Guilds of Ankh-Morpork

Guilds of Ankh-Morpork
Cover art from Discworld Fools' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2001 featuring Dr Whiteface.

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels, there are almost 300 Guilds in the city of Ankh-Morpork. Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, The Thieves' Guild Diary and the Death's Domain map all quote Guild publications. Guilds known include:


Guild of Accountants and Usurers

(mentioned in Jingo)

    • Unsurprisingly, its stated taxable income is negligible. In fact, it has also applied for a rebate.
    • Headed by Mr. Frostrip in Jingo

Actors' Guild

(mentioned in The Truth)

    • Called the "Guild of Actors and Mummers" in The Wyrdest Link.

Archaeologists' Guild

(seen in 'Discworld Noir', a computer game based around a detective on the Discworld.)

Alchemists' Guild

    • Motto: OMNIS QVI CORVSCAT EST OR ("All That Glitters Is Gold")
    • Headed by Thomas Silverfish in Men at Arms and Moving Pictures
    • A group of thin, wide-eyed, socially inept dreamers who have never let reality get in the way of their ideals. Their Guildhouse constantly needs rebuilding, as it frequently explodes. Thought of by pretty much everyone as a bunch of lunatics, they are nonetheless the Discworld's closest analogue to actual scientists. While the vast majority of alchemists are mindless experimenters who spend too much time around boiling mercury and unusual breeds of fungus, some, such as Cheery Littlebottom, have a solid base in chemistry, and have parlayed their skill into other fields, such as forensics.
    • Although they have yet to locate the Elixir of Life or the Philosopher's Stone, they did come close to discovering TNT, and, thanks to outside influence, inadvertently created a film industry in Moving Pictures
    • It's said that there are two major types of alchemists, the athletic and the intellectual. A good alchemist of the first sort was someone who could leap over the bench and be on the far side of a safely thick wall in three seconds, and a good alchemist of the second sort was someone who knew exactly when to do this.

Guild of Architects

(mentioned in The Truth)

Guild of Armourers

    • Headed by Mr. Burleigh in Jingo

Guild of Artificers

(mentioned in The Last Hero and Thud!)

    • Headed by Mr Pony in Thud!
    • May be the same as the Guild of Cunning Artificers (q.v.)

Assassins' Guild

  • Motto: NIL MORTIFII SINE LVCRE ("No Killing Without Pay")
  • Headed by Lord Downey in Feet of Clay and subsequent books.
  • Guild Treasurer is Mr. Winvoe in Hogfather.
  • Headed by Dr. Cruces in Men at Arms
  • Headed by Zlorf Flannelfoot in The Colour of Magic
  • Headed by Dr. Follett during the reigns of Lord Winder and Lord Snapcase, as seen in Night Watch
  • Havelock Vetinari was a member during the time period covered in Night Watch.
  • The murders committed by the Assassins' Guild are not prosecuted by the police of the city.

The Assassins' Guild follows strict professional guidelines, with members behaving at all times in a gentlemanly manner. The guild is one of the richest in the city, and runs its own school, like the thieves. Unlike the thieves, however, the school is one of the most exclusive, and sons of the nobility - and now daughters - attend, though some are "excused stabbing". The school also educates scholarship boys - frequently from the Shades, and other poor areas of the city, these are the kind of people who are good at killing, Mr Teatime and Inigo Skinner being notable scholarship students in the guild school. To date, there are two people in Ankh-Morpork known to have had contracts refused on, and no longer be available for assassination - Lord Vetinari and Commander of the Watch, Samuel Vimes. These two people are both too difficult to assassinate, and too important to the stability of the city, to be assassinated, though for a long time the guild was employed to - and failed - to assassinate them both by various members of the nobility.

