Monstrous Regiment is the 31st novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. It takes its name from the 16th century tract by Protestant John Knox against the Catholic female sovereigns of the day, the full title of which is The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. In it he argued that the Bible supported the position of men over women (Adam was born first) in governing the affairs of state. Knox believed that these Catholic female monarchs, in particular Queen Mary I of England and the Scottish dowager Queen Mary of Guise who was regent to her daughter Mary Queen of Scots, pre-empted the natural position and authority of men. This attack on women in power, didn't sit well with Mary I's Protestant successor, Queen Elizabeth I and Knox never had the influence in English Protestantism that he hoped for because of it.
The bulk of Monstrous Regiment takes place in the small, bellicose country of Borogravia, a highly conservative country, whose people live according to the increasingly psychotic (and harmful) decrees of its favored deity, Nuggan, who many believe to be dead. The main feature of his religion is the Abominations; a long, often-updated list of banned things. To put this in perspective, these things include garlic, cats, the smell of beets, people with ginger hair, shirts with six buttons, anyone shorter than three feet (including children and babies), sneezing, rocks, ears, jigsaw puzzles, chocolate (which was once Borogravia's staple export, plunging the country into increasing poverty), and the colour blue.
The list of "Abominations Unto Nuggan" often causes conflicts with Borogravia's neighbours, and the uncertain whereabouts of Nuggan leads the inhabitants of Borogravia to deify their Duchess, to whom they pray instead. This slowly causes problems as, on the Discworld, belief grants power. Borogravia is in the midst of a war against an alliance of neighbouring countries, caused by a border dispute with the country of Zlobenia. Rumour is that the war is going poorly for Borogravia, though the country's leadership (and "everyone") denies it.
The protagonist of the tale is Polly Perks, who takes her name from the folk song Sweet Polly Oliver, a song that her father sang to her when she was a young girl. Polly's brother Paul is missing in action after fighting in the Borogravian army. Paul is naive and believes what he is told regardless of the credibility or political leanings of the source, and even though Polly is more qualified to take over the family business (a famous pub known as "The Duchess"), according to Nugganitic law, women cannot own property, so if Paul does not return the pub will be lost to their drunken cousin when their father dies. Partly to ensure her own future but mainly to ascertain whether Paul is alive, Polly sets off to join the army in order to find him. Women joining the army are regarded as another "Abomination Unto Nuggan". To ensure her entrance into this male-only institution, Polly decides to dress up as a man (women doing so is also an Abomination Unto Nuggan) and starts calling herself Oliver. While signing up, Polly encounters the repulsively patriotic Corporal Strappi, and the corpulent tobaccom spitting Sergeant Jackrum. Despite her apprehensions regarding Strappi, she kisses the Duchess - that is, she kisses a painting of the noble leader - and by doing so, joins up. Due to the shortage of troops, her fellow soldiers include a vampire named Maladict, a Troll named Carborundum, and an Igor named Igor. They also include "Tonker" Halter, "Shufti" Manickle, "Wazzer" Goom, and "Lofty" Tewt.
That night, Polly encounters an unknown supporter whilst answering a call of nature, who assures her that although he or she knows that Polly is a girl, they won't give her away. They also gives her some hints on how not to be discovered - the old sock in the pants trick. Over the next few days, Polly makes a startling discovery: Lofty is also a girl. Since Lofty and Tonker are always together, Polly assumes that Lofty joined the army to follow her man, just like in "Sweet Polly Oliver". Later, she finds out that Shufti is another girl, and a pregnant one. She also joined the army to find her man; in this case, the father of her child, who she'd only known for a few days, and is known as Johnny.
Gradually, Polly discovers not only that everyone in her regiment, except Maladict, is female, but also receives confirmation of Borogravia's bleak situation. Most of her country's forces are captured or on the run, and food supplies are limited. This point is driven home when Igor (actually Igorina) demonstrates her surgery talents and saves several lives among a group of badly injured fleeing soldiers and again when the regiment come across the bodies of a couple of charcoal makers who have been murdered by their own side for their food, such as it is.
The regiment, under the leadership of their inexperienced commanding officer Lieutenant Blouse, makes its way toward the Keep where the enemy is based. Meanwhile, thanks to a chance encounter where the regiment unknowingly subdues and humiliates an elite enemy detachment, including Zlobenia's Prince Heinrich, its exploits become known to the outside world through William de Worde and his newspaper. Their progress particularly piques the interest of Commander Vimes, who is stationed with the alliance at the Keep. Vimes has his officers, particularly Angua in wolf form, keep track of the regiment, occasionally secretly providing aid.
Polly and most of the regiment are able to infiltrate the Keep, disguising themselves as washerwomen, and once inside plot to release the captured Borogravian troops. They manage to do so, and Borogravia is able to retake much of the Keep, but when Polly admits they are women, their own forces remove them from the conflict and they are brought in front of a council of senior officers, where their fate will be decided. With the council about to discharge them and force them to return home, Jackrum barges in and intervenes, revealing that several of the military's top officers are actually women as well. But in the midst of this revelation, the Duchess, now raised to the level of a small deity by Borogravia's belief, takes brief possession of Wazzer, her most passionate believer. The Duchess urges all of the generals to quit the war and return home, to repair their country, returning their kiss of service, and ending their obligation to her.
