Skip to content
Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?
Go to file
Cannot retrieve contributors at this time

Illustrated by J. E. Allen
New York
E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
Copyright, 1922,
by E. P. Dutton & Company
Nahra Gopal
KARI AND KOPEE AND I _Frontispiece_
Kari, the elephant, was five months old when he was given to me
to take care of. I was nine years old and I could reach his back
if I stood on tiptoe. He seemed to remain that high for nearly
two years. Perhaps we grew together; that is probably why I never
found out just how tall he was. He lived in a pavilion, under a
thatched roof which rested on thick tree stumps so that it could
not fall in when Kari bumped against the poles as he moved about.
One of the first things Kari did was to save the life of a boy.
Kari did not eat much but he nevertheless needed forty pounds of
twigs a day to chew and play with. Every day I used to take him
to the river in the morning for his bath. He would lie down on
the sand bank while I rubbed him with the clean sand of the river
for an hour. After that he would lie in the water for a long
time. On coming out his skin would be shining like ebony, and he
would squeal with pleasure as I rubbed water down his back. Then
I would take him by the ear, because that is the easiest way to
lead an elephant, and leave him on the edge of the jungle while I
went into the forest to get some luscious twigs for his dinner.
One has to have a very sharp hatchet to cut down these twigs; it
takes half an hour to sharpen the hatchet because if a twig is
mutilated an elephant will not touch it.
When one goes into the jungle, one must remember that there are
laws one cannot break. Do you know that anyone who is afraid or
who hates one of the animals of the jungle gives out an odor
which attracts tigers and wolves? Every day that I was afraid to
go into the jungle, I did not dare to stay on the ground for
fear lest the tigers would smell my presence and attack me. I
climbed a tree instead, because when one is in a tree the odor of
one's body does not go into the forest, and the animals cannot
tell whether one is afraid or not.
It was not an easy job, as you see, to get twigs and saplings for
Kari. I had to climb all kinds of trees to get the most delicate
and tender twigs. As he was very fond of the young branches of
the banyan tree which grows like a cathedral of leaves and
branches, I was gathering some, one spring day in March, when I
suddenly heard Kari calling to me in the distance. As he was
still very young, the call was more like that of a baby than an
elephant. I thought somebody was hurting him, so I came down from
my tree and ran very fast to the edge of the forest where I had
left him, but he was not there.
I looked all over, but I could not find him. I went near the edge
of the water, and I saw a black something struggling above its
surface. Then it rose higher and it was the trunk of my
elephant. I thought he was drowning. I was helpless because I
could not jump into the water and save his four hundred pounds
since he was much higher than I. But I saw his back rise above
the water and the moment he caught my eye, he began to trumpet
and struggle up to the shore. Then, still trumpeting, he pushed
me into the water and as I fell into the stream I saw a boy lying
flat on the bottom of the river. He had not altogether touched
bottom but was somewhat afloat. I came to the surface of the
water to take my breath and there Kari was standing, his feet
planted into the sand bank and his trunk stretched out like a
hand waiting for mine. I dove down again and pulled the body of
the drowning boy to the surface, but not being a good swimmer, I
could not swim ashore and the slow current was already dragging
me down. I clutched at reeds on the shore but they broke and the
weight of the boy was tiring out one hand while the other was
already weak from excessive swimming and clutching at the reeds.
Seeing us drift by in the current, Kari who was usually so slow
and ponderous, suddenly darted down like a hawk and came halfway
into the water where I saw him stretch out his trunk again. I
raised up my hand to catch it and it slipped. I found myself
going under the water again, but this time I found that the water
was not very deep so I sank to the bottom of the river and
doubled my feet under me and then suddenly kicked the river bed
and so shot upwards like an arrow, in spite of the fact that I
was holding the drowning boy with my hand. As my body rose above
the water, I felt a lasso around my neck. This frightened me; I
thought some water animal was going to swallow me. I heard the
squealing of Kari, and I knew it was his trunk about my neck. He
pulled us both ashore.
As the boy lay stretched on the ground I recognized the cowherd.
He had gone to bathe in the river, had slipped too far out, and
not knowing how to swim had almost been drowned. I put him flat
on his face on the sand and the elephant put his trunk about his
waist and lifted it gently up and down, and then up again. After
doing this three or four times, the water began to come out of
the boy's mouth and, not knowing what else to do because his body
was cold, I slapped him very hard all over. After that I propped
him up against the elephant's leg. Then the boy slowly came to.
In the meantime all his cows had wandered away in different
directions. As I thought some had gone into the jungle, where I
was afraid they might be eaten up by tigers, I sent Kari to bring
them back to the river bank. But Kari got lost himself; so when
the cowherd had recovered entirely, I went to look for his cows
and my lost elephant. Where do you think I found him? He had gone
right into the forest where I had left the saplings and the twigs
and had buried his trunk into the heap and was eating the best of
them, without any concern for the cows, the cowherd or myself.
But I could not punish him that day because he had done his duty
by saving the life of the boy.
Kari was like a baby. He had to be trained to be good and if you
did not tell him when he was naughty, he was up to more mischief
than ever.
For instance, one day somebody gave him some bananas to eat. Very soon
he developed a great love for ripe bananas. We used to keep large
plates of fruit on a table near a window in the dining-room. One day
all the bananas on that table disappeared and my family blamed the
servants for eating all the fruit in the house. A few days later the
fruit disappeared again; this time the blame was put on me, and I knew
I had not done it. It made me very angry with my parents and the
servants, for I was sure they had taken all the fruit. The next time
the fruit disappeared, I found a banana all smashed up in Kari's
pavilion. This surprised me very much, for I had never seen fruit
there, and as you know, he had always lived on twigs.
Next day while I was sitting in the dining-room wondering whether
I should take some fruit from the table without my parents'
permission, a long, black thing, very much like a snake suddenly
came through the window and disappeared with all the bananas. I
was very much frightened because I had never seen snakes eat
bananas and I thought it must be a terrible snake that would
sneak in and take fruit. I crept out of the room and with great
fear in my heart ran out of the house, feeling sure that the
snake would come back into the house, eat all the fruit and kill
all of us.
As I went out, I saw Kari's back disappearing in the direction of
the pavilion and I was so frightened that I wanted his company to
cheer me up. I ran after him into the pavilion and I found him
there eating bananas. I stood still in astonishment; the bananas
were lying strewn all around him. He stretched out his trunk and
reached for one far away from where he was standing. That
instant the trunk looked like a black snake, and I realized that
Kari was the thief. I went to him, pulled him out by the ear and
joyously showed my parents that it was Kari and not I that had
eaten all the fruit these many weeks. Then I scolded him, for
elephants understand words as well as children, and I said to
him, "Next time I see you stealing fruit, you will be whipped."
He knew that we were all angry with him, even the servants. His
pride was so injured that he never stole another thing from the
dining-room. And from then on, if anybody gave him any fruit, he
always squealed as if to thank them.
An elephant is willing to be punished for having done wrong, but
if you punish him without any reason, he will remember it and pay
you back in your own coin.
Once I had taken him to bathe in the river; this was summer
vacation and several boys came with me to help. Kari lay on the
bank and we rubbed him all over with sand. Then he went into the
water and most of us began to play. As Kari came up from the
water, one of the boys, named Sudu, was standing on the bank. For
no reason at all he hit the elephant three or four times with his
whip. Kari squealed and ran away. I brought him home.
The next summer Kari had grown so big and fat that I could not
reach his back even when I stood on tiptoe. We used to take him
out wherever we went, sometimes one riding on his back, sometimes
all walking along with him. We gave him luscious twigs if he
behaved well and sometimes delicious fruit. Once in a great while
as a special treat we would massage his chest with straw and he
would squeal with joy and lie on his back as best he could with
his fat legs, staring at the sun.
One day Sudu was standing on the river bank where I had just
taken the elephant to give him his bath. That day Kari had been
very good, so we prepared a straw massage for him. As it was very
hot, however, we plunged into the river ourselves before giving
him his bath, leaving Sudu and the elephant on the bank. Without
warning, Kari rushed at him like a mad bull, threw his trunk
about Sudu's neck, flung him into the water, and held him there
for a long, long time. When Sudu was finally pulled out of the
water and stretched on the ground, he was nearly senseless.
[Illustration: KARI PUNISHES SUDU]
When Sudu asked me whether I would punish Kari for having
disgraced him in public like that, I answered that the elephant
was not rude. When Sudu asked me why, I said, "Don't you remember
about a year ago you whipped him for no reason at all, almost on
the exact spot where he has just punished you?" Sudu felt so
ashamed of himself that he got angry with all of us and went home
alone. But by the next day, we had made it all up and the
elephant had forgiven him. As a proof of friendship, when we went
to the jungle on a picnic, Kari carried Sudu on his back. Since
that day Sudu has never hurt a living creature.
An elephant must be taught when to sit down, when to walk, when
to go fast, and when to go slow. You teach him these things as
you teach a child. If you say "Dhat" and pull him by the ear, he
will gradually learn to sit down. Similarly, if you say "Mali"
and pull his trunk forward, he will gradually learn that that is
the signal to walk.
Kari learned "Mali" after three lessons, but it took him three
weeks to learn "Dhat." He was no good at sitting down. And do you
know why an elephant should be taught to sit down? Because he
grows taller and taller than you who take care of him, so that
when he is two or three years old, you can only reach his back
with a ladder. It is, therefore, better to teach him to sit down
by saying "Dhat" so that you can climb upon his back, for who
would want to carry a ladder around all the time?
The most difficult thing to teach an elephant is the master call.
He generally takes five years to learn it properly. The master
call is a strange hissing, howling sound, as if a snake and a
tiger were fighting each other, and you have to make that kind of
noise in his ear. And do you know what you expect an elephant to
do when you give him the master call? If you are lost in the
jungle and there is no way out, and everything is black except
the stars above, you dare not stay very long anywhere. The only
thing to do then is to give the master call and at once the
elephant pulls down the tree in front of him with his trunk. This
frightens all the animals away. As the tree comes crashing down,
monkeys wake from their sleep and run from branch to branch--you
can see them in the moonlight--and you can almost see the stags
running in all directions below. You can hear the growl of the
tiger in the distance. Even he is frightened. Then the elephant
pulls down the next tree and the next, and the next. Soon you
will find that he has made a road right through the jungle
straight to your house.
