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Literature / Guards! Guards!

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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, though he is notably more easily frustrated than the stoic of later books. Up until this point Terry Pratchett 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.

Very loosely adapted into the Point and Click Adventure Game Discworld. Aspects of the plot were adapted into The Watch (2021).

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: Lupine Wonse is a little bit of a Smug Snake/out of his depth Big Bad Wannabe in the book. The Atlanta Radio Theatre put on a production where he had a deep voice courtesy of John Rhys-Davies of all people.
  • 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!
    • They have a similar exchange near the end about stopping the mob from killing the dragon. This time Vimes decides that since Sybil was about to be eaten and still doesn't hate it, she may be better entitled to her opinion than he is to his.
  • 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." Vimes figures even they have gods looking out for them, while guards don't.
  • Affluent Ascetic:
    • Despite being one of the wealthiest women in the city, Sybil doesn't live a particularly extravagant lifestyle. Near the end, Vimes also meets a group of scruffy older ladies wearing first-quality clothing, and he identifies them all as dragon breeders. One of them chats with him and hands him a grubby, worn out card, revealing she's the super-rich Dowager Duchess of Quirm. Sighing, he acknowledges that there's a kind of poverty only the ultra-wealthy can afford.
    • The Patrician is presumbly quite well off, but lives ascetically; his personal quarters are barely furnished, and he considers a glass of water and a piece of dry toast to be a large meal. He actually seems to eat better in the dungeon.
  • 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.
  • Animal Espionage: When imprisoned, Vetinari somehow manages to make an arrangement with the rats after being imprisoned. In return for him helping them, they bring him news as to what’s happening, both in terms of papers and gossip. It's implied that they have had their intelligence boosted by magical radiation from the Unseen University, which is how they are so useful. (Pratchett would revisit this idea many years later with The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.)
  • 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.
      • Oddly, two of these are real words in Roundworld too - a gaskin is part of a horse's leg (whence 'Leggy Gaskin', probably) and moules is restaurant-French for 'mussels'. A welchet doesn't appear to be anything, though.
    • Vimes also writes like this, despite speaking modern English.
      • "Itym: From whence it cometh, none knowe, nor wither it goeth, nor where it bideth betweentimes;"
  • Apocalyptic Log: The end of The Summoning of Dragons is a charred lump.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The swamp dragons are realistic dragons (with the inconsistencies explained by magic), with a lot of effort spent on what would actually be required to create a creature that had anything in common with mythological dragons. They can fly, but only because they're about the size of a dog, they breathe fire because most of their body and brain is dedicated to a digestive system that looks more like a chemical processing plant, and they spend nearly all of their time sick and about to explode because of those same chemicals being constantly unbalanced. Duels over territory generally involve two dragons circling each other and breathing fire until one explodes, at which point the winner generally explodes out of excitement anyway. The only reason they've managed to survive is because some nobles enjoy breeding them, and they're still nearly extinct.
  • 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 the Librarian by the chest fur and shakes him in a rage. The Librarian decides not to make an issue of it, since a man who can pick up a three hundred pound orangutan without noticing clearly has more important things on his mind.
  • Big Bad: The dragon goes from enigmatic plot device to this when it declares itself king of Ankh-Morpork.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Lupine Wonse, who wanted to be The Man Behind the Man but winds up as this at best.
  • The Big Guy: Carrot is six and a half feet tall and almost as wide. He 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, by rearranging his entire system to shoot fire... backwards. In this configuration he can zoom around by rocket propulsion coming out his butt, using his undersized wings merely for steering.
  • 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: Why Carrot's sword is implied to be the genuine article. It was made when kings earned their crown the hard way — by being better at fighting and killing than any of their contenders.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: a couple of examples:
    • A list of strange and terrible things Errol has eaten includes things like fireplace pokers and cobblestones, but what astonishes everyone is that he ate three of C.M.O.T. Dibbler's sausages.
    • And the rules of the Librarians of Space and Time are:
      1) Silence.
      2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown.
      3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality.
  • Break Them by Talking: When the dragon starts telepathically communicating with Wonse, it berates him and goes off about what's so depressing about the human species, to the point he gladly does its bidding rather than listen to it.
  • 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 Discworld, 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 he bought for three dollars 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, but he does throw in three dollars to the condolences gift.
    • At the beginning of the book, the Supreme Grand Master explains that the dragon-summoning ritual requires magical items as fuel, and instructs the Brethren to bring him some. They return with obviously useless knicknacks including stones with holes in them ("Everyone knows that stones with holes in them are magical!"). At the very end of the book, the Supreme Grand Master tries to summon another dragon after the first is defeated, hysterically waving around a bag of magic items and insisting he has the power... but when the heroes open the bag, they see it's just full of stones with holes in them. Since they don't know the history behind it, they're just completely baffled.
