Ankh-Morpork

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Ankh-Morpork
Discworld-ankh-morpork-amoswolfe.png
Ankh-Morpork City Arms
Discworld location
Creator Terry Pratchett
Genre Comic fantasy
Type City-state
Notable locations Unseen University
The Patrician's Palace
Notable characters Havelock Vetinari
Wizards
Ankh-Morpork City Watch
Sam Vimes
Moist von Lipwig

Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state which features prominently in Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasy novels. At first glance the world may seem to be written in medieval fantasy style, however Ankh-Morpork is very much the parody of a modern, multi-cultural metropolis. It may bring to mind London or New York City, several centuries mixed into one, with elements of renaissance Florence (compare the ultra-rational dictator Lord Vetinari who certainly has read or even written himself the Discworld-equivalent of Macchiavelli's "Il Principe"). Pratchett describes this biggest city of Discworld as on the far side of corrupt and polluted, and as subject to outbreaks of comedic violence and brouhaha on a fairly regular basis. Ankh-Morpork is also the mercantile capital of the Discworld. As the series proceeds, Ankh-Morpork is more and more portrayed as multi-cultural (which in this case means multi-species, with increasingly prominent populations of creatures such as dwarfs, trolls, and werewolves) and struggling with modern real-world challenges. Even when it is under attack from a dragon, the vegetable carts still have to come in.

Tallinn, one of the real-life prototypes of Ankh-Morpork

In The Art of Discworld Pratchett explains that the city is similar to Tallinn and central Prague, but adds that it has elements of 18th century London, 19th century Seattle and modern New York City. He also states that since the creation of The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, he has tried to ensure that the descriptions of character movements and locations in the books match the Ankh-Morpork map; this has allowed him, and fans of the series, to visualise the story more clearly. Ankh-Morpork is also referred to as "The Great [or Big] Wahoonie" on occasions, alluding to "The Great Wen" (London), or to "The Big Apple" (New York). It is stated in the novel 'Moving Pictures' that "There's a saying that all roads lead to Ankh-Morpork. And it's wrong. All roads lead away from Ankh-Morpork, but sometimes people walk along them the wrong way". There are also strong parallels with the political structure, economy, social structure, topography and history of the city-state Florence during the Renaissance.

Geography[edit]

Ankh-Morpork lies on the River Ankh (the most polluted waterway on the Discworld and reputedly solid enough to walk on), where the fertile loam of the Sto Plains (similar to Western Europe) meets the Circle Sea (the Discworld's version of the Mediterranean). This, naturally, puts it in an excellent trading position.

Lying approximately equidistant from the cold Hub and tropical Rim, Ankh-Morpork is in the Discworld's equivalent of the temperate zone.

The name "Ankh-Morpork" refers to both the city itself, a walled city about a mile (1.6 km) across, and the surrounding suburbs and farms of its fiefdom.

The central city divides more or less into the more affluent Ankh and the poorer Morpork which includes the slum-like "Shades", which are separated by the River Ankh.

Ankh-Morpork is built on black loam, broadly, but is mostly built on itself; pragmatic citizens simply built on top of the existing buildings when the sediment grew too high as the river flooded, rather than excavate them out. There are many unknown basements, including an entire "cave network" below Ankh-Morpork made up of old streets and abandoned sewers (it has been continuously stated that anyone with a pickaxe and a good sense of direction could reach anywhere in Ankh-Morpork by knocking walls down in a straight line). Recently, the underground regions have been extended by the city's dwarf population to get around unimpeded. It has recently been made municipal property.

Ankh-Morpork is also the city with the most dwarfs on the whole disc outside of Überwald, largely considered the dwarfen homeland, with over 50,000 dwarfs living there (The Truth, The Fifth Elephant).

The River Ankh[edit]

The Ankh parodies the Thames during the 18th and 19th century, as both were unhealthy and polluted. Such parody is also evident in maps of Ankh-Morpork, which clearly show the River Ankh with the famous Thames meander around London's Isle Of Dogs. The naming of the river is an ironic pun, as the word 'Ankh' (☥) is the Ancient Egyptian symbol for life - therefore it is the River of Life, the antithesis of its actual appearance.