Bakers' Guild

(mentioned in Guards! Guards! and Feet of Clay)

Bandits' Guild

(mentioned in Lords and Ladies)

Guild of Barber-Surgeons

(mentioned in Lords and Ladies and "Medical Notes" in Once More* With Footnotes)

Beggars' Guild

    • Motto: MONETA SVPERVACANEA, MAGISTER -- ("Spare Change, Mister?")
    • Headed by Queen Molly in Men at Arms and subsequent books
    • Headed by unnamed man in Guards! Guards!
    • The oldest and the richest guild in the city.

The Ankh-Morpork Beggars' Guild is a guild for panhandlers, down-and-outs and borderline cases. It is the oldest, largest and (perhaps surprisingly) richest of the city's many guilds. Its name is something of a contradiction: a trading organisation for a group of people who, by definition, don't actually trade in anything, except perhaps in the feeling on the part of the donator that he or she has done a good deed, or, and this is far more frequent, the peace of mind of knowing that the beggar, now appeased, will not bother the donator any more. In this sense, the Beggars' Guild is something like the Thieves' Guild; far more of its income comes from not performing their stated trade than from performing it. If one has a social function to organise, a quick payment to the Beggars' Guild ensures that no malformed, malodorous, drooling, pustule-encrusted babblers will appear to ruin it. Indeed, not making such a donation is a surefire method of ensuring that just that sort will turn up.

The Beggars' Guild, like all the Ankh-Morpork guilds, has a very strict code of practice and enforced hierarchy. It enforces patrols and shifts among the beggars so that Beggary is properly distributed, presumably for maximum earnings. Anyone attempting to move above his position or perform his sanctioned role out of his assigned area or time period is harshly dealt with.

In The Discworld Companion, Pratchett claimed that Foul Ol Ron and his Canting Crew were listed as a special Guild classification all their own, having previously referred to Ron as "a Mutterer in good standing" in Men at Arms; however, in The Art of Discworld and later novels he claims that they are not members of the Guild, which has too many rules for their tastes. In The Truth, it is explained that the Guild have not run the unlicenced Crew out of town because even beggars need to know there is someone worse off than them, as well as recognizing true craftsmanship when they see it.

The Guild is ruled by a council under the authority of a Chief Beggar, who is given the title of King or Queen. The current Head Beggar is named Queen Molly, though despite her senior position, she is still a beggar; dressed in a gown of velvet rags,[1] covered in warts (on warts) and running sores, and walking with a cane. By virtue of her position, the items she begs for are significant: in 'Jingo' she mentions begging for a banquet and 'a mansion for the night'. Nonetheless she is a shrewd political operator; because beggars exist everywhere and are usually ignored, they hear, see and smell everything in the city, making the inner circle of the Beggars' Guild one of Ankh-Morpork's main nerve centres for genuine information, a priceless political tool. Also, the guild has amassed a vast private fortune, which Queen Molly has wisely invested. In fact, the Beggars' Guild is the leaseholder for some of the poshest tenant houses in Ankh.

Butchers' Guild

Butlers' Guild

    • Mentioned in The Assassins' Guild Diary

Carters' and Drovers' Guild

(mentioned in The Fifth Elephant)

Chef's Guild

    • Mentioned in The Assassins' Guild Diary'

Clockmakers' Guild

(appears in Thief of Time)

Council of Churches, Temples, Sacred Groves and Big Ominous Rocks

    • While not a guild, the Council performs the same political role for its member organizations as many of the Guilds do for their members. (Mentioned in Feet of Clay)

Guild of Confectioners

(first mentioned in Thief of Time)

Guild of Conjurers

    • Motto: NVNC ILLE EST MAGICVS ("Now That's Magic" (Catch-phrase of British magician Paul Daniels))
    • More of a club for stocky, aitch-dropping beer-swilling types, they are considered rather low on the ladder of magical ability and are scorned by wizards. They don't seem to care, and indeed appear to get a lot out of life. They are very popular among the masses, who consider sleight of hand far more interesting than actual magic.

Guild of Cunning Artificers

(mentioned in The Last Hero, Thud!)

