Book:The Fifth Elephant/Annotations

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Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 3 (Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 14)

The character All Jolson is a play on the name of Al Jolson, a vaudeville, radio, and film entertainer of the 20th century, perhaps best known for being the star of the first sound movie, The Jazz Singer.


Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 13 (Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 26)

"...the deep fat mines at Shmaltzberg..." Shmaltz is Yiddish for chicken fat, as well as Polish for just fat.

Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 29

Vetinari describes Überwald: a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma. This was - word for word - Winston Churchill's description of Soviet Russia in the 1940's.

Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 29 (Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 46)

"Send a clacks to our agent..."

"Clacks" is obviously a play on "fax." The Roundworld counterpart of the Clacks was known as the optical telegraph or Semaphore Line. Invented in the late 18th century and operated into the early 19th century before being made obsolete by electrical telegraphy, semaphore lines were used by the governments of France, Britain, and other European countries to convey vital information more rapidly than horseback riders could. Semaphore lines could only send about two words a minute, and were thus much less efficient than those of Discworld.

For some interesting background reading on these real-life semaphore lines, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas has an incident where the protagonist deliberately interferes with the semaphore traffic in order to misdirect and corrupt messages. It is inconceivable to think that Pratchett was unaware of this scene.

Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 58 (Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 81)

Leonard of Quirm says of his mechanical cipher device, "I think of it as the Engine for the Neutralizing of Information for the Generation of Miasmic Alphabets...."

The acronym is ENIGMA, which was the name of the mechanical cipher device used by the Germans in World War II. Enigma Machine entry at Wikipedia.

Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 99

"There were a few rivers, their courses mostly guesswork, and the occasional town or at least the name of a town, probably put in to save the cartographer the embarrassment of filling his chart with, as they say in the trade, MMBU."

The Discworld version of MMFD ("Miles and Miles of F---ing Desert"). Allegedly used by RAF pilots flying in gulf regions, and popularised by Frederick Forsyth's novel The Fist Of God.

Corgi (GB) paperback, p.223

The Dwarfish idea of the Jar'akh'haga' or ideas taster. Here it is Dee, later seen to be unhappily gender-confused. Interestingly, the great British comedian and nation's favourite intellectual Stephen Fry recounts being given such a job commission for upper-crust society magazine, the Tatler, by its flamboyant editor Marc Boxer. In typically flowery language, Boxer explained he wanted Fry to look after the otherwise disregarded small details and see they were as right and quirky as they could be before going to print. Fry became Boxer's ideas-smeller with a roving brief to look at all aspects of the magazine as a reader would, and adjust accordingly. (the fry chronicles - an autobiography, pp 307-310)

Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 161 (Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 207)

"It's colder up here, Vimes thought. He's quicker on the uptake." [Referring to Detritus.]

Anachronism. In earlier books (Feet of Clay and Jingo) Detritus' greater intellectual ability when cold is indicated by a marked improvement in his language. For instance, in Jingo (Harper Torch US, p. 295), on a cold night in the Klatchian desert, he has lines like, "What do you want me to do with him, Mr. Vimes?" "All present and correct, sir!" and "With rather more efficiency, sir." No "deses" and "dems," etc. Yet throughout the trip to Uberwald, which is presumably colder than the desert of Klatch at night, Detritus' language never improves.

But Detritus does say that he is undercover as he does not want the dwarves to know about his intelligence! NW - a neatly self-referential idea, since, as demonstrated in Maskerade, *thick* Detritus is useless at undercover work.

Harper Collins (US) paperback, p. 222 (Corgi (GB) paperback, p. 281)

"...the Koboldean Cycle..." This epic opera of the dwarfs bears certain resemblances to Wagner's Ring Cycle, a series of four operas, often performed over four nights, with a total running time of about 15 hours. Not quite as long as the five-week Koboldean Cycle. The eponymous Ring in Wagner's operas was forged by a dwarf named Alberich (reminiscent of Low King runner-up Albrecht Albrechtson). Kobold is a German word usually translated as "goblin." It also gives the English language the metal name Cobalt. Interestingly enough, another mine-dwelling supernatural entity is called a nickel.

