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Literature / The Fifth Elephant

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Sam Vimes is a man on the run. Yesterday he was a duke, a chief of police and the ambassador to the mysterious, fat-rich country of Überwald. Now he has nothing but his native wit and the gloomy trousers of Uncle Vanya (don't ask). It's snowing. It's freezing. And if he can't make it through the forest to civilization there's going to be a terrible war. But there are monsters on his trail. They're bright. They're fast. They're werewolves – and they're catching up. Sam Vimes is out of time, out of luck and already out of breath...

The 24th Discworld novel and the fifth in the Watch theme. The Scone of Stone, an ancient dwarven artifact, has been stolen, and without it, the new Low King of the Dwarfs cannot be crowned. It's up to Sam Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch to travel to Uberwald and unravel the dark conspiracy surrounding the theft. Also, Vimes fights werewolves.

Very significant in that it introduced the Clacks, breaking the Disc's former tradition of Medieval Stasis maintained by the Reset Button (as lampshaded by Lord Vetinari), and (along with the previous book Carpe Jugulum) began a theme of Uberwald being an important story setting that would continue for several books.

Preceded by Carpe Jugulum, followed by The Truth. Preceded in the Watch series by Jingo, followed by Night Watch Discworld. Not to be confused with The Fifth Element.


The Fifth Elephant provides examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: A number of the vampires and werewolves hold to this thinking; Vimes sees it as what people firmly under the Evil category would use as an excuse.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Inigo Skimmer's palm dagger, which can remove a person's head in a single stroke.
  • Addiction Displacement: Lady Margolotta is a "blood teetotaler" who has transferred her lust for blood to a lust for control/politics. And fine tobacco.
  • All Animals Are Dogs:
    • Werewolves have doglike tendencies that become a plot point. As the book itself puts it, anything part human and part wolf must have some dog in there.
    • Subverted by actual wolves, which are not doglike at all, to the extent that Gaspode's usual street-dog repartee fails him entirely. Gavin non-verbally defies the trope by catching a stick Carrot tosses solely so he can very slowly bite it in half while staring directly at him.
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  • Ambadassador: Vimes is sent to Uberwald to be this. He brings Detritus with him for added Ambadassitude, and Skimmer later shows he's one of these too.
  • Appeal to Nature: Colon says he doesn't approve of unnatural things (meaning sonkies) and Vetinari pointedly asks him "So you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree?"
  • Arc Words: [It is] the thing, and the whole of the thing.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: The three gloomy biddies living up the old country house whose barn the naked Vimes winds up in during his unwilling participation in 'The Game' are rather disappointed when he says that he isn't, and points out that he's on the run from werewolves. They eventually supply him with trousers, and an axe, but not before this gem.
    "Er, is that going to take all day?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Vimes sarcastically finishes his list of titles with the fact that he was a blackboard monitor at school. His assistant mentions that he should hold it in reserve in the event of a tie. But subverted in that the dwarfs, with their belief in the importance of the written word, assume that a responsibility for erasing words must surely only be given to a very trustworthy person indeed, leading to him being referred to as "The Blackboard Monitor" and "His Monitorship" by all dwarves for the rest of the series. A more accurate cultural translation would be "Destroyer of Words".
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Vimes is this both unwillingly, since he hasn't been outside of Ankh-Morpork very often, and willingly, since Screw The Rules, He's Doing What's Right!
  • At the Opera Tonight: Vimes and Sybil attend a truncated version of the famous dwarf opera, Bloodaxe and Ironhammer, which depicts the origins of the Scone of Stone. Sybil knows it very well and Vimes is hung up on which partner was which (it's a love story, and they're both dwarfs.)
  • Ax-Crazy: Wolfgang. Partly because he doesn't bother trying to control his violent nature as a werewolf and partly because he has been brought up by a family of Fantasy Nazis.
  • Badass Boast:
    • "Down there it's the Lore, but up here it's me."
    • Gavin's biting a thrown stick in half very slowly may qualify as a non-verbal example.
  • Bamboo Technology: The Clacks, though based on a real system, are inexplicably faster, far cheaper, and vastly more effective than the telegraph was when first introduced on Earth. Some reasons for their effectiveness are given in passing: Discworld has gargoyles, who are good at sitting around watching things and too uncreative to make many mistakes, and has no curvature, which means a signal can travel very far. Given they function as a parody of the Internet, anyway, this is mostly forgivable.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Vimes attacks Wolf with a flare, expecting his instincts to make him catch it. He acknowledges beforehand that it has a slim chance of working.
    • The Game-playing werewolves employ this trope to put Sleeps and Skimmer right where they want them.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Sybil escapes from her room at the Baron's keep this way.
  • Berserk Button: Werewolves with certain words, like "bath" and "vet." Vimes enjoys needling Angua's family by mentioning Lord Vetinari and the hot baths they have at the embassy.
