11 June 2011

V for Vetinari

This post is brought to you by the letter V.

Lord Havelock Vetinari is one of my favorite politicians. He's the Patrician (i.e. Tyrant) of Ankh-Morpork, the largest city in Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork in Terry Pratchett's Discworld
Lord Vetinari in "Awakening" by Tealin
Lord Vetinari is neither specifically a good guy nor a bad guy. Most of the citizens of Ankh-Morpork are scared witless of him. The Patrician's Palace is home to several horrifying traps, as well as a dungeon that the Patrician at one point manages to escape (he gets dethroned, as it were, [there is no longer a King of Ankh-Morpork although there is a rumor the heir to the throne is secretly living in the city] several times -- all temporarily) with the aid of sentient rats.

What Lord Vetinari is is a seriously bad-ass Tyrant. Yes, people are afraid of him, but he's also the "sanest" ruler the city has had in centuries. He gained (and retains) his position by "cunning, a deep understanding of the realities of the human psyche, breathtaking diplomacy, a certain prowess with the stiletto dagger, and, all agree, amind like a finely balanced circular saw" (Unseen Academicals). He makes the city work by legalizing various gangs in the form of Guilds and then forcing them to enforce Guild law to maintain order and their power. He trained as an Assassin and was raised in a high-class family. He maintains friendly rapport with an older vampire noblewoman, Lady Margolotta (one of the founders of the vampire League of Temperance and a Black Ribboner - meaning she doesn't drink human blood), and it has been speculated that they have a secret relationship.

Lord Vetinari is more of a backdrop character in the Discworld books, but he certainly makes things interesting when he appears. He's a master manipulator. I spend a significant amount of time (while reading books in which he appears) wondering what he's trying to get to happen and if the characters are doing exactly what he wants or not -- and whether that's a good thing or not. He's certainly not a popular ruler, but everybody seems to think that they're better off with him as ruler than with any other option. Also, he seems to be completely dedicated to the city. He's against slavery of any kind and for new races. (Trolls, Vampires, Dwarfs, Werewolves, and Zombies are among some of the new races that move into Ankh-Morpork, which I read as a kind of America. [Probably everybody reads it as their own country.])

All the Discworld books are seriously hilarious, but I especially love the ones about Ankh-Morpork because its caretaker, the Patrician, is such an intriguing presence. The wacky way the city works makes an absurd amount of sense, and most of it is due to Lord Havelock Vetinari. Seriously, Terry Pratchett did a great job there.

Related Links

  • In the spirit of Lord Vetinari and Pratchett-esque comedy, here is a fanfiction I particularly enjoy. I didn't write it, I just want to share the laughs. || Tea Partay "Vetinari, Downey and Rust are on a mission to destory the Disc's newest music sensation, rap."
  • If you like Discworld, check out Tealin's Discworld and Pratchett Paraphernalia index. I love her pictures. You could burn serious hours here, looking at her artwork. 

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What's your take on politician characters? Who's your favorite?