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Literature / Monstrous Regiment

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"We know enemy forces are in the area. Currently, they have no boots. But there will be others with boots aplenty. Also, there may be deserters in the area. They will not be nice people! They will be impolite!"

The 28th Discworld book, and one of the few Discworld books not to center around one of the major character sets (The Watch, Death, Rincewind, or the Witches), though William de Worde from The Truth, Sam Vimes, and a couple of other members of the Watch appear in minor supporting roles. It would also be the last volume to star standalone characters and the last not to focus on either Ankh-Morpork (and the surrounding area), or Lancre/the Chalk.

The setting of the story is the fantastically aggressive country of Borogravia, a constantly-at-war theocracy under the apparently mad god Nuggan, probably the only god on the Discworld to update his holy text almost constantly (mostly with Abominations against things like garlic, the colour blue, and babies). The young heroine, Polly Perks, leaves home, dresses as a boy, and joins the military to find her strong but simple brother Paul, who is the only eligible heir to the family inn and who vanished a year ago after going off to fight the Zlobenians.


Polly signs up under the alias Oliver with an infantry regiment, the Ins-and-Outs, alongside a motley handful of other recruits, including four young humans (who quickly earn the nicknames "Tonker", "Lofty", "Shufti", and "Wazzer"), Carborundum the troll, Maladict the vampire and an Igor. Led by novice officer Lieutenant Blouse and the far savvier (and intimidating) Sergeant Jackrum, the recruits are hurried to the front, learning more than they wanted to along the way about the sad state of their country and the vast alliance mounting against Borogravia.

Preceded by Night Watch Discworld, followed by Going Postal.


This book provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Private Parts, sorry, Perks. Starts out as Malicious Misnaming on the part of Corporal Strappi, which gets used accidentally by Lieutenant Blouse.
  • Acting Unnatural: Done tongue-in-cheek. Polly and her friend Shufti (Betty) have to sneak into a fortress as washerwomen, but being Sweet Polly Olivers don't have any women's clothing. Their sergeant brings them to a battlefield brothel to steal some dresses with the cover story that they're there to have men made out of them, and tells them to "act natural." Being terrified is natural for a boy in such a situation.
    Shufti: I'm s-shaking, Sarge.
    Sergeant Jackrum: Good, very natural.
  • Actually, I Am Him: Polly talks to a worn-looking lowly sergeant from the Ankh-Morpork forces, unaware that he's actually Vimes "the Butcher". note 
  • Addiction Displacement: Vampire Maladict replaces blood with coffee because it is a common craving.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Or Borogravians, anyway. As is normal, all dialog in the book is rendered in English (or Morporkian), but the Borogravians have their own language they're presumably speaking — An aide tells Vimes he's reading a "literal translation" of the Borogravian anthem, and the narration mentions at one point that there's a word in English that has no equivalent in Polly's language, otherwise she'd have used it. At the same time, though, wordplay is used that only makes sense in English: Maladict starts calling Blouse the El-Tee, which only makes sense in a language that abbreviates his rank as "Lt." (though those who aren't hallucinating that they're in Vietnam don't know that abbreviation) and when he asks for a "batman," the obvious joke is made toward Maladict.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Sergeant Jackrum has been in the military as a Sweet Polly Oliver for most of his life, and after leaving the military, apparently continues presenting as a man. The story continues to refer to him as "he" even after The Reveal, thus this trope.
    • There's also Mal(addict)(a?), the vampire. Who has everybody, including the various cross-dressing women, convinced that she (or he) is male, then eventually claims to be female — but so late in the game and in such circumstances that half the fandom aren't sure if he (or she) is telling the truth, or what exactly they meant, with the upshot that nobody's quite sure what pronouns to use for hir. It doesn't help that Polly is so done with the whole business at that point that her response is just "you're you".
  • And the Adventure Continues: Having received a notebook full of names and dates from Jackrum while the country is on the brink of war, Polly heads out into the Borogravian army again with it, meeting Maladicta having done the same, and finding two female recruits trying to pass themselves off as men. Polly tells them that they are her little lads and she will look after them.
  • Arc Words: "A sudden strange fancy..."
  • Armor Is Useless: Borogravian standard issue equipment includes some, but when the squad is being equipped all that's available are examples with huge gashes showing where they didn't help the previous owners so they choose to pass on it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Polly speaks with Vimes about the peace treaty Polly says the people of Borogravia are too proud to accept the terms of the treaty. Vimes asks her what exactly Borogravia has to be proud of, and Polly has no answer.
  • Autocannibalism: Discussed.
    It's not done to eat your own leg, is it? You'd go blind.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Tonker will slice you open if you touch Lofty, Lofty will torch the world if it does something she doesn't like and Wazzer will try to take on someone three times her size if they bad-mouth the Duchess. The results are not pretty.
    • It's not tearing their heads off that doesn't come easily to Mal. Admittedly he was trying to scare the enemy into surrender at the time. But later on, it becomes rather more dire.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Repeatedly, Polly and the rest are saved from having to actually kill someone. First by Jackrum, then the other Borogravian soldiers.
  • Balls of Steel: Polly is bitten in the crotch by a horse when disguised as a man (which is to say, bitten in the socks with which she's padding her crotch), and only the horrified reaction of a male onlooker makes her realize she should be bent double in agony.
    • Jackrum is known to have been once kicked in the groin and punched twice in a Bar Fight. Jackrum just knocked out his attacker in return right after. Also like Polly, Jackrum's only got socks down there too.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • When the regiment captures a Zlobenian sergeant, Wide-Eyed Idealist Lieutenant Blouse decides to take him, prisoner. Jackrum acquiesces... and puts him under the guard of the two wimpiest members of the regiment. When the sergeant breaks loose and takes Blouse, hostage, Jackrum is "forced" to shoot the man dead. As he explains to Polly later, there was no way they could've realistically kept him alive and a prisoner.
