Moist von Lipwig is a fictional character from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. He is the protagonist of the novels Going Postal, Making Money and Raising Steam. His name is very appropriate for a con man. 'Lip Wig' is slang for a 'moustache' a common addition to a disguise. 'Moist' suggests
'slippery', also a common con man trait.
Background and execution
Little is known about Moist von Lipwig's past. He originally comes from Überwald, lost his parents at an early age, and was raised by a grandfather who bred dogs. Moist went to school, was bullied, and then ran away, and became a travelling conman. 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 is "about twenty or thirty and between 5ft 9 and 6ft 2" (in Going Postal he claims his actual age is 26). Lipwig uses this to his advantage by donning a selection of easily removable distinguishable features, such as fake glasses. He became an expert forger and conman, using 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 that name that he was captured in Ankh-Morpork and was to be hanged, in the beginning of Going Postal.
In Going Postal, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork arranged to have Lipwig survive his hanging. When Lipwig woke up, Vetinari offered him to take a job as Ankh-Morpork's Postmaster General of his own free will (the offered alternatives being suicide, again of his own free will). At that time, the city's postal service was failing, the task of restoring it had claimed the lives of four of Vetinari's clerks, and the competing Clacks network was being run by a conman at the helm of the mercilessly corporate Grand Trunk Clacks Company. Lipwig nonetheless manages to revive the postal service, by applying the principles of the con to honest work and by introducing the postage stamp, and exposes the fraudulent practises of the Grand Trunk Clacks Company, thus ruining it. By the beginning of Making Money, the Clacks network is run by the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service.
Moist von Lipwig and the post office have 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". He also mentions the cabbage stamp with the cabbage scented glue, of which Corporal Nobbs has confiscated many examples.
In Making Money, the Patrician offers Lipwig the additional job of running the Royal Mint of Ankh Morpork and the bank next door. Initially he refused this offer, but gains the job anyway when the chairwoman of the bank died, leaving all her shares to her dog (Mr. Fusspot), and her dog to Moist. Moist then introduced paper money to Ankh Morpork, and popularizes the bank, while keeping it out of the hands of the greedy Lavish family.
In Raising Steam, Moist plays a key role in negotiating land and right of ways to take the railway which Harry King and Dick Simnel have created across the continent. He is also instrumental in adapting the economy surrounding the railways - including the creation of travel writing, and introducing sleeper cars, ticket classes, and catering services on trains and at stations.
Moist von Lipwig meets and begins courting Adora Belle Dear heart 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 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.
It is noted that Commander Vimes dislikes Moist and probably recognises him as a con-man, but still knows there are far more unpleasant criminals around. Additionally Moist admits to himself that even though he can usually read people very well, he cannot read Captain Carrot's innocent smiling face at all. Moist is also one of the few people who worked out that Angua is the City Watch's werewolf.
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, Lipwig resorts to praying to Anoia, on the basis that she "owes" him, and it is inferred that Anoia takes action at an opportune moment - incapacitating a livid Cribbins while he holds Adora Belle Dearheart hostage in an attempt to extort money from Lipwig. In return for her help Lipwig places a statue of her on the outside of the Post Office (still being rebuilt at the time).