This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (October 2021)
|Moist von Lipwig|
|First appearance||Going Postal|
|Created by||Terry Pratchett|
|Affiliation||Ankh-Morpork Post Office, Royal Mint, and Bank|
Moist von Lipwig is a fictional character from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. A "reformed con-man" who is one of the major characters of the series, von Lipwig is the protagonist of the novels Going Postal, Making Money, and Raising Steam.
Background and execution
Little is known about Moist von Lipwig's past. He originally comes from Überwald, specifically from a town called Lipwig. He lost both his parents at an early age, and was raised by a grandfather who bred dogs. He attended school in Überwald, and had bad memories of his second year school mistress, Frau Shambers. He was bullied at school, but ran away at the age of 14, and became a travelling conman. In Making Money he alluded to living through the chaos of the breakup of the Unholy Empire, and having to do anything at all to survive, though he may have been lying. At some point he met and associated with Cribbins, another criminal who taught him everything he (Cribbins) knew. But their association ended, and later Lipwig developed a dislike for Cribbins, reflecting that the teaching took "about ten minutes, and a year to forget some of it," and that Cribbins is "the sort that gives criminals a bad name."
During his time as a conman, Lipwig took advantage of the fact that he has no notable physical traits and is easily forgettable. According to the numerous descriptions handed in to various watches across the Plains; "He was 'about'. He was about twenty, or about thirty. On Watch reports across the continent he was anywhere between, oh, about six feet two inches and five feet nine inches tall, hair all shades from mid-brown to blond, and his lack of distinguishing features included his entire face." (In Going Postal he claims his actual age is 26). Lipwig uses his lack of memorability to his advantage in the use of a selection of easily removable distinguishable features, such as fake glasses and even ear hair wigs. He has become an expert forger and uses a wide range of inks and papers that he stores in what he calls "Mr. Robinson's Box."
He also used a number of aliases, including Albert Spangler. It was under the name Albert Spangler that he was captured in Ankh-Morpork and was to be hanged, in the beginning of events in Going Postal.
In Going Postal, Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork arranged to have Lipwig survive his hanging. When Lipwig woke up, Vetinari offered him a job as Ankh-Morpork's Postmaster General which Lipwig could take or reject of his own free will (the alternative being, essentially, death, again of his own free will). At that time, the city's postal service had long since ceased operation, the remaining two employees doing useless things punctiliously every day. The task of restoring it had claimed the lives of four of Vetinari's clerks, and the competing and mercilessly corporate Clacks network, the Grand Trunk Clacks Company, was being run by a conman, Reacher Gilt. Lipwig nonetheless manages to revive the postal service by applying the principles of the con to honest work, introduces the postage stamp and causes the downfall of the Grand Trunk Clacks Company by exposing the fraudulent practices introduced by Gilt. By the beginning of Making Money, the Clacks network is run by the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service.
Moist, and the Post Office, has a very minor cameo in Thud!. Commander Vimes notices that the Ankh-Morpork Post Office has issued two different sets of stamps commemorating the Battle of Koom Valley, one in which the Dwarfs are winning the battle, the other the Trolls, and he makes an angry remark about "that pea-brain at the Post Office" (probably referring to Stanley, the Head of Stamps Dept, who's known to have been raised by peas). He also mentions the cabbage stamp with the potentially explosive cabbage scented glue, of which Corporal Nobbs has stolen the Watch's confiscated examples.
In Making Money, Moist is very respectable and is up for many rewards and seats due to his efforts. He also breaks into his own office just to keep things interesting. The Patrician offers Moist the additional job of running the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the Royal Mint just behind it. He refuses this offer. Vetinari does not force him to take the job as he did in Going Postal, because he knows that Moist will eventually accept. Moist denies this despite Vetinari's accusations that he is bored of working at the post office. However, the chairwoman of the bank leaves all her shares to her dog Mr. Fusspot when she dies (thereby making the dog the new chair of the bank), and leaves the dog to Moist. The Assassin's Guild is alerted to the situation and contracted to kill Moist should he refuse the job or should Mr. Fusspot be killed. Therefore, he becomes responsible for the bank. Moist becomes the Master of the Royal Mint, introduces paper money to Ankh-Morpork, and revolutionizes the bank, whilst keeping it out of the hands of the greedy Lavish family who sit on the board of directors. At the end of the novel, it was suggested that Moist would be appointed to the position of Chief Tax Collector.
