Discworld/Feet of Clay

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The 19th Discworld novel and the third in the City Watch theme. It has one of the more conventional plots of the series, but executes it very well in the inimitable Pratchett style.

The newly boosted and renewed Watch from Men At Arms is back, and Vimes is settling into his role as Commander and a knight. But the life of a Watchman is never boring. Two mysterious murders - one in the dwarf community and one in the ecclesiastical - happen one after another. Are they linked? Perhaps to a golem - those stolid ceramic workers who have no voice? And are any of them associated with Lord Vetinari's sudden illness, possibly by poison? And is Nobby Nobbs really (gasp!) an Earl?

The answers are out there, swirling somewhere in the fog of an autumn-suffused Ankh-Morpork...


Contains examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The golem king was driven insane by too many words (hopes, expectations, directions) put in his head by his creators, many of which were mutually exclusive.
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving
  • Ass Shove: After Dorfl is freed, he visits his previous masters and exacts (non-lethal) ironic revenge on them. The ones at the poultry merchant's and the pork butcher's involves stuffing apprentices with various fruits and vegetables. Guess where. Go on.
  • Batman Gambit: As usual, Vetinari is well aware of what's going on, and does not actually allow himself to be poisoned further once he figures it out. But he lets Vimes go on crime-solving anyway.
    • This leads to some Fridge Horror: The first indication he knows what's up is just after the funeral scenes, which means he probably allowed Mrs. Easy and her grandson to die by keeping silent, depending on the exact timing of when he found out. Even if he didn't, the poisoned candles were still in the closet, so it seems like he didn't take any precautions to prevent them from killing others while he let Vimes do his thing.
      • Not necessarily. Vetinari is incredibly intelligent and watches the city very closely, but he is also an aristocrat - he's probably aware in general that his staff will take partially-used items home on occasion, but I doubt he's aware of the specifics - judging by his character it's likely that the specifics are something he doesn't want to know about, because the unofficial arrangement ("That's perks!") helps the city tick along nicely and he doesn't want to be forced to take action against it.
      • The fact that he seems to know about it only after the funeral suggests that he figured it out the same way that Vimes did, just much faster. Mrs. Easy died, Vetinari heard about it (he hears about everything), and deduced that she must have taken something, so he figures out what she took. He didn't allow her to die, she died and it allowed him to figure out how. And the servants explicitly don't steal new candles, they steal the remains of used ones (probably changing them more often than necessary for this purpose). The unused ones in the closet were safe, and since Vetinari started secretly replacing the ones in his rooms, any of those that were stolen were safe as well.
  • Big Damn Hero: Dorfl charging in to stop the Golem King from killing Angua and Carrot.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Pratchett shows a minor character talking about an apprentice pork butcher who gets an apple stuffed up his arse by an irate, recently liberated Dorfl, and a man who suffered a similar fate involving sage and onion.
  • Blind and the Beast: Mrs. Gammage and the regulars at Biers.

Angua: "Well, I heard that last month someone broke into her hovel and stole some of her stuff..."
Cheery: "That doesn't sound helpful."
Angua: "...and it was all returned the next day and a couple of thieves were found in the Shades with not a drop of blood left in their bodies. You know, you get told a lot of bad things about the undead, but you never hear about the marvelous work they do in the community."

  • Booze Flamethrower: Nobbs is guzzling expensive brandy and smoking a fancy cigar when he learns that people want him to become King. He does a truly epic Spit Take.
  • Brick Joke: When Carrot is handling some of Vimes's paperwork, there's a note from a mister Catterail, demanding there be less patrolling by dwarfs and such, with Mr. Catterail claiming Vetinari is a personal friend. Near the end when Dorfl is going through the city setting everything free, Mr Catterail demands help from the Watchmen, telling them their commander is a personal friend of his. He says this to the commander of the Watch himself.
  • But for Me It Was Tuesday / Nominal Importance: Part of what drives Vimes to rage is that Dragon didn't know who Mrs Easy and her child were.
  • The Caligula: Lorenzo the Kind, last king of Ankh-Morpork, beheaded by Vimes' ancestor. All we hear for definite is that he was...very fond of children. "Machines" are also alluded to.
  • The Chessmaster
  • Continuity Nod: The "dwarves hang criminals up by the...town hall" joke from Guards Guards makes a reappearance.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Sergeant Detritus' campaign against the troll drug Slab parodies the classic slogan "Just Say No" targeted at kids, with a much more direct campaign targeted at dealers.
    • The specific line is:

'...Mr Vimes is lettin' me run a' Detritus concentrated - 'pub-lic a-ware-ness campaign tellin' people what happens to buggers what sells it to kids...' He waved a hand at a large and rather crudely done poster on the wall. It said:
Slab: Jus' say 'Aarrghaarrghpleeassennonono UGH'.

