History Monks

History Monks
The Order of Wen the Eternally Surprised
Universe Discworld
Type Religious order
Founded by Wen the Eternally Surprised, although exactly when is probably impossible to say
Location Valley of Oi Dong, in the high Ramtops
Key people Wen
The Abbot
Lobsang Ludd
Purpose Maintaining Discworld history
Technologies Time-shaping "procrastinators".
Qu's devices that explode unexpectedly.
Powers*** Control over time and limited time travel
Monks trained by Lu-Tze can pass unnoticed anywhere

The Order of Wen the Eternally Surprised, better known as the History Monks, and also sometimes referred to as THE Fighting Order of Wen, the Men In Saffron (see Men in Black) and No Such Monastery (see NSA), is a highly secretive religious organisation in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, based in the Monastery of Oi-Dong. They are one of a large number of monastic orders that occupy the high Ramtops. A Buddhist-like sect, it maintains Discworld history, based on the huge History Books in their Ramtop monastery.


The role of The Order

The Order first appears in Small Gods where they are described as having the responsibility of observing significant events so that they become 'history', instead of just things that happen. However, there is a slight reference to the Order in "Guards! Guards!", where at the end of the novel there are many bright orange robed men loading barrels and one specifically mentions the name Lobsang. They also have responsibility to see history follows the right track, as set out in the huge lead-bound History Books – 20,000 of them, ten feet high, with printing small enough to need a magnifying glass to read. "When people say it is written – it is written here." According to Small Gods, three people go at a time to access the books because once in the past one person used to go in alone, learn about the future, and won a large sum in bets before he was found out.

In Thief of Time we find that this is a simplification, and the main role of the monastery is to ensure anything happens at all. To do this, they have a number of methods for moving and storing time, for example by means of spinning cylinders called procrastinators (possibly an analogy with capacitors, a reservoir of electric charge). Procrastinators look like Tibetan prayer wheels, and are evocative of the Tipler Cylinder theory. (It having been established as early as Wyrd Sisters that people's perception of time affects its flow on the Disc, the Monks must ensure this does not become a problem, by, as an example, taking some time from the middle of the ocean ('how much time does a codfish need?') and putting it in a busy Ankh-Morpork workshop with a deadline to meet.)

They also frequently need to enter the world, to take a more direct hand in events. It is for this reason that a number of monks have been trained as ninjas. Many of them have since been retrained by Lu-Tze, who believes most problems can be sorted out without resorting to martial arts.

Because of the Order's control of Time, the valley is permanently reliving a perfect day, with the cherry blossom beginning to fall (which is too bad if you actually want cherries.) Fortunately for Lu-Tze, at the end of Thief of Time, Lobsang Ludd, the new personification of Time, makes a slight adjustment to some of the valley's trees so as to give his tutor his own "perfect moment".



Lu-Tze first appeared in the novel Small Gods as a minor character. His name is an allusion to the Chinese legendary figure Lao-Tze, the sage to whom the Tao Te Ching is attributed. He is one of the History Monks and spends much of the novel in the background, disguised as a simple sweeper. He also deliberately changes the course of history because he didn't like the way things "should" go, replacing a horrific war with a century of peace.

Lu-Tze has a more substantial role in Thief of Time, in which we learn that he is not a monk at all, but "merely" a sweeper at the Monastery of Oi-Dong. The lack of a formal title, in fact, gives him fewer restrictions than his contemporaries. In fact, he uses the same trick (that no-one notices a sweeper) in the monastery as he does when out in the world, and has learnt as much about the nature of time as some of the higher monks simply by tidying up the classrooms. Everyone knows Lu-Tze's name as one of the best monks on the field, but few realise who he actually is. He is generally referred to just as "Sweeper."

He is very good at martial arts when he needs to be and is the only known master of "Déjà fu", in which the hands move in time as well as space. This is best described as 'the feeling you've been kicked in the head this way before'. Generally he relies on the fact no-one notices a sweeper, a well-honed ability to talk his way out of anything and "Rule One". Rule One states "Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men". (Due to the Disc's narrative causality such a person is almost always a highly-trained martial artist. Rule Nineteen states: "Remember never to forget Rule One, and always ask yourself, how come it was created in the first place?") It is the opinion of many that Lu-Tze uses Rule One to bluff his way out of trouble, but, if necessary, he can prove it's no bluff. He does this towards the end of Thief of Time by defeating Lobsang Ludd (then incarnated as the personification of Time) in a fair fight, in front of a crowd of higher monks. As he said, "Def'nitely give the ol' Rule One a fillip." In many respects, Lu-Tze's methods resemble those of Granny Weatherwax, the Discworld's most powerful witch: both characters are extremely skilled in their chosen field, but because of their refusal to flaunt their skill are sometimes accused of being powerless frauds; both possess a great insight into the nature of human behavior, and prefer to use this insight against their opponents when threatened, only resorting to open displays of power when all other options have been exhausted.

Lu-Tze also appears in Night Watch in a small - but significant - role.

He is a devout follower of The Way of Mrs. Cosmopilite, a way of life of his own devising which he created after lodging with Marietta Cosmopilite in Ankh-Morpork, some of which is explained in more detail in Lu-Tze's Yearbook of Enlightenment.

