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Character Manifesto: Discworld - Samuel Vimes

It's only 11:26 p.m. where I am...  :D

Fandom: Discworld

Character: Samuel Vimes

Pairings Included in Manifesto: 
Samuel Vimes/Lady Sybil Ramkin

Warning:  Spoilers for the seven Watch novels in the Discworld series

Blurb:

When we first meet Samuel Vimes, he's literally in the gutter. An alcoholic copper in a city where crime is legal1, he's the captain of what's left of Ankh-Morpork's Night Watch, a company made up of himself, Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs2. They're soon joined by Carrot Ironfoundersson, a six-foot dwarf. Together, they're the only ones3 who can save Ankh-Morpork from a dragon.


 

To put Vimes into some context, I need to digress slightly into the universe in which he exists.


 

The Discworld is a flat circular world4 resting on the backs of four elephants balanced on the back of a giant turtle (the Great A'tuin) that's slowly swimming its way through space. Magic is real here, as are trolls, dwarfs, werewolves, vampires, gods, and various other species, as well as Death and his horse named Binky. Discworld is also the home of twisting wordplay, atrociously bad puns, awkward silences, cowardly moments, and prose that makes me laugh until I cry – or cry until I laugh. There are currently thirty-eight Discworld novels which vary widely in tone, characters and focus. The novels can be read in publication order or...not. The books fall into various groupings: there are the stand-alones, and then there are the groups of books that focus on the Wizards, the Witches, Death5, the Discworld's “industrial revolution”, or the Watch.


 

It's difficult – actually, it's impossible – for me to do justice to Sir Terry Pratchett's universe, to its complexity and depth even as he unrepentantly twists the English language into knots, inserts footnotes into footnotes, delivers absurd dialogue and sends his characters rollicking through time and space6, all without losing the heart, intelligence and philosophy that is the foundation of the Discworld novels. This is the universe that's home to the character I love with the heat of a thousand novas: Samuel Vimes.


 

Through the course of the Watch novels7 Samuel Vimes evolves from that drunken, broken-down, incompetent copper in the gutter to become the Commander of the Watch, and a well-known, well-respected copper throughout the Disc. Oh, he also becomes the Duke of Ankh.


 

He was a child of the streets; he didn't quite grow up in the worst part of Ankh-Morpork, but you could see it from there. He became a copper at a young age, joining the Watch and learning how to be a good copper from John Keel8. He was helpless as the Watch was decimated under the current Patrician, Lord Vetinari, Ankh-Morpork's mostly benevolent evil mastermind of a tyrant, and Vimes became an alcoholic as a result of it. We meet him in the gutter, and that's where he may have stayed if it hadn't been for the dragon, and Lady Sybil Ramkin. Upon their marriage, he became one of the richest men in Ankh-Morpork, the Duke of Ankh, and a member of the aristocracy he holds in such disdain.


 

Vimes hits all my favorite – and strongest – character kinks. He's a simple man with a complex mind. He's a better man than he believes he is, a good man with dark layers – and he's fully aware of his dark side and how easy it would be to let that dark side win, to become all he is. He's single-minded in his pursuit of a criminal, and he will not allow anyone to mistreat a prisoner or for an innocent to suffer. He believes there are things that are right, and those are the things he will do. Vimes is a man who inspires a level of devotion in those who work for him that he doesn't feel he deserves, and the depth and fervor of which he doesn't truly understand. His hard-headed philosophy resonates with others, especially Carrot. At the same time, he engenders real, knee-weakening fear – an oft-repeated phrase is “Mister Vimes will go spare!”...usually spoken by Nobby Nobbs as he's getting into – or out of – trouble.


 

Who is Vimes?


 

He's a self-admitted species-ist: he dislikes everyone equally, including humans...unless you're a copper, in which case, there are only good coppers and bad coppers. Over the course of the Watch novels, Vimes has seen the Watch grow from the three misfits who had been left in the Night Watch, to a cast of hundreds if not thousands. Vimes' trained coppers are in demand all around the Disc, and are affectionately known as “Sammies”. Vimes has also seen the Watch widen its ranks by adding trolls, dwarfs, gnomes, zombies, at least one werewolf and at least one golem – and there are a few gargoyles in there, too. In the last novel Vimes was finally forced to add a vampire to the ranks (even though it was supposedly temporary). He holds all the races in equal contempt, including humans – but if you're a good copper, then that's all he sees. And if you're a victim...then that's also all he sees, and he seeks answers and justice with a single-minded stubbornness that would be truly terrifying to see if it wasn't so damn wonderful.


