Elephants are weird-looking Creatures. Like the giraffe, hippopotamus and rhinoceros they kind of stand alone in their unique appearance.
Early depictions of Elephants are fantasy like, this is because back in the middle ages Europeans wouldn’t have had access to the real thing, and with no first hand experience elephants were depicted like horses with trumpet-like trunks and tusks like a boar, and sometimes with hooves.
It wasn’t until the Ancient Romans, who kept the animals in captivity, that anatomically accurate elephants were depicted. There are examples in mosaics in Tunisia and Sicily. As more elephants began to be sent to European kings as gifts during the 15th century, depictions of them became more accurate.
Maybe its because of their strange appearance that they have been revered by many cultures throughout history.
In Buddhist, Hindu, Islam and Christian cultures, the elephant symbolises positive things like wisdom, peace and learning.
The most curious thing about the elephant is obviously it’s trunk, there’s little else like the elephants trunk on earth. Part snorkel, part fingers, part nose.
So how did the Elephant get it’s truck? Well according to Rudyard Kipling, in his “Just So” story, “The Elephant Child” got his truck because of his curiosity of what the crocodile has for dinner. In fact the elephants curiosity nearly kills him. He finds out that the Crocodile has “elephant child” for diner! The crocodile bites him on the nose and in his struggle to get free the elephant stretches his nose into a trunk. So long and so handy does it become for swatting flies and flicking cooking water over its body that every elephant ever since has had one!
The”Elephant Childs” near-fatal adventures serve as a reminder not to let our questioning minds rule us. The Elephant Child comes face to face with death because he desperately wants to know what the crocodile eats for supper. All the other animals have warned him not to ask. But he didn’t listen.
It would suggest that although curiosity could have fatale consequences, it may also empower you. I think the sentiment is be brave, be curious and expect the unexpected!
You can buy cards and prints of this design and othes at The DM Collection
Image © Daniel Mackie