When Kari grew to be five years old, he was almost as high as the
ceiling. He was never trained for hunting. We never thought of
killing anything except snakes and tigers, and these we killed
when they came toward the village and injured men. So Kari never
had the training of a hunting elephant. Just the same, he was
very alert and steady in the face of danger, so when it was a
question of going into the jungle on the back of an elephant, we
generally took Kari with us. During such trips we did not put a
cloth of gold on his back or silver bells on his sides. These
bells are made in certain parts of India where silversmiths know
how to melt and mix silver so that when the clapper strikes the
sides of the bell there will be a sound like rushing water. The
two bells are tied by a silver chain and slung over the
elephant's back, one dangling on each side of him. We never put a
_howdah_ on the back of Kari. Very few Hindus put _howdahs_ on
Do you know what a _howdah_ is? It is a box with high sides
inside of which there are chairs for travelers. The _howdahs_ are
generally for people who are not accustomed to elephants. They
need the high sides so that when the elephant walks they will not
fall from his back. They stay in their seats leaning on the edge
of the box and see very little, especially children who are not
tall enough to see over the sides. That is why Indian children
prefer riding bareback on an elephant to taking a _howdah_.
One evening when my brother and I went out, we put a mattress on
Kari's back and tied it very tightly with cords so that it would
not slip, for it is not pleasant to slip and fall under an
elephant's belly and be stepped on. But Kari was trained so that
he would not have stepped on us even if we had slipped under him.
We tightened the cords to the mattress, however, and lay down for
the night. Though we had bells, we lifted them up and silenced
the clappers, so that in walking through the jungle road they
would not ring and frighten the animals, for the forest is the
dwelling place of silence, and silence being the voice of God, no
man dares to disturb it. We lay on the back of Kari and looked up
at the stars. In India, the stars are so close that you can
almost pluck them with your hands and the velvet blue of the sky
is like a river of stillness running between banks of silver.
As we lay there, unable to go to sleep right away, we heard
jungle sounds. The heavy tread of the elephant was like clouds
brushing the crests of the forest. Once in a while you could see
a tiger come out of the jungle, cross a road and disappear in the
distance, but Kari was so brave he never condescended to notice
the comings and goings of tigers. Once we heard the bark of a
fox very near us and then he came out of the jungle. Kari stopped
and the fox passed across the road, then we moved on again. In
the moonlight which made the road before us look like a river of
silver we saw squirrels leaping from branch to branch.
You know, perhaps, that elephants can sleep as they walk.
Presently Kari's walk slackened into a slow pace, and we felt
quite sure that he was dozing. Then we remembered nothing, for we
too fell asleep. I cannot tell how much time passed before we
were startled out of our sleep by a terrible roar, a ghastly
trumpeting of the elephant and a terrible lunge of his body. We
had to hold on to his back very tightly to avoid being thrown
off. In a few seconds both of us had turned over--I do not know
how--and were lying on our faces, holding on to the cords that
held the mattress to Kari's back, while he broke into a run.
Trees bent and broke, branches fell, and we could hear the
monkeys stampeding from tree to tree, and flocks of birds,
startled out of their sleep, falling upon us, their wings
beating our faces. We shouted to Kari to be calm, but he went on
as if he were mad. We heard boars snorting, and running away, and
strange-looking horned creatures leaping and bounding off in all
directions. Then a tree in front of us fell, and the jungle
throbbed for a moment. It seemed as though a shiver ran through
Kari's body, and he stopped stock still. It was very difficult to
tell exactly what had happened until we got off Kari's back. I
spoke to him and he shook his head, then I spoke again and urged
him to put up his head. He obeyed and I climbed down by his
trunk. I felt it was very wet, however, and he shook me off with
My brother spoke to me from above and said when I told him how
the trunk felt, "Now I know. You see, this is autumn when bears
eat Mohula in the moonlight under the thick shade of the trees.
As you know, Mohula intoxicates bears, and makes them sleepy.
Some bear had fallen asleep under the trees and Kari, who was
also asleep and consequently did not even smell him with his
trunk, must have come upon him without suspecting his presence.
Although all bears are brought up to respect elephants, this one,
no doubt, was so sleepy that he did not know who was upon him and
so I am sure he must have sprung up in his surprise and scratched
Kari's trunk."
If Kari had been wide awake he would have killed the bear, but
being sleepy, the shock and the surprise of the attack and the
pain in his trunk frightened him so that he ran out into the
jungle mad with terror.
I put my hand on the trunk again. Yes, it was bleeding; I could
see in the moonlight that it was not perspiration because my hand
was dark red. I spoke to Kari again; this time he did not shake
his head so furiously. He was rather willing to listen and I told
him I was very sorry about his trunk but could do nothing here, I
also told him to go back to the road. He shook his head--that
meant "No." Do you know why he did not want to go back to that
road? You shall learn at the end of this story.
I got upon his back again. "Since he won't go back to the road,"
said my brother, "we must give him the master call so that he can
make a road through the jungle" and we gave him the master call.
At this Kari lifted his bleeding trunk and smote down the first
tree, and then he struck down the next tree. He came upon a third
which his trunk could not pull down, so he turned around and
walked away from it. After taking a few steps he stopped and
slowly walked backwards and with one push of his back, knocked
this tree down.
At this we could hear the flocks of birds flying in the air and
feel the stamping feet below as herds of animals ran in every
direction. We heard the vibrant jabber of monkeys from tree-tops,
and each time a new tree fell there was more jabbering and more
leaping away from tree to tree.
We clung to the elephant's back with our nails and teeth.
Soon we found ourselves on the road, three miles ahead of where
Kari had been frightened by the bear.
Do you know why he did not go back to the same spot? Because no
animal ever likes to return to the place where he lost his pride.
For to be frightened is to lose one's pride.
When Kari was about five years old, another adventure befell him.
We took him to see the town, but before we had started, we tried
to train him to like dogs and monkeys. Elephants are proverbially
irritated by dogs. When an elephant goes through a village, every
dog barks at him, and while most elephants are too dignified to
pay any attention, there are some who get extremely annoyed and
try to chase the dogs. Sometimes, in fact, an elephant will chase
a dog so hard that he will lose his way in the village.
Knowing that there were many unknown little hamlets between our
village and the city, we thought we would train Kari to like
dogs before we started, for we did not want to be led astray
into all sorts of little alleys while he chased the dogs who had
annoyed him.
But as all the dogs of our village had seen Kari grow up they
never paid any attention to him, and that made it all the more
difficult to train Kari to like other dogs. He always thought the
dogs in our little village were the right kind since they did not
bark at him. Whenever a strange dog barked at him, he would chase
the poor creature through the whole village and waste hours in
finding his way back to the road.
We tried to train Kari by taking him to villages that he had not
yet seen. There were no dogs in the first village we came to. We
went through it without any trouble. In the second village we
came across one or two dogs that barked a few times, then
disappeared in the distance. Then, as we were leaving this
village we heard terrible snorts and growls all around us and
were suddenly surrounded by a pack of angry mongrels, curs and
wild dogs. It was terrible to see Kari trying to chase them with
his trunk. Sometimes he would try to step right on the back of a
dog, but the dog would slip away from under him. Little by little
as the dogs began to bark all around him, he started to go round
and round in a circle, faster and faster till he was spinning
like a top.
We had a hard time sitting on his back because we felt terribly
dizzy. We were almost falling off, when we heard a piercing yell
and saw the whole pack of tormentors running away. Kari had
stepped on one of the dogs and killed it and that frightened the
others away.
We then brought Kari home, gave him his bath in the river and
offered him nice saplings and twigs, but he would eat none of
From that day on, Kari was never upset by the barking of dogs,
but went through strange villages without paying any attention to
them, no matter how hard they barked at his heels.
Now that he had become immune to dogs, we tried to make him like
monkeys. Monkeys, as you know, are very annoying little
creatures. I had a pet monkey of my own named Kopee, who was
red-faced and tawny-coated. He never came near the elephant, and
Kari never thought of going near him. Whenever we went out, this
monkey used to sit on my shoulder, and if we passed through
bazaars where mangoes and other fruits were sold, it was very
difficult to keep Kopee from getting into mischief. In India
everything is shown in the open, and the mangoes lie in baskets
piled up one above the other like little hills. There were places
where oranges were heaped up like big burning rocks. Here and
there you could see brown men robed in white sitting near these
mountains of fruit, bargaining about the prices.
Now it is very good to smell the fragrance of fruit, and one day
while going through the lane of a village, as the fragrance of
the fruit grew stronger, I forgot all about Kopee, and did not
realize that I was carrying him on my shoulder.
Somehow the little monkey always knew when I was not thinking of
him. At such moments he would invariably jump off my shoulder and
run straight for the oranges or mangoes, take one or two of them
and then make a dive for a sheltered spot. This upset the whole
bazaar. Hundreds of men would pursue him from tree to tree,
yelling and throwing stones till he vanished out of sight.
Of course, I used to get terribly frightened, fearing that the
men would attack me for carrying such a mischievous monkey. I
would hurry out of the bazaar and make for home as fast as I
could go. Then in an hour or two I would find Kopee on the house
top, looking perfectly innocent and scratching himself. No one
could ever tell by his face that he had stolen fruit a short
while before.
When the time came for me to go to town, I was anxious to take
Kopee and Kari with me, and I wanted the elephant to like the
monkey and the monkey to behave like a gentleman toward the
elephant. One day I brought the monkey on my shoulder and held
him tight with both hands in front of the pavilion where the
elephant was busy eating all kinds of saplings. Sometimes he
would take a strong twig and unravel the top into a soft, fluffy
tuft; then he would seize the other end of it with his trunk and
brush himself. The moment he saw the monkey, he snorted and
raised his trunk to grab him. With one wild scream the monkey
jumped off my shoulder, climbed up the pavilion post and
disappeared on the roof.
I went to Kari and spoke to him. I said, "Kari, in order to like
dogs you killed one, now don't kill my monkey in order to like
monkeys." He was very displeased that I should ever want him to
like monkeys, because elephants are very much like some people
who don't like to associate with others who have come from
nowhere and whom they consider their inferiors. Elephants don't
like to associate with monkeys, for they came from nowhere. You
must remember, too, that elephants rarely see monkeys because
monkeys are above the elephants most of the time, jumping and
squealing among the trees in a manner most annoying to a quiet
and sedate creature like an elephant.
