Role models are a major topic these days. Who are the good ones, and who the bad? Once we had monarchs, presidents, explorers, all good and/or bad with some migration from the first to the second. In Sam Vimes, we may have a unique example of the reverse.
When we first met Sam Vimes in GUARDS! GUARDS!, he was sodden in a gutter, soddin' drunk. Hardly an auspicious beginning for a heroic figure. Discworld heroes are often found in unusual circumstances, rarely admirable at first sight. Sam's a copper, Commander of Ankh-Morpork's Night Watch. It's a job to send any man's hand groping for support, even if the brace is in the form of a bottle. Now he's on his way to Uberwald. Trolls, Dwarves and Werewolves have all emigrated from this region, taking up residence in Sam's city. He hasn't shed his resentment at this intrusion, nor his suspicion of these bizarre life forms. His earlier cultural challenges came from the likes of Klatchians, who were at least human. The Patrician has made him a diplomat, a real challenge for a man with so little tact. He must deal with all these creatures he resents. Failure to deal successfully may result in his becoming part of the local cuisine.
Sam has an advantage over many of us. Strongly self-aware, he manages to control his temper and intemperance. He's pulled himself out of the gutter. Now the Duke of Ankh- Morpork, he's married into the city's aristocracy. His diplomatic skills are going to be put to severe tests. To ease the pressure, Sam is accompanied by his recently acquired spouse, Sybil Ramkin. Her presence with him on this venture is an indication of his newly elevated status, and recognition of her well established one. Ironically, Sam is also supported by some of his mates from the Watch, Detritus the Troll and forensic expert Cheery Littlebottom, a Dwarf. Both are originally from the Uberwald. Sam's diplomatic assignment is a commercial treaty and attendance of the Coronation of the Low King. Regrettably, not all Uberwald is happy with the new monarch, and Sam is drawn into a miasma of plots and counter plots no diplomat should enter.
Sam Vimes is anything but a hero of the ideal romantic stamp. His blemishes are apparent, but, to his credit, he recognizes them and deals with them. His temper, which he controls with effort, leads him into difficult situations. His prejudices blind him to unexpected values in people [and, in this case, a scruffy dog], but when he finally recognizes the truth, he acknowledges it. Maybe with glum grace, but without rancor. Pratchett has drawn him as a strikingly real figure. He's unique on the Discworld. And that's sad in one sense because both the Discworld and our world could do with more like him.
Pratchett's plots have never been overly convoluted or difficult to unravel. His wit more than makes up for that. His characters are immensely significant in these stories. Those of us who've followed Sam along the cobblestoned streets of his life will rejoice at this portrayal. They will also encounter an Angua with enhanced reality. And Sam and Sybil are . . .
[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]