Discworld Wiki
Discworld Wiki

This page is about the novel NIght Watch. For the painting by Rembrandt, see Night Watch (painting) or The Wikipedia Page.

Night watch discworld.jpg

Night Watch is the 29th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, published in 2002. The working title for this book was The Nature of the Beast, but this was discarded when Frances Fyfield published a book with exactly that title in the UK in late 2001. The protagonist of the novel is Sir Samuel Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. A five-part radio adaptation of the novel was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from February 27 2008 - it featured Philip Jackson as Sam Vimes and Carl Prekopp as young Sam, and referenced the similar theme of a policeman unexpectedly being sent back in time from the series Life on Mars.

Paul Kidby's cover parodies the famous Rembrandt painting The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, more commonly known as The Night Watch. This is the first main-sequence Discworld novel not to have a cover by Josh Kirby who had passed away. The actual painting by Rembrandt is used as the back cover illustration. In Kidby's cover, the older Sam Vimes is in the place of Frans Banning Cocq and Sam as a young man is in the place of Wiliem van Ruytenburch. In both the original painting and Kidby's illustration, three figures are illuminated to force the viewers eye in their direction, however in Kidby's illustration it is not the figure in the position of Rembrandt's woman crouching down and holding a chicken (to the left of Frans Bannig Cocq) - that figure to the left of the elder Vimes is the young urchin Nobby Nobbs wearing oversized watch coat and boots. Instead, the key third lit figure is the Sweeper in the saffron robe immediately in front and to the left of Nobby in the position of the watchmen carrying an arquebus in Rembrandt's original. Kidby has kept the general positioning of Rembrandt's figures and flow of the painting without actually inserting every figure so the Sweeper's broom describes the same line as the arquebus in the original. Kidby pays tribute to the late artist, Josh Kirby by placing him in the picture, in the position where Rembrandt painted himself. He is in the back, with just part of his face showing, between Reg Shoe (in the white shirt waving the flag) and Waddy. There is an animal in the bottom-right of both works; in Rembrandt's it is a dog, and in 1975 was badly slashed in an act of vandalism. Kidby has instead inserted a swamp dragon, a reference to Vimes' wife Sybil, who breeds them.

Plot summary[]

On the morning of the 30th anniversary of the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May (and as such the anniversary of the death of John Keel, Vimes' hero and former mentor), Sam Vimes is caught in a magical storm (briefly implied to be connected to the events of Thief of Time) while pursuing Carcer Dun, a notorious criminal. He awakens to find that he has been rescued by Miss Palm (whom Vimes knows as Mrs Palm, Head of the Guild of Seamstresses). He determines that he has somehow been sent back in time.

Vimes's first idea is to ask the wizards at Unseen University to send him home, but before he can act on this, he is arrested for breaking curfew by a younger version of himself. Incarcerated in a cell beside his own, he finds Carcer, who after being released joins the Unmentionables, the secret police carrying out the paranoid whims of the Patrician of the time, Lord Winder.

When he is taken to be interrogated by the captain, time is frozen by Lu-Tze, who tells Vimes what has happened and that he must assume the identity of his mentor Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel (who was to have arrived that day but was murdered by Carcer). It is stated that the event which caused Vimes and Carcer to be sent into the past was a major temporal shattering. Vimes then returns to the office, time restarts and he convinces the captain that he is Keel.

Young Vimes believes Vimes to be Keel, allowing Vimes to teach Young Vimes the lessons for which Vimes idolised Keel. Essentially this means that Vimes taught and idolised himself, not Keel, although alternate histories and the "Trousers of Time" mean this may not be the case ("You were indeed taken under the wing of one John Keel, a watchman from Pseudopolis," says Lu Tze. "He was a real person. He was not you." Lu-Tze also makes reference to the idea that the Monks of History have created an alternate present for the events of the novel to happen in).