Even before it enters Ankh-Morpork, the River Ankh is full of silt from the plains; by the time it gets to the seaward side of the city, "even an agnostic could walk across it" (although in The Truth, Arnold Sideways plays it safe by distributing his weight over boards).

The citizens of the city are strangely proud of this fact, even going so far as to say that "it is easier to suffocate than drown in the Ankh." They also claim it to be the purest water on the Disc, as "Anything that's passed through so many kidneys has to be very pure indeed." (A reference to the saying that London tap-water is allegedly filtered by seven sets of kidneys). Owing to the build-up of centuries, the bed of the river is higher than some parts of the city. When winter snows swell the flow, the low-rent areas of Morpork flood. In spring some parts of the river catch fire, others sprout small trees and also the spray of the Ankh turns into a shade of green. Wading birds are apparently uncommon, as their legs would be eaten away by the pollution. Such fish as are known to exist are described as looking like vacuum cleaners, and explode when brought to clean water. There are a lot of microorganisms living in the river, which Mustrum Ridcully believed was proof that the water was safe to drink - as anything capable of supporting that much life had to be healthy.

The river has also prevented barbarian invasion, as "any invasion fleet would have to be preceded by a gang of men wielding shovels." A magic horn in the Patrician's Palace is said to blow itself in warning. When the city catches fire, the river gates are closed, and the river rises and smothers the flames. This also destroys any buildings hitherto unburned.

In both Men At Arms and the computer game Discworld Noir, the Ankh is described as "the only river in the world on which you could draw a chalk outline".

History[edit]

According to legend, the first city of Ankh-Morpork was founded thousands of years ago by twin brothers who were raised by a hippopotamus (an allusion to the myth of Romulus and Remus, with a hippo replacing the original wolf). It is in memory of this that the hippo is the royal animal of Ankh. One legend has it that if danger ever threatens the city, the eight stone hippopotami guarding the Brass Bridge will come to life and run away. Another legend claims that many centuries ago, the Disc flooded. An ark was constructed, containing two of every animal. When the accumulated dung of forty days and nights was dropped over the side, they called it Ankh-Morpork.

The original city was little more than a walled keep, surrounding the Tower of Art, a building of mysterious origin which may even predate the Disc itself.

At one point it had an empire, similar to the Roman Empire, that covered half the continent including the neighbouring country of Klatch. These were the days of the "Pax Morporkia," another reference to Rome and their Pax Romana.

The empire was largely the creation of General Tacticus (a pun on both "tactics" and the name of the real-world historian Tacitus), the greatest military mind in history. Tacticus refused to accept that the Empire was growing too big to control, and was finally shipped off to be king of Genua. As king he decided that the greatest threat to Genua was the Empire, and declared war on it (a probable reference to Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, who served under the Emperor Napoleon but later, as King of Sweden, allied with France's enemies, and other similar episodes in history).

This was a Golden Age, ruled by the Kings of Ankh, who are recalled in legend as wise, noble and fair. The line died out approximately 2000 years before the present, giving way to real kings who were realistically corrupt and perverse and ultimately leading to the collapse of the empire. (This could be seen as a parody of the fictional city of Minas Tirith, which also had a "Golden Age" many years before, with Kings who were remembered as being noble and wise.)[dubious ]

Shortly before this, however, the mage Alberto Malich had founded Unseen University (UU) in the Tower of Art, and Ankh-Morpork continued as a service town for the wizards.

