Pratchett, Terry: The Watch/Vimes

Streets of Ankh-Morpork (wow)

Samuel Vimes is a beautiful character. He grew up in Cockbill Street, the poorest area of Ankh-Morpork. They were so poor that while they had practically nothing to eat, at least their floors were clean enough to eat off. Getting into the Night Watch was quite a change for Sam. Now he had money for food. Being a guard runs in Vimes’ family. In fact one of his ancestors, old Stoneface, beheaded the last king of the city. Vimes’ worldview is that everyone is guilty of some kind of crime.

Guards! Guards! (1989)

[nightwatch.jpg]Nobby, Colon, Carrot, Vimes and the Librarian by William Bradford

Our first proper meeting with Captain Samuel Vimes occurs with him falling over drunk into one of Ankh-Morpork’s streets. It had been a hard day for the Watch. Poor old Herbert Gaskin had broken one of the fundamental rules of being a guard. He forgot to run away from trouble. Now the most despised group of men in the entire city consisted of only three men: himself, Sergeant Colon and Nobby.

In the meantime a young man is heading for the city with “all the openness, sincerity and innocence of purpose of an iceberg drifting into a major shipping lane.” Carrot is the name of this young man, due to the color of his hair but also due to the shape of his body. One day at sixteen his dad sat him down and told him he was not the six-foot dwarf he had always thought he was. Human was his race. His dwarven parents had in fact found him in the woods next to a burned out carriage. Now it is time for him to depart and seek his fortune as a watch-man in Ankh-Morpork. With him his father sends a sword, a dwarven woolen shirt, a golden cod-piece and The Laws And Ordinances of The Cities of Ankh and Morpork.

The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night have a plan to overthrow the Patrician. They are going to summon a dragon. Against all odds they actually succeed in calling one forth. It turns out that this is a double-edged sword. Now that they have called the dragon forth, the dragon figures out a way to get back on its own.

One of the themes that we will encounter again and again in the Watch series is the power play between Vimes and Vetinari (patrician). Vetinari plays Vimes like the strings on a guitar. Carrot is the person who manages quite well to live between a rock and a hard place. His literal interpretation of the laws of Ankh-Morpork and his ability to own any situation makes it possible for him to soften Vimes’ explosiveness after meetings with Vetinari.


Adaptations

  • 1992: BBC4 produced a 6-episode serial dramatisation by Michael Butt of Guards! Guards!
  • 1997: Stage play scripted by Stephen Briggs,
  • 1997: Geoffrey Cush’s stage-adaptation,
  • 2000: Comic adaptation of Guards! Guards! Graham Higgins
  • 2011: Board Game by Backspindle Games in conjunction with Z-Man Games

Men at Arms (1993)

Scenes from Men at Arms by Justyna

Edward d’Eath’s father has just died, leaving him the thirty-seventh Lord d’Eath and an assassin to boot. Unfortunately his father had not left Edward any money. Quite a single-minded person whose belief in a King as ruler of Ankh-Morpork was quite fervent. Coincidentally, he stumbles upon Corporal Carrot, who just happens to look like one of the old Kings. Edward sets about trying to get Carrot and kinghood into fashion.

Captain Vimes is retiring from the police to marry Sybil Ramkin, Countess and the richest woman in Akh-Morpork. He is about to become one of the posh, a gentleman of leisure. But Vimes is finding it difficult to let go of policing.

Thankfully, an important artifact disappears from the Assassin’s Guild. The mystery must be solved. But the Assassin’s Guild aren’t interested in help from the Watch. Vimes loves the chase and the opportunity to get out onto the streets again. The chase after the weapon/artifact turns out to be both challenging and bloody.

Gaspode the wonder dog makes his appearance in Men-at-Arms. Gaspode the talking dog (too much time at the UU can change someone). He is rather keen on Angua (the werewolf).

In Men-at-Arms Pratchett plays with our biases. Here we get to see racism in all its “glory”. Even though the cops in the Watch are only supposed to be cops, they still have to overcome biases towards each other. Like so many others of the Discworld books, Men-at-Arms looks at the power of belief. We get a look at what that belief makes it possible for people to do.


