Samuel Vimes

Characters from
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series
Enlarge picture
Sam Vimes as envisioned by Paul Kidby
Character details
Full name:Samuel Vimes
Description:Mid-forties or possibly early fifties (due to the history monks). Human with strong character.
Associations:Ankh-Morpork City Watch
Location:Ankh-Morpork
Story appearances
First seen:Guards! Guards!
Also in:Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
Jingo
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth
The Last Hero
Night Watch
Monstrous Regiment
Going Postal
Thud!
Where's My Cow?
Other details
Notes:The Assassins' Guild is no longer accepting contracts on his life.
Samuel "Sam" Vimes is a fictional policeman from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. His full name and title is His Grace, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. Other titles include His Excellency, Ambassador for Ankh-Morpork, as well as Blackboard Monitor Vimes.[1] He first appeared in the novel Guards! Guards!. While no detailed description of his physical appearance shows up in any of the Discworld novels, Pratchett says in the companion work, The Art of Discworld, that he has always imagined Vimes as British actor Pete Postlethwaite.

Vimes is the Commander of the City Watch, the burgeoning police force of the Discworld's largest city, Ankh-Morpork. His rise from alcoholic policeman to respected member of the aristocracy, and the growth and development of the Watch under his command, have together been one of the major threads of the Discworld series. Born into poverty, he is now a highly reluctant member of the nobility; both a knight and a duke, and married to Sybil Ramkin, the richest heiress in the city.

Background

Sam Vimes was born in Cockbill Street as the son of Thomas[2] Vimes, whose father was Gwilliam[3] Vimes in the Rimwards part of the Shades, the poorest area of Ankh-Morpork. It was so poor that there was little crime, though Sam was part of a street gang (The Cockbill Street Roaring Lads) with Lupine Wonse (who later became secretary to Lord Vetinari).

Vimes was educated at a dame school, where he was once blackboard monitor for a whole term.

His mother told the young Sam that Thomas was run down by a cart, but this is untrue.[4] Whatever happened to him, she raised the young Sam on her own.

The City Watch apparently runs in the Vimes family.[2] It has been suggested that Sam's father was a watchman, and he is a descendant of Suffer-Not-Injustice "Old Stoneface" Vimes, the Watch Commander who instigated the rebellion against, and subsequently beheaded, Lorenzo the Kind, the last king of the city, a sadistic torturer described as very fond of children. For centuries after, the memory of Suffer-Not-Injustice has lived on in infamy and, as his descendant, Vimes has frequently endured suspicious mutterings from the aristocracy. Vimes and his famous ancestor share a nickname: Old Stoneface. Vimes is also implied to heavily resemble his ancestor.[5] The Annotated Pratchett File notes that Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes is closely modelled on Oliver Cromwell, and that the name of his supporters, the Ironheads, is a portmanteau of Roundheads and Ironsides, Cromwell's faction and regiment, respectively.[6]

Vimes was in his late teens when he joined the Watch.[4] He was part of that section of the Watch which played a large role in the rebellion against Homicidal Lord Winder. It was around this time he was taught all he knew by Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel, which is where his cynical outlook on life and his firm belief in justice comes from.[4] However, in current history, Keel was in fact Vimes himself transported back in time thirty years. As Lu-Tze explains to Vimes in Night Watch, both pasts are true and there was a real John Keel. However, when Vimes was transported back in time, a criminal named Carcer, whom he was trying to apprehend came with him; this criminal robbed and killed the real John Keel, and Vimes replaced him.

It is difficult to determine Vimes' age at any point in time due to the inconsistency of figures given in the books. However, some facts are known. As noted above, Vimes was in his late teens or early twenties when he joined the Watch. At the time of Guards! Guards! he had been a captain in the Watch for ten years. Presumably he spent years in lower ranks. He is supposedly about 55 years old in Thud!, and his son Sam Jr. is just over a year old. This would put his age in Night Watch as 54 or 53, and his younger self in Night Watch at about 23. It is also known that several years pass over the course of the City Watch books, but it is not certain how many.

