We can fear nothing. What of these Dungeon Dimensions? If they should trouble us, then away with them! A true wizard will fear nothing! Nothing!
~ Coin
Coin is one of the main antagonists of Sourcery, the fifth book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasy series. The son of fellow Discworld villain Ipslore the Red, Coin is the Sourcerer around which the plot of the story revolves: apparently driven to return Wizards to their "rightful place" as commanders of society, he is initially believed to be behind every act of villainy performed over the course of the story; however, Coin's nature is far more complicated than first appearances suggest...


The Nature of Sourcerers

Magic, like many forces on the Disc, operates to the Law of Narrative Causality in that it tends to follow the patterns of stories to a slavish degree: the eighth son of an eighth son will always become a wizard, eight being a potent magical number in the Discworld series. The equation often ends there, as most wizards are too preoccupied with mastering their arts and surviving the rigors of magical politics to take much of an interest in sex. However, should an eighth son of an eighth son be so inclined to expand the family, his children will all be born with great magical potency: the eighth son of the eighth son of the eighth son will be born a wizard squared - a Sourcerer.

Sourcerers are figures of legend even among wizards, and regarded with a considerable degree of fear - with good reason: wizards cast spells by drawing on the Disc's ambient magic, and are often hampered by how much energy they can safely utilize at once. Sourcerers, on the other hand, are sources of new magic: they naturally generate their own ambient magic and can utilize it in almost any way they please, granting them the ability to warp reality at will. More dangerously, other wizards can also draw on this Sourcerous magic, finding it more powerful than common ambient magic - often driving them to intercontinental violence in pursuit of their ambitions. During the Mage Wars, wizards drawing upon Sourcery and other wild magic bombarded each other with spells heedless of collateral damage, often leaving areas uninhabitable or even unreal; in some cases, it was bad enough to get the attention of the Dungeon Dimensions.

Fortunately, Sourcerers are not invincible, nor are they immune to normal human foibles: those of them who don't die in combat often lose interest in the world and mysteriously vanish in pursuit of their own private obsessions. As such, the last of the Sourcerers vanished from the Discworld countless centuries ago, but not before inspiring the wizarding community to take drastic steps to avoid upsetting the fabric of reality again - for fear that the next Sourcerer born might become a harbinger of the Apocralypse (apocryphal apocalypse),

In particular, the wizards of Unseen University are strongly cautioned to only use magic when absolutely necessary - if at all; furthermore, they are also taught that sex diminishes their control over magic, a lie intended to prevent the births of further Sourcerers. However, not all wizards accepted the teachings...

Ipslore The Red

Some generations prior to the start of the novel, the sequence began again: a perfectly ordinary man had eight sons, the eighth of which eventually got married and had eight sons. The eighth of these eventually grew up to become Ipslore the Red, one of the most powerful wizards ever taught at Unseen University; normally the story would have ended there, with the wizard spending his days on study and the murderous ascent through the ranks of the faculty.

However, against all expectations, Ipslore fell in love. Gaining notoriety for his growing infatuation with matters of the heart, he was eventually banished in the scandal that ensued: caring little for the opinions of his fellow wizards, he settled down, married the object of his affections, and started a family. As expected, his sons all grew up to be powerful wizards in their own right. However, Ipslore was still a maverick teacher even in his exile, and continued preaching his doctrine of reckless magic and matters of the heart to his sons - ultimately leading to arguments in which all seven of them were exiled from Ipslore's presence.

It was here that Coin was born as the eighth son of Ipslore's family, the first Sourcerer to walk the Disc in millennia. However, Ipslore's beloved wife died of a heart attack shortly afterwards, and all his magic couldn't save her; mad with grief, the aged wizard swore revenge on Unseen University for rejecting him and rejecting love, vowing to teach Coin how to return magic to its rightful place in the world. To that end, at the very moment of his death, he bound his soul to his famous octiron staff and bequeathed it to Coin, intending to advise his son from beyond the grave.

However, Death demanded one stipulation in return for this immortality: if Coin were to ever voluntary cast aside the staff, Ipslore would lose his immortality and Death would claim him. Ipslore accepted, secure in the belief that no wizard would ever give up his staff.

The New Archchancellor

Though the events of Coin's life prior to the start of the story remain unknown, it can be presumed that Coin spent most of his childhood being taught and advised by Ipslore: his father taught him the art of magic, but also taught him his increasingly-demented philosophy of magical supremacy, slowly moulding him into the perfect means of enacting his megalomaniacal ambitions.