    • May be the same as the Guild of Artificers (q.v.)

Guild of C.M.O.T. Dibblers

(mentioned in The Discworld Companion)

    • Presumably headed by Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler
    • The city's smallest Guild (until the establishment of the Victims' Guild)

Dog Guild

(appears in Men at Arms; probably since disbanded)

    • Headed by a Chief Barker; Big Fido in Men At Arms. Consists of dogs which have not just been Bad Dogs, and run away from their owners, but have Bit the actual Hand that Fed Them.
    • Controls scavenging rights, nighttime barking duties, breeding permissions and howling rotas.

Guild of Embalmers and Allied Trades

(mentioned in Pyramids)

    • Motto: FARCIMINI ("Stuff It")

Guild of Engravers and Printers

(formerly the Guild of Engravers; featured in The Truth)

    • Motto: NON QVOD MANEAT, SED QVOD ADIMIMVS ("Not What Remains, But What We Take Away")
    • Headed by Ronnie Carney in The Truth

Guild of Ecdysiasts, Nautchers, Cancanieres and Exponents of Exotic Dance

(mentioned in Guards! Guards!)

    • Also called the Guild of Exotic Dancers and the Strippers' Guild
    • Motto: NVNQVAM VESTIMVS ("We Never Clothe"-this is similar to the Windmill Theatre, London whose motto was "We Never Closed" but because it contained nude revue, it was also "We Never Clothed. see Windmill Theatre.) Their heraldic "shield" is nothing but a banner, quite small, proclaiming "Enleve" ("Take it off").
    • Headed by Miss Dixie "VaVa" Voom in Soul Music; she has retired, along with her partner, Edward the snake.
    • Clientele consists of humans (who consider women taking their clothes off for money to be acceptable, but women doing it for nothing immoral), trolls (who, because they believe they travel backwards in time, like to watch their women strip in reverse) but not dwarfs (who have no concept of such an idea).

Guild of Fire Fighters

(mentioned in Guards! Guards!)

    • In Guards! Guards!, it had been outlawed by The Patrician the previous year, as the Guild would threaten arson to get citizens to pay for a fire protection contract.

Fools' Guild

Formally the Guild of Fools and Joculators and College of Clowns (described in Wyrd Sisters and appears in Men at Arms and Making Money)

    • Motto: DICO, DICO, DICO ("I Say, I Say, I Say", common phrase of British Music Hall comedians)
    • Headed by Dr. Whiteface in Men at Arms and Fools Guild Diary
    • Secretary and Chief Butt is Geoffrey in Reaper Man

The Fools' Guild is a trading and training organisation for clowns, jesters and other practitioners of slapstick humour. It is located next door to the Guild of Assassins, for which it is often mistaken. This is in large part because, in contrast to the pleasant, airy environs of the Assassins' Guild, the grim premises of the Fools' Guild were originally the city's Plague House, and after that the monastery of the Brotherhood of the Infernal Zoth the Undying Renderer ("a contemplative order", according to their literature). The Fools' Guild have modified the frontage slightly with the addition of a giant Red Nose over the door and a canvas tent roof in winter. A number of "gags" designed by Bloody Stupid Johnson, including a custard pie-throwing machine and a giant daisy-shaped water cannon, were originally placed by the door also; however, due to a series of fatalities, they are no longer in use and are now in the Guild Museum alongside the original Dog With No Nose (it's shaggy), and the cranium of one of the Three Men Who Went Into A Pub.

The Guild was founded in 1567 as the Guild of Fools, Joculators, Minstrels, Buffoons and Mime Artists, but due to the peculiar predelictions of Lord Vetinari, the current ruler of the city, who hangs mimes upside down in his dungeons in full sight of a placard reading "LEARN THE WORDS", the mime element has been dropped.

