Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Rincewind is a fictional character appearing in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, several of which feature him as the central character. He is a failed student at the Unseen University for wizards in Ankh-Morpork, often described by scholars as "the magical equivalent to the number zero", and spends just about all of his time running away from various bands of people who want to kill him for various reasons.
He starts out, in The Colour of Magic, the first book of the series, 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 and Twoflower wander around for quite a while, and get chased by everything from the personification of Death to a Lovecraft-esque creature named Bel-Shamharoth.
The first book ends with a literal cliff-hanger when he and Twoflower are thrown off the edge of the Disc by astronomers who want to know the gender of Great A'Tuin, the turtle upon which the disc rides, and have designed a space-ship (bronze and shaped like a fish) to do so.
They both survive, for rather complicated reasons involving the structure of the universe and the necessity of Rincewind's continued existence in order to save the world, and Rincewind becomes a recurring character in the series.
Rincewind is most frequently seen with his hat with the word WIZZARD emblazoned across it in sequins (this may be a reference to Roy Wood's rock band Wizzard) and his Luggage, which has hundreds of little legs and follows him everywhere. He is widely believed to be an elderly man, but the first two books describe him as being young. This is further complicated by comments made by Death about Rincewind's hour-glass (every living being on the Disc has an hour glass, usually kept in Death's home, that gradually records their life from birth to death). Rincewind's hour-glass is described as being highly unusual (most likely as a result of his constant mishaps involving magic, the nature of reality, and shiftings into alternate dimensions), and represents something of a curiosity to Death who keeps the hour-glass on his desk. As such, even Death Himself is unaware of how old Rincewind is supposed to be, or if he will ever even die.
Over the course of his adventures he has turned his cowardice into a fully fledged philosophy of life. He believes that, when running, "to" is never important, what matters is "away from". When it was pointed out that running just lands him in more trouble his response was "Yes, but you can run away from that, too." By The Last Hero he's started describing running away as a religion; it might not give you eternal life, exactly, but it certainly gives you more life. Very few of his various travelling companions (who, at various times, include watchmen, barbarians, a tourist, a teenage demonologist and a kangaroo) take him seriously. This is partially because Rincewind has an unusually pessimistic outlook on life, and partially because bad things seem to single him out for misfortune. Many of them have noticed, however, that Rincewind manages to survive everything that happens to him, and suspect there's a deeper purpose behind this, although he himself insists it's just a coincidence.
In fact Rincewind has the dubious privilege of being the Chosen of the Lady, She Who Must Not Be Named, the Discworld's most mysterious goddess (i.e. Luck). It is for this reason that he is constantly finding himself embroiled in unpleasant situations and coming out more-or-less on top. However if he ever realised this, much less acted as though nothing could seriously harm him, then she would instantly lose interest. Besides, having the favour of the Lady, in addition to being unreliable, also means having the very reliable enmity of Fate.
He has also developed an obsession with potatoes, which is implied to be a result of misplaced sexual feelings. Interesting Times states that later on in his life he will have to undergo therapy for this affliction, involving a pretty woman, a lot of potato chips and a large stick with a nail in it.
Recently Rincewind has become the Professor Of Cruel And Unusual Geography at Unseen University.
Rincewind appears in:
- The Colour of Magic
- The Light Fantastic
- Mort (Cameo)
- Interesting Times
- The Last Continent
- The Last Hero
- The Science of Discworld and sequels
- The first two Discworld computer games, where he is voiced by Eric Idle and a bit obssessed with "Getting a bit of kip*". In fact, after the opening, the next time we see Rincewind in the second Discworld game (subtitled "Missing, Presumed...?" in Britain and "Mortality Bytes" in America) is emerging, yawning, from a plate of mashed potatoes.
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