2000: Stage adaptation of Men At Arms by Stephen Briggs

Feet of Clay (1996)

  • 1996: Winner of SFX award for best SF/Fantasy Original Novel
  • 1997: Nominated for 1997 Locus Awards – best Fantasy novel

Warhammer’s miniature grouping

Commander Sir Samuel Vimes is shaving, thinking on the horrors he has to face as a gentleman. People doing things for him, formal dinners and not being able to sit with the servants any longer playing cards and drinking beer. And then: “There was a flicker in the glass. He moved sideways and ducked. The mirror smashed. There was the sound of feet somewhere beyond the broken window, and then a crash and a scream.” The Assassin’s Guild are at it again. Some of the other gentle-people of the city do not want Vimes alive, and the Assassin’s Guild keeps on trying to do their job.

Captain Carrot has made it through his first two years in Ankh-Morpork. The love of his life is Corporal Angua, a werewolf, whose bad-hair days he takes in his stride. She is quite handy to have around when people want scaring. So when some incredibly thick thieves rob Ironcrust’s Dwarf Bakery she does just that – earning the “respect of the community.”

The body of Father Tubelcek is discovered. The watch have just hired their new alchemist, a dwarf by the name of Cheery Littlebottom. She is sent along to investigate the clues she discovers, of which one of them is a strange light in the dead eyes of Father Tubelcek.

Weirdly enough, it turns out Nobby is posh. He has his own coat of arms and has now become a peer. Poor guy, how is he going to deal with this? With increasing desperation it seems.


Adaptation

2007: Stage adapatation of Feet of Clay by Stephen Briggs.

jingo

Jingo by Marc Simonetti

Jingo (1997)

An Ankh-Morporkian and a Klatchian fisher are both at the scene when a strange island rises above the sea. Both immediately lay claim to the island and this leads to a dispute between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. The Klatchian crown prince is sent to Ankh-Morpork and diplomacy ensues (kind of). One of the funniest scenes Terry has ever written comes when Vimes has to lead a parade. The whole thing came alive in my head and I almost fell over laughing.

An assassination attempt is made on the prince and the Klatchian embassy declare war against Ankh-Morpork. Vetinari resigns and Lord Rust takes over. He is slightly eager for war and his decision leads to Vimes and the gang ending up in the Klatchian desert.

At the same time Vetinari, Colon, Nobby and Leonard of Quirm take a u-boat ride to the island and then to Klatch. Nobby ends up having the time of his life with “nubile” women. This is also an extremely funny scene. Poor Nobby. But while there is plenty of humor in the foursome’s trip, there is also a serious reason for their trip (obviously since Vetinari is involved).


2005: Jingo stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs

French cover by Marc Simonetti – Simonetti has become my favorite Pratchett artist

The Fifth Elephant (1999)

Uberwald – the land of vampires, werewolves, trolls and dwarves, is becoming restless. Something very important is happening in a few weeks time. A new Low King is being crowned, and that is causing fighting in Ankh-Morpork. With 50000 dwarves living in the city, people are bound to notice that something is going on.

The old grievances between trolls and dwarves have not yet been resolved and large areas are controlled as fiefdoms by vampire or werewolf clans. Into this “suet pudding” Vetinari plans to send an ambassador for Ankh-Morpork, and he wants to send the Duke of Ankh. Cunning man that he is, Vetinari had already spoken to Lady Sybil about it. Vimes knew when he was beaten.

The replica of the Scone (dwarf throne) is stolen from The Dwarf Bread Museum. Vimes finds an aboundance of clues, to many in his opinion. To him it is a stupid crime that does not feel stupid.

Vimes goes off to Uberwald, leaving Carrot in charge of the city. Thankfully, Sybil is along. She will take care of the negotiations, while Vimes will represent Ankh-Morpork in his unique style.

Angua discovers that her xenophobic brother Wolfgang has decided to take over Uberwald. She leaves Ankh-Morpork and Carrot to stop Wolfgang. Carrot makes a difficult choice. He chooses love over duty and goes after Angua. This time Colon is left in charge of the Watch – a recipe for disaster.

The Fifth Elephant follows these three journeys – Vimes and Sybil/Carrot and Angua/Colon as head of Watch.

In a sense, The Fifth Elephant is a love story. Sometimes the choice is between the people we love, duty and tradition. Can we have it all?


2002: Stage adaptation of The Fifth Elephant by Stephen Briggs

Ankh-Morpork found at The Same Old Song (I need help finding the name of the artist – Kidby, Kirby ???)

