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Fanfic / Nature Studies

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The Guild of Assassins in Ankh-Morpork breeds and studies animals for its own specialised uses. Interesting animals, such as venomous snakes, scorpions, poisonous spiders, boa constrictors, Bombardier Beetles, the Venomous Chaffinch of the Genuan Delta, the Impatient Vulture of the Central Howondalandian Plain (which likes to hurry things along a little) and so on. What it doesn't yet have are large carnivorous hunting animals, like lions, tigers, panthers, et c. The Animal Management Unit's founder and director, Howondalandian Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes (who teaches Nature Studies and elementary biology at the Guild school) is keen to get some but has had her request turned down on cost and practicality reasons.


Then one day, C.M.O.T. Dibbler is hit, albeit imperfectly, by an inspiration particle, What if he opens a Safari Park just outside the City, wherein people may drive their coaches and carriages through an enclosed area populated by prime examples of Howondalandian wildlife.

That's horse-drawn and often open carriages. Through enclosures full of lions. And tigers. And chimps. And baboons. And rhinoceri.

Johanna is called in by a slightly irritated Vetinari to manage the ensuing disaster.

A romantic thriller from the Discworld, set against a backdrop of Howondalandian wildlife! (Continued in Zoo Tales)

One of the works of A.A. Pessimal.


Tropes appearing in this fan work include:

  • CityMouse: Emmanuelle-Marie Lapoignard Les Deux-Epées, an Assassin school teacher who is most at home in cities and finds the wide open green spaces, and anything to do with large wild animals, most expressly not her tasse du thé.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Ponder Stibbons runs the High Energy Magic Building, manages potentially deadly magics, has to deal with Mustrum Ridcully, has to keep the Bursar in Dried Frog Pills, and teaches ham-fisted students. Johanna Smith-Rhodes has the Animal Management Unit, keeps potentially lethal animals under control, deals with Lord Downey, has to keep the Guild Treasurer in Dried Frog Pills, and has to prevent pupils getting over-confident. They have a lot in common...
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: The Discworld fanfic Nature Studies looks at various animal escapes in Ankh-Morpork. It starts in canon with the escalating problem with the Royal Mail and its mailboxes. (as described in Pratchett's novel Making Money). Snails were eating the mail. Frogs and toads were inserted to eat the snails. The frogs bred. Snakes were inserted to eat the frogs. Then mongeese needed to go into the boxes to deal with the snakes - one of whom turns out to be a Howondalandian Spitting Mamba and not a harmless Lancre Grass Snake. This difficulty is dealt with by experienced hands. And then CMOT Dibbler takes it on himself to bring the joys of exotic wildlife to the city in the form of a Safari Park. A Dibbler disaster ensues and Howondaland's native animals escape...
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  • Eye Scream: What happens to student Assassin Catherine Perry-Bowen. Blinded by an enraged animal, she does later get a sequel to herself concerning her Igor-implanted replacement eyes.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Johanna, who inadvertently introduces the circus discipline of lion-taming to the Disc. A lioness she masters here is later called Lucinda Rustie, after a particularly vicious Guild School pupil. Later on, she tames and raises a lion cub to adulthood, calling her pet Klarenz after an uncle with a visible eye problem.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Johanna realises Ponder has hidden depths and to his surprise and pleasant consternation, she expresses a romantic interest in him.
  • Great White Hunter: Mustrum Ridcully. Also Johanna, except she doesn't want to actually kill anything. Not unless she has to.
  • Hilarity in Zoos: Where the recaptured animals end up: the new Ankh-Morpork City Zoo, in which Johanna succeeds in getting her large predatory cats. And at Guild expense.
  • Maniac Monkeys: The baboons, who Johanna fears having to confront exactly for their sociable nature and high aggression. The aforementioned Catherine loses her eyes when she gets overconfident, allowing a baboon to get near enough to her that it can gouge her eyes out with its teeth.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: seriously so, but explained by the framing device.
  • She is Nature, He is Science: Johanna Smith-Rhodes and Ponder Stibbons.
  • Pair the Smart Ones: Johanna and Ponder.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: Johanna kisses Ponder for the first time on the threshold of Vetinari's office. She has to kick him on the ankle to shock him out of an "ngggh" moment where his faculties temporarily go sky-diving in ecstasy.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Johanna normally dresses for comfort and practicality and at the end of the day tends to smell of zoo animals. Her more stylish friends at the Guild of Assassins conspire to get her looking more ladylike and presentable for her young wizard. In subsequent continuation fics, Johanna seeks to upgrade Ponder's dress sense and get him looking a little less nerdy. He cleans up nicely too. note 
  • Shout-Out: Too many for this page. Listed here.
  • Snakes Are Sexy: Johanna Smith-Rhodes is seen handling a pet python with nonchalance and looking as if, in different clothing, she could be seen moonlighting as an exotic dancer rather than a zoologist. She also wrangles poisonous snakes in the course of a day's work, making post boxes safe again for the city.
  • The Spymaster: Havelock Vetinari. Who else?
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: at least with the Great Apes. Johanna is Howondalandian. she has studied chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild. It wasn't a great stretch for her to learn Orang-Utan. Nor for the Librarian to communicate with his ape cousins.
  • Suck Out the Poison: Brian Smeghleigh-Prepousse, a careless student Assassin, gets overconfident with a cobra and learns the hard way about right and wrong methods of handling snakes. His teacher, who does know the right way, lambasts him for his over-confidence (the primal Assassin failing) and wishes a friendly Vampire was nearby to suck out the blood. note  Instead, she opens the wound with a knife, gets Matron Igorina to apply an injected antidote, and packs him off to the Lady Sybil.
  • Temporary Blindness: Student Assassin Catherine Perry-Bowen is blinded and disfigured by an enraged rogue baboon. Both Catherine and her teachers are sure she will be permanently blinded and will have to leave the Assassins' School. But this is Ankh-Morpork. Which has Igors. The sequel There's Nothing Like A Fresh Pair Of Eyes revisits Catherine as an Ascended Extra. She is seen recovering from Igor transplant surgery. But nobody expected the occult side-effects of her new eyes...
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Detritus versus an enraged rhinoceros. The alpha chimpanzee who thinks he can take down the Librarian in a fight.
  • Tomboy: Johanna, who has always dressed in safari chic of boots, trousers, tunic and bush hat.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: The Assassin-zoologist who coordinates the recapture uses Assassin blowpipes and modified poison darts to tranquilize the larger and more dangerous animals.
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: Johanna begins her presentation to assorted City dignitaries, the morning after the round-up, by modestly denying she is a politician or a diplomat. But half an hour later, she has given everyone present something of worth, suggested a face-saving solution that politicians and diplomats are happy with, and secured her City Zoo with full funding.
  • Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: The philosophical conundrum is tested and possibly resolved when Sergeant Detritus is instructed to Stop That Rhinoceros.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Practically every animal species represented at the Animal Management Unit, as the arachnophobic Emmanuelle-Marie Lapoignard Les Deux-Epées discovers, much to her discomfort. Assassins hold these animals in high regard for other reasons.
  • Whip It Good: Johanna's rescue of Sam Vimes which has long-reaching consequences.

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