Discworld: Guards! Guards!
They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No-one ever asks them if they wanted to.
This book is dedicated to those fine men.
The eighth Discworld
book and the first to feature the City Watch, one of the most popular of the major character groups/themes in Pratchett's creation, plus the first appearance of C.M.O.T. Dibbler
, though as a one-note gag character. It is also notable in that it is the first of the Discworld books in which Patrician Vetinari is the Magnificent Bastard
we all know and love. Up until this point Pterry was still working out the character, and aspects of the final product appeared in other books, but Guards! Guards!
is the first book in which the character is recognisable as he exists now.
Once upon a time, the Ankh-Morpork City Watch was a proud lawkeeping organisation, but nowadays the Machiavellian Patrician, Lord Vetinari
, keeps the peace by the simpler notion of instituting the Guild of Thieves
and asking them to police crime themselves. The Night Watch has dwindled away, and now there are only three watchmen left - Captain Sam Vimes, Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal "Nobby" Nobbs. The fourth, Herbert Gaskin, died a week before the book takes place when, while routinely half-heartedly chasing some crook, he accidentally got ahead of the group and killed by the crook's buddies hiding behind a corner.
They are joined by the newest recruit, Lance-Constable Carrot Ironfoundersson, who was raised by dwarfs in the mountains. A huge, powerful and highly moral and innocent young man, he immediately tries to arrest the head of the Thieves' Guild and clean up the Mended Drum pub - and succeeds
. Not only is he tough, he also has a strange... charisma.
At the same time, The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night
is planning to summon a noble dragon using a book stolen from Unseen University
's Library and use it in a ploy to place a puppet ruler on the throne as king. Almost unwittingly, Vimes and his crew are on the case, with the help of upper-class swamp dragon breeder Sybil Ramkin. But can these unlikely heroes save the city when the dragon decides to take the throne for itself?Guards! Guards!
has been adapted into a play and a graphic novel, and is often cited as the best Discworld novel for new readers to start the series. Notably, Pratchett said that Carrot was originally going to be the viewpoint character, but the structure of the book didn't allow it so he made up Vimes - who is now one of the most popular and complex characters in the whole of Discworld.
Preceded by Pyramids
, followed by Eric
. The next book in the Watch series is Men at Arms
loosely adapted into the Point and Click Adventure Game Discworld
Contains examples of:
- Admiring the Abomination: Lady Sybil has this reaction to the Noble Dragon. Vimes does not.
Sybil: Do you realise we're very probably seeing something no-one has seen for centuries?
Vimes: Yes, it's a bloody flying alligator setting fire to my city!
- And again when they have a similar exchange near the end about stopping the mob from killing it. This time Vimes decides that since she was about to be eaten and still doesn't hate it, she may have something of a point.
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Mentioned, in the form of "smart bastards whose idea of a day's work was prising the Ruby Eye of the Earwig King out of its socket."
- Alien Geometries: It's mentioned that Unseen University Library "would make even M. C. Escher take a good lie down, or possibly sideways".
- There's a very good argument made that because "books = knowledge and knowledge = power"note , then any decent-sized library or bookstore has power on the scale of a small black hole, turning libraries into reality-warped redoubts.
- Antiquated Linguistics: The oath of loyalty sworn by the Brethren, especially the bit about what will happen to them if they break faith, is full of obscure and antiquated words; it's a running joke that they're all in mortal fear of having their figgin taken out and toasted on a spike, without any of them being entirely sure what a figgin is. (A footnote tells us it's a pastry filled with raisins, and the guards enjoy some later on.)
- Other words in the oath include welchet ("a type of waistcoat worn by certain clock-makers"), gaskin ("a shy, grey-brown bird of the coot family") and moules ("a game of skill and dexterity, involving tortoises"). The oath, when one doesn't know the meaning of the words in it, sounds much more menacing than it actually is. The Supreme Grand Master notes the fact that none of them have asked what any of the words mean as a sign of their stupidity.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Colon attempts to hit the dragon in it with an arrow. He has no idea what its Weak Point actually is, but you'd know it if you saw it, right?
- Berserk Button: The first book where saying monkeynote in front of the Librarian is potentially lethal.
- Also, Vimes is shown as loving Ankh Morpork and hating kings so much that when a dragon is destroying his city and being revered as a king, that he picks up a ape by the chest fur and shakes it in a rage.
- Big Bad: The Dragon goes from enigmatic plot device to this when it declares itself king of Ankh-Morpork.
