The Fifth Elephant (Discworld Series #24)

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld Series #24)

by Terry Pratchett

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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Everyone knows that the world is flat and supported on the backs of four elephants. But weren't there supposed to be five? Indeed there were. So where is it?

When duty calls, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary answers—even if he doesn't want to. Now, he's been invited to attend a royal function as both detective and diplomat. The one role he relishes; the other requires, well, ruby tights. Of course, where cops (even those clad in tights) go, alas, crime follows. An attempted assassination and a theft soon lead to a desperate chase from the low halls of Discworld royalty to the legendary fat mines of Uberwald, where lard is found in underground seams along with tusks and teeth and other precious ivory artifacts. It's up to the dauntless Vimes—bothered as usual by a familiar cast of Discworld inhabitants (you know, trolls, dwarfs, werewolves, vampires, and such)—to solve the puzzle of the missing pachyderm. Which, of course, he will . . . after all, solving mysteries is his job.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062280138
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Series: Discworld Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 57,362
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Sir Terry Pratchett was the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books, including his phenomenally successful Discworld series. His young adult novel, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal, and Where's My Cow?, his Discworld book for “readers of all ages,” was a New York Times bestseller. His novels have sold more than seventy five million (give or take a few million) copies worldwide. Named an Officer of the British Empire “for services to literature,” Pratchett lived in England. He died in 2015 at the age of sixty-six.


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Date of Birth:

April 28, 1948

Place of Birth:

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England


Four honorary degrees in literature from the universities of Portsmouth, Bristol, Bath and Warwick

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

They say the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle.

They say that the elephants, being such huge beasts, have bones of rock and iron, and nerves of gold for better conductivity over long distances.

They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.

No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical point: When millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, but there is no one to hear it, does it-philosophically speaking-make a noise?

And if there was no one to see it hit, did it actually hit?

In other words, wasn't it just a story for children, to explain away some interesting natural occurrences?

As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.

On a clear day, from the right vantage point on the Ramtops, a watcher could see a very long way across the plains, If it was high rock and iron in their dead form, as they are now, but living rock and iron. The dwarfs have quite an inventive mythology about minerals, summer, they could count the columns of dust as the ox trains plodded on at a top speed of two miles an hour, each two pulling a train of two wagons carrying four tons each. Things took a long time to get anywhere, but when they did, there was certainly a lot of them.

To the cities of the Circle Sea they carried raw material, and sometimes people who were off to seektheir fortune and a fistful of diamonds.

To the mountains they brought manufactured goods, rare things from across the oceans, and people who had found wisdom and a few scars.

There was usually a day's traveling between each convoy. They turned the landscape into an unrolled time machine. On a clear day, you could see last Tuesday.

Heliographs twinkled in the distant air as the columns flashed messages back and forth about bandit presence, cargoes and the best place to get double egg, treble chips and a steak that overhung the plate all around.

Lots of people traveled on the carts. It was cheap, it beat walking, and you got there eventually.

Some people traveled for free.

The driver of one wagon was having problems with his team. They were skittish. He'd expect this in the mountains, where all sorts of wild creatures might regard the oxen as a traveling meal. Here there was nothing more dangerous that cabbages, wasn't there?

Behind him, down in a narrow space between the loads of cut lumber, something slept. It was just another day in Ankh-Morpork ...

Sergeant Colon balanced on a shaky ladder at one end of the Brass Bridge, one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. He clung by one hand to the tall pole with the box on top of it, and with the other he held a homemade picture book up to the slot in the front of the box.

"And this is another sort of cart," he said. "Got it?"

"'S," said a very small voice from within the box.

"O-kay," said Colon, apparently satisfied. He dropped the book and pointed down the length of the bridge.

"Now, you see those two markers what has been painted across the cobbles?"

"And they mean ... ?"

"If-a-cart-g's-tween-dem-in-less'na-minute-'s-goin-too-fas'," the little voice parroted.

"Well done. And then you ... ?"

"Painta pic-cher."

"Taking care to show ... ?"


"And if it's nighttime you ... ?"

"Use-der-sal'mander-to-make-it-brite ...

"Well done, Rodney. And one of us will come along every day and collect your pictures. Got everything you want?"

"What's that, Sergeant?"

Colon looked down at the very large, brown upturned face, and smiled.

"Afternoon, All," he said, climbing ponderously down the ladder. "What you're looking at, Mister Jolson, is the modern Watch for the new millenienienum ... num."

"'S a bit big, Fred," said All Jolson, looking at it critically. "I've seen lots of smaller ones."

"Watch as in City Watch, All."

"Ah, right."

"Anyone goes too fast around here and Lord Vetinari'll be looking at his picture next morning. The iconographs do not lie, All."

"Right, Fred. 'Cos they're too stupid."

