Rincewind as illustrated by Paul Kidby in The Art of Discworld.
Rincewind as illustrated by Paul Kidby in The Art of Discworld.
Description A cowardly "wizzard" who is always running away from various dangers
Associations Unseen University
Location All over the Discworld, Dungeon Dimensions and Death's Domain
First seen The Colour of Magic
Also in The Light Fantastic
Mort (cameo)
Interesting Times
The Last Continent
The Science of Discworld
The Science of Discworld II: The Globe
The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch
The Last Hero
Unseen Academicals (extended cameo)
The first three Discworld computer games
Notes Voiced by Eric Idle in two Discworld computer games
Portrayed by Sir David Jason in Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic

Rincewind is a fictional character appearing in several of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. He is a failed student at the Unseen University for wizards in Ankh-Morpork, and is often described by scholars as "the magical equivalent to the number zero". He spends just about all of his time running away from various bands of people who want to kill him for various reasons. The fact that he's still alive and running is explained in that although he was born with a wizard's spirit, he has the body of a long-distance sprinter. Rincewind is also reputed for being able to solve minor problems by turning them into major disasters. His unique "skill" is implied to be due to being the chosen one of "The Lady", the anthropomorphic personification of luck.

Rincewind was portrayed by David Jason in the film adaption of The Colour of Magic[1] and Pratchett said in an interview that he unwittingly took Rincewind's name from "Churm Rincewind", a fictitious person referred to in early Beachcomber columns in the Daily Express.[2]



In books

In Rincewind's debut in The Colour of Magic, he acts as a guide for the tourist Twoflower, who hails from the Counterweight Continent, a continent across the disc from the 'hub' continent where Ankh-Morpork is situated. He is recruited for this job because he is the only one who can communicate with Twoflower (they use Be-Trobi as a lingua franca). He and Twoflower wander around for quite a while, and get chased by everything from the personification of Death to a Lovecraftian creature named Bel-Shamharoth.

Even after Rincewind and Twoflower part ways at the end of The Light Fantastic – with Twoflower giving Rincewind his sapient-pearwood Luggage in the process – Rincewind's adventures continue to see him being chased across various regions of the Discworld in spite of, or often driven by, his desire to find somewhere where he can relish boredom in peace and quiet.

During the events of The Last Hero, Rincewind states that he does not wish to volunteer for a dangerous mission; when he is asked to explain himself, he states that he's merely refusing for the sake of appearances, because, as someone is bound to nominate him for the upcoming mission eventually, even if he refuses, somehow events will conspire against him and he'll end up going on the mission anyway as he attempts to escape.

During the events of Unseen Academicals, Ridcully mentions that Rincewind long ago had told him that he never knew his mother- something Rincewind also said in Sourcery. This sheds some light on what is an otherwise little known past.

In other media

Rincewind is the main character of the text adventure The Colour of Magic, which was based on the book of the same name.

Rincewind is also the player character of 1995 Discworld video game. After a dragon is spotted in Ankh-Morpork, Unseen University's archchancellor sends Rincewind to find out the source of the trouble. In the sequel to 1995 game, Discworld II: Missing Presumed...!?, Death disappears and the archchancellor puts Rincewind in charge of finding Death and convincing him to get back to work. In both of the games, Rincewind is voiced by Eric Idle.


Rincewind has the ability to pick up the essentials of foreign languages quickly (the essentials being how to scream for help, or, in point of fact, how to scream – not as simple as it sounds owing to the existence of Discworld languages such as that in which "Aargh!" means "Quick! More boiling oil") and fluency only slightly less quickly, and appears to have the ability to blend in with any situation. During The Colour of Magic, when he was projected into a universe that may or may not have been our own, he assumed the role of a nuclear physicist. In keeping with his nature, the role was as a physicist who specialized in the 'breakaway oxidation phenomena' of certain reactors – or, to put another way, what happens when those reactors caught fire (Terry Pratchett served as the press officer for several nuclear power plants before he became a full-time writer). He has speculated on the nature of science, expressing in The Colour of Magic the hope that there was something "better than magic" in the world, and speculated on the possibility of harnessing lightning, for which he was mocked by "sensible" Discworld citizens. Rincewind is also fairly streetwise. He is often depicted as a harsh critic of the selected stupidities surrounding him, even though he can't help but comply with whatever absurdity that arises. For example, in the computer games starring him, he consistently spotted the ludicrous events around him and would then make jokes and puns to the unaware participants. He also seems to display, despite his apparent failure as a wizard, a fairly extensive magical knowledge, recognizing various spells, magical artifacts and concepts throughout his escapades.