    • Errol, the poor little dragon who doesn’t seem suited to flight, is described as “a total whittle”. It’s not intended as a compliment, but it’s also a subtle shout-out to Frank Whittle, the engineer who invented the jet engine and revolutionised powered flight. With hindsight, Vimes’ description of the Watch themselves as “total whittles, every one of them” may fall into the same category...
  • 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. Deconstructed in that many of the laws the book covers have been overturned by the time Carrot gets there (anything related to thievery, for instance), so Carrot is violating the law in pursuit of 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."
    • Back in Sourcery, when the wizards told Vetinari they were going to throw him in the dungeon and rule Ankh-Morpork, he said, "Then all truly wise men would prefer the safety of a nice deep dungeon." In this book, he puts that idea into practice.
  • 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.
    "The chap never grasped the idea of secret passages, mind you."
  • Catchphrase: This is the first of the Watch books where Vetinari says "Don't let me detain you," which he's later known for saying.
  • Chalk Outline: Vimes traces the big dragon's outline at the spot in the Plaza of Broken Moons where the patsy-king "slew" it, presumably with a very large piece of chalk.
  • Chandelier Swing: A Discussed Trope; the tales Mr. Varneshi tells young Carrot about his ancestor's Watch career 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. Vimes points out with bewilderment that there isn't even a chandelier in the room.
  • 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.
    • In fact, Vimes appears to be unaware that Ankh-Morpork ever even had a king. Later books would establish that he would know better than most, since his ancestor infamously killed the king, and his family's reputation has suffered ever since.
    • Considering Lady Sybil's subsequent campaign to bar Vimes from his beloved bacon sandwiches, it's a bit jarring for her to serve him an artery-clogging breakfast fry-up after the attack on the Watch House.
      • This may be related to her difficult pregnancy with Young Sam. People often become more health-conscious after a major health scare.
    • Vetinari is unusually petulant and emotive, although it's probably just a matter of Character Development:
      Five minutes later the Patrician was striding the length of the Oblong Office, fuming.
      "They were laughing at me," said the Patrician. "I could tell!"
  • Charm Person: It's toward the end of the novel that Colon realizes no matter how much he and Nobbs object, they always end up doing what Carrot suggests they do anyhow.
  • 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 Missing the Point: After saving a woman named Reet, Carrot is invited to stay with her at Mrs. Palms'. "Reet woke me up once or twice to say, Do you want anything, but they had no apples." Dwarfs in general are extremely literal minded.
  • 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:
    1. Silence.
    2. Books must be returned no later than the last date shown.
    3. Do not interfere with the nature of causality.
  • Compelling Voice: Apparently a trait of the Ramkin family, thanks to generations of aristocratic breeding.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: The 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.
  • 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?
    • And a certain witch referred to as "Mistress Garlick".
    • Summoning dragons into Disc reality previously appeared in The Colour of Magic. The passage from de Malachite's book which appears at the end mentions that someone "Pure in Harte" could possibly call up a good dragon; Twoflower evidently did so when he summoned Ninereeds, as that dragon was obedient and protective of its summoner.
  • 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’s 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.
  • Covers Always Lie: One American paperback edition features passable depictions of Vimes, Carrot, Lady Sybil, the dragon.. and very prominently, a wizard. The only wizard who gets a speaking part in the novel is the unnamed Archchancellor of Unseen University, and he appears in exactly one scene.note 
  • 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.
  • Cry Laughing/Laugh Themselves Sick: When Colon timidly asks if the Watch can get a small raise, a kettle, and a dartboard as their reward for saving the city, Vimes laughs until he cries. It's not just the pathetic request, it's everyone's reactions, and the general absurdity of the whole world...
  • Crush Blush: Vimes is adorably bashful around Sybil, and, for instance, blushes when she suggests he should call her by her first name.
  • Culture Justifies Anything: Nobby refuses to get involved in a brawl in a dwarf bar because they're dwarfs, and he doesn't want to infringe on their culture. That he'd be outnumbered and likely quickly killed by the bar full of angry, axe-wielding dwarfs is mere coincidence.
  • 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 Friendship: Errol manages to knock Her Majesty out of the air and through a few houses, before they go off to live happily-ever-after together.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Death, as usual, puts the "dead" in it. Upon being informed that the Elucidated Brethren just wanted what was coming to them:
    Death: (not unkindly) Congratulations.
  • Derailed for Details: Includes several such conversations, including one about what the female equivalent of a "head honcho" would be, and one about, if Vetinari were to give the heroes the Standard Hero Reward, exactly what he would be offering them half of, since Ankh-Morpork is technically not a kingdom. Vimes lampshades the Ankh-Morporkian tendency to do this by thinking, "If the Creator had started in Ankh-Morpork, he wouldn't have got further than 'Let there be light' before someone would say 'What color?'"