At ten years old, Coin is finally sent out to Ankh-Morpork to meet with the wizards of Unseen University: killing the Archchancellor-elect prior to his inaugural dinner, he then bursts in on the dinner itself and challenges the startled wizards to a contest of magic - with the winner claiming the position of Archchancellor. Amused at the child's demands, Skarmer Bilias demonstrates his mastery of eighth-level wizardry by conjuring "Maligree's Wonderful Garden," a timeless utopian pocket reality - though he can only manage a Garden about two feet wide. Unimpressed, Coin briefly expands the spell to encompass the entire banqueting hall, before promptly disintegrating Bilias with a single spell.

Astonished by this display of power, the wizards reluctantly make Coin their new Archchancellor. Unfortunately, the Archchancellor's Hat has other ideas: having gained sentience after years of exposure to countless other elite wizards, the Hat wants nothing to do with Sourcery and even less to do with Coin, so it arranges its theft at the hands of master thief and warrior maiden Conina. While the Hat arranges its transportation to Al-Khali with the help of inept wizard Rincewind, the faculty provide Coin with a mundane replacement, trusting him not to know the difference.

By now, Coin has the loyalty of almost every single student and faculty member of Unseen University, with most of the wizards completely seduced by the potency of the magic they can draw from the Sourcerer's ambient field; as such, few - if any - question his next commands.

A Lot Of Changes Around Here

Under Ipslore's continued guidance, Coin denounces the university-bound lifestyle of the current wizards, insisting that they should rule over all as is their right. Deposing the current Patrician of the city, Lord Vetinari, and having him transformed into a lizard, he then moves on to ordering his wizards to seize control of the city itself: as the merchants are forced out of Sator Square and any resisting citizens put down, Ankh-Morpork's infamously filthy streets are remade into a gleaming metropolis befitting the Sourcerer's new capital.

However, Coin doesn't stop there: declaring the world too badly-governed to be tolerated, he begins a brutal campaign of expansion over the entire Disc, sending out his wizards to seize control of the civilized world, one invasion at a time. Not content with ruling from the university, he also crafts a gargantuan tower from which to manage the affairs of his growing empire, and orders the wholesale destruction of the university's treasured library. Any members of the faculty who resist this order are killed, though the Librarian is able to escape the worst of Coin's attentions - likely due to the conflict outside the campus that begins soon after.

By this time, the Archchancellor's Hat has arrived in Al-Khali and acquired a willing host in the form of the Grand Vizier; from here, it moves to oppose the expansion of Coin's empire, proclaiming itself the champion of Old Wizardry. With centuries of experience in magic, the Hat is able to counter the early attempts at invasion, gather an army of like-minded wizards, and begin long-range attacks on enemy targets. Eventually, the once-simple campaign dissolves into a series of vicious conflicts between city states, with wizards all over the disc building towers from which bombard one another with magic - effectively starting the Mage Wars all over again.

Throughout the war, Coin remains the dominant power out of all the combatants, vaporizing entire cities from atop his tower. However, as the conflict worsens and the casting escalates, reality itself begins to dissolve under the onslaught of so many warring magics, and the entities of the Dungeon Dimensions start to take an interest...

Brick In A Sock

Following the destruction of Al-Khali and the end of the Hat's resistance, members of Coin's faculty attempt to inform him of the dangers that the Dungeon Dimensions pose, with Mamaric Carding becoming so distraught that he goes so far as to try and wrestle the staff out of Coin's hands - only to be killed when Ipslore retaliates.

Though clearly horrified by the death, Coin is once again spurred on by his father's spirit, and rallies the terrified wizards with a demonstration of the full extent of his power - imprisoning the gods of the Disc in a pearl.Unfortunately, without the gods to hold them back, the Ice Giants immediately escape from captivity, thereby beginning the Apocralypse and the end of all life on the Disc.

It is at this point that Rincewind arrives at the top of the tower, intending to challenge the Sourcerer to a duel to the death; he is armed with the only weapon he could find - a half-brick in a sock.

Coin is so incredulous at the concept that he actually refuses to kill Rincewind, finding him too pathetic to pose a threat. However, Ipslore is not willing to tolerate any sort of resistance to the rule of Sourcery, and insists that Rincewind be killed immediately. Angry at being given so many orders that have failed to help anyone, Coin disobeys his father for the first time, prompting Ipslore to torture his son through the staff in an attempt to force his obedience - torture that only stops when Rincewind is able to swat the staff out of Coin's hands with the brick-in-a-sock.

A fight breaks out between father and son, with Ipslore trying to force Coin to comply, and Coin trying to throw away his staff once and for all. With the two locked in stalemate and the battle drawing upon more and more magic, the tower around them begins to dissolve, eventually leading to a massive explosion that tears open the fabric of reality and destroys the staff once and for all. While Death triumphantly claims Ipslore's soul, Coin and Rincewind find themselves facing down the inhabitants of the Dungeon Dimensions - creatures that actively feed off magic, leaving Coin's powers effectively useless for the first time in the novel.

With no other option, Rincewind distracts the entities and allows Coin the time he needs to escape, leading the Things on a merry chase through the dungeon dimensions and effectively trapping himself there until the events of Eric.

A World Of His Own

Now under the guidance of Unseen University's Librarian, Coin hastily starts setting things right: he releases the gods from their prison, averts the Apocralypse, rebuilds the damaged cities, returns Lord Vetinari to human form, and erases any problematic memories - leaving the immensely embarrassed wizards as the only inhabitants of the Discworld who know what really happened.

However, Coin is still unhappy. By now, it's clear that he can't do magic without effectively destabilizing the world, but unlike other wizards, he doesn't have the option of using magic only when necessary: magic is who he is and what he does; by his very existence, he brings more magic into the world. Desperate for a solution, he begs the Librarian for instructions - and in the end, he is told to do what countless Sourcerers have done before him.

Casting "Maligree's Wonderful Garden" one last time, he wanders off into a pocket universe of his own creation, one where reality is stable enough to allow for him to remain in comfort. Soon after, the portal into the garden closes, and Coin is never seen again.


On the surface, Coin appears to be an archetypal creepy child, an impression only worsened by his luminous gold eyes: with his disturbingly adult vocabulary and unnervingly calm demeanor, he naturally comes across as unearthly, and the ruthlessness shown towards his enemies only inspires greater fear. When his ambitions of creating a world ruled by Sourcery become apparent, Coin seems to be unveiled as the perfect apocalyptic villain: grandiose, relentless and without empathy of any kind.

However, much like the rest of Coin's life, this outward personality is little more than a facade arranged by Ipslore: under the mask, Coin is a relatively ordinary ten-year old, for though he knows more about magic than most wizards will ever learn, he is still essentially an innocent. Indeed, the first hint that he might be more than his tyrannical exterior suggests is when Spelter discovers Coin alone in the university, crying - apparently after being abused by Ipslore. Later, when Carding dies in an attempt to stop Ipslore, Coin can only watch in horror at the sight; while still separated from the staff, he examines Carding's body and asks if "anything bad is happening to him," having difficulty understanding that the man is actually dead, and then wishing he wasn't when he finally comprehends. While recovering from Ipslore's torture, he admits "I don't like killing people. I'm sure it can't be right." Finally, when rescued by Rincewind, he goes to every effort to undo what he did to the Discworld, even going so far as to erase Nijel and Conina's memories of the event so they can enjoy a happy life together.

Tragically, Ipslore's abuse has ensured that Coin is dependent on the instructions of others, having no idea what to do with his powers without constant guidance: at the end of the novel, he is reduced to pleading with the Librarian for something, anything to do. Worse still, he knows he doesn't belong in the Discworld, his nature as a Sourcerer preventing him from ever being happy in a place as unstable as the Disc - hence his self-imposed exile in his pocket reality.

I can't help it! It's too easy to change things! I've only got to think of something! I can't stay, everything I touch goes wrong, it's like trying to sleep on a heap of eggs! This world is too thin! Please tell me what to do!
~ Coin's final breakdown

Powers and Abilities

As a Sourcerer, Coin is capable of virtually anything he puts his mind to; suffering from none of the limitations that constrain ordinary wizards, he can not only cast spells that most UU faculty members have never even dreamed of casting, but alter reality at will. Over the course of the novel, he demonstrates his power by remodeling the university, creating his own tower, rebuilding Ankh-Morpork to his own designs, plucking snow from a mountaintop though the magic of perspective, and even creates his own pocket universe; even the gods of the Discworld cannot resist his powers. He also demonstrates an ability to read minds and adjust memories, learning the nature of the Dungeon Dimensions by reading Rincewind's thoughts, and later ensuring that the events of the novel remain unremembered by anyone outside Unseen University.


  • Coin bears close similarities to another all-powerful individual from Terry Pratchett's work: Adam, the young antichrist in the Pratchett/Neil Gaiman novel Good Omens, both being children with reality-warping powers and a great deal of apocalyptic prophecies surrounding the maturation of their abilities, both of them coming close to bringing about the end of the world, and both ultimately using their powers to avert the apocalypse instead.