Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state that is the setting for many Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.

'Discworld' location
Ankh-Morpork City Arms
Created byTerry Pratchett
GenreComic fantasy
In-universe information

Overview edit

Pratchett describes Ankh-Morpork as the biggest city in Discworld and its corrupt mercantile capital.

Tallinn, one of the real-life inspirations for Ankh-Morpork

In The Art of Discworld, Pratchett explained that the city is similar to Tallinn and central Prague, but adds that it has elements of 18th-century London, 19th-century Seattle and modern-day New York City. He also said that since the creation of The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, he has tried to ensure that the descriptions of character movements and locations in the books matched the Ankh-Morpork map; this allowed him, and fans of the series, to visualise the story more clearly.

Geography edit

The name "Ankh-Morpork" refers to both the city itself, a walled city about 5 miles (8 km) across, and the surrounding suburbs and farms of its fiefdom. The city itself lies on the River Ankh, the most polluted waterway on the Discworld, which divides it into the more affluent Ankh and the poorer Morpork (including the slum-like "Shades"). Lying approximately equidistant from the cold, mountainous Hub and tropical Rim, Ankh-Morpork is in the Discworld's equivalent of the temperate zone.

Ankh-Morpork is built on black loam, broadly, but it is mostly built on itself; pragmatic citizens simply built on top of the existing buildings rather than excavate them out as the river flooded and the sediment grew too high. There are many unknown basements, including an entire "cave network" below Ankh-Morpork made up of old streets and abandoned sewers.[1]

Politics edit

Leadership edit

The succession of the Patrician normally occurs by either assassination or revolution. Patricians have been known to resign, but this is very much the exception. Power is, to some degree, shared with the many Guilds and the surviving nobility. They form a sort of advisory city council, with a system of one man, one vote – the Patrician being the "one man" in question. According to The Truth, as per the city charter, a new Patrician must be elected with the unanimous approval of all Guilds.

Institutions edit

The primary engines of Ankh-Morpork's economy are the Guilds. There are hundreds of Guilds, for every conceivable profession, from clowns to butchers, and each has its own strictly maintained laws and trading practices. Many Guilds have assumed roles which in real-world cities would be assumed by government agencies, such as the Guild of Historians, comparable to English Heritage.

City Watch edit

The City Watch is one of the great success stories. It originally consisted of the Day Watch, popinjays headed by Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke (rich, thick, oily, and smelling slightly of eggs) and the Night Watch, three unemployable men: then-Captain Vimes, a drunk, Sergeant Colon, whose idea of major crime would be the theft of a bridge and Corporal Nobbs, who has a certificate to prove that he is probably human. The addition of Lance-Constable Carrot was the catalyst for their reform in Guards! Guards!. The Watch grew under the leadership of Commander Samuel Vimes to become the most modern police force on the Disc.

Assassins' Guild edit

Master Assassin Lord Downey, drawn by Paul Kidby

The Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild was widely considered by the elite to be the best option anywhere for a well-rounded education. Lord Vetinari received an Assassins' Guild education in his youth.

The Guild of Assassins is located in a light, airy series of buildings next to the Guild of Fools and Joculators, which, being a far more sinister building, is often mistaken for the Assassins'. The Guild was headed by Lord Downey.

History edit

The Assassins' Guild was founded on 27 August AM1512 by Sir Gyles de Munforte as the de Munforte School for Gentlemen Assassins. Sir Gyles was a warrior knight who, during his crusades in Klatch, was intrigued by the Klatchian tradition of professional gentleman assassins, and decided to set up a similar organisation at home, only without the drugs. In AM1576, it became a Guild and changed its name to the Royal Guild of Assassins. The "Royal" was dropped after the "events" of AM1688 (i.e. the Ankh-Morpork Civil War, in which the monarchy was overthrown).

For most of its history, the Assassins Guild School was a male-only establishment (although talented, self-taught women might become members of the Guild itself); however it became co-educational.

