Mark Reads ‘The Fifth Elephant’: Part 5

In the fifth part of The Fifth Elephant, Gaspode makes a discovery; Vimes waits; and Sergeant – er, Captain Colon changes. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Captain Colon

Did most of this not ring as humorous to most of you? I don’t think Pratchett necessarily intended for Colon’s transformation to be funny all the time. Obviously, there’s some humor in the gags like his chalk pips, or his ability to suddenly recognize that his own behavior is a terrible way to treat his superiors. At the same time, he’s making bad decisions! Like, disastrous decisions, ones that could easily undo a lot of the hard work that Vimes and many of the officers have done over the last few years. What does that mean for the Watch? I was going to say that Colon will only be captain for a couple weeks, so how bad could things get?

Except this is Fred Colon we’re talking about, so the answer can definitely be PRETTY BAD. Upon earning the promotion to captain, he does the following things in less than a day:

  • Rudely corrects anyone who calls him Sergeant or Fred.
  • Makes tons of insensitive comments about all non-human species and then says that “Vimes says that sort of thing all the time and no one minds.” (More on that later.)
  • Argues that dwarfs and trolls should be paid less, on account of their height (for dwarfs) or their brain size (for trolls).
  • Becomes incredibly suspicious and paranoid about literally everyone and everyone around him, convinced that they’re all out to treat him terribly or take his job.
  • Orders Nobby to go get him a “special” mug to drink tea out of because… well, the logic on this, as is the case for most things, escapes me a bit. Colon already had his own mug, but now needs his own mug… that is special.
  • He overreacts towards Constable Visit, who is so terrified of upsetting Colon that he specifically has to prepare himself for an inevitable confrontation. (That’s not a good thing, y’all.) After frightening Visit by HIDING BEHIND THE DOOR, he then demotes Visit to Lance-Constable.
  • DID HE BURN UP ALL THE PAPERWORK???? It’s not outright confirmed, but oh my god, DON’T??? Except… the smell of burning paper… OH MY GOD, HE DID.
  • According to Sergeant Stronginthearm, he fired “three officers up at Dolly Sisters.”
  • He fines another officer for mumping, despite that he always asked for and got free food and drink himself.

He’s out of control. OUT OF CONTROL.

Tracking Angua

Oh. Oh, no. There has to be a less-dramatic solution to this, right? Angua must be… with a family member! Right??? Isn’t her brother super ridiculous and like the most werewolf-y a werewolf can be? Maybe he came to meet her and take her back home? Look, I’m throwing suggestions out here because I can’t believe that Angua would just up and leave Carrot and run off with another werewolf. There must be another explanation!


I’m realizing now, in hindsight, that Pratchett must have included the introduction of the clacks for a reason beyond worldbuilding. It’s cool to see how the culture in this part of the Disc is changing, of course. Like this:

It seemed as though everybody who could put together a pole, a couple of gargoyles and some secondhand windmill machinery was in on the business. You couldn’t go out to dinner these days without seeing people nip out of the restaurant every five minutes to check that there weren’t any messages for them on the nearest pole.

That’s so fascinating!!! Yet I can also see that Pratchett now has the means to connect characters who otherwise would have been separated. I figured that there’d be no convergence of plots in Ankh-Morpork and Uberwald because of the distance. Yet with the clacks system, Vimes is able to send a coded message back to Ankh-Morpork, which sets in motion some of the shit with Captain Colon. Of course, we now have two messages with some sort of mysterious content. WHAT DO THEY SAY. I DESPERATELY NEED TO KNOW.

“His walk. And he didn’t catch an orange,” said Vimes.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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