and there, "vaguely australian".
    • And as usual, there's a CMOT Dibbler here too, selling meat pie floater.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: The God of Evolution is an atheist. But also a god.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Wizards are invariably attracted to it.

"Any wizard on finding a door with a sign on it saying 'Do not open this door. Really. We mean this. Opening this door will cause the end of the universe' would automatically open the door, just to see what all the fuss was about."

    • Subverted in that they actually manage to resist this time. Their Housekeeper, on the other hand...
  • Funny Animal: Crocodile Crocodile and some of his customers.
  • Furry Confusion: In the bar in Dijabringabeeralong.
  • Good Old Ways: Ponder's inner monologue claims the faculty have a collective Mad Libs Catchphrase: "You don't get proper fill-in-nouns these days--remember old "nickname" ancient-wizard-who-died-fifty-years-ago-who-Ponder-wouldn't-possibly-be-able-to-remember? Now there was a wizard who knew his fill-in-nouns."
    • He starts quoting it himself when the randomised magic field of XXXX's creation temporarily causes him to rapidly age up to the other wizards' age.
    • Also, Ridcully disparages Ponder's use of a thaumometer by saying "Licking your finger and holding it up was always good enough in my day". Initially this is a surreal gag because magic measurement systems on Discworld are a parody of temperature measurement systems on Roundworld, and this would work with temperature measurement but not magic. Then it's Double Subverted when Ridcully actually does this on XXXX and his licked finger glows with an aura of purple and octarine light that lets him judge the strength of the magic field.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Some temporal wonkiness briefly regresses Mrs. Whitlow to a young woman, and the wizards discover that, though she now has a 'face made of chins', once upon a time she was a drop-dead gorgeous redhead.
  • In Vino Veritas: Rincewind's personality almost inverts when he drinks enough of the local beer, and at one point has to remain sufficiently drunk to figure what he needs to do.
  • Land Down Under: although author claims it is not
    • Well, if you want to be technical with this being the Disc there is no "under". It is more the landoverrimward.
    • Justified, or at least hand-waved, in-universe. See Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One of the characters explains that the being who created XXXX has a habit of adding continents of his own design to other creators' planets, and always puts in some kangaroos as a kind of trade-mark.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Mrs. Whitlow (according to the Senior Wrangler, at least)
  • Myopic Architecture: While the door, walls, and bars of Rincewind's prison cell are thick and sturdy, and the lock was also very tough, the hinges on the door were half-pin, meaning the door could simply be lifted off its hinges. Small wonder the previous occupant kept escaping.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The word "monkey" is the Librarian's Berserk Button. When the Senior Wrangler accidentally says it near him and he does nothing, the wizards become convinced that the Librarian's not long for this world.
  • Public Execution: Rincewind escapes a public execution. There's a lot made of the execution as entertainment, and as above, pieces of the rope are highly prized souvenirs, although Fair Go Dibbler is somehow able to sell them before the hanging. ("It's still rope, right? Genuine rope.") We're also told of the humanitarian tradition that if the gibbet sticks three times... the prisoner will be given breakfast while someone fixes it.
  • Pun-Based Title: On The Lost Continent.
  • Readings Blew Up the Scale: Ponder's magic-measuring thaumometer melts when the magic field used to create XXXX exceeds its limit of one million thaums.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: One of the transvestites Rincewind encounters actually is female, and laments "Being a female impersonator is no job for a woman."
  • Shout-Out: Rincewind encounters a mad dwarf in a heavily armed and armored cart and a trio of traveling transvestites, inspires a folk song similar to "Waltzing Matilda",[1] and invents a dessert called "Peach Nellie" in honour of an opera singer (much like Peach Melba in the real world).
    • Two in the fight scene between Mad and a random Ecksian bar-goer. "You call that a knife? This is what I call's a knife." "No worries. This is what I call a crossbow."
    • And another with Skippy Scrappy the Bush Kangaroo.
    • The drunken Rincewind drawing a picture of the Faculty: "Can you tell what it is yet?"
      • He also apparently drunkenly sings "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" while at the bar in Didjabringabeeralong.
    • The very name of the continent itself refers to a popular brand of beer in Australia.
    • Tinhead Ned is an Expy of famed Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.
    • "Can you hear that thunder? ... We'd better take cover..." are from the song Down Under by Men at Work.
  • Stable Time Loop: A very complicated one, but a stable time loop all the same. Yes, turns out Mustrum Ridcully was right.
  • Talking Animal: Rincewind's Trickster Mentor, Scrappy the Bush Kangaroo.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: XXXX's spacetime is so convoluted that, for example, it's implied that the modern Ecksian wizards may be the descendants of the stranded UU faculty, but the UU wizards being brought to the present does not cause them to cease to exist.

Scrappy: [Those hills] were made thirty thousand years ago.
Rincewind: Oh come on, they look millions of years old!
Scrappy: Yeah. Thirty thousand years ago, they were made a million years ago.

    • This is a reference to the Aboriginal concept of Dreamtime, which works in a similar way.
  • Title Drop: "This is the last continent. It was made...later, and...differently."
  • Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: How the wizards end up creating the Platypus. They were trying to draw a duck. (This is a reference to an old saying that a platypus is like a duck designed by a committee.)
    • The Creator (who was sitting right there) is highly confused by this. However, he allows it, apparently because it amuses him.
      • The Creator never notices that the image the UU Wizards drew came alive like his did, as he was busy drawing the UU Wizards into the rock. He also didn't notice that one of them had taken the bullroarer.
  • Wham! Line: Parodied. The narration says Ponder's "There's only one of everything" should be one of these, with the others having horrified looks and saying things like "By George, he's right!" but...well, these are wizards, and their response is just to argue about it.
    • They also immediately take the news that they are in the past in stride. These are men who will argue for hours about how it can't possibly be Thursday, but accept that it's thousands of years ago without question.
  • When It Rains, It Pours
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough...?: Knowing what wizards are like, Ridcully attaches a note to the prop keeping the portal open: "Do not remove this prop. Not even to see what it does." It doesn't help. Although in fairness the person who removed it was not a wizard, so it remains to be seen if it would have worked on one. Probably not.
    • Also, "What kind of idiots put beer in tins?"
  1. Once a moderately jolly wizard camped by a dried-up waterhole under the shade of a tree he was completely unable to identify. And he swore as he hacked and hacked at a can of beer, saying, "What kind of idiots put beer in tins?"