Study Guide

The Color of Magic Awe and Amazement

By Terry Pratchett

Awe and Amazement

"Stranger," said Rincewind levelly. "If you stay here you will be knifed or poisoned by nightfall. But don't stop smiling, or so will I." "Oh, come now," said [Twoflower], looking around. "This looks like a delightful place. A genuine Morporkean tavern. I've heard so much about them, you know. All these quaint old beams. And so reasonable, too." (1.4.41-42)

Perspective is an important part of awe and amazement, as well as the relationship between Twoflower and Rincewind. Where one sees adventure, the other sees horror. Where one sees beauty, the other sees dread. Where one sees blue, the other sees a purplish-type color.

Twoflower added: "A real brawl! Better than anything I'd imagined! Do you think I ought to thank them? Or did you arrange it?" (1.21.15)

Again, it's all about perspective, though we have to admit that it's hard to really jive with Twoflower's perspective on this one. Traven brawls can get pretty nasty with or without the addition of trolls.

The Discworld offers sights far more impressive than those found in universes built by Creators with less imagination but more mechanical aptitude. (1.Prologue.1)

We get the sneaking suspicion he's thinking of our universe there. With that said, Rincewind might find as much awe and amazement in our universe as Twoflower finds in their own.

Why the troll? he asked himself. Everything else is just my usual luck, but why the troll? What the hell is going on? (2.3.19)

Even Rincewind can be amazed now and again. Sure, his amazement is mostly the result of dreading his particular brand of luck but amazement all the same.

On the whole, the unpleasant carvings and occasional disjointed skeletons he passed held no fears for Hrun. This was partly because he was not exceptionally bright while being at the same time exceptionally unimaginative, but it was also because odd carvings and perilous tunnels were all in a day's work. (2.7.3)

Hrun is never really amazed at anything. Part of this is because he's so well-traveled already, but mostly it stems from his utter lack of imagination. The guy can't even think up a box, let alone consider what's outside it.

Rincewind thought he could see a faint streak in the air, as if something from the mountain had reached out and touched the beast. He got the strange feeling that the dragon was being made more genuine. (3.10.58)

Here, we connect the awe of the imagination to the theme of power. The dragons are awe-inspiring because they are creatures of imagination, and creatures of imagination because they are awe-inspiring.

Dragons!

Ever since he was two years old he had been captivated by the pictures of the fiery beasts in The Octarine Fairy Book. His sister had told him they didn't really exist, and he recalled the bitter disappointment. If the world didn't contain those beautiful creatures, he'd decided, it wasn't half the world it ought to be. (3.12.24-25)

Twoflower's relationship with the awe-inspiring is less one of happy coincidence and more one of need. He needs things to be amazing in the world he lives in. What's the point otherwise?

The usual upshot of this sort of thing is a vast explosion, but, since universes are fairly resilient things, this particular universe had saved itself by instantaneously unraveling its space-time continuum back to a point where the surplus atoms could safely be accommodated […]. This had of course changed history—there had been a few less wars, a few extra dinosaurs and so on—but on the whole the episode passed remarkably quietly. (3.18.3)

We know so little about the universe that we have to wonder what amazing things still await our discovery. In this part of the story, Pratchett reminds us that we don't have to go all the way to the Discworld to find amazing things, though they might be a bit easier to spot there.

Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying. (4.3.16)

That would be pretty amazing, wouldn't it? But the Discworld has limits on just how amazing things can get—even Greicha doesn't technically achieved immortality.

[…] and eldritch shapes gibbered and beckoned obscenely; four-sided triangles and double-ended circles existed momentarily before merging again into the booming, screaming tower of runaway raw magic […]. (4.16.40)

Here we see the novel's obsession with language and the amazing. Sure these things might not seem awe-inspiring at first read, but consider the fact that they are entirely impossible. Yet in a way, language allows them to exist all the same. That's pretty amazing.