- The Big Guy: Carrot, who not only manages to take out the entire clientele of the Mended Drum at once, but beats Detritus at the same time. For those who don't know, Detritus is a troll, and therefore made of solid rock.
- Bizarre Alien Locomotion: What Errol managed to come up with.
- Black and Gray Morality: The Patrician explains his worldview to Vimes in this way:
"I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people. You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people - but some of them are on opposite sides."
- Then again, Vimes' reaction to this worldview (namely pointing out that, even with such a dark view, Vetinari still chooses to get up in the morning), the loyalty and bravery of the Watch (particularly Carrot) and the scene near the end where the watch subverts the Patrician's expectations of them by asking for a dartboard instead of ego-boosting honours seems to hint that Vetinari's worldview might not actually be correct. And Vetinari's comment as Vimes walks away, "There's a good man", might seem like just a comforting statement, but given Vetinari's tendency to never say things accidentally might mean Vetinari himself doesn't entirely believe his philosophy, or that Vetinari has reconsidered his previous views. Then again, he's probably just answering Vimes' question of why he gets up each morning. (It might even be that he doesn't believe it at all, and was saying that to wind Vimes up, as he does in later books.)
- Book Ends: When we're first introduced to Vimes, he's drunkenly comparing the city to a woman. At the end of the book as his romance with Lady Sybil blossoms, he compares the woman to a city.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: a couple of examples:
- Break Them by Talking: See Humans Are Bastards, below.
- Brick Joke: When the heroes refuse to slay the dragon because Vetinari doesn't have a daughter to give her hand in marriage, Vimes mention he does have an aunt. This was never referred to again until Night Watch, years later and mostly set before this book, when Vetinari's aunt Lady Roberta Meserole is a significant character.
- Also, his little dog, which shows up in The Truth as a major character and gets another mention in Going Postal.
- The "eye-watering words" mentioned at the start keep popping up. For instance, after going out to get some food, Nobby innocently asks the captured Brother Fingers if he wants his figgin toasted, with predictable results.
- Among the things C.M.O.T. Dibbler sells are mystic products "made from over fifty different rare spices and herbs to a recipe known only to a bunch of ancient monks what live on some mountain somewhere". Vimes (and the reader) dismisses this as his usual sales talk given the quality of the rest of his goods, but at the very end of the book, as we pan across the Discworld, there's a brief moment where two monks on a mountain at the Hub of the world prepare to send their latest shipment to Dibbler.
- Brother Dunnikin's contribution to the first set of magical items for dragon-summoning is an amulet that supposedly protects him from crocodile bites. The Supreme Grand Master sneers at buying such a thing in a temperate city. Later he misses a meeting of the Brethren because...he's been bitten by a crocodile. The Supreme Grand Master insists this is just a coincidence.
- By-the-Book Cop: Carrot. "The Book" in this case being The Laws and Ordinances of The Cities of Ankh and Morpork, published some six generations previously. Carrot isn't just the only copper who follows the book, he's probably the only one who's read it.
- Call Back: As it opens, the book describes the state of the dragons, concluding, "Possibly the word we're looking for here is...dormant." Much later, the passage is repeated again, concluding, "Possibly the word we're looking for here is...angry."
- Canis Latinicus: "FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC" the modern-day motto of the Night Watch. note
- The Cat Came Back: How Vetinari torments Wonse near the end.
- Chandelier Swing: A Discussed Trope; the tales the old guardsman tells young Carrot involve a lot of chandelier swinging, and later a group of guards ordered to arrest Sam Vimes worry that he'll turn out to be a swashbuckling hero and fight them all off while shouting "Ha!" and swinging from the chandelier.
- Characterisation Marches On: Actually pretty understated compared to other first-in-the-sub-arc Discworld books. In fact some characters who had been introduced in earlier books (such as the Patrician, and maybe even the city of Ankh-Morpork itself) emerged from Early Installment Weirdness into their recognisable selves. Vimes, however, is markedly different in this first appearance from his later self. Some of it is of course simply character development. But it's pretty startling to revisit a Vimes who has no strong opinions on the monarchy (rather it's Colon who rails against it), and leaves a fellow officer to fend for himself in a bar brawl.
- Chekhov's Gun: The footnote about the nature of libraries initially seems like a one-off gag, but the Librarian later quotes the equation to himself and uses it to travel back through time to learn who stole his book.
- Combat Pragmatist: Vimes, who is here presented as preferring a cleaver to a sword as a weapon.