In a private moment with Jackrum, Polly reveals to her Sergeant that she now knows "him" to in fact be a woman. The regiment is sent to meet with the enemy and successfully negotiates a truce. Military rules are changed so that women are allowed to serve openly and Maladict reveals himself as really being Maladicta. Polly finds her brother alive and well and they return home to The Duchess with Shufti, who joins Polly in her refusal to be subjugated on the basis of her gender and marital status. The other members of the regiment go on to lives that they would not have been able to consider before their emancipation, Igorina opening a gynaecology clinic on the basis that many women would prefer to see a female practitioner.
Sometime later, despite the peace they had desperately fought for, conflict breaks out again. Polly, having received correspondence from Sgt Jackrum, leaves the inn to seek new ways to fight a war using the experience she gained and finds herself in the role of commander of boy-impersonating females who are marching off to war.
The portrait of the Duchess watching everyone in the kingdom has its roots in the portraits of the Queen prominently displayed in every school and public place, keeping an eye on the citizens of the Commonwealth.
The name 'Borogravia' is an obvious takeoff on any of the former Soviet Union satelite states that became independent when that country collapsed. Mouldovia by combining Mould and Moldavia (now Moldova) and Borogravia by combining Belgravia (the affluent area of London) or Belgrade (the capital of the former Yugoslavia) and Borogoves (from the Lewis Carroll poem the Jabberwocky). For someone who disliked Lewis Carroll's books, Pratchett certainly makes reference to them often.
The troll who charges extra if crossing his bridge with a billy goat is an obvious reference to the fairy tale, "The Three Billy goats Gruff". Pratchett uses this reference often in his books; trolls being a natural for guarding bridges and not being big fans of billy goats butting them off bridges.
"There was always a war. Usually it was a border dispute, the national equivalent of the complaining that the neighbour was letting his hedge grown too long." Pratchett also mentions hedge disputes in The Night Watch. It is a reference to arguments between neighbours leading up to violence, which had become a growing problem in Britain around the time the novels were written. In 2003, The national support network for feuding neighbours, Hedgeline - the Campaign for the Control of Problem Hedges of All Species in Residential Areas of the UK - had 4000 paid-up members and estimated 100,000 Britons were locked in hedge wars with neighbours at any one time. At the time Pratchett was writing this novel there had been one hedge related murder and there have been subsequent ones.
The folk songs that Polly Perks learned as a child from listening to her father and his mates late at night are well known folk songs about war: The 'The World Turned Upside Down' was played at Cornwallis' surrender to Washington during the American Revolution and is a reoccurring theme in the novel. 'The Devil Shall Be My Sergeant' is also known as 'the Rogue's March' and was played when dishonoured soldiers were "drummed out of the army". 'Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier' is a version of the Irish lament, 'Siúil A Rún' and was popular during the American Revolution as well. 'The Girl I Left Behind Me' dates back to the Elizabethan era and was the standard song played when troops left for war. 'Sweet Polly Oliver' tells the story of a woman who dresses as a male soldier in order to follow her true love into the army like Polly does in this novel.
So early next morning she softly arose,
And dressed herself up in her dead brother's clothes.
She cut her hair close, and she stained her face brown,
And went for a soldier to fair London Town.
The other two songs are likely made up by Pratchett although both probably have roots in real songs; 'Colonel Crapski' turns a slang word for "shit"s into an appropriately Slavic sounding name, "Crap" being something which the army would dish out in large doses. The song title also bears a similarity to the WWI British march 'Colonel Bogey'. Likewise, 'I wish I had never kissed her' (an appropriate song title given the potential likely outcome of a civilian/army encounter involving more than kisses) draws on parallels ranging from the Norfolk folk song "I wish that I never was wed" popularized by Steeleye Span to "I wish I had never been born" sung by Patti Page.
When asked by Corporal Strappi if she knows who they are, she replies, "The 10th Foot, sir.... Known as the 'Ins-and-Outs, sir", The Ins and Outs are a take off on the pre-1881 British Army regiment, the 69th Foot, who were known as the "Ups-and-Downs" (because it mostly consisted of old veterans and raw recruits). "Ins and Outs" is British slang for sexual intercourse. Pratchett's use of the name "Ins and Outs" is an obvious male sexual reference made more humorous and ironic because the regiment is, over the course of the novel, revealed to be entirely female. Later in the novel the reader is told about the other regiments; the Side to Sides and the Backwards and Forwards. This combination reminds the reader of a series of dance moves like folk dancing (dancing is often referred to as a kind of foreplay) which is appropriate given that war is a kind of dance as well.
The line, "A man sits in some museum somewhere and writes a harmless book about political economy [...]" is a reference to Karl Marx who spent a lot of time in the old Reading Room of the British Museum when he was writing Das Kapital. Marx' book was obviously not harmless, leading as it did to the Russian Revolution.
When Vimes meets Clarence Chinny he asks if he was a good fighter in school which is a reference to the line "taking it on the chin" or "leading with your chin", two boxing terms. Clarence responds that he was good at the 100 yard dash, the reference being, leaning into the finish line tape with your chin -the first thing to cross the finish line.