Royalty became extremely debased and the later kings of Ankh-Morpork are recalled in history as power-mad and corrupt, or just mad; some are mentioned by name in Men at Arms:

  • Queen Alguinna IV
  • King Artorollo (a contemporary of Alberto Malich)
  • King Cirone IV
  • Queen Coanna
  • King Loyala the Aaargh (Had a 1.13 second rule from coronation to assassination) - The Discworld Companion
  • King Ludwig the Tree (Known to issue royal proclamations on the need to develop a new type of frog and similar important matters, and also responsible for the city motto Quanti Canicula Ille In Fenestra-"How much is that doggie in the window?") - The Discworld Companion
  • King Paragore
  • King Tyrril (ruled circa AM 907)
  • King Veltrick III
  • Webblethorpe the Unconscious

The last and worst - the euphemistically remembered Lorenzo the Kind (the full extent of whose infamy is not explicitly revealed, save that he was said to be "very fond of children", possessed "secret rooms" from which "bits" had to be cleaned, and had in his dungeons "machines for . . .") - was overthrown in the Ankh-Morpork Civil War of 1688 (dating from the founding of UU). The question of what to do with the deposed king (no judge would try him) was settled when he was executed by the then Commander of the City Watch, Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes. Known as "Old Stoneface," his regicide resulted in his being banned from bearing arms (These events parallel the English Civil War of the 1640s, and the execution of Charles I by Oliver Cromwell). Afterwards "Old Stoneface" (an ancestor of the current City Watch Commander Samuel Vimes and a play on Cromwell's nickname "Old Ironside") and his Ironheads (a play on "Ironsides" and "Roundheads") attempted to introduce democracy, but the people voted against it. After "Old Stoneface" himself was overthrown, Ankh-Morpork reverted to a non-hereditary oligarchic system, where the leaders are still ruthless tyrants, but don't have the audacity to invoke divine right. It is, however, rumoured that the royal blood line of the Kings of Ankh has not in fact died out but instead continued, and that the true king, Carrot Ironfoundersson, walks the streets of the city on a nightly basis. The Patrician rules the city, and operates a specialised form of "One Man, One Vote" democracy: the Patrician is the Man, and he has the Vote.

Past Patricians, many of them oppressive despots and fairly often mad, would include:

  • Deranged Lord Harmoni
  • Laughing Lord Scapula
  • Frenzied Earl Hargath
  • Nersh the Lunatic
  • Giggling Lord Smince
  • Homicidal Lord Winder
  • Mad Lord Snapcase

The reign of Winder was marked by a greater-than-norm amount of oppression and political violence, as detailed in Night Watch, causing a popular revolt centred in Treacle Mine Road. The City Guilds had him assassinated and replaced with Lord Snapcase, who himself turned out to be a greater tyrant and was eventually replaced with Havelock Vetinari.

When Vetinari inherited the city, it was a corrupt, crumbling medieval city, as shown in The Colour of Magic. This was gradually turned around, first with an overhaul of the Guild system - such as legalising the Guild of Thieves and leaving them responsible for stopping 'unlicensed' thefts (e.g., any non-Guild thief is not permitted to operate in the city) - and then by opening the city to immigration. dwarfs, trolls, gnomes, humans from across the Disc, and even the undead emigrated in large numbers, making Ankh-Morpork a truly multicultural society, with both the advantages and problems that suggests. (The current Patrician's own, typically pragmatic, view on multiculturalism is "Alloys are stronger.") With the new stability and skill base, the city has become the mercantile and political capital of the Discworld, so much so that the Sto Plains operates under a new Pax Morporkia, which operates not on the principle of "If you fight, we will kill you," but on the principle of "If you fight, we will call in your mortgages."

Mime artists are strictly forbidden. Anyone caught practising the art is hung upside-down in a scorpion pit, upon the walls of which is written: "Learn the words." This is the only overt sign of tyranny under Vetinari.