- Comically Small Demand: After the Night Watch is honored for saving the day, the Patrician asks them to name their reward. The guardsmen put their heads together and request a five-dollar pay raise, a replacement tea kettle, and perhaps a dart board.
- The Commandments: The three rules of the Librarians of Space and Time are:
- Books must be returned no later than the last date shown.
- Do not interfere with the nature of causality.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: the Genre Savvy Palace Guards believe that being asked to take out a single man means certain defeat for them, as he might even swing from the chandelier. Fortunately for them, Vimes isn't feeling heroic. And there's no chandelier.
- As later books show, if he was in the right mood (i.e. pissed off) he could have taken them all on and won.
- Continuity Nod: when Vimes is fired from the Watch, Lady Sybil suggests that he leave for Sto Helit, where the Duke and Duchess (a rather young couple) are looking for a guard captain. Guess who?
- Cool Sword: Carrot's sword. It hasn't got a name, it has no jewels on it; it's just a long piece of metal with very sharp edges. But in a magical land like Discworld, Carrot's sword is unique for not being magical at all. It is so non-magical it's realer than most of the Discworld. It's one of those things, like Death, where it simply is. Since most of Discworld is magical, and the sword is not, it's a hot knife through butter.
- Invoked with the "royal sword" that the Supreme Grand Master had made for the king-to-be, but subverted in that it's crafted to only look cool, but is completely worthless as a weapon.
- Critical Staffing Shortage: The night watch, made virtually redundant by the legalizing of crime, is reduced to four men (Two incompetents and an idealist, commanded by an alcoholic) to police a city of a million by the time this book is set.
- Curse Cut Short: All over the place. Special mention goes to Nobby's description of Colon's fall through a privy roof.
Nobby: Talk about a short sharp shower of—
Vimes: And then what happened?
- Defeat Means A Little More Than Friendship: Errol and Her Majesty.
- Decoy Protagonist: Carrot. Actually an unintentional example: Pratchett intended to make him the protagonist, but needed a voice in the city before Carrot arrived, threw the character of Vimes together out of clichés as a stop-gap, and he ended up taking on a life of his own.
- Disney Villain Death: Lupine Wonse, a.k.a the Supreme Grand Master's ultimate fate.
- Dissimile: How a Literal-Minded Sergeant Colon interprets Vimes' "This city is a woman" idea when they're both drunk. "Got a river running through it, sir. Lots of people and houses."
- Don't Tell Mama: One of the first things Carrot does on his first night on patrol is shame a bunch of bar-brawling dwarfs into behaving themselves by asking what their mothers would say if they found out.
- Dragon Hoard: The dragon that takes over the palace of Ankh-Morpork demands all the gold for its hoard. Since Ankh-Morpork is a Vestigial Empire of gilded treasures and heavily diluted coinage, there's a lot of ugliness before the dragon is satisfied.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Vimes, constantly. Colon explains that most men's bodies produce a bit of alcohol naturally, but Vimes was born "two drinks low," so when he's sober, he's really sober. The resulting clarity of thought makes him cynical and depressed, so he self-medicates, but as Colon says, he usually gets the dosage wrong.
- Early Installment Weirdness: All (Morporkian) writing is in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, and years are numbered rather than given animal names as in later books.
- Still later books have gone back to the numbers; the Century of the Fruitbat is the 20th Century.
- Dwarf genders. While this book is the first one to set up the idea (in a footnote), that gender is "more or less optional" among dwarves, it's treatment is nonetheless different than in later books, with Carrot using female pronouns for both Minty, his mother, and mums in general. However, later books make it very clear that, in Dwarven society, male is the default gender, and anyone identifying or presenting as a woman is considered taboo. It could be explained that perhaps Carrot's mine is more liberal, but in "Feet of Clay", Carrot himself displays confusion over the concept of a female dwarf.
- Entendre Failure: Happens with Carrot admitting he "got a girl back home in trouble" (because she was a dwarf and he was a human), and that he stays at Mrs. Palm's brothel (which he thinks is a boarding house) every night.
- Establishing Character Moment: Vetinari in the cell, Vimes' rant about the law to Lupine Wonse (or perhaps his earlier defence of Lady Sybil using one of her own swamp dragons as a handgun).
- Extreme Omnivore: The swamp dragons. Errol in particular.
- Fantastic Science: The equation that explains the Alien Geometries of Unseen University Library—not because it is magical, but simply because it is a library. "Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass: a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read".
