The following passage is taken from the section of the book where Captain Vimes gets thrown into the dungeon, where he realizes that the Patrician is also being held captive:

It was a perfectly normal dungeon door, but it all depended on your sense of perspective.

In this dungeon the Patrician could hold off the world.

All that was on the outside was the lock.

All the bolts and bars were on the inside.

I see this passage quoted many times over online discussions, so much so that it makes me wonder whether I am missing some deeper meaning (as is often the case with Sir Terry's books).

I originally read this to mean that being locked in the dungeon could mean safety from any threat coming from the outside (what with the dragon roaming the city and all), but this does not hold up in light of the fact that a lock on the outside could anyway be opened from the outside, making this a moot point.

What is this passage supposed to mean?

  • Would't somebody on the outside need a key to open the lock? So you'd be safe from any threat from the outside, as long as the threat doesn't have a key.
    – Peter Shor
    Nov 27, 2023 at 0:52
  • 1
    If the bolts were on the inside then opening the lock wouldn't guarantee that the door would open. The Patrician has the final say on who he would let in. Nov 27, 2023 at 8:47

1 Answer 1


The bolts and bars are separate mechanisms from the lock and are controlled by occupants of the cell. Just because someone or something on the outside has a key does not mean they can open the door.

Think of it as a panic room that just happens to have a lock on the outside. And of course, one would be foolish to place much faith in the ability of that lock to influence the Patrician’s ability to move about his city at will. As we learn a little later on

“He padded over to the wall and pushed a small block that looked exactly like all the other small blocks. No other small block, however, would have caused a section of flagstone to grind ponderously aside.

There was a carefully chosen assortment of stuff in there–iron rations, spare clothes, several small chests of precious metals and jewels, tools. And there was a key. Never build a dungeon you couldn’t get out of.”

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.