Sourcery @ Terry Prachett (1989)
One would think it was possible to learn from history, or at least from other people’s experiences. I suppose we could say that people have, because we follow in the footsteps of past generations who did not learn from history themselves. Once the lure of power comes into play, power-hunger begins to grow.
Once upon a time …
The hierarchy in the Unseen University (UU) is a dangerous one. There are eight orders with eight levels in each. An eighth-level wizard is leader of the order/house) and at level one are the recently graduated students. Except for Rincewind. Rincewind never passed his exams, poor fellow, but knows with all his heart that he is a wizard. As leader of these eight orders is the Archchancellor. Within the orders, competition is fierce. Murder is a well-known tool of advancement. The idea is that if the dead wizard was not able to defend himself, he did not deserve to be there. All wizards are men. At least they were until Eskarina in Equal Rites came along. As far as I know, she is the only female wizard.
The first person we meet in Sourcery is Ipsilore the Red. Even by wizard standards, Ipsilore is a bit batty. He was kicked out of UU because of a woman. Perhaps it could be said that Ipsilore had discovered the joys of sex, making him a dangerous sort of wizard. History had taught wizards that sex led to children. Once a wizard reached the magical number of eight sons, the Discworld was in trouble. Sourcerers were the result of such matings.
“SOURCERERS MAKE THEIR OWN DESTINY. THEY TOUCH THE EARTH LIGHTLY.
Ipsilore leaned on the staff, drumming on it with his fingers, apparently lost in the maze of his own thoughts. His left eyebrow twitched.
‘No,’ he said, softly, ‘no. I will make his destiny for him.'”
Ipsilore is the kind of annoying parent who tries to force his son to fulfill his own dreams by making every decision for his child. The kind of parent who attaches himself to his son’s wizard’s staff, ensuring he will never leave the side of his child (given how attached a wizard is to his staff). The kind of parent who possesses his child and forces him to do things in the name of power. You know, that kind of parent. Ipsilore’s only problem is that he is about to die. At the last possible moment, Ipsilore places a prophecy on his son, Coin, a prophecy that reeks of destruction and mayhem. But like all prophecies, this one has a loophole. Then, just as DEATH is about to scythe his soul out of his body, Ipsilore the Red places as much of himself inside the wizard’s staff, thereby giving himself a sort of after-life.
Lord Vetinary of Ankh-Morpork is a brilliant ruler. He understands power-hunger to such a degree that Ankh-Morpork is stable. Corrupt and insane, but stable. Some time in the past, Vetinary made an agreement with the Wizards at UU, containing their power-plays within UU’s grounds. Until Coin arrives with his staff, the wizards seem content with this life.
The wizards stared at one another, mouths open, and what they saw was not what they had always thought they’d seen. The unforgiving rays transmuted rich gold embroidery into dusty gilt, exposed opulent fabric as rather stained and threadbare velvet, turned fine flowing beards into nicotine-stained tangles, betrayed splendid diamonds as rather inferior Ankhstones. The fresh light probed and prodded, stripping away the comfortable shadows.
And, Spelter had to admit, what was left didn’t inspire confidence. He was suddenly acutely aware that under his robes – his tattered, badly-faded robes, he realised with an added spasm of guilt, the robes with the perforated area where the mice had got at them – he was still wearing his bedroom slippers.
Like many who have the truth about themselves revealed, the wizards want another person to blame. Lord Vetinary is the obvious one. Time for revenge. The wizards and Coin go after Vetinary and world-dominion.
In the meantime, the Archchancellor’s hat has gotten itself stolen by Conina the Hairdresser (she wishes). Conina is daughter to Cohen the Barbarian and her mother the “temple dancer for some mad god or other”. Conina has inherited her fighting compulsion from her father and her looks and voice from her mother. I mention Conina’s voice because
… It sounded like wild silk looks. … that voice would have made even a statue get down off its pedestal for a few brisk laps of the playing field and fifty press-ups. It was a voice that could make ‘Good Morning’ sound like an invitation to bed…
which might sound something like this. As quite a few characters in Sourcerer discover, judging Conina by her looks and voice rather than her talents tends to be a dangerously deadly choice. Rincewind knows better. His knowledge has been dearly bought as any who have read The Colour of Magic or Light Fantastic know. Unfortunately for him, he is the only available wizard in Ankh Morpork seeing the others are conspiring at UU. That makes Conina’s choice obvious. In the end there is no doubt as to who is boss. The Archancellor’s Hat makes it very clear to Conina and Rincewind that
Something terrible is happening at the University. It is vital that we are not taken back, do you understand! You must take us to Klatch, where there is someone fit to wear me.
Off the trio sails. What could possibly go wrong?
- Bulgarian: Магизточник
- Chinese: 碟形世界:大法
- Croatian: Kiselo Čaranje
- Czech: Magický Prazdroj
- Danish: Megamagikeren
- Dutch: Betoverkind
- Estonian: Ürgsorts
- Finnish: Velhous verissä
- French: Sourcellerie
- German: Der Zauberhut
- Italian: Stregoneria
- Norwegian: Magiens kilde
- Polish: Czarodzicielstwo
- Portugese: O Oitavo Mago / Fontiçaria
- Russian: Посох и шляпа
- Serbian: Čudotvorac
- Slovenian: Izvor magije
- Spanish: Rechicero
- Swedish: Svartkonster
- Turkish: Şifacı
- Griffin Youth Theatre, 2000
- Highfield, Tim; Sourcery in Australia
- Study guide for Sourcery
- Whitfield, Kit; Sourcery and Pyramids by Terry Pratchett