    • Vimes apparently learned a few tricks from Vetinari. He actually helps Polly's squad because he realizes it will make an impressive story that Borogravia can rally behind, and which his own people will find amusing, thus proving the enemy isn't all that bad.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sergeant Jackrum. Not only has she been in disguise long enough to make a detailed account of every other female hiding in the ranks of the army, but she also has evaded her service papers discharging her from the army for years. As the war ends, she admits to Polly that she doesn't want to return home to just be an old biddy. Polly suggests that she keep the mask and return home as a respected retired sergeant instead.
    • A more minor example happens earlier: The recruits, all-girls pretending to be boys, are immediately found out when they try to sneak into a fortress dressed up as washerwomen. The sergeant presiding over the checkpoint outright said their body language was entirely masculine and had no hope of getting through. Ironically, Blouse, the only one in the regiment who's not a woman, slips in with ease.
  • Berserk Button: Never insult the Duchess where Wazzer can hear you. Or interfere with Mal's coffee. Or try to harm Lofty in Tonker's presence.
  • Bifauxnen: Maladicta, who's dapper and good-looking in her male disguise.
  • Blatant Lies: Done hilariously by Jackrum, who has a tendency to say "upon my oath, I am not an X man" before doing something that falls firmly in the category of "X", such as violence, dishonesty, or some such. It's actually a subversion because, in spite of always doing that, the phrase is still true because Jackrum is a woman.
  • Boarding School of Horrors:
    • The Girls' Working School, with a side-order of Orphanage of Fear. It's basically the Discworld equivalent of a Magdalene laundry, and no one comes out of it unscathed.
    • Blouse's school wasn't as extreme, but the other soldiers have to wonder "what kind of life an officer could have led that inclined him to like scubbo".
    Jackrum: He went to a school for young gentlemen, so prison will be just like old times.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Sergeant Jackrum.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: At the end of the book, Sergeant Polly Perks re-enlists in the Borogravian army, and quotes Jackrum when she tells two recruits-who-are-really-girls-in-disguise "You are my little lads, and I will look after you."
  • Brawn Hilda: Sergeant Jackrum, as it turns out. Jackrum is pretty much the manliest character in the book (to even in-universe Memetic Badass degrees) and is initially described as so fat as to be resembling a planet, but Jackrum's a woman nonetheless. The narration justifies this by noting that Borogravia, home of most characters in the series, is the kind of place natural to this type: an environment that expects women to be able to carry two pigs under the arms.
  • Break the Cutie: The Girls' Working School did a number on Tonker and Lofty. What it did to Wazzer went through Break the Cutie, arced over the Despair Event Horizon, took the exit at Mind Rape, and roared out into Cloud Cuckoo Lander country. Wazzer is emphatically not sane.
  • Brick Joke: Carborumbdom Jade says she joined the army to meet "erotic people". Everybody assumes she meant exotic. Later, when she meets other trolls, it's very clear that she did mean "erotic"
  • Bring My Brown Pants: After Corporal Strappi is told to accompany the new recruits to the front, Polly notices a "steaming dampness round the corporal's feet."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Blouse initially looks like a spineless, naive fop without the first idea of what war is actually about. But when the chance arises, he shows off not only his own specialized skills (in certain areas he has a mind like a steel trap) but also a surprising amount of steel. He even makes Jackrum sit down and shut up.
  • Butch Lesbian: "Tonker"/Magda.
  • The Butcher: Borogravian propaganda refers to Vimes as "Vimes the Butcher", but neglects to make up any crimes he's supposed to have committed to back it up. Vimes himself finds this rather pathetic.
  • Camp Cook: Shufti's specialty.
  • Catchphrase: "Upon my oath, I am not a dishonest/violent man."
    • Also: "You are my little lads and I will look after you".
  • Chekhov's Armory: The first scene with Vimes lays out a batch of Chekhovs Guns that fire around the climax of the book.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Polly's birdwatching know-how lets her catch on to how the group is being kept under surveillance, as Swires' buzzard doesn't seem right for the region. Lofty's pyromania also comes in handy in a tight spot.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Practically everyone at some point, but particularly Polly and Jackrum.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: This is a variant in which the source quote is so obscure that readers are not intended to recognize it—because if they did, it would be a Spoiler Title. It's named after a sixteenth-century political work titled The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The "helicopters" conjured up by Maladict's coffee-jonesing hallucinations keep aloft using air-screws rather than rotors, as conceived and eventually used to paint a ceiling by Leonard of Quirm in The Last Hero.
    • Jackrum mentions Jolly Sailor tobacco, which is Granny Aching's favored brand in The Wee Free Men.
    • Vimes mentions the "unorthodox potato church," which refers to Mr. Tulip's mysterious religion from The Truth.
    • The earlier book Carpe Jugulum sees a Vampire clan trying - and failing - to take over Lancre. One of the younger Vampyrs in the clan, who may have realised coming up against Lancre witches is not going to end well, is named Maladicta. He/she is seen falling off the drawbridge, having been splashed with holy water. Does this reformed and regenerated Vampyr then choose to join the Army in order to forget?
  • Corrupt Quartermaster: 'Threeparts' Scallops is in charge of the limited supplies. When the squad accuses him of having sold off the equipment he complains that there was never any to sell.
  • Crapsack World: Or rather Crapsack Nation, an uncommon trope for Pratchett. Even the main cast of local Borogravians understand that their homeland is just about one of the dumbest, craziest, and most backwards places on the Disc.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: Very nearly causes a problem near the end. When Polly, Jade, and Maladict are going to deliver the request for a truce to the Ankh-Morpork army, Jade picks up a rock and hurls it at one of the AM troll soldiers. Weapons are raised before Maladict steps in and points out that's a troll's version of blowing a kiss.
  • Crosscast Role: Lieutenant Blouse reminisces about playing one of these in an all-boys school.
  • Cute and Psycho: When Wazzer snaps she snaps hard, and you don't want to be in the vicinity when it happens. (Polly is continuously unnerved while she is "speaking to the Duchess" with a sabre in her hand!)