In Raising Steam, steam locomotives are invented and plans are made by Lord Vetinari and the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway Company to construct railway lines ultimately to as far away as Genua. Moist is first tasked with negotiating the purchase or acquisition of lands needed for railway construction, first throughout the Sto Plains, and later Quirm. Following a palace coup against the Low King of the Dwarves, Rhys Rhysson, Moist is required to fulfil the logistically difficult task of constructing a railway line to Schmaltzberg. Despite Moist's own protestations regarding the impossibility of the task, he nevertheless succeeds and the Low King is restored to power with little resistance. At the Wilinus Pass, it is suggested that Moist secretly, and without authorisation, used Ankh-Morpork's Umian golems (brought to the city in Making Money) to somehow convey a train over the ravine. Whilst everyone else involved with the journey are given honours and medals, Moist's reward is being allowed to continue living.
Moist von Lipwig meets and begins courting Adora Belle Dearheart in Going Postal. By Making Money, the two are engaged. Dearheart plays an important role in Lipwig's life, in that dating her provides him with the dangerous thrill he needs in his life. When she is away, he needs to perform various dangerous activities, such as climbing high buildings and extreme sneezing.
Lipwig is not a follower of a particular god. However, a con he perpetrated in Going Postal led to a massive increase in the popularity of the goddess Anoia. In Making Money, he takes up praying to her, on the basis that she owes him for her newfound popularity.
In "Raising Steam", it is revealed that Moist and Adora Belle have since married and now live in a mansion on Scoone Avenue, in Ankh (the same area where the Duke and Duchess of Ankh, Sam and Sybil Vimes, live). Whilst Moist continues to run both the Royal Ankh-Morpork Post Office and the Royal Mint and Bank, Adora Belle runs the Clacks and has made it an equal opportunities employer, also hiring golems and Goblins.
The character was included in a list of the top ten Discworld characters by The Daily Telegraph in 2013; Tim Martin states that the character "gives Pratchett the opportunity for some of his finest satiric stabs at modern culture". In a review of Making Money for The Guardian, Patrick Ness describes von Lipwig as "a fresh new character" written "to poke serious fun at City institutions". Jim Shanahan, in a chapter on Pratchett's works, describes the character as a "reformed con-man" who "drives technological change". Amy Lea Clemons, in a chapter on Discworld, describes von Lipwig as a "complicating character"; she comments on his use of language to deceive his audience and states that the character presents a contrast with the "more rigid ethical rhetorics" of Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes and Carrot Ironfoundersson. Michelle West, in a review of Going Postal for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, describes von Lipwig as "the anti-Vimes; he's not a man who believes, and hates believing in a world that gives him so little purchase; he's a man who doesn't believe. In anything./ Which is part of what makes the book so satisfying". Kirkus Reviews, in a review of Making Money, describes von Lipwig as a "brilliant scalawag of a hero".
- Jim Shanahan (2017). "Terry Pratchett: Mostly Human". In Bernice M. Murphy (ed.). Twenty-First-Century Popular Fiction. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 31–40. ISBN 9781474414869.
- Going Postal, page 215.
- Making Money, page 184.
- Making Money, page 347.
- Making Money, page 294.
- Making Money, page 272.
- Tim Martin (9 November 2013). "Top Ten Terry Pratchett Discworld characters; To mark 30 years of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels we present the 10 best characters, from Granny Weatherwax to Moist von Lipwig". The Daily Telegraph.
- Patrick Ness (29 September 2007). "In mint condition". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
- Amy Lea Clemons (2020). "Rhetoricity of Discworld: Magic and the Ethics of Footnotes". In Kristin Noone; Emily Lavin Leveret (eds.). Terry Pratchett's Ethical Worlds: Essays on Identity and Narrative in Discworld and Beyond. McFarland. p. 108. ISBN 9781476638034.
- Michelle West (1 February 2005). "Musing on Books". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. 108 (2): 44–49.
- "Far from Pratchett's best, but entertaining nonetheless". Kirkus Reviews. 20 May 2010 [1 August 2007]. Retrieved 20 December 2021.