Mark Reads ‘The Fifth Elephant’: Part 15

In the fifteenth part of The Fifth Elephant, Vimes fights. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Seriously, this whole middle section is a LOT, and it’s such an interesting choice for the story because… well, as I said in the video, I wasn’t prepared for this to be so violent! Granted, this is about how these werewolves are violently trying to conserve their traditions, and they throw Vimes into something called the Game that’s inherently violent, and really, I shouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps it’s the detail, then! Pratchett devotes a great deal of space within The Fifth Elephant to the exploration of the brutality of Wolfgang von Uberwald. He and his pack (if you can even call them that) practice cruelty as entertainment, but that cruelty is part of a greater political framework. It’s about supremacy. Wolfgang loves to demonstrate that he is on top, whether that’s through the chase we see here or by conspiring to topple to the dwarves by stealing the Scone of Stone. (Or not stealing it, apparently. I don’t get that part.) I won’t be surprised if we find out that Wolfgang, along with Dee, were the ones behind the political nightmare beneath Uberwald.

Still, even though I’m able to recognize that Pratchett is drawing parallels between certain political movements and Wolfgang, that doesn’t mean I expected such a detailed look at the Game. Even more so than Vimes’s escape from the dwarf prison, this extended sequence left me feeling exhausted. How was Vimes’s body able to withstand the beating it took here? Look, I have a pretty high pain tolerance (you need only look towards all my tattoos in really painful places for evidence of that), and yet this was a lot. The man experiences the following things in part 15 of this book:

  • Jumping from a barn into the snow.
  • Fighting a werewolf (briefly) in the boathouse.
  • Rowing against the current once he realizes that the river he is on is headed straight for a waterfall.
  • Upon doing so, fighting a werewolf who jumps in and then cracking the man’s skull once he changes to a human.
  • (ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING IN A BODY OF WATER THAT MUST BE JUST BARELY ABOVE FREEZING. Look, a month and a half ago, I was a hot springs located deep in the mountains during the winter, which meant that there was snow everywhere, and I was one of a few people brave enough to plunge into the river next to the hot springs. That river was made up of melting snow. I saw the end of time when I did this. I cannot imagine spending this much time within water of that temperature and ALSO fighting WEREWOLVES.)
  • So yeah, Vimes then pulls in another werewolf and drowns him.
  • Oh, and that wolf puts a nasty gash down Vimes torso.
  • Did you read that because I will repeat it so you can acknowledge how absolutely absurd (and totally in character with Vimes) that is: The man climbs up a tree and then fights a werewolf in said tree.

I don’t know how Vimes did not immediately collapse from exhaustion and take a four year nap, but he is a tenacious character, is he not? This whole hellish affair ends with the perfect timing of Vimes’s reunion with Carrot and Angua, and Pratchett brilliantly exploits the weirdness of the situation. I’d forgotten that Vimes had no clue who Gavin was or what sort of relationship the wolf had with Angua. The sheer shock of Carrot being in Uberwald was what Vimes focused on at first, and I don’t blame him. It’s also exciting because I feel like the three of them have nearly all the information they need to solve this mystery, with the exception of one detail: the Scone of Stone. Vimes’s epiphany doesn’t make sense to me yet. It seemed clear to me that Angua’s family – mostly Wolfgang, I should say – is responsible for the Scone being stolen. But as Vimes begins to doze off, he puts together another piece of the puzzle:

“You just shouted, sir.”

“What did I shout?”

“You shouted, ‘The bloody thing was never bloody stolen!,’ sir.”

“The bastards! I knew I nearly had it! It all fits together if you don’t think like a dwarf!”

Well, apparently I need to change the way I think because I don’t get it! Wasn’t it not there? Didn’t it have to be stolen? How does this make any sense???

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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