"His Lordship's got fed up with carts speeding over the bridge, see, and asked us to do something about it. I'm Head of Traffic now, you know."

"Is that good, Fred?"

"I should just think so!" said Sergeant Colon expansively. "It's up to me to keep the, er, arteries of the city from clogging up, leadin' to a complete breakdown of commerce and ruination for us all. Most vital job there is, you could say."

"And it's just you doing it, is it?"

What People are Saying About This

Elizabeth Peters

If I were making my list of Best Books of the Twentieth Century, Terry Pratchett's would be most of them!

A. S. Byatt

Discworld is more complicated and satisfactory than Oz. Truly original. Pratchett creates a brilliant excess of delectable detail!

Customer Reviews

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The Fifth Elephant (Discworld Series) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Ravenwood0001 More than 1 year ago
Now this one I think has a little for everyone. No Rincewind this time, but there are Dwarves, Trolls, Vampires, Werewolves, humans, and the random talking dog. It's the time of the crowing of the Low King and Ankh-Morpork needs to send a representative to the crowning. Who better suited than Commander Vimes or is that Duke Vimes? The question is, will he survive what Überwald has in store for him? And while the cats away, will Ankh-Morpork stay afloat with the friendly but incompetent Colon in charge?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love the watch. Sam Vimes and Carrot, along with Death and a select few, are by far my favorite characters. I read this book first of all of them and it is still my favorite (I have read about half of them). BUY THIS BOOK!!!
polarbear123 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hadn't read a Pratchett novel for a while as I was mildly disappointed with the two or three efforts prior to this one. I am glad I persevered though because here Pratchett is on top form. As always I think the secret to a good Discworld book is a trade off and balance between several things including plot, philosophical ruminations, recurring jokes and stand out characters. Pratchett works best when the balance is just right and this is one of those novels. Compare it to the Last Continent which kind of got stuck going nowhere becasue the plot was forgotten about and you will see what I mean.
smgs-GJuliff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Was ok but a little slow Going postal was funnier
Greatrakes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thriller set in Ankh-Morpork and Uberwald. Uberwald is a cross between pre-Bismark Germany and pre-revolutionary Russia, really a set of city states and spheres of influence. Under ground the new Low King of the Dwarfs is experiencing internal troubles in a parody of the struggle between secularism and religious fundamentalism in the islamic world.In to this cauldron Lord Vetinari sends plain speaking copper Sam Vimes as an ambassador. Sam, of course, triumphs as his values are superior. Underlying all of Pratchett's 'satire', it seems to me, is a classically condescending British belief that we should be tolerant of all cultures and races until they see the error of their ways and become just like us.Features a large role for Angua as her family, the Von Uberwalds, are werewoves, who are planning a Nazi style coup d'état. This is not one of my favourite Discworld books, but it has some good jokes.
Maaike15274 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favourite Discworld novels. Samuel Vimes at his best.
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Newly promoted Duke of Ankh, Commander Vimes suddenly realises his responsabilities include diplomatic visits to Uberwald - to represent Ankh in the ceremonies for the crowning of the new Low King of the dwarves. And as he's going there anyway maybe he could try and negoiate some new lower prices from their famous fat deposits. In a move to show that AnhkMorpock is civilised place much like Uberwald and a place where you can do business, Vimes elects to take a Dwarf, a troll and a werewolf with him - Cherry a newly discovered female, Detritus and Angua. However angua can't be found as she's secretly left the city after discovering her family are causing troubles in Uberwald, and Captain Carrot flees after her - so all our key protagonists are on the scene when the wrong dwarf is elected to the throne. Filled with Pratchett's trademark puns and bad jokes, it is humourous fantasy writing at it's best. Underneath the locked room mystery and general crime scene send-up it is also a barely concealed parody of international politics and racisim. Fat=Oil is one of the most obvious of Terry's analogies but whether it's fair to equate the plight of the mountain dwarfs with muslims is a harder question. What is the best approach to take to tradition?There are certainly many parallels that can be drawn. As always very funny, and deeply thoughtful writing make this an appealing book for all readers at whatever level you read it at.
love2laf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's amazing to read Discworld books that I haven't read before, especially when it's one of The Watch books. As with many of the more recent books, it's strongly political, and done as satire, but, there is much truth in the humour.
ravenwood0001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Now this one I think has a little for everyone. No Rincewind this time, but there are Dwarves, Trolls, Vampires, Werewolves, humans, and the random talking dog. It's the time of the crowning of the Low King and Ankh-Morpork needs to send a representative to the crowning. Who better suited than Commander Vimes or is that Duke Vimes? The question is, will he survive what Überwald has in store for him? And while the cats away, will Ankh-Morpork stay afloat with the friendly, but woefully incompetent Colon in charge?
391 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Fifth Elephant is a neat little political satire, set in the Translvanian-esq Uberwald. Pratchett covers a lot of ground with the material he pokes fun at, and he does it so magnificently. I really, really love the city guard series, and The Fifth Elephant is definitely one of the stronger books in it.