- Four Terms Fallacy: "Power" hides the extra term; Pratchett deliberately confuses intellectual power with power as cosmic energy in order to make this argument. As this is Discworld, it's possible that both kinds of power are the same thing.
- Fake Ultimate Hero
- Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The motivation for most members of the Elucidated Bretheren.
- Female Monster Surprise: The dragon.
- Genre Savvy:
- The Palace Guards are absolutely terrified of Vimes because he is alone, unarmed, and smiling - the most dangerous kind of enemy to a henchman army. Subverted in that he actually is as little of a threat as such a person should be.
- Also, the members of the Watch believe that a Million-to-One Chance will be practially guaranteed to succeed - more likely than a Thousand to One or even Hundred to One Chance - and intentionally manipulate the situation to make it more unlikely, until it is as close to Million to One as possible. It still fails—but fortunately, their chances of surviving the failure were exactly a million to one.
- Giant Flyer: The dragon, a walking (flying) in-universe flagrant violation of the Square/Cube Law.
- It's flagrant enough that several characters call it out as physically impossible, finally attributing it to magic.
- Grail in the Garbage: Carrot's utterly mundane sword. His aggressively, uniquely, powerfully mundane sword.
- Groin Attack: Actually somewhat subverted. Since Carrot has a "Protective", people who try to knee him end up injuring themselves.
- Here There Were Dragons: Although the Discworld is still a magical place, the contrast is drawn between its sad little realistic swamp dragons and the noble dragon which laughs in the face of physics thanks to its magical nature.
- Hijacking Cthulhu: The book has Lupine Wonse use a book called The Summoning of Dragons to summon a dragon and control it...but the dragon doesn't stay under his control for long.
- Holding Out for a Hero: Wonse's plan relies on the Narrative Causality that people will look to a hero when there's a dragon problem.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters:
- Harsher in Hindsight once you've read Night Watch, and realize Wonse's memory of living in terror of the Cable Street Particulars is probably what the dragon found so horrifying, not just unspecified historical atrocities.
- Vimes also gets this when he overhears a crowd of citizens rationalising away the idea of feeding their own people to the dragon, as Vetinari discusses with him later:
Vetinari: Down there are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don't say no.
“I thought, in Nature, the defeated animal just rolls on its back in submission and that’s the end of it,” said Vimes, as they clattered after the disappearing swamp dragon.
“Wouldn’t work with dragons,” said Lady Ramkin. “Some daft creature rolls on its back, you disembowel it. That’s how they look at it. Almost human, really.”
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: Vimes gets very upset over the idea of someone setting fire to his city.
Vimes: “Listen, if anyone ever sets fire to this city, it’s going to be me.”
- Hypocritical Humor: "But when I rule the city, the Supreme Grand Master said to himself, there is going to be none of this. I shall form a new secret society of keen-minded and intelligent men, although not too intelligent of course, not too intelligent. And we will overthrow the cold tyrant and we will usher in a new age of enlightenment and fraternity and humanism and Ankh-Morpork will become a Utopia and people like Brother Plasterer will be roasted over slow fires if I have any say in the matter, which I will."
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: "Help. Me." To the head of the Guild of Assassins. There's only one sort of help he can give...
- Impossible Insurance: Dibbler promises that his "dragon protection" cream will save you from being burned to death by dragon flame, and if it doesn't work then you get your money back (upon personal application only).
- Innocent Innuendo:
- "Why? It's my bloody dragon."
- A monarchist hazards that one of the chief problems of being a king is your daughter getting a prick. [Long pause.] And falling asleep for a hundred years.
“Ah,” said the others, unaccountably relieved.
- Interspecies Adoption: Carrot was raised by dwarves.
- Ironic Echo: When Vimes tries to get through the Palace Guard, a Guardsman called Clarence calls him "Captain Slimes" and then, after Vimes evenly corrects him to "Vimes with a Vee" then repeatedly refers to him as "Captain Vimes with a Vee" in a supercilious fashion. When Vimes later interrogates Clarence from a position of power, he calls him "Clarence with a C".
- Just Like Making Love: Vimes refers to some particularly weak coffee as "love-in-a-canoe" coffee. The standard punchlinenote is omitted.
- Karma Houdini: Elucidated Brethren member Brother Fingers escapes the dragon's attack on their headquarters, and later escapes from the Watch by sheer terror.
- The dragon burns down a large portion of Ankh-Morpork and kills several people in the process, yet it ends up getting a happy ending with Errol.