It did not take more than a week, however, to bring Kari and
Kopee together. One day there was a pile of fruit lying in the
open, and the elephant stood at one end eating and the monkey at
the other, both enjoying the feast. Of course, the elephant ate
faster than the monkey, and realizing this, Kopee began to eat
more quickly and soon had enormous pouches on each side of his
face. Before long all the fruit was gone and the two animals were
left facing each other. The monkey trembled with fear. He was
almost on the point of running away to a tree-top, but, no one
knows why, the elephant turned away from him and went into his
pavilion. This gave the monkey great courage, so he went straight
up to the roof of the pavilion, and peering down through the
eaves, found out that the elephant lived on twigs and fruits and
saplings just like himself. Having watched all this, I then got
up on Kari's back and whistled to the monkey. He leaped down from
the tree onto my shoulder. The elephant shivered for a moment and
then was absolutely still. When I ordered him "mali," he walked
One day I took them to the bazaar, I on the elephant and the
monkey on my shoulder. When we had reached a mountain of mangoes
round the corner of a lane, the monkey jumped off and climbed up
to the top of the pile. At this the owner of the fruit chased him
away, yelling and shouting. The monkey climbed up the roof of a
house, followed by a crowd. Kari, however, put out his trunk and
helped himself to whatever fruits he liked, eating them with
great relish. The moment he heard the people coming back from the
monkey chase, he ran away--and you may be surprised to know that
when an elephant runs, he can go more than ten miles an hour. By
the time we reached home, Kopee had buried his face in an
enormous mango and was covered with the juice. And you know
that mangoes taste very much like strawberries and cream with
sugar on them.
At last we set off for the city, Kari, and Kopee now the best of
friends. It was very interesting at night going through the
jungle country. The moonlight was intense, falling like white
waters on the land. You could see the tree-tops, and at midnight
almost clear down to the very floor of the jungle where the
shadows were thick like packs of wolves crouching in sleep. The
elephant went through these regions perfectly care-free. He did
not care who came or went or what happened.
But not so the monkey. Monkeys, you know, are always afraid of
snakes, and do you know why? Snakes go up trees and eat birds and
their younglings. Monkeys also live by stealing eggs from
different birds' nests. Now it sometimes happens that the snake
eats all the birds' eggs in the nest and is resting there when
the monkey puts his hands in to grab the eggs, so the monkey
instead of getting the eggs is stung to death. As this sort of
thing has been happening for thousands of years, it is natural
that they fear snakes.
Monkeys also get punished for using their hands too much. Now, if
you come across a snake, the best thing to do is not to touch it.
Monkeys, however, accustomed to using their hands continually,
grab a snake whenever they see one with the result that the snake
usually stings them to death. I have never seen a snake do this,
but I have seen dead snakes with marks on their bodies showing
that monkeys had twisted them like ropes, broken their backs and
thrown them down before the snakes could use their fangs. This,
however, is very rare.
As we were going through the jungle that night, Kopee would
shiver with terror whenever there was a swish of a snake's body
in the grass below or in the leaves above, and I had to put my
hand on his back and whisper, "Don't be afraid, you are on the
elephant's back and nothing can touch you."
Another thing that used to frighten him was the hooting of the
night owl. Any monkey that lives in the jungle is used to it, but
as Kopee was born among human beings and had always lived with
them, he had never heard jungle noises. When the owls beat their
wings and gave the mating call and hoot, it was like a foam of
noise rising over a river of silence. I, too, was alarmed when I
would suddenly hear the hooting in my sleep, but both Kopee and I
soon got used to it.
About four o'clock in the morning Kari stopped and refused to go
a step further. Though I was asleep, Kopee began to pull me by
the hand, and instantly after being aroused, I heard, or rather
felt, as if clouds were passing by. The monkey's eyes were all
eagerness and burning with excitement, and I looked down where he
was looking. The honey-colored moon was casting slanting rays
into the jungle through dark moving clouds. We did not know what
we saw. It seemed as though two or three hundred wild elephants
in a herd were going through the jungle, or perhaps the clouds
were feeding on the leaves that night. No one knows what it was,
but we did know Silence walked by, telling us of the mysteries of
the jungle, and we could not understand.
Then out of the stillness a bird's note fell through the jungle
and there was a gleam of whiteness. That instant Silence was
lifted, dawn began to sing through the jungle and you could hear
its flute-like call fading away in the distance, followed by a
momentary hush. Then the birds began to sing, and soon the sun
came leaping over the forest like a horse of flame. This must
have taken at least an hour and a half, but we did not even know
when the elephant resumed his walk.
We soon came to a river where we stopped. I gave the elephant his
bath. The monkey went off in search of food from tree to tree.
Then I bathed myself and stood facing the East, saying these
words of prayer:
"O Blossom of Eastern Silence,
Reveal to us the face of God,
Whose shadow is this day, and
Whose light is always within us.
Lead us from the unreal to the Real,
From sound into Silence,
From darkness unto Light, and
From death into Immortality."
In India every hour has its prayer and every prayer can be said
unconsciously anywhere. Nobody notices you if you kneel down on
the road to say your prayer, in spite of the fact that you are
blocking the traffic. Religion runs like singing waters by the
shores of every human life in India.
I went to the forest nearby and got the elephant his food, and as
he started to eat I began to cook my own meal. When traveling, it
is better to cook one's own meal so that it will be clean and
uncontaminated. Very soon I saw a caravan coming. Apparently
Kopee had seen it from the tree-top as he was chattering with
great excitement to tell me it was coming. I told him to hold his
tongue because the elephant was getting restless.
I decided to go with the caravan into the town because the
caravan people knew the shortest way. I also preferred to travel
in human company rather than alone. No sooner had the caravan
reached us than our attention was drawn to the faces of the
camels probing the distance. You know how a camel examines the
air as he goes along--he is continually stretching forth his head
and smelling the air, and he can do this easily with his long
neck. As camels live in the desert they must keep smelling the
air to find out its humidity. Every time the air is very humid
they know that water is nearby. That is why we call camels the
examiners of space; in your country you would call them animal
The moment Kari saw the camels he snorted in anger, though the
monkey was excited and thrilled. You see, elephants are the
aristocrats of animals, while camels are snobs. You can easily
tell a snob, he holds his head in a very supercilious way, always
looking down on everyone, and don't you think if you put a
monocle on a camel's eye he would look like any snob that walks
down the avenue? Nevertheless, I made my elephant join the
camels. That is to say, we kept about one hundred yards behind
them because I could not let the monkey bound from camel hump to
camel hump, and it would not do to let the elephant put his trunk
about the camels' necks and twist them.
Toward midday the whole caravan stopped and all the animals were
tied under different trees for two or three hours to rest. As we
knew we could easily reach the city by sun-down, we all enjoyed
our siesta. About half-past three, the doves began to coo, and
that made the monkey sit up and listen. Being a dweller of the
trees by birth, Kopee was always sensitive to tree sounds. Soon a
cuckoo called from the distance and in a few moments the caravan
was ready to move on. Nothing exciting happened the rest of the
As the sun went down in the gathering silence of the evening, we
entered the city of Benares, the oldest city in India. For three
thousand years stone has been laid on stone to keep this city
with its haughty towers and sombre domes above the rushing and
destroying currents of the sacred river. The river like a liquid
ax is continually cutting away the foundations of the city. At
night you can hear the whispering Ganges gnawing at the stone
embankments. And that is why all the tall towers of Benares lean
slightly over the water's edge. Their roots are being cut as
beavers cut the roots of trees. And any Hindu who comes into
Benares feels the age of India; she has lived very long--indeed
too long, and it seems time no more clings to her than the
morning dew clings to the lion's mane.
We went through Benares in a long, narrow file. The camels went
first, and the monkey, who had jumped off my shoulder, was
leaping from roof to roof following the tide of the caravan.
Sometimes he would run ahead and chatter; and then suddenly
disappear among roofs and walls. Then he would rush back to talk
to me. I fastened two silver bells dangling from silver chains to
the elephant's sides, and the cool sound of the bells sank into
the cooler serenity of the Indian evening. People were walking
about in purple and gold togas; on the house-tops were pigeons
whose throats shone like iridescent beads. Through latticed
balconies you could see the faces of women with eyes warm and
tranquil as the midnight.
We had not gone very far when Kari put out his trunk and took a
peacock fan out of a lady's hand as she leant against the railing
of a balcony. He then proceeded to give it to me. I made him
stop and give it back to its owner. The lady, however, would not
take it. "Oh, little dreamer of the evening," she said, "cool
thyself with my peacock fan. Thy elephant is very wise, but I am
afraid he is no worse a scamp than thou art."
I took the fan, made my bow to the lady and went on. Hardly had
we gone two more blocks when the screaming and jabbering monkey
fell upon us. Behind him on the roof of one of the houses we saw
a man with a long cudgel which he shook at the monkey. I stopped
the elephant again and said to the man, "Why art thou irate when
the evening is so cool, little man of the city?"
"That monkey! Ten thousand curses upon him!" he said. "He has
been teasing my parrot in its cage, and has plucked so many of
its feathers that it now looks like a beaked rat."
"I shall indeed punish this wayward monkey," I answered. "But
thou knowest that monkeys are no less wayward than thou and I."
At this the man on the roof got very angry and began to hurl all
kinds of abuses at me, but I prodded the elephant with my foot
and he walked on, while the swearing and cursing of the little
man of the city resounded in the stillness of the night. Nothing
befell us that night as we took shelter in the open grounds
outside of the city.
The following morning long before day-break, I heard nothing but
the beat, beat, beat of unknown feet on the dusky pavement of
Benares. It seemed as though the stillness of the night were
hurrying away. I left my animals where they were and went in
quest of these beating feet. There is something sinister in this
walk of the Hindu. The Hindu walks with a great deal of poise, in
fact, very much like an elephant, but he also has the agility of
the panther. I did not realize it until that early morning when I
heard the moving feet, as one hears dogs on the hurrying heels of
a stag.
