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Discworld Characters: The Archchancellor

This Who's Who was originally featured in Issue 9 - January 1998


The Archchancellor is the head wizard and official leader of all wizards on the Disc. There have been many Archchancellors and due to the nature of wizards the average time spent in office is only eleven months. Retirement is usually permanent. It is stated that whoever wears the Archchancellor's hat becomes the Archchancellor. Which means, for a short while anyway, Rincewind has been the Archchancellor.

He oscillates from a boorish, overbearing sportsman in one book, to a fatherly, insightful leader carrying the fate of the Disc on his shoulders in the next.

The current and possibly longest running Archchancellor is Mustrum Ridcully. Ridcully is a behemoth of a man who doesn't smoke (a rare case where wizards are concerned) and enjoys hunting. Ridcully also spends a lot of time swearing, which caused more than a few problems in Reaper Man where his swear words spontaneously popped into existence as large insect type creatures.

Presumably because of the pressures of his high office, Ridcully suffers from severe mood swings, or possibly mild schizophrenia. He oscillates from a boorish, overbearing sportsman in one book, to a fatherly, insightful leader carrying the fate of the Disc on his shoulders in the next. The change is often reflected by his speech: "You better fetch 'em" or "You tellin' me ants can count?" are straight out of the Sybil Ramkin school of comedy upper class accents. I feel he's at his best in the paternal leader guise, for example when he meets Susan in Soul Music, but he's usually more entertaining in his other role, particularly in his incomprehension of Hex and dismissal of the HEM students' conceits: "Big. Mad. Drongo. That's your name, is it? That's what you've got sewn on your vest?"

Of all the long running characters, Ridcully seems to be one of the most apt to be distorted for comic effect, which doesn't sit well with what we've come to expect from the series. His youthful infatuation with Esme Weatherwax was a crucial plot device in Lords and Ladies, but it's been swept under the carpet in subsequent books. That said, Ridcully's presence is a huge improvement over the procession of undistinguished Archchancellors the series began with.