The Watch

During the first 25 years of his term in the Watch, Vimes rose to Captain of the Night Watch as it dwindled to a tiny stub – while the power of the Thieves' Guild grew. This insult to Vimes' sense of justice, together with his being naturally knurd and other events (it has been claimed he was "brung low by a woman") led to heavy drinking.

All that changed when Carrot Ironfoundersson came to the city. This man joined the Watch and set out to help the city. Around the same time a dragon assaulted the city and the Watch was instrumental in its defeat. The Watch was given a new headquarters, Pseudopolis Yard (a pun on the name of the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police: Scotland Yard) by Lady Sybil Ramkin (Vimes's soon-to-be wife) after the dragon destroyed their original base at Treacle Mine Road. It had been her childhood home and in Thud! it is revealed that some of her family's possessions are still stored in the attic of the building; in this instance they retrieved a copy of Methodia Rascal's Koom Valley painting, made by Sybil as a child, after the original is stolen.

Eventually, the Night Watch under Vimes took on extra staff in the form of a werewolf, a dwarf and a troll (and later on, a zombie, a gargoyle, a gnome, a golem, and a vampire). They were instrumental in foiling an attempt on the Patrician's life, and were rewarded. The Watch was rapidly revived and became increasingly important in the city.

Vimes, who was about to retire following his marriage to Lady Sybil, was given the resurrected rank of Commander, putting him in charge of the Night Watch and the Day Watch. He also received a knighthood.

Vimes took a great interest in the restructuring of the Watch, placing new Watch Houses where they were needed and supervising the creation of both a Watch Academy and a forensics section. His reform of the City Watch has been so successful that by Night Watch, Vimes-trained policemen are in high demand in cities across the Disc. They are known as 'Sammies' (which is probably based on the British term "Bobbies", meaning police officers, after Robert Peel), even to people who have never even heard of Samuel Vimes. In his expanding international and diplomatic role, Vimes appreciates the fact that police officers from Sto Lat to Genua have been trained to salute him, and remain in unofficial contact across the Disc.

Character

Vimes is a very conflicted character.[4] An incorruptible idealist with deep beliefs in justice and an abiding love of his city, he is also a committed cynic whose knowledge of human nature constantly reminds him how far off those ideals are.[4] A member of the upper classes, he still has an innate dislike of hereditary wealth and a horror of social inequality. The Patrician observes that Vimes is anti-authoritarian even though he is an authority figure, which is "practically Zen".[7] A self-described speciesist, Vimes has nonetheless allowed the Watch to become one of the most species-blind employers in the city, and recognises better than most the value of its non-human members, such as dwarfs, trolls, and even vampires, for which he still admits an innate dislike. As he explained to Lady Margolotta in The Fifth Elephant, this is due to the fact that, teetotal or not, a vampire will always seek to dominate a human being.[8] He has said he didn't like humans either, so he isn't actually speciesist. The conflict within Vimes is between his virtuous nature ("the Watchman") and what he calls "the Beast". In The Art of Discworld, Pratchett explains that Vimes protects himself from the Beast with the symbol of his own badge, which prevents him from becoming the criminal he despises, at least in his own mind.[8]

Despite being viewed by many of the Discworld's more Machiavellian power brokers as easy to fool, Vimes is in fact much more cunning than he appears. His years of practical experience give him a foundation of hard-headed realism on which he bases much of his more idealistic beliefs. A running gag in the series is his thwarting of several attempts on his life by the Assassins' Guild, due to his knowledge of their rigid code of conduct. Thanks to the funds now available to him, he has rigged his wife's mansion with numerous traps, so that the Assassins, who must always offer a sporting chance, cannot get close to him without suffering a severe mishap. In every book in the series, the fee for his assassination has risen until he has been removed from the Guild register, meaning that contracts on his life are no longer accepted.[9] Vimes is considering appealing the decision.[10] Vimes has also beaten off and "killed" part of a pack of werewolves in "the game"; a chase back to civilization that humans did not often win during a period when it was organised by Angua's brother Wolfgang.

He can tell exactly where he is anywhere in Ankh-Morpork just by the feel of the cobbles beneath his feet, although the expensive, good quality boots his wife persists in buying for him restrict this ability.

