In the third part ofÂ The Fifth Elephant, Vimes does more research to prepare for his trip to Uberwald. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to readÂ Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of xenophobia.
This honestly feels like the most richly detailedÂ startÂ to aÂ DiscworldÂ book, and Iâ€™m loving it. LETâ€™S DISCUSS.
I sensed that Pratchett was deliberately drawing parallels to historical complaints and realities of immigration in the UK, and if he were alive today to hear the absolute trash that isÂ thrivingÂ in the public discourse, Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d hate it. WHAT WORLD HAVE WE SLIPPED INTO. (The one we built for ourselves, of course.) Here, Vimes does his due diligence in talking to Corporal Littlebottom and DetritusÂ beforeÂ they accompany him to Uberwald.
And yâ€™all, THE INFORMATION REVEALED TO US. I do love thoughtful worldbuilding, and this book has done wonders to explain dwarfen cultureÂ andÂ how itâ€™s changed since we were first introduced to it. (Which was mostly in Carrotâ€™s first book, if I recall correctly. The fact that heâ€™s asking questions is a fantastic start becauseâ€¦ well, honestly? A lot of people travel internationally without doing any research at all. I canâ€™t speak to non-American travelers (though on my recent trip, I met a lot people who swear thereâ€™s a contingent of young British men who travel the world and ruinÂ everything), so Iâ€™ll stick with what I have seen time and time again: Americans are not trained to ask questions. Weâ€™re not! Weâ€™re taught an authoritarian style of history of the world, meaning that everything is told through a specific (American) lens, and we are not to question it. Thus, we show up to countries and are â€œexpertsâ€ already, so we will demand things based on this terrible, terrible education.
I have watched an American demand to know why he couldnâ€™t go to Versailles free. Or another young man ask why they didnâ€™t warn him in advance that he shouldnâ€™t wear flip-flops. (Honest-to-gods, he wanted to beÂ contacted in advance.) Or there was the young woman who complained that her view of the Eiffel Tower from her hotel wasnâ€™t that great because it was cloudy one night so clearly the tower was bogus. Or there was the American I met in Oslo who said it was unfair that the McDonaldâ€™s didnâ€™t have American food. (!!!!!!!!!) Or the American I met in York who said that York wasnâ€™t cool because they didnâ€™t have any skyscrapers. (WHAT THE FUCK I STILL DONâ€™T GET THIS ONE.)
So lemme just say: thank you for trying to learn somethingÂ first, Sam Vimes. It does matter! As I said in the video for this section, I was treated distinctly different than a lot of Americans because IÂ triedÂ to speak French and always greeted people when I spoke with them. Yes, my French was terrible, but people appreciate it when you make an attempt!
Anyway, letâ€™s talk about DWARF IMMIGRANTS. Iâ€™m fascinated that the same sort discourse is pouring out of Ankh-Morpork that most of us have heard before. Iâ€™d say that the only point of contention I have with this is the dichotomy that Pratchett sets up between those dwarfs who do assimilate â€“ who tend to be the â€œliberalâ€ ones, as Littlebottom puts it â€“ and those who donâ€™t. I wouldnâ€™t say that line is as clear cut in the immigrant communities Iâ€™ve lived in or been a part of. Thereâ€™s actually a decent amount of more â€œliberalâ€ immigrants who fiercely want to maintain their own culture as a way of refusing to let themselves feel homogenized into the more dominant culture. That being said, I understood what Pratchett was trying to do here, and it didnâ€™t detract from the point he was trying to make. In essence, thereâ€™s aÂ hugeÂ cultural divide both in Ankh-Morpork and within Uberwald, all based on this idea of cultural purity. Who is aÂ realÂ dwarf? Who gets to decide that? Thus, a Low King who more or less supports on â€œsideâ€ or the other wasÂ alwaysÂ going to cause controversy.
Thatâ€™s fascinating to me because weâ€™re getting this through Littlebottom, who sought out her own happiness and freedom from a culture that told her she could dress a certain way or behave a certain way or demand to be referred in terms that respected her. That doesnâ€™t make her any less of a dwarf! Of course, that doesnâ€™t negate the complicated feelings she has. Look, I relate to this a lot as some who is Latinx by birth â€“ born to parents who were from different parts of Central America, a mixture of Mexican, SalvadoreÃ±o, and Guatemalan â€“ but because Iâ€™m a transracial adoptee, my cultureÂ growing upÂ is complicated. Itâ€™s a very real part of immigrant communities, especially since my father was an undocumented immigrant. (Who promptly returned to Mexico once he found out my biological mother was pregnant. GREAT.) What would my life have been like if Iâ€™d been raised by him? Hell, my upbringing was complicated even without him! My initial foster parents were Latinx, and they spoke Spanish to my brother and I. By the time we got adopted and then started speaking, WE HAD ACCENTS. (You can still hear my brotherâ€™s; mine is mostly gone.) So does that mean weâ€™re less Latinx because of this? Because weâ€™ve had to teach ourselves the sloppy Spanish that we do know? That our cultural practices were mostly born of theÂ friendsÂ we had as opposed to our own families?
As you can see, itâ€™s very complicated, and Iâ€™m really pleased that thus far,Â The Fifth ElephantÂ is inspiring me to talk about it.
So, Lady Margolotta new Vimes would be sent. I DONâ€™T GET IT. Okay, so she dated Vetinari long ago, I getÂ that. But why keep tabs on who Ankh-Morpork would send as their ambassador? Why does it matter so much that itâ€™s Vimes? When we got the point of view from Anguaâ€™s familyâ€¦ actually, first of all, itâ€™s very, very obvious why she doesnâ€™t go home. HER FAMILY IS INTENSE, OH MY GOD. But Serafine isÂ furiousÂ that Vimes is being sent. Not only is he an â€œinsult,â€ apparently, but she doesnâ€™t seem to like Sybil Ramkin at all. Wolfgang remarks at one point that Vimes might â€œruin everything,â€ which also confuses me. Theyâ€™ve got plans for himâ€¦ which are to be chased by werewolves??? THIS SEEMS BAD, I DONâ€™T TRUST THEM.
Iâ€™m not sure a lot of these smaller details matter in the lead up to Vimes and company leaving from Ankh-Morpork. Thereâ€™s aÂ lotÂ of information given to us from Carrotâ€™s conversation with Vimes about what happened in the city overnight. The murder of a condom-producer provided a laugh or two, but the most significant detail was Anguaâ€™s disappearance. Did she head home first to beat everyone there? That was my initial thought becauseâ€¦ well, maybe she didnâ€™t want tos hock her parents with her arrival. At the same time, sheâ€™sÂ alwaysÂ had anxiety about being a werewolf, especially while in a relationship. So maybe sheâ€™sÂ notÂ going?
I AM SO LOST. Lord Vetinari using Leonard to break ciphers? Makes perfect sense. Having Leonard create a way to cipher Vetinariâ€™s letters so they remain unbroken? Even more sense. But asking him to make them hard but not impossible to break isâ€¦ perplexing. So heÂ wantsÂ people to think they broke through the Patricianâ€™s codes??? I suppose thatâ€™s the sort of logic Vetinari is known for, butÂ why? What is he plotting?
I know I made a big deal of this in the video, but: VETINARI WAS GENUINELY SHOCKED BY SOMETHING. Who expected that??? Margolotta was one step ahead of Vetinari, THIS IS A WORLD RECORD.
So many pieces to this story already, yâ€™all. Iâ€™m excited.
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