The religious zealotry expressed in '[...] the Book of Nuggan.' has parallels throughout fundamentalist religion and Pratchett plays on this throughout the the Discworld novels. Nuggan first appeared in The Last Hero as a short and irritable god; a perfect candidate for someone with a Napoleonic complex, his power on the wane. His various proscriptions from banning everything from the colour blue to barking dogs to babies carries his zealotry to a ridiculous extreme - not much different from some of the edicts of fundamentalist Islam or Christianity.
Vimes says, "any national anthem that starts with 'awake' is going to lead to trouble." The Borogravian national anthem which begins with The opening line "Awake, ye sons of the Motherland" does not seem to parody any specific national anthem. However, the anthem of Romania, one of the former Slavic satellite republics behind the old Iron Curtain, begins "Deşteaptă-te Române" (Wake Up, Romanian!) and France's anthem begins "Allons, enfants de la Patrie" ("come, children of the Fatherland"); The line "Frustrate the endless wiles of our enemies" echoes the second verse of Britain's "God Save the Queen" which goes:
O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks;
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.
National anthems, almost without exception, make reference to victories over enemies and rising up to become free - not surprising given that is usually how a nation is formed.
Polly tells the recruiting Sergeant that she is "seventeen come Sunday". This is a reference to an old English folk song where a soldier meets and has a sexual encounter with a young girl who is "seventeen come Sunday". The song was popularized by Steeleye Span and used by Vaughan Williams in his English folk song Suite.
The Sergeant says, "Give him the shilling, corporal." In the English army, taking the King's or Queen's Shilling was a ritual of induction; upon taking a shilling coin as enlistment bounty, the inductee was legally considered a soldier.
Vimes' "clever ruse" of disguising his troops as washerwomen to gain entrance to the castle resonates with Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows where Toad escapes from prison disguised as a washerwoman. Pratchett ridicules this idea in The Last Hero as well. Later on when Polly forgets to do the Lieutenant's laundry and Maladict and Polly discover that Shufti is a woman, Maladict comments to Polly that "the way things are going around here, Igor's probably a washerwoman in disguise." These lines foreshadows, Polly and her regiment using the same ruse to gain entry to the keep themselves.
The reference to the "undiscovered country" is a reference to the lines in Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be, that is the question" soliloquy where he refers to death as "The undiscover'd country from whose bourn / No traveller returns". The film Star Trek VI; The Undiscovered Country has the same connection.
The Borgravian army wears a "[...] spanking red uniform [...]" Pratchett has modeled it and its standardization after the English (later British) army, whose soldiers wore red for nearly 250 years from 1645 onward, long before most other armies, including those of major military powers - some of which didn't truly become 'uniform' until as late as the First World War. While red was an ideal color for helping to identify soldiers of the same "side" in an era where soldiers fought in massed lines in the open, it was not ideal when guerilla warfare was introduced as it made an ideal target. Khaki and camouflage uniforms were then introduced. Polly remarks on the colour of her uniform for blending in when challenged on picket duty, "Colour sarge! I'm wearing bleedin' red and white in a bleedin' grey forest, sarge!"
The vampire, when being recruited says "you can call me Maladict" which is both a play on the name 'Benedict' and on the word 'maledict', which means "accursedness or the act of bringing a curse" ('mal' meaning 'bad' in French versus "bene" meaning "well" in Latin, combined with 'edict' meaning a 'proclamation'. The line "Oh Damn," said Maladict is therefore a very clever "Tom Swiftie". It is also a play on the words 'mal' and 'adict' (bad addict) which Maladict is when deprived of her coffee later in the novel.
Maladict says "I, of course, don't drink... horse piss, [...]" which is a play on Dracula's famous line, "I don't drink... wine". Pratchett uses this in Carpe Jugulum as well. This line, immortalized by Bela Legosi, with the dramatic pause before the word 'wine', appeared in many subsequent movie versions of Dracula, down to the Francis Ford Coppola 1992 remake Bram Stoker's Dracula. It originally came from the Hamilton Deane stage play Dracula which was popular in New York in the 1920s.
Black Ribbons are worn by those vampires who have signed the pledge of the League of Temperance and have sworn to become "B-total", an obvious take off on the Women's Christian Temperance League which was immensely popular in the early 1900s and whose members swore off alcohol rather than blood and were "teetotalers".
The concern regarding the Duchess being dead and the intermarriage of the nobility throughout the Discworld bears a striking similarity to Europe in the 19th Century where every royal house was interrelated by marriage which causes serious health problems among children - haemophilia for one. In addition, Queen Victoria remained in mourning for Prince Albert after his death, wearing black for the rest of her life, just like the Duchess.
The recruitment pamphlet from the Mothers of Borogravia has parallels to the activities of such women's patriotic organizations as the "Daughters of the American Revolution".
The unknown person in the privy says, "is this the escutcheon of the grace the Duchess I see in front of me? Well it won't be in front of me for long!" The first part of this line is a play on the line from Shakespeare's Macbeth, "Is this a dagger I see before me?" An excutcheon is a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms. Pratchett has combined this with a quote attributed to composer Max Reger: "I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me." In plain language, the review is going to be used to wipe his ass in the privy.
The Four Lesser Horsemen; Panic, Bewilderment, Ignorance and Shouting are take offs on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; Death, Famine, War and Conquest (or Pestilence - Pratchett uses Pestilence).