  • Desperate Object Catch: At Lady Sybil's urging, Vimes dives to catch Errol the swamp dragon after the great dragon swats him out of the sky. She only explains that Errol could have exploded if he'd crashed after Vimes has the volatile creature in his arms.
  • Disney Villain Death: Lupine Wonse, a.k.a the Supreme Grand Master dies by being semi-accidentally knocked from a great height.
  • 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."
    • The description of Where the Dragons Went includes "It would put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly and proud and arrogant."
  • 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 Ascendant: The dragon literally is this: at the beginning of the story, Wonse controls it. Then it gets control of him.
  • 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.
    • Before that, a large part of the Ankh-Morpork population assumes that if there is a dragon, there must be a hoard, and they are eagerly preparing to go out and find (and loot) it.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Thunder rolls immediately after Vimes makes an ominous statement. Vimes complains that he was just thinking out loud and he didn't think what he said was significant enough to justify the dramatic underlining.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Vimes drinks constantly to offset his misery. 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The novel, and the City Watch series as a whole, is explicitly dedicated to the policemen, firemen, and other stock characters in any story whose role it is to respond to calls for help, rush to the rescue, and usually get killed just to illustrate how serious the threat is. As the author notes, nobody ever thanks them for it.
  • 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, its treatment is nonetheless different than in later books, with Carrot using female pronouns for both his girlfriend Minty and his mother, as well as for mums in general. However, later books make it very clear that, in Dwarven society, male is the default gender, and anyone publicly 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: Carrot admits 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. Everyone interprets his comments... differently than he meant them.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Vetinari in the cell, Vimes' rant about the law to Lupine Wonse (or perhaps his earlier defense of Lady Sybil using one of her own swamp dragons as a handgun).
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Vimes has a belated one related to the destruction of the Elucidated Brethren's building for two reasons: firstly, he recognises the distinctive run of the figure fleeing the scene as that of Lupine Wonse from his childhood, and secondly he realises that Wonse's immediate blurted-out reaction when he reported the building being destroyed made no sense unless he already knew about it:
  • Evil Gloating: Vimes pegs Wonse as "a gloater". He's a little thrown when his initial attempt at provoking some gloating doesn't happen, but reassured when, as he's led off, Wonse does indeed start gloating.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Brotherhood's lesson in this is one of the most painful since that learned by Charles Dexter Ward himself.
  • Evil Is Petty: When the brotherhood is directing the dragon to violence, one of the targets is a new coach belonging to the brother-in-law of one of the members, who is annoyed that his wife has been nagging him about it. Vimes is mystified by this, since the dragon fries it "with pinpoint accuracy" and he can't figure out what about it would offend a dragon.
  • Evil Versus Evil: 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."
  • Exact Words: The members of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night just wanted what was coming to them.
    Death: Congratulations.
  • Extreme Omni-Goat: A goat that was intended to be sacrificed as part of the coronation ceremony escapes in the confusion and is last seen happily chowing down on the ceremonial bunting.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The swamp dragons, Errol in particular, will eat basically anything, no matter how disgusting/non-edible.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Reciting your Brotherhood's long list of eye-watering ideas and chores becomes a bit less dramatic when the response gotten is a simple "yup".
  • 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." (This is of course a Four Terms Fallacy.)
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: The guy who should have defeated the dragon and should have become king of Ankh-Morpork. Should being the key word.
  • Fattening the Victim: Once the dragon becomes King, their first order of business is to throw a very fattening state dinner for the old system's top courtiers. By dessert, everyone is too terrified to touch a single morsel.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The motivation for most members of the Elucidated Bretheren is that they feel oppressed by the existence of those they hate.
  • Female Monster Surprise: Many characters are surprised when the dragon is revealed to be female.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator:
    • Vimes was originally going to be Carrot's Ishmael, but ended up taking a much bigger role.
    • In the long run, this is perhaps the only book where we get any time from Carrot's perspective. Once he outgrows his Fish out of Water status, half the point of his character is how no-one knows if his Dork Knight tendencies are sincere or an mixture of manipulation towards everyone around him and some kind of elaborate joke.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the Supreme Grand Master is trying to explain how installing the king will happen, a couple of the Brothers suggest that maybe the real heir to the throne is going to turn up, which would be... a million-to-one chance. The Master shouts them into submission, but it turns out they were onto something long before the Watch tried deliberately gaming the probability.
    • Vimes momentarily thinks Carrot has abandoned him to fight two Palace Guards on his own, but Carrot had simply taken Vimes' order to "charge these men" literally and had fallen back to give himself a good run-up. Likewise, when Errol retreats from his duel with the King, Vimes assumes the little swamp dragon isn't coming back. Errol, once he's given himself distance for acceleration, returns at hypersonic speed and unleashing a sonic boom that knocks the big dragon out of the sky. This also establishes Carrot's troubles with figurative language and tendency to take matters very literally, which come into play when he's told to "throw the book at him" and kills Wonce by knocking him off a building with it.