ironicqueery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another good Pratchett book focusing on race relations, patriotism, and changes towards acceptance and greater tolerance towards others. The first half of the book is the best, as Vimes and his watch are slowly clued in to how diplomacy works. As they catch on, the story slows a bit, but not enough to cause any interruptions in the story. Overall, another nice story from Pratchett.
benfulton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Boy, is it annoying when Pratchett comes up with really interesting new characters and then bumps them off before we really get to know them! This book definitely has its moments, but many of the later Watch books have gone very serious and dark; a bit lacking in the energy that the finest Discworld books have. It's perhaps a necessary evil when attempting to write about characters that have had major successes and promotions in previous books - what do they do now, except hobnob with other important people and play politics? Tom Clancy's wonderful Jack Ryan fell into a similar trap. Unless Ankh-Morpork finds a serious contender to its Leading City Of The West status or something really happens to Captain Carrot, there's just not too much farther the Watch can go. I wonder if Pratchett will try to wrap up all of his fundamental storylines - the relationship between Carrot and Sergeant Angua; the potential fireworks between Tiffany Aching and Granny Weatherwax; the kingship of Ankh-Morpork - and bring the Discworld series to a close. I think I'd like to see that.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story lost me, to be honest, but plenty of good jokes, and the further development of the relationship between Vimes and Sybil.
kaylol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted more of Carrot but the last few pages presented an incredilble bit with Carrot and Angua. Vimes is his usual everything-but-a-duke character and Sybil us really surprising!
Janientrelac on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ankh-Morpork is an Arrival City and a very good one. Read Doug Saunders's book on rural to urban migration, what makes a good arrival city and a bad one and then read or reread the the City Watch series. Prachett is a comic genius and a great city planner.
atimco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hadn't read Discworld in awhile so I picked up The Fifth Elephant and was pleased to find it was a City Watch novel featuring Sam Vines, Captain Carrot, and the rest of the crew charged with keeping an eye on Ankh-Morpork. Only this time, most of the action happens in Überwald, a wild hinterland of up-until-recently warring werewolves, vampires, and dwarves. Sam Vines, Commander of the Watch, also happens to be the Duke of Ankh-Morpork, and as such is sent (most reluctantly) on a diplomatic mission as the dwarves choose a new king. Along the way Pratchett introduces the Scone of Stone, gender politics among the dwarves, a couple of surgically talented Igors, vegetarian vampires (see, it isn't original with Stephenie Meyer!), and a whole host of typically satirical and sometimes just silly characters and situations. This story moves rather slowly, and while I enjoy the progression of the characters (we get more on Carrot and Angua, Sam and Sybil find out they are pregnant, etc.), somehow the whole thing lacks the energy and punch of the better novels. As to the humor, sure, Pratchett is funny, but he can never get more than a quiet chuckle out of me, if that. I find most fans' ecstatic ravings about his comedy a little overdone, to be honest. He's no Wodehouse. But some of his wordplay is fun... like the "mystery wrapped in an enigma" becoming a "misery wrapped in an enema." Teehee. But overall, things dragged. I really had to force myself to finish this book, and that doesn't bode well for the rest of the unread Pratchett novels on my shelf. Unfortunately this isn't one of the brighter stars in the Discworld constellation.
atreic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Solid but unremarkable Pratchett where Vimes solves another crime. This is the one where the Scone of Stone is stolen. It's hard to work out if he's paradying Switzerland or extreme Muslims, or possibly some strange mash-up between the two. Most notable for things glossed over that I wanted to be egged slightly more than they were - Angua turns against her family with almost trivial ease, the motives of the Bad Guys are very swiftly explained and two dimensional.But quick to read, great fun, and perfectly acceptable Pratchett
Zmrzlina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love the diplomacy theme in this Discworld novel. Sam Vimes is always a favorite character. There were times when I wasn't 100% sure some main characters would get out of certain situations without resorting to the handy back-from-the-dead trick. I love it when an author can create that sort of illusion.
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I actually think this may be my favorite Discworld novel thus far. I just loved the way Pratchett wrote about the dwarf culture wars. And I really adored Sybil (Vimes's wife) in this one, too. I took it on a camping trip with me and kept laughing out loud and reading bits to Dave, which prompted him to steal the book and start reading it at the first opportunity. Now he's totally addicted, too.
heidilove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
loaned from and returned to jax. i fell pretty hard for the discworld series and it's all his fault.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enough said! He is one of my absolute favorite characters!! He is the perfect "hero"...though I'm sure he would have some choice words to say about that!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Re-read one of my all-time favorites in honor of the recently deceased Pratchett. Never fails to entertain and amaze me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago