In the fifteenth part of Guards! Guards!, THE ANSWER WAS RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I fucked up I FUCKED UP
You know, I can’t shake how unnerving this book is at times. I realize I’ve commented on how “different” Guards! Guards! feels compared to the previous books in this universe, but I think the opening scene is a perfect demonstration of why this isn’t like anything else. There’s an absurd humor to reading a scene where two officers of the law discuss the merits of protesting against a dragon. I can’t deny that! I mean, come on:
“Yes, but if we all protest – ” said the first speaker, his voice modulated with uncertainty.
“It can’t burn everybody,” said Colon. He decided to play his new ace again and added, proudly, “The people united can never be ignited!”
Of course, as someone points out (and then the dragon later demonstrates), this isn’t true at all. Pratchett toys with the nature of protesting, and then… well, it’s all not so funny anymore:
I can see what the captain means, he thought. No wonder he always has a drink after he thinks about things. We always beat ourselves before we even start. Give any Ankh-Morpork man a big stick and he’ll end up clubbing himself to death.
Oh lord. As someone who has been involved with activist circles for a good part of my life, I have seen this happen OVER AND OVER AGAIN. What ends up being so disturbing to me is twofold: 1) the citizenry easily refuse to fight against this new proclamation, thereby becoming complacent in it, and 2) this is all became the dragon KILLS THE ONLY PERSON WHO STOOD UP TO THEM. So it’s not like I can blame them for living in terror; the power that the king wields is undeniably frightening. But Pratchett hasn’t shied away from portraying Ankh-Morporkians as willing to accept pretty much any system of government as long as their personal lives weren’t interrupted in any significant way. It’s a very individualistic and pragmatic behavior, and it’s the Ankh-Morpork way!
It’s also incredibly sad in some ways. Like, the death of the father (he had three daughters!) did not make me laugh at all, and it made me so furious at the Brethren and the Supreme Grand Master, because they summoned this creature and now it’s out killing people who just want the best for their families.
UGH THIS IS LEGITIMATELY SAD.
That is such a fun word to say.
There’s a great deal in this section that pokes fun at the fantasy genre, which is ONE OF MY FAVORITE PASTIMES. I totally forgot that there ALWAYS is a vulnerable spot on a dragon. Always! I had never even thought of that as a trope until I read through this part of the book. But it’s a part of fantasy lore that’s survived a long time, and that means Terry Pratchett gets to rip it apart. So now we’ve got the Watch trio – Nobby, Carrot, and Sgt. Colon – prepared to make an attempt to kill the dragon by hitting it with an arrow in its voonerables. How much you wanna bet that this doesn’t work because there’s no such thing as a voonerables on this dragon? I wouldn’t be surprised, y’all.
Right there. It was right there all along. How many times I have asked y’all where the Supreme Grand Master was? Didn’t I pick up on the fact that Lord Vetinari was clearly planning something while down in the dungeon? DIDN’T I WONDER HOW THE SUPREME GRAND MASTER WOULD BE ABLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO THE KING?
This certainly sheds light on Lupine Wonse’s behavior, especially when you contrast how he acts around the Patrician versus all the scenes where he’s alone with Vimes. It’s exactly the same dynamic as Brother Fingers (and all the Brethren, really) and the Supreme Grand Master. JESUS, THE SUPREME GRAND MASTER THOUGHT OF HUMANITY THE SAME WAY AS THE PATRICIAN. How??? How did I not see this???
Well, obviously it was designed that way, and it was a lot easier for me to always assume these were two separate sets of people, that the Supreme Grand Master was trying to overthrow the Patrician. I now cannot recall a single moment in which the Supreme Grand Master even referenced the Patrician ONCE. And that makes sense because why would he ever mention himself??? UGH. UGH IT’S ALL SO CLEAR NOW. Why else would Lupine Wonse be so terrified? Why would he want out of this disaster? Because he knows he and the Patrician caused it. He knows that there’s no other way out of this unless they can unsummon a dragon or find a weakness and kill it. (The voonerables!)
And yet, he knows that he’s higher up the chain than Vimes, Captain of the Watch. There’s always an hierarchy here, and Wonse tries his best to exploit it. Pratchett has SO MUCH FUN totally destroying the trope of disposable guards in the process, because RIGHT??? The hero always gets away from unsuspecting guards because he’s the hero, DUH. But Lupine Wonse has completely forgotten about one key player:
And no one, absolutely no one, noticed the thin, leaf-like thing that floated gently down from the shadows of the roof, tumbling over and over in the air like a sycamore seed, before landing in the tangled gewgaws of the hoard.
It was a peanut shell.
LONG LIVE THE LIBRARIAN.
Before I get to the WORST plot twist yet (IT STILL HURTS, DON’T LET IT HAPPEN), I wanted to comment on Errol. I’m glad that Errol is being taken care of, but now I’m super confused. I had totally bought the idea that Errol was trying to challenge the dragon, attempting to build up a reserve of actual fire in order to kill it, but… WHY? WHY IS ERROL NOW FREEZING COLD? That makes no sense at all to me!
Well, not just for Errol, but Lady Ramkin, who has easily become one of my favorite characters that Pratchett’s ever written. She’s just so endlessly interesting and entertaining, and I was totally horrified when I had put this all together. The guards next task? Finding the sacrifice. The sacrifice? Oh my god, IT’S LADY RAMKIN. Of course, OF COURSE IT WOULD BE THE WOMAN WHOSE ONLY INTEREST IS IN DRAGONS.
Except that’s not quite true. Now I see why I was so confused about Ramkin’s behavior. She would not have recognized a guardsman’s helmet with plumes as belonging to the Palace guard; she believed it was Vimes at her door. And so off she runs to freshen herself up and make herself look attractive for Vimes. SHE LIKES HIM A LOT, OH MY GOD, THIS WOULD BE SO CUTE IF IT WASN’T FOR THE FACT THAT I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THE GUARDS WERE THERE FOR. Christ, y’all, I don’t want this. SAVE LADY RAMKIN FROM ANY BAD FATE, PLEASE.
Can we also acknowledge how bold it was of her to get a FUCKING BROADSWORD from her house because she would have killed anyone who tried to hurt her dragons??? Be still my heart. Lady Ramkin is a hero in my eyes.
The original text contains use of the words “insane,” “lunatic,” and “mad.”
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