Discworld/The Fifth Elephant/Headscratchers

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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.