  • Dangerous Deserter: "They will not be nice people! They will be impolite!"
  • Declining Promotion: Sergeant Jackrum has repeatedly refused promotions to remain a sergeant, so as to make sure the new recruits are made proper soldiers instead of Ensign Newbie (and keeps blackmailing the top brass to stay there).
  • Deconstruction: At one point of the Bawdy Song; also, the book in a way deconstructs the Women Are Wiser idea that if women were in charge, there would be no more wars. This sentiment is uttered in the book by Wazzer in one of her more Cloudcuckoolander moments but is utterly contradicted by its plot.
    • Polly herself calls it out, saying that the only people who think that don't know many women, particularly the nosy old women who seemingly live to rat out people (especially younger women) for breaking Nugganic law and who are always in the front row for public executions.
  • Deity of Human Origin: The Duchess evidently became this after her death, as people stopped praying to Nuggan and prayed to her instead. Wazzer ends up channeling her at a critical moment. This isn't really that hard to imagine in the Discworld, though, where any concept which receives a sufficient amount of faith and/or worship is capable of manifesting in this way.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: The fate of the Boarding School of Horrors.
  • Dirty Coward: Strappi's a bully and pretty vicious with the newbies, but when he receives word that his cushy post as recruiter and The Political Officer has been exchanged for a position in the front lines, he promptly beats feet.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Borogravia's geography and constant wars are reminiscent of the Balkan conflicts following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, while the treatment of women in Nugganic Borogravia is basically cherry-picked from a number of misogynistic Double Standards throughout history, from Polly needing her brother to act as the nominal owner of the family inn to women being threatened with beatings or even imprisonment for various crimes to "unattached" women being frowned upon. As a starving country where the military is the only functional part of the government and the head of state is worshipped as a demi-god, it's also rather reminiscent of North Korea.
    • There is plenty of resemblance to both Yugoslavia and the old Austro-Hungarian Empire bits of it used to be bits of. The country name "Zlobenia" is a dead giveaway, being a simple mashing of "zlo" (evil) and Slovenia, just like a native German speaker would mispronounce it. Borogravia could stand-in for any of the Yugoslav (or Austro-Hungarian) states on a bad day. The constant wars which plagued the region for centuries, the way citizens are practically only there to be servants and cannon fodder and the ever more bizarre religious zealotry is also right on the money.
    • Ankh-Morpork involved itself in the war when Borogravia, without warning or provocation, attacked and destroyed the clacks towers of A-M. note 
    • The "Abominations" of the Nugganite religion bring Leviticus to mind, especially the bit about Nugganites more or less disregarding the more inconvenient Abominations. Some of them are even direct riffs from Levitican abominations, such as crop rotation. They resemble the Taliban's diktats against a lot of things, such as kites and toilet paper.
    • A young girl receiving messages from the local divinity, telling her to lead the army forwards and cleanse the land of foreign invaders, dressing like a man to do so: Wazzer bears a deliberate resemblance to Joan of Arc.
    • Sam Vimes' mistranslation "Ze chzy Brogrocia proztfik" calling himself a cherry pancake instead of a citizen of Borogravianote  is a reference to the JFK quote in which he reportedly called himself a jelly donut. Of course, there is a key difference; "Berliner" means both a citizen of Berlin and a jam-filled donut,note  with the actual meaning derived from the context.
    • The uniforms, the running gag about military leaders having articles of clothing named after them, the Duchess hiding in mourning for years, the first time where military forces relied on the mass media for intel... You could find similarities in the Crimean War, where the British had red uniforms, with Queen Victoria who is often remembered when she was in a state of mourning, commanders included the "knitwear lords" - the 7th Earl of Cardigan, the 1st Baron Raglan, while the 7th Earl of Jersey was a leading member of the government of the day (oh, and balaclavas are named after the location of one of the battles) - and Russians were intercepting this new "telegraph" which the Times used to report the latest news...
    • The Duchess Annagovia, who is rumored to be dead, also bears some similarities to Princess Anastasia, who is rumored to not be dead. (Anna-go-via, Ana-stays-ia...)
    • The Girls' Working School bears quite noticeable similarities (both in content and how girls ended up there) to Ireland's infamous Magdalene Laundries and "mother and baby" homes, which were in operation as recently as the 1970s.
    • The portion about the country under the heel of a mad god also gives some Hitler vibes.
    • The concept of a country constantly at war for no good reason at all and practically drooling with hyperpatriotism has been known to bring certain readers to mind of American and British foreign policy and the War on Terror...which was coincidentally the single biggest worldwide issue at the time of the book's publication.
  • Dumb Is Good: Polly's brother.
  • Eat the Evidence: The regiment encounters some spies, one of whom tries to eat the codebook to destroy it. It turns out the codebook was poisoned, so that by eating it not only would the codebook be kept out of enemy hands, but so would the spy.
  • Ensign Newbie: Lieutenant Blouse. Plays the trope straight most of the time, but he does get one subversive moment when - in the face of Jackrum's protests - he uses what he learned while stuck in his desk job to intercept and interpret the Zlobenians' light signals. He's also very good at his original job as a clerk — he's only in field command because so many other officers have been lost. He's quite intelligent and a fast learner - he infiltrates an enemy compound as a woman (when the actual women in his squad couldn't), learns how to use a Zlobenian mobile clacks in five minutes, invents run-length encoding and avoids an enemy patrol by pretending to be their lookout and flat-out lying to them. He's just not good at fighting.
    • In the epilogue: Sergeant Perks becomes this. She has a Sergeant rank despite having only a week of battlefield experience, no basic training, and having never killed a person. Then, she's explicitly going to join up with Captain Blouse, who still falls into this trope. If it had ever had a sequel, Hilarity Ensues seems to be around the corner
  • Excessive Mourning: The Duchess has been secluded in mourning for decades following the death of her husband. People are beginning to wonder if she's even still alive.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A Punch-and-Judy puppeteer gets run out of town because the puppet was beating his wife with a stick with a thickness greater than one inch, a standard found in the book of Nuggan—and widely though falsely alleged to be the source of the phrase "rule of thumb".