The novel climaxes in the Revolution, hinted at since the start of the book. Vimes, taking command of the watchmen, successfully avoids the major bloodshed erupting all over the city and manages to keep his part of it relatively peaceful. After dealing with the Unmentionables' headquarters he has his haphazard forces barricade a few streets to keep people safe from the fighting between rebels and soldiers. However, the barricades are gradually pushed forward during the night to encompass the surrounding streets until Vimes finds himself in control of a significant part of the city.

The ruler, Lord Winder, is effectively assassinated by the young Assassin's Guild student Havelock Vetinari when he influences what seems to be a heart attack, and the new Patrician Lord Snapcase calls for a complete amnesty. However, he sees Keel as a threat and sends Carcer and the palace guard to murder the Night Watch. Several policemen (the ones who died when the barricade fell in the original timeline) are killed in the battle; Vimes manages to fight off the attack until he can grab Carcer, at which point they are returned to the future and Keel's body is placed in the timeline Vimes has just left, to tie things up, as in the "real" history, Keel died in that fight.

Vimes' son is born, with the help of Doctor 'Mossy' Lawn (whom Vimes met while in the past), and Vimes finally arrests Carcer, promising him a fair trial before he's hanged. A subsequent conversation with Lord Vetinari reveals that the Patrician knows Vimes took Keel's place. He proposes that the old Watch House at Treacle Mine Road (where Keel was sergeant, and which was destroyed by the dragon in Guards! Guards!) be rebuilt.


There are many similarities between Pratchett's Night Watch and Victor Hugo's Les Miserables but it is simplistic to suggest that creating parallels between the two works as Pratchett did between Maskerade and Phantom of the Operas is his entire focus - revolutions, evil governments, etc are common to the world and in literature, not just to a single novel's depiction of the 1832 Paris Uprising. In Les Miserables, Valjean is a good man whose crime is to steal a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her family. In Night Watch, Carcer is a murderous psychopath who later in the novel claims that his original crime was to steal a loaf of bread but, based on his willingness to tell the listener whatever is necessary to avoid punishment, this is likely untrue. Carcer, like Jean Valjean fleeing Javert, is running from the law in the form of Vimes. Both Javert and Vimes are obsessed with justice; Javert interpreting that to mean the punishment of the guilty, which eventually leads to his suicide when he can no longer reconcile his beliefs with the reality of capturing a good man. Vimes, on the other hand defines justice as the protection of the innocent. Javert joins the revolutionaries on the barricades to betray and defeat them while Vimes organizes the building of the barricades to protect the people. In Les Miserables, Valjean tries to save a prostitute, Fantine, and when she dies he promises to take care of her daughter. When Vimes is sent back into the past, he is saved by a prostitute, Rosie Palm (in British slang masturbation is called 'visiting Mrs Palm and her five daughters'. In both novels, a street urchin plays an important role in the rebellion. in Les Miserables, Gavroche dies, while in Night Watch, Nobby survives and becomes a member of the Watch. Both rebellions are "led" by impassioned revolutionaries in frilly shirts who take a long time to die; Reg Shoe coming back in Discworld as a zombie.

One of the central themes of the novel is the concept that "nothing changes." This is shown in two major ways: First, that even though there is a revolution to overthrow the current patrician, when the revolution is finished people go on with their lives exactly as they had done before, and the government continues behaving as it had done before. This theme is explored earlier in Pratchett's novel, Guards! Guards! when Veteneri says to Vimes, "The only thing the good people are good at is overthrowing the bad people.  And you’re good at that, I’ll grant you. But the trouble is that it’s the only thing you’re good at.   One day it’s the ringing of the bells and the casting down of the evil tyrant, and the next it’s everyone sitting around complaining that ever since the tyrant was overthrown no-one’s been taking out the trash.  Because the bad people know how to plan.  It’s part of the specification, you might say.  Every evil tyrant has a plan to rule the world.  The good people don’t seem to have the knack." In short, the drawback to any revolution in history has always been that the Robespierres and Stalins, and today the Putins and Trumps triumph over the Lafayettes, Kerenskys, Gorbachevs and Washingtons. As Pete Townshend of the Who wrote in his song "Won't Get Fooled Again" , "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." This line is used near the end of the novel by Slant when he says, "Ave! Cuci novo, similis duci seneci" and "Ave Bossa nova, similis bossa seneca!".