It is said to be the only school of assassination on the Discworld. However, assassination began in Klatch, and it is stated in Interesting Times that there is a small, very select Guild in Hunghung, in the Agatean Empire.

The unwillingness of the Assassins' Guild to accept contracts that might undermine the city led it to suspend contracts on both the Patrician and the Commander of the City Watch. This led to the rise of unlicensed assassins such as the banshee Mr Gryle in Going Postal and Mr Pin and Mr Tulip of the New Firm in The Truth.

Currency edit

The AM$ (Ankh-Morpork dollar) is equal to 100 pennies (pence). The AM$ is reputedly the hardest currency outside of the Agatean Empire. A dollar coin is the size of a Venetian sequin, and although theoretically made of gold the metal has been adulterated so many times that, according to The Discworld Companion:

There is more gold in an equivalent weight of seawater. In a sense, then, Ankh-Morpork is on the gold standard in all respects except the one of actually having any gold to speak of.[2]

In Making Money, Moist von Lipwig, as deputy chairman of the Royal Mint of Ankh-Morpork (acting under authority of the actual chairman, a small dog named Mr. Fusspot), sought to take Ankh-Morpork off of the gold standard and make the Ankh-Morpork dollar a fiat currency backed by the economy of the city. And, inspired by the Ankh-Morpork citizens using stamps as currency, he introduced banknotes for multi-dollar denominations. Making Money "has often been highlighted as an example of Pratchett’s perspicacity, thanks to its superb depictions of the precarious unreality of banking systems."[3]

Real-world connections edit

The town sign of Wincanton

Ankh-Morpork was twinned with the town of Wincanton in Somerset, in the south-west United Kingdom on the spherical planet Earth (known in the Discworld books as Roundworld) on 7 December 2002.[4] The town is home to a shop called "The Discworld Emporium",[5] which also doubles as an "Ankh-Morpork Consulate" according to the shop sign. However, due to legal reasons, the twinning was not officially displayed on the road sign. Fans, however, added stick-on notices to some of the signs.[6] In 2009, this was changed, and a new town sign prominently declaring the twinning with Ankh-Morpork and other Roundworld places was erected. Several streets in a new housing development in Wincanton have been named after Ankh-Morpork Streets, including Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road.[7]

The word "Morpork" is from a type of New Zealand owl called the morepork, which is depicted holding the ankh on the coat of arms.[citation needed]

"Discworld: Ankh-Morpork" was published as a board game in 2011.

Fiction connections edit

Many details of Ankh-Morpork appear to have been inspired by Fritz Leiber's fictional city Lankhmar (although Pratchett has said "I didn't – at least consciously, I suppose I must say – create Ankh-Morpork as a takeoff of Lankhmar");[8] John D. Rateliff notes that Leiber's characters "the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd guest-star in the very first Discworld story, The Colour of Magic, under the pseudonyms of The Weasel and Bravd".[9]

Notes edit

  1. ^ Terry Pratchett (2008). The Truth: (Discworld Novel 25). Random House. p. 104. ISBN 978-1407035246. 978140703524
  2. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1997). The Discworld Companion. Great Britain: Vista. pp. 105–6. ISBN 0-575-60030-6.
  3. ^ Sam Jordison (7 Oct 2023). "Pratchett power: from lost stories to new adaptations, how the late Discworld author lives on: It's 40 years since The Colour of Magic hit the shelves. As newly unearthed short stories are published, fans and friends celebrate the late author's enduring legacy". The Guardian.
  4. ^ "Pratchett city twins with real town". 2002-12-06. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  5. ^ "Official Discworld Merchandise - Discworld Emporium". Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  6. ^ "Row over fictional twin town". BBC News. 19 June 2003. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Roads named after Discworld books". BBC News. 5 April 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  8. ^ "The Annotated Pratchett File v9.0 - The Colour of Magic". Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  9. ^ "Classics of Fantasy: Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser Series". 2005-03-01. Archived from the original on 2005-03-01. Retrieved 2021-07-26.

References edit

External links edit