As Terry Pratchett notes in The Art of Discworld, humour, as a profession, is hard, and nowhere is it harder than in the Fools' Guild. Its founder, Jean-Paul Pune (on the Disc, the inventor of the play on words that bears his name) understood that the heart of all comedy is pain, specifically others' pain. In recognition of this, Pune demanded a regimen of cold baths, wooden beds, bad food and self-flagellation to strengthen his pupils for the harshness of Foolery. Recent health and safety guidelines have ensured that more students survive to graduation, but school life remains as grim as the Guild's facade. Creativity and wit were the death of funniness, as far as Pune was concerned; progress through the Guild ranks was (and is) achieved through hours of rote memorization of the seventy-three approved subclasses of pun, the listed pratfalls and the accepted jokes, which must go through a twenty-year approval process before they are passed by the Council of Fun.

The Fools' Guild is not composed of people; it is composed of clowns. Upon the death of a clown, his face, dress, name and approved routines are passed on to another student, who will then assume that identity for the rest of his life ("His" being operative pronoun here, there are no women at the Fools' Guild, the Council having concluded that women have no sense of humour). People may come and go, but the clown lives forever. A clown's face is recorded in the Hall of Faces, a room of rack upon rack of blown eggshells, each painted with the features of a specific clown. For any clown to use another's face or name is punishable by death.

The Fools' Guild is governed by Dr. Whiteface, a grim, hatchet-faced, gimlet-eyed clown in white facepaint. Dr. Whiteface has been the head of the Guild for three centuries; of course, many men have stood behind his facepaint, but he has always been Dr. Whiteface. The head office of the Guild is known as The House of Mirth, a reference to the tragic Edith Wharton novel of the same name, and also to the line from Ecclesiastes from which the name was taken: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth," a line which drolly summarizes the guild's philosophy.

The Guild is immensely rich, and this is mainly because every king, duke and petty ruler from the Ramtops to Genua has a Fool in his court (excepting the King of Lancre, who was a Fool himself until he was crowned, and so far has not been shown with any Fool in his court), meaning that the Guild has access to vast amounts of sensitive information, which it scrupulously employs to its benefit. That said, because it contributes little of any practical value to the city, the Fools' Guild is not treated very seriously by its establishment. It should be noted that Lord Vetinari, while not being a king or duke and being definitely not a petty ruler, appears to be Fool-less.

Those who might question the Guild's authority, say, by telling unapproved jokes, unlicensed nose-honking and other forms of creativity, are paid a visit by the Jolly Good Pals, or Bloody Fools, the Guild's enforcers, who are fully ready to introduce one to the darker side of physical humour.

Gamblers' Guild

(mentioned in The Colour of Magic)

    • Motto: EXCRETVS EX FORTVNA ("Shit out of luck")
    • Headed by Scrote Jones in The Discworld Companion
    • Headed by Doc Pseudopolis in Feet of Clay. (Nelson Algren in 1956 said "Never play cards against a man named Doc." in Newsweek.[2]
    • Guild headquarters is located across the street from the Alchemists' Guild. Anyone wondering why will be politely reminded as to just what the profession of the guild members is. Head is elected by random draw. Regulates cheating and swindling, not by banning them, but by determining exactly how heavily dice should be loaded, the precise value of cards which may be held up the sleeve and the exact amount of money one may take from a mark.

Glassblowers' Guild

(mentioned in Thud!)

Haberdashers' Guild

Guild of Handlemen

(created in Moving Pictures, probably since disbanded)

Historians' Guild

(mentioned in Jingo, The Last Hero, Thief of Time)

    • Likely headed by Mr. Betteridge
    • As of Thud!, has assumed a role similar to that of English Heritage, determining which buildings are of historical interest and ensuring they are preserved as their builders intended.

Guild of Lags

(professional prisoners, mentioned in The Thieves Guild Diary)

    • Headed by Joe "Lifer" Bushyhead in The Thieves Guild Diary

Launderers' Guild

(mentioned in Guards! Guards!)

Lawyers' Guild

    • Motto: LVCRE SERMAT ("Money Talks")
    • Headed by Mr. Slant, a zombie. The basic principle of the Guild is the richer you are, the more likely you are to be innocent. As rich people are more valuable to society than poor people, this is considered a very agreeable form of justice.

Guild of Merchants and Traders

(created in The Colour of Magic)

    • Motto: VILIS AD BIS PRETII ("Cheap At Twice The Price")
    • Headed by Antimony Parker in Going Postal; however, they seem to have a new head every year.
    • Its main function is to protect its members from being robbed, which had become their principal occupation in recent years. They also serve as the advertisers of the civic charms of Ankh-Morpork to potential tourists. They hire gangs of burly men to patiently describe to outsiders that Ankh-Morpork is in fact clean, safe and lovely place to live.

Guild of Musicians

(featured in Soul Music)

    • Motto: ID MVRMVRATIS, ID LVDAMVS ("You Hum It, We'll Play It")
    • More of a protection racket than a Guild, the Musicians' Guild demands high membership fees and performance rates for all members. Those who do not wish to be members are perfectly free to operate outside it, of course, but then, they are unlikely to do so for very long.

Guild of Plumbers and Dunnikin Divers

(mentioned in Pyramids, Men at Arms)

    • Motto: NON ANTE SEPTEM DIES PROXIMA, SQVIRI ("Not Before Next Week, Squire")
    • Created in the reign of Patrician Vetinari.
    • Main role is to dig new water wells and empty cesspits (Dunnykin divers, a lonely profession)
    • Headed by Sir Charles Lavatory, who invented the device which bears his name. It flushes waste away very well, but as Ankh-Morpork has no currently functional sewers, it doesn't actually go anywhere.

Guild of Priests, Sacerdotes and Occult Intermediaries

(mentioned in The Discworld Companion)

    • May be the same as the Council of Churches, Temples, Sacred Groves and Big Ominous Rocks.

Rat Guild


Rat-Catchers' Guild

(mentioned in Feet of Clay and "Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents ")

Seamstresses' Guild

    • Euphemistically named; actually a guild of prostitutes.
    • Motto: NIL VOLVPTI, SINE LVCRE ("No Pleasure Without Pay")
    • Legalized by Lord Vetinari early in his reign.
    • Headed by Mrs Rosemary "Rosie" Palm. "Mrs" is an honorific bestowed on those members of the Guild who rise to the ownership of their own premises. Her employees are known as her "daughters" (a reference to the famous euphemism "visiting Rosie Palm and her five daughters".
    • During the events of Night Watch, the Guild briefly employed an actual seamstress, who made quite a large sum of money darning the socks of men who made the same mistake she did.
    • Upon his initial arrival in the city, Carrot Ironfoundersson lodged at the Seamstresses' Guild, and even dated one of its members, all the while apparently oblivious to the nature of their profession.
    • Granny Weatherwax lodged at the Seamstresses' Guild as well, considering Mrs. Palm "practically a witch".
    • A survey once found more than 987 women occupied as seamstresses. And two needles.

Guild of Shoemakers and Leatherworkers

(mentioned in The Truth)

Smugglers' Guild

(mentioned in Pyramids)

Tailors' Guild

(mentioned in The Fifth Elephant)

Teachers' Guild

(mentioned in Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms and Interesting Times)

    • Headed by Master Greetling in Guards! Guards!.
    • The Guild clock strikes noon before any of the others, presumably marking school lunchtime.
    • Mr. Saveloy was a former member (traveled with the Silver Horde in Interesting Times)

Thieves' Guild

Formally the Guild of Thieves, Cutpurses and Allied Trades

    • Motto: ACVTVS ID VERBERAT ("Whip it Quick")
    • Legalized by the Patrician early in his reign.
    • Headed by J.H. "Flannelfoot" Boggis in Feet of Clay and subsequent novels.
    • Headed by Urdo van Pew in Guards! Guards!
    • Headed by Ymor in The Colour of Magic
Note: Some of the information repeated below was taken from the 2002 Discworld Diary, which had a thieves' guild theme, and has not been confirmed in any of the Discworld novels, although Pratchett has confirmed it is "official".