The second way that nothing changes is that while the past has been slightly changed by Vimes and Carcer, the present remains exactly the same. Pratchett has explored the effects of parallel universes in many of his novels.

Another theme is the idea of acting in a way that you would want to become. Vimes has to teach his younger self about good police work, and in so doing has to be very careful about not doing things that he considers to be over the line (such as murdering unarmed men). It's interesting to note that when Vimes returns to the present, he continues to think of the younger version of himself and how that younger version would see what he is doing, so that he must continue to act in moral ways.

A third theme is the way evil things are done by ordinary people who don't have the guts to say no, whether it is the Night Watchmen taking bribes and beating people up prior to Vimes/Keels arrival because everyone does it, or the Patrician justifying the torture of ordinary citizens by the Unmentionables, or the city leaders blindly instituting martial law and charging the people on horseback. Vimes/Keel refuses over and over to fall into this trap (keeping the beast inside) and ultimately sides with the rebels. Carcer, a pathological psychopath as a crook falls naturally into the role of pathological psychopath leader of the Unmentionables and the rest just fall in line. There are plenty of parallels in Roundworld, from the Nazis in WWII to the American soldiers involved in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, the genocidal slaughters in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodian and Myanmar to name but a few.

Popular References:[]

The motto of the City Watch is "FABRICATI DIEM PVNC" which translates in its mock Latin to Make my day, punk, Clint Eastwood's iconic line from the movie Dirty Harry.

The Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May parodies the name of the famous sea battle off Cape St. Vincent in 1794 between Great Britain and the First French Republic which was known as the Glorious First of June. It also parodies the kind of names revolutionary groups give to their national holidays when they take power.

The line 'gilt by association\ is an obvious pun on the gold ornamentation on Vimes' uniform and the concept of guilt by association (ie. a class traitor because Vimes is now of the upper crust).

Sergeant Detritus leads his group of new recruits with a marching song and is referred to as a "jody".

"Now we sing this stupid song! Sing it as we march along!/ Why we sing it we don't know!/We can't make der words rhyme prop'ly! Sound off! One Two! Sound off! Many Lots! Sound off! Er...what?"

In the armed services, a military cadence or cadence call is a traditional call-and-response work song where one person sings the lines and the rest of the group responds. It is sung while running or marching to keep the cadence and keep spirits up. In the United States, these cadences are sometimes called jody calls or jodies, after Jody, a recurring character in many traditional cadences; Jody refers to the man with whom a serviceman's wife/girlfriend cheats, while he is deployed. Usually the songs poke fun at other regiments, the enemy, army life and what the soldiers' girlfriends/wives are up to while the soldier is away in the army.

The line, "Sammies, they were called, [...]" is a reference to the London 'Bobbies'. Sir Robert Peel, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and 1840s, organized the metropolitan police force in London, operating out of Scotland Yard. The colloquial term for police in Britain, 'bobbies', is taken from Peel's name, as is 'Peelers', an older nickname. When Vimes is sent back into the past he gives his name as "Keel" a take off on Sir Robert's name.

