Lancre (pronounced Lank-er) is a Major City State in the Country of the Ramtops. From Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. It is situated in the Ramtop mountains, about 500 miles Hubwards of the city of Ankh-Morpork. It is the best-known of hundreds of tiny countries in the Ramtops, occupying a vertiginous shelf looking over the Sto Plains.
Lancre is based mainly on the North of England (as in Lanc(ashi)re - which was the home of the Pendle Witches), but is reminiscent of many rural areas in Britain and elsewhere, although its resemblance to windswept, hilly, northern regions is the most obvious (the only piece of flat, level ground in Lancre is in a museum). It also contains elements of the Swiss Alps and the Appalachian Mountains. Pratchett has described the tiny country as "solid folklore"; it is the place all the legends of our world's countryside really happened. Ankh-Morpork serves a similar function for urban folklore, but not as blatantly.
Part of the reason for this is that the Ramtops are a major earthing point for the Discworld's magical field. Headless horsemen and walking trees are part of the landscape, as are witches. Lancre is famous for witches, especially since the publication of The Joye of Snackes (an erotic cookbook) by "A Lancre Witch". Lancre is also the gateway into the "parasite universe" of the elves.
The other thing Lancre is famous for is young people going off and seeking their fortunes (usually in Ankh-Morpork).
See also: Discworld magic
Although most maps show Lancre to measure roughly 40 miles by 10 miles in size, its true area remains unknown -- partly because of its mountainous terrain and the fact that it borders on the Ramtops, but also due to the warping effect of high level of background magic. Owing to this background magic, geography in certain areas of Lancre can take on additional properties that exist either outside, or in addition to, the conventional geographic dimensions.
Such areas include the Lancre Moors, where reality can become folded into deep troughs and ridges known as Gnarly ground. This can create the illusion that two points in space are adjacent, when in reality they are several miles apart, or vice versa. The effect, as mentioned in The Discworld Companion is that Lancre contains more landscape than a kingdom of its apparent size should be able to contain. (A similar magical effect occurs in the Unseen University Library, which has a diameter of 100 yards, but an infinite radius.)
"Gnarly Ground" can be detected by those with magical senses, or those with keen eyesight who observe how clouds and shadows appear to fracture as they pass across it. Flying over such areas is not for the faint-hearted and walking across it can be fraught with peril for the unwary.
Similarly, Lancre contains areas where the landscape echoes the state of mind of those who pass through it, leading confident travellers to find babbling brooks while, in the same place at the same time, disheartened travellers find deep valleys and raging mountain torrents.
Though it is not clear if the phenomenon is related to background magic, Lancre also serves as the physical location for (possibly two) independent gateways to a "parasite universe" inhabited by Elves.
In times past, Elven incursions were common. Both gateways have been sealed from the Lancre side by standing stones made from thunderbolt iron, a form of meteoric ore which is one of the few sources of magnetism on the Disc; humans, but not Elves (except in exceptional circumstances), may pass through them.
The capital "city" of Lancre is Lancre Town, by dint of being slightly bigger than the other villages, and containing Lancre Castle. Due to Elven incursions, Lancre Castle was built to an exaggerated scale in order to accommodate fleeing citizens.
Bad Ass is the home of Granny Weatherwax. It got its name when a donkey, carrying the supplies of a group of settlers, stopped on a ford and refused to move, forcing them to build their town there. The valley occupied by Bad Ass overlooks a panorama of lesser mountains and foothills. From there, you can see to the edge of the world. In the long winter snows, the roads out of the village are lined with boards to reduce drifting and to stop travellers from straying. A narrow bridge over a stream leads to the village smithy, birthplace of Eskarina Smith.
The current king of Lancre is Verence II. Most people, himself included, believe he is the illegitimate son of Verence I.
In fact, the baby who was believed to be the legitimate heir to King Verence I was removed from Lancre Castle after the usurper, King Leonal Felmet, killed King Verence. (We never learn what happened to the Queen.) The baby prince was put into the care of strolling players, returned to Lancre as an adult and was hailed as King Tomjon; he abdicated immediately in favour of his half-brother Verence.