    • Early in the book Vimes recalls being in the same childhood gang with Lupine Wonse and remembers that Wonse had to invent an odd skipping run to keep up with the bigger boys. Near the end, he belatedly recognises that a figure running from the Elucidated Brethren's destroyed headquarters had that same gait...
      • In the same vein, Vimes notes that Wonse also had to come up with ideas for the gang to use, mainly to stop them beating him up.
  • Four Terms Fallacy: "Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass: a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read." "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.
  • Genre Savvy: Both the Watch and the Palace Guards demonstrate some (the former discussing the exact mechanics of a Million to One Chance, the latter discussing the Conservation of Ninjutsu) as required by Rule of Funny, though said Rule also means they're Wrong Genre Savvy more often than not.
  • 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.
  • Given Name Reveal: Vimes' first name is only given near the end of the book, which is rather interesting since he's the protagonist.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: The outraged head of the Thieves' Guild, when complaining to the Patrician, angrily points a finger at him. Then he realises what he's just done, and hurriedly retracts it before he's down a finger.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Carrot's utterly mundane sword. His aggressively, uniquely, powerfully mundane sword.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Since Carrot has a "Protective", people who try to knee him end up injuring themselves.
    • Also, Nobby kicks a troll "in the stones" while it's down and nearly breaks his foot in the process.
    • Lady Sybil, to Nobby's approval, knees a member of the palace guard in the groin when they're trying to force her to be the dragon's maiden sacrifice.
    • Their attempt to hit the dragon's "voonerables", apart from being a Shout-Out to the lore about a dragon's one vulnerable spot in The Hobbit, might be a Groin Attack, since that's what the characters tend to mean when they refer to a person's "voonerables". Unfortunately, if so, they were aiming for a spot found only on dragons of the other gender. When Nobby has some trouble figuring out that the Dragon is a female, Vimes simplifies the explanation by telling him him that his favorite kick wouldn't work if he tried it.
      Colon: You know all about voonerables, Nobby. I've watched you fight.
    • The repeated references to terrible things happening to people's "figgins". Given that an actual figgin is a pastry stuffed with raisins, it's not hard to grasp the implication.
  • 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 Hands: Lady Ramkin takes Vimes's hand when they're both about to be flamed by the dragon.
  • 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.
  • Horrifying the Horror:
    • The noble Dragon gives a short blunt speech to Wonse on this, noting that despite its savage nature and demands for virgin sacrifices, it still considers itself to be morally superior to humanity as a whole because it never tries to justify the horrible things it does as being 'good' in order to live with what it does. The citizens of Ankh-Morpork getting on board with having the dragon as a king and looking for suitable sacrifices to spare themselves its fiery breath only supports its views, something both Vimes and Vetinari grimly note during a private conversation.
    • On a more humorous note, the Librarian is recruited into joining the watch part-time mid-way through the book, and is quickly established to be one of the most physically strongest members besides Carrot, as well as having a tendency to demonstrate this to anybody who says the word 'Monkey' in his presence. When he springs Vimes from the jail cell by pulling the bars out the window and them Vimes himself bodily out to advise him about the planned Human Sacrifice to appease the dragon, Vines does not take it well, including bodily lifting the Librarian to eye level by the chest hair.
      I'm not bloody well going to have it, understand?” Vimes shouted, shaking the ape back and forth.
      “Oook,” the Librarian pointed out, patiently.
      What? Oh. Sorry.” Vimes lowered the ape, who wisely didn't make an issue of it because a man angry enough to lift 300lbs of orangutan without noticing is a man with too much on his mind.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters:
    • When the dragon examines the memories of one of its new servants, it's appalled.
      We were dragons. We were supposed to be cruel, cunning, heartless and terrible. But this much I can tell you, you ape: We never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality.
    • 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.
    • Also, this quote:
      “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.”
  • Human Sacrifice: Some of Ankh-Morpork's religions still practice it, but only on criminals. Of course, refusing to volunteer for sacrificing is itself a criminal act, so...
  • 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 Can Explain: Vimes anticipates this when he corners the Supreme Grand Master (aka Lupine Wonse), though the actual excuse (Wonse blames the whole thing on Vetinari, who does have a history of manufacturing false-flag coups against himself) is a lot smoother than expected. In fact, had Vimes not had found more concrete evidence before the fact, he may well have been swayed.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Lupine Wonse, feeling trapped by the evil he has summoned, mouths "Help. Me." to the head of the Assassin's Guild, who notes there's only one sort of "help" he can really offer.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think:
    "Oh, you thought, did you?" [the captain of the palace guard] growled. "A thinker, are you? Do you think you'd be suitable for another posting, then? City guard, maybe? They're full of thinkers, they are."