Ankh-Morpork has evolved in the series. While it still has corruption (mostly organised in guilds), it is far from crumbling by Going Postal and has become a high-tech (for the Disc) city-state bordering on almost steampunk levels of technology. The city is indeed the 2nd most developed nation of the disc after the Agatean Empire. Ankh-Morpork has seen the appearance of

Crime is kept in check by the Watch and the guilds, mainly the Thieves' Guild; in the novel Jingo a character casually notes the Thieves' Guild weathervane is an actual unofficial and currently deceased thief. Lord Vetinari has a firm grip on the city (or seems to). The wizards of UU no longer murder each other intentionally. The city is now a highly advanced metropolis rather than the fading, broken-down city of The Colour of Magic. It is implied that the Axle discovered in Thud! will revolutionise both municipal transportation (with many references which parallel the London Underground including the minesign symbol for a mine) and machinery, and Moist von Lipwig's invention of the banknote in Making Money.

Politics[edit]

City Leadership[edit]

The succession of the Patrician occurs normally by either assassination or revolution. Patricians have been known to resign, but this is very much the exception.

Power is, to some degree, shared with the many Guilds (see above) and the surviving nobility. They form a sort of advisory city council, but the Patrician has the only vote at meetings. This may be the same as the "council of aldermen" referred to briefly in Sourcery, and called the city council in "Guards Guards", but never mentioned since.

The current office-holder is the Medici-inspired Lord Havelock Vetinari, a former student at the Assassins' Guild.

The nearest surviving relative of the former royal family seems to be Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, technically a human, but fundamentally a dwarf (or vice-versa depending on point-of-view). However, he has gone to some effort to keep his royal connections as quiet as possible. The origin of Corporal Cecil Wormsborough St. John (Nobby) Nobbs remains shrouded in mystery. At one point he was identified as being a descendant of de Nobbes, the Earl of Ankh (and therefore the next in line), but this was (probably) a deliberate deception.

The Patrician has almost absolute power over the affairs of the city and works together with the leaders of the city's Guilds, who elect him through the Guild Council, as shown in The Truth. In an analogy of Renaissance Florence, Ankh-Morpork is an oligarchy. Eligible for election are members of rich and influential families.

Vetinari appears rather more permanent than most patricians, largely due to his Machiavellian ("for a given value of Machiavelli", according to Terry Pratchett) machinations. He has arranged the politics of the city in such a way that to remove him from office would cause chaos among the Guilds and nobility. He firmly believes that what people really want is stability, and that is what he provides.

Current "important" city figures[edit]

Although Vetinari is the absolute leader of the city, he has been able to give some people the illusion that they have some power:

It should be pointed out that traditionally the relationship between the city and Unseen University is one of mutual cooperation, in which it is stated that the University agrees to do anything asked of them and the city promises to never ask, and it is possibly the only place where the Patrician's influence is reduced. For example, the city has never taxed the university ("A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices"). According to Interesting Times, the Patrician can, in theory, have the Archchancellor summoned and, indeed, have him executed; however, the Archchancellor could turn the Patrician into a small reptile and, indeed, start bouncing around the room on a pogo stick.

Institutions[edit]

The primary engines of Ankh-Morpork's economy are the guilds. There are hundreds of guilds, for every conceivable profession, from clowns to butchers, and each has its own strictly maintained laws and trading practices. Many guilds have assumed roles which in real-world cities would be assumed by government agencies.

Education[edit]

As Ankh-Morpork does not appear to have anything approaching a state education system, the primary means of education is the vocational training imparted by the guilds to their young members. Foundlings are, for instance, often dropped at the doorsteps of guilds in the hopes of their learning a useful trade. The Assassins' Guild is considered the top educational establishment on the Disc and, whether one intends to be an assassin or not, is considered the school of choice for young aristocrats such as the future Lord Vetinari. It is possible to attend the Assassins' Guild simply for the learning and not the slaying; though many of course choose to do both. Many children from poorer backgrounds are educated at dame schools, similar to the institutions in Victorian England of the same name; Sideney (in Hogfather) and Samuel Vimes (in Thud!) were educated at dame schools. Others attend boarding schools outside Ankh-Morpork, such as the Quirm College for Young Ladies. A Teachers' Guild exists, but appears to be of low status—in Guards! Guards! Vimes' seating position in the coronation scene is described as "in the lowest tier…between the Master of the Fellowship of Beggars and the head of the Teachers' Guild". This is most probably a joke based on the international belief that teachers are lowly ranked and paid.

