Bits and Pieces of Eight and Other Numbers

Th’only colour whut matters iz blue – Feegle blue!

The Colour of Magic isn’t all about colours. There are lots of numbers on the Disc too. For example, eight (which I sometimes avoid using as much as a wizard but which I name by number here because it’s just too much trouble not to) is a common number because of octarine, the eighth colour of the Rimbow and other reasons that I’ve already alluded to.

Let’s take a look at a few more of these numbers.

In The Colour of Magic’s chapter identically called The Colour of Magic, Twoflower says he has calculated the odds against a house catching fire in the Red Triangle district of his hometown of Bes Pelargic (aka Bes Palargic) are 538 to 1.

I wonder if Terry picked this number at random or if it’s a reference to the number of Electors in the United States electoral college. It would be very unusual for that “house” to catch fire. It would also be very unusual for this to be a randomly-chosen number.

Speaking as I was earlier of octarine, Terry says in this same chapter that in addition to being the eighth colour, it’s the “pigment of the imagination”. Now, that’s an overused pun, but it makes more sense here than any other place I’ve ever seen or heard it. And actually, in other uses, it’s usually “pigment of my imagination” in reference to something very specific that someone has seen – or thought he has seen.

It makes a whole lot more sense in this context because octarine, Discworld-esque though it be, is actually a pigment of sorts. At least, it has to do with color. It doesn’t require the imagination of the inhabitants of the Disc, but it does take the imagination of you and me to come into existence.

In the Prologue to The Sending of Eight, there’s a line that struck me as funny, whether it was supposed to or not. (It likely was.) As the gods in Dunmanifestin are playing their board game, the Lady, who shall remain nameless for now, sets two new playing pieces down on the board. Then…”The rest of the players, as one God, craned forward to peer at them.”

What’s funny to me is that we don’t think twice about the phrase “as one man”, but it sure sounds silly when you hear; that is, read, “as one God”. It means exactly the same thing. It just refers to different beings. Still, it tickles my funny bone, as one bone.

In the same Prologue, two of the gods are rolling dice. Presumably the player who rolls the highest total wins the turn. Blind Io rolls 3 fives. Total: 15. Then the Lady rolls a 6, a 3, and a 5. Total: 14. But wait! That 5 hasn’t quite settled down yet. It’s now spinning and settling on…a 7?!

Blind Io complains, “Play fair.”

Haha! Luck be a Lady tonight.

There. I said it.

I enjoy Terry’s naming of the people from the Agatean Empire. If I recall correctly, he doesn’t continue this pattern later on, but for now….

  • Twoflower – The Tourist
  • Nine Turning Mirrors – Grand Vizier
  • Captain Eightfeather – creator of the Traveler’s Digestives

For whatever reason, a number starts the beginning of each name. Let me know if you can think of a good reason (other than Terry’s imagination) for this.

Two more items that are tangentially(?) number-related.

1) Just throwing this out there. It seems quite fitting that Death’s first word in the series is the question: “Rincewind?”

2) Weasel pickpockets and then destroys Twoflower’s pocket watch. This made me sad because it worked much like the iconograph. It had a very small demon inside doing all the work – “It lacks but ten minutes to eight of the clock”. After Weasel threw it away, there was a vivid octarine flash. Easy come, easy glow.

Disc demon
Bits and Pieces of Eight and Other Numbers
Article Name
Bits and Pieces of Eight and Other Numbers
A few random bits about some of the numbers used in The Colour of Magic
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Narrativium Reviews
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