  • The Illegible: Lupin Squiggle, Sec'y, pp. (His last name isn't really "Squiggle".)
  • Imperfect Ritual: The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night are trying to summon a dragon, and the cult leader orders the brethren to find magical objects to sacrifice. They come up with really low grade magical junk, like a still-fizzing letter from a bar and an amulet the Snake Oil Salesman swore was magical. It doesn't seem to cause any problems except that they can only summon the dragon for a few seconds at a time before the magic runs out.
  • 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).
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: On the subject of why it is that dwarfs who for the last seventy years have been well-behaved, quiet sorts become screaming berserkers the minute they enter Ankh-Morpork, is because they've been well-behaved and quiet for seventy years, and have become filled with the serious desire to have a stiff drink, then punch someone.
  • Innocent Innuendo:
    • Vimes' first encounter with Sybil has a long conversation about "breeding", and it's only at the end Vimes finds out she's not talking about humans: "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".
  • Jewish Mother: Judging from Carrot's speech in the dwarf bar, dwarven mothers are the Discworld's equivalent of this trope: overbearing, interfering, guilt-tripping, and manipulative. And for that matter, Carrot himself is basically acting as a gender-swapped equivalent throughout the speech.
    "Can you imagine what your poor, white-bearded old mother, slaving away back in her little hole, wondering how her son is getting on tonight, can you imagine what she'd think if she saw you now? Your own dear mothers, who first showed you how to use a pickax... she's probably thinking, I expect he's having a quiet game of dominoes or something... And I bet it's been a long time since any of you wrote her a letter, too, and you promised to write every week..."
  • Just Like Making Love: Vimes refers to some particularly weak coffee as "love-in-a-canoe" coffee. The standard punchlinenote  is omitted.
  • Just One Man: When Wonse orders the Palace Guards to arrest Vimes, they are Genre Savvy enough to be wary of the fact that they outnumber him by a dozen to one, citing the Conservation of Ninjutsu principle and the possibility of a Chandelier Swing; Wonse is about to have a stroke from frustration, when Vimes volunteers that he's not in the mood to resist, and anyway there's no chandelier.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Elucidated Brethren member Brother Fingers escapes the dragon's attack on their headquarters, and later escapes from the Watch by sheer terror. On the other hand, considering he made an unauthorized theft from the Unseen University, if the Thieves Guild ever catches him he'll be lucky if he gets a quick death.
    • 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. As Sybil points out, it's just being a dragon and it would never have done any of it if humans had left it in peace.
  • Keep the Reward: Vetinari wants to give Vimes and the Watch expensive rewards, but the Watch is only interested in a new dartboard and a few other trifles.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The first person to encounter a Noble Dragon in centuries only finishes his "Oh shit" in the afterlife.
  • The Last DJ: Although this becomes famously inverted as the watch series goes on, Vimes starts as a classic case of a talented man who his colleagues love but the bosses hate, 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."
  • Laughing Mad:
    • Vimes has a tiny mental breakdown after Errol and the Dragon have their first fight.
    • "As Vimes was hauled away he heard Wonse breaking into insane laughter. They always did, your gloaters."
  • Lawful Stupid: Carrot obeys the letter of the law to the nth degree even when it's obviously a bad idea, although the fact that he can knock out trolls means there's not much the hardened criminals can do about it.
  • Lethal Eatery: C.M.O.T. Dibbler's traveling sausage stand has sausages that will kill you, 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?"
    "Don't you mean pork, sir?" said Carrot warily, eyeing the glistening tubes.
    "Manner of speaking, manner of speaking," said Throat quickly. "Certainly your actual pig products. Genuine pig."
  • Literal Metaphor: While Urdo van Pew, the head of the Thieves' Guild is complaining about being arrested, the Patrician points out that one man should have been easy to fight off because there would be a bunch of men in there, "thick as, you'll pardon the expression, thieves."
  • 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: Errol and the King start off fighting, but then end up in love.
  • 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".
  • Maximum Fun Chamber: The oath of the Elucidated Brethren ("And it be well for a knowlessman that he should not be here, for he would be taken from this place and his gaskin slit, his moules shown to the four winds, his welchet torn asunder with many hooks and his figgin placed upon a spike") becomes significantly less terrifying to the reader when the definitions of the Perfectly Cromulent Words it uses are listed: a gaskin is "a shy, grey-brown bird of the coot family", moules is "a game of skill and dexterity, involving tortoises", a welchet is "a type of waistcoat worn by certain clock-makers", and a figgin is "a small short-crust pastry containing raisins". The Brethren themselves, as the Supreme Grand Master notes, do not think to ask the definition of these terms, and they come back as a Brick Joke when Brother Fingers is asked if he wants his figgin toasted and runs away screaming in terror. (It is, however, possible that these words may have hidden euphemistic meanings, since it is also said that Mad Lord Snapcase was, after his overthrow, strung up by his figgin, meaning either that the word has an alternate meaning or that there is some horrible aspect to being strung up by a teacake.)
