Don’t Let Me Detain You : My brief opinions on The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork

 Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is quite possibly my favorite series of books. Pratchett’s satirical style is superbly draped across the backdrop of an anything-but-ordinary fantasy world. One of the more refreshing things about this as opposed to other long running series is, in my opinion, the ability for a new reader to be able to pick any of the books practically at random and not feel like he had missed anything to the point of being lost; the books are so much more connected by characters and setting than they are by a timeline of events, and though there is a bit of developed background to some stories the author does a wonderful job of  filling in the need-to-know in a quick, entertaining and plausible way.

Recently, I opted to post a quote from one of the earlier books on this blog in the interest of trying something new. The character whose line it is, the ruler of the City of Ankh-Morpork, quickly became one of my favorites in the series. I would sincerely doubt that one might find in fiction or reality a politician so honest and pragmatic as Havelock Vetinari, from. His approach to matters of state are humorous largely because how elegantly simple his solutions are.His rule embodies  many of the principles of  “benevolent dictatorship” but, he is not the lest bit squeamish about making hard examples in cases where it is required.When faced with the ordinary problem of what to about rampant crime, he put the criminals in charge of policing themselves; once the cities criminal leaders got everything nice and organized he let them know, politely and in no uncertain terms, that he was well acquainted with all of their personal affairs. This unique arrangement (which you will have to read the books to fully appreciate) is a cornerstone in the foundation of life in the fair city which he oversees.

"If it ain't broke, Don't Fix it.

“If it ain’t broke, Don’t Fix it.

Despite an obviously, deserved reputation for being a ruthless, manipulative, and intimidating tyrant Vetinari truly cares about the city and it’s citizens. What he knows about his people is, that regardless of what they might cry out for (equality, justice etc.) what most of them really crave is to feel safe in the knowledge that tomorrow is going to be the same as yesterday. This is a lesson he may have learned while studying his own family coat of arms.

He is greatly aware of the psychological  gears and levers that drive human nature and makes great use of the carrot-and-stick method of leadership. His rule is also largely effective due to a policy of thinly veiled threats to motivate civic leaders to sort out their own problems. When that fails he does have his methods, a favorite of mine is forbidding the city watch to get involved in the matter.

Lord Vetinari is a character that is able to find the order in an apparently mad world. His style of governance is applaudable in his policies of just letting people get on with their lives and only intervening when they insist on things being done the hard way; or as Pratchett writes in his novel Sourcery:

“He didn’t administer a reign of terror, just the occasional light shower.”

Havelock Vetinari, Sourcery, The Discworld, and all other things related to it mentioned in this article are copyrights of Terry Pratchett (And you should rush out immediately and read as much of it as possible)
Vetanari Family Crest By MichałRadecki (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I was unable to find a suitable image of Lord Vetinari that I could be certain was legal to use so here is a link to his Wikipedia Page which includes an image by Paul Kidby

4 thoughts on “Don’t Let Me Detain You : My brief opinions on The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork

  1. “I would sincerely doubt that one might find in fiction or reality a politician so honest and pragmatic as Havelock Vetinari”

    I suspect Vetinari might have been loosely based on Machiavelli, from the little I’ve read about the latter. I don’t think Vetinari would have been quite as successful without Sam Vimes (my all-time favourite character), who serves almost as a counter-balance. I think Vetinari knows this, which is why he keeps Sam around in spite of the copper’s constant defiance.

    • I agree, there is definitely a Machiavelli influence to the character of The Patrician.

      I too am a huge fan of Sam Vimes, though he and Granny Weatherwax are tied for favorites; which is a hard call as Pratchett has so many rich characters to choose from. Vimes and Vetinari do make excellent foils for one another, though it is hard to speculate whether the Patrician has a “back-up plan” should something happen to Commander Vimes.

      • Vimes and Granny Weatherwax are very similar. They’re both characters who know they have the potential for great evil, which is why they rule themselves so rigidly. They’re probably the two most realistic good guys ever written, as they’re not really good, just trying very hard not to be bad.

        Vetinari’s backup plan for Vimes? Definitely not Carrot. Maybe Moist von Lupwig, but his gift is exploiting chaos, not creating order.

  2. Yeah, Vimes and Weatherwax are definitely cut from the same cloth in a few ways. I think it is their internal struggles that make them my favorites, it makes them very believable as characters too.

    I don’t think there is a character in the rota that would make a suitable replacement for Vimes in a “what if scenario” in my opinion. Though I have a great fondness for Moist, he is very good at embracing what makes him a flawed person and using it to his advantage, rather than avoiding it.

    I haven’t had a chance to read Raising Steam yet I am looking forward to it.

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