Soon I reached the river bank where I saw thousands and
thousands of pilgrims crowding the steps of the Ghaut, the
staircase leading to the river, bathing and waiting to greet the
dawn. As I followed their example and took my bath, there arose
over the swaying crowd and the beating feet, a murmur like the
spray of foam on the seashore after the breakers have dashed
against the beach. Then the day broke like two horses of livid
light rushing through the air. In the tropics the day-break is
very sudden. Hardly had those streaks of light spent themselves
through the sky and over the waters, when a golden glow fell upon
the faces of the people and they raised their hands in a gesture
of benediction, greeting the morning sun which rose like a
mountain of crimson under a tide of gold. All of us said our
morning prayer, thousands of voices intoning together.
I could not stay at the Ghaut very long, however. I knew my
animals would be looking for me, so I hastened back. Lo and
behold, this sight greeted me! The monkey was sitting on the
neck of the elephant, and Kari, who had never been accustomed to
that sort of thing was running all around, raising his trunk and
bending it backwards to reach the monkey in frantic efforts to
shake him off. The one spot that an elephant cannot shake,
however, is his neck, so the monkey stayed there perfectly calm,
looking into space, secure in his seat.
I shouted to Kari to stop, and seeing me, he came rushing towards
me, trembling. He made an effort to shake Kopee off, but the
monkey was glued to his neck. I swore at Kopee and told him to
get off. He looked down at me as if nothing had happened. I, too,
was very irritated, for even I had never seen a monkey on an
elephant's neck. That is considered very improper. I threw a
stone at the monkey and he jumped from the elephant's neck, went
straight up a tree and stayed there. I patted Kari's back and
tried to soothe him. Then I took him by the ear and we walked
into town.
Kari loved human beings; the more he saw them, the happier he
felt. He glided by them like a human child. I was very proud of
him and his behavior. As we went on our way, a mouse ran out of a
hole in the foundations of a house in front of us. Kari turned
around, curled up his trunk, put it in his mouth and ran. You see
elephants are not afraid of anything except mice, for a mouse can
crawl into an elephant's trunk and disappear in his head. I was
humiliated beyond measure at Kari's behavior. He did not stop
till he reached the open ground which we had left half an hour
before. The monkey was still sitting in the tree. Seeing us, he
shook a purse at me. He had stolen somebody's purse and was
holding it in his hands waiting for it to be ransomed.
Monkeys are very much like bandits. Once, I remember, my little
sister who was two months old, was lying in a basket on the
veranda. Suddenly we heard her crying, and going out on the
veranda found that she was not there. Basket and all had
disappeared. Then we looked up at a tree and there was an
enormous baboon looking down at us, while with one hand he held
the basket, which was resting on a branch. My father, however,
knew what to do. He sent a servant at once to the bazaar, and in
the meantime brought all of the fruit in the house and spread it
on the floor of the veranda. The monkey shook his head, meaning
that was not ransom enough for him. Very soon the servant
returned with an enormous quantity of bananas. The baboon
immediately came down, and it was remarkable how he brought down
the basket without upsetting it.
My mother, all this while, was weeping silently, leaning against
the door. But now her grief was turned to gladness, for lo, and
behold, there was the baby asleep in the basket on the veranda,
while the baboon sat on a pile of bananas giving a strange monkey
call to other monkeys.
Scarcely had we taken the baby into the house and shut the glass
doors of the veranda, when we heard monkeys hooting and calling
from all directions, leaping from tree to tree and falling with a
great thud on our roof. In ten minutes the veranda became a
regular parliament of monkeys chattering over their dinners.
After this we were very careful about the baby. Every time she
was put out, a man or woman with a stick always watched over her.
Remembering now what had happened to my sister years ago, I
called to the men of the caravan who had not yet started and told
them the monkey had the purse. True enough, one of them was
accusing his servant of having stolen his purse. I told them to
buy some bananas and leave them under the tree, and in the course
of the day the monkey would come down, leave the purse and take
the bananas. I had been humiliated by my elephant, and now being
disgusted with my monkey, I took Kari into town again. This time
I had my _ankus_ with me, so that in case he should run away
again I could prick his neck and make him behave.
We went by jewelers' shops where they were cutting diamonds, and
stopped in front of the goldsmith's door. Seeing us wait there,
the smith came out. "What do you want, do you want gold rings for
your elephant's tusks?" You know they put rings on elephant's
tusks as human beings put gold in their teeth.
"His tusks have just begun to sprout; they're too beautiful to
spoil with rings yet," I answered.
"But my rings always make tusks more beautiful," was his retort.
I answered, "All the city folk think that what they do makes
everything beautiful. Why don't they make their dirty city
The smith was angry. "If thou be not a buyer of gold, nor a
vendor of silver, tarry not at my door; I have no time for
As we trotted off, I called back, "I do not sell silver, nor do I
buy gold, but when my elephant grows up, he will have such tusks
that you will cast eyes of envy on them. But this elephant will
live more than one hundred and twenty-five years and thou shalt
be dead by then, and so there will be no chance of soiling his
ivory by buying thy gold."
We walked on very silently through the city, and then of a sudden
a pack of dogs were upon us. We knew not whence they had come.
Kari was as dignified as a mountain; he never noticed them, but
the less attention he paid to them, the more audacious the dogs
grew. They came after us and I did not know what to do, as I did
not even have a stone to throw at them. In a few moments, we were
hemmed in by packs of dogs. Quickly now, Kari turned round and in
an instant lifted a dog into the air with his trunk. As the dog
would have been dashed into bits, I yelled into his ear,
"Brother, brother, do not kill him, but let him down gently, he
will not bite you."
At this moment the dog gave such a terrible cry of pain as the
trunk was coming down that Kari stopped and slowly brought him to
the ground. The dog, however, was already dead; the pressure of
the trunk had killed him, and the other dogs, seeing his fate,
had already run away.
Kari walked rapidly out of the city and I was heart-sick. He went
straight to the river bank and with great difficulty walked down
the steps of the Ghaut and buried all except his trunk in the
water. He stood there knowing that I knew that he had done
something wrong and he was trying to cleanse himself of it. I,
too, took my bath.
Late in the afternoon, we went back and found Kopee still sitting
on the same tree and looking for us, as the caravan had left long
ago. Judging by the banana peels under the trees, we realized he
had had his dinner. Kari and I, however, were very hungry and we
were both sick of the city. We did not want to see it again, so I
called to the monkey to follow and urged the elephant to go on to
the nearest forest. Kopee, with one leap, jumped on my neck as I
sat on the elephant's back.
This ended Kari's expedition to the city. It is better for
animals to be where the jungle is, for the jungle is sweeter and
kinder than that wilderness of stones--the city.
It took us much longer to return home. We lost nearly twenty-four
hours in a jungle where we had the strangest experiences of our
lives. We had already covered half the distance when one day at
noon we reached the river across which lay the jungle. It was so
hot that Kari would not go any further. The moment he smelled the
moist earth of the river bank, he literally ran into the water
and lay there. Kopee and I had to sit on his back, while the
waves of the river played around us as the waves of the sea play
around an island. Kari kept his trunk above the water, and when
he moved we almost fell off his back. The monkey clung to me,
for, as you know, monkeys do not know how to swim. There are two
reasons why monkeys are afraid of the water; not only are they
unable to swim because the fingers of their hands are not webbed
together as are ducks' toes, but being accustomed to go through
the air by leaping from branch to branch, they think that they
should leap from place to place in the water.
Seeing that the elephant was wayward, I told Kopee to hold on to
my head. Then I swam ashore and waited for the elephant to come
out. Now that we were off his back, he raised himself a little
above the water and began to draw vast quantities of water up his
trunk and snorted it out at the monkey who was running up and
down the shore, chattering fiercely and keeping at a safe
distance to avoid being drenched.
This shows that elephants have a sense of humor. They always know
where to keep a monkey, and it is the monkey's business to know
when the elephant is going to indulge in humor.
As elephants do not know that monkeys cannot swim, I was afraid
that if Kopee was not careful, Kari might throw him into the
river for fun, and that would have been the end of him.
I soon forgot the elephant and the monkey, however, and fell
asleep on the river bank. I was awakened by a terrible cry from
the monkey and a trumpeting from the elephant. I sat up with a
start and I saw Kopee sitting on the ground shivering with
terror, and Kari standing in front of him, waving his trunk in
the air and trumpeting for all he was worth. I lay on the ground
and lifted myself on my elbows. Through the elephant's legs I saw
a great snake, right under him, held almost between his
fore-legs. My blood congealed in terror. Of course Kari was five
years old; his skin was so thick that the cobra could never bite
deep enough to bury its poisonous fangs in his arteries. The
monkey was hypnotized with fear, but he could neither run away,
nor go forward, nor come to me. He sat there shivering with
I crept slyly around the elephant and approached Kopee. I knew
that if I touched him, he would turn around and bite me. He was
so frightened that anything that touched him would mean to his
excited brain only the sting of the snake. The idea that he would
be stung to death had taken possession of the whole animal.
I could now see what had happened. The elephant had stepped on
the middle of the snake. Its back was broken and it could not
move, but there was life in the rest of its body and it was
standing erect like a sharp column of ebony, its black hood with
a white mark on it spread out as large as the palm of a man's
hand. Of course, it could not stay in that position long. It
swayed and almost fell to the ground. The moment that happened,
Kari raised his foot and put it down on the snake's neck. But the
snake lifted up its head in such a way that whenever there was a
chance for the elephant to put his foot on its head it would
immediately raise itself on its broken back. Its agony must have
been great, yet it would not give in for a long time.
As the snake could not move with its back broken and the foot of
the elephant still on it, I knew I had better go and kill it with
a stick. As I approached it with my stick, the monkey's eyes
which had been fixed on the snake, suddenly moved. He looked at
me and bounded off with a piercing, chattering yell towards the
nearest tree. The spirit of terror that had held him hypnotized
so long was broken at last, for he had seen someone who could
kill the snake.
The moment the monkey bounded off, the snake stung the elephant's
toe nails, those horny plates around his feet. This is a vital
spot, as the arteries come very near the surface. Knowing this,
Kari raised his foot. Evidently he was not hurt, but I was not
sure how long he could stand on three legs. I was also afraid
that he would fall and bring his trunk near the snake, and any
snake can poison an elephant by stinging the end of his trunk. I
hit the snake on the head with my stick, but instead of striking
his head, the stick slipped down that ebony column which was
still standing erect. Fortunately, in order to avert the next
blow, the snake fell on his side. That very instant the up-raised
foot of the elephant was on his head.
