Book:The Fifth Elephant

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The Fifth Elephant
Cover art by Josh Kirby
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 1999
ISBN 0385409958
Pages 289
Main characters Sam Vimes, Sybil Ramkin, Inigo Skimmer, Angua von Überwald, Lady Margolotta, Carrot Ironfoundersson, Wolfgang von Überwald, the Low King
Series Watch Series
Annotations View
All data relates to the first UK edition.


A Discworld novel of dwarfs, diplomacy, intrigue and big lumps of fat.

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 story also contains a locked room mystery. Almost every fictional detective used to get lumbered with one of these in his or her career, some, like Ellery Queen seemed to trip over them almost weekly. This time it's Vimes' turn. The situation isn't helped by the fact that this is, as Sam works out almost at once, "A locked room where they left the bloody door open!"


This is the first Discworld novel to feature the Clacks, a network of semaphore towers used both for long-distance telegraph messages. Lord Vetinari orders Samuel Vimes to travel to Überwald. He must visit the coronation of the new Low King of the dwarfs and aim to secure the King's favour and bargain prices for the country's wealth of fat and metal. Carrot Ironfoundersson explains that the contest to choose a new Low King was a tense battle between the winning "modern thinker" Rhys Rhysson and the traditionalist Albrecht Albrechtson. Vimes prepares to depart, taking Sybil, Cheery Littlebottom, Detritus and a clerk Inigo Skimmer (who is soon revealed to be an Assassin). Before he leaves, he learns of two related crimes: the murder of rubber manufacturer Wallace Sonky and theft of a plaster replica of the Scone of Stone - the only legal throne of the Low King. Meanwhile, Angua disappears, so Carrot sets out with Gaspode to find her.

Vimes and the delegation arrive in Bonk to learn that the real Scone of Stone has been stolen and that the man at the embassy, Wando Sleeps has disappeared. They meet an Igor, a faithful servant and talented surgeon. The next day, Vimes meets the new King and Dee, the King's "Ideas Taster". He then visits Lady Margolotta, of the vampire nobility, and the werewolfs Guye von Überwald and his wife Serafine, Angua's parents (both have Igors as servants). Back at the embassy, he discovers that their Igor has been attacked while unloading the coach, but nothing appears to have been taken.

In the evening before a celebration ball, Vimes learns that the nearest Clacks Tower has been broken and that the two operators are missing. Skimmer offers to send up a flare signal to call for the tower to be repaired. At the ball, Dee agrees to let Vimes and Cheery investigate the stolen Scone, and tells him that the the Scone is being ransomed, with the thief demanding that Rhys steps aside for Albrechtson. Vimes later discovers that the Scone was not stolen, but destroyed and mixed up with the sand in the cave. Back upstairs, he sees a performance of the dwarf opera Bloodaxe and Ironhammer, and meets Angua's brother Wolfgang von Überwald, a werewolf demagogue. Suddenly, a chandelier is dislodged from the ceiling directly above the King. Detritus catches it, while Vimes is knocked out as he rescues the King.

Vimes wakes up to find himself in a cell. Dee explains that he is suspected of being involved in a plot to assassinate the King, and Skimmer has been found dead above the chandelier. Vimes escapes, but once he returns to the surface, he is surrounded by a group of werewolves led by Wolfgang. Wolfgang forces the Commander to take part in The Game, in which he must make his way back to civilisation without being eaten (almost certain death). The werewolves killed Skimmer, Sleeps and the clacks operators through similar means. Before they begin, Wolfgang confirms Vimes' theory that Dee destroyed the real Scone, while a fake dwarf-bread Scone was made in Ankh-Morpork with help from Sonky, smuggled in through their coaches and stolen when Igor was attacked.

After running around for half an hour, Vimes manages to trap the werewolves in a burning barn but they escape and chase him to the river. He escapes in a boat and falls down a waterfall into an icy lake. He fights and kills two werewolves with his bare hands and almost kills another. He is then saved by the timely arrival of Carrot, Angua, and pack of wolves led by Angua's old friend Gavin. While the wolves chase the werewolves away, Carrot and Vimes return to the embassy, to discover that Sybil been escorted away to see Serafine. Bringing Detritus and the wolves with them, they head to the castle to rescue Sybil and confront Serafine. Vimes is attacked by Wolfgang, but he is repelled by Carrot, Gavin and Gaspode. Wolfgang, Gavin and Gaspode fall into water and disappear down a waterfall, where Gavin dies but Gaspode escapes to return to Ankh-Morpork. Serafine finally hands him the dwarf-bread replica scone.

Vimes then returns to the dwarfs, just as the Clacks tower is reactivated. They bring him to Rhys, who gets Albrechtson to test if the Scone is genuine. Although Dee tries to convince him it is a fake, Albrechtson concludes it is genuine, while Vimes is still unconvinced. King Rhys explains that dwarf bread cannot last more than a few centuries, and the Scone that was destroyed is the fifth in a line of replicas, so now the replica is a legitimate throne. Dee is exposed as a traitor, while Sybil begins negotiating sales of fat to Ankh-Morpork.

The next morning, Vimes is worried that Wolfgang will return. Sure enough, the werewolf kills Igor and tries to kill Carrot. Vimes chases the rampaging werewolf through the streets of Bonk into the city's main square and kills him with a clacks flare. At the coronation, and the newly crowned Low King rewards Cheery and Detritus with gold and a handshake, Sybil with a ring of Silver (which was illegal up until now), and Vimes with a dwarf axe. On the way home, they a joined by a young Igor who is "too modern for Überwald" due to his interest in genetic modification. While Vimes and Sybil take a long journey home, Carrot and Angua bring Igor to Ankh-Morpork to join the Watch, only to find it in disarray due to Acting-Captain Colon's completely incompetent management. Carrot blames himself and starts to repair the Watch.


  • After Carrot leaves Fred Colon in charge as Acting Captain, Fred Colon manages to single-handedly reduce the Watch from sixty to five members with his antics, which include:
    • Being paranoid over the decreasing number of sugar cubes
    • Sacking a number of officers and demoting some others
    • Jumping out on Visit
    • Fussing over the mug he uses for tea
    • Burning all the paperwork on Vimes' desk
    • Ignoring the murder of Sonky
    • Insulting the dwarfs and trolls

Most of the watchmen go on strike and join Nobby Nobbs's Guild of Watchmen (completely legalised by Vetinari). Meanwhile, the crime in the city stops entirely, as the entire criminal population fears the anger of the Commander when he returns.

  • Carrot and Gaspode's pursuit of Angua, armed only with Gaspode's ability to communicate with both humans and wolves and with Carrot's intimidating "faint smile". After discovering a farmer who has had his chickens attacked and paid for, they rescue a rather stupid wolf from being baited by dogs. Gaspode persuades the wolf to stage himself being killed by a single dog's bark, then scarper with the wolf. After journeying through the foothills with hardly any food, they are surrounded by wolves, who turn out to be led by Angua and Gavin.


Main Characters

Minor Characters

Cameos and Mentions


Things and Concepts



Adapted by Stephen Briggs into a stage play in 2002.


First Edition Cover by Josh Kirby
Book Proof
Paperback 2004
Audio Cassette
Audio CD
Cover by Chip Kidd
US Cover
Paperback 2012
Collectors Library Edition

External Links

The Fifth Elephant Annotations - The Annotated Pratchett File

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