The words on John Keel's grave "How do they rise up" is a reference to a revolutionary song that Pratchett wrote and uses later in the novel. The rhythm/tune is based on the German folk song "Oh Du Lieber Augustin" attributed to Max Augustin, who was a popular balladeer and entertainer in Vienna in the mid 1600s. This song originated in Vienna during the Plague period of 1768-1769. Legend has it that while drunk, Augustin fell in the gutter and passed out only to be mistaken for a dead man by the gravediggers patrolling the city for dead plague victims. They dumped him, along with his bagpipes which they presumed were infected, into a pit filled with the bodies of other plague victims outside the city walls. When Augustin awoke, he couldn't get out of the deep mass grave so played his bag pipes to attract attention. After he was rescued he became a symbol of hope for the Viennese people since he survived his night with the plague victims without ill effect. Variations on the legend suggest that he was discovered at the mortuary when he sat up which ties in to Colon's discussion with Nobby about the funeral of a Corporal Hildebiddle who "woke up just in time and banged on the lid (of his coffin)" and suggests that Pratchett was working with the latter legend. The song itself has mixed connotations; in some aspects being hymn-like "All the little angels (rising) up (to heaven)", in some aspects revolutionary - rising up to overthrown the evil government. Protests songs often have their roots in hymns.  Throughout the novel, the line is repeated, adding the various ways "they rise up" - feet, hands, knees, heads up, arse up. The use of these lines also resonates with the other expressions associated with the lines: "feet up"(relaxing), "hands up" (under arrest), "knees up" (a party or celebration as in the song 'Knees up Mother Brown') "heads up" (a warning), and "arse up" (with your rear in the air as an insult and also meaning ruined or destroyed). The unspoken one is "tits up" as in dead but "arse up" also hints at this.

The line, 'None of that "comic gravedigger" stuff.' is a reference to the gravediggers in Shakespeare's Hamlet.

The two former parts of the Dark Empire, Mouldovia and Borogravia are obvious takeoffs on the Soviet Union satellite 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).

In reference to the invasion of Mouldavia, Vimes asks Carrot, "Whose side are we on?" which given the political nature of the novel is likely a reference to the well known union protest song made famous by Pete Seeger, "Which Side Are You On?" by Florence Patton Reece. This reference is reinforced later in the novel when Sandra asks Rosie about Vimes/Keel, "Is he on our side?" and again when Vimes/Keel asks Ned Coates, "Whose side are you on, Ned?"

Carrot says"[...] the only species I've heard of there in any numbers are the kvetch, sir." Kvetch is a Yiddish verb meaning to complain or gripe.

The villain Carcer's name has obvious similarities to the word cancer (and he is a cancer on society) but it comes from the Latin carcerem and means jail or imprisonment (incarceration); in ancient Rome, the Carcer (pronounced Carker) was the death row cell next to the Forum. This is also the name of the villain in Charles Dicken's novel, Dombey and Son.

Vimes gives his name to Rosie Palm, the Seamstress (prostitute) as Keel - John which she says is "appropriate" since John is a slang name for someone who uses a prostitute in order to remain anonymous. She then says that she will "escort" him - another reference related to her trade. Rosie Palm's name is derived from the British slang for masturbation, which is called 'visiting Mrs Palm and her five daughters'.

Dotsie and Sadie, the two agony aunts act as enforcers for the Seamstresses Guild. Agony aunts are women newspaper columnists who give advice to people who write in with personal problems, not usually sexual in nature (they are often seen to be a bit prudish). Dotsie's extra heavy purse and Sadie's umbrella with the parrot head are reminiscent of the British cartoonist Giles' character Grandma's accessories (who could quite easily work as an enforcer for the Seamstresses Guild)."

Tilden had, "killed more of the enemy by good if dull tactics than his own men by bad but exciting one". Pratchettt's comments here on the general ability of most military leaders is reflected in one of his footnotes in Jingo where he says, “It is a long-cherished tradition among a certain type of military thinker that huge casualties are the main thing. If they are on the other side then this is a valuable bonus.”

'Mr Lousy' is Lu-Tze, the Sweeper from The Thief of Time who has the ability to stop and modify time, a skill he puts to immediate use in making Vimes into Keel. The yellow robed monks have obvious parallels to Buddhist monks in Tibet and other eastern regions only in this case they are turning the cylinders of time, the procrastinators, not the prayer wheels found out side every Buddhist temple. Lu-Tze is one of the "History Monks (the Men In Saffron, No Such Monastery... they had many names) [...]" "Men In Saffron" is an obvious reference to the movie "Men in Black", which was in turn a reference to the original, mythical federal secret agents the movie is named after. "No Such Agency" is how Roundworld jokingly refers to the NSA, the American NSA (National Security Agency) because of their reputation for extreme secrecy and paranoia.