  • Everyone Can See It: Blouse's immediate response to learning that Tonker's a girl is "And Lofty?" Apparently even he could tell there was something going on there.
  • Evil Is Petty: When deserting, Strappi takes the time to steal Maladict's coffee and destroy his grinder.
  • Exact Words:
    • How Sergeant Jackrum gets away with everything.
    Jackrum: On my oath, I'm not a violent man!
    • Polly, trying to get out of an awkward conversation with a sword-holding Wazzer, assures her that she also joined the army for the sake of the Duchess — meaning her family inn, The Duchess, which will be lost if she can't find her brother. Wazzer lightly calls her on this later, and Polly starts racking her brains trying to remember if she ever mentioned the inn.
  • A Father to His Men: Sergeant Jackrum, so to speak.
  • Field Promotion:
    • Maladict.
    • Polly, too. Twice; once when "storming" the castle and second when promoted to sergeant after the court-martial.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Shufti is great at cooking and loves doing it. After the truce, she works as a cook for The Duchess inn - also tellingly regarding the cutlasses Jackrum sent there as "evil things".
  • Flash Sideways: You know things are bad when Maladict starts seeing "Charlie" in the bushes and hearing helicopters. And, because he's a vampire, when things are really, really bad, other people start seeing them too.
  • Flock of Wolves: The entire squad and apparently, nearly a third of the Borogravian army (or at least a third of the top brass) is composed of women disguised as men.
    • Hilariously, when Jackrum lays out how so many of the upper brass are women, their reaction makes him realize that every single one of them thought she was the only woman doing this.
  • Flynning: Subverted. When Corporal Strappi picks out Polly to do a sword demonstration, she knows she's not supposed to hit his sword. This throws Strappi off completely, since he was looking forward to embarrassing an inexperienced new recruit and had adopted a stance designed to easily counter it but weak against a real attack.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are hints early in the book about Sergeant Jackrum's real sex, but it takes most people a few re-reads plus advance knowledge of the spoiler to notice them. The biggest one is Jackrum's reason for getting stuck on recruiting party despite his in-universe Memetic Badass status: he got his leg sliced open, then bit the doctor who tried to treat him and tended to the injury personally, allowing Froc to slap him with recruiting duty as a "reward" while he was laid up. While it's easy to pass off as a throwaway gag to enhance Jackrum's badass status, it becomes foreshadowing when you realize that to treat his leg, the doctor would have either had to take Jackrum's pants off, or at least get close enough to notice that there were one or two things either missing or sock-enhanced. No wonder Jackrum bit him and did the work himself!
    • Also, a sentry recounts how his father once kicked Jackrum in the nadgers during a post-battle pub brawl, but Jackrum kept right on fighting.
    • Polly discusses her situation with another disguised woman and admits she's kept a memento of her old life that could give her away, and the other soldier suggests that if it's discovered she could claim it's a keepsake of her girl back home. Much later, Polly learns that Jackrum carries a locket with a portrait of a girl in it, which Jackrum implies is his girl back home, but Polly realizes it's actually a portrait of Jackrum before she disguised herself and joined the army.
    • Wazzer says at one point that she thinks the country would be better off if women were in charge, which Polly doubts because in her experience the old women of her village enforce the cultural restrictions with even more enthusiasm than the men. This foreshadows the later revelation that due to decades of Sweet Polly Olivers, a significant proportion of the army's high command is now composed of women, and it's made no visible difference because they're just perpetuating the existing military culture.
    • If you've read Thud! before this book, then the Reveal about Mal's gender is hinted at by the fact that the vampire never changes shape once, even when it'd be tactically useful for scouting purposes. Two novels later, we learn that female Black Ribboners wind up naked if they change into bats, then return to human form; therefore, Mal didn't dare use this power without exposing her sex and getting in trouble for losing her uniform.
    • While Blouse is being shaved for his washerwoman disguise, he mentions to Polly that the famous General Froc is "very anti-whiskers". Froc, along with a good chunk of the army's higher-ups, is also a woman in disguise.
  • Freakier Than Fiction: Things declared Real Life "abominations" by Al-Qaeda include women buying cucumbers and female goats, er, displaying their anatomy. Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny springs to mind.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Maladict, to the point of having Igor be ready with a stake if she snaps.
  • Gargle Blaster:
    • In an early scene in a bar, Carborundum orders the troll version: the Electric Floor-Banger. It's well-named, they find.
    • In a later scene, Jackrum procures a bottle of rotgut liquor made by a Military Moonshiner, known as "hangman" because "one drop and you're dead". He doesn't drink it, he just washes his mouth out with it and splashes some on his face to seem like a harmless drunk.
  • Gendercide: Far from complete, but one reason given for the prevalence of Sweet Polly Oliver is that the constant warfare has taken its toll on the population of more conventional combatants. The country was "running out of sons almost as fast as it accumulated widows."
  • Genius Ditz: Blouse is a genius when it comes to anything that deals with numbers. He even figured out the clacks system in five minutes flat without ever being near a clacks tower and suggested algorithms to improve it. Unfortunately, he is without a clue when it comes to anything else.
  • Genre Blind: Vimes is disgusted that the Borogravians could be fooled by soldiers (some with moustaches) disguising themselves as washerwomen. (The closest he gets to an explanation (or handwave) is that 'they are "traditionalist"'... whatever that means.)
  • Gentle Giant: Paul is described as big, kind, slow and able to lift whole beer kegs like toys.
  • Gentlemen Rankers: Maladicta is an example. Sergeant Jackrum and Corporal Strappi both express surprise that someone wearing such fancy clothes and carrying a sword, and a vampire who are assumed to be aristocrats, is doing signing up with them instead of becoming an officer. No answer is forthcoming, then or ever.
  • Glad You Thought of It: Polly tries to get Blouse to "suggest" the idea of sneaking into the keep disguised as a washerwoman. He does so but assumes he's the only one with a chance of pulling it off. Amazingly, he is!
