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- What was the point of the title The Fifth Elephant? I know it was a reference to the dwarf fat mines that were possibly made by a long lost fifth elephant, but what did that have to do with the plot? It was more about bread and werewolves than anything. Was Pratchett just a big fan of The Fifth Element or what?
- The allusion to the obscenely profitable film probably didn't help matters, but in Uberwald "The Fifth Elephant" is also slang for "Something that is not what it seems", which pretty much references the entirety of the evil plot, as well as The Scone...
- Or something whose legend has grown to be far grander than the truth, and is therefore prized for its legendary import. There was no "fifth elephant" — the baby turtles in The Light Fantastic only had four baby pachyderms each — but the myth about it is far more impressive than the alternate buried-herds-of-mastadons theory.
- It was a Pune or play on words. Of course Pratchett was going to use it.
- Early on in the book, it's mentioned that the Fifth Elephant is a metaphor for "something that is not what it seems" and "something that, while unseen, controls events". Later, while going on his diplomatic missions, Vimes muses on how diplomacy is just "lying to a better class of people", and how people who only seem to hand out cucumber sandwiches have a lot of power. Near the end, when Albrecht confirms that the Scone is real and Sybil gets the fat from the king for a low price, Vimes realizes that this is the real diplomacy - "the whole thing was the Fifth Elephant". The Elephant is actually a metaphor for diplomacy, which is one of the more important themes of the book.
- The fifth element, the quintessence, is much older than the movie. It was part of Greek philosophy. The four classical elements (earth, water, etc) were represented by four of the platonic solids, but there's a fifth platonic solid, and that led to the idea of the aether, the perfect and un-earthly element that composes the planets, the stars, the sun, the moon, and the space they inhabit. Over time, the encroachment of science led to the rather running gag that the fifth element was something never seen, never to be found, and always shifting in its nature because, fundamentally, it just doesn't exist. Much like the scone of stone.
- Vimes mentions the traditional dwarves get carted around curtained sedan chairs... operated by trolls. Seeing as the dwarf-troll tensions are rather high in this book, and the traditional dwarfs tend to be more passionate about these matters, it's a bit of a Wall Banger.
- Why would they care if the wheels of their carts happen to be made of rock(s)?
- Curtained. As in, can't see what's going on outside. So if the trolls should happen to pass a large pit, or a furnace, or a burning house (it's Ankh-Morpork, there has to be something along those lines), toss the chair in and run...
- Good on 'em. They'd get hunted down in a heartbeat despite general dislike for the "traditional dwarfs", what with it being a hate crime, Carrot's standing with the Watch, and the amicableness of many dwarfs and trolls these days and those what frown on bringing back the bad old days, but good for them, throwing off the yoke of the oppressors and all. Now, were you saying "can't see the trolls, that could be why they don't care" or "can't see the environment through which the trolls are taking them, and should care a heck of a lot more"? If the latter, again, "Why would they care if the wheels of their carts happen to be made of rock(s)?"
- Well let me put it another way: Why would (the dwarf-hating) trolls work for/with dwarfs?
- Ah, okay. Sorry for not understanding. Money? The chance to throw a drudak'ak into a large pit, or a furnace, or a burning house? Tasty chemicals that aren't readily available outside of mines?
- Or maybe the trolls think it's funny. We know the drudak'ak use city dwarfs as middlemen for dealings with non-dwarfs, so perhaps their hirelings are recruiting trolls without their bosses' knowledge, and the trolls are laughing at their passengers' ignorance, all along. They might even consider it a Take That at dwarfs' racist claims that "everything a troll carries is stolen and worthless by definition", if it's a cool night and their brains are working well enough to appreciate irony.
- Chrysoprase told them too and they like their teeth (and fingers) too much to disagree/question it? If you were a Troll mob boss wouldn't you like the chance to keep an eye on the dwarfs leaders just in case? Related to the above, you can bet Chrysoprase understands the joke too. Dem deepdowners, tink they are so great but can't move round wit'out trolls, big laugh Mister Vimes...
- Although the actual word isn't used, it's strongly implied that trolls in Uberwald are sometimes kept as slaves in places like Bonk. It's possible that the drudak'ak's litter-bearers are Uberwaldean trolls who were brought to the city in chains, and continue to obey their owners inside Ankh-Morpork (even though slavery is illegal there) because their loved ones' safety back home depends upon it.
- Or, just that these particular trolls are more willing to trade money for dignity. Let's assume stupid before evil: dwarf gets to power-trip by exercising hisnote will on his racial enemies, trolls get to make some money in exchange for their pride.