Vimes' firm grasp of basic human nature, and of the Ankh-Morpork psyche in particular, led to him spending some years as a drunk, and the Watch believe that this was because his body didn't produce any "natural" alcohol. They estimated that Vimes was about two drinks below par.[11] This meant that when he hadn't been drinking, he was beyond sober - he was knurd. Thus he saw reality as it really was, stripped of the mental illusions that most people construct in their minds to get to sleep at night. This horrifying state of mind caused Vimes to try to balance it out through drinking, but he would get the dosage wrong and end up drunk. Vimes gave up alcohol after his marriage to Sybil, and now smokes foul-smelling cigars instead. However he still keeps a bottle of 'Bearhugger's Whisky' in his bottom desk drawer as a 'permanent test'.

Terry Pratchett noted the following about Vimes on the Usenet: "Vimes is fundamentally a person. He fears he may be a bad person because he knows what he thinks rather than just what he says and does. He chokes off those little reactions and impulses, but he knows what they are. So he tries to act like a good person, often in situations where the map is unclear."[1] This, along with the Discworld habit of pushing any theory as hard as it goes, appears to have culminated in Vimes' psyche creating its own "internal policeman" to "Guard the Guardsmen" (cf. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?), and Vimes' own sense of justice being so strong that it was even able to fend off an attack by a spirit of pure vengeance.[12]

It has been noted that, in personality and mental setup, Vimes bears some similarity to Granny Weatherwax. Both are effectively 'good' characters who nevertheless secretly fear the darkness inside them, and constantly strive to control the darker side of their nature.

Lady Sybil

Sam married Lady Sybil Ramkin at the end of Men at Arms; however, the pattern of his married life was set the moment he turned away from his wedding to chase an assassin that had just made an attempt on the Patrician's life. Lady Sybil is a remarkably patient woman; she spent nearly the entirety of The Fifth Elephant attempting to inform her increasingly distracted husband that she was pregnant with their child. It is clear that Vimes loves his wife dearly; indeed, when he was trapped in the past during the events of Night Watch, alone in a world he no longer recognised, the History Monks gave him a silver cigar case his wife had bought him to inspire him to continue with his mission. It is not entirely clear whether his hatred of crime and the evil of humanity is greater than his love for his wife. Sybil bears this divided loyalty with some grace; however, nearly every Watch novel concludes with Sam making some form of amends to his neglected wife, either a delayed honeymoon, or simply time alone with their new baby.

Vimes as Duke of Ankh

Vimes' involvement in preventing a pointless war with Klatch in the novel Jingo led to his being once more rewarded with an unwanted title, in this case, Duke of Ankh. He now finds himself in the awkward position of continuing to despise the ruling classes of the city, while actually being a member of them.

In the course of his mission to Ãœberwald as ambassador, he was disgusted to learn that he was also entitled to be addressed as "His Excellency".

His role as Duke of Ankh largely involves diplomacy (his visit to Ãœberwald in The Fifth Elephant for example), in fact, his rough and ready upbringing has given him some unexpected advantages in this field. He occasionally finds the opportunity to do some police work. Despite having competent subordinates, including Captain Carrot and Sergeants Angua and Detritus, Vimes finds it difficult to delegate, and is frustrated by the fact that the growth of the Watch has left him with less and less time for actual policing. In some ways he found it a relief when, in Night Watch, he was transported back to the Ankh-Morpork of his youth, and became a sergeant-at-arms in the inefficient, paperwork-free and moderately corrupt Watch of that time.[13]

Young Sam

Young Sam is Vimes' son and about fourteen months old by the time of Thud!. His birth was difficult, and Vimes paid Doctor "Mossy" Lawn a large sum of money in gratitude for saving Sybil's and the baby's lives. Lawn has since founded the Lady Sybil Free Hospital.

Since his son's birth, Vimes has discovered a new cause in life: arriving at home every day at six o' clock sharp to read Where's My Cow? to him, an obligation that supersedes crime, conspiracy or international negotiations — his thinking being that if he ever missed it for a good reason, he might miss it for a bad reason, and that this might apply to everything he does, such as employing less-than-ethical methods in the pursuit of crime.[8]

Recent developments

Vimes is, much to his own horror, becoming a politician. However, he remains a copper in his soul. Being a significant figure on the world stage just means he finds bigger crimes.

