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Guards! Guards!

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Guards! Guards!
First edition
AuthorTerry Pratchett
Cover artistJosh Kirby
Publication date
AwardsCame 69th in the Big Read[1]
Preceded byPyramids 
Followed byEric 

Guards! Guards! is a fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, the eighth in the Discworld series, first published in 1989.[2] It is the first novel about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. The first Discworld point-and-click adventure game borrowed heavily from the plot of Guards! Guards![3]


A secret monastic order plots to overthrow the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and install a puppet monarch under the control of the Order. They summon a dragon to terrorise the city and plan to have the puppet "slay" the dragon and claim to be the lost heir of the defunct royal house.

The Night Watch, which is generally seen as both corrupt and incompetent, starts to change with the arrival of idealistic new recruit Carrot Ironfoundersson, a human orphan raised by dwarfish parents. When the Librarian of the Unseen University (an orangutan) reports a book of magic stolen, Vimes links the theft to the dragon's appearances. The Watch's investigation makes the acquaintance of Lady Sybil Ramkin, who breeds small swamp dragons, and gives an underdeveloped dragon named Errol to the Watch as a mascot.

At first, the plot works flawlessly. The Patrician is ousted in favor of the new king, but the banished dragon returns and makes itself king, demanding gold and virgin sacrifices, and prepares to wage war against Ankh-Morpork's neighbours.

Vimes confronts his old schoolmate, the Patrician's Secretary Lupine Wonse, having figured out that he is the Supreme Grand Master, and responsible for the dragon's appearance. Vimes is imprisoned in the same cell as the Patrician. Vimes escapes with the help of the Librarian and runs to rescue Sybil, chosen as the first sacrificed maiden. After the remaining Watch fail to kill the king through a 'million-to-one chance' arrowshot, Errol fights it, and knocks it from the sky. The assembled crowd closes in to kill the king, and Sybil pleads for the dragon's life. Carrot arrests it, but Errol lets it escape. The dragon is in fact female, and the battle between them was a courtship ritual.

Vimes arrests Wonse, as he tries to summon another dragon, telling Carrot to "throw the book at him". Wonse falls to his death after the very literal Carrot hits him with a thrown copy of Laws and Ordinances of Ankh-Morpork.

The Patrician is reinstated as ruler of Ankh-Morpork, and offers the Watch anything they want as a reward. They ask only for a modest pay raise, a new tea kettle, and a dartboard. However, since the Watch's original station house was destroyed by the dragon, Lady Ramkin donates her childhood home at Pseudopolis Yard to serve as the new one.


The Watch[edit]


  • Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork
  • Lupine Wonse
  • The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night
  • Sybil Ramkin


John Clute in 1990 wrote that the book's serious topics risked damaging the Discworld's comedic potential: "Pratchett writes with something like genius", and particularly faulted Lord Vetinari's monologue on the nature of evil (which Clute described as Realpolitik and Weltschmerz): although he conceded that the monologue had been skilfully written, and he felt that it "has all the ring of another sphere of discourse" and "comes close to shattering the comic pulse of the Discworld".[4]

NPR described Guards! Guards! as a "solid entryway" to the Discworld novels.[5]


The novel has been adapted as:

  • a six-episode serial on BBC Radio 4 (23 November - 28 December 1992) dramatised by Michael Butt and starring John Wood (Vimes), Melvyn Hayes (Nobby), Robert Gwilym (Carrot), Crawford Logan (Vetinari), Helen Atkinson-Wood (Lady Ramkin), Brett Usher (Supreme Grand Master), and Martin Jarvis (narrator).[6]
  • a stage play for the amateur stage scripted by Stephen Briggs (1993) (script later published in book form 1997).[7]
  • a professional stage play scripted by Geoffrey Cush and starring Paul Darrow (1998).[8]
  • a "Big Comic" (Graphic novel) drawn by Graham Higgins and based on Briggs' script (2000).
  • an audio play presented live at Dragon*Con in 2001, adapted by David Benedict and performed by the ARTC (Atlanta Radio Theatre Company).[9] In appreciation, the ARTC made a donation to the Orangutan Foundation International.[10]
  • a video game loosely based on the plot of the book, with Rincewind substituted for Sam Vimes.[3]
  • a Board Game - officially launched at Titancon, Belfast 24 September 2011 by Backspindle Games (Designers: Leonard Boyd & David Brashaw) in conjunction with Z-Man Games, USA. The game includes 90 Discworld character illustrations drawn by Stephen Player and respective text quotes from over twenty Discworld novels.


  • Стражите! Стражите! (Bulgarian)
  • Stráže! Stráže! (Czech)
  • Wacht! Wacht! (Dutch)
  • Vahid! Vahid! (Estonian)
  • Vartijat, hoi! (Finnish)
  • Au Guet ! (French)
  • Wachen! Wachen! (German)
  • שומרים! שומרים! (Shomrim! Shomrim!) (Hebrew)
  • Őrség! Őrség! (Hungarian)
  • A me le guardie! (Italian)
  • I lovens navn! (In the name of the law) (Norwegian)
  • Straż! Straż! (Polish)
  • Guardas! Guardas! (Portuguese - Brazil)
  • Gărzi! Gărzi! (Romanian)
  • Стража! Стража! (Russian)
  • Straža! Straža! (Serbian)
  • ¡Guardias! ¿Guardias? (Spanish)
  • I lagens namn (In the name of the law) (Swedish)
  • Muhafızlar! Muhafızlar! (Turkish)
  • 來人啊! (繁體中文)
  • 卫兵!卫兵!(简体中文)
  • Варта! Варта! (Ukrainian)
  • Guàrdies, guàrdies! (Catalan)


  1. ^ BBC - The Big Read - Top 100 Books April 2003, Retrieved 2009-05-9
  2. ^ Fantastic Fiction Guards! Guards! (Discworld, book 8) Terry Pratchett Retrieved 2009-05-9
  3. ^ a b BBC - h2g2 - Terry Pratchett's Discworld - the Computer Game Retrieved 2009-05-9
  4. ^ Guards, Unicorns, Zool, by John Clute, originally published in Interzone January/February 1990; archived in Look at the Evidence: Essays and Reviews; published 2016 by Orion Publishing Group
  5. ^ There's No Wrong Place To Start Reading Pratchett, by Tasha Robinson, at National Public Radio; published March 16, 2015; retrieved September 29, 2017
  6. ^ The L-Space Web Events: Radio: Guards Guards Retrieved 2009-05-9
  7. ^ Doollee - The Playwrights Database Stephen Briggs - complete guide to the Playwright, Plays, Theatres, Agent Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2009-05-9
  8. ^ The L-Space Web Plays: Guards! Guards!: 1998 Retrieved 2009-05-9
  9. ^ ARTC's Podcast Archived 9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2009-05-9
  10. ^ ARTC's Podcast Archived 9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2009-05-9

External links[edit]

Reading order guide
Preceded by 8th Discworld Novel Succeeded by
Preceded by
1st City Watch Story
Published in 1989
Succeeded by