- Trolls are not human; they may not see pride and dignity the way a human would.
- For the same reason that any racist would hire a member of a race they view as inferior for menial tasks. It's not like there aren't tons of parallels in Roundworld history. Considering it was routine for a master to have a slave shave him with a straight razor, the lack of concern for attack from the trolls doesn't surprise me.
Angua's father's name
- Angua's father is repeatedly called (even once in this novel) Guye von Uberwald, but here, after one mention of his old name, he's called Ruston for the rest of the story. Is there some obscure nickname I'm missing here?
- Possibly nobles in Uberwald have a "coronation name" that they adopt when they inherit a title, that's separate from the personal name used in daily life by their families. Or it could be that "Guye" was his father's name too, so growing up he got into the habit of using his middle name (Ruston) to distinguish himself from his dad.
- Could also be a family habit — Angua is only called Angua by people from Ankh-Morpork and Lady Margalotta, most of the others in Uberwald called her Delphine. However, in my copy he's always Guye or just the Baron.
- Either "Guye" or "Ruston" could be the name of his barony. Noblemen are sometimes referred to by their lands' names among their peers.
Margolotta and Vimes
- Does anyone have a theory, or a Word of God, about what Lady Margolotta means by putting Vimes' aversion to vampires down to his "personality type"? The bit about "the penetrative aspect" seems suggestive but in the wrong way?
- I assumed she's winding Vimes up like Vetinari always did. Getting him all nice and tense in the hope that when he unwinds all at once its enough to take out there Wolves.
- I'm thinking that by "penetrative", she means "controlling", domineering, power-hungry. They can reach into your mind and take away your personal power. Vimes finds the notion both morally offensive (for obvious reasons) and personally terrifying (because then he can't control himself).
- In contrast to Pratchett's usual genius with consistency and detail, the weight mechanism guarding the Scone of Stone only makes sense if you don't think about it at all. If you try to figure out how exactly it's supposed to work, you'll find its apparent principle is convoluted enough to require a computer to run it, but it would still have to be a very stupidly programmed computer.
- Which might have been the point all along, given that the overly complex mechanism proves almost idiotically easy to bypass.
- The platform is - unseen to anyone walking on it - actually floating in an underground reservoir of water, so when you step on it (entering the Scone room), it displaces a certain amount of water, which flows into a bathtub-shaped tank on rails. When you step off the platform, that tank is shunted along a bit, and replaced by an identical but empty one. The original reservoir refills using a ballcock mechanism. The next time you step on the platform (on your way out of the Scone room), the same thing happens, displacing water into the second movable tank. If you were the same weight each time, the two tanks weigh the same now. Otherwise, one is heavier. The tanks slide sideways onto a simple scale mechanism. If there's a difference in the weights, the scale tilts, knocking a switch that lowers the cage around you and sounds the alarm-bell. Simple.
- But it would be mechanically impossible for the components to move fast enough to get separate readings for Vimes, Cheery and Dee, and the system must also be able to distinguish between which of the people who went in is now coming out.
- The story takes place on (in?) a flat world that flies through space on the back of four (formerly five?) elephants and a giant turtle. Besides, undoubtedly there are dwarven wizards.
- Or the mechanism is nothing more than a reasonably accurate set of scales backed up by a dwarf on duty watching the readout, taking notes and doing some quick maths. Yes, an alarm rings during the test, but there's no reason to assume it was an automatic one.
- I've just re-read the passage and there is NO indication of how the mechanism actually works - there is a short comment about a hydraulic system, but that's the "boat lift", not the scales in the corridor leading to the scone. Where are you guys even finding all that detail to argue about?
- That's just one hypothetical solution that probably only took a few minutes to think of. The Dwarves have had centuries to work on the problem.
- Whatever its mechanics, the weight mechanism begs a lot of questions, quite apart from how or whether it'd be an effective security system. For instance, how does it allow for the loss of weight when the candle-changer swaps unburned candles for used-up stubs, which would be much lighter?
Carrot's Views on birth control
- Carrot is noted to have Views about sonkies (ie., condoms), being a dwarf and dwarves not holding with that sort of thing. Does that apply to birth control in general? We know he and Angua are sexually active. Are there going to be a bunch of royal pups running about? Do they use the rhythm method, and if so, does her other cycle make that inconvenient???
- Carrot doesn't have Views, he just blushes when talking about them and alludes to the Views of others as potentially factoring into the murder. I don't think the dwarf stance on birth control is ever described; their stance on sex is that it's the business of nobody but the participants, but that's as far as the information goes. Besides, sex acts are hardly limited to the one that produces children.