  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: The Watch end up being superfluous during the Dragon's takeover of the city, and it’s 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 insisting 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, where the Watch try to make the odds of shooting a Dragon in its "voonerables" exactly a million to one through various means such as blindfolding the archer, putting soot in his face and making him stand facing the wrong way on one leg while singing the Hedgehog Song — but end up with some other, non-specified, incredibly low odds instead, which isn't improbable enough and thus predictably fails. Then played straight (and lampshaded by the narration) immediately after when the annoyed dragon retaliates: Their chances of surviving that turns out to be exactly a million to one.
    • Later on, Vimes (not having been privy to the above) says that the chances of Errol beating the King are a million to one and is baffled at the strange, contemplative reaction this causes in the rank.
  • 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.
  • Mirror Character: Showcased with Vimes and Vetinari, without their knowing it, when the scene transitions from one man's thoughts to the other, and they're thinking along the same lines.
  • Monster Protection Racket: The Brethren's scheme is to terrorise the city with the dragon and then allow it to be defeated by a Fake Ultimate Hero who will be crowned king but still do the bidding of the Brethren (or at least of the Supreme Grand Master).
  • 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."
  • Mountaintop Healthcare: Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler sells health tonics that he claims came from an ancient monastery "on a mountain somewhere". The epilogue reveals that this is actually true, although the monks are a bit confused as to what Dibbler does with the stuff.
  • Mouth of Sauron: What the Dragon-King ultimately reduces its summoner Lupine Wonse to: someone whose only job is to have it speak through him. The experience is extremely painful for him, bordering on Mind Rape.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • This is a relatively rare example from a Watch novel where the monster is not Angua. The first two times the dragon appears, it's in the Shades. People try to mug it the first time and the second time it accidentally saves 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.
  • Murder by Inaction: Considered but averted: Vimes gets the chance to let Wonse kill Vetinari, thinking that the city would be able to "clean itself up" with him out of the picture. But he saves him anyway, and isn't sure why, other than that it's "something to do with doing it by the book."
  • 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.
  • Noodle Implements: A footnote defines 'moules' as a game of dexterity and skill, involving tortoises.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Apparently all three of the remaining Night Watch officers had, as some point before Carrot came along, ran afoul of Detritus and his fists. Nobby's Groin Attack is an attempt at repaying the troll for his encounter.
    • One particularly old resident of Ankh-Morpork recites some bizarre incidents with previous Patricians, and how they stack up to a perpetually incensed dragon, such as Psychoneurotic Lord Snapcase, or Giggling Lord Smensh and his "Laugh-a-Minute Dungeon".
  • Oblivious Adoption: Carrot was adopted by dwarfs as an infant after his human family were killed by bandits. He gets through the first sixteen years of his life, before his father sits him down and explains his history, without ever considering the possibility that he's not actually a dwarf — despite such subtle clues as being three times the height of everyone else around him.
  • 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: The Big Bad's plan is to Offer The Crown to the unnamed wannabe-king. As it turns out, the dragon has something to say about it.
  • Offerings to the Gods: The coronation ceremony includes the sacrifice of a goat to the gods, although in the event the goat survives because the coronation is interrupted before it reaches that point.
  • 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, Crap!:
    • The four guards, some of whom are already drunk, when they realise they've only gone and walked into The Shades. It's actually powerful enough to make them sober again.
    • Oh shi--: Colon's reaction when he realizes he has just said the "M-word".
      • These also make up the final words of Zebbo Mooty, Thief Third Class, the first person killed by Draco nobilis in some three hundred years. He finishes the curse after his death. (This isn't a spoiler; it happens within the first 50 pages, at least in the Corgi mass-market paperback.)
  • Old Retainer: The fact that one of these answers the door when Vimes visits Lady Sybil's at the end of the novel is one of the signs that she's planning certain changes.
  • One-Man Army: Carrot, thanks to genetics, narrative causality and a life spent helping dwarves with their mining.
  • Original Position Fallacy: The Grandmaster tempts his followers with visions of the "good old days" when a king ruled Ankh-Morpork and society was divided between the deserving and the undeserving. Since all the brothers take for granted that they'd be "sorted into the appropriate group", they enthusiastically take part in his scheme to restore the king by summoning a dragon - which ends badly for all of them.
  • 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:
    Colon: "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."
  • Painting the Medium: The sections from Captain Vimes' point of view, while he’s drunk, are as incoherent as one would expect from a drunk person.
  • Parlor Games: The Librarian resorts to Charades to inform Carrot of the title of the stolen book (and is justifiably flustered when his attempts to signal "dragon" are interpreted as "great big hot blowing flapping thing").
