The Light Fantastic

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The Light Fantastic
Written by: Terry Pratchett
Central Theme:
Synopsis: The world is in peril, and one of the spells needed to ensure its survival is trapped in the head of inept wizard, Rincewind. He must return it to the spellbook in time, whilst avoiding those who would claim it for their own ends.
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: Discworld
Preceded by: The Colour of Magic
Followed by: Equal Rites
First published: 1986
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The second Discworld novel, from 1986. A direct sequel to The Colour of Magic, it opens with the Octavo changing the whole world to save Rincewind and Twoflower from falling off the Disc at the end of that book. From then on, they struggle to get back to Ankh-Morpork as there are power struggles in Unseen University and the world turtle heads inexorably towards a great red star that threatens to strip away the Discworld's magical field.

Already The Light Fantastic shows itself to be a much more developed version of the Disc than its predecessor: the novel abandons the largely unrelated vignettes of the first novel in favour of a single plot.

The book is notable for introducing many characters and concepts that would later become pillars of the Discworld series, including Unseen University (mentioned in passing in The Colour of Magic, but first visited here), magic as physics, the Weatherwax family (Galder Weatherwax, believed to be a cousin of the more commonly known witch Granny Weatherwax), witches (indirectly), pixies, trolls as something other than non-speaking monsters, dwarfs, Death's home and family, Cohen the Barbarian and the Librarian.

Tropes used in The Light Fantastic include:

Like all wizards' workshops, the place looked as though a taxidermist had dropped his stock in a foundry and then had a fight with a maddened glassblower, braining a passing crocodile in the process (it hung from the rafters and smelt strongly of camphor).

  • Ax Crazy: Ysabell.
  • Barbarian Hero: Deconstructed/parodied with Cohen the Barbarian, an octogenarian hero who's still at it because he's had a lot of experience at not dying.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Eventually, Rincewind hauls the Eighth Spell out of hiding within his psyche, despite its attempts to conceal itself among dusty old memories and anxieties.
  • Better Than Sex: When Rincewind accidentally casts some real magic, he suddenly discovers why wizards don't care that much about being celibate.
  • Big Bad: Trymon - the first major antagonist of the series.
  • Book-Burning: The star people, a cult that blames magic for the star, starts to burn books of magic.
  • Born in the Saddle: Lampshaded;

Cohen explained that the Horse Tribes of the Hubland steppes were born in the saddle, which Rincewind considered was a gynaecological impossibility.

  • But Now I Must Go: When Twoflower finally decides to return home.
  • Cave Mouth: Twoflower's kidnappers inadvertantly settle in the mouth of an enormous troll, mistaking it for a cave. They probably would have been fine if they hadn't lit a fire inside it, ironically to ward off trolls.
  • Chainmail Bikini and Breast Plate: Averted and parodied, Herrena the barbarian heroine is introduced with a long aside mentioning how the cover artist is expected to start slavering over black leather and whips and chains and thighboots, before noting how impractical such things are and that she's in fact dressed quite sensibly. "All right - maybe the boots are leather. But not black!"
  • Characterisation Marches On:
    • The Librarian here is a very passive and nonthreatening figure, and even gives up dangerous, world-ending information to Trymon in return for a banana.
    • Death is transitional here. Rincewind's still scared of him, but he's much closer to the character we all know and love than the psychotic version from The Colour of Magic. Strangely enough, it's his daughter Ysabell who comes across as creepy and crazy this time, and her characterisation again changes when she next appears in Mort.
  • Character Shilling: Twoflower loves going on about how great a wizard Rincewind is. Rincewind can't even spell the word correctly.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Bethan says that instead of drinking mead with the moon goddess, she's got eight years of staying at home on Saturday evenings down the drain.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror
  • Cosmic Egg: One of the many origins of the Discworld universe given by the Great Spells
  • Cosmic Horror: The Things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
  • Cult: The Star People, who also engage in book-burning sessions - as the books in question include Tomes of Eltrich Lore like the Necrotelicomnicon, this would be rather dangerous if the star wasn't reducing the strength of magic on the Disc.
  • Demonic Possession:
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Twoflower teaching the Horsemen of the Apocalypse Bridge.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? What Rincewind does in the climax... as well as elbow him in the ribs, bite him, Groin Attack him...
  • Everythings Better With Primates: This is the book where the Librarian of Unseen University is turned into an orangutan. Oddly - to those who have read the later books first - he's very upset at no longer being human.
    • Can be justified in that, having just been changed, he hadn't yet stumbled on all the perks this form afforded him.
  • Evil Chancellor: Ymper Trymon to Galder Weatherwax.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: This is the first book where thaums are mentioned (Rincewind talking about the gingerbread cottage) as a unit of magic, rather than Primes as in the previous book. This would be explained by the Discworld Companion as being two competing units of measurement, like Fahrenheit and Celsius.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Then they prefer brunettes, then blondes, then what they look for in a woman is... patience.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The remaining three make their first appearance, playing Thing You Put Over A River in Death's house. Pestilence speaks in italics, at least until Thief of Time.
  • Mad Mathematician: Ymper Trymon believes language should be replaced with an easily understood numerical system.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Starts to happen as the Star's solar wind begins to strip the Discworld's magical field away.
  • One-Winged Angel: Trymon near the end. Subverted in that he's frail and a lousy fighter after transforming
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The first appearance of Discworld dwarfs; industrious and quiet, but very handy with an axe if you cross them.
  • Prophecy Twist: "The star is life, not death."
  • Red Shirt: After introducing Herrena, the narrator mentions she has a couple of mercenaries with her who will probably die soon, so there is no reason to introduce them. Although most of them last about as long as Herrena does.
    • Herrena doesn't die, she's later mentioned in passing as being in Ankh-Morpork in Eric.
  • Squishy Wizard: Pretty much how Rincewind is able to beat the Eldritch Abomination: It's possessed a wizard, and Rincewind, while a wizard at heart, is more physically fit than the average wizard (and a dirty fighter).
  • The End of the World as We Know It: What is believed will happen as the magic fails.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday
  • The So-Called Coward: Not for the last time, Rincewind saves the world by accident.
  • Title Drop
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Octavo.
  • Turned to Stone: What happens to the heads of the eight orders of wizardry after they go to 'congratulate' Trymon on making contact with the Dungeon Dimensions.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?
  • Western Zodiac: The Discworld version of astrology is mentioned. It's much harder than on our world, because the constellations keep changing as Great A'tuin swims along. The wizards try to locate Rincewind by working out his exact horoscope; Rincewind's birth sign is "The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars", which later features in The Last Continent, set thousands of years in the past, as a much larger nebula in the sky.
  • You Can See That, Right?