Study Guide

The Color of Magic Perseverance

By Terry Pratchett

Perseverance

The dark interior of the Drum was a broil of fighting men, quite a number of them—a third and longer glance confirmed—in bits. Rincewind swayed back as a wildly thrown stool sailed past and smashed on the far side of the street. Then he dived in. (1.8.3)

Rincewind's desire to preserve his life from the Patrician's justice means he'll put his life in jeopardy by leaping into the fray. Wait… is that productive or counterproductive?

Even if [Rincewind] managed to get to a horse, he had a nasty suspicion that [Luggage] would follow him at its own pace. Endlessly. Swimming rivers and oceans. Gaining slowly every night, while he had to stop to sleep. And then one day, in some exotic city and years hence, he'd hear the sound of hundreds of tiny feet accelerating down the road behind him… (1.15.22)

Luggage is the very incarnation of perseverance. In this scene, Rincewind is simply imagining what the Luggage would do to find him—and in reality, Luggage will move heaven and earth to reach his goal. Literally.

Rincewind backed away, hands spread protectively in front of him. The dried fish salesman on a nearby stall watched this madman with interest. "Not a chance!" I COULD LEND YOU A VERY FAST HORSE. "No!" (1.18.14-17)

Oddly enough, perhaps the only person Rincewind can stand up to is Death. That takes a hefty amount of perseverance.

"What are you grinning for?" he asked the figure on the next branch. I CAN'T HELP IT, said Death. NOW WOULD YOU BE SO KIND AS TO LET GO? I CAN'T HANG AROUND ALL DAY. "I can," said Rincewind defiantly. (2.3.5-7)

Just in case you thought the first instance was a fluke, Rincewind again defies Death to keep on keeping on.

One flailing arm caught Twoflower's picture box as it skittered past on its tripod. [Rincewind] snatched it up instinctively, as his ancestors might have snatched up a stone when faced with a marauding tiger. If only he could get enough room to swing it against the Eye… (2.10.81)

Rincewind's perseverance is hardcoded into his DNA. In lieu of a stone or bone, he grabs a camera with which to smack around that nether-dimensional being.

Rincewind saw his own arm snap up until the shimmering blade was humming a mere inch from his throat. He tried to force his fingers to let go. They wouldn't. "I don't know how to be a hero!" he shouted. "I purpose to teach you."

Rincewind is often forced into situations of a traditional fantasy hero. But his desire for self-preservation is much stronger than those other heroes', so he's a bit out of practice on the whole hero-ing thing. Actually, he has no practice at all.

"A most unsatisfactory arrangement. A kingdom like ours has to have one ruler. So I resolved to remain alive in an unofficial capacity, which of course annoys them all immensely. I won't give my children the satisfaction of burying me until there is only one of them left to perform the ceremony." There was a nasty wheezing noise. Twoflower decided that it was meant to be a chuckle. (3.13.70)

In case you thought Rincewind was the only character persevering against Death. King Greicha is steadfastly against completely dying to preserve his kingdom. He's also a wizard, making him and Rincewind oddly similar characters.

His brain reeled with the thought. The words of the Spell picked just that moment to surface from the depths of his mind, as they always did in time of crisis. Why not say us, they seemed to urge. What have you got to lose? (3.14.3)

In a way, Rincewind's cowardly self-preservation might be an act of heroism—after all, should he die or be put in great enough jeopardy, the spell will be spoken. And remember: No one knows what that spell will do. By preserving himself, then, Rincewind might be preserving reality itself. Or not.

[Rincewind] wondered what kind of life it would be, having to keep swimming all the time to stay exactly in the same place. Pretty similar to his own, he decided. (4.2.34)

The image of the frog persevering against the tide of the entire world is not only a wonderful symbol for Rincewind's predicament, it's a great image period.

"I thought Fate didn't go in for that sort of bargaining. I thought Fate was implacable," said Rincewind. "Normally, yes. But you two have been thorns in his side for some time. He specified that the sacrifices should be you. He allowed you to escape from the pirates. He allowed you to drift into the Circumfence. Fate can be one mean god at times." (4.13.62-63)

If Rincewind is the frog, then Fate must be the tide. If that's the case, then there's no way Rincewind can win in the end. But we're going to root for him until the end anyway.

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