Some of Rincewind's talents once stemmed from a semi-sentient and highly destructive spell that had lodged itself inside his mind and scared off all other spells (mentioned in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic; though it must be stated that even without the spell's interference he was still an extremely incompetent wizard). The spell occasionally tries to make itself heard whenever Rincewind is going through a stressful time; as he was falling to his near-death, he said the first seven out of eight words of the spell.

In Sourcery and Unseen Academicals Rincewind claims that he never knew his mother as she ran away before he was born.


Rincewind has received the following[3] titles during his stay at the Unseen University; some of them because nobody else wants them, others to keep him busy doing work unrelated to magic:

  • Egregious Professor Of Cruel And Unusual Geography
  • Chair of Experimental Serendipity
  • Reader in Slood Dynamics
  • Fretwork Teacher (apparently the result of some 1200 year old curse from a dying Archchancellor, sounding very much like 'May you always teach fretwork!')
  • Chair for the Public Misunderstanding of Magic
  • Professor of Virtual Anthropology
  • Chair of Approximate Accuracy
  • Assistant Librarian
  • Health and Safety Officer
  • Wizzard

These titles and their accompanying tenure include the condition that he cannot have any salary, influence, or opinions. They do, however, include meals, his laundry done, and (as a result of all the impressive-sounding but essentially meaningless titles that have been bestowed upon him) up to eight buckets of coal a day during the entire year.

Concept and creation

Pratchett has said that Rincewind's job is "to meet more interesting people", saying that there is not much he can do with a character who's a coward and doesn't care who knows it. Pratchett noted that one of his major problems was that he has a "lack of an inner monologue".[4]

Supporting characters


Twoflower is a native of the Agatean Empire, on the Counterweight Continent, where he works as an "inn-sewer-ants" clerk, and is the first tourist ever on the Discworld. After his return, he wrote "What I did on My Holidays".

He is described as having "four eyes" by a beggar at the docks early in the events in The Colour of Magic, who "found himself looking up into a face with four eyes," implying he actually wears glasses. He also wears dentures, a concept which inspires Cohen the Barbarian to have a set made for himself made out of trolls' teeth, which are made of diamond.

His adventures begin in The Colour of Magic, when he decides to visit the city of Ankh-Morpork, where he meets the inept wizard Rincewind whom he hires as a guide. Throughout the first two novels, he is followed by the Luggage, a homicidally vicious travel chest which moves on hundreds of little legs, carrying his belongings.

Twoflower is the optimistic-but-naive tourist. He often runs into danger, being certain that nothing bad will happen to him since he is not involved. He also believes in the fundamental goodness of human nature and that all problems can be resolved, if all parties show good will and cooperate. Rincewind, of course, remains immovably convinced that Twoflower's IQ is comparable to that of a pigeon. He has no understanding of the Agatean/Ankh-Morpork exchange rate and often overpays, primarily because even the smallest denomination of Agatean coin is made of pure gold, and, thus, often pays for small items and minor services with enough wealth to buy a sizable fraction of the city. However, he introduces the concept of insurance to Ankh-Morpork (in particular to the landlord of the Broken Drum, which would prove fortuitous as the city and tavern were both consumed by flame (albeit not entirely by accident) — the policy allowed the Broken Drum to be rebuilt as the Mended Drum.)

The book relating his journey across the Discworld is considered a revolutionary pamphlet in his native land. At the end of the novel Interesting Times he was promoted to the rank of Grand Vizier of the Empire, under Emperor Cohen. It is not known if he still holds the position following Cohen's disappearance (as told in The Last Hero).

He appears in the books The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Interesting Times and in the computer game NetHack as the quest leader for the tourist class. He is played by Sean Astin (alongside David Jason as Rincewind) in the two-part television adaptation.