  • Elements Do Not Work That Way: Used in-character when Vimes speculates that Vetinari's tableware could've been made of arsenic, and Cheery explains how that couldn't possibly work.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Cheery Littlebottom (who also has an Embarrassing Last Name). Tries to change it a lot, eventually settling on the almost identical 'Cheri', though this doesn't last. (Later books clarified this by saying she was Cheery, pronounced Cheri).
    • It could be worse. Her father was named Jolly Littlebottom and her grandfather was named Beaky Littlebottom.
  • Enhance Button: Parodied. Cheery asks the iconograph imp to paint larger, more detailed pictures of the murder victim's eye.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Dragon King of Arms loves his heraldic wordplay. This becomes important later, as it turns out one of these "jokes" was a vital clue.
  • Eye Remember
  • Fantastic Racism: Cheery towards werewolves, and Angua towards golems (said to be the 'hatred of the undead for the unalive')
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Lampshaded. The Watch doesn't do it anymore, "ever since Constable Flint had dipped his finger into a blackmarket consignment of ammonium chloride cut with radium, said "Yes, this is definitely slab wurble wurble sclup" and had to spend three days tied to his bed until the spiders went away." Detritus does it later on, but, of course, trolls are not known for their swiftness at learning or their susceptibility to chemicals.
    • Carrot actually does this immediately after the paragraph describing Flint's little problem.
    • Don't forget the part where Vimes is caught by four major Guild leaders with a bag of "greyish powder," which he then disposes of by swallowing the lot. It's sugar, grey because Nobby disposed of a few cigarette butts in it.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: Dorfl is perhaps the most literal example, being on the Disc. The gods hit him with lightning bolts, but, being made of pottery, all it does is melt his armour.

I Don't Call That Much Of An Argument.

  • Foreshadowing:
    • Next you'll be telling me they have emotions!
    • Early on, Vimes muses about how people are hard-wired to believe that kings make everything better. It later turns out that the golems created a king to make things better for them.
  • Freedom From Choice: As the Discworld Companion puts it, Stoneface Vimes introduced democracy to Ankh-Morpork, and the people voted against it.
  • Fur Against Fang: Although no direct vampire/werewolf fights occur, Dragon King Of Arms' distaste for a Carrot/Angua lineage is an early clue that this trope applies in Discworld.
    • Of course, it also interferes with his little "hobby".
  • Genre Savvy: The moment Nobby Nobbs hears about a plan by certain nobles to put him on the throne he realizes it'll end with his head getting cut off (probably by Vimes) and jumps out a window.

He'll go spare!

  • Golem: Golems and Dorfl himself were briefly mentioned in Reaper Man and Soul Music, but this is the book to really develop them. Also, in a Retcon, golems are now powered by a scroll with words inside their flip-top heads rather than a word physically carved on their forehead.
  • The Good King: What the golem king was intended to be.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard / Poetic Justice: Subverted. Vimes claims to have put holy water in the wick of the candle that was lighting the room in which he confronted Dragon, but is implied to be bluffing. Played straight shortly after, when Vimes, upon realizing that Dragon is too influential for Vetinari to punish, burns the genealogies which Dragon has worked on for centuries.
  • Humiliation Conga: Poor Colon.
  • Incredibly Lame Pune Or Play On Words: Several. Some are in fact clues to the murder plot.
  • Just Following Orders: Between them, Carrot and the Golems subvert the hell out of this one.
  • Just for Pun: At the book's end, Hughnon Ridcully addresses Dorfl as me old china, china plate being Cockney rhyming slang for mate. Of course, Dorfl, described in the same section as a ceramic atheist, is also, in a sense, made of china.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To the Book of Daniel.
  • Meaningful Name, Bilingual Bonus, Yiddish as a Second Language: Fittingly for creatures whose origins lie in Jewish folklore, the golems all have Yiddish names. Most of them (Dorfl, Bobkes, Klutz) describe humble or insulting things, while "Meshugah" appropriately means "crazy, insane".
    • A subtler bilingual bonus is in the coats of arms Dragon shows to Vimes, which turn out to conceal clues - unusually he gives Mr. Carry's arms' motto in English (or Morporkian) as "Art Brought Forth the Candle"...Vimes eventually figures out that in Latin (or Latatian, the Old Morporkian language) this would be Ars Enixa Est Candelam.
  • The Napoleon: Wee Mad Arthur, probably the most ridiculously extreme example of this ever. He's a six-inch tall gnome, but also a tiny, highly concentrated ball of Badass.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Vimes complains about the very romantic view many Ankh-Morporkians seem have of the old royal family; some of his dialogue suggests that Lorenzo the Kind's propensity for torture and "fondness for children" is widely known, but it's the rebel who cut his head off that gets the most scorn.
  • Not Quite Dead: One of Nobby's grandmothers—his excuse for having taken three "grandmothers' funeral" days off in that year alone.
    • Later in the series taking the day off for your grandmother's funeral becomes a running gag, and at one point it's mentioned watchmen get three annually.
  • Off the Wagon: Subverted.
  • Obviously Evil: Dragon, King of Arms, made apparent in his second scene if not the first. It's part of the reason the book's a howdunnit rather than a whodunnit.
  • One-Gender Race: Deconstructed with dwarfs (although the thing about female dwarfs looking almost identical ultimately came from the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, because Our Dwarves Are All the Same).
  • Orphaned Punchline: The end of a joke Nobby tells at a party: "And she said, "That's funny -- it didn't do that last night!"
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: The font used for the golems' writing evokes the look of Hebrew, in a nod to golems having their origins in Jewish folklore.
  • Playing Drunk: Vimes, when he's not really Off the Wagon.