Recently, Vimes has seen involvement with: Terry Pratchett has commented that Vimes has made setting a story in Ankh-Morpork very difficult as it is almost impossible to create a story involving any sort of crime or politics without it rapidly becoming a Watch book.

Vimes' Boots

Vimes reflects that he can only afford cheap boots with thin soles which cost ten dollars and wear out rather quickly. A pair of good boots, which cost fifty dollars, last for years. This thought leads to the general realization that one of the reasons rich people don't have to spend as much money as poor people in many situations is that they buy high-quality items (such as clothing, housing, and other necessities) which are made to last and, in the long run, actually use much less of their disposable income. He describes this as The Samuel Vimes 'Boots' Theory Of Socio-Economic Injustice.

This phrase has led to the use of the phrase "Vimes' Boots," or the description of a set of circumstances as a "Vimes' Boots situation." The phrase has widespread applicability. For instance, people who eat healthy food and get good regular medical care are generally healthier than people who do not. Although in the short run it costs more to provide medical checkups, wellness programs, and so forth, in the long run, those rich enough to afford them will not only spend less overall on medical care, they will have a higher quality of life. Thus those who cannot afford regular health care are said to be in a Vimes' Boots situation.

The irony of the situation, coupled with the character's own distaste for the wealthy and general cynicism, make the phrase a particularly effective and vivid evocation of the concept for those familiar with the Discworld novels, hence its becoming part of the vernacular in that subculture.

Bibliography

Sam Vimes is the central character in Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch and Thud!. He is a secondary character in The Truth and Monstrous Regiment and has cameos in The Last Hero and Going Postal. He has also appeared in the City Watch Diary and the picture book Where's My Cow?.

Other media

Guards! Guards! was adapted for BBC Radio 5 in 1992 and starred John Wood as Vimes.

While there have been a number of amateur stage productions of the books, a professional adaptation of Guards! Guards! went on tour in 1998. Vimes was played by Paul Darrow, best known for his role in Blake's 7.

Vimes also appeared in the game Discworld Noir.

References

1. ^ The Fifth Elephant, ISBN 0-552-14616-1
2. ^ Feet of Clay, page 36, ISBN 0-575-05900-1
3. ^ Feet of Clay, page 36, ISBN 0-575-05900-1
4. ^ Night Watch, page 150, ISBN 0-385-60264-2
5. ^ Feet of Clay, page 37, ISBN 0-575-05900-1
6. ^ The Annotated Pratchett File: Feet of Clay. l-space.org. Retrieved on 2007-07-07.
7. ^ Feet of Clay, page 275, ISBN 0-575-05900-1
8. ^ Feet of Clay actions of The Dragon King of Arms
9. ^ Night Watch, page 8, ISBN 0-385-60264-2
10. ^ Night Watch, page 10, ISBN 0-385-60264-2
11. ^ Men at Arms, page 215, ISBN 0-552-14028-7
12. ^ Thud!, page 328, ISBN 0-385-608675
13. ^ Night Watch, page 104, ISBN 0-385-60264-2
14. ^ Thud!

See also

  • Ankh-Morpork City Watch members

External links

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett
Born: 28 March 1948 (1948--) (age 59)
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England[1]
Occupation: Novelist
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Discworld is a comedic fantasy book series by the British author Terry Pratchett set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin.
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Ankh-Morpork City Watch (originally the Night Watch, commonly referred to as "the Watch") is a fictional police force within the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. The watch is based in the city-state of Ankh-Morpork on the Discworld.
..... Click the link for more information.
Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state which prominently features in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels. As cities go, it is on the far side of corrupt and polluted, and is subject to outbreaks of comedic violence and brou-ha-ha on a fairly regular basis.
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Guards! Guards! is the 8th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, first published in 1989. It is the first novel about the City Watch. The first Discworld computer game borrowed heavily from Guards! Guards! in terms of plot.
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Men at Arms is the 15th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett first published in 1993. It is the second novel about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

Plot

Edward d'Eath, scion of a down-and-out noble family, is determined to track down the lost heir to
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Feet of Clay is the nineteenth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, and a parody of detective novels. It was published in 1996. The story follows the members of The Watch, as they attempt to solve murders apparently committed by a golem, as well as the unusual
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Jingo is the twenty-first novel by Terry Pratchett, one of his Discworld series. It was published in 1997.