The Night Watch (2002)

The Night Watch for the most part happens in the past. Through a freak accident, Vimes is thrown back to the time when he was a younger man and new to the Watch. Along for the ride is Carcer, a cold-blooded murderer. Carcer’s goal in the past is to kill Sybil, thereby wounding Sam beyond repair. Sam’s goal on the other hand is to make the city safer from people like Carcer. To do that he has to establish a new identity as his old self cannot know who he is. Luckily/unluckily Vimes assumes the identity of John Keel, his old sergeant. John Keel has been killed by Carcer. Vimes knows that changing the past will also affect his future. There might not be a wife and child-to-be when he gets home to modern Ankh-Morpork. But Vimes is who he is and cannot leave the Watch or his old self in their old shape.

Unfortunately, Carcer joins the Unmentionables. They are the secret police, carrying out the whims of Lord Winder (patrician of the time). This often includes people going missing, torture and terror. Vimes sets out to make life difficult for both Carcer and the Unmentionables.

Would we try to change the past if we could? Many of us probably would. In trying to influence his younger self to be a better copper, Vimes changed himself. But the big lines of the city. Hmmm – read and see. Corruption and incompetence are dangerous qualities in rulers, but also in the ones set to carrying out the rules. So, what happens when Vimes sets out to change his old world, trying to make it a better place?

———————————-

2008: BBC Radio 4 2008 radio adaptation dramatised by Robin Brooks

2004: Night Watch stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs

Thud (2005) 2006 Locus F Nominated 

Dribble the dragon, Samuel Vimes, Sam Jr. by Kiriban

Vimes really, really does not like Vampires. Until now he has refused to have any of them on the Watch. That choice is taken away from him by his “beloved” Vetinari. Sally is employed to assist in the investigation around the death of the dwarven demagogue, Grag Hamcrusher. Apparently a troll is the culprit. Sergeant Angua and Captain Carrot are the other Watch member assigned to the case.

Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Colon get the job of investigating the disappearance of a 50-foot painting titled The Battle of Koom Valley. The discovery of the disappearance leads to several things happening. Trolls vs. dwarves, assassination attempts, a Kube and the Summoning Dark all lead to Vimes, Sybil, Young Sam, Wilikins, and several members of the Watch going to the Koom Valley where Vimes discovers the secret of the valley.

Young Sam has become the mainstay of Vimes’ life. This will prove essential in keeping Vimes alive and sane. Family is all to him. Vimes’ dedication to peace is strong throughout the book, as can be seen clearly in his fight with the Summoning Dark. Racism is prevalent in the book through the animosity between dwarves and trolls. Once again we are confronted by our own biases. One might even replace racism with religious conflict: Protestant/Catholic (Ireland) or political conflict: Palestine/Israel.

Snuff (2011)

Samuel Vimes and one of his weapons (dragon) by Jan Pospisil(Perfect)

Snuff’s focus is for the main part on Vimes and his family. Lady Sybil makes him take a family vacation to her mansion Crundells. Of course Wilikins comes along. Here all is peaceful and Sam is enjoying being able to concentrate on being with his wife and son. But that is not the way things stay. The house-staff seems to hate Sam and Vimes nose is itching with the smell of wrong-doings.

Samuel discovers a grotto of goblins living nearby. For some inexplicable reason the local gentry seems to hate/despise/revile the goblins and treat them as disposables. When the murder of a local blacksmith occurs, all of a sudden the whole country side is involved. On his side, Vimes has Sybil, Wilikins, a young police officer called Upshot and the goblins. Against him are Lord Rust (who has interests in the area) and most of the local gentry and quite a few of the peasants.

It’s time to call in the cavalry. While he has no jurisdiction at Crundell, Vimes is able to ask his people to investigate certain aspects of his discoveries. The Watch does not play a large part in Snuff, but they are present.

I was touched by Snuff. In a sense I felt as though I was saying goodbye to Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh-Morpork and Commander of the Watch. Pratchett writing has gotten darker as the years have passed for the Discworld. The topics are no longer solely focused on making fun (in his gentle way) of current sci-fi and fantasy fashions, but very much on personal development and the conflicts people meet in life. The slavery of the goblins in Snuff very much reminded me of the slavery that has gone on and is going on in the world. Somehow people find it in themselves to treat others as nothing. Rising up to fight this slavery, both on a large and a small-scale is incredibly difficult. Thankfully Pratchett always leaves us with a sense of hope that things might get better.


SOURCES:

One thought on “Pratchett, Terry: The Watch/Vimes”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s