The Luggage

The Luggage is a large chest that follows Rincewind literally wherever he goes- even onto Roundworld, which Rincewind only visited virtually. It is made of sapient pearwood (a magical, intelligent plant which is nearly extinct, impervious to magic, and only grows in a few places outside the Agatean Empire, generally on sites of very old magic). It can produce hundreds of little legs protruding from its underside and can move very fast if the need arises. It has been described as "half suitcase, half homicidal maniac"[5]

Its function is to act as both a luggage carrier and bodyguard for its owner, against whom no threatening motion should be made. The Luggage is fiercely defensive of its owner, and is generally homicidal in nature, killing or eating several people and monsters and destroying various ships, walls, doors, geographic features, and other obstacles throughout the series. Its mouth contains "lots of big square teeth, white as sycamore, and a pulsating tongue, red as mahogany." The inside area of The Luggage does not appear to be constrained by its external dimensions, and contains many conveniences: even when it has just devoured a monster, the next time it opens the owner will find his underwear, neatly pressed and smelling slightly of lavender. It is unknown exactly what happens to anyone it 'eats'.

One of the most notable features of The Luggage is its ability to follow its current owner anywhere, including such places as inside its owner's mind, off the edge of the Disc, Death's Domain, inside the Octavo, the Dungeon Dimensions, and even (literally) to Hell and back. Like all luggage, it's constantly getting lost and having to track its owner down. It has only one way of overcoming obstacles, and that is by simply ignoring them and smashing a hole through them — including a wall to a magic shop that had since relocated to another city by magical means.

The Luggage first appears as the property of Twoflower, the Disc's first tourist in The Colour of Magic (at a bar no less, where all the patrons decide to stare at their drinks after witnessing the arrival of the Luggage). When Twoflower returns home in The Light Fantastic he gives the luggage to Rincewind, and it follows him through several sequels. Twoflower says he got it by asking for "a travelling trunk" at one of about a dozen magical shops – which are not limited by the constraints of time and space, to their owners' dismay – which is exactly what he got. According to "The Light Fantastic", this chain of stores was born when an impatient sorcerer was served rather poorly. When Rincewind eventually visits the Counterweight Continent, Twoflower's home, he finds many items similar to Luggage travelling with their masters.

Pratchett says (at the beginning of Sourcery) that he got the idea for the Luggage when he saw a tartan suitcase with dozens of little wheels moving as though it had a mind of its own while an American tourist pulled it along. However, he has also stated (in The Art of Discworld) that it was loosely based on an idea from a roleplaying game he had designed – that being of a similar item that would do only and exactly as it was told.

Hrun the Barbarian

Appeared in The Colour of Magic. Hrun is an archetypal fantasy barbarian: hulking and musclebound yet slow-witted, with very little dress sense, battle-prone, alcoholic and fond of virgins. Hrun owns a magic talking sword, Kring, which he stole following a battle, and lived to greatly regret it due to the sword's talkativeness. He meets Rincewind in Bel Shamharoth's lair, and aids his escape. Upon nearing the Wyrmberg of the Dragonriders, he is captured by the curvaceous Liessa Dragonbidder and her dragon riders. Liessa's plan was to use Hrun to wrest the rulership of the Wyrmberg from her rival brothers and then become queen, Hrun's payment being her hand in marriage. Hrun agrees to the plan and successfully defeats Liessa's brothers with his bare hands, but he refuses to kill them as they are unconscious. Killing unconscious people would have been damaging to his reputation. Liessa agrees to resort to banishing her brothers. In a scene unusually erotic for a Discworld book, Liessa strips naked before Hrun to see if his desire for her will be strong enough for their relationship to work. Before he can accept the "proposal," Rincewind and Twoflower riding upon Twoflower's conjured dragon Ninereeds, snatch up Hrun in a rescue attempt and fly away with him. Hrun is extremely displeased at the event, having been denied both lordship and intimate contact with Liessa through their actions. But Hrun does not need to be angry for long: when Twoflower faints, his dragon, having existed only through his willpower, disappears, causing all three passengers to fall through the air. Liessa catches Hrun on her own dragon, and the couple share a passionate kiss.