Corgi (UK) paperback, pp 238 - 239

Vimes, un-used to Igors, asks "I'm sorry? Is all your family called Igor?" to which the resident Igor serving Lady Margolotta replies "Oh yeth, thur. It avoidth confuthion".

Compare this with the Monty Python "Bruces" sketch, where the newly-arrived Professor of Hobbes, Locke, Richards and Beneau is asked "That's going to cause a bit of confusion. Mind if we call you Bruce to keep it clear?"

Corgi (UK) paperback, p370

Vimes gives an order to Detritus to fire the Piecemaker:-

"Blow the bloody doors off!" Which Detritus does, not only taking out the werewolves' castle doors but also a goodly part of the frontage of the castle, which is explicitly described as being "in ruins" following a second shot of the mighty crossbow.

This evokes the 1965 film, The Italian Job, where bankrobbing mastermind Michael Caine upbraids his hapless gelignite man (who has just vaporised an entire security van) with the line which has passed into movie history:-

"You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" Note that Vimes, who is aware of the destructive capacity of the Piecemaker and normally forbids Detritus from using it, very deliberately omits the "you're only supposed to..." part of the line....

Shortly after this, Angua greets her family for the first time in years. Two of her female relatives in the Clan, members of the "Freuden durch Kraft!" movement and faithful followers of her brother Wolfgang, are called Unity and Nancy. On Roundworld in the 1930's, there were a famous group of sisters from the English upper classes, who were notorious for effectively being groupies to assorted European dictators and despots. Unity Valkyrie Mitford was devotedly in love with Adolf Hitler and his philosophy, to the effect that she tried to blow her own brains out (such as they were) in bitter disillusionment at the onset of war. She was all prepared to live out the war as an exile in Germany, but delicate diplomatic arrangements were made to prevent something that would have been an embarrassment to all sides, (this threatened to bring the war into disrepute and make it a laughing stock, a prospect that for the one and only time brought the wartime British and German governments into full agreement) and she was returned to Great Britain via neutral intermediaries. Nancy Mitford, in common with a surprisingly large number of members of the British upper-class intelligentsia, had her own flirtation with Joseph Stalin and Soviet communism. (which must have led to some lively dinner-table conversations round at the Mitfords). Stalin was wiser and more fore-sighted than Hitler: he made sure he was out when Nancy called.(More here[1])--AgProv 21:52, 13 January 2008 (CET)

Corgi (UK) paperback, p376 "Well, things couldn't get any worse" he said. "Oh, they could if there were snakes on here with us" said Lady Sybil.

See annotation for page 279 of Carpe Jugulum. Sybil has changed the setting for the "rural myth" from a coach to a sleigh.

Additional comment: This is also very likely a reference to the Indiana Jones movies, where the title character throws himself into dangerous situations with aplomb, and is afraid of nothing--except snakes. But not Snakes on a Plane, which was released some 7 years after The Fifth Elephant.

When Carrot returns to the Watch House and passes judgement upon Fred Colon's time as Acting-Captain, it is interesting to note in passing that the form of judgement follows the time-honoured Royal Navy ritual of "Requestmen and Defaulters". This is where the ship's captain, or in his absence the First Lieutenant, hears petitions from sailors and passes judgement on misdemeanours and disciplinary offences. The Captain's ceremonial sword is laid on the table, forming a physical barrier between judge and accused. It is there to remind the errant sailor that on board Her Majesty's Ship, all justice ultimately originates with the Monarch, who has delegated it to the Captain, via his commission, to use well and wisely. Should the case be found proven, the Captain turns the sword so that the point is directly facing the guilty party - symbolic of the Royal Justice. (We see here that both Colon and Nobbs twist and turn to "escape the accusatory point"). This piece of vivid theatre is something no sailor who has witnessed it will ever forget, and was quite possibly more salutary than the actual punishment. Carrot's eventual judgement wasn't even a reprimand, (Carrot realises that Colon was promoted way past his level of competence, which would not have happened if he, Carrot, had not put personal interests ahead of the good of the Watch, and followed the orders he was given - he was at fault too. So the whole sorry incident needed to be forgiven and forgotten as quickly as possible, and certainly before Vimes arrived home) but something Colon will in all probability take to the grave with him...