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Cecil Wormsborough St. John "Nobby" Nobbs is a fictional character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. He is a corporal in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, first appearing in the novel Guards! Guards!.

He used to be a quartermaster (Men at Arms), despite his infamous kleptomania; Nobby Nobbs is the kind of person who joins the army to loot corpses. Despite this, he is honest about the big things (at least, the ones too big or heavy to lift) and is described as someone that you can trust with your life, although you'd be daft to trust him with half a dollar. He also lacks the deliberately malicious quality or deep scheming nature of less savory characters Pratchett sometimes compares him to, saying is only bad in the sense "a weasel is evil." Ironically, Nobby's downtrodden position and frank approach to things give him a disarming sense of charisma, if only because onlookers want to see what he'll brazenly do next. Even more so than Sgt. Colon, Nobby is a useful barometer for the average city-dweller's thoughts on any street event.

He is described as untidy, smelly, and, despite being human, about the same height as a dwarf. He carries a certificate signed by the Patrician to (almost) prove that he's a human being. The certificate reads: I, after hearing evidence from a number of experts, including Mrs. Slipdry the midwife, certify that the balance of probability is that the bearer of this document, C.W.St John Nobbs, is a human being. Signed, Lord Vetinari. A running joke is the inability of others to believe this, despite — or even because of — the evidence. In fact, in Hogfather, even Death himself was unable to discern Nobby's species. According to the blurb of Men at Arms, Nobby was 'disqualified from the human race for shoving'. Nobby has a tattoo on his arm that says WUM. It was supposed to be "MUM" but the drunk Nobby passed out part way through the process and Needle Ned didn't spot that he was upside-down until it was too late. Nobby is fond of folk dancing. He always seems to have a cigarette butt about him, normally stowed behind his ear, which has been described as a nicotine graveyard. Cigarettes quickly become butts in his presence, and stay as such for an apparently infinite amount of time.

Samuel Vimes is Nobby's commanding officer, and Sergeant Fred Colon his partner and longterm friend. Together, Nobby and Colon have managed to have many strangely philosophical (or just strange) conversations, including one on whether Death has a first name, or even any friends to call him it. Oddly enough, these conversations hint at Nobby being more intelligent than Colon, with Nobby continually pointing out fatal flaws in Colon's statements and arguments, and Colon mentally scrambling to come up with an answer.


As a child he was a street urchin (read: small, prickly, smelling of fish) and a major source of information for various city notables. He was apparently inspired to join the Watch after meeting with Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel (and alternatively, due to time travel, Sam Vimes), who once gave him a spoon.

Nobby was once thought to be the Earl of Ankh, but it was all a charade to make him king as he would have been easier to manipulate than the 'real' heir, Captain Carrot (who remained incognito, preferring the life of a Watchman to that of a King). Nobby proved less tractable than the conspirators had expected. He turned down a cushy life as figurehead ruler of Ankh-Morpork largely, by his own account, for fear of what Vimes would have to say—or more importantly, do—when he found out, although it was also due to his family's long-standing belief that they should never volunteer for anything as there is always going to be a catch. Indeed, he fled the offer at a dead run, all the time terrified Vimes would "go spare." However, at the end of the book Feet of Clay, it is also suggested that he may be a real nobleman, due to the amount of family heirlooms he has not mentioned to any other person. On the other hand, the Nobbses have stolen so much stuff over the years that, as Vimes has said, you could probably prove Nobby was the Dowager Duchess of Quirm.

Nobby played a role in the resolution of the "war" between Ankh-Morpork and the empire of Klatch in Jingo by travelling with the Patrician Vetinari and Fred Colon with Leonard of Quirm in his "Going under the water safely, Device" (submarine) to investigate Lesph and then travel to Klatch. While there he got in touch with his feminine side when required to dress as a female exotic dancer, Betti to spy on the Klatchians. In recognition of his service the Patrician gave him a new job in traffic control. He has since been "promoted" to assistant to the Watch Liaison Officer (in other words Fred Colon), a job vague enough to ensure he never has to do anything actually important.

He believed he was in a romantic relationship with Verity "Hammerhead" Pushpram, a girl who runs a fish stall and gets her nickname from the fact that her eyes appear to be looking in opposite directions. However, this "relationship" seemed to consist solely of her hitting him with a fish and telling him to bugger off. He remained "faithful" to her, however, in all books except Thud!, in which he was temporarily in a relationship with exotic dancer Tawnee. However, in Snuff, Verity has married a fisherman who is building up his fleet - a fine catch for a fishmonger. In the process of getting a unggue pot removed from Fred Colon's palm, Nobby finds that Goblin Girls are quite attracted to him and by the end of the novel, one named Shine of the Rainbow is cooking snails for him and gazing adoringly at him. While this interspecies relationship seems strange to Vimes, Lady Sybil correctly points out that even Nobby's mother doesn't know what species he is. By the time of Raising Steam, Nobby's relationship with Shine of the Rainbow seems to have become permanent with Fred Colon commenting that he is practically married now.

He is possibly related to Corporal Knopf (as Knopf can be translated as knob), one half of the town watch in Bad Blintz, Überwald, seen in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Other Discworld characters with a notable similarity to Nobby include a member of the guard in the Überwald town of Bonk, who was nicknamed "Nobbski" by Vimes, and one of the market guards in Al Khali, Klatch. Like the various Dibblers, this may be due to morphic resonance.

According to the Pratchett Portfolio, his typical sayings is: "'tis a lie sir, i never done it" (like all other 'typical sayings' in the Portfolio [except that of the Death of Rats] he has not actually been recorded saying it).


Iona and Peter Opie's Lore and Language of Schoolchildren notes that Nobby is a slang term for a policeman. So Nobby Nobbs is a policeman's policeman. Knob is also slang for a penis or "dickhead" so Nobby Nobbs is a 'real dickhead'.

The reason his first name is Cecil may be due to Terry Pratchett being a fan of the US Cecil Adams' series called Straight Dope. Alternatively, Cecil Sharp was an avid collector of English Folk song and dances. He was the founder of the English Folk Dance Society, now known as the English Folk Dance and Song Society.[1]

Other media[]

Nobby made a brief appearance in the Cosgrove Hall adaptation of Soul Music. In the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Guards! Guards! he was voiced by Melvyn Hayes. In the 1988 stage play he was played by David Brett, formerly of the Flying Pickets.

Nobby has also appeared in two computer adventure games, Discworld (The Trouble With Dragons) (where he was voiced by Tony Robinson) and Discworld Noir (where he was voiced by Rob Brydon). In both cases Nobby had a distinct Irish accent.

In the 2006 TV adaptation of Hogfather he was played by Nicholas Tennant who went on to play Horace Worblehat/The Librarian in the TV adaptation of The Colour of Magic.

See also[]

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