The Ankh-Morpork Beggars' Guild is a guild for panhandlers, down-and-outs and borderline cases in Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on the Discworld, the setting for the long running series of fantasy novels of the same name by Terry Pratchett.
The Beggars' Guild is the oldest, largest and (perhaps surprisingly) richest of the city's many guilds. Its name is something of a contradiction: a trading organisation for a group of people who, by definition, don't actually trade in anything, except perhaps in the feeling on the part of the donator that he or she has done a good deed, or, and this is far more frequent, the peace of mind of knowing that the beggar, now appeased, will not bother the donator any more. In this sense, the Beggars' Guild is something like the Thieves' Guild; far more of its income comes from not performing their stated trade than from performing it. If one has a social function to organise, a quick payment to the Beggars' Guild ensures that no malformed, malodorous, drooling, pustlule-encrusted babblers will appear to ruin it. Indeed, not making such a donation is a surefire method of ensuring that just that sort will turn up.
The Beggars' Guild, like all the Ankh-Morpork guilds, has a very strict code of practice and enforced hierarchy. The levels of Beggary include:
- Demanders of a Chip
- People Who Call Other People Jimmy
- People Who Need Tuppence For A Cup Of Tea
- People Who Need Eightpence For A Meal
- People With Placards Saying "Why lie? I need a beer."
In the The Discworld Companion, Pratchett claimed that Foul Ol Ron and his Canting Crew were listed as a special Guild classification all their own, having previously referred to Ron as "a Mutterer in good standing" in Men at Arms; however, in The Art of Discworld and later novels he claims that they are not members of the Guild, which has too many rules for their tastes. In The Truth, it is explained that the Guild have not run the unlicenced Crew out of town because even beggars need to know there is someone worse off than them.
The Guild enforces patrols and shifts among the beggars so that Beggary is properly distributed, presumably for maximum earnings. Anyone attempting to move above his position or perform his sanctioned role out of his assigned area or time period is harshly dealt with.
The Guild is ruled by a council under the authority of a Head Beggar, who is given the title of King or Queen. The current Head Beggar is named Queen Molly, though despite her senior position, she is still a beggar; dressed in a gown of rags, covered in warts (on warts) and running sores, and walking with a cane. By virtue of her position, the items she begs for are significant: in 'Jingo' she mentions begging for a banquet and 'a mansion for the night'. Nonetheless she is a shrewd political operator; because beggars exist everywhere and are usually ignored, they hear, see and smell everything in the city, making the inner circle of the Beggars' Guild one of Ankh-Morpork's main nerve centres for genuine information, a priceless political tool. Also, the guild has ammassed a vast private fortune, which Queen Molly has wisely invested. In fact, the Beggars' Guild is the leaseholder for some of the poshest tennant houses in Ankh.
The guild offers "beggar schooling" and social benefits (such as retribution for kickings by passing pedestrians) for its members, but seems to draw the line at health care, housing or a living wage. Obviously, there are certain expectations people have of beggars.
Coat of armsEdit
Motto: MONETA SUPERVACANEA, MAGISTER? ("Spare change, mister?")
The arms has nothing to do with begging in itself; rather, it is the fact that it is a broken, faded, second-hand coat of arms that matters.
- Guilds of Ankh-Morpork
- Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild
- Ankh-Morpork Thieves' Guild
- Fools' Guild (Discworld)