The L-Space Web: Analysis

Sourcery Essay


by Vasiliy Slobodov

Terry Pratchett is hailed as one of the best authors in the genre of satirism and fantasy. Many of his works deal with modern themes which he pokes fun at using the language of fantasy novels. The novels themselves are set on a flat disc that lies on the backs of four elephants which are traveling through space on the back of a turtle. Hilarity ensues. The novel Soucery is considered to be the point where he stopped being just a humorist, and became a writer on par with Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. One of the more pivotal scenes in the novel is when the wizards of the premier University of magic on the disc.

The scene begins by describing the wizards as they are arranged, before the actual events take place. Dinners are common at the Unseen University, but this one is special. It marks the election of the next Archchancellor, leader of all wizards. The scene itself vividly contrasts the sweeping majesty of the hall, and the stern portraits of the imposing Archchancellors that preceded the election of this one with the hubbub of the wizards assembled. It also mentions the wizards' predisposition of ascensions through assassination, where wizards would advance their careers by killing senior wizards. The scene however shows that during this feast, killing a fellow wizard is bad taste, and therefore, all of the wizards are relaxed. "...and wizards felt able to let their hair down without fear of being strangled with it." (19) It portrays an easy-going atmosphere of the modern world not caring about the past. And this sets up a mood that will be dispelled as the scene progresses, and the Sourceror is about to enter the University.

Another important part of the scene takes part not at the dinner table, but during the same time. While the other wizards are eating, and being merry, the next Archchancellor, Virrid Wayzygoose, is in his room, attempting to eat his own meal. However, he is nervous, and unsure of himself, and he goes to practice his acceptance speech in front of the mirror. This scene illustrates how low the wizards have gone in their standards, and how each wizard just wants to be left alone to his own devices, and also mimics the way how some teachers in schools want to be able to pursue their own agenda, instead of complying with those of the principal. Therefore, they chose a worrisome man who isn't sure of himself as the next Archchancellor. However, the would-be Archchancellor sees the future in the mirror. "He looked into the mirror, and turned round. He started to say, "Who are y-"" (20) The Sourceror has arrived and is already acting out on his views about magic.

The final part of the scene unfurls, as the wizards are about to officially induct the Archchancellor as the Archchancellor. One of the protagonists of this book, Spelter, calls the other wizards to attention, to make the next Archchancellor ask admittance, as custom demands. Here, he makes fun of some of the strange initiation rights in some universities in Britain and the US. Instead, something else happens. ".the hinges flared from red through yellow to white and then exploded. Slowly, with a terrible inevitability, the doors fell into the hall." (24) Such feats of power are rarely available to normal wizards, and as such, the other wizards are impressed. However, instead of the person they expected, amid the burning remains of the door stands not Virrid Wayzygoose, but a young boy, with a big staff. The Sourceror.

Thus unfolded the dinner scene at the Unseen University. From the beginning of it, with the irreverent wizards disregarding the past, to the future of wizardry blasting their ceremony, Pratchett was able to both convey a sharp change of mood, as well as give some foreshadowing to things to come. Even Terry himself said that he considers this one of his better novels. And this scene, with the lazy, overweight, and ambitious wizards is the perfect jump-off point for the rest of the novel. Along with this come further jabs at modern society and teaching institutions. But the main message is how change takes us when we least expect it, and when we least want it. Quite profound from a humoristic fantasy writer.


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