The Guild of Thieves, Cutpurses and Allied Trades is a fictional institution on the Discworld created by Terry Pratchett. It is distinguished from Thieves' Guilds in other fantasy universes by being completely legal.
- Note: Some of the information repeated below was taken from the 2002 Discworld Diary, which had a Thieves' Guild theme, and has not been confirmed in any of the Discworld novels, although Pratchett has confirmed it is "official".
Fictional history[edit | edit source]
The Thieves' Guild was established early in Lord Havelock Vetinari's rule of Ankh-Morpork. Lord Vetinari realised that what people crave is stability, and that, while it is impossible to stamp out crime altogether, it is possible to regulate it. The major gang leaders of the city were therefore called to the Patrician's Palace, where they agreed to be held responsible for ensuring a socially acceptable number of thefts. While they may have been insincere in this promise, they soon found the Patrician knew too much about them for reneging to be safe.
The Thieves' Guild moved into the long-vacated Ankh-Morpork Courthouse, and, due to their new obligation to prevent unauthorised theft, quickly became the major law-enforcement body of the city, causing the Ankh-Morpork City Watch to slide even further into the pit of depression they would remain in until Carrot Ironfoundersson's arrival. In the year of the Engaging Sloth, the Guild had a General Strike, and the amount of crime doubled. One of Carrot's first acts as a watchman was arresting the head of the Thieves' Guild for being a thief. The man was outraged at being treated as a common criminal, and was quickly released by the Patrician.
While initially the main money-making venture of Thieves' Guild members remained theft, albeit under strict guidelines and leaving a receipt, more recent books show a system of "insurance", whereby people may pay a fee directly to the Guild and therefore become immune to robbery for a specified period.
Unlicensed theft remains illegal, under both city and Guild law. Perpetrators consider themselves lucky if the revitalised Watch catches them, or they would usually suffer from the cruel punishment dealt out by the guild.
The current head of the Guild is Josiah Herbert Boggis, of the firm J.H. "Flannelfoot" Boggis and Nephews, Bespoke Thieves. He is, in fact, also a member of the Specials, a civilian unit of the Watch called up during dire emergencies.
Recently, the Thieves' Guild has introduced the practice of offering free gifts, such as matching crystal glasses, to those about to be mugged. However, these gifts are usually cheap and of poor quality.
Coat of arms[edit | edit source]
A black and white striped shield, upon which is a slit purse. Motto: Acutus id Verberat (Whip it quick).
Code of Conduct[edit | edit source]
While not as formalised as the Assassins' Guild Code of Conduct, Guild thieves are expected to work to certain standards. The main one is not to cause undue distress; a Guild burglar ransacking a house will be careful to place everything (apart from what he takes) back where he found it. Another rule is that a Guild member must look and sound the part. Guild thieves must wear appropriate clothing (in the case of burglars this means an eye mask, a flat cap, a stripy jumper and a bag labelled "SWAG"; other specialities have their own uniforms) and speak in thieves' cant, or at least rhyming slang. Members are required to carry their membership cards during all official activities (i.e. crimes). They tend to leave members of the Guild of Seamstresses alone, though this is more from self-preservation than professional courtesy.
Guild Building[edit | edit source]
The Guild Building is, as mentioned above, the old city courthouse. However, at the back has been built a clay-brick "thieves kitchen", which painstakingly recreates a slum in the Shades, and which is used for training purposes. Its multitude of chimneys overshadow the marble façade of the original building. The Guild also undertakes field training exercises in the surrounding city streets where visitors may observe them in action; the fortunate may be invited to participate.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Guilds of Ankh-Morpork
- Ankh-Morpork Beggars' Guild
- Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild
- Fools' Guild (Discworld)