The Line, "Don't ask, don't tell." is a reference to the United States military's policy regarding homosexuals. The long-standing prohibition on homosexuals serving in the armed forces was re-examined in the 1990s, however social conservatives were strongly opposed to any softening of the prohibition. The compromise that was eventually reached was labelled "don't ask, don't tell". The administration of the military was not allowed to ask a recruit or soldier his or her sexual orientation, but revealing it to be homosexual (or bisexual) was still grounds for discharge. The compromise was widely ridiculed by all sides, but has been upheld five times in the federal court.
Carborundum, the Troll's drink, "the Electrick Floorbanger" has its roots in the Roundworld drink the 'Harvey Walbanger' (the 1970s cocktail made of vodka, Galliano and orange) but it also sounds like a take off on the drinks in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy such as the "Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster". It contains silver and copper metal in some kind of vinegary acidic electrolyte which would produce an electric current between the silver and copper and make a battery.
Corporal Strappi says, "You're in the army now!" which is a line from the 1917 American song by Isham Jones;
You're in the army now,
You're not behind a plow,
You'll never get rich,
You son of a bitch, (the PG version says - By digging a ditch)
You're in the army now.Father Jupe's name is takeoff on the fact that famous officers (or infamous ones) often lent their names to articles of clothing. Cardigan and Raglan, two of the infamous leaders in the Charge of the Light Brigade lent their names to types of sweater and sleeves respectively. 'Jupe' is French for 'skirt' so possibly Father Jupe is a former military hero. The same can be said for Lieutenant Blouse, the regiment's leader whose name comes from the the British slang expression "a big girl's blouse" which means a 'wimp'. Pratchett mentions this Discworld and Roundworld trend later in the novel when we meet General Froc (Frock), Major Clogston (Clogs - shoes), Brigadier Galosh (Galoshes - boots), Colonel Legin (Legging), Colonel Vester (Vest), Major Derbi (Derby- a kind of hat), Colonel Cumabund (cummerbund - a wide sash), Colonel Henri Jump (jumper - sweater for the non-British), General Puhloaver (pullover and perhaps loaves of bread?),Major General, Lord Kanapay (canapes) and Regimental Sergeant-Major Sweat (Sweater). He says that officers lend their names to clothing or food or sometimes get both - the latter a reference to Beef Wellington and the Wellington (boot), named after the British General who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. In this case it is General Froc who has a coat and Beef Froc named after him.
Corporal Strappi says, "'Hands off -- well, you lot wouldn't be able to find 'em...'"
"Hands off cocks, on with socks!" is the traditional military wake-up shout however at this juncture of the novel there are at least two members of the squadron that don't have the required anatomy to be able to do as he says and more will be revealed later. In a double twist, the women all put socks down their fronts to look the male part - the socks substituting for cocks.
Corporal Strappi had written WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR and down the side he had written 1, 2, 3." This comes from Country Joe MacDonald's (of Country Joe and the Fish fame) Vietmam-era protest song 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die-Rag', (famously performed at Woodstock):
And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.
At the end of the novel, Jackrum uses the same line when he tells Polly that he is retiring.
When the recruits go to bed and are chatting about Corporal Strappi, Maladict says, "... here's a happy little dream from your Uncle Maladict. Dream that when we go into battle, Corporal Strappi is leading us.....on the noisy, frantic, confusing battlefield, where oh so much can go wrong." Maladict is contemplating the murder of Corporal Strappi in the heat of battle. From the earliest times of conflict and war, troops have always found ways of disposing of detested officers on the battlefield. This culminated in the Vietnam War where officers were 'parachuted' in and out of the regiments and companies and didn't have as much connection to their men as in previous wars where they were all together for the long haul. The practice of 'fragging' became relatively common during that war - where a fragmentation grenade (hence the name) was 'misthrown' killing the problem officer and left no ballistic evidence like a bullet in the back did. There were over 900 suspected and confirmed cases of fragging during that war.
Pikes are used defensively against cavalry charges, or offensively against infantry with a number of ranks of pikemen advancing on the enemy infantry, in a tight series of lines (like a porcupine with quills), pikes extended forward and jabbing the enemy. The front line then draws swords and engages as standard infantry while the ranks behind them keep advancing with their pikes extended to drive the enemy back. In a cavalry charge, the rows of pikemen would try to injure the horses or rider and disrupt the charge, standing as a phalanx or wall in a tightly packed series of rows. The Borogravian pike may be the "tool formerly used for lifting beets" referred to in the National Anthem.
Corporal Scallot explains that when he and his mates were starving they resorted to cannibalism by eating each others' legs "fair is fair, he ate mine," he says. Shortly after, when Shufti is making dinner, Scallot says that they "could have done with you at Ibblestarn. The sarge was a good man but a bit, you know, tough in the leg?" - another cannibal reference to which Shufti replies, "A marinade would probably have helped." This series of scenes resonates with the Monty Python Lifeboat Sketch in which the castaways decide that rather than eat the one with the gammy leg they will share each other's best parts. That skit in turn has its roots in the many stories of lifeboat cannibalism by starving shipwrecked sailors.
Lieutenant Blouse has several volumes of miltary strategy in his room. "The Craft of War" is based on Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War which is the standard text of military philosophy.