  • Betty and Veronica: Hinted at with werewolf Angua, who has run away from her human life with good, dependable Carrot and joined up with a "good friend" Gavin, a true wolf who is implied to be an old flame. She seems undecided as to whether she is going to return to Ankh-Morpork afterwards.
  • Bond One-Liner: Defied after killing Wolfgang, Vimes thinks of several of these but he realises that saying any of them would make him nothing more than a cold-hearted murderer, as it would mean he enjoyed what he did.
  • Book-Ends: The novel starts with Gavin the wolf hitching a ride to Ankh-Morpork in the back of a lumber wagon, and ends with Gaspode the Wonder Dog mooching a lift home to Ankh-Morpork on a coal barge.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Ideas Taster Dee. Dee hates the fact that there are dwarfs who are openly female. The primary reason is that she's jealous they could do it while she can't.
  • Brick Joke: Near the beginning of the novel, one of the watchmen tells Vimes that "ping" is a dialect word meaning 'water meadow'. Nothing comes of this until nearly the end of the novel, when Vimes has a pang of conscience so small it's more of a ping, which causes him to remember about the dialect meaning.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The Scone of Stone and B'hrian Bloodaxe are mentioned as throwaway gags in Feet of Clay but become a serious and dramatic part of this story.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the empty clacks tower, Vimes finds a mortar flare and reads the instructions, "Light fuse. Do not place in mouth." He also explains why it is a stupid weapon since it can't be aimed. Both of these come into play at the end of the book.
    • At the Opera Tonight turns out to be important later, although Vimes himself hadn't been paying attention to the plot.
  • Chubby Chef: Restaurant owner All Jolson got his nickname because he loves his own cooking so much that passers-by who see him keep saying they can't believe that massively-fat body is all Jolson.
  • Colony Drop: The titular Fifth Elephant lost its footing on Great A'tuin's shell in prehistory and collided with the Disc, breaking apart its Pangaea-type supercontinent and being responsible for Uberwald's fat reserves. That's the legend about it, anyway: there's another suggestion that the fat reserves are from a large number of megafauna (big animals) in the region that died suddenly and were miraculously preserved, in kind of a riff off of how people think of oil as "dead dinosaurs." The discussions of the importance of Uberwaldian fat to Ankh-Morpork's industries and modern living resembles discussions of how important oil is to the real world.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Huge parts of the book read like a love letter to this trope. Both the hero and the villain show different shades of how it can work.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Subverted and invoked, because werewolves really are very clever.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Skimmer pretends to be an ordinary clerk. He can be assumed retroactively to be a member of Vetinari's "dark clerks", who aren't mentioned as a group until Going Postal but are strongly implied to be Spiritual Successors to Inigo's character.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • Despite the enraged plummeting pachyderm on the cover of some editions, to say nothing of the title, the book is not actually about an elephant. Well, it is about an elephant, but a metaphorical, not literal, one.
    • The blurb on the back cover of one of the editions is also extremely misleading, with statements like "It's up to the dauntless Vimes ... to solve the puzzle of the missing pachyderm". The "fifth elephant" is mentioned in the book as an Uberwaldian phrase meaning "something that is not what it seems", while the back cover makes it sound like Vimes is actively looking for the literal fifth elephant.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Once Sybil realises that she's a captive, she escapes a barred window via Bedsheet Ladder, and lays out a werewolf with one of the iron bars.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Wolfgang's pack are fond of a low-tech variant, waiting under a tarp in a rowboat for an unsuspecting quarry to climb aboard.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Gavin, via a Heroic Sacrifice. Vimes's inner cynic can't help but notice this, and how things always turn up trumps for Carrot, even though he'll never say it to Carrot's face.
  • Determinator: Vimes knows Wolfgang isn't finished due to these tendencies. He makes a short speech to Sybil comparing him to the men in Ankh-Morpork who will charge into insurmountable odds and won't give up until they're dead. One of the few times in the series that Vimes doesn't understand the irony of his and other people's statements.
    Sybil: Yes, I think I know the type.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Sam Vimes taking tea with Lady Margolotta. She might not look too scary in a fluffy pink jumper, but Tantony runs out the door, revealing his Obfuscating Stupidity by reacting to Vimes's dismissal before Cheery translated it.
  • Digging to China: Viewing the candle-dotted dwarf city far beneath Bonk for the first time, a flabbergasted Vimes murmurs that they've gone down too deep, presumably emerging on the underside of the Disc.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The geopolitical plot, with shattered Uberwald harboring rich fat reserves needed to make candles for Ankh-Morpork, is a parody of central and eastern Europe's dependency on oil and gas from Russia — right down to the metaphor of "the lights go off."