Ankh-Morpork's main institution of higher education is Unseen University, the principal school of wizardry on the Disc.

Law Enforcement[edit]

The laws and protections offered by the guilds are the city's main form of personal security. The most obvious example of this is the Thieves' Guild, which, by regulating the crime trade, acts as the city's main law enforcement agency; however, many of the guilds also have private enforcers, such as the Agony Aunts for the Seamstresses' Guild and the Bloody Fools for the Fools' Guild.

At its most basic level, law in Ankh-Morpork operates on the principle that a grocer is free to mix soil in his coffee, and also to be vivisected by any customer who happens to find out. Other than that, options are slim. In cases of personal grievance, one might make an appeal to the Guild of Lawyers, providing, of course, one is wealthy enough to pay (The Lawyers' Guild consider this a very reasonable arrangement, as the poor are inveterately criminal anyway). Barring that, the only course of action in criminal cases is a direct appeal to the Patrician, which frequently works, as he sees such a result as highly instructive.

Despite evidence to the contrary, murder is not a commonplace occurrence in Ankh-Morpork; there are, of course, assassinations, but as these are guild sanctioned they are not deemed to be against the law. Ankh-Morpork does, however, have an extraordinarily high suicide rate, due mainly to the city's view on what constitutes suicide. For example, walking alone through the night-time alleyways of the Shades is suicide, as is asking for a short in a dwarf bar. It is very easy to commit suicide in Ankh-Morpork if you are not careful.

Outside the guilds, most law enforcement is undertaken by the Watch, under the leadership of Sam Vimes.

Government revival[edit]

Recently, Lord Vetinari has begun to reassert the power of the state by reintroducing formerly decrepit government agencies such as the City Watch, the Post Office, and most recently, the Royal Mint.

City Watch[edit]

The City Watch is one of the greatest success stories. In the beginning, it consisted of the Day Watch, popinjays headed by Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke (rich, thick, oily, and smelling slightly of eggs) and the Night Watch, three unemployable men; then-Captain Vimes, who was a drunk, Sergeant Colon, whose idea of major crime would be the theft of a bridge and Corporal Nobbs, who has a certificate to prove that he's human. The addition of Lance-Constable Carrot was the catalyst for their reformation over the course of the novel Guards! Guards! Over the course of time, the Watch has grown under the leadership of Commander Samuel Vimes to the most modern police force on the Disc. Which still employs the three men in question.

Post Office[edit]

The Ankh-Morpork Post Office, which was once a vibrant, relevant institution complete with gleaming wooden counters and polished brass, staffed by postmen in spiffy blue uniforms, languished and almost died, according to Mr Tolliver Groat (Junior Postman, later Senior Postman and Postal Inspector), when postmen began to leave half a sack of post behind in order to get home on time. The next day they left another half sack, reasoning they could do it on their day off, by which point too much mail had built up and so much was still left behind. However this was only a minor part of the problem.

The amount of undelivered mail was dramatically increased by the Sorting Engine, created by Bloody Stupid Johnson. This machine was intended to speed up postal delivery, but instead began to produce mail, first from the future (which was fine, because that was seen as really improving delivery times) and then from alternate universes. The reason for this was that Johnson disapproved of pi, and had therefore based the engine around a non-Euclidean wheel, on which the radius divided into the circumference exactly three times, thereby creating an area of dimensional instability. It was impossible to deliver all the letters, and most of them couldn't be delivered, as they hadn't been sent in this universe.