- The Last DJ: Although this becomes famously inverted as the watch series goes on, Vimes starts as a classic case, complete with Drowning My Sorrows.
"Every time he seemed to be getting anywhere he spoke his mind, or said the wrong thing. Usually at the same time."
- Lawful Stupid: Carrot to the nth degree, although the fact that he can knock out trolls means there's not much the hardened criminals can do about it. He wises up in later books, but finds it useful to keep pretending he's like this.
- Lethal Eatery: C.M.O.T. Dibbler's traveling sausage stand, which even Sybil can't quite compliment without hesitation.
"Hot sausages, two for a dollar, made of genuine pig, why not buy one for the lady?”
- Literal-Minded: Carrot doesn't understand the concept of metaphors, which leads to some hilarious moments, not the least of which involves a time where he is told to throw the book at someone. He obliges, unfortunately for the victim.
- Lonely Funeral: Only his three squad-mates attend to "Leggy" Gaskin's funeral.
Poor old Gaskin. He had broken one of the fundamental rules of being a guard. It wasn't the sort of rule that someone like Gaskin could break twice. And so he'd been lowered into the sodden ground with the rain drumming on his coffin and no-one present to mourn him but the three surviving members of the Night Watch, the most despised group of men in the entire city.
- Love at First Punch: Or rather, Love At First Sonic-Boom Backlash, between Errol and the King.
- Made of Explodium: The swamp dragons are very prone to exploding because of their digestive processes.
- Malaproper: Colon repeatedly mixes up the phrase "You're history" with other educational fields.
- Nobby, talking smack to the Palace Guards, comes up with things like "doggybag", "doucheballs", and "slimebreaths"... and "motherbreath".
- The Meddling Kids Are Useless: The Watch end up being superfluous during the Dragon's takeover of the city, and it is implied that Vetinari was already aware of Wonse's plot. How much control Vetinari had is debatable, however, as Vimes does save him from Wonse's attempt to kill him.
- Medical Monarch: Parodied when a group of royalists start claiming the King will right all wrongs, Vimes demands to know what wrongs the people of Ankh-Morpork are suffering. Someone comes up with "premature baldness", and another instantly replies "Ah, kings can cure that, you know."
- Metaphorgotten: Immediately after isolating that the city is like a woman, a drunken Vimes digresses: "Roaring, ancient, centuries old," - before describing how it strings you along only to kick you in the teeth and so on.
- Million-to-One Chance: A hilarious attempt at invocation.
- Mind Screw: Vimes wonders how Vetinari can still claim to be in control when he's locked in a cell. Vetinari invites him to look at the cell door (a heavy iron one with many bolts), really look at it. It takes Vimes a minute before he sees it:
Vimes stared at the door until his eyebrows ached. And then, just as random patterns in cloud suddenly, without changing in any way, become a horse's head or a sailing ship, he saw what he'd been looking at all along. A sense of terrifying admiration overcame him. He wondered what it was like in the Patrician's mind. All cold and shiny, he thought, all blued steel and icicles and little wheels clicking along like a huge clock. The kind of mind that would carefully consider its own downfall and turn it to advantage.
It was a perfectly normal dungeon door, but it all depended on your sense of perspective.
In this dungeon the Patrician could hold off the world.
All that was on the outside was the lock.
All the bolts and bars were on the inside.
- Monster Protection Racket: the Brethren's scheme.
- Mooks: The dedication makes it clear that this book was intended to subvert the idea. But Terry liked the Watch too much to let them go after one book, and the rest is history.
- He said (in The Art of Discworld), "I wanted to give them a moment in the sun, but it turned out to be a full tropical holiday."
- Mugging the Monster: A relatively rare example from Discworld where the monster is not Angua. The first two times the dragon appeared, it was in the Shades. People tried to mug it the first time and the second time it accidentally saved the Watch from getting mugged, scaring the crap out of them in the process.
- Subverted by Carrot's highly uneventful trip to Ankh-Morpork from the mountains; every would-be bandit who gets a look at him immediately backs down.
- Myopic Architecture: Vetinari is revealed to have done this on purpose: while the lock to the palace dungeon is on the outside, the locking mechanisms are on the inside. Would-be usurpers throw him in the dungeon expecting it to serve as an oubliette; instead, it's an impregnable fortress that he can "escape" at his leisure.
- Naïve Newcomer: Carrot, though he's not really an audience surrogate because, at least if the readers have read the previous books, they already know most of the stuff about Ankh-Morpork he writes home about.
