APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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The Fifth Elephant

Annotations | Information | Quotes

- [p. 20] "'The crowning of the Low King,' said Carrot."

Resonates with the semi-mythical High Kings of Ireland and Britain in our world's history, who ruled over autonomous lesser kingdoms. As Dwarf kingdoms are underground, with the most important bits being deepest, it makes sense for their king of kings to be set under his subjects, rather than above.

- [p. 21] "'[...] Uberwald remains a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma.'"

A slight paraphrase of what Churchill originally said about Russia. See also the annotation for p. 133 of Men At Arms .

- [p. 28] "'The Scone of Stone. A replica, of course.'"

The Stone of Scone, a.k.a. The Stone of Destiny, a.k.a. Jacob's Pillow or Pillar, is the coronation stone that Scottish kings were crowned on. The stone was moved to England by Edward I after he defeated the Scots in 1296, and has since then been part of the English monarchy's coronation chair (except for the 4 months after Christmas Day 1950, when the Stone was stolen by Scots Nationalists before being recovered at Arbroath Abbey on April 11, 1951).

Currently, the Stone (although rumours of it being a fake one abound) is "on loan" to Scotland, and can be seen in Edinburgh Castle.

- [p. 29] "'[...] all the Low Kings have done that ever since B'hrian Bloodaxe, fifteen hundred years ago.'"

Brian Boru (c.940-1014) was the most famous of the Irish High Kings.

Brian Bloodaxe, on the other hand, was the name of a platforms 'n ladders style computer game for the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, etc. in the mid-1980s.

- [p. 39] "[...] Ping said, 'It's a dialect word meaning "watermeadow", sir.'"

According to Terry, 'ping' is in fact a Cornish dialect word meaning 'watermeadow'.

- [p. 42] "'They act as if B'hrian Bloodaxe was still alive. That's why we call them drudak'ak.'"

Echoes of Chassidic Jews, the Amish, or basically any traditional, ultra-orthodox movement in Roundworld religions.

- [p. 49] "'Inigo Skimmer, sir. Mhm-mhm.'"

People tried to read a reference to The Princess Bride's Inigo Montoya character in the name, but Terry said:

"Inigo is just a name. So is Skimmer. It's not an intentional reference to anything. [...] if you are a certain age, were brought up in the UK and were taught history in a certain way, you recalled Inigo Jones as a famous 17th Century architect -- mostly remembered because he had a memorable name."

- [p. 56] "'Very fast coffee. I rather think you will like it.'"

Espresso. Duh.

- [p. 60] "The first page showed the crest of the Unholy Empire [...]"

Shades of both Holy Russia and the Holy Roman Empire.

Tsar Ivan "the Terrible" nailed some visiting Turkish ambassadors' turbans to their heads when he felt they did not show him the proper respect.

(But the same story is also told of Vlad 'Dracula': supposedly, the Venetian ambassadors failed to take their skullcaps off before him, explaining that they had special dispensation saying that they were allowed to keep their heads covered even in the presence of the Pope, whereupon Uncle Vlad had the caps nailed to their heads.)

- [p. 60] "The crest was altogether too florid for Vimes's taste, and was dominated by a double-headed bat."

The coat of arms of the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, sported the black double-headed eagle, which is also seen, in different colours, in other Eastern European heraldry such as the Austria-Hungary coat of arms. It also crops up (very batlike -- black on red) in the Albanian flag.

Apparently the double-headed eagle specifically came to symbolise Imperial power in heraldry, as opposed to the single-headed eagles, which were more generally used for conventional royalty and kingdoms in that area of the world.

Going back further in time, the Holy Roman Empire (see the previous annotation) also used a double-headed eagle in the 15th century.

- [p. 61] "'Silver has not been mined in Uberwald since the Diet of Bugs in AM 1880 [...]'"

The Diet of Worms (or Reichstag zu Worms as the Germans refer to it) was a political council (influenced by the Roman Catholic church) that took place in the town of Worms in 1521. It was during this session that Martin Luther was called upon to defend his Reformist teachings against Pope Leo X's threat of excommunication. When he refused to recant, he was ordered to leave and declared to be an outlaw as per the Edict of Worms.

- [p. 65] "[...] a production of Chicken Lake."

Chicken Lake -> Swan Lake.

- [p. 66] "'And you shall have some corn, provided locally by Josiah Frument and Sons [...]'"

'Frument' means grain (from the Latin 'frumentum'). Frumenty (porridge made from wheat) was an important medieval and Renaissance peasant staple.

- [p. 86] "[...] he was making headway with the religious instruction of the pigeons."

Overtones of St Francis of Assisi, who famously preached to the birds. See also the annotation for p. 40 of Good Omens .

- [p. 174] "'Sybil wants to go to take the waters at Bad Heisses Bad---'"

"Heisses Bad" is German for Hot Bath.

- [p. 226] "'How beautiful the snow is, sisters...'"

This whole section is a riff on Chekhov's 1901 play Three Sisters, complete with Chekhovian misunderstandings and pauses.

- [p. 227] "'If we moved to Bonk [...]'"

The three provincial sisters in the Chekhov play are always remembering their past in Moscow, but only the younger sister is the one with the idea and desire to get out.

- [p. 228] "'We have the gloomy and purposeless trousers of Uncle Vanya,' said one, doubtfully."

Uncle Vanya is the other great Chekhov play. "Gloomy and purposeless" sums up much Chekhovian drama quite accurately. The Russian word is "toska" -- a sort of weary, faded ennui.

Uncle Vanya's trousers, interestingly enough, are not actually featured in either of Chekhov's plays. As Terry pointed out on alt.fan.pratchett: "Well, yes. Vimes got them."

- [p. 253] "She'd called them 'sub-human'."

A literal translation of the Nazi term 'Untermensch', used to describe all non-Aryan people.

- [p. 255] "Blow the bloody doors off!"

Intentional or not, this piece has resonances with the UK classic cult movie The Italian Job. One character is instructed by another to open a safe and ends up blowing up the entire van, thus leading to the famous line "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!". Detritus exhibits a similar amount of overkill here.

- [p. 278] "'Ah, yes... "joy through strength".'"

Slogans like these resonate strongly with the slogans used by Nazi Germany, such as "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Brings Freedom"), infamously used above the entrances of various Nazi concentration camps.

"Strength through Joy" ("Kraft durch Freude") was the name of a large German National Socialist labour organisation, which provided affordable leisure activities for its members such as concerts and cruises. Early prototypes of the Volkswagen Beetle were in fact known as KdF-Wagen.

- [p. 310] "'Is that why he's got human ears all over his back?' 'Early experiment, thur.'"

There was a famous tissue engineering experiment done at the University of Massachusetts (MIT), in which a biodegradable, ear-shaped scaffold was impregnated with human cartilage cells, and then successfully grafted onto the back of a mouse.

The resulting picture of the living mouse with the ear-like structure on his back became very well known, although the story is often misconstrued as involving genetic engineering or the transplantation of an actual human ear, neither of which was the case.


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