    • On the other hand, the "traditional" dwarfs who find femininity sinful and demand it be hidden, wear shrouding robes, "prefer" their own laws over the law of a country they live in and possess fossil fuel can also make one think of various Muslim cultures.
    • There are also Nazi werewolves, for good measure.
    • On a less serious note, mention is made of some people using the new communication system in crowded public places, to the annoyance of people in their general vicinity. Now are we talking about the clacks, or cell phones?
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Subverted with Margolotta. She dresses like a '50s mum but is probably one of the most dangerous and manipulative characters in the book. (Lord Vetinari is implied to have taught her a few tricks).
  • Due to the Dead: Gaspode starts a memorial howl for Gavin.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Although Überwald was already Hammer-Horror-Transylvania, here it is expanded to take in Ruritania and the former Soviet Union — mention is made of the now defunct "Unholy Empire", a neat combination of the USSR and Holy Roman Empire.
  • Fictional Disability: A yennork is a werewolf with permanent Shapeshifter Mode Lock as either a wolf or a human (Angua apparently having two siblings who are an example of each; a brother who lives as a champion sheep dog and a sister with a permanent human form, who Wolfgang murdered at some point). This doesn't mean they are a wolf or a human, just a werewolf without the "switch".
  • Fist Pump: Lady Margolotta does this when she correctly guesses that Vimes will be Ankh-Morpork's ambassador. One of the three 'gloomy biddies' does this when she's told there are no cherry orchards (or cold, long winters, come to that) in Ankh-Morpork. (Between these characters and Otto from The Truth, the Fist Pump may be a gesture particular to Uberwaldeans on the Disc.)
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Gavin the wolf, so called because he once ate someone called Gavin. Well, parts of him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Wolfgang's chosen symbol is a wolf's head biting a mouthful of lightning bolts. He is later killed when he bites a powerful firework — not lighting, but close.
    • When Angua and Wolf fight, it's noted that they have to suppress their own lupine sides while doing so, to avoid mistakes. A cat pouncing on a fizzing fuse because it's moving is an example of the impulses they need to resist.
    • At one point Vimes is reminded of some philosophical bastard who once stated that 'a government needed butchers as well as shepherds'. We found out who said that in Night Watch Discworld.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Sybil went to finishing school with Serafine, Angua's mother. Sybil never actually liked her, only sending her letters because it's what one does (and Serafine never replied), and it's hinted that she wasn't popular at the school either.
  • Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't: Some of her friends and colleagues are perhaps a little surprised by Angua's reactions to her family showing up, although they get the point soon enough; she's the White Sheep in a family of man-eating werewolves.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • BCBs, or "Burnt Crunchy Bits," are impurities in the fat — possibly a Shout-Out to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) a persistent organic pollutant that is, fittingly, highly soluble in fat.
    • Also, Leonard of Quirm as usual can't come up with snappy names for his inventions - after he invents a clacks code machine for the Patrician, he contemplates it the "Engine for the Neutralisation of Information by the Generation of Miasmic Alphabets" (but says it doesn't roll off the tongue, failing to notice the acronym), a sly cryptography Shout-Out.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: Vimes can't quite speak dwarfish, introducing himself as "Overseer Vimes of the Look" and inadvertently using a form of the word 'dwarf' that indicates miscreant (which, as a policeman, is no doubt the term he used most often in street dwarfish).
    Inigo Skimmer: It is good for a diplomat to appear stupid. I'd say you've made an excellent start.
  • Fur Against Fang: Although it's more werewolves, vampires and dwarfs vs everybody (and each other).
  • Good Is Not Dumb:
    • Exhibited by Sybil when she negotiates the fat trade between Ankh-Morpork and the Dwarfs.
    • She's also the one who discovers Sleeps' secret room, because she wanted to re-carpet the embassy as a kindness for future occupants.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Angua asks Carrot if he can "not be nice for once". Turns out he's quite good at it, if he wants.
  • Good Old Ways:
    • The setup for the whole plot is a major cultural schism between, broadly, the conservative mining dwarfs and the progressive city-dwelling ones.
    • Angua angrily compares the hunts her brother stages with the ones her father staged, which while she didn't like them, were different in that taking part was a choice, the hunted man had an honest chance, and got a big bag of money and a banquet at the castle if he won. Deconstructed with Carrot's response that the men still died when they lost.
  • Gossip Evolution: Vimes correctly predicts how the gossip about his fight with bandits will evolve.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Backfires on the Bonk guardsman who kicked Detritus in the rocks and wound up walking with a limp.
    • Implied to be the way Gaspode manages to help Gavin during his fight against Wolf.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: There's a little discussion about the possibility of werewolves interbreeding with both humans and wolves. There's a slight chance with any werewolf child, such as two of Angua's siblings, of them being Yennorks, werewolves who can't change, but instead can pass either as extremely clever wolves or wolf-like humans.