 

Vimes never forgets where he came from – or the irony that he's descended from a man who killed a King, that he himself detests the aristocracy, and he has risen from the gutter to become the Duke of Ankh. This was accomplished through marrying Lady Sybil Ramkin, but it has been enhanced by Lord Vetinari as “rewards”9 for Vimes' various actions - but usually more for Vetinari's own purposes10.


 

In canon, Vimes meets and marries Lady Sybil Ramkin. Unfortunately, their courtship is ignored, and after the first Watch book, Lady Sybil is relegated to the background of the novels. While it's never quite clear if Vimes married Lady Sybil because he loved her, or because she loved him, or simply because she was there, he works hard to be a good husband to her (when he thinks about it), while still remaining quintessentially Vimes. He still gets caught up in his cases, not sleeping or resting until he catches or kills the creature responsible for the crime. He treats the aristocracy as rudely as possible11. Vimes isn't always the hero, isn't always the one to rush to the rescue – he himself has been rescued several times. While Vimes isn't always the one who saves the day, Vimes is the man around whom the Watch novels revolve.


 

He's a recovering alcoholic. He's gruff and grumpy. He's a hard taskmaster. He believes in doing what's right - he supported coppers' widows and orphans out of his own salary long before he married Lady Sybil. He believes in right and wrong, in justice, in protecting the weak. He feels deeply although he would never admit it. He's a devoted husband and father.


 

And he really does go spare when pushed too far.


 

He's arrested a dragon, an army and Lord Vetinari himself. He's survived werewolves and time travel and the things that come out of the darkness.


 

He's a good man with a dark side, in a constant struggle to keep himself from become the things he hunts, and that makes for a riveting character.


 

I've never seen any actor who may have played Vimes in a TV show or on stage, and he's never really described in the books when it comes to eye, skin and hair colour. I've always pictured him looking like Bruce Willis, with Queen Latifah as Lady Sybil...but that's just me.


 

Some quotes:


 

[Sybil] smiled at him.


 

And then it arose and struck Vimes that, in her own special category, she was quite beautiful; this was the category of all the women, in his entire life, who had ever thought he was worth smiling at. She couldn't do worse, but then, he couldn't do better. So maybe it balanced out. She wasn't getting any younger but then, who was? And she had style and money and common-sense and self-assurance and all the things that he didn't, and she had opened her heart, and if you let her she could engulf you; the woman was a city.


 

And eventually, under siege, you did what Ankh-Morpork had always done – unbar the gates, let the conquerors in, and make them your own. - Guards! Guards!


 

Vimes would be the first to admit that he wasn't a good copper, but he'd probably be spared the chore because lots of other people would happily admit it for him. - Men at Arms


 

[During a complicated case involving golems (clay beings who are made animate by a ritual and ruled by written words placed inside their head), one golem has just killed another]


 

Carrot shook himself free. “It's murder,” he said. “We're Watchmen. We can't just...watch! It killed him!”


 

“It's an it and so's he -”


 

“Commander Vimes said someone has to speak for the people with no voices!”


 

He really believes it, Angua thought. Vimes puts words in his head. - Feet of Clay


 

William felt predisposed to like Vimes, if only because of the type of enemies he made, but as far as he could see everything about the man could be prefaced by the word “badly”, as in -spoken, -educated and -in need of a drink. - The Truth


I'm afraid real life took over, and I only have four fics to rec - all by the same person, although that wasn't intentional.
 

The recs:

Fic Rec #1:
Not Always
Pairing: Samuel Vimes/Sybil Ramkin
Author: Miss Yetigoosecreature
Link: www.fanfiction.net/s/5707522/1/Not_Always
Rating/Warnings: Rated T
Why This Must Be Read:  Unfortunately, we never got to see the courtship of Vimes and Lady Sybil.  This story is about a moment late in the courtship, when poor Vimes is still drinking and still uncertain how to move the relationship forward.  It also captures the tone of the Discworld novels and these particular characters perfectly.

