Ponder Stibbons

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Ponder Stibbons
© Paul Kidby
Name Ponder Stibbons
Race Human
Age 24 in The Last Continent
Occupation Wizard
Physical appearance Young (although he has found some grey hairs recently), beardless, bespectacled
Residence Unseen University
Death
Parents
Relatives It was revealed in The Last Continent that he was raised by his aunt.
Children
Marital Status Never married but may have had a holiday romance of the shuffling and slightly embarrassed "...errrm...." kind with Diamanda while on study-leave in Lancre. On the other hand, he might not...
Appearances
Books Moving Pictures
Lords and Ladies
Interesting Times
Hogfather
The Last Continent
The Last Hero
Unseen Academicals
The Science of Discworld
The Science of Discworld II: the Globe
The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch
Unseen Academicals
The Science of Discworld IV: Judgment Day Raising Steam
Cameos Night Watch
Going Postal
Making Money

Ponder Stibbons, HEM, DThau, Reader in Non-Volatile Intelligence, Cantoride Speaker in Slood Refurgance. Ponder Stibbons was once the second-most junior member of the Faculty of Unseen University, with an absolutely overwhelming interest in the more theoretical branches of applied magic. His senior fellows ignore his researches until circumstances force them upon their notice, whereupon Stibbons does rather over-react.

When he gets the full attention of the fellow wizards he usually completely fails in explaining the topic. Maybe he is unable to verbalise his complex thoughts. On the other hand this may be because it is rather hard to explain quantum physics to someone with the attention span of a 4-year-old. Ponder Stibbons is quite popular with the younger students. He is the Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic and Project Co-ordinator for pretty much all the research projects happening at UU.

Ponder Stibbons can usually be found in the High Energy Magic Building where he spends his time fiddling with the fabrics of time and space. He also finds it quite convenient that the senior fellows avoid going there. He is the creator (instigator? bemused attendant?) of the University's super-computer Hex which is also located in the High-Energy Magic Building.

His first appearance is in Moving Pictures where he is a student at the Unseen University. His ascension to the faculty is a result of knocking over a bottle of ink on his final exam and taking the absent Victor Tugelbend's instead - an exam that happened to contain only the question "What is your name?" One wonders if he's ever thanked Victor for the record test score of 100%.

When he reappeared in Lords and Ladies he had become a member of the faculty as Reader in Invisible Writings, investigating the in potentia books in L-space. He is now also Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, in charge of developing all kinds of equipment and heading research activities in the High Energy Magic Building (The Last Hero) and Praelector. Shortly before the events of Unseen Academicals he also acquires the title Master of The Traditions; he now holds twelve positions at the university, thus giving him twelve votes on the college council, which he effectively controls as he is a majority all by himself.

It's possible that his unusually high work ethic for a wizard stems from a guilt need to be as clever as they all think he is - it could also come from the fact that every time he tried to go out during Moving Pictures he had a spate of very bad luck, culminating in a Thing from the Dungeon Dimensions falling on him. It's mentioned in The Last Continent that Ponder is afraid of heights.

Following the events of Lords and Ladies, Ponder excitedly asks Mustrum Ridcully for permission to stay on in Lancre, ostensibly to carry out field-study on the Dancers and their "iron-loving" properties. Ridcully has picked up on a gnomic comment made by Granny Weatherwax about "there's young Diamanda going to be up and about any day now,". He sighs and grants the request. When Esmerelda Weatherwax raises an eyebrow, Ridcully's response (thinking of a long-gone summer when a younger wizard unsuccessfully pursued a much younger witch) is: "well, I couldn't say no, could I?" To which Granny Weatherwax shrugs noncommittally and (perhaps thinking of a long-gone summer when a younger witch ran too fast for a much younger wizard to keep up with her) replies: "it may come to something, or it may come to nothing." It is fair to say that at this point Ponder has never even met Diamanda and has no inkling she exists. His reasons for remaining in Lancre are therefore likely to be 100% genuine and academic. Even though history has a way of repeating itself, nothing more is said about any sort of summer romance or interaction between the two, if ever there was any. Perhaps Granny and Mustrum are holding the possibility open, as something that could be instructive to both? As Ponder would have been back at Unseen University in time for the start of the next term, we have to surmise - if anything happened at all - it was a summer holiday romance. However, this does not preclude the possibility that in sixty years' time, Archchancellor Stibbons might be ruefully remembering a summer and a girl...

In The Science of Discworld IV: Judgment Day he has persuaded the University to fund his Great Big Thing, but it malfunctions slightly and drags a Roundworld librarian through L-Space into the Discworld.

Among his more ambitious projects are:

Annotation

Ponder (which means 'think about deeply', 'muse' in English) has grown over the series from an unambitious young man, into one of the most dynamic thinkers on the Disc, and a polymath to whom the wizards often turn "as one" whenever some concept or event crops up that they don't understand. He seems to combine a number of Roundworld historical characters in one insightful and investigative persona. He complains, to the Librarian and Jason Ogg in Lords and Ladies, with "the agonized expression of a man who has the whole great whirring machinery of the Universe to dismantle and only a bent paper clip to do it with:"

"Rocks! Why am I messing around with lumps of stone? When did they ever tell anyone anything? You know, sir, sometimes I think there's a great ocean of truth out there and I'm just sitting on the beach playing with...with stones."

This is a direct parody of Sir Isaac Newton, quite probably the greatest Roundworld thinker on natural truths that ever there was, who said: "I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered all before me."

Which either means that Terry has written Ponder as greater than he initially comes across, or that two similarly inquisitive minds have both been struck by the terrible thought that the entire universe is empirically knowable and understandable, quantifiable by immutable laws but that the current state of art/science/knowledge/technomancy is not enough for us to actually discover those laws. This is the heartache of all who truly ponder (hah!) on the Great Mysteries. For those of us who don't, of course, it's quite enough that we know how to make beer and kebabs - or at least that somebody does, and that we are at liberty to partake of them.

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