    • Angua thinks that Gavin could have werewolf ancestry, which might explain his intelligence.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: Briefly applies when Skimmer needs to light a signal flare, but can't keep a match alight in the wind. He resorts to using a burning branch clutched in the fireplace tongs.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: Captain Carrot doesn't use his Ancestral Weapon when facing the Nazi-esque Wolfgang, preferring to Fight Like a Gentleman. This gives Wolfgang a chance to fight dirty.
  • He's Got a Weapon!: Invoked by Vimes' captors and averted by Vimes himself. When he is imprisoned, someone smuggles a single-shot crossbow into his cell. Vimes notes that if you want to help someone escape, you send them a key; if you send someone a weapon it means you want him to die via this trope.
  • Hey, Catch!: A variation. Vimes throws a small, harmless object (an orange) at Skimmer, who just lets it bounce off him rather than catching it or ducking. He repeats the test later with Cheery, who ducks.
  • Hint Dropping: Sybil keeps trying to tell Vimes that she's pregnant, but he's continually distracted by the mission and Watch duties.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Gaspode starts a mourning howl, which is passed on into the night by unseen wolf packs. Given how small and mongrelly Gaspode is, this is something of an achievement.
  • Human Head on the Wall:
    • This overlaps with What Measure Is a Non-Human? when Sam Vimes' group stays at a lodge in Uberwald and is horrified to find a mounted troll head. The troll in his squad is familiar enough with Fantastic Racism that he simply remarks that he's glad things are better than they used to be — and shows them his grandmother's human Skull Cup as a reminder that it cut both ways.
    • Vimes meets a local werewolf clan in their pack leader's castle, and notices there are empty nails and patches of paler plaster on the wall around them, suggesting several hunting trophies have been taken down so as not to impede the smooth flow of diplomacy. Later in the book he learns about The Game, where werewolves hunt down humans.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: A tradition in Uberwald, where a peasant could legitimately win by outrunning the werewolf chasing him, gaining a substantial payoff. Still, the name is not very fitting, since in Überwald you can hardly call humans the "most dangerous" creatures. Not individually, anyway.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Carrot tries to use Good Old Fisticuffs against the Ax-Crazy Wolf. Vimes berates him for it after.
    • Carrot's wolfish love rival, Gavin, attempts the wolf-equivalent moments later, to similar derision from Gaspode.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Vetinari wants his clacks messages to be encrypted with a code that is almost unbreakable so that he can play these games with anyone who intercepts them.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Cheery and some other lady dwarfs put on some Pimped Out Dresses, to show off their femininity, but they go a bit too far. There's no point in throwing out centuries of tradition for a twin-set once you've heard of sequins.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: While Wolfgang and company are chasing Vimes, he gets onto a boat. Of course this occurs.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: The town of Bonk (or "Beyonk"). As Carrot points out, there are only so many syllables out there. "Morpork" sounds rather like the Uberwald word for an unspecified item of women's underwear.
  • Intellectual Animal: Gavin is a lot smarter than he looks, and is also one of the only characters in the entire series who appears to be immune to Carrot. In fact, based on the fact that he can keep the wolves from killing Angua, he may even be their equivalent to Carrot.
  • Interspecies Romance: It's implied that werewolf Angua and the ordinary wolf Gavin (for the given value of "ordinary") were once romantically involved, despite the oft-repeated point that werewolves and wolves are entirely different species. For that matter, Carrot (human/really tall dwarf) and Angua (werewolf) also count. Angua even compares Gavin and Carrot to each other by their admirable qualities.
  • Just Following Orders:
    • Played straight by Tantony, who gives this excuse to Vimes after he let Sybil go with Serafine.
    • Vimes immediately answers by Subverting this: he orders Detritus to shoot Tantony, knowing that Detritus will tell him to shove it.
  • Just Toying with Them: Wolf and his cronies like to play with their food. As Angua points out, not even Vimes would have stood a chance if they'd just rushed him at once instead of giving him a "lead" and harassing him one at a time. Luckily for Vimes, they didn't know he had reinforcements coming. Of course, the hunt is explicitly a game; according to Angua it's supposed to winnable for the human but Wolf was cheating.
  • Karmic Death: Vimes kills Wolfgang with the distress flare from the clacks tower that his pack killed the operators of - the one the men never had a chance to use.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Skimmer is killed Mid-Verbal-Tic.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fire and silver are the typical ways to dispatch werewolves. Vimes takes this to heart and launches a flare at Wolf, expecting him to catch it in his mouth.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Wolfgang likes to give his muscles an airing.
  • Late to the Punchline: The narration notes this when Vimes is trying to explain what a "bottle covey" is to Sybil.
    "Any normal person, they crawl off when they get a beating. Or they have the sense to stay down, at least. But sometimes you get one who just won't let go. You know what I mean? Idiots who'll go on fighting long after they should stop."