  • Parrot Pet Position: Deconstructed by Sybil, who points out the liabilities of this trope with a Shoulder-Sized Dragon: burns, talon scratches, frizzled hair and dragon-poop down one's back. She only trains her swamp dragons to do this because it increases their market value.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Banged grains won't be invented for another two books, but Vimes manages this trope anyway by sitting back and rolling himself a cigarette while Carrot is beating up a couple of obnoxious Palace Guards.
  • 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: Carrot lives in a brothel after coming to Ankh-Morpork. Literally, as in he rents a spare room from one and is completely clueless about the ladies' profession.
  • Posthumous Character: "Leggy" Gaskin, who is killed shortly before the start of the book and we first meet Vimes on the way back from his funeral. The character would later make a minor appearance as a young man in Night Watch Discworld when Vimes travels back into his own past.
  • 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.
  • Proportional Aging: It's noted when describing Carrot's life early on that dwarf children aren't mature enough to be told about sexuality and reproduction until they hit puberty, at about age fifty.
  • Puppet King: The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night try to set up one. Unfortunately for them, the dragon has other plans.
  • Quiet Cry for Help: Wonse's desperate whisper to the assassin.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Carrot manages to achieve this without meaning to. The Thieves' Guild would have dealt without hesitation with any outsider caught sneaking around their guildhouse, but they have no idea what to do about a guardsman stomping in and trying to arrest them.
  • The Reveal:
    • Wonse is the Supreme Grand Master.
    • The Place Where the Dragons Went is actually the human imagination.
    • The noble dragon is a female.
    • Carrot is the actual lost heir to the throne but doesn't actually want the job.
  • Rightful King Returns: Invoked by the plan of the Grand Supreme Master. Discussed heavily by the Elucidated Brethren in general. Subverted with Carrot.
  • Rodent Cellmates: While temporarily deposed, lord Vetinari is thrown into his own rat-infested dungeon. Unknown to his jailers, the local rats are sapient and happy to bring him news from outside in return for advice on how resolve their conflict with the palace's other vermin.
  • 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.
    • The recurring use of terms from the Dictionary of Eye-Watering Words.
    • The Elucidated Brethren never once get through their meetings' opening ceremony without some of them messing up the procedure or tossing up a non-sequitur.
    • Carrot's Protective comes up as a joke frequently.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The old dragons were thought to be long gone, until someone summoned them.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night is a mystic secret society, made up from people who would be rejected from any other secret society.
  • 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".
  • Serendipitous Survival: When the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night is destroyed, two of the brethren survive by not being there; one was running late, and the other had been sent out to get pizzas.
  • 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: "Assassins assassinated, thieves thieved, hussies hustled. And so on."
    • The dragon is described as having eyes the size of very large eyes.
  • She Is the King: The dragon is a king who is revealed to be female.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Vimes orders someone to shoot a lock open and gets this response: "What, with a bow and arrow?!" Vimes is rather confused as to why he'd even give that order, but it's implied that he's tapping into some timeless copper folk-consciousness.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Sybil has a small dragon on her shoulder during her first full conversation with Vimes.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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.
  • Spare Body Parts: Swamp dragons have eight stomachs, plus a lot of other parts not specified to allow their digestive tracts to process practically anything into fuel.
  • Spoiler Cover: On the Harper-Torch edition, the cover art depicts the dragon wearing a crown, which is a surprise plot development occurring late in the book.
  • Spy Speak: Discrete passwords and signals are 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: Defied. All the dragon slaying heroes insist on half the kingdom and a princess's hand in marriage 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.
  • Standard Police Motto: The motto on the watch house reads "FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC". Vimes translates it as "To Protect and To Serve," but it's actually dog-Latin for "Make my day, punk."
  • Stealth Pun: Several, 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."
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Vimes suggests Vetinari's elderly aunt's hand in marriage might be offered to the hero who slays the dragon. In the next scene, Vetinari makes the same suggestion to Wonse, who points out that "tradition demands a daughter".
  • Stuff Blowing Up: As noted above under Million To One Chance, the dragon retaliates against the Watch's arrow attack by flaming the distillery on whose roof they are perched. The dragon gets caught in the resulting explosion but isn't even injured.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Vimes catches Wonse planning to summon another dragon to fight the first one.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Nobbs' nightly patrol has him check the doors of every house on his route, and definitely to make sure they're locked, alright. Definitely that. Carrot assumes that if they're not locked, they'll have to inform the building's owners or occupants, which isn't exactly what Nobby had in mind.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Sergeant Colon comes to check on Carrot, who is watching from a rooftop for the return of the dragon, he denies unprompted that his real reason for coming is that he was getting frightened on his own rooftop and wanted some company.
  • 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).
