Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1123
The Discworld novels are all set on the same imaginary world. The Great Atuin, the world-carrying turtle, has four giant elephants standing on his back, and the elephants hold up the Disc. The Disc is inhabited by a strange variety of people and creatures. Although many of the books can stand by themselves, several follow the adventures of the same characters.
The Colour of Magic introduces the Discworld as well as Rincewind, the failed Wizard. Rincewind knows only one spell, and it is so devastating that certain people are ready to kill him to keep him from speaking it. In the first novel, he befriends Two-Flower, the Discworld’s first tourist to the city Ankh-Morpork. Two-Flower possesses animate and hostile Luggage made from sapient pearwood. These two have various adventures that take them across the Disc. In their adventures, they meet dryads, druids, and a variety of other characters. The novel ends with a literal cliff-hanger.
Their adventures continue in The Light Fantastic. The two once more go through a series of adventures before returning to Unseen University, the Disc’s seat of higher education in the magical arts. There, Rincewind, with the aid of Two-Flower and the geriatric hero, Cohen the Barbarian, saves the Discworld by intoning his spell. Rincewind makes his next significant appearance in Sourcery, where he once again saves the Discworld, this time from a young “sourcerer.” Rincewind is banished to the Dungeon Dimensions at the end of that novel, along with the Luggage. He resurfaces in Eric, when he is summoned accidentally, instead of a demon. In a variation of the three wishes plot, Rincewind and Eric travel through time and Hell before they find a possible way home. Rincewind also appears in Interesting Times. In this novel, he is part of a culture clash between the “civilized” West and the “barbaric” East.
The second major figure featured in Discworld is Granny Weatherwax, the best witch on the Discworld. She is introduced in Equal Rights as she undergoes a personal crusade to get a young girl with magical abilities enrolled into the all-male Unseen University. She is aided by a wizard’s staff and finally succeeds. She next appears in Wyrd Sisters, with two other witches, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. In a plot that borrows heavily from Macbeth, Hamlet, and several fairy tales, the three witches restore a young man to the throne of Lancre.
The witches next appear in Witches Abroad. They head to the city of Genua to stop an evil fairy godmother from forcing a terrible marriage on the young Emberella. They encounter many strange people along the way, including dwarves, vampires, and a voodoo witch. They finally reach Genua and liberate Emberella and the city from the grip of the evil fairy godmother. They return to their home of Lancre in Lords and Ladies, the plot of which is a variation on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The witches must stop the elf queen from invading the Disc and marrying King Verence, who is now betrothed to Magrat. The novel ends with Magrat’s marriage to the king. This novel also reveals Granny Weatherwax’s childhood sweetheart.
The third featured character in the series is Death. The Discworld’s Death follows the typical stereotype, complete with black cowl and scythe. Death makes an appearance in every novel and is a main character in several. In Mort, Death adopts an apprentice so he can take a vacation. The apprentice, Mort, is not quite up to the job and saves someone who is meant to die. Eventually, Death has to return. Mort goes back to the land of living with Death’s adopted daughter, Ysabel.
In Reaper Man, Death retires to live among mortals, taking the job of a corn reaper. In a story reminiscent of the legend of John Henry, he battles a mechanical reaper and wins. He eventually has to battle his replacement and take up the mantle of Death once again. The other plot in this novel deals with Windle Poons, a deceased wizard, who suddenly finds himself undead following Death’s retirement. He eventually winds up saving the city of Ankh-Morpork from a force that destroys cities.
Death plays a prominent role in Soul Music as well. After Mort and Ysabel die in an accident, Death abandons his post. This leaves his position open; his granddaughter, Susan, is drafted for the job. At the same time, a young man named Imp, later Buddy, travels to Ankh-Morpork to become a musician. Their two fates become intertwined as Buddy introduces Music With Rocks In It to the Discworld. Eventually, Death returns to save Buddy and Susan and put things right.
Pyramids is one of the independent novels. In this novel, Teppic, while in training to be an assassin, suddenly finds himself the pharaoh of the kingdom of Djelibeybi. The people of the kingdom believe that their pharaoh is a god, and Teppic becomes godlike. Dios, the high priest, has been the real power behind the throne for years, and Teppic has to go up against him and all the old gods to save Djelibeybi.
Guards! Guards! features members of Ankh-Morpork’s city watch. Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, Nobby, and others do their best to survive in the Disc’s meanest and biggest city and still do their jobs. In this case, they have to deal with a cult that summons up a dragon that terrorizes the city.
Moving Pictures is Terry Pratchett’s spoof of Hollywood. In this novel, a leakage from another dimension causes a strange effect on residents of the Disc: They suddenly become actors, directors, and agents. The leakage is potentially destructive and Victor, the hero of the novel, is forced to close the gate between the two worlds.
Small Gods is the story of Brutha, the only true believer in the Great God Om, who appears to Brutha in the shape of a turtle. Brutha is the only one who can hear his god, and he does not quite believe it. The false followers of Om have created a huge empire that is controlled by Vorbis. Vorbis is more interested in keeping power than believing in a god. He uses Brutha to defeat a neighboring power. As Vorbis is about to kill Brutha, Om manages to save his one believer. Everyone then believes in Om, and Brutha becomes the new spiritual leader of the empire.
In Men at Arms, the guards from the city watch are back to solve the mystery of a stolen “gonne” (gun) from the Assassins’ Guild and the mysterious deaths of several people. With new recruits, such as a dwarf, a troll, and a female werewolf, the guards solve the murder and catch the villain.