"[...The fact that Borogravia is using paper currency "'[...] a banknote [...]" is a good indication in a world that still uses precious metal coins, that the economy there is in trouble and is short of cash. There are classic Roundworld cases of economies collapsing and the paper currency of the country becoming worthless. Zimbabwe for example issued $1 Trillion dollar notes, now worth nothing and countries devastated by war often see their currencies reduced to nothing.
The Zlobenian cavalry dark blue uniforms are similar to those of Prussia and of the United States during the late 19th century.
The line, "We have met the enemy and he is nice?" comes from Oliver Hazard Perry who wrote, "We have met the enemy and they are ours -- two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop", in a Letter to General Harrison after a decisive victory over the British in the War of 1812 at the battle of Lake Erie. However, no one remembers the original quote now and Pratchett and most readers would be probably thinking of the Walt Kelly quote "We have met the enemy, and they are us", which came from his comic strip Pogo, during the Vietnam War years. Later Jackrum repeats a variation on this line when he says, "We have met the enemy and we have prevailed. That was a fluke." The refrain is reemphasized when Maladict says, "the enemy is everyone but us."
The Zlobenians call the Borogravians beeteaters and the Borogravians call the Zlobenians turnipheads. These kinds of insults are typical during war (and peacetime) to denegrate and dehumanize the other side. Pommies, Krauts, Cheeseheads, Spaghettis, Macaronis, to name a few.
When Jackrum resigns to beat the prisoner and then rejoins the unit when this is done, Corporal Scallot asks him if he would like to "Osculate the Doxie?" which means "Kiss the mistress or whore". New recruits kiss the picture of the duchess when they join up and take the shilling. The Duchess is mistress to all. From Latin osculatus, past participle of osculari (to kiss).
"'[...] temporary feelings of shock and awe, sir.'" "Shock and Awe" is the name of a military doctrine first coined by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade to describe a strategy of overwhelming dominance of an opponent and which was used by the USA in its 2003 invasion of Iraq; the words almost immediately becoming a household phrase throughout the world.
The line about the "Road to perdition" comes from Albert Einstein: "The road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal."
When Vimes uses the hawk to intercept the carrier pigeon, Angua says to him, "So you're not actually waylaying field reports from the Times, then, sir?' [...]" During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, both sides relied on television news for information because private journalists were often better-informed than military intelligence. The hawk has obviously been trained by Hamish from The Wee Free Men, because it responds to being used as an airplane in the same way as in that novel.
When all the regiment's personal stuff is stolen, Jackrum says, "Pinching from your mates is a hanging offence....If I find out someone's been at it, I'll swing from their heels!" This is a reference to the practice in previous centuries where people died a slow death in a hanging (no quick trap door). Friends of the victim would ensure a less prolonged suffering death by hanging off them to increase the weight and pressure on the neck to ensure that they strangled quickly. Equally there was always a chance that the strangling might not work and the victim might survive. Swinging from their heels ensured they would truly die.
"Lofty tended the fire. She always seemed more animated near a fire, Polly noticed." This line hints at Lofty's past which the reader finds out involves being a pyromaniac - a result of the girls school. At the end of the novel, she returns to the school to burn it to the ground.
Polly says, "...trolls all look the same to us, more or less" - a common joke about the way foreign people all look the same.
Lieutenant Blouse has trouble putting the halter on his 'stallion' and Polly comes to his aid saying, "You've got the waffles twisted and the snoffles are upside down". This either shows that she doesn't know as much about horses as she lets on or that the terms are different in Discworld from Roundworld as Pratchett is poking fun at the various parts and types of bridles by creating two words from one Roundworld one - Snaffle bitts/bridles. In addition, Blouse's stallion which is named after General Tacticus' horse Thalecephalos, is really a mare - another female in disguise in the regiment.
The line "I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill" is another reference to one of the songs Polly learned from her father and friends as a child mentioned before - 'The Girl I Left Behind Me'.
Wazzer says that "[...] nothing I do in pursuit of my quest will be held Abominable." which comes from the church's edict during the Crusades that by going on a Crusade, knights and soldiers would be absolved of all sins.
Wazzar says, "I am to take command of the Army." which is an obvious reference to Jeanne d'Arc, (Joan of Arc) who led the French army against the English while dressed as a man, and believed she heard the voice of God. Wazzer hears the voice of the Duchess. This foreshadows Wazzar's role later in the novel in terminating the war and also gives a very large hint that the Duchess is not alive anymore.
Burley and Stronginthearm cross bow makers are an obvious reference to Vickers and Armstrong the British arms manufacturer who made machine guns (among other things) during WWI. It is also a pun on the concept of the bow being "burly and Strong in the Arm" and therefore a man's weapon - very macho - like all the ads for guns portray.
The prisoner, Sergeant Towering, says, "I heard from one of my men that one of you kicked him in the meat-and-two-veg." Throughout the book there are references to male sexual anatomy in various slang terms. This is a common theme in the army - male sexual prowess, etc which is made more humorous because no one in the regiment is in fact a male, except Lieutenant Blouse.