Hrun's fate after this is unknown. In Interesting Times, it is revealed that he eventually became the commander of the Watch in an unnamed city. This could also imply that Hrun eventually split up with Liessa. Hrun's separation from Liessa and his enrollment in a Watch unit are not altogether surprising: late on in the Discworld timeline, barbarians and mythical creatures are dying out due to the modernisation of the world, leading them to either fade from existence or have to enroll into society.

Hrun also has some fame, because Twoflower gets very excited at the prospect of meeting Hrun the Barbarian.

Liessa Dragonlady

Daughter of Geicha the First, lord of the Wyrmberg, and leader of the dragonriders. An archetypal fantasy barbarian woman, she has red chestnut hair, is curvaceous and wears almost nothing except for a chainmail harness. Liessa's ambitions are high: having poisoned her father, the traditional means of succession in her family, she is hindered by the fact that as a woman, she cannot become lord of the Wyrmberg and faces intense rivalty from her two brothers. There is however a loophole: by marrying a man who would then become lord of the Wyrmberg through allegiance, she could act as the real power behind the throne. When she forments this plan, Rincewind, Twoflower and Hrun the Barbarian are passing close to her mountain country. Liessa is interested in Hrun, for as a strong but slow-witted warrior, she could use him to defeat her brothers and then place him as a puppet lord. Having kidnapped Hrun and Twoflower (for whom she expresses no interest and has locked away), she tests Hrun by trying to stab him in his sleep. Hrun grabs her wrist and almost breaks it. Convinced of the fellow barbarian's agility, she tells him that he may marry her if he defeats her brothers. Hrun accepts and succeeds in carrying out her orders, but refuses to definitely kill her siblings. Liessa agrees to banishing them instead and tells Hrun tenderly (calling him by name for the first time) that she did not expect such mercy from him. It seems at that point that Liessa is developing genuine feelings for her husband-to-be. But Liessa still has one more trial in store for him: she strips till she is naked, so as to see how much passion he truly has for her. Before the couple can embark onto anything intimate however, Hrun is snatched away by Rincewind and Twoflower riding Twoflower's dragon Ninereeds. In desperation, Liessa summons her own dragon to pursue them (still naked, as Pratchett makes a point of). Ninereeds nearly outruns her but vanishes when Twoflower loses consciousness, causing everyone riding him to fall. Liessa abandons Rincewind and Twoflower to their fate and catches Hrun on her dragon, and the two share a passionate kiss.

Liessa is never seen or mentioned after this. Since Hrun is mentioned to have joined the Watch in Interesting Times, she and Hrun may have split up, or she herself is now part of the Watch, though the latter seems improbable. Liessa's kingdom is not likely to have survived, for by the later books, barbarian way of life has all but vanished from the Discworld.

She appears in The Colour of Magic. In the Easter 2008 Sky One adaptation of The Colour of Magic, she is played by Karen David.

Eric Thursley

A thirteen-year-old demonologist and title character in Eric. He lives at 13 Midden Lane, Pseudopolis. Eric inherited most of his demonology books and paraphernalia (as well as a talking parrot) from his grandfather; his parents, apparently convinced that their son was destined to become a gifted demonologist, allowed him free rein over his grandfather's workshop. Eric was relatively unsuccessful as a demonologist until, with some unknown assistance, he managed to summon Rincewind from the Dungeon Dimensions. After a journey across Time to such diverse locations as the Discworld rainforests, the Tsortean War, and the beginning of the universe (during which he became somewhat more likeable), Eric was last seen escaping from Hell with Rincewind, and it is unknown what happened to him afterwards.


The Discworld equivalent of Odysseus. He was the finest military mind on the continent of Klatch. His genius consisted of realising that, if there has to be a war, the aim should be to defeat the enemy as quickly and with as little bloodshed as possible—a concept so breathtaking in its originality that few other military minds have been able to grasp it, and it shows what happens when you take the conduct of a war away from skilled soldiers. He was a hero of the Tsortean Wars, which he ended by bribing a cleaner to show him a secret passage into the citadel of Tsort. He is also known for having undergone a long and perilous journey home after the war, much like his Roundworld equivalent. It is possible that he is the ancestor of Rincewind as his name means "rinser of winds."

He appeared in Eric and is briefly mentioned in Pyramids.