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: What nearly happened to Om in Small Gods apparently happened to Nuggan; people stopped worshipping the god and started fearing the Abominations and worshipping the Duchess instead, and Nuggan faded in power and was finally murdered by one of his own irate worshippers sometime before Monstrous Regiment begins.
    • And the reverse happens to the Duchess: an ordinary woman, after death, was elevated to something like godhood because so many people prayed to her.
  • God Was My Copilot: Everyone thought Wazzer was delusional, but apparently the Duchess had been guiding her footsteps the whole time.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Parodied, lampshaded and deconstructed. "Sock Drawer" indeed...
    • In one scene, Blouse's horse tries to bite Polly there, only to get the socks. When Polly notices, she quotes a few things she's heard in "rule-free bar fights" and punches it. Blouse faints, and when he comes to Polly explains that the trousers are a bit big for her, which he hastily accepts.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: Discussed when The Medic considers mercy-killing the team vampire before it goes mad with hunger. Almost everyone thinks the heart is further to the left than it really is.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: An in-character example; Polly discovers Lofty is a woman, and believes her to be following her love, Tonker. When she discovers Tonker is a woman too, Polly is rather confused and eventually decides not to think about it.
  • High-Class Glass: The captain of the dragoon patrol captured by Polly's squad is an aristocrat with a full set of Germanic aristocratic markers, including a waxed mustache, sabre scar on his cheek, and a monocle.
  • Holding Hands: Tonker and Lofty.
    They always held hands, when they thought they were alone. But it seemed to Polly that they didn’t hold hands like people who were, well, friends. They held hands tightly, as someone who has slipped over a cliff would hold hands with a rescuer, fearing that to let go would be to fall away.
  • Home by Christmas: Polly's brother writes a (heavily censored) letter home from his military posting, in which he mentions that his [CENSORED] reckons the war will all be over by [CENSORED].
  • Honest John's Dealership: Blouse makes the mistake of buying a second-hand horse from "Honest Jack" Slacker, "who went around all the horse fairs' bargain bins and sold winded old screws that dropped a leg before you got home."
  • How Many Fingers?: Maladict doesn't think this is something an Igor should ever ask.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Maladict does, of course, not drink... horse piss.
  • Illegal Religion: Borogravia has banned pretty much all religions except for Nugganism. Zlobenia, on the other hand, has banned Nugganism, which apparently didn't bother the population in the slightest (they were probably somewhat relieved). Naturally, this is brought up as yet another reason for Borogravians to hate them.
  • Improbably Female Cast: In the end, it turns out that the only man in the regiment (after Strappi deserts) was Blouse. Yes, including Jackrum. However, this is foreshadowed from the beginning (see Gendercide above, as well as the Genius Bonus of "Monstrous Regiment" as a title).
  • Insult Backfire: Because Ankh-Morpork has theoretically sided with Zlobenia (or at least, refused to actively support Borogravia in their constant wars), important people in Borogravia have given Vimes the epithet "Vimes the Butcher" in an attempt to discredit him. It backfires; the main characters think it's because he's a ruthless, efficient warlord, and Polly is relieved to be talking to a grumpy but helpful sergeant instead of his bloodthirsty boss, and more than a little shocked to learn they're the same person. Vimes himself finds it rather amusing.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: Predominantly featured on the book cover in most editions. Covers Always Lie by the way.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Wazzer.
  • Kill It with Fire: What Lofty does to places that made her miserable.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Apparently the Ins-and-Outs have a reputation for this, leading to their other nickname: the "Cheesemongers". It comes from a Bawdy Song of a soldier of the regiment going to a prostitute, but instead, uh, using her services, he steals her cheese and runs off.
  • The Lancer: This book, along with most other ones featuring Vimes/the Watch as less-important characters, fully establishes that Sergeant Angua is this to Vimes.
  • Last Stand: Deconstructed. When the recruits are discussing the trope Sgt. Jackrum (who has been involved in several) tells them they're actually the nastiest fighting you'll ever find. It comes back as a Brick Joke in the end, when she declares retiring and moving in with her son to be hers.
  • Left Hanging: The region is on the brink of war again, and Polly is on her way to try to prevent both war and her country being absorbed by its enemies. The result has never been mentioned in later books.
  • Let the Past Burn: At the end, the Boarding School of Horrors is burned down by two of those who'd been through it.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Tonker and Lofty; when Jackrum gets a bit fed up with their refusal to be out of each others' sight, he asks "What are you, married?"
  • Literary Allusion Title: To The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women, a polemic by Scottish Protestant reformer John Knox against women ruling countries (partly because he was a sexist, but mostly because both England and Scotland were ruled by Catholic women—Mary I Tudor and Mary Stuart's regent Marie of Guise).
  • Living Legend: Sergeant Jackrum of the Borogravian army has fought in every single war for forty years. The Sergeant knows everyone. Everyone knows the Sergeant. The Sergeant's reputation is such that generals will leave the room at the Sergeant's request. Though that also might be because some of these generals are actually women who Jackrum can blackmail via knowing this.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Discworld usually averts this trope, but after a heavy lampshade it's played straight for once near the end, although the materials are only useful to someone who knows a lot about blowing things up. Of course, once the Borogravian soldiers find out they're girls, they're recaptured and stuck in one of the "subversion" cells.
  • Loony Laws: The god Nuggan has been reduced to this, with a list of Abominations that now includes babies, garlic, blue, rocks, ears and accordion players, although Vimes for one agrees with him on that last one.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: The reason so many Sweet Polly Olivers, not to mention non-humans, manage to get into to the army.
    • Averted for Trolls, as they count as ten men as far as recruiting quotas go.
    • Also the reason Blouse, with his asthma, short-sightedness, and complete lack of field experience, was nevertheless called out of HQ and given his first field command.