The following line from Sergeant Jackrum, "Kicked him in the Royal Prerogative, eh?" is similar but has the added reference to the Roundworld's "Droit de Siegneur" or ("lord's right"), also known as jus primae noctis ("right of the first night"). The reference being that it was the lord's "prerogative" to legally have sexual relations with subordinate women on their "wedding night". There is no evidence of the right being exercised in medieval Europe, and all known references to it are from later time periods so there is considerable doubt that it is anything more than a legend. It is a common literary device however.
"Commander Vimes said that there is going to be no first use of magic in this war". This is a reference to the constant theme during the Cold War of "First use of nuclear weapons".
"Jolly Sailor" is the tobacco that plays such an important part in The Wee Free Men.
Pratchett's mention of "Lord Rust's regiment" gives the reader a good clue as to what is happening with and to the Ankh-Morport troops. His style is described very unflatteringly thoroughly in Jingo and Night Watch so the reader knows his troops are going to fare badly.
The line, "One, Two, Three! What We Are Fighting For!" is yet another reference to the famous anit-Vietnam War song 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag' by Country Joe MacDonald and the Fish.
De Worde says, "Our cartoonist Fizz drew this for the special edition." The cartoonist Hablot Knight Browne was a famous Victorian cartoonist who used the pseudonym 'Phiz', and drew copperplate illustrations for many Victorian works, especially those of Charles Dickens.
The line, "there was a beet stuck on the end of it (the pike)" hearkens back to the earlier reference to pikemen carrying tools that use to be used for lifting beets, farm implements often being turned into weapons during times of war.
"Morporkia" is a reference to the common Victorian-era illustration style of depicting Britain and the USA as gods Britannia and Columbia, respectively.
"Civis Morporkias sum, sir." is a reference to the time of the Roman Empire, where a person could supposedly walk anywhere in the Empire protected only by the words "Civis Romanus sum" or "I am a Roman citizen", knowing that the Empire would extract swift punishment on anyone who dared harm even one of its people.
Blouse askes de Worde, "Have you considered a squeezing algorithm?" in regard to compressing information sent over the morse signalling lamps and Clack towers. Blouse is describing a Roundworld data compression technique known as Run-length Encoding (RLE). RLE is a simple algorithm that is well-suited to compressing graphic images containing limited amounts of (colour) information (such as the military maps containing mostly white space Blouse mentions). Blouse's other references to his time in mapping where he had to reinvent the entire system while others in the department were content with just tinkering has many parallels in computers where operating systems become more and more bloated with code as advancements are made rendering them sluggish and almost unusable; whereas what is needed is to go back to basics and rework the entire system. Windows in its various incarnations comes to mind.
Maladict, in her coffee withdrawal hallucinations, is apparently starting to channel Vietnam War era images reminiscent of Apocalypse Now.
Charlie was the standard derogatory name for the Viet Cong. It came from the Viet Cong being shortened to VC which in the international phonetic alphabet is Victor Charlie which in turn was shortened to Charlie.
The 'whup whup whup' of rotor blades is the obvious sound of the choppers patrolling over the jungles of Vietnam as portrayed in many movies of the era.
To stop Maladict from reverting to full vampire mode when s/he is deprived of coffee they try roasting acorns as a substitute. During the American Civil War, when the southern Confederacy was blockaded by the northern Union coffee became almost unobtainable. Soldiers and citizens of the Confederacy experimented with, among other things, roasted acorns and roasted chicory as substitutes for the beverage.
Carborundum/Jade tells Blouse that she is good at counting, "One, two, many, lots," This is the way all Trolls count, lacking the ability to remember anything higher or more complicated. It is reminiscent of Sergeant Detritus marching song while he is training the new recruits for Mr. Vimes' Watch.
Blouse's tactic with the Morse signalling lantern yields the reply from the other signalling station "NVASN" which if you say it out loud is "Invasion". The first two signals that Blouse sends are 'dash, dot, dot', and 'dot, dash' - letters 'B' & 'A'.
When Maladict appears in camoflage and Blouse suggests that there are precedents for being out of uniform in disguise "General Song Sung Lo" moved his army disguised as a field of sunflowers and Genral Tacticus once commanded a battalion to dress as spruces", Pratchett is referencing Shakespeare's Macbeth, where MacDuff disguises his army as trees and "Burnham Wood comes to Dunsinane" fulfilling the witches prophesy. 'General Song Sung Lo' while an obvious play on Chinese names is also likely a reference to the 1972 Grammy winning song by Neil Diamond, "Song sung Blue".
The "good old leg rota" is a reference to the starving troops eating each other's legs, which the reader learned about earlier from Corporal Scallot, himself missing various part. (it not being cannibalism which was forbidden by Nuggan if they didn't eat the whole person and shared).
Reg Shoe tells Vimes that the zombies in the crypt are more like "dead men walking". Pratchett has used this line before in The Fifth Elephant. It was originally a term for a condemned man walking to his execution and now means anyone facing an unavoidable fate.
Blouse, when dressing as a woman, says that women don't usually have beards, "Except my Auntie Parthenope, as I recall." Auntie Parthenope's name comes from 'parthenos', which is Greek for 'virgin'; so she is a genuine maiden aunt.