"singing a rude song about a wheelbarrow.... Hedgehogs? Custard? One string fiddles." is an obvious reference to the old song, "Molly Molone" "wheeling her wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow" - with its double entendres. The hedgehog song is a reference to Nanny Ogg's well known drinking song, "The Hedgehog can never be buggered at all" more commonly called the Hedgehog Song, but it could also be a shout out to the Incredible String Band's Hedgehog Song.

In the Garden of Inner City Tranquility, it would "take magic beans to reach the real sunshine" - a reference to the old fairy tale, "Jack and the Beanstalk."

a "sonky" is a take off on the British slang for a condom, "tonkie".

Qu is an obvious reference to Q in the James Bond movies.

The  Cable Street Particulars are a pseudo-police force like the Baker Street Irregulars in Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The name is a reference to the Battle of Cable Street, a riot started between Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and anti-fascist protesters in 1936. It was a seminal point in British history in stopping Britain from swinging in the direction that Germany was taking, drawing attention to the underlying violence of the fascist movement and forcing the government to take action against its rise.

"Vimes always preferred to walk by himself" is a possible reference to Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories - The Cat That Walked by Himself" - the cat insisting on being his own "man" and no one's servant.

Patrician Winder's tax system where he sells the rights to tax collection to the highest bidder ("tax farming") is a shot at the increasingly common practice among modern neo-conservative laissez faire capitalist governments of outsourcing government services from running prisons, to road maintenance to foreign aide, to name but a few.

"The man couldn't talk and chew gum at the same time."

Supposedly Lyndon Johnson once said that President Ford couldn't fart and chew gum at the same time, after which the bowdlerised version of the phrase became common.

"a tuppenny upright" is a quicky standing against a wall with a prostitute. When young Vimes askes Vimes/Keel what this is the response is "It a kind of jam doughnut" which, rather than simply being a brush off is really another sexual reference - oral sex with sadomasochism.

Captain Swing is the inventor of craniometrics and measures Vimes head with calipers - a reference to the practice of phrenology, the pseudoscience that tried to link personality and character to head shape which was developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796 and popularized in the Victorian era by Europeans wishing to justify their racism toward their subjects in their various colonies.

Mr. Salciforous's name is a play on Calciforous, a gland in earthworms.

Vimes/Keel "pushes a metaphor" to the limit with his line about the role of Dr. Lawn in preventing pregnancy in the seamstresses/prostitutes by "Teaching them to use thimbles", an obvious reference to condoms.

"Morphic Street, 9 o'clock tonight. Password: swordfish. Swordfish? Every password was swordfish!"

This is a reference to the 1932 Marx Brothers' movie Horsefeathers. 'Swordfish' was the password for entering the speakeasy, and since then has become the archetypical password.

The various street slang expressions and practices described in the conversation between Vimes/Keel and the young Nobby have been invented by Pratchett and have no basis in Realworld jargon. They do have the ring of Cockney rhyming slang or any inner city street talk. The slang line, "fleague a jade" does give the reader a hint about what will be done later on in the novel with ginger, both in bottled form and in the raw; this practice is said to be a way of making a nag frisky when selling it by shoving raw ginger up its anus and works just as well on oxen later in the book.

Nobby says, "I've got to be looking at a lordship every day". Most countries put their kings, queens, founding fathers, etc on their coinage and Ankh-Morpork is no exception.

Slumgullet for dinner sounds as unappetizing as its Roundworld counterparts, dishes like Slum gullion and Slumpie. Obviously is is a stew of sorts.

"off to fight the Cheese Eaters of Quirm or Johnny Klatchian" - In WWI the British press referred to the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire as "Johnny Turk" and Johnny Foreigner is a common British pejorative for any undesirable foreigner. During WWII the Germans called Dutch people "kaaskop" cheese heads as an insult.

The line, "For a moment, the tiger burned brightly." is a reference to William Blake's poem The Tyger also used in The Last Continent). This line foreshadows, Vetineri painting orange and black stripes on Downey's face later in the book.