The Post Office was reduced to a massive building crammed floor to ceiling with undelivered letters and staffed solely by geriatric Junior Postman Groat, along with his pin-collecting companion Stanley. By the time of Going Postal it had long been forgotten, the building daubed with graffiti, the mail coaches appropriated for passenger travel by the coachmen and its services rendered apparently useless by the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company. Lord Vetinari then appointed Moist von Lipwig, a former con-man, to restore the Post Office as a means of curtailing the power of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company. With Lipwig as Postmaster-General, the Post Office was restored to something approaching its former glory. Lipwig invented the postage stamp, giving a new hobby to young men like Stanley who were formerly obsessed with pin collecting. With the craze of variously priced, flavoured stamps taking off, Lipwig went on to restore mail coach services to such towns as Sto Lat and Genua. As the clacks lines became less reliable, the Post Office became stiff competition for semaphore. Ultimately, Lipwig succeeded in bringing down Reacher Gilt, chairman of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, by using a well placed lie and thus restored the Post Office's supremacy in delivering Morporkian messages. Lord Vetinari then handed the Grand Trunk company over to Moist, who planned to give it back to the Dearheart family, from whom it was unjustly taken.

The motto of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office is displayed on the front of the building, and for some years read "NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GL OM OF NI T CAN STAY THESE MES ENGERS ABO T THEIR DUTY." Following Mr Lipwig's appointment, the missing letters were located on and, by the use of a promise not to bring any charges and the use of no violence at all by an 8-foot-high (2.4 m) golem wielding a huge crowbar, recovered from the frontage of the hairdresser's 'HUGOS', allowing the motto to be restored to its correct spelling. By a strange coincidence, the motto is very similar to the motto of another Post Office in the Multiverse. During the Post Office's decline, a list of things that would, in fact, stay these messengers, was displayed on a notice board below the motto. The most notable is Mrs. Cake, listed twice. Mrs. Cake is not to be asked about.

Currency[edit]

The AM$ (Ankh-Morpork dollar) is equal to 100 pennies (pence). Under Ankh-Morporkian tradition, ten pence can be referred to as a shilling, twenty-five pence as half a ton, and fifty pence as a nob/a ton/half a bar/a knocker.

The AM$ is reputedly the hardest currency outside of the Agatean Empire. A dollar coin is Sequin (coin) sized, and although theoretically made of gold the metal has been adulterated so many times that, according to The Discworld Companion:

"There is more gold in an equivalent weight of seawater. In a sense, then, Ankh-Morpork is on the gold standard in all respects except the one of actually having any gold to speak of"[1]

Ankh-Morpork being an extremely rich city state, the AM$ is the currency of choice amongst the lands around the Circle Sea; although other city states have their own currencies, they maintain strong links with the dollar, as Ankh-Morpork is the only place which has anything worth buying.

In Making Money, Moist von Lipwig introduces paper currency and puts the city on the golem standard.

Notable locations[edit]

Biers is a pub frequented by creatures of the night, usually lumped together as "undead", though they can include werewolves and bogeymen. Difficult to find, unless you happen to be "the right sort." It is often compared to Cheers but with the tagline "Where everybody knows your shape". Susan Sto Helit is a noted frequenter of Biers. The more typical clientele occasionally loudly demand to know what she thinks she's doing there. They seldom do so twice. The barman of Biers is named Igor, though he doesn't appear to be an Igor. It's best to eye what he serves carefully; as Pratchett noted in Hogfather, "When Igor the barman was asked for a Bloody Mary, he didn't mix a metaphor." At some point in the past, the pub was known as The Crown and Axe; a nearly-blind old regular, Mrs. Gammage, still frequents the place, mistaking the undead staff and clientele for the previous inhabitants, none of them having the heart to gainsay her.

The Dwarf Bread Museum which, as its name suggests, is a building where certain articles of the (in)famous dwarf bread are kept; usually specimens of a cultural or historical importance. First mentioned in Men at Arms; more prominently featured in The Fifth Elephant as the building from which the Scone of Stone (a reference to the Stone of Scone) is stolen.

The Dysk, a theatre staging "usurper-killing-a-king dramas". A reference to the Globe Theatre.