The line, "Tis Pity She's A Tree" is from John Ford's 1633 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, a play with an important, sexually-based female role played by a man. In earlier eras, women's roles were all played by young men or boys since women were not allowed on stage. The irony in this case is that Blouse feels he is the only one capable of playing the part of a woman because of his previous stage experience playing such parts when in fact his entire company could play the washer woman role because they are in fact women and don't have to act.
The line about beating one's wife with "[...] a stick thicker than the regulation one inch" is a reference to the common saw that the expression "rule of thumb" comes from English common law regarding the diameter of a stick with which one's wife could legally be beaten, but this is now generally accepted to be a complete myth.
When the coffee falls out of the sky on Maladict, Igorina comments that perhaps it is like a rain of fish - a reference to the biblical idea of a rain of manna from heaven (Exodus 16:4) and commonly expressed as a miracle any time fish, frogs or other small non-air based creatures fall from the sky (a not uncommon phenomenon caused naturally when small objects are sucked up into the vortex of a low pressure area and deposited miles away over land).
Blouse mentions that Jackrum appears to have started service when he was five years old - caused ultimately by various military leaders amending Jackrum's record (Blouse thinks it is because there was more than one Jackrum). Service records showing a career start date of childhood were not uncommon in the Royal Navy where captains would "sign on" their young relatives or friend's relatives even though they were not actually on board or backdate their start date in order to give them a leg up in getting the time they needed to sit their officer's exams long before they were really entitled to and ahead of their competition.
Jackrum says, "there's a kind of beetle that bites his head off right while he's exercising' his conjugals." The female praying mantis does this to the male.
Jackrum refers to the regiment as being a "band of brothers, eh? Sorry ...sisters: and adds "[...] the job is making some other poor devil die for his." The Band of Brothers reference comes from Henry V's St Crispin's Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V. The line is used for the title of 2001 American war drama miniseries based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 non-fiction book of the same name. The second part of the quote comes from General George S. Patton.
Jackrum says, "Will the Duchess turn aside arrow, Wasser?" to which Wasser replies, "Yes, she will." The concept of prayer, a religious token, talisman or amulet protecting the wearer is common among warring armies, from the Zulu, to the Sultan's troops, to the natives of North America. The subsequent slaughter when the talisman fails is horrific.
When Polly reads the sign outside the whore house door saying 'The SoLid DoVes,' and Pratchett adds that they can't spell, the reference is to "Soiled Doves" which was a euphemism for prostitutes which originated in the American west during the 19th century.
The whores, "Faith, Prudence, Grace and Comfort" have names that wouldn't have been out of place in puritanical religions in the 17 - 1800s.
Grace refers to Polly as a 'regular Don Joo ann' which is a reference to the famous fictional lady's man popularized in the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart and the epic poem by Byron.
The company is discussing the origin of the name 'Cheesemongers' and Jackrum describes a folk song that describes a dairy maid losing her virginity while on the way to market. The song described is called 'The Ups and Downs', (after which the regiment the Ins and Outs is patterned) which was recorded by Steeleye Span.
"Some of the older women wore the Motherhood Medal, awarded to women whose sons had died for Borogravia". Countries in the Roundworld also are famous for giving medals (cheap or otherwise) out to commemorate military service for one's country like the Victoria Cross, the Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross. The more prestigious the medal the more likely it is given posthumously - as if a cheap medal compensates for the loss of one's son or daughter. Yet in the Roundworld too, receiving the medal and the telegram of one's child's exploits did make parents proud - likely a rationalization of their loss.
Polly says, "This war isn't staying on the battlefields" a reference to the war for change in how women are treated in Borogravia.
Lord Rust offers Blouse "parole in a house in Zlobenia". Parole was a common way of dealing with captured superior officers. They were given the freedom of the town or prison in exchange for a promise not to escape because they were seen as being from the upper class so too important to put in a common cell with the enlisted men and "honourable" so they would not break their word.
The line regarding giving someone the thumbs up sign "In Klatch, I think, it means "I hope your donkey explodes" is a reference to the fact that body language and signs that we take for granted in one country can mean the opposite or something quite different in another and lead to at best confusion and at worst insult. For example, in Turkey a side to side shaking of the head does not mean 'no' like in the west but means 'yes'. In many Islamic (and Polynesian cultures) sitting with your feet pointing at someone is very rude - you tuck your feet underneath you. In Arabia, Greece and Australia, the thumbs-up gesture means "sit on this" or "shove it up your ass". Upon occupying Iraq, many American and British soldiers were greeted with crowds flashing thumbs-up symbols, and mistakenly believed them to be showing approval.
Shufti says after the explosion, "I think I can manage the screaming ....This is not a very nurturing experience." - Since Shufti is pregnant,this line is a reference to creating a nurturing experience for the child in the womb to give it the best possible start to its life in the world.
"We don't leave a man behind" is a reference to the line "leave no man behind" often attributed to the US Army Rangers but really much older. It traces its direct origin to the French Indian Wars in 1756 but is likely a tradition that dates back to the earliest times of war. Again, in this case it is ironic given that the company is all female.
"The keep was shooting at itself, in the finest traditions of the circular firing squad" - The reference to a firing squad shooting inward from the circle is obviously suicidal but the term also refers to a group that is so focused on in-fighting that they self-destruct.
