SPOILERS Ponder Stibbons Character Discussion

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Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#1
This week's discussion will be about one of my favourite characters, Ponder Stibbons.

We first meet Ponder as a minor character in Moving Pictures, where he gets a perfect exam result accidentally. I thought that would be the last we would see of him, but no. He turns up in Lords and Ladies were there is a suggestion that he might stay in Lancre. And the more we see of him, the more he moves up in the University.

But what do you think of Ponder and his meteoric rise in power?
 

MountainBard

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May 5, 2019
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#2
I love Ponder Stibbons. He is the only competent wizard (along with the Librarian) at UU. Granted the Bursar is quite competent in his field when on a proper dose of dried frog pills.

I actually met the Ponder of Moving Pictures after I'd read of him in a couple of the later books. Based on his introduction in MP, I was surprised that such a callow student could make so much progress as a faculty wizard. Since I knew he had done/would do so, the Ponder of MP was rather jarring to me.

What I like about Ponder is that he is competent, intelligent, and responsible. With these characteristics he is the type of person to end up doing a lot of things that are not "in his job description." And he doesn't really want the responsibility, but he recognizes that whatever it is he's being asked to do now needs to be done, and if he doesn't do it, it won't. He would be much happier spending all his time with Hex.

Which brings me to the other facet of Ponder's personality: his naive belief that the universe is "solvable." He's an indefatigable research who develops a more and more scientific approach to problem-solving as time goes on. This of course bewilders Ridcully no end, but Ponder persists, not only in his researches but in trying to explain them to the Archchancellor. I think that's further evidence both of his naivete and his belief that he can explain everything, even to the Archchancellor, given time.

His naivete and confidence that everything can be sorted out remind me, oddly enough, of Twoflower.
 

Tonyblack

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#3
Ponder is a scientist in a world where science is trumped by magic. He wants to explain the world in terms of logic and science, but that doesn't work on Discworld. I love it when he tries to make an analogy to explain something and you just know that the Faculty are going to take him literally and totally miss the point.
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#4
Ponder, in MP, is a serious student. He is studying hard for the exam. He is probably well-prepared anyway, but nevertheless he has his lucky pen, lucky inkwell, lucky clothing, etc. His lucky ink gets spilled all over his paper, and he is motioned to sit at the empty desk with the one question exam. Was that not lucky? Ponder used everything he could, and as a result he passed the exam. Karmic balance probably required that he have a few minor disasters afterward, but he survived. He even overcame his original intent never to leave the premises of UU for any reason, though he has stayed fairly close.
The element of foolhardy experimentation is added by his fellow grad students, especially Adrian Turnipseed, who built the first version of Hex.

Ponder's low hierarchical status at UU is the reason he gets given all the random jobs; his work ethic is the reason he has consolidated those jobs into a significant power base, which he sensibly keeps quiet about and only uses when necessary.

Ponder reminds me more of Magrat, whose study of the notes left by her predecessors in the Research Witch cottage has made her potions work better than even Granny's, because Magrat's are based on experimental results. Even Granny knows that, because there are times when headology alone doesn't work as well.
 

RathDarkblade

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#5
Well ... everyone's already said what I was going to say about Ponder, except that (given his researcher status and his tendency to think very hard), Ponder is well-named. :)

Actually, Ponder is a rocket wizard - and the picture showing him with the T-shirt tickled my funny bone. ;)

I always loved it when he tried to explain anything to Ridcully, because Ridcully would always get the wrong end of the stick. For instance:

1. Ponder's explanation of parallel universes in LL (And how the Ridcully in the other universe didn't send the Ridcully in this one an invitation to his wedding - the bastard!);
2. Ponder's attempted explanations of evolution in TLC (and the moment of horror when he sees what the god of evolution was really up to);
3. Ponder's serendipitous discoveries in TLH ("Please look into this shard, sir", as well as re-routing the rocket to the moon);

etc. :)
 

Mixa

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Jan 1, 2014
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#6
Can we stop a moment to ponder :mrgreen: about the fact that some people believe this character is a copy from Harry Potter? I'd rather say it's the other way round...

Mx
 
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#7
Can we stop a moment to ponder :mrgreen: about the fact that some people believe this character is a copy from Harry Potter? I'd rather say it's the other way round...

Mx
There's no similarity whatsoever. Ponder is the equivalent of the nerdy scientist who wants to take the "magic" out of magic by explaining it in rational terms. He also grows to become that guy in the corporation who ends up doing everyone else's job not because he likes the power of it all, but because he's so compulsive that he can't stand disorder. Harry Potter is the opposite of him in just about every way.
 

Tonyblack

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Jul 25, 2008
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#8
Apart from the glasses and being a wizard, I see no connection. Ponder is older, fatter and geekier than Harry. Ponder is much more interested in why things happen rather than just attributing it to magic. To a very small degree, I blame the Paul Kidby illustration of Ponder - but only a very, very small. He has the round glasses (and NO beard)
 

Molokov

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Sep 29, 2011
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#9
As Terry did point out - Paul Kidby's illustration of Ponder Stibbons (a wizard with round glasses) was first published in the Pratchett Portfolio in 1996.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published in 1997.

So yeah... a) Terry didn't copy Rowling and b) they don't have anything to do with each other, and Kidby wasn't basing his illustration on Potter either.
 

RathDarkblade

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#10
Ahhh! Ponder is being attacked by HP! ;)

But yes, Ponder is very different to Potter. In fact, TP was asked this question so often that he joked that he must have travelled into the future and "stole" the character from Rowling.

A wizard is a type of character. They are generic. That's why they call fantasy a genre, for heaven's sake. And the Discworld existed at least 15 years (and probably longer) before Hogwarts was even a twinkle in Rowling's eye.

End of argument. No, I don't care that they're both wizards and they both wear glasses. They are different. End of story.

Dumbledore is a wizard and wears glasses too. Does that make him a copy of Harry Potter? No? Why not? :p
 

Dotsie

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Jul 28, 2008
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#11
Rowling 'borrowed' the idea for Harry Potter from Eva Ibbotson's The Secret of Platform 13. But Eva's response was 'I think we all borrow from each other as writers', so there you go.
 

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