Lobsang Ludd

Lobsang (born Newgate Ludd) was raised by the Ankh-Morpork Thieves' Guild, but was discovered by Soto of the History Monks when Lobsang performed the Stance of the Coyote (personalized time shift, possibly a reference to cartoon character Wile E. Coyote's ability to pause in mid-air, often for comic effect) in order to save his own life after falling from a rooftop, which would have killed him. Afterwards he was sent to and raised in the Temple, where he confounded his teachers by knowing too much, but not knowing how he knows it, and even then not knowing that he knows it till he is asked the specific question. Eventually he was apprenticed to Lu-Tze after his teachers were unable to teach him. This move was not entirely in Lobsangs best interests- due to internal politics, it was hoped they would "break" each other. Lu-Tze theorised that time's hold on him was "loose" — for example, Lobsang could demonstrate a negative reaction time- moving towards something before it starts moving, though this theory eventually proved to be wrong. During this time he showed several unique powers, being able to sense the direction of a time disturbance, balancing the "load" of time down to less than a second after a Time Crash (which a man with 50,000 years experience claims he couldn't even hope to do) and reacting to (and being reacted to by) the Mandala, a visual display of Time on the Disk. After the time crash he goes out into the world to stop the second Glass Clock, (under the pretext of being shown the Way of Mrs Cosmopilite) which was being constructed by his then unknown temporal double, Jeremy Clockson.

It is revealed after time stops that he can make his own time, and pairs up with Susan Sto Helit to stop the Clock. He finds out about his "brother" (who is actually him, just having led a different life and born a second after him) and after touching him, they combine, and it is revealed that he is the son of Wen the Eternally Surprised and the personification of Time. After fusing with Jeremy, Lobsang inherited all of Time's powers (though due to his inexperience he needs "time" to recharge them initially) and eventually takes over her role. Due to his nature, even before this, Death could not see him, as he lies outside of Death's influence.

At the end of Thief of Time he shares an unspecified "perfect moment" with Susan Sto Helit (a.k.a. Susan Death), who is also a human who inherited qualities from an anthropomorphic personification. Lobsang inherited powers directly from his parent; she, indirectly from a foster grandparent (Death). However, unlike Susan, who is mostly human, Lobsang is "mostly not" human- he has the mindset and "infuriating smile" of a God, and thinks in 18 dimensions- he claims that even seeing in only 4 is hard, making it difficult to maintain corporeal form. His incarnation of Jeremy had romantic inclinations to Myria LeJean, the first embodied Auditor, who shared the feeling but wasn't able to express it, due firstly to Jeremy's nullification and secondly due to her committing suicide via 10,000-gallon vat of chocolate at the end of Thief of Time.

Other members

  • Wen the Eternally Surprised. The founder of the order, and the writer of the History Books. Wen was the first person to fully grasp the nature of time—that the only thing that exists in the universe is the present, that the past is only a memory, and that the universe is literally broken down and rebuilt by Time from moment to moment, in an interval which would come to be known as the "quantum cosmic tick".[1] Considering this, he said, the only appropriate state of mind is surprise; and of the heart, joy. Wen is also involved in a relationship with the personification of Time, the only man she ever stopped for. Considering the name of the castle Oi Dong, he is a reference to King Wen, the mythical author of I Ching, (The Book of Changes).[original research?] His name could also be a pun on the word "when."
  • Clodpool the Apprentice. Wen's extremely stupid apprentice. Wen stated that if Clodpool could learn his teachings, anyone could.
  • The Abbot. One of the wisest minds on the Disc, capable of thinking in sixteen dimensions (only two less than Time claims to think in.) He has not acquired the "circular-aging" (a form of immortality) ability of the other monks, however, and must therefore reincarnate. (He could be compared to the Dalai Lama in this sense.) His body is about a year old during Thief of Time, though his mind is certainly many centuries old.
  • Qu. A mechanically-minded, white-haired monk with a fascination for things that go bang. Qu invents most of the weaponry that the order's martial artists take on their missions into the world. He is based on the James Bond character Q.[2] Technically though, in Pinyin his name would be pronounced chu.
  • Marco Soto. A monk with a huge ponytail, he claims he does have a shaved head and the hair is a separate entity. This has done wonders for his ability to get sent out on assignments far from the monastery, and he is currently the head of the History Monks based in Ankh-Morpork. A student of Lu-Tze, he knows there are many ways for a monk to become invisible, but the best is to be holding a begging-bowl (it should be noted, though, that the bowl was made by the aforementioned Qu). Devoted to peace and cosmic harmony, as long as no-one touches his hair. He is named after a Discworld fan who won a charity auction to appear as a cameo character.
  • Soon Shine Sun. Another monk based in Ankh-Morpork. Soon Shine Sun runs the second-hand clothes shop ("shonky" shop) next to the Order's Ankh-Morpork temple. He avoids awkward questions by feigning a near total inability to speak the Morporkian language.


  1. ^ Time at the L-Space Wiki
  2. ^ Qu@L-Space.com

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