  • Mad God: Nuggan and his weekly growing list of Abominations. It turns out he isn't mad, he's dead. His worshipers are just so tied up in their constant fear of The Other that their own anxiety is being reflected back in random abominations.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Sergeant Jackrum, by way of Batman Gambit.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Maladict, as a vampire, is incapable of looking scruffy - instead, it comes off as "deshabille - scruffy, but with bags and bags of style".
  • Meaningful Name: Other than (obviously) Polly, it was subverted to hell and back with Blouse. When we're first introduced, it seems like his name is supposed to imply he's a bit of a wimp and a loser. Then as the story progresses the reader is convinced that perhaps Blouse is also a woman. Then (after it is obvious Blouse is not a woman), when it is mentioned that famous war leaders/strategists usually get an item of clothing or a dish named after them, the reader thinks, "Aha! The reason no one has made fun of his name is that they name the women's shirt after him!" (Possibly because of his stint in the laundry with the washerwomen.) Finally, we find out that he did get a piece of clothing named after him... and it's a form of fingerless gloves, which he was wearing throughout most of the book.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Subverted by Shutfi's boyfriend, who asked her for a sixpence, ostensibly so each could keep half of it and re-join the pieces when he returned from the war. Rather than taking it to the smith to be divided, he spent the coin and abandoned her.
  • Memetic Badass: Jackrum, in-universe. One Borogravian soldier's father is famous in his hometown for managing the feat of kicking Jackrum in the groin and landing two punches on him (prior to getting absolutely knocked out in return) in a drunken Bar Fight.
  • Mildly Military: Considering that they are basically thrown into action untrained, Polly and her companions manage a remarkably good facsimile of military procedures. It's still not very close, though.
  • Modern Major General: Blouse plays with the idea of The Strategist, as his knowledge of tactical manoeuvres is shown as not very useful on actual battlefields. However, he does make up for it with his other abilities. Justified in that he was a paper-pusher, where he was apparently very skilled if underutilized until the army ran out of real field officers.
  • Mood-Swinger: Tonker, in her own words, doesn't have "middle gears". The quickest way to find this out is to threaten Lofty. (Could also be No Periods, Period rather painfully invoked.)
  • Moody Mount: Blouse's horse.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Maladict, though as a recovering vampire the coffee's really a way to get his mind off blood.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Jackrum uses the exact phrase at the end of the book.
  • Nasal Trauma: Corporal Strappi demands the newly recruited Private Perks demonstrate "his" sword skills. Perks proceeds to show what he learned from ol' soldier Gummy Abens by knocking Strappi's sword to the side and headbutting him in the nose, ending the fight quickly and earning massive respect from Sergent Jackrum. Strappi's speech is affected for the rest of the scene and his nose remains swollen for a while afterwards.
  • Nature Tinkling: Polly accidentally intrudes on one of her comrades, Lofty, doing just this — which is how Polly first learns she's not the only woman in her regiment.
    • As the narration later notes:
    There are three things a soldier wants to do when there’s a respite on the road. One involves lighting a cigarette, one involves lighting a fire, and the other one involves no flames at all but does, generally, require a tree.
  • The Neidermeyer: Corporal Strappi.
  • Noble Fugitive: When Jackrum and Strappi are confused at the idea of a high-class vampire enlisting, Maladict assures them "there isn't a price on my head."
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: When the squad is camped in the forest, the sentries use birdcalls to signal when somebody approaches the camp. Well, they try, anyway. Polly, who knows about birds, makes a mental note to teach them a call that won't be immediately obvious as Person Trying to Sound Like a Bird.
  • Nom de Guerre: The human recruits pick up nicknames almost immediately.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Said to be a common feature of winter warfare in the area. 'S not cannibalism, not unless you eat a whole person. Milit'ry rule.
  • Nobody's That Dumb: Shufti is the least worldly of all the characters, having disguised herself as a boy to look for her fiance who'd left her pregnant. She's repeatedly shown to be painfully naive, like believing the guy had been mislaid when she'd given him a sixpence to split in half or the Double Entendre of a Bawdy Song. However, she does get a moment once the squad is captured and claiming to be women by showing her privates to the officer. Polly then asks the officer with icy politeness if he needs the rest of the squad to strip down as well, and they're quickly left alone out of sheer embarrassment.
    Shufti: I'm not clever, but I'm not stupid.
  • Non-Action Guy: Blouse is extremely book-smart, but no use in a fight. At one point he manages to cut his sword hand with the sword he was wielding in it at the time while practicing.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The very little we hear about how the Girls' Working School treated the girls who were locked up there is twice as terrifying as a detailed description would have been. As a specific example, Polly met a local priest who worked there and seemed harmless, if kind of stodgy. Tonker replies, without going into any further detail, that "He was good at seeming."
  • Official Couple: Tonker and Lofty a.k.a. Madga and Tilda. Polly pegs them as a couple easily once she discovers Lofty is a woman, while still believing Tonker to be male, before becoming briefly confused when she discovers that they're actually both women.
  • Oh, Crap!: An enemy soldier, on hearing Jackrum's name, has such a moment:
    He seemed to get smaller, as if every cell had said "oh, dear" very quietly to itself.
  • The Only Believer: Played with: plenty of Borgovians believe in the Duchess, but within the party itself, everyone only pays her lip service... except for Wazzer, who truly believes.
  • Only Sane Man: Polly. Being surrounded by characters like Blouse, Wazzer and Jackrum leaves her as the most stable member of the regiment. According to Jackrum, this is part of a Sergeant's job, and she does get the rank by the end of the book.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The Girls' Working School, which did a number on Tonker, Lofty, and Wazzer. It's not specifically for orphans, though. You don't have to have dead parents to get sent there.
  • Overly Long Name: Maladict needs the entire sign-up sheet to write out his full name. Vampires have long names.
  • Painting the Medium: Blouse can drop inverted commas around any term he considers "racy" while Wazzer can put capitals in a spoken sentence.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Jackrum visits to maintain his image. He brings a book with him and tells the girl to get some rest.
