Equal Rites

1987 Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett

Books: The Colour of Magic | The Light Fantastic | Equal Rites | Mort | Sourcery | Wyrd Sisters | Pyramids | Guards! Guards! | Faust Eric | Moving Pictures | Reaper Man | Witches Abroad | Main

Equal Rites is a 1987 comic fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett, the third novel in the Discworld series.


  • This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn't pretend to answer all or any of these questions.
It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author's control. They might.
  • A world like that, which exists only because the gods enjoy a joke, must be a place where magic can survive. And sex too, of course.
  • It wasn't a large village, and wouldn't have shown up on a map of the mountains. It barely showed up on a map of the village.
It was, in fact, one of those places that exist merely so that people can have come from them. The universe is littered with them: hidden villages, windswept little towns under wide skies, isolated cabins on chilly mountains, whose only mark on history is to be the incredibly ordinary place where something extraordinary started to happen. Often there is no more than a little plaque to reveal that, against all gynaecological probability, someone was born halfway up a wall.
  • Time passed, which, basically, is its job.
  • "They're both magic. If you can't learn to ride an elephant, you can at least learn to ride a horse."
"What's an elephant?"
"A kind of badger," said Granny. She hadn't maintained forest-credibility for forty years by ever admitting ignorance.
  • "Do you think I used magic?"
Esk looked down at the queen bee. She looked up at the witch.
"No," she said, "I think you just know a lot about bees."
Granny grinned.
"Exactly correct. That's one form of magic, of course."
"What, just knowing things?"
"Knowing things that other people don't know," said Granny.
  • "Gods are all right," said Granny, as they ate their lunch and looked at the view. "You don't bother gods, and gods don't come bothering you."
  • I'm surely going to regret this, she told herself, displaying considerable foresight.
  • There would be a price. And Granny knew enough about wizardry to be certain that it would be a high one. But if you were worried about the price, then why were you in the shop?
  • They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.
  • "You mean it's my destiny?" she said at last.
Granny shrugged. "Something like that. Probably. Who knows?"
  • Although his body had been around quite a lot, his mind had never gone further than the inside of his own head.
  • He had the kind of real deep tan that rich people spend ages trying to achieve with expensive holidays and bits of tinfoil, when really all you need to do to obtain one is work your arse off in the open air every day.
  • She liked it because it offered privacy, always appreciated by, as she put it, "my more discerning clients who prefer to make their very special purchases in an atmosphere of calm where discretion is ever the watchword."
  • A hint was to Esk what a mosquito bite was to the average rhino because she was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don't apply to you.
  • It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of history.
  • One reason for the bustle was that over large parts of the continent other people preferred to make money without working at all, and since the Disc had yet to develop a music recording industry they were forced to fall back on older, more traditional forms of banditry.
  • Wizards parted with money slightly less readily than tigers parted with their teeth.
  • It had been a very long night, and the morning didn't seem to be an improvement.
  • The Shades, in brief, were an abode of discredited gods and unlicensed thieves, ladies of the night and peddlers in exotic goods, alchemists of the mind and strolling mummers; in short, all the grease on civilization's axle.
  • Granny had counted the temples with a thoughtful look in her eyes; gods were always demanding that their followers acted other than according to their true natures, and the human fallout this caused made plenty of work for witches.
  • Granny had nothing against fortune-telling provided it was done badly by people with no talent for it.
  • "Can't you read, Esk?"
The astonishment in his voice stung her.
"I expect so," she said defiantly. "I've never tried."
  • "Hmm. Granpone the White. He's going to be Granpone the Grey if he doesn't take better care of his laundry. Aye tell you, girl, a white magician is just a black magician with a good housekeeper."
  • "Million-to-one chances," she said, "crop up nine times out of ten."
  • "Who says that?" said Cutangle.
"Generally people who are wrong." said Granny. "I makes a note in my Almanack, see. I checks. Most things most people believe are wrong."
  • She told me that if magic gives people what they want, then not using magic can give them what they need.
  • It was a horrible feeling to find things in your head and not know how they fitted.
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