The line, "Let's see how that one plays in Plün!" is from the common American expression, "Let's see how that one plays in Peoria", meaning: how will it fare when presented to the sensibilities of the rural population? The expression was first used in Horatio Alger, Jr.'s novel 1890 novel Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret and Peoria has come to be the place where ideas, music and political aspirations are often tested first.
At the end of the novel, Jackrum says s/he might open a 'knocking shop' which is a euphemism for a whore house.
She also says that it is time to reflect on the idea of "my country right or wrong" which is a phrase that originated with US Naval Commander Stephen Decatur in an early 1800s after dinner speech, "Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” Early in the novel, Maladict uses this line in reference to Corporal Strappi's harangue about fighting for your country.
The line "A few good men" is used throughout the book and is the title of a 1992 military legal drama directed by Rob Reiner. The original line came from a US Marines recruiting campaign, "We're looking for a few good men...."
Vimes says that he is '[...] like an ambassador but without the little gold chocolates.' which refers to the well-known television ad for Ferrero Rocher chocolates, which come individually wrapped in gold foil and were served at the Ambassador's balls.
Vimes says to Polly, " Ze chzy Brogocia proztfik!" to which she replies "'But why did you say you were a cherry pancake?"
This line is a reference to a famous 1963 speech by US President John F. Kennedy, speaking in West Berlin where he famously declared: "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- "I am a citizen of Berlin". Since a 'Berliner' is also a kind of jam-filled pastry, the press tried to make a big deal about Kennedy's words as if he had made a big language blunder and called himself a jelly donut, similar to the blunder Vimes makes here. This so-called mis-speaking, became a bit of an urban legend, including the canard that his audience laughed at the statement. In fact Kennedy's words were correct, the meaning he intended was clear and it is considered to be one of if not the best speech of the cold war and the Berlin people who were feeling trapped in their enclave in the east were greatly relieved to get this support.
Kopelies is Greek for 'girls'.
'Much ado, in fact, about nothing.' is a reference to the Shakespeare play of the same name, which includes a character named Benedick.
Vimes says, "People set a lot of store by shaving" a nudge to the fact that the company is made up of women who don't shave but have spent most of the novel pretending to and in Polly's case, trying to avoid shaving Lieutenant Blouse and accidentally cutting his throat.
Prince Heinrich comes toward Polly with 'one white-white gloved hand extended'. The line alludes to pop singer Michael Jackson and his single white glove.
Polly says in her final conversation with Jackrum, "What can I give a man who has everything:... but you don't have everything, sarge. Sarge? You don't, do you?" This line has a double meaning, the obvious one in that Jackrum doesn't appear to have much of a life beyond his connections to the army, but a second one in that he does not have the required anatomy to be a male.
Jackrum says, "I was part of the Thin Red Line [...]" which is a reference to the fact that the British army wore red uniforms and fought in a series of long lines, stretching across the battlefront which fired, knelt and reloaded while the line behind advanced and fired, then stood and fired again. This was a change from the square deployment of troops which provided coverage on all sides, including the flanks. The Thin Red Line made it possible for the army to rain a withering fusillade on the enemy with no break for the enemy to regroup so the counter-strategy was to try to break the line with an all out charge or turn the flank so that you could attack the weaker sides. The name itself was first used by "London Times" correspondent, William Russell during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean in October 1854 where the 93rd Highlanders under Colin Campbell, turned aside a Russian cavalry charge using this tactic. Russell said, that he could see nothing between the charging Russians and the British regiment's base of operations at Balaklava but the "thin red streak tipped with a line of steel" of the 93rd. This was popularly condensed into "the thin red line", the phrase becoming a symbol of British composure in battle. Naturally the enemy used the same tactics and the battlefield casualties were horrendous. The red uniforms however made easy targets for snipers and, with the development of guerrilla warfare the uniforms and tactics vanished. The term was picked up by by Rudyard Kipling for use in his poem Tommy, which goes in part:
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
The phrase was also used as the title of James Jones' novel (and the 1998 movie based on it) telling the story of the United States capture of Guadalcanal during World War II.
"....the Girls Working School had burned down, on on the same day two slim masked figures had robbed a bank." Clearly Tonker and Lofty made good on their promise utilizing Lofty's skill with matches. Robbing the bank is an obvious reference to Thelma and Louise type characters and one Pratchett used before in The Last Hero.
The line, "Generals and majors and captains, oh my." echoes Dorothy's "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" in The Wizard of Oz.
The business card from William de Worde says "The Truth Shall Make you Frep". Throughout the novel The Truth, the headline for William de Worde's newspaper says "The Truth Shall Make Ye Free" but there are a series of type setting errors which are continually changing this line to "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret" and still later it becomes "The Truth Shall Make Ye Fred". This latest line is a continuation of the type setting error theme. The original quote is from is from bible - John 8:32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
"The new day is a great big fish" is the last line of the Borogravian national anthem and refers to something new and exciting and good about to happen. This ending to the novel makes a nice counterpoint to Vimes' earlier comment that any anthem that starts with "Awake" is going to cause trouble.
- Чудовищна команда (Bulgarian)
- Podivný regiment (Czech), ISBN 80-7197-242-8
- Monsterlijk regiment (Dutch)
- Le Régiment monstrueux (French)
- Weiberregiment (German)
- Potworny regiment (Polish)
! colspan="3" | Reading order guide