Plot

The book deals with a war between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch over the island of Leshp, which unexpectedly rises from the sea after centuries of
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The Fifth Elephant is the 24th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. It introduces the clacks, a long-distance semaphore system.

Plot summary

Samuel Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and Duke of Ankh, thought that things were bad enough when he
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The Truth is the twenty-fifth Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, published in 2000.

Plot summary

The book features the coming of movable type to Ankh-Morpork, and the founding of the Discworld's first newspaper by William de Worde, as he invents
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The Last Hero is a short novel, the twenty-seventh of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. It was published in 2001 in a larger format than the other Discworld novels and illustrated on every page by Paul Kidby.
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Night Watch is the 29th novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, published in 2002. The protagonist of the novel is Sir Samuel Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.
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Monstrous Regiment is the 31st novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. It takes its name from the anti-Catholic 16th century tract by John Knox, the full title of which is The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.
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Going Postal is Terry Pratchett's 33rd Discworld novel, released in the United Kingdom on September 25, 2004. Unusually for a Discworld novel (other than the children's books and the Science of Discworlds) Going Postal
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Thud! is Terry Pratchett's 34th Discworld novel, released in the United States of America on September 13 2005, the United Kingdom on October 1 2005, and may have been released before that date in
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Where's My Cow? is a picture book written by Terry Pratchett and illustrated by Melvyn Grant. It is based on a book that features in Pratchett's Discworld novel Thud!, in which Samuel Vimes reads it to his son.
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The Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild is a fictional school for professional killers in Terry Pratchett's longrunning Discworld series of fantasy novels. It is located in Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on the Discworld, and is widely considered by the elite to be the best
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Fiction is the telling of stories which are not entirely based upon facts. More specifically, fiction is an imaginative form of narrative, one of the four basic rhetorical modes.
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A police officer (or policeman/policewoman) is a warranted worker of a police force. The responsibilities of a police officer are to maintain public order, prevent and detect crime and apprehend offenders, using force when necessary.
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Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett
Born: 28 March 1948 (1948--) (age 59)
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England[1]
Occupation: Novelist
..... Click the link for more information.
Discworld is a comedic fantasy book series by the British author Terry Pratchett set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin.
..... Click the link for more information.
Guards! Guards! is the 8th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, first published in 1989. It is the first novel about the City Watch. The first Discworld computer game borrowed heavily from Guards! Guards! in terms of plot.
..... Click the link for more information.
The Art of Discworld is a descriptive book of the world of the Discworld as portrayed in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. It showcases the art of Paul Kidby with descriptions of characters and locations by Pratchett and some details of the development of
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Pete Postlethwaite

Birth name Peter William Postlethwaite
Born January 7 1945 (1945--) (age 62)
Warrington, Cheshire, England

Awards

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Ankh-Morpork City Watch (originally the Night Watch, commonly referred to as "the Watch") is a fictional police force within the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. The watch is based in the city-state of Ankh-Morpork on the Discworld.
..... Click the link for more information.
The Discworld is the fictional setting for all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasy novels. It consists of a slightly convex disc (complete with edge-of-the-world drop-off and consequent waterfall) resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on
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Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state which prominently features in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels. As cities go, it is on the far side of corrupt and polluted, and is subject to outbreaks of comedic violence and brou-ha-ha on a fairly regular basis.
..... Click the link for more information.
Discworld is a comedic fantasy book series by the British author Terry Pratchett set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin.
..... Click the link for more information.
Knight is the English term for a social position originating in the Middle Ages. In the Commonwealth of Nations, knighthood is a non-heritable form of gentility, but is not nobility.
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