- Need a Hand, or a Handjob?: Carrot ends up staying with Mrs. Palm and her 'daughters' thanks to this.
- Never Forgotten Skill: Sgt. Colon claims shooting a longbow is like "riding something you never forget being able to ride," while having terrible problems even drawing his bow, let alone aiming. In reality archery is most definitely NOT a case of this, it requires constant practice to keep your hand in. (The main reason crossbows became so much more popular.)
- No Name Given: The Big Bad's stand-in "king" is never named. Lampshaded when a minor character assumes his name is "Rex Vivat" ("Long Live the King") because he keeps seeing the phrase on banners.
- Nonsense Classification: The four food groups: sugar, starch, grease, and burnt crunchy bits.
- Oblivious Adoption: The novel provides the page quote for that page.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Vetinari of all people, who has not yet come around to the usefulness of Vimes and spends most of their early interactions carefully stomping out the watch's investigations.
"But there's the footprints, sir," said Vimes doggedly.
"We're close to the river," said the Patrician. "Possibly it was, perhaps, a wading bird
of some sort. A mere coincidence," he added, "but I should cover them over, if I were you. We don't want people getting the wrong idea and jumping to silly conclusions, do we?" he added sharply.
- Odd Job Gods: Vimes knows there's a thieves' god and a whores' goddess and think there's probably even a god for assassins. But none for the Watch.
- Offered the Crown
- Offscreen Teleportation: After he's let himself out of his cell ("escaped" would imply he hadn't planned to be there), Vetinari pulls this on Wonse repeatedly to mess with him, using hidden passages.
"That was commendably speedy, Wonse."
- Oh shi--
- One-Man Army: Carrot.
- Only the Knowledgable May Pass
- Our Dragons Are Different: Two kinds (see The Colour of Magic). This book explains the relationship of the two types.
- Overly Long Gag: When Colon tries to diplomatically explain to Vimes how I Am Not Weasel applies to the Librarian:
"You don't use the 'M' word. Gets right up his nose, sir. He can't help it, he loses all self-control. Like a red rag to a wossname, sir. 'Ape' is all right, sir, but not the 'M' word. Because, sir, when he gets angry he doesn't just go and sulk, sir, if you get my drift. He's no trouble at all apart from that, sir. All right? Just don't say monkey. Ohshit
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: Double subverted. When one of the Supreme Grand Master's conspirators is trying to get into their meeting, he has to exchange a long string of non sequitur Spy Speak to get in the door. However, these are apparently so generic that he manages to get quite a long way in before realizing one of them doesn't match up and they realize he's got the wrong address, and is trying to get into a completely different secret society. Furthermore, when he does have the right place, it turns out one of the people belonged to the other society, but no one had noticed until they said their society's name.
- Pet the Dog: The villainous Supreme Grand Master (a.k.a. Lupine Wonse) does one nice thing in the whole book. After the summoning magic consumes Brother Dunnikin's anti-crocodile amulet (see Brick Joke, above), Brother Dunnikin moans that it cost him three dollars. On finding out that Brother Dunnikin has been bitten by a crocodile and being told that the Brethren are having a whip round for him, the Supreme Grand Master asks to be put down for three dollars.
- Platonic Prostitution
- Posthumous Character: "Leggy" Gaskin, who was killed shortly before the start of the book and we first meet Vimes on the way back from his funeral.
- Prophecy Twist: Near the start a character briefly mentions (and dismisses) a prophecy that "Yea, the king will come bringing Law and Justice, and know nothing but the Truth, and Protect and Serve the People with his Sword". Although hardly anyone notices, the prophecy is fulfilled exactly. Note that the prophecy doesn't actually say he'll take the throne.
- Quiet Cry for Help: Wonse's desperate whisper to the assassin.
- The Reveal: Wonse is the Supreme Grand Master and The Place Where the Dragons Went is actually the human imagination.
- Rightful King Returns: Invoked by the plan of the Grand Supreme Master. Discussed heavily by the Elucidated Brethren in general, providing the trope's page quote. Subverted with Carrot.
- Running Gag: Vimes' various attempts to convey that the city is like a woman and their decidedly mixed success.
- The identification of the dragon's footprints as those of a wading bird also crops up repeatedly.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The old dragons.
- Secret Circle of Secrets: The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night.
- Secret Handshake: The Supreme Grand Master notes to himself that the members of the Brethren are "the sort to dislocate their fingers with even the simplest secret handshake".
- Serious Business: The Librarian considers the theft of a book to be a worse crime than murder. Of course, it is a magical book that allows one to summon dragons, but it's implied that all librarians feel this way about all books.
