The first novel in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic, was published On the 24th of November 1983, in the United Kingdom. Discworld is a comic fantasy book series written by the English author Terry Pratchett (1948–2015), set on the Discworld, a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. The books frequently parody or take inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare, as well as mythology, folklore and fairy tales, often using them for satirical parallels with cultural, political and scientific issues.
The Colour of Magic begins in Ankh-Morpork, the biggest city on the Discworld. The main characters are an incompetent and cynical wizard named Rincewind and a rich but naive insurance clerk from the Agatean Empire named Twoflower, who has come to visit Ankh-Morpork. The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, coerces Rincewind to protect Twoflower, lest the tourist’s death provoke the Agatean Emperor into invading Ankh-Morpork. After Twoflower is kidnapped by a gang of thieves and taken to the Broken Drum Pub, Rincewind stages a rescue alongside the Luggage, an indestructible, enchanted and sentient chest belonging to Twoflower. Before this, Twoflower convinces the Drum’s barman to take out a fire insurance policy; the barman subsequently attempts to burn down the Drum to claim the money, but ends up causing a fire that destroys the whole of Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind and Twoflower escape in the chaos.
Rincewind and Twoflower travel towards the city of Quirm, unaware that their adventures on this journey are actually the subject of a boardgame played by the Gods of the Discworld. The pair are separated when they are attacked by a mountain troll summoned by Offler the Crocodile God. The ignorant Twoflower ends up being led to the Temple of Bel-Shamharoth, a being said to be the opposite of both good and evil, while Rincewind ends up imprisoned in a dryad-inhabited tree in the woods, where he watches the events in Bel Shamharoth’s temple through a magical portal. The pair are reunited when Rincewind escapes into the temple through the portal, and they encounter Hrun the Barbarian, a parody of heroes in the Swords and Sorcery genre. The trio are attacked and nearly killed by Bel-Shamharoth, but escape when Rincewind accidentally blinds the creature with Twoflower’s magical picture box. Hrun agrees to travel with and protect Twoflower and Rincewind in exchange for heroic pictures of him from the picture box.
The trio visit the Wyrmberg, which is home to dragon-riders who summon their dragons by imagining them, and are separated when the riders attack them. Rincewind escapes and uses Kring, Hrun’s sentient magical sword, to attempt to rescue his friends. Twoflower is imprisoned within the Wyrmberg, and because of his fascination with dragons, is able to summon one greater than those of the Wyrmberg riders, who he names Ninereeds, allowing him to escape captivity and save Rincewind from being killed in a duel with one of the three heirs of the Wyrmburg. Hrun meanwhile is enlisted by Liessa, another of the heirs, to defeat the other two heirs in mortal combat so that he may rule the Wyrmberg alongside her, with Liessa intending to use him as a puppet ruler. Despite refusing to ride a dragon, Hrun defeats both the brothers and has them banished from the Wyrmburg. Unaware of these events, Twoflower, Rincewind and Ninereeds snatch Hrun, but as they attempt to escape into the skies, Twoflower passes out from the lack of oxygen, causing Ninereeds to disappear. Hrun is saved by Liessa, but Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves in more peril.
The two of them are taken to the edge of the Discworld by the ocean currents and nearly carried over, but they are caught by the Circumfence, a huge net built by the nation of Krull to catch sea life and flotsam washed in from the rest of the Discworld. They are rescued by Tethis the sea troll, a being composed of water who had fallen off the edge of his own world and onto the Discworld, where he was subsequently enslaved by the Krullians. Rincewind and Twoflower are then taken by the Krullians to their capital, where they learn that the Krullians intend to discover the sex of Great A’Tuin by launching a space capsule over the edge of the Disc, and plan to sacrifice Rincewind and Twoflower to get the god Fate to smile on the voyage, Fate insisting on their sacrifice after they caused him to lose the earlier game. Rincewind and Twoflower attempt to escape, but end up stealing the capsule, which is launched and Twoflower, Rincewind and the Luggage find themselves in deadly peril once again….
Forty-one Discworld novels have been published. The original British editions of the first 26 novels, up to Thief of Time (2001), had cover art by Josh Kirby. The American editions, published by Harper Collins, used their own cover art. Since Kirby’s death in 2001, the covers have been designed by Paul Kidby. Companion publications include eleven short stories (some only loosely related to the Discworld), four popular science books, and a number of supplementary books and reference guides. The series has been adapted for graphic novels, theatre, computer and board games, and television. Many Discworld novels have also won awards such as the Prometheus Award and the Carnegie Medal. In the BBC’s Big Read, four Discworld novels were in the top 100, and a total of fourteen in the top 200. More than 80 million Discworld books have been sold in 37 languages.