Cohen the Barbarian

Ghenghiz Cohen, known as Cohen the Barbarian is a hero in the classical sense, i.e., a professional thief, brawler and ravisher of women.

The man who introduced the world to the concept of "wholesale" destruction, Cohen is the Discworld's greatest warrior hero, renowned across the Disc for his exploits rescuing maidens, destroying the mad high priests of dark cults, looting ancient ruins, and so on.

On his first appearance in the series he is already an old man, but still tough enough to handle anything the world can throw at him; his opponents often underestimate him because of his age, realising too late that a man who does for a living what Cohen does and nevertheless survives to such an age must be very good at it indeed. Cohen does not know how old he is exactly. In The Light Fantastic, he says he is eighty seven years old, but in others he estimates that he is between 90 and 95 years of age.[6]

Cohen is described as a skinny old man, with a long white beard hanging down below his loincloth, and wearing a patch over one eye. His most distinguishing feature, however, is his smile — his unique dentures are made out of troll teeth, which consist of pure diamond[7] and were inspired when Twoflower showed him his own (more typical) set.

The greatest problems now facing Cohen come from outliving the heroic age and finding himself in a civilised modern world where great battles and astonishing rescues happen rarely except in stories — which is ironic given that the Discworld runs on narrative. One of the rare Discworld short stories, "Troll Bridge", tells of Cohen setting out to slay a troll, only to end up reminiscing with it about the good old days when things were black and white and everyone respected the traditions. Part of Cohen's danger to normal people is that as a barbarian hero he has extreme problems interpreting such things as empty bravado — as a man of his word, he naturally assumes that anyone else saying something like 'I would rather die than betray the Emperor' fully means it. This led to the deaths of several guards and courtiers in the Agatean Empire before everyone wised up.

In Interesting Times Cohen became Emperor of the Agatean Empire, having conquered it with his allies, the Silver Horde (see below). This was intended to be a sort of retirement plan, but Cohen and his chums became bored and then abandoned the Empire in The Last Hero, in which Cohen decides to express his displeasure with the modern world by "returning fire to the gods, with interest". After the rather unsuccessful attempt, he and his friends escaped on the backs of horses belonging to the Valkyries and rode into the sky, seeking to explore the outside of space. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Given a barbarian hero's attractiveness to nubile young maidens, Cohen has quite a lot of children; in The Last Hero he mentions casually that he has dozens. The only one mentioned by name in the novels is Conina, who appears in Sourcery. She wishes to be a hairdresser, but Discworld-style genetics keep getting in the way, causing her to instinctively kill people who threaten her. She was last seen in an amorous relationship with Nijel the Destroyer. Interestingly, she says she actually knew Cohen and that he took an interest in her education — such as setting a length of corridor with a variety of traps for some heroic training.

In The Light Fantastic, Cohen helps the other two protagonists, Rincewind and Twoflower, save a seventeen-year-old girl named Bethan, who was to be offered as a sacrifice. They fall in love, mainly owing to Bethan's patience and skill at curing Cohen's back problems, and decide to get married, despite Rincewind's apprehensions about their age difference. At the end of the book they are not present, and it is assumed that they have left for their marriage. Cohen does mention that he has been married before, however.

Actor David Bradley played Cohen in the 2008 The Colour of Magic miniseries. The miniseries was produced by The Mob Film Company and Sky One and it combined both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. It was broadcast on Easter Sunday and Monday 2008.

The Silver Horde

The Silver Horde is a group of barbarian heroes, featured in Interesting Times and The Last Hero, who see Cohen the Barbarian as their leader. The name of the group is a play on the Golden Horde and a reference to the age of its members. They are Truckle the Uncivil, Boy Willie, Caleb the Ripper, Mad Hamish, Old Vincent (ironic in that all of the Horde are old), and Mr. Ronald Saveloy (geography teacher turned barbarian adventurer), or, as the Horde call him, Teach. They are rumoured to be "the legendary Seven Indestructible Sages", previously unheard of, but "Perhaps legends have to start somewhere".[6]

In Interesting Times, The Silver Horde aid Cohen in his invasion of the Agatean Empire in an effort to steal something, which is hinted at but not revealed until the end to be the Empire itself. They also have a hand in overthrowing the current Emperor (a cruel tyrant who isn't "simply at Death's door but well inside the hallway, admiring the carpet and commenting on the hatstand"[6]). A main point of the plot is Teach's attempt to civilise the Horde, a difficult task since "every one of them saw a book as either a lavatorial accessory or a set of portable firelighters and thought that hygiene was a greeting."[6]

With Cohen crowned Emperor, the Horde live like royalty, all except Teach, who dies in the final battle of the novel after proving his barbarian credentials beyond all doubt with a berserker-like rage that amazed even his cohorts.