Kari walked away and pawed the sand with his feet to cleanse
them. I thought of calling to Kopee who had taken refuge on a
tree-top, but I was so anxious to know whether the elephant's
foot was hurt or not, that I followed him about until he let me
look at it. I was relieved to see that the skin of his foot had
not been broken.
Then I called to the monkey to come down from the tree. He shook
his head. I knew he was so ashamed of being afraid that he
preferred to be alone in the privacy of the tree in order to
gather his forces together.
The sun was beginning to sink. The jungle was not very far off
and I was certain that the breeze blowing across the river had
taken the scent of human beings into the depths of the forest.
The twilight came swiftly. The bars of gold and light vibrated
over the tawny waters, and darkness fell like a black sword,
cutting the day from the night. The voices of the birds from the
tree-tops, here and there died down, and as if to enhance the
silence, insect voices came from under the grass. I got on my
elephant's back and sat there quietly, for as the evening Silence
goes by, each man must make his prayer. As the Silence walked on,
I could see the grass waving in zig-zag curves across the river.
It was always making half the figure eight in the undergrowth of
the jungle.
Gradually all grew still and then over the river came the
terrible hunger wail of a tiger. That instant its tawny face
scarred with black emerged from behind green leaves. He saw I was
across the river. The tiger's body is marked with the same
stripes and curves as he makes in the grass when he walks, and
people in the jungle can always tell by the wave of the grass
which animal has passed that way.
Throughout the country-side, wherever the echo of the wail was
heard, a tension fell upon everything. Even the saplings were
tense, and you could almost hear the cracking of the muscles of
the animals holding themselves together and watching which way
the tiger would pass. It was as if the horn of the chase had
sounded and blown; each one had to take to cover.
Night came on apace. I wanted to tie Kari to a big tree, but he
refused to be tied up that night. He paced up and down the shore
without making the slightest noise. Then he would suddenly stand
still and stop the waving of his ears in order to listen very
intently to shadows of songs that might be passing. I stayed on
his back, intent on knowing what he was going to do. Soon, very
soon, the river became silver-yellow and over the jungle a
quickening silence throbbed from leaf to leaf.
Then swiftly the terrible face of the moon was upon us. Kari
snorted and stepped backwards. I, too, was surprised because this
was another moon, very rarely seen by men. It was the moon
bringing the call of the summer to the jungle. It was the call
for hunt and challenge, when elephants kill elephants to win
their mates. And under the moon lay a great sinister figure like
the terrible face of a dragon.
The July cloud was hovering in the distance, and between the
cloud-banks and the moon I saw strange things, as if throngs of
white animals were going from sky to sky--I don't know why--no
one ever knows. These are the spirits of the jungle, the dead
ancestors of the animals now living.
Without warning, Kari now plunged into the river. I spoke to him,
scratched his neck with the _ankus_, but he would not stop. He
forded the river, at times almost drowning, and charged madly up
the other shore, where we were lost in the darkness of leaves and
vines. No moonlight fell on us, not even the knowledge that the
moon was up could be vouched for in this thick black place.
I cannot tell how many hours passed. I think I fell asleep, but
perhaps I saw this waking--I cannot tell. Suddenly Kari's face
changed. He moved his eyes forward, looked at me, and said:
"Brother, this is the night of the jungle and I want you to hear
a tale that my mother told me when I was four months old, and
still roaming in the jungle. That was a short time before she and
I were captured by men. I was born near the foot-hills of the
Himalayas, for the snow-covered mountains could be seen in the
distance, but we elephants were so proud of our own height that
we never bothered about the hills. I once asked my mother, 'Why
do tigers smell like this? Wherever a tiger goes, he brings a
terrible stench with him.' This is what she told me:
"'Every animal that lives in the jungle is born to one kind of
food or another. He either eats meat or he lives on herbs and
fruits. Those who eat herbs never hate or fear, but those who eat
other animals are tainted with both. We elephants never fear
anyone or hate anyone and that is why we exude no stench, but a
tiger has to live by killing. In order to kill one must hate, and
in order to hate one must fear, and those spirits that you see
walking through the air have taught all animals the secret of the
"'Now the secret of the jungle is this--the animal that lives by
killing is diseased. He carries a strange, festering sore within
him and that poisons his whole blood. Wherever he goes the stench
of that poison reaches other animals, and this mother of us all
who loves tigers, as well as the antelopes they kill, is so wise
that animals that kill must be branded so that their victims will
be able to take shelter. For this reason wherever the tiger goes
his stench precedes him, and knowing this the fox comes out of
his little hole and calls through the jungle that the tiger is
out. Hence, here in the night when the moonlight falls on the
thickest gloom, following the plaintive cry, the cunning fox, the
servant of our mother, threads its way through the jungle giving
the warning to all animals.'
"Very soon one sees the black form of a tiger moving in the
moonlight without the slightest sound. He never attacks
elephants. After he passes, the horrible smell of carnage grows
less and less, and then another fox gives the call throughout the
jungle, telling the animals that the tiger has passed.
"If on the morrow thou comest to the same spot where the tiger
and fox have passed, thou shalt not find a trace of their coming
and going for it is the law of the jungle that no animal leaves
the mark of his foot or the stain of his presence on leaves or
grass. The victims of the tiger dare not leave footprints for it
will give away their whereabouts. The cheetah, the tiger, and
even the wild cats who live by killing, leave no trace behind.
And that is why the dwelling of men annoys me so; they cannot
even raise their heads without disturbing the air."
In my dream, I asked him, "How did you live with your elephant
mother in the jungle?"
"Our life was a playing and a toil," he answered, "but the toil
was a playing, and the playing was a toil. When the leaves began
to get crisp and colored and the sun called us to the South, we
would leave the foot-hills of the Himalayas and follow the sacred
river bed through vast forest lanes, going further and further
south. Time and again we would come to dwellings of men. How
wretched are men! Wherever they go they murder trees and
slaughter forests! And in these comings and goings, I saw strange
"One winter we came to jungles on the seashore where I saw
crocodiles lying on the banks of the Delta in the daytime, with
their mouths open and little birds going in and out of them,
cleaning their teeth, and eating all the insects that poison
their gums. It is a pity we elephants have no birds to clean our
teeth. And, there too, even in the water you could smell animals
that lived on other animals.
"When we traveled, the old male masters went first, then the
children, then babies and the mothers, and in the rear all the
maidens and young fathers. When we went to sleep at night, the
old ones made a ring of tusks, within which the young maids and
the males each made rings, and in that triple ring we children
slept guarded by elephants and stars. In my sleep in the jungle I
have seen elephant ghosts in the sky shaking their tusks of
lightning, roaring in anger and battling with the moon. These
elephants of the sky are our dead ancestors watching over us. You
know, in the beginning, elephants ruled over all other animals,
and hence, men and monkeys and snakes and tigers were created."
"Who made the rhinoceros?" I asked in my dream.
"The rhinoceros," Kari answered, "is a wayward elephant. Once
when our ancestors were making a very beautiful animal they fell
asleep. They had already completed the thick hide and the small
legs, when some malicious spirit completed the head and instead
of putting a trunk put a horn on it, and that is why the
rhinoceros goes through the jungle like a spirit of evil. Dost
thou not hear him coming tonight? The trees are falling and the
saplings are cracking. The rhinoceros is snorting. That is the
way of his coming; wherever he goes he carries destruction before
him and he is not afraid to leave a trail behind, for no animal
could kill him and tigers do not want to kill him because they
cannot get beyond his hide."
That minute a tall tree fell in front of us and the raging
rhinoceros went by.
"Why does he walk straight?" I said to Kari. "Most animals do
"Only the well-born go round," Kari said. "The ill-bred find the
shortest road to everything."
Just then there was a stillness in the jungle and from nowhere,
like marching clouds, came herds of elephants, silent and slow.
Above there was no light. A vast blackness had been spread over
the stars and moon, and throughout the gloom beyond there was a
singing and an eagerness.
"Go up the tree," Kari said to me. "I want to be rid of you
Sleeping or dreaming--I do not know--I did his bidding and then
saw Kari stand and give a call and the whole elephant herd
stopped. I could understand everything they said; and when they
looked at him some of the young elephants laughed, "Look, he has
the mark of a chain on his ankle; he bears the slavery of man."
Kari raised his trunk and silenced their silly chatter by
trumpeting. Then he said, "I want a mate tonight. How many of you
free-born want to test my strength?"
One of the young elephants said, "How old are you?"
"There is no age to a hero," answered Kari.
One of the elephants, the leader of the herd, shook his head. "We
have amongst us younglings who have taught tigers humility; we
have amongst us younglings who have broken hillocks with their
fury, and pulled down the thickest trees of the jungle. So thou,
man lover, temper thy speech to humility; it is not meet for thee
to seek a bride amongst the free-born."
Kari snorted and said, "Give forth the challenge, I accept." And
one of the elephants with two small tusks just coming out of his
mouth stood out from the herd and trumpeted. Kari stood and a
quiver ran through his muscles and I could see his body throb.
"Don't be afraid," I whispered to him. "We have taught you the
tale of man; he does not know it."
He waved his trunk at me and then plunged into the other
elephant. The whole herd stood around and watched the fight. In
a few moments a young girl elephant stood apart from the herd,
watching the fight, and I knew she was the prize of this battle.
First they put their trunks together and bellowed. Then the two
mountains of flesh bounded at each other as if hills were
striking hills. As I have said before, Kari's tusks were not long
enough to be of any use, so every time they crushed against each
other Kari had to be very careful to avoid the other's tusks.
At last their trunks came together and their bodies were tightly
pinioned. They looked like a great mountain spinning round and
round. There was a pause and Kari rose on his hind legs and held
his front legs up. That instant the wild elephant let go of his
trunk and leapt to cut Kari's trunk with his tusks, but before he
could do that, Kari struck him on the head and he went reeling
into the distance. He would have fallen if he had not struck
against a tree, and if an elephant falls, that is the end of the
As Kari thought he had struck his opponent down, he stood there
feeling victorious and I could see a shiver of relief going
through his body. The other elephant, however, gauged the
distance and came upon him again with great momentum. Before Kari
realized what had happened, the elephant gored him with his
tusks. Kari gave a painful yell, and walking backwards drew his
neck from the tusks of his opponent. I could feel a quake go
through him as a tree which has just been cut throbs before it
The herd yelled, and shook their heads with great glee,
whispering, "We have won." Then Kari began to walk in a circle.