  • Political Cartoon: The Ankh-Morpork Times special edition on the state of the war in Borogravia features a cartoon by the newspaper's political cartoonist, "Fizz", which is described in detail in the text. Some editions of the novel have as a frontispiece an interpretation of the cartoon by Paul Kidby.
  • The Political Officer: Strappi is a particularly loathsome example. He takes cruel delight in bullying his soldiers (to the point that one of them throws up whenever he starts yelling), talks big about patriotism, and when it looks like he's actually going to get sent to the front, wets himself and deserts. Oddly, the identities of Borogravian political officers seems to be a secret - Strappi's status is just rumored at first, until The Reveal. As such they're probably more of a cross between this trope and Stasi-esque informants, presumably to avert the inherent risk of fragging that comes with the role (and indeed, the squad was fairly openly planning to do this at the first opportunity before he deserted). The finale reveals he was actually there to investigate the paperwork irregularities around the Sergeant in a relatively mundane Internal Affairs operation, and when his actions come to light (not just the desertion but his general conduct) he's put up on official charges himself.
  • Pretty Boy: On top of his infuriatingly effortless charm, Maladict is frequently described as slim and graceful. Turns out there's a reason for that.
  • Probability Pileup: The main character is a woman. However, it is gradually revealed that apparently so is everyone else in her squad, with the exception of the nebbishy lieutenant, and including the extremely auspicious Sergeant Jackrum and a third of the high command.
  • Pyromaniac: Lofty.
  • The Quiet One: When Lofty says more than two words to anyone besides Tonker, it's both a noteworthy event and time to start asking some really specific questions about what, exactly, she has in mind.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: You don't get much more ragtag than a hot-head and her pyromaniac girlfriend, an expectant mother, the Discworld equivalent of Joan of Arc, a troll, an Igor, a coffee-crazed vampire, Only Sane Man Polly, and a naive clerk turned soldier. Fortunately, they've got a badass sergeant watching their backs.
  • Rape as Backstory: Lofty was sent to work at the flour mill where she underwent what Tonker describes as "Beatings. And worse". When she got back from the flour mill she was pregnant, consequently forced to have the baby, which was taken away from her, and then beaten again for having got pregnant. Then, strangely, the mill burned down, killing its owners.
  • Reality Warper: Otto Chriek warns Polly that a Vampire going 'Cold Bat' hallucinates so badly that other people see them. Once Maladict starts muttering about 'Charlie' the forest starts looking greener, and Polly keeps hearing distant rotor blades.
  • Really 17 Years Old:
    • To cover for Polly's inability to shave Lt. Blouse, Sgt. Jackrum claims that she was too young to shave and had lied about her age to enlist.
    • Jackrum regularly deducts a few decades off his age to avoid being discharged from the army. Polly expects a Bolt of Divine Retribution to punish the whoppers Jackrum tells when directly questioned by Lt. Blouse.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: They're uncommon enough in Discworld that Blouse sticks out as one. He's got the good sense to let Jackrum handle the things he himself isn't suited for (i.e. practically everything), is the first to cross-dress his way into the fortress (his subordinates see this as a suicide mission), and has the perspective to take his platoon's cross-dressing... more or less in stride.
    • Vimes, especially towards the end when he disabuses everyone of the notion that he is "Vimes the Butcher".
    • Mrs. Enid, the head washerwoman, sees through everyone's ruses in an instant, yet is pragmatic enough to play along flawlessly in front of the Zlobenians, and fair enough to be supportive even though she's a devoted Nugganite.
    • Scallot the quartermaster supplies the recruits the best he can with the limited supplies left and doesn't take offense when they initially get angry with him.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: One of the signs that the war is going so poorly is that the recruiting party can't even be bothered to try.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: The girls dress as soldiers dressed as washerwomen.
  • Red Herring: When Polly and the rest of the regiment catch Blouse in the act of infiltrating the keep, Polly notes with some surprise that Blouse "curtsied surprisingly well". Unlike Wazzer, who's caught out by curtseying instead of bowing to the picture of the Duchess, nothing ever comes of this: Blouse is definitely a man—or if he is a she, he never brings it up in the book.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Scallot claims to actually prefer rat meat to most other foods scrounged up by soldiers. Jackrum says the rotgut he douses himself with before they rob the knocking-shop was brewed from fermented rats.
  • Room 101: The Girls' Working School.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Vimes' adherence to this trope causes Polly to mistake him for an irreverent, scruffy sergeant who is blissfully between her and his bloodthirsty commander, "Vimes the Butcher".
    • The Duchess wants to be one, but the collective belief of Borogravia isn't enough to grant her the power to do any good, which causes her tremendous grief.
  • Running Gag: Lieutenant Blouse dreams of having an article of clothes or a pastry named after him. Once you know this you quickly become aware that ALL of the officers are named after clothes and pastries.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Loads of them. To be precise, the entire Monstrous Regiment aside from Blouse, and according to Jackrum, a third of Borogravia's high command.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Jackrum does this.
  • Self-Surgery: Jackrum is instructing the recruits instead of being on the frontlines as you'd expect of the Living Legend because his leg was cut open but refused medical care to the point of biting the hand of a surgeon trying to help him, and then fixed himself up. Jackrum operated on himself because the surgeon would have probably realized Jackrum was actually a woman if he was allowed to proceed.
  • Sergeant Rock: Jackrum. And, obviously, Private Rock.
  • Shameful Strip: Inflicted on captive soldiers.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Just his ear, mind.
  • Shout-Out:
    • After being deprived of coffee, Maladict starts suffering from "flashsides" and acting like an embittered soldier out of a movie about the Vietnam war, complete with references to Apocalypse Now and the anti-war song "Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag".
    • As his withdrawal symptoms reach crisis point, he makes the classic Willem Dafoe pose.
    • Also a brief nod to Predator, when Polly's justified sense that they're being followed is substantiated by a glimpse of something that bends the light around it. It's actually Angua who's following them, but Mal's coffee-deprived Reality Warper powers catch on to Polly's paranoia and create the illusion of something up in the trees.
