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Ankh Morpork's Beggars

This Who's Who was originally featured in Issue 7a - December 1997


The Beggars' Guild is the longest running guild in Ankh-Morpork and predates the current guild system by centuries. Of all the guilds in Ankh-Morpork the Beggar's Guild has to be the most typically Discworldly. A guild conjours up images of stately guild headquarters whose chairmen are invited to the best social functions, so the whole notion of such a body existing for down-and-outs is rather like an Amish web-page. Later books seem to have forgotten about this institution, though, and we're left with the individual beggars.

Coffin Henry also deserves mention due to his almost solid cough and amazing assortment of skin diseases.

Foul Ole Ron is the most famous of all beggars. His smell is so well developed that it has taken on a personality and is considered socially higher than its *owner*. I wonder (not too hard) what Ron smells like when his smell is elsewhere? Ron is a mumbler, who follows people around until they pay him to stop. You may think all beggars are the same, but there are many different grades of beggars including Dribblers, Walking Around Shouters and People Who Call Other People Jimmy.

Coffin Henry also deserves mention due to his almost solid cough and amazing assortment of skin diseases. Henry has a tendency to turn up to social events and start examining bits of pussy skin until he is paid to go away. It is socially acceptable (nay, recommended) in Ankh-Morpork to pay a small donation to the Beggars Guild so people like Henry don't turn up.

Duckman is different. Other people think he has a duck on his head, but Duckman doesn't seem to think so. In Soul Music, Death asks WHAT IS THAT DUCK DOING ON YOUR HEAD to which Duckman replies "What duck?".

The first beggar we were introduced to in "The Colour of Magic" was blind Hugh, whose nerves tingle whenever there is gold within fifty paces and who makes the mistake of thinking that the Patrician pays for useful information, a common misconception among beggars.

Foul Ole Ron's particular gang of vagrants serves an unusual purpose in the Discworld books. Their principal role seems to be to reassure us that life isn't so bad - here are a group of down-and-outs, without homes or money, yet they aren't bothered about their situation. In some ways, this approach has got to be a bad thing: does it mean that, the next time you pass a beggar in the street, you can walk past safe in the knowledge that life isn't so bad for them? One of the most important messages to come out of PTerry's writing is that the world isn't such a bad place, but I find it hard to believe that he would really espouse such a callous viewpoint.