- Traveling through L-Space is also not taken lightly. There are specific rules that librarians can't ignore.
- Shaped Like Itself: A description of the streets of Ankh-Morpork at night includes "thieves thieved" and "assassins assassinated."
- She Is the King: The dragon.
- Shoot Out the Lock: "What, with a bow and arrow?!"
- Vimes is rather confused as to why he'd given that order, but it's implied that he was tapping into some timeless copper folk-consciousness.
- Lots to classic police films such as Dirty Harry.
- And two to classic detective stories in the same paragraph: "Once you have eliminated the impossible" etc., and "the curious incident of the orangutan in the nighttime".
- There are at least two shout-outs to Casablanca as well: the line "Of all the cities in all the world it could have flown into, he thought, it's flown into mine," and "Here's looking at you, kid," the last line Vimes speaks in the book.
- And quite a lot to J. R. R. Tolkien, as noted above, both to The Hobbit and to The Lord of the Rings.
- Also The Man Who Was Thursday, G K Chesterton's story in which all members of an anarchist group are progressively revealed as secret policemen of various descriptions.
- M. C. Escher is mentioned by name (see Alien Geometries) and his work Reptiles is alluded to in the prologue, which states that the Place Where The Dragons Went is similarly packed so tightly with dragons that if you look carefully at it, the space between each dragon is another dragon.
- Carrot cries "All for one!" when he charges off to help save Lady Sybil, to Colon's and Nobby's puzzlement.
- Carrot himself can also be seen as an Expy of d'Artagnan, with Colon, Nobby and Vimes as the Musketeers.
- "I heard where this guy, he killed this monster in this lake, no problem, stuck its arm up over the door . . . and you know what? Its mum came and complained. Its actual mum come right down to the hall next day and complained. That's the respect you get."
- Various royalty-centric Fairy Tales are alluded to by the populace scraping together all they know about kings.
- To Raymond Chandler - in times of stress Vimes resorts to a bottle in the bottom drawer of his desk. And Carrot, after spending some time polishing his old armour, steps out into the street "untarnished and unafraid". A reference to a line in Chandler's essay The Simple Art Of Murder,"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid".
- A human of heroic proportion, but naive? A foundling brought up by dwarfs, off to make his way in the world? Knows no fear? Siegfried from Richard Wagner surely?
- The whole business of competing secret societies, each of which has a Brother Doorkeeper who will only let you past the Sacred Portal if you know the correct form of mystically oriented words, is reminiscent of similar shennanigans in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: After the above example of Dissimile, Vimes changes the subject, but Colon responds with little enthusiasm because "He was still wondering about his superior officer’s sex life."
- Smug Snake: The Supreme Grand Master, a.k.a. Lupine Wonse, who vastly overestimates his own power in summoning and controlling the dragon, not to mention the fact that he thought he could do a better job running the city than Vetinari.
- Spy Speak: Very prevalent among the numerous secret organizations apparently, leading to more than one humourous misunderstanding.
- Square/Cube Law: Lampshaded. Sybil specifically points out that you can't just scale things up and have them work the same way. Justified by the dragon using magic to support itself.
- Real dragons are the size of dogs... and so chemically combustible that they tend to blow themselves up rather than burn villages down.
- Standard Hero Reward: Subverted. All the dragon slaying heroes insist on this for slaying the dragon, but Vetinari makes it clear there is no princess and this is not a kingdom. He does have an aunt, though. And a dog.
- Double Subverted, though, if you think hard about what Vimes eventually gets as a result of this book. Namely, the hand of a duchess (if not a princess), and becoming one of the wealthiest men in the city, if not actually owning half of it.
- Arguably he does own half of it; He's the Duke of Ankh, which is half of the composite city of Ankh-Morpork
- This trope got double subverted earlier, if you consider what the fellow (Errol) who really defeated the King got out of the deal. Granted, they didn't bother to take half the kingdom, but she'd already found out that Ankh-Morpork's idea of "gold" wasn't worth hoarding, and they could hardly bring half a city along when they flew away, perhaps to join Errol's distant relations on the Moon.
- Stealth Pun: Several, two notable Getting Crap Past the Radar instances including the example under Just Like Making Love and Vimes' lamentation on the cruelties of Nature: "No wonder they call her a mother..."
- "They felt, in fact, tremendously bucked-up, which was how Lady Ramkin would almost certainly have put it and which was definitely several letters of the alphabet away from how they normally felt."