    "I think I know the type, yes," said Lady Sybil, with an irony that failed to register with Sam Vimes until some days later.
  • Living Crashpad: Vimes believes it doesn't really count as killing someone when both you and your opponent fall off a roof while fighting and it's even odds who ends up on bottom when you land.
  • Love Triangle: Angua with Gavin (a wolf who might be her ex-boyfriend) and Carrot (her human/dwarf current boyfriend).
  • Malaproper: Nobby memorably says "verysillymiditude" instead of "verisimilitude".
  • Mexican Standoff: Skimmer and Vimes, with knives at each others' vitals.
    Skimmer: Look down, Your Grace.
    Vimes: Look down farther.
    Skimmer: You really are no gentleman, then.
    Vimes: Make a sudden move and neither are you.
  • Mining for Cookies: Much of the plot revolves around, and takes place in, the "fat mines" of Uberwald. Vimes is sent there to negotiate a trade package for raw fat that has been preserved underground so that Ankh-Morpork can make candles and soap and the like. It's speculated to be either the remains of the titular Fifth Elephant or the result of some cataclysm that buried many shaggy, blubbery megafauna all at once.
  • Mister Muffykins: Margolotta owns one of these, although it might not actually be a dog at all but a very large rat dolled up like a pampered yappy dog. (To Vimes, though dogs of that sort tend to look like oversized rats anyway...)
  • Monsters Anonymous: Lady Margolotta is a member of a support group for vampires who don't drink blood.
  • The Neidermeyer: Fred Colon, promoted to Captain in the absence of Vimes and Carrot, cracks under the pressure of command almost immediately and rapidly turns into a paranoid, arrogant, blatantly incompetent asshole. It's clear that he's absolutely terrified by his unwanted authority and responsibility, and has no idea how to handle the burden of command. He insists on increasingly harsh punishments for the disappearing sugar cubes he himself is subconsciously stress-eating.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Wolf, when Vimes comments on his having that name while being a werewolf.
  • Noble Bigot: Albrecht Albrechtsson by Rhys, who considers him a Worthy Opponent and remarks that a few hundred years ago, he'd have been a very good king. By Raising Steam it becomes more clear that he's strictly a conservative instead of Evil Reactionary like Dee or Ardent.
  • Noble Shoplifter:
    • Carrot insists on leaving money behind when he takes food from isolated farmhouses whilst trailing a werewolf pack into the mountains.
    • Just like Angua always pays for the chickens she kills under the full moon (because an animal wouldn't).
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened to the ski instructor at Sybil's and Seraphine's finishing school.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Inigo Skimmer has a specially designed palm dagger which allows him to remove people's heads with nothing more than a karate chop. Being a Crazy-Prepared assassin, he also has little blades that come out of his shoes, a razor-edged hat, and an illegal spring-gonne. None of which saves him in the end.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: While discussing the upcoming trip to Uberwald, Sybil throws in a comment about packing the alligator to test whether Sam is paying attention.
  • Not So Different: After Wolfgang's disappearance, Vimes explains to Sybil why he keeps his guard up by describing Wolfgang as "bottle covey" - someone who does not quit no matter how soundly he has been trounced. Sybil remarks that it sounds like someone she knows well. He only cottons on to this later.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Skimmer tries this, but is too clever for his own good. At one point Vimes throws him an orange, and Skimmer lets it bounce off of him. At this point, Vimes knows that he is a professional, since an ordinary person would have either tried to catch it or at least flinched.
    • Skimmer also advises Vimes that this is a good trait in a diplomat.
    • Lady Margolotta is a more successful example, seeming pretty harmless for someone who knows Vetinari and apparently picked up a few things from him.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: The emergency signal flare rockets for the clacks tower have the warning "Do Not Place In Mouth". This turns out to foreshadow how Vimes kills Wolfgang (a werewolf that can only be killed by fire or silver): he tricks him into catching one of the rockets in his mouth before the flare goes off.
  • Overly Long Name: Introduces the running gag of vampires having them. This novel features one whose name is Lady Margolotta Amaya Katerina Assumpta Crassina Von Uberwald — "in the short form".
  • Partial Transformation:
    • Unlike the way the trope usually works, werewolves mid-transformation are momentarily disoriented and the worst of both forms. Vimes uses this to kil-defeat a couple of them in close combat.
    • In the last part of the story, Wolfgang gets stuck halfway between wolf and man, and is pretty fearsome and unhinged. Well, more unhinged.
  • The Peter Principle: Fred Colon is a reasonably competent sergeant of the City Watch. Promoted to Captain in the absence of Vimes and Carrot, the pressure rapidly destroys him, and the Watch generally. No one is happy to hear about his promotion, Colon least of all... though, it does lead to record-low crimes, since everyone in the city knows that Vimes and Carrot will be back sooner or later.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Cheery brings along one for the coronation. It's noted that the openly female dwarves tend to go for elaborate dresses on special occasions, because if you're going to break your culture's ancient taboos you might as well do it good and hard.