"The ginger beer trick" is a form of torture used by unscrupulous police forces in both Roundworld and Discworld. In simplified terms a carbonated beverage, with or without additives to make it even more gaseous, is shaken and inserted in one of the victim's bodily orifices where the instant release and expansion of dissolved gas creates excruciating pain but leaves no mark. Later Vimes/Keel tells Carcer that he will give his Unmentionable suspect "a cup of tea. Or a carbonated beverage of his choice" and then pretends to use this trick to get his Unmentionable suspect to talk.

Carcer says, "you be sure to look after yourself" to Vimes/Keel a clear threat to kill young Vimes and therefore eliminate the future Vimes from existence - a variation on the old time travel paradox of killing yourself or your grandparents in the past and thus making your existence impossible in the present.

"We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything" is a reference to the slogan of the gladiators "Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant"- "Hail Emperor, We who are about to die salute you" which Pratchett also uses in a bastardized form in The Last Hero. The original quote has been attributed to Suetonius in De Vita Caesarum ("The Life of the Caesars". It was reportedly used in the presence of the Emperor Claudius in AD 52 by the gladiators in the amphitheater and although widely quoted was not actually recorded anywhere else in Roman history.

Lady Roberta Meserole, the mysterious lady, has many parallels in fiction most notably in the spy intrigue genre in the character of Milady de Winter in Alexandre Dumas' "The Three Musketeers". Meserole evidently is slang for a loud obnoxious drunken family group of family that teases and/or fight with each other.

The reference to "The Dolly Sisters Massacre" is reminiscent of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 in St. Peters Field in Manchester. Local magistrates were afraid that a rally organized by th Mancehster Patriotic Union at which well know radical Henry Hunt was to speak to protest for the repeal of the Corn Law and agitate for suffrage, would lead to rioting. They ordered Hunt's arrest and a sent the cavalry charging into the crowd of 60 -80,000 people, many of whom were women and children, killing 15 people and injured between 400 and 700 others. The Peterloo Massacre is considered to be a seminal moment in Britain at the time. The name was chosen as an ironic reference to the Battle of Waterloo which had just taken place 4 years before. Pratchett himself said: "It was Peterloo that I had in mind, .... But as a general rule, when things look bad there's always some dickhead who can make them worse."

The lady in Lilac has an elderly tom cat that farts, Vetinari feels that, " if you were going to fondle a cat while discussing matters of intrigue, then it should be a long-haired white one, It shouldn't be an elderly street tom with irregular bouts of flatulence." This is an obvious reference to Blofeld in the James Bond movies and his white Persian cat.

The line, "Say I'm coming at you with a big big club....what do you do?" resonates with the Monty Python's sketch about being attacked by a man with a pointed stick which is reinforced when Pratchett uses the word sticks to refer to the men's truncheons later in the scene.

The reference to] "Leggy Gaskin" is Herbert Gaskin, who ran too fast and caught up with the criminal he was chasing and whose funeral is mentioned at the beginning of Guards! Guards!: "It had been a hard day for the Watch. There had been the funeral of Herbert Gaskin, for one thing."

The line, "Dark sarcasm ought to be taught in schools." is an obvious reference to Pink Floyd's classic hit 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)':

Reg Shoe says "I regret that I have only one life to lay down for Whalebone Lane!" which is foreshadowing in that he returns to the world as a zombie but is based on the famous quote attributed to American revolutionary Nathan Hale before he was executed as a spy by the British army in 1776: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country".

Vimes/Keel says to Coates, "Dont put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions. People die, and nothing changes." This is one of the central themes of Pratchett's works as detailed above.

The "notorious Hedge Argument Murder" is a reference to disputes between neighbours leading up to violence, which had become a growing problem in Britain around the time the novel was 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.

Nobby tells Vimes/Keel that the people have "...thrown the lieutenant out the window" of the Dolly Sisters Watch house. Defenestration (from the French for window - fenetre) was a popular form of political protest in Prague in earlier centuries.

The cross bow maker Burleigh and Stronginthearm is a double pun, obviously "burly" and "strong" but also a play on Vickers Armstrong the British company that made machine guns among other things in WWI.

"Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men? A copper, that's who." is another of Pratchett's references to the opening line in the old Shadow radio series. The reply is, "The Shadow Knows!"

Dr. Lawn says to Vimes/Keel while stitching him up, "It's only a flesh wound," an obvious reference to Monty Python's Holy Grail, where the Black Knight says to King Arthur, "It's just a flesh wound".

Pratchett parodies the typical revolutionary rhetoric where the various factions sit around discussing minutae in the section where Reg Shoe wants to include Truth, Justice and Freedom plus "Free Love" in the "People's Declaration of the Glorious twenty-fourth of May" whereas Rosie Palm wants it to read, "reasonably priced love" for obvious reasons. Other lines including 'The people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims!' which is a quote from Chairman Mao reinforce this dogmatic approach by ideologues . Reg says that "all food must go to the common warehouse and be distributed by my officials according to -" in spite of the fact that there is no warehouse, no shortage of food to require rationing, and the food will spoil. Vimes comments to Reg Shoe that perhaps "the best way to build a bright new world is to peel some spuds in this one?" The practical vs the hollow ideology.

The image of Vetenari advancing on Winder, shooting the guards and throwing away his bows behind him has roots in many action movies from Kill Bill, to Mr and Mrs Smith to Laura Croft, Tomb Raider.

Appropriately Winder is eating cake when he dies, a clear reference to another ruler, Marie Antoinette's supposed words of "let them eat cake (pain is French for bread)". Like Winder she dies as a result of a revolution.

the lines "Ave! Cuci novo, similis duci seneci" and "Ave Bossa nova, similis bossa seneca!" mean meet the new boss, same as the old boss - the line from the Who's song "We won't get fooled again."

Reg Shoe yells from the barricade,"You can take our lives but you'll never take our freedom!" a line used by William Wallace in the 1995 movie Braveheart.

When Ned Coates says to Vimes/Keel that there are bigger bastards than you, Vimes replies, "But I try harder" - a reference to Avis the car rental agency's slogan "We're number two. We try harder".

"It takes a thousand steps to get to the top of a mountain but one little hop'll take you all the way to the bottom" is a variation on the founder of Taoism, Lao Tsu's line, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" as well as Neil Armstrong's words on the moon, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

Carcer, we'll take you to the Tanty, one gallows, no waiting, and you can dance the hemp fandango.'

Vimes' speech here was evidently inspired by the kind of speech Judge Roy Bean used to make. Bean was a barkeeper turned hanging judge and self-proclaimed "Law West of the Pecos", who set up court in Texas, and was known for his colourful ('dubious' and 'arbitrary' would also be good words here...) judgements. He famously fined a corpse $40 for carrying a concealed weapon, for instance.

The way that the members of the watch wear lilacs in remembrance of their fallen comrades, and the depth of emotion that they feel about the act, is likely a reference to the British tradition of wearing red poppy flowers to commemorate the soldiers lost in World War I. The poppies are especially worn on Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the end of the war.

The members of the Watch fighting in the past grab lilacs to put on their clothes in order to tell who would be on their side in the upcoming confusing melee. This is a reference to the Welsh story of St. David, a monk who suggested that Welsh soldiers fighting against similarly-garbed Saxon invaders should festoon their helmets wth leeks in order to tell friend from foe in the upcoming battle. This legend is very similar to the old war story that Dickens tells in the book when he comes up with the idea to use the lilacs; in Dickens' story, the soldiers used carrots.


  • Нощна стража (Bulgarian)
  • Noční hlídka (Czech)
  • Ronde de nuit (French)
  • Die Nachtwächter (German)
  • De Nachtwacht (Dutch)
  • Öövahtkond (Estonian)
  • Straż nocna (Polish)
  • Guardia de Noche (Spanish)


External links[]

! colspan="3" | Reading order guide

! colspan="3" | Awards


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia.

The original article was at Night Watch (Pratchett novel). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Discworld Wiki, the text of Wikipedia:Wikipedia is available under the Wikipedia:GNU Free Documentation License.