The other elephant did likewise and they faced each other. Now
and then they would come close together; their trunks would
strike each other, then they would separate and go around again.
By this time the sky was black and the livid tongue of the
lightning flickered on the crest of the clouds. But the rumble of
the thunder could not be heard because the two elephants were
trumpeting so loudly.
Again they locked trunks and bodies and spun around. Quickly Kari
released his trunk and stood aside, leaving the other elephant to
go spinning against the herd. That instant Kari ran forward and
struck the side of the other elephant, giving him a broad-side
blow and throwing him on the ground. The herd scattered and a
clamor of wonder spread from elephant to elephant. Kari rose on
his hind legs and fell upon his opponent with his forefeet, as he
started to rise. The oldest elephant said, "It is done." At this
the herd slunk away slowly and the beaten elephant was seen no
The female who was waiting for the end of this battle came up to
Kari and they put their trunks together. A deafening crash of
thunder fell upon the forest and the lightning was striking trees
far and near. A terrible deluge of rain came and blotted
everything out of sight. I clung to the branch of my tree for
fear I might be washed down to the ground. I do not know how
long it rained. When I looked up, I could see that there was a
white light above, but the rain was still falling on me. Then I
realized that the foliage above my head was so thick that the
raindrops were caught in it and were still coming down. I did not
dare to go up further into the tree, for the branches were very
slippery, so I stayed until every drop of water had fallen.
The moon set and I could hear all kinds of noises. Many animals
were moving about. From the tree-top I heard the shaking of the
coats of the monkey, and below on the ground I felt the heaving
of hoofs on the wet grass. Then all this stopped and on the wet
undergrowth again there was a movement like the zig-zag stripe of
the tiger's skin.
Suddenly, there was a bark followed by a deafening roar and then
the thud of a leaping body falling on the ground. The tiger had
found his kill. You know the tiger has three different calls--the
hunger wail which is like a terrible sound cutting the jungle
with hate; then the snorting bark of the tiger which means
that he is nearing his prey; and then through the stillness of
the jungle, one hears his third call, the triumphant roar of the
kill, which means that he has found his prey. This roar has a
terrible effect on the victim; it paralyzes him with terror, and
like a lightning flash, along with the roar, the tiger falls upon
his prey. This is just what was happening now a short while
before sunrise. The tiger growled now and then to announce that
he had had his dinner and then other small animals came up and
fell upon the prey after he had left it.
All the animals who had taken shelter in their lairs and holes
during the rain were now beginning to come out. This morning
there was no silence in the jungle; in the small hours all the
animals were eager to get something to eat, so that by day-break
they could go to sleep with something in their stomachs. When the
dawn came, I saw Kari standing under the tree in the thick
twilight under the foliage. I came down on the ground to find
traces of the struggle of the night. The rain had washed it all
away, but as I got up and touched Kari's neck, he winced and I
knew that the marks he bore were the only testimony of the
We went back across the river, and found Kopee there, wet and
miserable. He was glad to get down from the tree and get on the
elephant's back and feel the sunlight on his skin. I urged Kari
to get him something to eat, but he would not hear of it, so we
hastened back toward the village. On our way home, I verified the
law of the jungle, for Kari had really developed a slight stench.
You may say that it was the wound that gave the odor, but I do
not think so. When he went to war and battled with another
elephant, he must have hated as well as feared, and the smell of
fear and hate was upon him. It took nearly a fortnight to wash
the stench away from him, and you must remember that it was not
the bathing in the water that did it. It was in the gentle care
and friendship of the village that Kari gradually forgot to hate
his enemy.
I have told you that Kari was not a hunting elephant. After that
experience in the jungle, however, he seemed to be above all fear
and surprise. On many occasions he showed such dignity and
composure that one could not recognize in him the old, nervous
beast. Apparently that battle with the wild elephant gave him
such confidence in his own strength that from that time on no
incident could surprise him.
You do not know what music can do for animals. If you took a
flute and played certain tunes on it, all of the snakes would
come out of their holes and dance to the music! There is supposed
to be a kind of flower, like a sensitive plant, that can be put
to sleep by the playing of a very delicate tune. I have seen
with my own eyes how fond the deer are of music. Sometimes in the
middle of the afternoon, if you stand on the edge of the forest
and play your flute and slowly strike the notes which sound like
the whistling call of the antelope, you will see a strange
phenomenon. The deer generally bark, but they also give a
whistling call.
As I was playing my flute one afternoon, I remember distinctly
that nothing happened for a while. I stopped and tried another
tune. I heard a strange rustle in the leaves of the small plants
of the jungle; but nothing came of it. Again I changed my tune
and played on. This time even the leaves did not move, so I was
sure my flute was not catching the ear of any animal. I was
heart-broken. I had gone to test my knowledge of flute-playing,
but I found out that I could not attract any animal.
It was getting late; the darkness of the jungle became thicker
and thicker, though the April sun was still scorching the open
meadow. At last in desperation, I tried my only remaining
tune, not being very proficient on the flute. For a while nothing
happened. I played so intently that I paid attention to nothing
else and was greatly startled to hear a noise as if someone were
pulling on a rope. I looked up and there was a stag whose
nostrils were quivering with excitement as if he scented the
music. His beautiful forked horns were caught up in a creeper
hanging from a tree, from which he was trying to free himself. I
kept on playing, but did not take my eyes from him. At last he
freed himself from the vine, but a tendril still clung to his
horns like a crown of green. He came nearer and stood still.
I kept on playing, and one by one more golden faces began to come
out from behind the foliage of the jungle. The spotted fawn, the
musk-deer, gazelles and antelopes, all seemed to answer the call
of the music. I stopped playing. That instant a shiver went
through the herd; the stag stamped his foot on the ground and as
swiftly as the waving of a blade of grass in the breeze they all
disappeared in the forest. I could feel in the distance the
shiver of the undergrowth of grass and saplings indicating the
way the animals had passed.
Knowing this power of music over animals, I wanted to train Kari
and Kopee to follow the tunes of my flute. Kopee was such a
monkey that I could not make him listen. Whenever I began to play
the flute, he would go to sleep or run up a tree. Monkeys have no
Kari, on the contrary, though much worse at first, was more
sensible. He paid no attention to any tune that I played, but
once in a while, I would strike a note that would make him stop
still and listen, and I could tell by his manner that this tune
went home. Those long fanning ears of his would stop waving and
the restless trunk would be still for a moment. Unfortunately,
the notes that really reached his soul were very few--I could
hardly sustain them for more than a minute and a half. Weeks
passed before I could get them back again.
One day after the battle with the wild elephant in the jungle, I
took up the flute again and began to play for him. I tried many
notes and chords. At last I could sustain the tones he liked for
more than three minutes. By the end of August, I could make Kari
listen to my music for ten minutes at a time. When another winter
had passed and summer came again, I could really command him with
my music. I could sit on his back, almost on his neck, and play
the flute, never saying a word, and guide him for days and days.
This summer a very daring tiger visited our village. His head
looked like a tower and his body was as large as that of an ox.
At first he came in the night and killed oxen or buffaloes, but
one night he killed a man, and after that he never killed
anything but men, for the tiger is as fond of human meat as we
are of chicken.
Our house was very near the jungle; all our windows were barred
with iron. Nothing could go in or out through them except
mosquitoes or flies. One evening I was sitting at my window at
about eight o'clock. I heard the cry of the Fayu, the fox which
goes ahead of the tiger, giving the warning call to all the other
animals. Then, as the darkness that night was not very intense, I
could see the fox go by. Soon I could actually inhale the odor of
a tiger.
In a few moments an enormous black creature came and stood in
front of the window. As he sat down, the call of the fox in the
distance stopped. After a while the tiger stood up and walked
toward the window. That instant, the fox in the distance began to
call. I was very frightened, but as I wanted to see the tiger
clearly, I lit a match. He was so frightened by the sight of fire
that with one growl he bounded off.
After that the tiger took to coming early in the afternoons. One
day about four o'clock, we saw him standing on a rock across the
river, looking at the village. The river was very shallow,
hardly five inches deep, but it was very broad and full of sand
bars. He stood looking at the village and growling with great
joy. In India the government does not allow the people to carry
rifles of any sort, so whenever a tiger or a leopard makes a
nuisance of himself around the village you generally have to send
for a British official to come and kill him. Word was sent to the
magistrate of our district. In a few days a chubby-faced
Englishman appeared. In the Indian sun the red face of the
Westerner looks even redder.
There are certain rules by which men hunt in India. You never
shoot an animal weaker than yourself, and if you want to shoot a
tiger or a leopard, you give it a warning. If you do not do so,
you generally pay for it. After the British official appeared, I
was allowed to take him on my elephant and go out in the open to
show him that Kari was fit for hunting. He fired a number of
shots and killed several birds. Kari, who had never heard a shot
before, and whom everyone expected to be frightened, did not pay
the slightest attention to all the clamor of flying bullets. He
knew at heart he was the master of the jungle, and hence nothing
could surprise him. It is said in India that the mark of a
gentleman is that he is never surprised. That shows that Kari's
ancestors were undoubtedly very gentle elephants.
After killing some more birds, the magistrate became quite
convinced that Kari would do for the hunt, so one morning about
four o'clock we started out. I sat almost on the neck of my
elephant playing my flute, and the magistrate sat in the _howdah_
which had been especially prepared for him, since he was not
accustomed to riding elephants any other way. We crossed the
river and went far into the jungle. Beaters had gone ahead in
large groups to stir up the jungle from all directions. It was
very difficult to go through the jungle with the _howdah_ on the
elephant's back, and we had to edge our way along between
branches and trees.
After riding for at least two hours, we came to an open space and
it was agreed that the beaters should drive all the animals to
this clearing. This morning the sunrise was full of noise and
without any of the soft and delicate silences which usually mark
day-break in the jungle. I felt quite out of humor and apparently
Kari was bored to death. He kept on pulling at one twig after
another with his trunk, nibbling and wasting everything. Our
passenger did not know any language but English, and as I knew
nothing of English at that time, we spoke very little and only by
The first animals to come before us were a herd of antelopes
which dashed towards us like burnt gold flashing through emerald
water. After they had passed, a lull fell on the scene, which was
soon broken by the grunt and snort of a rhinoceros. He rushed
forward in a straight line, as usual, breaking and tearing
everything. Kari averted his gaze because elephants are always
irritated by the ostentatious bustle of a rhinoceros. Then, soon
after him we saw a horned boar rushing like a black javelin
through the air, followed by many animals, weasels and wild cats,
and once in a while a cheetah with its spotted skin. They refused
to come out in the open, however, but always went behind the
screen of foliage and grass, for they had smelled the danger
signal, man and elephant.