  • Plot Armor: Vimes reflects that Carrot may have this In-Universe, thanks to his royal destiny.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: Vimes and Wolf's last confrontation happens after the plot has been solved.
  • Pregnant Badass: Sybil, though it doesn't come out until after the climax.
  • Pregnant Hostage: Done somewhat differently when the diplomatic carriage carrying the Ankh Morpork delegation to Bonk is ambushed by bandits in the pass. Sybil is briefly held hostage as a bargaining chip, but at this point, Sam Vimes has no idea that Sybil is pregnant, and frankly, Sybil is a bit of a Pregnant Badass about it, keeping her calm and ducking so her husband can shoot the bandit holding her, with a weapon she doesn't even know he has. She's actually trying (not for the first time) to get his attention long enough to gently break the news to him just before the ambush.
  • Production Foreshadowing: The description Gaspode gives of the wolves' howling is very reminiscent of the Trolls Long Call in The Long Earth series of books written by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.
  • Pun-Based Title: On The Fifth Element.
  • Putting on the Reich: Wolfgang and Co.
  • Reality Ensues: Werewolves are heavily influenced by what shape they're in, and the effects tend to linger: a werewolf who stays human most of the time will have diminished senses but a stronger capacity for complex thoughts, while a werewolf who stays a wolf most of the time will start thinking and acting like one. By the time of the book, Angua's father spends so much time as a wolf that when he's a human, he barely remembers how to act like one.
  • Replaced with Replica: The twist is that The Scone of Stone seat of the Dwarf Low-King has been switched out with a fake copy and the original destroyed. The even bigger twist is that the dwarf kings have been pulling this switch themselves for centuries and the conspirators in the book only think they have a new scheme.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: Lord Vetinari describes Uberwald as "a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma." Sergeant Colon misinterprets this and later refers to it as "a misery wrapped in an enema."
  • Sacrificial Lion: Inigo. Who ever thought Vimes would feel bad for an assassin?
  • Saving the World with Art: Lady Sybil sings the "Ransom" aria from the great dwarf opera Bloodaxe and Ironhammer, charming every dwarf in Bonk and convincing them to let her husband deliver the Scone to the Low King in person. This not only allows Vimes to clear his own name, but averts a terrible underground war that would've torn dwarf society apart.
  • Servile Snarker: Skimmer, after a while. Vimes commends him on dropping his original deferential attitude.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Apparently quite common in werewolves. Angua had a human-shaped sister and a wolf-shaped brother; Wolfgang killed the former and chased off the latter.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: Downplayed—when Wolfgang comes back the last time, he seems to be having trouble controlling his transformations, and is wobbling around the halfway point between man and wolf.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A wad of thick ones to Anton Chekhov. The women who equip Vimes against the werewolves are a mash-up of references to Chekhov's works: they're Three Sisters, who are stuck in an old house with a Cherry Orchard and used to have an old Uncle named Vanya. Their specific characterisations are also a mash-up of Chekhov's female characters from those books.
    • Colon's frantic obsession with "missing" sugar is a shout out to the captain's obsession with strawberries in The Caine Mutiny.
    • Skimmer's hat has a sharpened metal rim, like Oddjob's in Goldfinger.
    • The Low King's quip that "steel makes you strong, fat just makes you slippery" is a parody of Hermann Göring's "Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat."
  • Shrouded in Myth: The titular Fifth Elephant and the Scone of Stone. Even several of the political figures of Uberwald.
  • Smarter Than You Look:
    • Cheery is showing shades of this. She's always been a good alchemist; now she's showing she's a good copper.
    • Specifically invoked with regards to Lady Sybil. She's quite intelligent, but unfortunately the combination of figure and her kindness led to people assuming otherwise for large chunks of her life.
  • Spy Cam: Among the various spy items hidden in the Ankh-Morpork Embassy is "an iconograph small enough to fit in a pocket". Discworld iconographs contain an imp that paints pictures, the spycam version has a "nano-imp" that costs over a hundred dollars.
  • Stealth Pun: Angua's mother is an unkind woman, as well as (being a werewolf) a female dog. In other words, she's a bitch. And that, of course, makes Wolfgang a son of a bitch.
  • Steampunk:
    • Though lacking actual steam engines, the Clacks in this book begins a trend of driving Ankh-Morpork from Medieval Stasis over to this setting.
    • Also, the traffic control subplot carried over from the previous Watch book. The traffic security came—imps, for example.