Vimes: When we find the man responsible, somewhere at the top of the charge sheet is going to be Forcing Commander Vimes To Tip a Whole Bottle of Single Malt On The Carpet. That's a hanging offence.

  • Puppet King: Part of the plan was to set up Nobby Nobbs as one. Fortunately he's intelligent enough that even if he didn't understand their motives he knew it was far safer to run away.
  • Religious Robot: A newly liberated golem declares himself to be an atheist, but expresses interest in discussing religion with a pious watchman who has a penchant for Knocking on Heathens' Door.
  • Retcon: There's a minor continuity error; at the beginning, Angua has to introduce Cheery to Dorfl and explain what a golem is, yet later in the book Cheery tells Vimes she worked with golems at the alchemist's guild in Pseudopolis, which took place before the book started.
    • Though knowing what we know about the guild of alchemists, it could just be that they have been exploded often enough not to be recognisable any more.
  • Red Herring: References to Vetinari's green wallpaper seem to imply it had something to do with his poisoning (also a reference to the theory that Napoleon was poisoned by arsenic-containing wallpaper in Real Life). Vimes even entertains this theory briefly, before realizing that it couldn't possibly be true.
  • Refusal of the Call: Nobby never volunteers, ever.
  • Retirony: Subverted. Colon swears he is retiring after this to go live on a farm, but close experience of animals rapidly changes his mind.
  • Running Gag: Roderick and Keith the hippos.
    • Another one features a vampire who complains to the watch every time something goes wrong at his new job. His jobs? Holy water bottler, garlic stacker, pencil maker, picket fence builder, and sunglasses tester.
  • Shout-Out: According to Word of God, the climatic scene in the candle factory was inspired by the end of Terminator 2.
    • Biers is a pun on Cheers.
    • Drumknott's comment that if Vimes did not exist, Vetinari would have to invent him is based on a Voltaire quote.
    • Discussing clay, Igneous the troll says that "he's got lumps of it, out the back".
    • The Rats Chamber is a reference to England's Star Chamber, and the German Ratskammer (which has nothing to do with Rats).
    • "Undead or Alive You're Coming With Me" and "Somewhere There Is A Crime Happening" from RoboCop.
    • Fans of Isaac Asimov's |robot novels will recognize many of the issues raised here.
    • We can rebuild him. We have the pottery.
    • Stoneface Vimes' backstory is based on that of Oliver Cromwell. Correspondingly the "Peeled Nuts", Nobby's historical re-creation society, is a reference to the "Sealed Knot", a real life society that re-enacts the English Civil War.
    • The Golem King's madness directly follows a main piece of the plot from RoboCop 2: too many instructions, too many contradictions.
  • Smug Snake: Dragon, King of Arms.
  • Spit Take: Nobby gets told by a cadre of nobles that they want him to become king. Since he's gulping down brandy, smoking a cigar, and sitting in a chair with wheels at the time, the result is a literally rocket-powered Spit Take.
  • Stealth Pun: Two within a few pages of each other; when Angua and Cheery go off to see Dorfl, it makes a reference to Angua's 'PLT', (Pre-Lunar Tension, according to the synopsis); then later it mentions that one can hear the occasional bleat of worried sheep. Read the Wee Free Men if that last confuses you...
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Several unrelated people describe Nobby as 'an absolute tit'.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity
  • "Three Laws"-Compliant: Golems must obey their master, and cannot kill. The golems are so distressed at creating a golem that violates these principles they commit suicide. Dorfl is unique, as well, after being re-baked and having his chem replaced with his bill of sale, later being described as simply not doing violence because he decided for himself that it wasn't moral.
  • Uncanny Valley: invoked in the way (most) people tend to react to the Golems.
  • Unfortunate Name: Cheery Littlebottom.
  • Verbal Tic: Dragon
  • Warts and All: Mentioned in a Shout-Out (as Stoneface Vimes is a Captain Ersatz of Oliver Cromwell).
  • We Can Rebuild Him ...We Have The Pottery.
  • Where Did We Go Wrong?: The poor golems.