Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Vimes, Sir Samuel, His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.
Sam Vimes was born in Cockbill Street, in the Rimwards part of the Shades (the poorest area in the city). It was so poor that there wasn't much crime – though Sam was part of a street gang with Lupine Wonse (later secretary to Lord Vetinari). At school he was blackboard monitor for a whole term once.
Sam's father's name was Thomas. His mother told the young Sam that he was run down by a cart, but this was apparently untrue. Whatever happened to him, she raised the young Sam on her own.
The City Watch (Ankh-Morpork's police force) apparently runs in the Vimes family. It has been suggested that Sam's father was a Watchman, and he is the descendant of Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes, the Watch Commander who led the rebellion against the last king. Vimes and his famous ancestor share a nickname: Old Stoneface.
Sam Vimes was in his late teens when he joined the Watch (about 30 years ago). He was part of that section of the Watch which played a large role in the rebellion against Homicidal Lord Winder. It was around this time he was taught all he knows by Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel, which is where his cynical outlook on life (and, paradoxically, his firm belief in justice) comes from.
(However, in current history, Keel was in fact Sam himself flung back in time thirty years. As Lu-Tze explains it to Vimes in the novel Night Watch, both pasts are true and there was a real John Keel as well as himself teaching his young self, this being the reason why he has to do so. On the other hand, certain details and events point to it having been Vimes all along.)
During the first 25 years of his term in the watch Sam rose to Captain of the Night Watch as it dwindled to a tiny stub – while the power of the Thieves' Guild grew. This insult to Sam's sense of justice, together with his being naturally knurd and other events led to heavy drinking which probably came near to killing him.
All that changed when Carrot Ironfoundersson came to the city. This man (raised by dwarfs) joined the Watch and set out to help the city. Around the same time a dragon assaulted the city (not a swamp dragon, a real, big dragon) and the Watch was instrumental in its defeat.
Later they took on extra staff in the form of a werewolf, a dwarf and a troll and were instrumental in foiling an attempt on the Patrician's life. As a reward the Watch was rapidly revived and became very important in the city.
Vimes, who was on the point of retiring following his marriage to Lady Sybil Ramkin, was given the resurrected rank of Commander, putting him in charge of the Night Watch and the Day Watch. He also (to his disgust) received a Knighthood. Largely at Sybil's behest, but also out of concern for his own health, Sam gave up drinking after the marriage, and now smokes cigars instead.
Sir Samuel took a great interest in the restructuring of the Watch, placing new Watch Houses where they were needed and supervising the creation of both a Watch Academy and a forensic alchemy section.
He also created a plainclothes division named the Cable Street Particulars, seeing the necessity for "invisible" Watchmen, although he feels people should remain suspicious of the idea. He also thwarted yet another attempt to overthrow the Patrician.
Sam Vimes also seems to be one of the most remarkable men in the city. Set apart from the general populace of Ankh-Morpork by (probably) actually having an IQ, his cunning, physical strength, and experience all come together to form one of its most influential citizens (despite his inadmission to this fact.)
He has thwarted several attempts on his life by Assassins, beaten werewolves in "The Game", and, most usefully, can tell exactly where he is anywhere in Ankh or Morpork just by the feel of the cobbles beneath his feet - although the expensive, good quality (and thick-soled) boots his wife persists in buying for him restrict his abilities in this area.
(Terry Pratchett noted the following about Vimes on the Usenet: "Vimes is fundamentally a person. He fears he may be a bad person because he knows what he thinks rather than just what he says and does. He chokes off those little reactions and impulses, but he knows what they are. So he tries to act like a good person, often in situations where the map is unclear.")
Vimes as Duke of Ankh-Morpork
Vimes was later involved in preventing a pointless war with Klatch, and was once more "rewarded" with an unwanted title, in this case Duke of Ankh-Morpork. He now finds himself in the awkward position of continuing to despise the ruling classes of the city, while actually being one of them.
In the course of his mission to Überwald as Ambassador he was disgusted to learn that he was also entitled to be addressed as "His Excellency". While this may have impressed the ruling cliques in Überwald, it did not impress him.
Somewhere in the middle of all this he also acquired the nickname "Old Stoneface", which he shares with his regicidal ancestor. (He also shares it with Oliver Cromwell, who shares many similarities with Suffer-Not-Injustice, and Judge Dredd; Sam Vimes and Dredd were both partially inspired by Dirty Harry.)
His role as Duke of Ankh largely involves diplomacy, although he occasionally finds the opportunity to use some police work (as in, for example, his visit to Überwald in The Fifth Elephant). His role as Commander largely involves paperwork, since Carrot is too efficient for him to need to do any "proper" police work himself. In some ways he found it something of a relief when, in Night Watch, he was transported back to the Ankh-Morpork of his youth, and became a sergeant in the inefficient, paperwork-free and moderately corrupt Watch of that time.
Night Watch also reveals that he is off the list of people for whom the Assassins' Guild will accept contracts, which suggests that they feel he has become vital to the continuation of the city. (Or, more likely, that he has simply proved too difficult to assasinate, by way of laying traps for anyone attempting to do so.)
Sam Vimes is, much to his own horror, becoming a politician. However, he remains a copper in his soul. Being a significant figure on the (Disc)world stage just means he finds bigger crimes.
He and Sybil have one small son, Sam Jr, born 25th May 1990.
Recently, Commander Vimes has seen involvement with:
- William de Worde, Otto Chriek and the The Ankh-Morpork Times in The Truth
- The war between Borogravia and Zlobenia (and everyone else in the region) in Monstrous Regiment
- Moist von Lipwig, the Post Office and the Grand Trunk Company's monopoly on the "clacks" system in Going Postal
While there have been a number of amateur stage productions of the books, a professional adaption of Guards! Guards! went on tour in 1998. Vimes was played by Paul Darrow, best known for his role in Blake's 7.
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