As of The Last Hero, Old Vincent is also dead, having choked on a cucumber (or possibly a concubine — there's some confusion on this point in the dialogue). The Horde sets off to return fire to the gods in a glorious last adventure, but eventually realize that this would destroy the Disc and, it is implied (if not explicitly stated) that they give their lives to save everyone else.


The daughter of Cohen the Barbarian and a temple dancer. From her mother she inherited gold-tinged skin, white-blond hair, a voice that can make "Good morning" sound like an invitation to bed, and a very good figure. From her father, she inherited sinews you could moor a ship with, muscles as solid as a plank, and reflexes like a snake on a hot tin roof (from relevant pieces of description in Sourcery). She also acquired from Cohen suitable heroic instincts: a strong urge to immediately attack and kill anyone making a threatening move on her, an ability to use anything as a deadly weapon, and an ability to steal anything regardless of the safeguards (such as having been swallowed). By the end of Sourcery, she had fallen in love with Nijel the Destroyer, who could be considered her polar opposite in that he wants to be a barbarian hero but is very bad at it.

Nijel the Destroyer

Nijel the Destroyer, son of Harebut the Provision Merchant, is a would-be barbarian hero, appearing in Sourcery. Nijel meets Rincewind in a snake pit and they escape together. He falls in love with Conina (a barbarian heroine who wants to be a hairdresser but can't due to her genes) at first sight, and she with him. He is a clerk who wants to be a Barbarian Hero and is currently half-way through a book on the subject, which includes a table of wandering monsters and tends to resemble a Dungeons & Dragons manual. In addition to the standard loincloth, Nijel wears woolen long underwear—his mother insisted.

Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan

An ex-opponent of Cohen, and sometime lover. Ofttimes beset by other barbarians, and even more often tearing across the Disc-scape as an aside. Inspired by Red Sonja of Conan fame. She has a prominent role in The Light Fantastic and a small cameo in Eric.

Evil Harry Dread

Evil Harry Dread is the villainous counterpart to Cohen the Barbarian; an old fashioned heroic-fantasy type annoyed with how the Discworld has changed (nowadays, modern heroes always block his escape tunnel before confronting him). He's proud of being a Dark Lord, and the heroes don't bear him any grudges; after all, he always lets them win and, in return, they always let him escape (see the Evil Overlord List). Evil Harry Dread always plays the Game by the code, he intentionally hires stupid henchmen, invests in helmets that cover the WHOLE face (thus making it easy for a Hero to disguise himself) and places Heroes in overly contrived, easily escapable deathtraps.

He appears in The Last Hero, where he joins the Silver Horde on their quest to 'return fire to the gods' by blowing up the mountain. Harry ends up betraying the Horde since it is his job, though when the horde confronted him about his betrayal they praised him for still being a reliable dark lord even at the end. He was last seen descending from Cori Celesti with the Silver Horde's bard, a man they had kidnapped in order to chronicle the quest. Earlier in the aforementioned book it is stated by Cohen that he began with "Two lads and his Shed Of Doom".

Reception and legacy

In her review of Night Watch, A. S. Byatt noted the lack of recent appearances of Rincewind and the more grim presentation of the Witches and Ankh-Morpork as signs of Pratchett's imagination getting darker.[8]

Release 1.1.0 of VLC media player was codenamed "The Luggage."[9] Rincewind, along with Nanny Ogg, Lord Voldemort and Albus Dumbledore, is due to be put on first-class Royal Mail stamps in March 2011.[10] Paul Whitelaw, writing for The Scotsman, felt that David Jason was "clearly several decades too old" to be Rincewind in the film adaption of The Colour of Magic.[11]


External links

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