The Guild of Thieves, Cutpurses and Allied Trades is distinguished from thieves' guilds in other fantasy universes by being completely legal. The Thieves' Guild was established early in Lord Havelock Vetinari's rule of Ankh-Morpork. Lord Vetinari realised that what people crave is stability, and that, while it is impossible to stamp out crime altogether, it is possible to regulate it. The major gang leaders of the city were therefore called to the Patrician's Palace, where they agreed to be held responsible for ensuring a socially acceptable number of thefts. While they may have been insincere in this promise, they soon found the Patrician knew too much about them for reneging to be safe.

The Thieves' Guild, due to their new obligation to prevent unauthorised theft, quickly became the major law-enforcement body of the city. Accordingly, they moved into the long-vacated Ankh-Morpork Courthouse, though at the back they built a clay-brick "thieves kitchen", which painstakingly recreates a slum in the Shades, and which is used for training purposes. Its multitude of chimneys overshadow the marble façade of the original building. The Guild also undertakes field training exercises in the surrounding city streets where visitors may observe them in action; the fortunate may be invited to participate. As the Thieves' Guild grew, the Ankh-Morpork City Watch continued to slide even further into the pit of depression they would remain in until Carrot Ironfoundersson's arrival. In the year of the Engaging Sloth, the Guild had a General Strike, and the amount of crime doubled. One of Carrot's first acts as a watchman was arresting the head of the Thieves' Guild for being a thief. The man was outraged at being treated as a common criminal, and was quickly released by the Patrician.

While initially the main money-making venture of Thieves' Guild members remained theft, albeit under strict guidelines and leaving a receipt, more recent books show a system of "insurance", whereby people may pay a fee directly to the Guild and therefore become immune to robbery for a specified period. Unlicensed theft remains illegal, under both city and Guild law. Perpetrators consider themselves lucky if the revitalised Watch catches them, or they would usually suffer from the cruel punishment dealt out by the guild. The current head of the Guild is Josiah Herbert Boggis, of the firm J.H. "Flannelfoot" Boggis and Nephews, Bespoke Thieves. He is, in fact, also a member of the Specials, a civilian unit of the Watch called up during dire emergencies. Recently, the Thieves' Guild has introduced the practice of offering free gifts, such as matching crystal glasses, to those about to be mugged. However, these gifts are usually cheap and of poor quality.

While not as formalised as the Assassins' Guild Code of Conduct, Guild thieves are expected to work to certain standards. The main one is not to cause undue distress; a Guild burglar ransacking a house will be careful to place everything (apart from what he takes) back where he found it. Another rule is that a Guild member must look and sound the part. Guild thieves must wear appropriate clothing (in the case of burglars this means an eye mask, a flat cap, a stripy jumper and a bag labelled "SWAG"; other specialities have their own uniforms) and speak in thieves' cant, or at least rhyming slang. Members are required to carry their membership cards during all official activities (i.e. crimes). They tend to leave members of the Guild of Seamstresses alone, though this is more from self-preservation than professional courtesy. There is one golden, cardinal rule amongst the Guild thieves: always leave a receipt.

Guild of Town Criers

(mentioned in The Truth)

Guild of Victims

(created in The Thieves Guild Diary)

    • Headed by Echinoid Blacksly (only member)
    • A bizarre counterpart to the Guild of Thieves; you hire Mr Blacksly to suffer an official Guild theft on your behalf.

Guild of Watchmen

(created in The Fifth Elephant)

Guild mottos (in Latatian) are taken from The Discworld Companion.

External links

  1. ^ "Some in rags and some in tags and one in a velvet gown," excerpt of the Beggars' Guild Charter quoted by Carrot Ironfoundersson in Men at Arms
  2. ^

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