Every little while we heard a passionate and angry growl. When
this sound reached our ears, the magistrate would sit up with his
rifle to take aim. Then there would be a lull. Now we could hear
the cry of the beaters in the distance coming nearer and nearer.
Suddenly a herd of elephants passed. They made no noise and left
no trace, but passed by like walking cathedrals.
Again the angry growl fell on the jungle, but this time it was
ahead of us. The beaters cried out again close by, but all were
silenced by the roar of the approaching tiger. With one bound he
appeared in the clearing, but immediately disappeared again. We
could see him passing from one bush to another; and when he
stopped we caught a glimpse of his hind legs. Without any warning
the magistrate fired and like a thunder bolt, the tiger leaped in
front of the elephant with one roar. Kari reared; he walked
backwards and stood with his back against a tree. The magistrate
could not shoot at the tiger without sending a bullet through my
head, so he had to wait.
Then with a leap the tiger was by the side of the elephant, so
close to the _howdah_ that there was not the distance of even a
rifle between him and the magistrate. I stopped my flute playing
to swear at the magistrate. I said, "You brother of a pig; why
did you not give him warning before you shot? Who has ever heard
of killing an animal without seeing him face to face? Can you
kill a tiger by breaking his hind leg with a bullet?"
The man was livid with terror. He had the rifle in his hand but
the tiger was reaching over the _howdah_ and stretching out his
paw to get him. He did not know what to do. Kari shook himself
with all his strength but he could not shake the tiger off. He
trumpeted in great pain because the tiger's claws were cutting
into his flesh. He raised his trunk, swayed his body and bounded
against a tree behind him; but still the tiger could not be
shaken off. The nearer the tiger's paw came, the more the
magistrate tried to lean against the side of the _howdah_. Pretty
soon he moved towards the elephant's rear, and thus reached a
corner of the _howdah_ which gave him almost as much space as the
length of a rifle. I saw the eye of the tiger turn first red and
then yellow, and heard the terrible snarl which he gives only
when he is sure of his prey. The quality of the snarl is such
that it paralyzes his victim.
Seeing that the Englishman could do nothing and feeling sure that
he would be killed, I knew I had to do something. I stopped
swearing and with one terrible yell gave the elephant the master
call. He went forward and put his trunk around a very thick
branch of a tree and pulled it down with a great crash. That
instant the tiger looked at the direction from which the noise
had come. His head was near me now, and he did not know whether
to attack me or go back to his former prey. It seemed as if hours
passed. I was petrified with terror, yet I knew that if I let my
fright get possession of me, I would be killed. So I controlled
myself. Kari was now trying to strike the tiger with this trunk,
but he could not get at him.
Suddenly I realized that the Englishman not only had the rifle's
length between him and the tiger but was raising the rifle to
take aim. Knowing this, I took my flute and hit the tiger's
knuckles with it. He came toward me with his paw outstretched and
caught the shawl which was loosely tied around my waist. I was
glad to hear it tear because he had just missed my flesh. That
instant I saw the Englishman put the barrel of the rifle into the
tiger's ear. All I remembered was hot blood spurting over my
face. Kari was running away with all his might and did not stop
until he had crossed the clearing and disappeared beyond the
trees. He was not hurt, except that his side was torn here and
there with superficial wounds. When the beaters came, I made the
elephant kneel down. We both got off. The Englishman went to see
how big the tiger was while I led Kari in quest of my broken
flute. Toward sun-down when they had skinned the tiger, they
found its length to be nine feet, not counting the tail.
Though elephants are very unselfish animals, they behave like
human beings when brought to the last extremity. The following
adventure will show you what I mean.
One day, Kari and Kopee and I went to the river bank to help pull
a big barge up the river. The towmen could not pull the ropes
hard enough to make progress against the current. All that they
could do was to stand still without getting ahead at all. So word
was sent on to us and we three went to help out. I harnessed Kari
with the tow rope. It was very amusing, as he had never pulled a
weight in his life. At first he pulled very hard. The rope almost
broke and the barge swayed in the water, almost toppled, and
then drifted to its previous position. The swift current was
going against it and the people in the barge were shaking their
hands and swearing at us as they were afraid that the vessel
would capsize.
Kari did not care. After he had pulled the barge about two
hundred yards he stopped; the rope slackened and then the current
pulled against us. The rope became taut again and the men
shrieked from the barge. When you tug a boat, you must not jerk
at the rope but pull it gently, so I urged Kari to pull it
smoothly. In the course of an hour, he had actually drawn the
boat in, and at the end of our journey he had learned to pull
After that we went on playing on the river bank. Kopee jumped off
the elephant's back and ran along the shore. I urged Kari to
follow him, and as we kept on going, I lost all sense of
direction and trusted to the intelligence of the animals. The
monkey, however, had led us into a trap. We had run into
quick-sand and Kari began to sink. Every time he tried to lift
his feet he seemed to go deeper into the mud and he was so
frightened that he tried to take hold of the monkey with his
trunk and step on him as something solid, but Kopee chattered and
rushed up a tree.
Then Kari swung his trunk around, pulled down the mattress from
his back, and putting it on the ground tried to step on it. That
did not help, so he curled up his trunk behind to try to get me
to step on. Each time he made an effort like that, however, he
sank deeper into the mud. I saw the trunk curling back and
creeping up to me like a python crawling up a hillside to coil
around its prey. There was no more trumpeting or calling from the
elephant, but a sinister silence through which he was trying to
reach me. He had come to the end of his unselfishness. In order
to save himself, he was willing to step on me.
The monkey screamed from the tree-top and I, jumping off the
elephant's back, fell on the ground and ran. Kari kept on
trumpeting and calling for help, and by this time he was chest
deep in the mud. The rear of him had not sunk so far, so he was
on a slant which made it all the more difficult for him to lift
I ran off to the village and called for help. By the time we got
back with ropes and planks, he was holding his trunk up in order
to breathe, as the mud was up to his chin. There was only one
thing to do, and that was to lift Kari by his own weight, so we
tied the rope to the tree and flung it to him. He got it with his
trunk and pulled. The rope throbbed and sang like an electric
wire and the tree groaned with the tension, but all that happened
was that the elephant slipped forward a little and his hind legs
fell deeper into the mud.
Now he was perfectly flat in quick-sand. But something very
interesting had taken place. Now that he was holding on to the
rope with all his mortal strength we knew that he would not let
go of it, so it was easy to go near him and put planks under him,
as the hind part of his belly had not yet sunk to the level of
the mud. At last he stopped sinking, but as we could not put the
planks under his feet it only meant that he would not go further
down and smother to death.
Now that his head was lifted and there was an opening between him
and the mud, the question was how to lift the front part of his
body so that he could drag the rest of it out. Another elephant
had to be called in. It turned out to be Kari's mother who had
been given to the neighboring king. By the time she arrived,
however, dusk had fallen and nothing could be done. We trusted to
God and left him to his quick-sand for the night.
The next morning we found Kari in the same position as the
previous evening. He had relaxed his hold on the rope but had not
sunk deeper. We had to put more planks all around him but he now
knew that he should not attack anyone because we were trying to
save him. After the planks had been tested, his mother went up to
him. She put her trunk around his neck and started to lift him,
but he groaned with pain for he was being smothered. He began to
sink again and we just had time to put some more planks between
his chest and the mud.
We had also slipped a rope under him, which some men in a boat
near the river bank came up and threw over his back. The hawser
was made into a loop around his body and the other end was tied
around the mother. Then she pulled with all her might, and her
strength was so great that his fore-quarters were lifted up and
his small legs dangled in the air. He was pulled forward quite a
distance, when the hawser broke and his fore-legs fell on the
plank. His hind legs now were sinking and we were terribly
frightened. We felt as if we had lost him again.
The situation was not so bad as we thought, however, as it was
very easy to slip another hawser under him. This time we made a
double loop around him, and also made him hold on to the rope
around the tree with his trunk. He was very tired, but I urged
him to obey me. And now with the aid of his mother, he managed
to lift the rear half of his body and put first one leg and then
the other on the plank. A great shout of joy went through the
crowd as Kari walked on to solid ground. That instant the monkey
jumped down from the tree and fell on Kari's neck; he was very
glad to see his friend safe again. But Kari was in no humor for
anyone's caresses and he shook Kopee off. The first thing I did
was to pull some branches from a tree which Kari devoured
hungrily. A hungry elephant is not to be bothered by anyone.
I had learned my lesson. I would no longer take my elephant
anywhere and everywhere at the behest of the monkey, for monkeys
have no judgment.
Sometimes Kari was used for travel. He and I went through many
distant places in India with camel caravans, carrying loads of
silver and gold, spices and fruits. They went from one end of
India to the other, passing through hot and deserted cities while
our accustomed way when not in their company led through populous
places and thick jungle regions. Elephants have an advantage over
camels in this respect--gangs of robbers may attack a camel and
his driver and rob him, but no one dares to attack an elephant.
As the animals of the jungle do not care to touch an elephant,
neither do wild men in desolate places. For this reason they
generally used Kari when they wanted to send pearls and other
jewels from one place to another.
Once, we were given the king's emerald to carry. It was as big as
the morning star, and burned when the glow of the noon-day sun
was upon it. Two epics were carved on it--on one side was the
story of the heroes, and on the other the story of the gods. We
left the city and passed into the jungle. Night came on apace and
we stopped.
That night I watched the jungle as I had never watched it before.
It was about nine o'clock; everything was dark and the stars were
right on the tips of the trees. Below us in the foliage the eyes
of the jungle were looking upon us. Wherever I turned, I thought
I saw eyes. Kari swayed slightly from side to side and fell into
a doze. The first thing that I noticed was the faint call of a
night bird. When that died down, the hooting owl took it up. Then
it passed into the soft wings of the bats and came into the
leaves, and you could feel that noise shimmering down the trees
like water in a dream till, with gentle undulations, it
disappeared into the ground. The wild boar could be heard
grazing. Then there was silence again.