  • Tasty Gold: The dragon is offered the newly forged crown, and licks it. They're very chemically sensitive apparently. Vimes considers the chances of the crown actually being made out of gold (It's mentioned elsewhere that "gold" things in Ankh-Morpork have just as much gold in them as there is gold in seawater), then compares the situation to finding out that sugar was actually salt after having put three spoonfuls in your coffee. The dragon then overkills the priest who gave it the crown (shooting a flame so hot that nothing is left but smoke); suffice to say, the dragon isn't amused.
  • 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 Gonna Suck:
    • An already slightly sloshed Vimes when Colon tells him he made the mistake of letting Carrot go on patrol with Nobbs.
    • As Carrot reads out to the owners of the Mended Drum what laws they're breaking, the Librarian is trying to finish his drink as fast as possible before the bar brawl starts.
  • 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 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.
  • Tiger by the Tail: Lupine Wonse summons a dragon in a plot to usurp control of Ankh-Morpork. When the dragon escapes his control, rather than eating him, it makes him its servant, and he ends up living in constant terror of it, but also in terror of what will happen to him if he tries to escape.
  • Time Travel: How the Librarian eventually discovers who stole his book. He’s able to do this because all libraries are interconnected through L-Space and he’s 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.
  • Token Good Cop: At the start of the book, the three remaining men of the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch are Nobby Nobbs, a debatably human kleptomaniac, Fred Colon, a Fat Idiot who goes out of his way to avoid trouble and spends as much time as possible doing absolutely nothing, and Sam Vimes, who's actually a really good cop, but at this point is a booze-soaked derelict who crossed the Despair Event Horizon long ago. The addition of Carrot Ironfoundersson, who is too bull-headed to bribe or cajole and too strong to fight, shocks them out of their complacency and leads to them becoming the heroes of the book, especially Vimes, who would begin his journey to becoming The Paragon for police officers across the Disc.
  • 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.
  • The Trouble with Tickets: Inverted; Carrot nearly gets in trouble by giving a parking citation, as it's Vetinari who's parked improperly; Vimes and Colon realize that nothing good can come of confronting the city ruler over an out-of-place wheel, so distract Carrot out of it.
  • Tom Swifty: A subtle one, when the leader of the secret society lists off all the horrible things that would happen to an outsider at the meeting, and someone realises that he is, in fact, at the wrong meeting:
    "And his figginnote  placed upon a spike," repeated the Supreme Grand Master pointedly.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Wonse demands this from Vimes after he disrupts the coronation (mistaking a raven for the dragon).
  • 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 mentioned that before the main events of the book, Lord Vetinari got the leaders of the Guild of Thieves to agree to his plan by quietly mentioning that he knew where their loved ones lived.
  • Wake-Up Call: Vimes started out as a drunkard and the rest of the City Watch was no better. Then Carrot joined the watch, the dragon was summoned by a conspiracy, and these two factors together succeeded in making Vimes, Nobbs and Colon get their act together and save the day.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Vimes falls unconscious after jumping off the roof of the Watch House to escape a dragon attack. When he wakes up, he takes the bed and presence of a ceiling as possible evidence that he's not dead. The presence of Nobby Nobbs is less conclusive. When he asks the obligatory question ("Have I already said 'Where am I'? Did I get an answer?") Nobby leeringly informs him he's in Lady Ramkin's boudoir.
  • Weak Boss, Strong Underlings: Sam Vimes is first seen as a hopeless alcoholic shunted sideways into commanding the Night Watch, a laughable Ragtag Bunch of Misfits in the City Guard. Vimes ends up taking several levels in badass, but not before he recruits the very keen Constable Carrot, a man who can knock out a troll in a fist fight.
  • 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.
  • Where the Magic Went: Dragons big enough to pose a threat to humanoids on the Disc seemingly went extinct ages ago, but in fact retreated to another dimension when the Disc's magic became too scarce and thin to support them. The 'other dimension' turns out to be the human imagination.
  • A Wizard Did It: The dragon can fly... because of Magic. Literally — it feeds directly on magic, and uses it to power its otherwise impossible anatomy. Dragons vanished from the Disc in the past specifically because its magic levels dropped too low for them to use.
  • Worth It: A variant, where the person responsible doesn't think the line. Vetinari, after a talk with the head of the Thieves Guild, thinks that seeing his aggravation is actually worth it.
  • 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.)
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything: Carrot reads two prisoners their rights as set out in the Dignity of Man (Civic Rights) Act of 1341. The bit about not having to say anything is in there, but because this is Ankh-Morpork there is also some stuff about the right not to fall down the steps to the cells or jump out of high windows.
  • You Keep Using That Word: The Brethren's oath is full of words their leader just thought sounded suitably impressive without meaning anything; he's rather amused that they all take it very seriously and never ask what they mean. A footnote then explains that they're all real words on the Discworld and defines them, rendering the oath utter gibberish. Roasting someone's figgin (a pastry stuffed with raisins) becomes a running gag for the rest of the series.