  • Stolen by Staying Still: Nobody knows where the Scone of Stone has vanished to, despite being guarded in an underground lake round-the-clock by guards behind a system of locks and pressure plates that guarantee no one can enter or leave the room undetected. Vimes proves it's possible for someone significantly taller than a dwarf to leave without setting it off, but the people plotting to remove the scone and depose the current Low King simply crumbled it to dust much like the fine sand of the cave floor, intending to use a plaster replica to intronise their own candidate.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Very consciously averted. Vimes makes it a point to do it by the book and spell it out crystal clear to a perp he's in hot pursuit of: He is armed, and will respond with force if the perp continues to resist arrest. Vimes thus gives him ample time and opportunity to surrender. Wolfgang doesn't. Vimes shoots him, having never expected him to take him up on it for a second. If he hadn't done it by the book, though, it would have been murder.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Angua's mother is an aged-up version of her daughter.
  • Tempting Fate: A subtle example appears in Wolfgang's chosen symbol of a wolf's head biting a mouthful of lightning bolts. Granted, they're not literal fireworks, but symbolically it rates as this trope.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox:
    • Brought up several times, generally in regards to a Dwarfish axe which has been passed down through the family for generations: sometimes the head needed replacing, other times the shaft, still more times the eye or the bit, but it's still the same ancestral axe despite having changed in style and appearance and bearing no remaining piece of the original.
    • Played to the hilt in the book's climax, where no one in the know is terribly upset that the conspiracy to influence the Dwarfish succession involved destroying the Scone of Stone and replacing it with a perfect replica: the Scone had already been replaced many times over the centuries, but it had always remained "the thing and the whole of the thing."
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: While many Discworld books are Two Lines, No Waiting or Four Lines, All Waiting, this one cuts to short scenes of Colon and his power trip, ensuing paranoia and inability to count to thirty as Acting Captain. This brings the much-needed funny to a primary plotline that is about as dark and serious as anything Pratchett has ever written.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Vetinari's insinuating way of speaking, which is usually enough to terrify anyone talking to him into submission, flies completely over Colon's head, even as Vetinari gets increasingly unsubtle about his feelings about Colon's work. (Amusingly enough, Colon is one of the many people in Ankh-Morpork terrified of Vetinari using sarcasm on him, even as he fails to notice it happening.)
    "Lord Vetinari paused. He found it difficult to talk to Frederick Colon. He dealt on a daily basis with people who treated conversation as a complex game, and with Colon he had to keep on adjusting his mind in case he overshot."
  • Translation with an Agenda: While trying to find out where Angua has gone, Carrot has a conversation with a wolf using Gaspode the Wonder Dog as translator. Carrot attempts to strike a friendly tone, and offers food as a reward for co-operation, but Gaspode's translation is heavy on threats of torture, and prompts the wolf to run away as soon as the conversation is over. This is partly because Gaspode judges that threats will be more effective, and partly because he doesn't want to have to share his food.
  • Tricked Into Escaping: Vimes finds a particularly nasty weapon left for him in his prison cell. Thinking about it, though, he decides that whoever put it there is just trying to get him killed. Even armed, he wouldn't get far - but because He's Got a Weapon!, his escape attempt would be more likely to end in death than recapture. Especially since the weapon only had one shot, but there was almost certainly going to be more than one guard between him and freedom.
  • Trivial Title: Despite the enraged plummeting pachyderm on the cover of some editions, to say nothing of the title, the book is not actually about an elephant. Well, it is about an elephant, but a metaphorical, not literal, one. OK, OK, there is a literal elephant, but it's a legend of something that may or may not have happened millions of years ago. The titular Fifth Elephant lost its footing on Great A'tuin's shell in prehistory and collided with the Disc, breaking apart its Pangaea-type supercontinent and being responsible for Uberwald's fat reserves; and is also a Uberwaldian phrase meaning "something that is not what it seems".
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: With Vimes on a diplomatic mission and Carrot on leave, Colon ends up in charge, and ends up going power mad. After demoting a number of officers for allegedly stealing the sugar (which he had been subconsciously eating himself due to stress), virtually the entire Watch either transfers to another city or goes on strike, only returning to normal when Carrot and Angua return.
  • Überwald: Where the main plot happens.
  • The Upper Crass: The werewolf clan of Uberwald are a family with titles, they have a castle and estates, but the sort of social graces you might expect from people who spend at least half their time in a canine form. The patriarch has spent, by choice, so much time as a wolf that he is losing the knack of how to be human, a situation his rather snobbish wife calls him out on, a lot. And younger members of the family tend to sprawl in front of the fire in wolf form; a visitor takes them at first to be rather large and boisterous dogs of the Alsatian type. Thud! takes the idea a step further: werewolf Angua von Uberwald feels inadequate, cloddish and condescended to in her interactions with vampire Sally von Humperdinck, who, being a vampire, carries nobility lightly with all the expected grace, style and confidence. Angua feels like a Dung Age peasant next to Sally, even though both are on the same social level as minor titled people.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked In-Universe. Vimes notes than Lady Margolotta is trying very hard to look like a harmless middle-aged gentle-lady of the 'ladies who lunch' variety, but she's missed it by just enough to give quite a chilling effect. Of course, considering who we're talking about, this could be entirely deliberate.