The Mended Drum, formerly the Broken Drum (old motto: "You can't beat it") until it burned down in the city's first attempt at insurance fraud, is the city's principal inn. Located on Filigree Street, it is a rowdy, cloudy, crowded, smelly and utterly disreputable establishment, and therefore the ideal haunt for the Disc's plethora of heroes. It is a favourite watering hole for the students of Unseen University, and regular haunt of the Librarian. It is also a favoured locale for those wishing to discuss business of a clandestine nature. The Broken Drum is the setting for the first meeting between the central characters Rincewind and Twoflower in the first Discworld novel, Colour of Magic. When Ankh-Morpork became more civilized in the later books, The Mended Drum (new motto: "You can get beaten") was the last bastion of lawlessness although the bar fights have become a team sport, with teams getting points for performing classic brawling techniques. Limbs are still chopped off, but they are tattooed to ensure that Igor sews them back correctly. Curiously, this romantic disreputable place is what Twoflower sought naïvely in Colour of Magic.

The Shades, Ankh-Morpork's slum district, comprise the oldest region of the city. The moral equivalent of a black hole. A pretty nasty place, all told (a horse in the Shades is often called "lunch", and nothing is seen as more suspicious than fresh paint).

Cockbill Street, located in the Shades, is the poorest area of the city. Despite this, people on Cockbill Street are so proud that they refuse to acknowledge this, believing eating comes second to keeping up appearances and leading to the saying that what you mostly ate on Cockbill Street "was your pride". Samuel Vimes was raised here. The residents go through life trying mostly to go unnoticed, this is best evidenced by the fact that Captain Carrot, who otherwise is on first-name terms with the entire population of the city, does not know any of the residents, to Samuel Vimes' amazement.

The Isle of Gods, an area almost encircled by the river Ankh containing the Watch-house, the theatres, the prison and the publishers. A reference to the Isle of Dogs area of London.

Pseudopolis Yard, the headquarters of the City Watch. Owned by Lady Sybil Ramkin (later Lady Vimes) and donated by her when the Dragon-King burned down the Watch House. A reference to Scotland Yard.

Unseen University (UU) is in many ways the city's core. Centred around the 800-foot Tower of Art, the tallest building on the Disc, it serves as the Sto Plains' (and possibly the entire Discworld's) premier magic academy. The city originally grew out of the need to service and maintain the University. The Shades technically fall under its dominion, and much of its income is derived from rents there.

Civic symbols[edit]

Morporkia[edit]

Morporkia is a female personification of the city, or possibly only of Morpork. She wears a cabbage-spangled cloak and an old-fashioned helmet, carrying a shield with the civic coat of arms and a toasting-fork symbolising "something or other" (compare Britannia, Columbia, Marianne).

One of Ankh-Morpork's symbols.

Hippopotami[edit]

A pair of hippopotami are also symbols of the city, and flank its coat of arms. There are also statues of hippos on the Brass Bridge; it is said that should danger threaten the city, they will run away.

Anthem[edit]

We Can Rule You Wholesale is the national anthem of Ankh-Morpork; it is a parody of the song 'Rule, Britannia!'. The use of 'ner ner ner' as official lyrics (see below) is also heavily reminiscent of the English football anthem, 'Vindaloo'.

It was not written by a native Ankh-Morporkian, but by the visiting vampire Count Henrik Shline von Überwald (born 1703, died 1782, also died 1784, 1788, 1791, 1802, 1804, 1807, 1808, 1821, 1830, 1861, finally staked 1872). His inspiration came from his observations that Ankh-Morpork's chief means of defence was not warfare but corruption, bribery and mercantile tactics, since most of the weapons used against the city were actually made there in the first place.

The anthem is particularly noteworthy for being the only one that has a second verse officially consisting of incoherent muttering. Count von Überwald had also observed that any group of people singing their country's national anthem never remembers how the second verse goes anyway, so he decided to make things easier for Ankh-Morpork. The anthem's sentiments are of course summarised in the new Pax Morporkia: "If you fight, we'll call in your mortgages. And incidentally that's my pike you're pointing at me. I paid for that shield you're holding. And take my helmet off when you speak to me, you horrible little debtor."

