Harry King

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King of the Golden River
Harry King, as drawn by Matt Smith
Name Harry King
Race Human
Occupation Waste Management
Physical appearance Large, Pink-faced, smokes a big cigar
Residence The Scours, Ankh-Morpork
Relatives daughters Daphne and Herminone
Marital Status Married to Effie King
Books The Truth
Cameos Night Watch, Making Money, Snuff, mentioned Going Postal, The Celebrated Discworld Almanak, The World of Poo

Harry King, also known as Piss Harry and King of the Golden River is a businessman in Ankh-Morpork. He places buckets in a number of establishments and charges the owners a quite reasonable fee to remove them once full. Harry then sells the contents, including saltpetre and ammonia, to alchemists and farmers. What can't be sold to these people can always be used to create compost, which can then be sold. Harry also collects rubbish for composting. People pay him to take away unwanted material, and then he can sell the material for more money.

Harry is a large pink-faced man who is often seen smoking a big cigar. He employs quite a lot of staff: witness the long lines staffing the conveyor belt looking out for specific types of recyclables, including trolls, golems, goblins, and gnolls (the only problem is that the gnolls might eat some of the stuff while the goblins convert likely-looking waste into unggue pots). There are also a number of big black dogs with some Lipwigzer ancestry. Not a Guild member, Harry resents the Guilds for having pressured him to join the Beggars, despite his having never begged for anything in his life. It is unstated why he was not instead recruited by the Guild of Plumbers and Dunnikindivers, although the unorthodox promptness of his bucket-removal services (every night, not "in a week or so, maybe two") may be to blame.

As a young man Harry was always very good at spying out valuable waste, such as tosheroons which could then be sold. As his wealth grew, he was able to hire gangs of street kids to act as workers, scavenging entire stretches of the river. Rival gangs were driven off or taken over, with Harry willing to hire trolls to act as enforcers long before anyone else caught on to the idea.

The gates of Harry's yard used to carry the slogan "H. King - taking the piss since 1961" but on the insistence of his wife he changed the latter part to "recycling nature's bounty".

Harry is quite illiterate, but he has the business sense to hire clerks who can and will honestly do his paperwork for him. Currently this is a nervous young man named Wallace. Although honest, the reason for Wallace's nervousness is that he knows dishonest clerks tend to become small amounts of profitable end-product, following an opportunity to get to know the guard-dogs better. Ever since earliest childhood, Harry has had a pretty direct way with those who want to cheat him.

Harry has several daughters, and tries to lavish luxury on them in compensation for the perpetual bad smell around him. He is rich now and can get most of the things that money can buy, but one thing that is hard for him to get is class. Anyone who repays Harry a big favour by managing to get him some high-class guests at special occasions can make him very glad indeed.

Harry features again in Making Money in a small but pivotal role, where his acumen as a businessman and developer is set is stark contrast to the money-making sleight of hand of Moist von Lipwig. His confidence in Moist's leadership of the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork leads him to deposit quite a large sum of money just as the bank is about to be closed down.

By the time of Snuff, Lord Vetinari has knighted him, dubbing him Sir Harold King and officially naming his wife "a ladyship". This gives her such great snobbish pride that Lady Euphemia is said to come down hard on any improper usage of her title, and therefore his title. But to old friends, Sir Harold's fine with an informal "Harry" in the privacy of his office.

As well as an impressive fleet of honey-wagons, carts and horsedrawn drays, Sir Harry also runs a fleet of riverbarges and lighters to patrol the Ankh for likely-looking waste, before it dissolves or alchemically transmutes. He has a personal barge called the Lady Euphemia, presumably after his wife. Although the interesting idea arises here. Like Britain's road transport magnate Eddie Stobart, a man who from humble beginnings rose to control a large road haulage fleet, is Sir Harry giving all his vehicles women's names? Stobart is famed for this whimsical quirk.


A euphemism is a literary device involving "trading up" a description of a place or a process or an event so that it sounds more genteel and refined. As an example, consider "fornication" or "copulation" as a euphemism for a shorter word also beginning with "f". Or "congress" as a refined and more genteel way of saying "copulation" - a higher-level euphemism. Or the slightly bizarre to British ears Americanism - "going to the bathroom" for "using the toilet". A general common point of all euphemism is that it takes a bodily function and related terminology, either sexual or scatological, and seeks to evade as much association with that bodily function as it possibly can.

Hence the whole business with taking the piss since 1961 and re-presenting it as recycling nature's bounty. And the woman responsible for this is Lady Euphemia King. (Effie still, to her husband?)