Out of the blackness then came the green eyes of the wild cat below me
and, as my eyes became more accustomed to the darkness, I saw small,
beaver-like animals burrowing their way through leaves and brushes. I
thought I saw weasels way below, and in the distance I felt the stag
disturbing the leaves of small plants. Then there was a snarl in the
jungle and these gently moving sounds and quivers ceased. An aching
silence came over everything, broken only by strange insect voices
like the spurting of water. Very soon the call of the fox was heard,
and then the groan of the tiger, but that passed. As I was above the
ground the odor of my breath went up in the air, and the animals never
knew there was man about. Men always disturb animals because they hate
and fear more than the animals.
Little by little the sounds died down and stillness took
possession of the jungle. I saw herds of elephants go into the
water to bathe. They did not make the slightest sound; their
bodies sank into the water as clouds dip into the sunset. I could
see them curling their trunks around their mates and plucking
lilies from the water to eat. As the moon with its shadowy light
had risen, I seemed to be looking at them through a veil of
water. Close to the shore were the little ones stepping into the
water and learning how to breathe quantities of water into their
trunks and then snort it out slowly without the slightest sound.
Soon their bath was over, but the only way you could tell that
they had bathed was by hearing drops of water like twinkling
stars fall from their wet bodies and strike the leaves on the
This proved too much for Kari; he wanted to follow them. I had a
hard time keeping him away from the herd, and despite all my
urging, he ran right into the river. His mattress and everything
that was tied to his back was wet through and through and I had
to swim ashore. If the emerald had not been tied to my neck, it
would have been lost in the water. I went up a tree and waited
for Kari to come out of the water.
After I had sat on a branch a little while, I saw two stony eyes
watching me. I looked, and looked and looked; a cold shiver ran
up and down my back, but I was determined not to fear and hate. I
made myself feel very brave and I stared right back into the
shining eyes. They closed. In the moonlight I could distinctly
see the head of a cobra lying on another branch very near mine. I
had disturbed him going up. I knew if I moved a little he would
get up and sting me to death, so I sat very still.
Soon there was a terrible hooting and calling in the jungle. I
heard hoofs stampeding in the distance. The noise grew louder and
louder and I could feel a vast warm tongue licking the cool
silence of the night. Then the cobra crawled along the branch to
the trunk of the tree, and then on down to the ground. I, who
was holding to the trunk, had to sit still while his cold body
passed over my finger. But I was determined not to fear and I
could feel the silken coolness passing over my hot hand. In an
instant he was gone.
Now I caught sight of Kari snorting before me. As I knew
something had taken possession of the jungle, I jumped on his
back. While we hurried along we heard the whining snarl of a
tiger, not the call of hate or killing, but the call for
protection, swiftly following our lead. Being civilized, we
instinctively knew the way out of the jungle to human habitation.
We approached the village which was still sleeping in the morning
grayness, and behind us saw horny deer, leopards, and wild cats
rushing after us. Then the boars came after us, dashing out of
the jungle in terror. Vast clouds of blackness were rising from
the horizon, and when the morning light grew more intense, I
realized they were clouds of smoke. The morning breeze was warm
and in a short time the smell of burning leaves reached me. The
forest was on fire.
We arrived at the village in an hour and a half. The sun was
already up. The leopards came and sat near the houses as
guileless as children; the boars snorted and ran into the rice
fields to hide. The tiger came and sat in the open and watched
the forest. The antelopes and the deer stood in the ponds and on
the banks of the river. By instinct they knew that the water was
the only place where the fire could not reach them. We saw flocks
of birds flying to shelter. Soon we saw the red tongue of fire
licking the grass and the trees. A terrible heat settled upon the
I could now go near any animal and touch him. The terrible danger
which was common to all had made them forget their relations with
each other--that of hunter and prey. Tiger, elephant and man were
standing near each other. All had a sense of common friendship,
as if the tiger had thrown away his stripes, man his fear, and
the deer his sense of danger. We all looked at one another,
brothers in a common bond of soul relationship. This sight made
me realize why the Hindus believe that each plant and each
animal, like man, has a golden thread of spirituality in its
soul. In the darkness of the animal's eyes and the eloquence of
man's mind it was the same Spirit, the great active Silence
moving from life to life.
The jungle was burning to cinders. The tiger hid his face between
his paws; the wild cats curled up, hiding their faces. None
wanted to see the passing of the terror. Later in the afternoon
some of the birds that were flying aimlessly around were drawn by
the hypnotism of the flames into the jungle where they perished.
If one is frightened beyond his control, fear possesses him so
that he loses all consciousness of self-protection and he is
drawn down into the vortex of the very destruction which rouses
that fear.
The more I watched Kari and the other animals, the more I came to
understand why Kari and I loved each other. We had a soul in
common. I played the flute for him and was deeply moved. I felt
that if I could be dumb like he, I could understand him better.
This was the lesson the fire taught me: do not hate and fear
animals. In them is the soul that is God, as it is also in us.
Behind each face, human or animal, is the face of the Christ.
Those who have eyes to see can always find it.
Not long after this Kari was sent to the lumber yards. It was
very interesting to see that he learned all the tricks of the
lumber trade in a few days. He would pull heavy logs out of the
forest into the open, lift the lighter ones with his trunk and
pile them up, one on top of the other. He had such a good sense
of symmetry that his piles were always extremely neat.
Soon an older elephant came to help him. Whenever there was a log
which was too heavy for Kari to lift, they would each take one
end of it and lift it on the lumber wagon. An elephant, as you
see, can do the work of a truck.
We had reached a stage in the history of the world when motor
engines did a large part of the work of the jungle. The elephants
would bring the lumber from the forest and deposit it near these
engines where it would be cut into proper lengths and then thrown
out again to be piled up by the elephants.
The mechanics who ran these engines ate meat and drank liquor. It is
very strange that when Western people come to the East, they do not
give up their expensive ways of living. Drinking wine and eating meat
is one thing in cold climates, where one has to keep warm, but in a
hot climate a man is sure to go to pieces if he eats and drinks much.
Kari had no objection to wine drinking, but he did not like
meat-eating men any more than he liked meat-eating tigers. He never
hated them or feared them, simply he somehow did not enjoy their
company. But these white engineers who came from afar did not know
that an elephant had a soul.
Kari always woke up at half past five and then went to work.
Toward noon I would bathe him and put him in his shed. Early in
the afternoon he would begin to work again. Later on he ate lots
of rice of which he was very fond. In the evening I would tie him
up in his shed while I went to sleep on a hammock outside.
One night, I heard a terrible trumpeting. I jumped down from my
hammock and went into Kari's shed, where I found two drunken
engineers lighting matches and throwing them at him. Kari, who
was afraid of fire, as all animals are, was trumpeting angrily. I
protested to the men, but they were so drunk that they only swore
at me and went on flinging matches. Seeing that there was nothing
else to do, I loosened all his chains except one, and let him
stay there tied to the ground by one foot only.
An elephant's chain is generally driven about five or six feet
into the ground and is then covered with cement and earth. An
elephant can rarely break this kind of chain, but I was afraid
that the matches might set the shed on fire, and I trusted Kari
more than drunken men. I knew that if the shed caught fire the
elephant could break one chain if he tried hard to escape. The
night passed without any further incident, however.
I must explain why animals are afraid of fire. Fire, you see, is
the one thing that they can never fight. They are not afraid of
water, as most of them can swim, but if they are caught in fire,
they are generally burned to death. For this reason they have
built up a protective instinct against fire. Whenever there is
fire of any sort, they run. As they have seen the jungle set on
fire from time to time for generations and generations, the sight
of fire frightens them more than anything else. As long as they
have inherited this fear from their ancestors, it is very wise
not to play with fire in the presence of animals. If an animal as
powerful as an elephant were frightened by fire, he would run mad
and do the greatest amount of mischief.
One noon when we had suspended work for the day, I tied Kari in
his shed and lay down in my hammock to rest. Toward late
afternoon, I heard the same terrible trumpeting that I had heard
before. The same thing had happened again. The two engineers,
being idle, had drunk liquor and were trying to tease the animals
nearby. The shed had a thatched roof of straw. The walls were of
clay, but there was a lot of bamboo lying on the floor. Kari was
eating twigs, some of which happened to have dry leaves.
I came up to the elephant, and seeing what was going on, told the
white men to stop teasing him. They would not hear of it,
however. Just then I saw a flame rising from the leaves. Kari
raised his trunk and trumpeted fiercely. As I was afraid that he
would be burned to death, I hastened to loosen his chain and with
one terrible trumpet he rushed out of the shed, trampling down
one of the drunken men and killing him instantly. Kari then
trumpeted more and more loudly, waving his trunk and rushing
madly around.
Realizing the danger we were in, I went up a very heavy banyan
tree out of Kari's reach and lay among the leaves. The first
thing he did was to go and put his foot on the automobile of the
chief engineer, which happened to be standing outside of the
shed. In a few minutes there was nothing but a mass of twisted
steel on the ground, over which the elephant danced in anger.
Then he saw the chief engineer and two other men standing on the
porch of a bungalow. He rushed at them, but they knew what it
meant to have a mad elephant about, and ran into the house. Kari
then pulled down part of the thatched roof of the bungalow with
his trunk, and finding no one there made straight for two new
trucks that had only been in use a fortnight and broke them to
pieces. Then he rushed at a bull which was grazing in a field,
and wound his trunk around his neck. The bull dropped dead. In a
few moments Kari was out of sight.
For a fortnight no one heard anything of him. I expected him to
return to me, but he never came back. Even to this day no one
knows what happened to him. Evidently those miserable engineers
had driven him out of his mind. In his madness he must have gone
back to the jungle and by the time he recovered his senses was so
lost in its depths that he could not come back. When his mind
returns to him, an elephant can never remember the road that he
took in his insanity, and if he runs very far into the jungle he
may never come back because the Spirit of the jungle seizes him.
Kari's last impression of human beings must have been so terrible
that when the Spirit of the jungle asserted itself in him, he
allowed it to lure him away forever from the habitations of men.
That is how it came about that I lost my friend and brother, the
elephant. Though as an animal Kari is lost to me, my soul belongs
to his soul and we shall never forget each other.