On formal occasions, the anthem is supposed to be performed by a large soprano singer wearing a sheet and holding a torch in one hand and a fork in the other.

The lyrics of the anthem are as follows:

"When dragons belch and hippos flee


My thoughts, Ankh-Morpork, are of thee
Let others boast of martial dash
For we have boldly fought with cash
We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes.
We own all your generals - touch us and you'll lose.
Morporkia! Morporkia!
Morporkia owns the day!
We can rule you wholesale
Touch us and you'll pay.

We bankrupt all invaders,
We sell them souvenirs,
We ner ner ner ner ner ner by the ears,
Er ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner,
Ner ner ner ner ner ner, ner ner ner ner ner,
Ner your gleaming swords, we mortgaged to the hilt.
Morporkia! Morporkia!
Ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner
We can rule you wholesale
Credit where it's due."

The final part of the anthem is usually sung much louder than the rest of the second verse, since the singers want to show they know the words...

The anthem was actually written in 1999 by Pratchett (words) and Carl Davis (music), for the BBC Radio 3 programme The Music Machine. It was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the soprano was Claire Rutter. It was also performed at that year's Proms by the Prommers' Orchestra and Chorus. The anthem is sung before a football match in the 2009 novel Unseen Academicals.

Public holidays[edit]

Date Name
1 Ick Hogswatch Day (New Year, Christmas)
28 April The Creator's birthday (in reality Terry Pratchett's birthday)
1 May May Day (also called May Blossom Day)
25 May The Twenty-Fifth Of May (commemorates the last Ankh-Morpork revolution, but only if you participated)
6 Grune Patrician's Day (in reality Stephen Briggs' birthday)
The first Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after the last half moon in Sektober Soul Cake Days
31 December Hogswatch Eve
32 December Hogswatchnight

Real-world connections[edit]

Ankh-Morpork was twinned with the town of Wincanton in Somerset, in the south-west United Kingdom on the spherical planet Earth (known in the Discworld books as Roundworld) on 7 December 2002.[2] The town is home to a shop called "The Discworld Emporium".[3] However due to legal reasons, the twinning was not officially displayed on the road sign. Fans, however, added stick-on notices to some of the signs.[4] This has now been changed and a new town sign prominently declaring the twinning with Ankh-Morpork and other Roundworld places has been erected. This sign was designed by the Cunning Artificer himself, Bernard Pearson (of the Discworld Emporium). Several streets in a new housing development in Wincanton have been named after Ankh-Morpork Streets, including Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road.[5]

The town sign of Wincanton.

The word "Morpork" is from a type of Australasian owl called the Morepork, which is depicted holding the Ankh on the coat of arms.

"Discworld: Ankh-Morpork" was published as a board game in 2011.

Fiction connections[edit]

Many details of Ankh-Morpork appear to have been inspired by Fritz Leiber's fictional city Lankhmar (although Pratchett has said "I didn't -- at least consciously, I suppose I must say -- create Ankh-Morpork as a takeoff of Lankhmar"[6]); John D. Rateliff notes that Leiber's characters "the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd guest-star in the very first Discworld story, The Colour of Magic, under the pseudonyms of The Weasel and Bravd"[7]

Many of Pratchett's books reference the game Dungeons & Dragons. Ankh-Morpork bears a strong resemblance to and may in part be based on Ankhapur Lake of Steam (sometimes called 'The City of Thieves') one of the primary cities in Dungeons & Dragons' Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1997). The Discworld Companion. Great Britain: Vista. pp. 105–6. ISBN 0-575-60030-6. 
  2. ^ "Pratchett city twins with real town", BBC News, 6 December 2002.
  3. ^ [1] Discworld Emporium
  4. ^ "Row over fictional twin town", BBC News, 19 June 2003.
  5. ^ "Roads named after Discworld books", BBC News, 5 April 2009.
  6. ^ "The Colour of Magic", The Annotated Pratchett Website.
  7. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20050301081552/http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=books/main/classicsoffantasy

References[edit]

External links[edit]