From Discworld & Terry Pratchett Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bledlow McAbre by Kit Cox
Occupation Security for Unseen University
Physical appearance Hefty men, uniform includes a bowler hat
Marital Status
Books The Last Continent, Unseen Academicals
Cameos The Last Hero, Equal Rites

The Bledlows or "lobsters" are the policemen of the Unseen University. They are mostly former watchmen and soldiers, heavy-set and have quite a good turn of speed for their age. Like watchmen everywhere, they believe in the universal guilt of everybody -- in their case, the students.

They have a time-honoured and arcane ceremony at two in the morning which is akin to the Changing of the Guards in other cities of the Multiverse, only louder and more obtrusive, involving the Patting of the Pockets, the I'll Swear They Were Here This Morning, and the Stone Me, They Were Here All Along, and ending with the signing-over of keys between the incoming and outgoing porters. Attempts to get them to turn the volume down a bit are regarded as gross insults from people, who while they might know the value of a good night's sleep, have no respect for deeper values such as Tradition.

In The Last Hero and the The Science of Discworld series, the Bledlows are used by Ridcully to prevent Rincewind from running away. (When confronted by a potential act of heroism, Rincewind follows his better instincts by turning and running.} He doesn't get very far before being (gently) restrained by grinning Bledlows, who are noteworthy in that they have succeeded where other, younger, guards with more weapons and attitude have failed. They are, in short, the one body of men whom Rincewind cannot outrun or evade, which says a lot for all the practice they get chasing down students.

The one person they have thus far been unable to restrain is Granny Weatherwax, as demonstrated in Equal Rites. When Granny really wants to get into the Great Hall and see the Archchancellor, nothing (not even Bledlows) is going to be able to stop her. The Bledlows also know better than to argue with Glenda Sugarbean and tend to retreat from the Night Kitchen when she is irritable.

Known Bledlows


It is clear that the Bledlows are based on the proctors and porters of the older British universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. Although UEA Norwich (est. 1963) had its characters in the Porters' Lodge too...

Knowing TP's preference for the German language (see Mr.Nutt's booklist in "Unseen Academicals") the term could be derived from "Blattlaus" which is a vine louse.

The Changing of the Arch-Chancellor's Keys, and the Bursar's ineffectual complaints about it going on under his window has its resonances in other ways in which Tradition allows those of lower rank to tweak the noses of their social superiors. In the Gordon Highlanders, for instance, the pipe band was allowed to sound reveille on Friday mornings to awaken the barracks. Always, without fail, the full pipes and drums would assemble in absolute silence beneath the windows of the junior officers' quarters, and, at six in the morning, awaken their lieutenants with a shattering rendition of "Johnnie Cope", the Scottish Army's traditional "Reveille", from fifteen feet away. Attempts to remonstrate the band were inevitably futile... this was recounted by author George McDonald-Fraser, who served as a subaltern with the Gordons and who is one of Terry's favourite writers.

Throughout Unseen Academicals, Bledlow Alf Nobbs is referred to as "Bledlow Nobbs (no relation)", after he has stated that he is no relation to "Nobby" Nobbs of the Watch.

According to Thud!, bledlows were assigned their crustacean moniker “for being thick-shelled, liable to turn red when hot, and having the smallest brain for their size of any known creature.”

Interestingly, there is a small town in Buckinghamshire, England, twenty or so miles north-west of Terry Pratchett's native Beaconsfield, which is called Bledlow. It is difficult to think he was not aware of this.