The Quotable Pratchett: The Fifth Elephant

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, I embarked on an epic re-reading of all 41 official Discworld novels, with the goal of finishing by 31 December, 2016.

Famous for its wit and wisdom, the series offers countless quotable quotes on a variety of subjects. The quotes I share should not be considered the whole of Sir Terry’s excellent prose; indeed, they are the tasty appetizers to a succulent, nourishing meal.

About The Fifth Elephant

Fifth Elephant CoverThis is the 24th Discworld novel and the 5th in the Watch series.

The mysterious nation of Uberwald is a rising economy with severe problems: the dwarves are crowning a new Low King, but some people think the wrong dwarf won; the werewolves are making a bid for power of their own, with a devious plot reaching far beyond Uberwald; and Lady Margolotta the Vampire seems to be playing both sides out of boredom.

To secure lucrative fat-trading agreements, Patrician Havelock Vetinari sends His Grace, the Duke of Ankh-Morpork and Commander of the City Watch, Sir Samuel Vimes – accompanied by Detritus the troll and Cheery (Cheri) the female dwarf. It’s an international incident waiting to happen.

As the saying goes, when the cat’s away the mice will play, and while Vimes is gone Carrot and Angua have relationship problems that leave Sergeant Fred Colon in charge of the Watch. Now there’s a sight you don’t want to miss.

A satire on international relations, The Fifth Elephant also tackles relationships, family, and gender.

5 stars.

The Goodreads Blurb:

When duty calls. Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary answers. Even when he doesn’t want to. 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 does. After all, solving mysteries is his job.

To the Quotes!

Discworld Librarian

The Librarian as he appears in The Discworld Companion, illustrated by Paul Kidby


When millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, and there was no one there to hear it, does it – philosophically speaking – make a noise?


It was turning out to be one of those days . . . the sort that you got every day.


You did something because it had always been done, and the explanation was, ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ A million dead people can’t have been wrong, can they?


Sam Vimes could parallel process. Most husbands can. They learn to follow their own line of thought while at the same time listening to what their wives say. And the listening is important, because at any time they could be challenged and must be ready to quote the last sentence in full. A vital additional skill is being able to scan the dialogue for telltale phrases such as “and they can deliver it tomorrow” or “so I’ve invited them for dinner?” or “they can do it in blue, really quite cheaply.”


The midden has it the windmill, Igor.


He always suspected the poetic description of Time like an ever-rolling stream. Time, in his experience, moved more like rocks…sliding, pressing, building up force underground and then, with one jerk that shakes the crockery, a whole field of turnips has mysteriously slipped sideways by six feet.


A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.


When people say “We must move with the times,” they really mean “You must do it my way.”


Homo Homini Lupus. “A man is a wolf to other men”! How stupid. Do you think they mean that men are shy and retiring and loyal and kill only to eat? Of course not! They mean that men act like men towards other men, and the worse they are the more they think they’d really like being wolves! Humans hate werewolves because they see the wolf in us, but wolves hate us because they see the human inside – and I don’t blame them!

. . .

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