  • Undead Author: Inverted. Carrot assures Gaspode that there are no reliable accounts of wolves attacking humans unprovoked. Gaspode suggests that the unprovoked attacks don't get reported because no one survives them to tell the tale.
  • Unfortunate Names:
    • The town of Bonk. (This is funnier in British Englishnote ) It cuts both ways, though: in the Uberwaldian language, "Morpork" means "an item of ladies' underwear" (Vimes wonders which item).
    • Also note Bonk is supposedly more strictly pronounced Beyonknote  For a bit of (probably unintentional) Bilingual Bonus, the proper Russian translation of "bonk", трах or трахнуть, retains the British double-entendre nature of the word—just like in British English, it can mean either "hit someone over the head" or "have passionate sex with someone".
    • Wolf names are highly descriptive of the individual wolf's personality or habits, which makes it perfectly logical that other wolves would have bestowed the name of Arsehole on one they'd disliked enough to kick out of the pack.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Not only Dee, but it's strongly hinted that the Low King is female as well. Raising Steam confirmed this is true of the Low King.
  • Urine Trouble: Narrowly averted when Death, whom a fall-addled Gaspode has mistaken for a convenient tree, speaks up in protest. The poor dog nearly does himself an injury stopping himself from letting loose.
  • Vampires Are Rich: Lady Margolotta
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Nicely subverted with Lady Margolotta, who is said to resemble an attractive, middle-aged housewife, and wears fuzzy pink sweaters with bat patterns. On the other hand, Vetinari's uncharacteristic pauses of nostalgic longing seem to indicate a special something she had with him. Whatever she is now, she might have had a much greater "presence" back in Vetinari's younger days.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • Inigo has one, mhm mhm.
    • Rhys Rhysson has one too, see? He even writes it down, see? Given Rhys is from Llamedos, it appears to be an attempt to give his speech a Welsh feel.
  • Villainous Breakdown: At the end, Dee is confirmed to have done it all specifically because of the growing Dwarf Femininity movement in Ankh-Morpork. Anyone who has been around a Transgender person when they're first realizing what's going on inside them could probably have quoted significant chunks of that discussion and the one that came afterward.
  • Wall of Weapons: Averted at the Baron's castle, which has walls covered with hunting trophies instead. Vimes lampshades how this seems like it breaks the rules of castle decor, and Cheery points out that a castle full of werewolves wouldn't need crafted weapons.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: This is Vimes' philosophy about weapons in general, as opposed to Skimmer's. Vimes doesn't think the single-shot crossbow qualifies as a weapon at all, as it exists solely to kill one person quietly and efficiently.
  • Werewolf Theme Naming:
    • Averted with most of them, but Wolfgang is rather on the nose. He has a Never Heard That One Before reaction when Vimes points it out. Even better, he's called Wolf for short.
    • Amusingly averted with actual wolves, whose names run to the self-deprecating: Awkward, Eats Wrong Meat, and (understandably for a lone wolf) Arsehole.
  • Wham Line:
    • Near the end of the book, the words "I can't!" turn the nature of the Evil Plan on its head. In that one short sentence, it shows that while the conspiracy was perpetrated by traditionalists, it also showed that jealousy was a significant factor too.
    • The moment when Sybil gives up on Hint Dropping and just straight up tells Sam she's pregnant certainly has this effect on him even if the reader caught on much sooner. Also doubles as a hilarious narrow aversion of Not Listening to Me, Are You?.
  • World of Pun
    • The title is a pun on The Fifth Element; interestingly the next two books also talk about the Discworld's own Fifth Element, Surprise.
    • The Scone of Stone is a humorous reversal of the name—but not the concept—of the stone upon which Scottish monarchs were crowned, the Stone of Scone (pronounced "skoon"). The English, under Edward I, stole it in the thirteenth century; possession of it has been returned to Scotland, but the Scots are "asked" to return it for the coronation ceremony of the United Kingdom's monarch. Not only is the Scone of Stone's role a Shout-Out to the real coronation rituals of Britain, but a scone is (a) an old word for altar, and (b) a kind of pastry. Dwarfs do treat their baked goods very reverentially, and make them rock-hard. All that simply by reversing the words' order—but this is Pratchett we're talking about.
  • World Sundering: The primal cataclysm that caused an elephant to fall off the back of the turtle seriously reshaped the landscape of the Disc. Regard the suspicious regular shape of the Circle Sea, reminiscent of a massive impact crater.
  • You Are What You Hate: Dee is revealed to be this during the climax.


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