Book:Guards! Guards!

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Guards! Guards!
Illustrator(s) Josh Kirby
Publisher Victor Gollancz
Publication date August 1989
ISBN 0575046066
Pages 352
Main characters Carrot Ironfoundersson, Samuel Vimes, Fred Colon, Nobby, Havelock Vetinari, The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night
Series Watch Series
Annotations View
Notes Book #08
All data relates to the first UK edition.


This is where the dragons went.

They lie ... not dead, not asleep, but ... dormant. And although the space they occupy isn't like normal space, nevertheless they are packed in tightly. They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly. And presumably, somewhere, there's a key ...

Guards! Guards! is the eighth Discworld novel – and after this, dragons will never be the same again!


The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night is a secret society who plot to take over Ankh-Morpork. They steal a magic book called The Summoning of Dragons from the Unseen University and use it to summon a noble dragon. Once the dragon has caused sufficient destruction and panic, their Supreme Grand Master will put forward a "hero" who will heroically slay the dragon and became the city's king, to act as a puppet ruler for the Elucidated Brethren.

The City Watch of Ankh-Morpork has fallen on hard times. This is due to Lord Vetinari's policy of making law enforcement the responsibility of the guilds. Even crime has become 'self-regulated' by the Thieves' Guild, who carry out a regulated number of robberies and discipline those who do it illegally. The Night Watch contains just three members - Captain Sam Vimes, a cynic with a drinking problem, the overweight and lazy Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs, a petty thief. A fourth member Herbert Gaskin has just been killed on duty. They do little at night other than wander the city ringing their bells and half-heartedly chasing criminals.

This changes when they are joined by Carrot Ironfoundersson, a powerfully-built young man who was raised by dwarfs. In contrast to the existing policemen, Carrot is idealistic, honest and literal-minded; he has read The Laws and Ordinances of the Cities Ankh and Morpork and is determined to uphold them at all costs. On his first day at work, he tries to arrest Urdo van Pew, the head of the Thieves' Guild. Though he seems out of place in Ankh-Morpork, Carrot's methods actually seem to work. The Night Watch begin investigating the dragon's appearances. Vimes meets his future love interest Sybil Ramkin, a noblewoman and a breeder of swamp dragons. She gives him information on dragons and a young swamp dragon called Errol as a pet. When the Watch House is burned down by the noble dragon, Sybil also donates the Pseudopolis Yard buildings to be new headquarters. Errol takes interest in the noble dragon and begins to eat odd things that cause his ears to produce smoke.

The Elucidated Brethren execute their plan; their hero comes forward and 'banishes' the dragon. The people of the city rejoice, overthrow Vetinari and prepare to have the hero crowned as the king. But the dragon returns, kills the hero and most of the Brethren, and declares itself to be the king of Ankh-Morpork. Using Vetinari's secretary Lupine Wonse as its interpreter, the dragon demands gold and a monthly virgin sacrifice, with Sybil being chosen to be the first victim. Vimes enters the palace and confronts Wonse, who is revealed to be the Supreme Grand Master. Wonse has Vimes imprisoned in the dungeons with Vetinari. He is rescued by the Librarian and runs to Sybil's aid. Carrot, Colon and Nobbs try to shoot the dragon with a single 'lucky arrow' but miss. Errol then fights the dragon; it is revealed that his eating habits have allowed him to produce a backwards-launched jet engine flame. Errol flies into the sky at a supersonic speed, causing a sonic boom that knocks the king dragon out of the sky.

The city people move in to kill the king dragon, but Sybil pleads for it to be spared. Carrot tries to arrest the dragon, but Errol helps it escape. Sybil explains that the king dragon is actually female and the 'fight' with Errol was a courtship ritual. Vimes and the Watch return to the palace and together with Vetinari, they confront Wonse. Wonse tries to summon another dragon, but Carrot accidentally kills him; he is told by Vimes to "throw the book at him", so Carrot throws a copy of The Laws and Ordinances with such force that it knocks Wonse through a hole. Vetinari is reinstated as the leader of the city and offers the Night Watch a reward. They only demand a modest pay rise, a new kettle and a dartboard.


The cover, once again painted by Josh Kirby, features Carrot (with sword), Vimes (with bottle), Nobby (with small dragon) and Colon (with bow and arrow). They are all attempting to fight the Dragon.


Other Characters

Cameos and other Mentions


Sentient Species

Supernatural Entities

Things and Concepts


  • "the Public Order Act of 1457" - one of the frequent 57 references in TP's work


Radio Play

Adapted into a radio play in 1992 by BBC Radio 4. Adapted by Michael Butt, directed by John Taylor.


Guards! Guards! was adapted again in 2001 by the Atlanta Theatre Radio Company for an hour long live performance at Dragon*Con.


Adapted into a stage-play by Stephen Briggs in 1997.

Murder in Ankh-Morpork is an adaptation consisting mainly of the plot of Men at Arms combining additional plot elements from Guards! Guards! and Feet of Clay. Dramatised by Stephen Briggs 2020.

Graphic Novel

Adapted into a comic Guards! Guards! A Discworld Graphic Novel by Stephen Briggs and Graham Higgins, 2000.

Illustrated Edition

A new edition of the novel featuring illustrations by Paul Kidby.


First Edition Cover by Josh Kirby
Book Proof
'Letterbox' Hardback
Cover by Doug Anderson
Paperback 2004
Audio Cassette
Audio CD
Paperback ROC Publishing
US Cover
Paperback 2012
Unseen Library Edition
Collectors Library Edition
Cover by Richard Ogle 2019
Illustrated Edition 2020
Paperback 2023

External Links

Guards! Guards! Annotations - The Annotated Pratchett File

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