King Verence II is therefore believed to be an illegitimate son of Verence I and the wife of the man who was then the castle Fool. (However, there is a strong suggestion that King Tomjon is actually the illegitimate son of the former Queen and the castle fool--who is the father of Verence II--thus explaining Tomjon and Verence II's resemblence and inferring the latter may not actually be a legitimate heir to the throne.)
King Verence II is married to Queen Magrat (née Garlick), a former witch. They have a daughter, Princess Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre.
Technically, Lancre is a constitutional monarchy. Verence II has set up a Parliament, but most Lancrastians view this as a way of getting them to do his work for him and aren't having any of it. However the populace do consider themselves as having a say in running the country, as they spend their entire day working with large, heavy and often sharp objects. To quote a prominent local political commentator, "Some lessons is so obvious they don't need to be learnt."
Regicide is a common and accepted method of becoming king. Known monarchs of Lancre include:
- King Verence II - (appears in various Discworld novels, esp. Wyrd Sisters)
- King Tomjon (abdicates immediately, appears in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Leonal Felmet (appears in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Verence I (appears in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Thargum (mentioned in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Gruneweld (mentioned in Wyrd Sisters)
- Queen Griminir the Impaler (1514-1553, 1553-1557, 1557-1562, 1562-1567, 1568-1573, (a vampire) mentioned in Wyrd Sisters, Carpe Jugulum)
- King Champot (ruled 1000 years prior to present, had Lancre Castle built, his ghost appears in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Gruneberry the Good (906-967, mentioned in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Murune (709-745, mentioned in Wyrd Sisters)
- Queen Bemery (670-722, mentioned in Wyrd Sisters)
- King Ye Gods He's Heavy I (Dates unknown, mentioned in Carpe Jugulum; victim of Lancre's peculiarly strict naming customs, which dictate that a child's name must be that spoken by the officiating priest, whatever it is he may actually have said. Interestingly, the numeral after his name suggests that there may have been a King Ye Gods He's Heavy II)
- Queen Ynci - Spiky-armour-clad barbarian queen of Lancre from deep in the mists of the nation's history. She is also entirely fictional, but with her picture on the wall and her spiky suit of armour on display, the fact that she never actually existed is only a minor impediment to her being considered as real as any other character from the Discworld past.
The Lancre coat of arms shows two bears on a black and gold shield.
Facts about the country
- Population: 500.
- Language: Morporkian, a common language throughout the Discworld, that, by a curious coincidence, happens to be very similar to modern English. Dwarfish and Troll are presumably spoken in the high mountain areas.
- Religion: Nothing in particular. The population is very keen on the idea of religious ceremonies (for births, weddings etc.), but few of them really believe in anything they can't see. Of course, in the Ramtops, you can see a lot of gods, but seldom in situations that encourage worship. They do however have firm opinions on what religion should sound like, which is pretty much like a Latin Roman Catholic service, and firmly believe that religious songs should have good tunes and titles like 'Light the Good Light' and 'Raise Me to the Skies' and 'Om Shall Trample the Ungodly'.
- Climate: Runs to what outsiders would probably call "extremes" and what one local authority calls "hot sumer and brass monkey winters" [sic]. Winter features the "lazy wind" which doesn't bother to blow around people, it blows straight through them instead.
- Currency: The Lancre Penny, worth 1/100 of an Ankh-Morpork dollar. The penny weighs more than an ounce, making it fairly useless as small change, but since money is merely a universally accepted IOU, and since there are few enough Lancrastians to ensure that everyone knows who owes what to whom, or at least knows enough to ensure plenty of entertaining arguments and disagreements to keep the populace occupied, the nation as a whole seems to get on fairly well without it.
- Public holidays: Hogswatch night (the Disc's combined New Year, Christmas and Halloween), May Day, The Seven Year Flitch, Soul Cake Days, The Scouring of the Long Man, Marling Day, The Ramtops Witch Trials (a magical competition).