    • "I want my sixpence back, you son of a bitch!"
    • When the recruits first set out, the narration remarks that finer examples of marching have been performed by penguins.
    • The title itself is a joint Historical In-Joke and this, referencing a 1558 political work denouncing women in positions of power.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Jackrum and his past heroics.
  • Spit Take: When Blouse announces that he intends to try and recapture the Keep, Jackrum spits a mouthful of tea halfway across the clearing.
  • Spoiler Title: Here's The Other Wiki article for those interested.
    • More of a shout out, as the article on The Other Wiki is about a mid-1500s political work from which the title of the book itself is taken as a Historical In-Joke.
  • Stealth Insult: This exchange between Lieutenant Blouse and Sergeant Jackrum:
    Blouse: The great General Tacticus says that in dangerous times the commander must be like the eagle and see the whole, and yet still be like the hawk and see every detail.
    Jackrum: Yessir, and if he acts like a common tit, sir, he can hang upside-down all day and eat fat bacon.
  • Stealth Pun: A couple of characters, mostly Strappi, keeps accidentally-on-purpose calling Polly "Parts", instead of "Perks", her actual last name. Her rank is Private. This would make her "Private Parts" (which he also calls her to her face once or twice). Also, from the Borogravian National Anthem, "The day is a great big fish" (i.e. is full of opportunity) could potentially be translated as "Carp"e Diem.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: The Duchess. All the prayers to her treat her like a goddess, but as much as she wants to help she's only a deceased woman, powerless to do anything, and she just wants to be let off the hook.
  • Stout Strength: Sergeant Jackrum. As he puts it, "People don't think fat men can fight. They think fat men are funny. They think wrong."
  • Strongly Worded Letter: Nuggan (or what's left of him) is described as the divine equivalent of this sort of person.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Polly reflects at the end that this was actually Wazzer's story, when all is said and done. Even aside from that, Jackrum carries most of the action. Polly is pretty much stuck as a point-of-view character because she is the Only Sane Man and is not privy to any of the major twists in the plot.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Spoofed to the point of absurdity. The main character is named Polly after the song which is the Trope Namer, and the song itself is referenced multiple times. When Polly goes undercover in the military as "Oliver" it's eventually revealed that nearly every member of Polly's regiment is a woman in disguise as a man.
  • A Tankard of Moose Urine:
    Igor: "Thith beer tatheth like horthe pithth. [...] I never thaid I didn't like it."
  • Tap on the Head: Done to two guards. They know the first guard is okay because he's groaning and swearing. The second tap is administered by an Igor.
  • Title Drop: A captured enemy soldier calls the protagonists the "monstrous regiment" because they've got a vampire, a troll, an Igor, and a werewolf among their ranks. The bit about the werewolf isn't true, but it is a hint that Angua is keeping the squad under observation.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tonker and Lofty, respectively.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Before enlisting, Lofty was separated from Tonker, sent to work for a man who beat and almost certainly raped her, became pregnant, freed herself and her fellow servants by setting fire to the man's house and killing him, got sent back to the reform school, where she gave birth, had her baby taken away, and was beaten again for committing an Abomination (having her rapist's child out of wedlock), at which point she and Tonker ran away to join the army. When Tonker says that there's nothing good for the two of them to go back to in Munz, she's really not exaggerating.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Invoked when Polly is disguised as a barmaid, as she claims that her hair was cut short for smiling at a Zlobenian soldier.
  • Truth in Television: As part of her disguise, Polly has practised peeing standing up, and is very proud of herself for having "kept her feet dry". Transgender men can tell you that this is a very legitimate and shared pride.
  • Unfriendly Fire: After a long day, the recruits share a pleasant daydream about stabbing Strappi in the back mid-battle. He deserts before they have a chance to follow through on it.
  • The Un Twist: Borogravia is losing the war, and badly. The government does its best to hide this with propaganda and bluster, but everyone knows anyway. When Polly gets Blouse to admit it out loud, she admits it doesn't change anything, but it still needed to be said.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • References to one's "socks", which is what Polly uses to substitute for certain... missing parts. She even starts saying it aloud when talking to people, not in the know, who are usually confused about what she's talking about.
    • Due to vocabulary misunderstanding, Polly admits to hitting a few men "in or about the fracas".
    • There are so many Euphemisms given for male body parts in the book that we can't list them all here.
  • The Vietnam Vet: Parodied in Maledict's "flash-sides", which have him experience nightmares from our world, specifically Vietnam veterans. Everyone is confused.
  • Vomiting Cop: Lieutenant Blouse does the honors after the squad encounters their first set of dead bodies.
  • Waif Prophet: Wazzer is rather delicate and nervous, mentally unbalanced in a way that makes her seem a bit eerie, and eventually serves as the conduit for the Duchess's ghost.
  • War Refugees: The army meets many.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: Being a vampire, Maladict doesn't actually need a sword - and, in fact, has no training with it. He carries it because it's an obvious visual shorthand for "not someone you should attack".
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Quite bluntly averted with Polly and the other fresh meats. Midway through the book, Polly finds herself cornered by an unaware enemy and decides to strike first:
    Yes, a good swipe at head height would kill...
    ...some mother's son, some sister's brother, some lad who'd followed the drum for a shilling and his first new suit. If only she'd been trained, if only she'd had a few weeks stabbing straw men until she could believe that all men were made of straw...
  • With This Herring: As Borogravia is on the brink of defeat, the Monstrous Regiment finds the army's attempts to equip them is really more a bunch of broken gear off dead men. There isn't even enough of it for everyone.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: When the girls try and sneak into the fortress as washerwomen, the Alliance immediately suspects them of being soldiers in disguise. It would have been the end if Shufty hadn't raised her skirt demonstrating that they actually were female. Annoyingly, Lt. Blouse got in without trouble.
  • You Should Know This Already: The majority of the cast are female. The only real surprise is how far the Sweet Polly Oliver trope goes, almost the point of Chromosome Casting.


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