- Summon Bigger Fish: Vimes catches Wonse planning to summon another dragon to fight the first one.
- Sword of Plot Advancement: Subverted, of course. The fake heir to the throne has an incredibly shiny sword covered in gems and doesn't really do him much good, while Carrot's aggressively non-magical, completely sword-like sword can cut through pretty much anything (including the shiny sword).
- Team Pet: Errol. Who's pretty much a Lethal Joke Character.
- Think Nothing of It: Vimes is surprised to hear that he and his men will be rewarded for their efforts to save the city.
The Patrician: Oh, and do bring your men in tomorrow. The city must show its gratitude.
Vimes: It must what?
- When they are told that they can have a reward, his men ask for a small raise, a new tea kettle, and a dartboard (being afraid that they went too far with the last one.)
- This Bed of Rose's: Carrot has no idea he's staying at a brothel.
- This Is Your Brain on Evil: It's so freaky you're asking the head of the Guild of Assassins for help. (And it's terrifying for the assassin: "Help. Me.")
- Thrown from the Zeppelin: Spoofed. The civic leaders all plan to just murmer a quiet agreement with whomever is stupid enough to loudly protest against having to give the Dragon a monthly Virgin Sacrifice. But since all of them are Genre Savvy enough not to talk back to the Dragon, no one ends up protesting. And they all curse the others for their cowardice.
- Throw the Book at Them: Literally, in one case.
- Time Travel: How the Librarian eventually discovers who stole his book. He is able to do this because all libraries are interconnected through L-Space and he is able to find the paths connecting the Unseen University Library to any other... including the Unseen University Library of two weeks ago.
- Title Drop: The Big Bad yells "Guards! Guards!" twice, once to summon the guards to arrest Vimes (see Conservation of Ninjutsu), and another to get rid of Vetinari.
- Trail Of Breadcrumbs: The Librarian does this when navigating through L-Space with a big ball of string. He ties one end to his desk in the middle of the Library... and when he reaches his destination, the same place but two weeks ago, he ties the other end to his two-weeks-younger desk with his two-weeks-younger self sleeping behind it. Try not to think about this too much.
- Trailers Always Spoil: At least one edition of the book reveals on its front cover artwork and the back cover summary that the dragon is crowned king, an event that doesn't take place until the last third of the book.
- Training The Gift Of Magic: This is one of the few places in the Discworld series where we see that characters lacking any aptitude for magic, and also any formal training, can in fact get it to work, sort of, using lengthy rituals based on stolen information, and a source of power. We also see why this is a really, really bad idea.
- Turn in Your Badge: Wonse demands this from Vimes after he disrupts the coronation (mistaking a raven for the dragon).
- Unfamiliar Ceiling: This happens to Vimes.
- Villainous Rescue: The Dragon saves the Night Watch from certain death in the Shades by wiping out their prospective murderers.
- The Villain Knows Where You Live: It's implied that Lord Vetinari got the leaders of the Guild of Thieves to agree to his plan by quietly suggesting that he knew where their loved ones lived.
- Welcome to the Big City: Carrot's arrival in Ankh has elements of this; he doesn't get robbed himself, but he doesn't cope well with the idea that theft is legal (and that the Watch are probably closer to criminals than the Guild of Thieves is). Although he's so naive he doesn't notice the prostitution, even when he's staying at Mrs Palm's.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Vimes "being brung low by a woman" as part of the backstory for his alcoholic state is not referred to again, even though later books explore his earlier life some more and make more than one Continuity Nod to other elements from this book (such as Leggy Gaskin).
- The Watchmen might think that Vimes was referring to an actual woman, but considering that Vimes referred to Ankh-Morpork as a woman at least twice earlier in the book, the "woman" may have been there the entire time.
- In a later book, a plausible candidate for "the woman" is identified as a Miss Mavis Trouncer; Vimes, facing death, hopes that when his life flashes before his eyes, it fast-forwards through the bits pertaining to his association with Mavis.
- It turns out in the sequel that he is spending most of his pay on women... specifically, charity to the widows and orphans of watchmen killed in the line of duty. Worrying about their welfare might have helped drive him to drink.
- A Wizard Did It: The dragon is able to fly... because of Magic. Of course, in the Discworld, this is a perfectly legitimate explanation.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The spellbook. And Vimes writes his notes like this - he doesn't speak that way. The joke is that people in Ancient Days used to speak like us, but write in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. (This was subsequently dropped in future books.)