The Patrician Puzzle


Ever since the beginning of the Discworld series, Terry Pratchett has been consistent in saying that the city of Ankh-Morpork is led by a Patrician, an autocrat who lacks the trappings of royalty. The plot of The Truth suggests that there’s also a way for the nobles and civic leaders of the city to vote him out. In most of the books, the Patrician is Lord Havelock Vetinari, his last name a play on the Italian Medici family. While hardly a nice guy, he’s incredibly good at his job, and concerned above all else with making sure the city works. He does have a particular hatred for mimes, but really, who can blame him? Even his enemies are reluctant to get rid of him, fearing that his successor could be worse. There are occasional plots against him, most of which he’s able to figure out pretty much immediately, although he leaves the thwarting to others. The question is whether the Patrician has been the same throughout the series. In The Colour of Magic, we’re introduced to the city’s ruler as a fat, decadent man who eats candied jellyfish. Certainly not much like the thin, austere Vetinari, although he does have some of the same character traits.

Equal Rites mentions that the Patrician legalized the Thieves’ Guild, something that was later attributed to Vetinari. And Mort mentions the Patrician’s tenth anniversary party, but doesn’t say the man’s name. It’s Sourcery that officially introduces Vetinari, and while he’s not a particularly major character in the book (in fact, he spends most of it as a lizard), it does establish his appearance and demeanor, as well as the fact that he has a dog named Wuffles. So when did Vetinari take office, and who’s the Patrician in the first book? Well, Pratchett has said that he considers the Patrician to have been the same the whole way through. After all, a lot of characters changed significantly over the course of the series. In the Sky One film version of Colour of Magic, the Patrician is definitely Vetinari, played by Jeremy Irons with a speech impediment for some reason.

Maybe the impediment explains why his dog’s name is Wuffles, though. The thing is, in Night Watch, Commander Vimes goes back in time about thirty years to when Vetinari’s predecessor Lord Snapcase took office, and the little we see of Snapcase fits pretty well with the Colour of Magic Patrician. We don’t know how long Snapcase held the position, however, so the thirty-year figure doesn’t really help us too much. That’s not even getting into how, as per Thief of Time, Discworld time isn’t always equally distributed.

This entry was posted in Authors, Discworld, Terry Pratchett and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s