The Quotable Pratchett: Guards! Guards!

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, I embarked on an epic re-reading of all 41 official Discworld novels, with the goal of finishing by 31 December, 2016.

Famous for its wit and wisdom, the series offers countless quotable quotes on a variety of subjects. The quotes I share should not be considered the whole of Sir Terry’s excellent prose; indeed, they are the tasty appetizers to a succulent, nourishing meal.

About Guards! Guards!

Guards Guards coverThis is the 8th Discworld novel and the first in the Watch series.

In this tale, we are introduced to the central figures of Ankh-Morpork’s Night Watch: Captain Vimes, Sgt. Colon, Nobby Nobbs, & Carrot Ironfounderson – the man who was raised by dwarves. We also meet Lady Sybil Ramkin (dragon rescuer & breeder), learn more of the way Patrician Vetinari’s mind works, and discover just how serious the Librarian considers book theft.

Examining the themes of power, control, and the basic nature of man, Guards! Guards! isn’t the typical hero-versus-dragon adventure.

The Goodreads Blurb:

Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all . . .).

Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume–The Summoning of Dragons–is missing from the Library’s shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it’s burned to a crisp).

To the Quotes!

Discworld Librarian

The  Librarian as he appears in The Discworld Companion, illustrated by Paul Kidby

The Patrician was not a man you shook a finger at unless you wanted to end up being being able to count only to nine.


The only reason you couldn’t say Nobby was close to the animal kingdom was that the animal kingdom would get up and walk away.


His age was indeterminate. But in cynicism and general world weariness, which is a sort of carbon dating of the personality, he was about seven thousand years old.


It was probably the most circumspect advance in the history of military maneuvers, right down at the bottom end of the scale that things like the Charge of the Light Brigade are at the top of.


They quieted down, like rowdy children who have just seen the teacher come into the room. Then they quieted down a lot more, like children who have just seen the teacher’s expression.


There are many horrible sights in the multiverse. Somehow, though, to a soul attuned to the subtle rhythms of a library, there are few worse sights than a hole where a book ought to be.


People in Scoone Avenue had old money, which was supposed to be much better than new money, although Captain Vimes had never had enough of either to spot the difference.


Vimes new that the barbarian hublander folk had legends about great chain-mailed, armor-bra’d, carthorse-riding maidens who swooped down on battlefields and carried off dead warriors on their cropper to a glorious roistering afterlife, while singing in a pleasing mezzo-soprano. Lady Ramkin could have been one of them. She could have carried off a batallion.


“A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch,” Carrot drew himself up proudly, “because someone’s taken a book? You think that’s worse than murder?”

The Librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like “What’s so bad about genocide?”


Once you’ve ruled out the impossible then whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth. The problem lay in working out what was impossible, of course. That was the trick, all right.


The reason that cliches become cliches is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.


There are some towns in the multiverse which think they know how to have a good time. Places like New Orleans and Rio reckon that they not only know how to push the boat out but set fire to the harbor as well; but compared to Ankh-Morpork with its hair down they’re a Welsh village a 2 p.m. on a wet Sunday afternoon.


People were stupid, sometimes. The thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which is true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.


Noble dragons don’t have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive.


If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.


Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t be happy to spend the night in yourself.


Never build a dungeon you couldn’t get out of.


“I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,” said the man. “You’re wrong of course.. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.”

. . .

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