For the times when you needed a bit of courage. For the times when you needed a bit of forgetfulness. For the times when you needed to drown the still, small voice that simply would not shut up and knock off asking you irritating things or calling into question why you hadn't worn a better shirt or better trousers even when you didn't OWN a better shirt or better trousers, never mind being able to afford them.

There was drink.

There was always drink.

Fic Rec #2: Telling
Pairing: Samuel Vimes/Sybil Ramkin
Author: Miss Yetigoosecreature
Link:  www.fanfiction.net/s/6619352/1/Telling
Rating/Warnings: Rated K
Why This Must Be Read:  Vimes reaction to the news that Lady Sybil is pregnant.  It's funny and so much in character for everyone, and very much in keeping with the style of the Discworld novels, complete with footnotes.

 Sergeant Fred Colon stood in the doorway and cleared his throat. It was the sort of throat-clearing that practically had capital letters. The kind that precedes things like marriage proposals, the delivery of nasty surprises and The Talk throughout the multiverse. Sam Vimes paused with a mug of bad Watch coffee[1] hovering halfway between desk and lips. "Yes, Sergeant?" Sam prompted.

[1]-You could stand the spoon up in it, but not for long if you were terribly attached to the spoon.


Fic Rec #3: Bad Day
Pairing: Samuel Vimes/Sybil Ramkin
Author: Miss Yetigoosecreature
Link:  www.fanfiction.net/s/5949005/1/Bad_Day
Rating/Warnings: Rated K
Why This Must Be Read:  Lady Sybil is very, very pregnant and Vimes has been told all about how wives have "bad days" during pregnancy.  It's a bit more sentimental than the others, but still in character and still true to the Discworld novels.

 Sam Vimes would be the first to admit that he was not exactly sensitive. Or perceptive, for that matter, at least when it came to being a husband. He had often counted himself lucky that, at least when all else failed, Sybil tended to just speak up plainly rather than fume and pout at him and expect him to figure it out. It didn't hurt that she generally got her way and he was usually glad to give it to her, but on the odd occasions where they didn't agree and both of them felt strongly enough about it to argue, it all still typically worked out in the end easily enough. Even if he did still put up a fight about things like dress uniforms and receptions, because if he didn't, he wouldn't be Sam Vimes, he actually saw why she put her foot down about such things. He would sooner die than actually admit it, and Sybil probably already knew that, but at least she wasn't smug about it.

Fic Rec #4: Bad Day
Pairing: Samuel Vimes/Mavis Trouncer; Samuel Vimes/Sybil Ramkin
Author: Miss Yetigoosecreature
Link:  www.fanfiction.net/s/5949005/1/Bad_Day
Rating/Warnings: Rated T
Why This Must Be Read:  This takes a line from Thud! about Mavis Trouncer and spins a tale that's funny, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting. 

 Sam Vimes had been something of a late bloomer in the romance department, and Ankh-Morpork was not particularly kind to delicate blooms of any stripe, late or early, at least not on the outskirts of the Shades. It tended to grind them into the cobbles with little ceremony. Then run over them with a cart and possibly set fire to them for good measure.


--------------------------

1If you're going to have crime, it may as well be organized. Lord Vetinari

2Who is, apparently, human. He has a piece of paper that says so.

3Sorta...

4Surprise!

5The anthropomorphic personification, not the state.

6Literally.

71. Guards! Guards!; 2. Men at Arms; 3. Feet of Clay, 4. Jingo, 5. The Fifth Elephant, 6. Night Watch; 7. Thud! Plus cameos in various other novels. The 8th Watch novel is supposed to be out in October.

8It's complicated.

9You should be afraid if Lord Vetinari hates you...at least for as long as you're still alive. If he likes you, you should really be terrified.

10One of which was his own amusement, although one shudders to think what would amuse Vetinari. It might involve hanging upside down in a pit full of scorpions.

11So, naturally, Vetinari has made Vimes a diplomat. If nothing else, it makes things interesting.

             

 

Tags: fandom: discworld, ship: lady sybil ramkin/samuel vimes, special: manifesto
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