Story Cue Card
Bibliographic Information (best for storytelling):
Faithful Elephants : A True Story of Animals, People and War, Yukio Tsuchiya (translated by Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988.
Approximately 10 minutes
v John, Tonky and Wanly – the elephants
v Elephant trainer
v Zoo keepers
v Zoo director
v Tokyo during the war
v Ueno zoo
v Elephants’ cage
The bombing of Japan during World War II led to the Japanese Army’s commandment that the animals in the Ueno zoo in Tokyo be killed for fear that if the zoo were bombed the animals might run rampant in the city causing more fear and destruction. The zoo keepers did not want to kill the three elephants, John, Tonky and Wanly. When they tried to poison John they fed him poisoned potatoes mixed in with good potatoes; but John was too smart and threw the poisoned potatoes on the ground, eating only the good potatoes. Then they tried to inject the poison into him with a needle, but it broke off in his thick skin. Eventually they decided to starve the elephants. Seventeen days later John died. Then it was Tonky and Wanly’s turn. The zoo keepers and their trainer did not want to kill the elephants. They wanted the war to be over so that they could save the elephants. Days went by and Tonky and Wanly tried to perform their tricks in hopes that they would be rewarded with food and water. But their bodies began to shrivel away and they grew weaker, with saddened faces. Finally their trainer could bear it no more and gave them food and water. The zoo keepers and the zoo director watched but pretended not to see, because no one was supposed to give the elephants anything to eat or drink. After that everyone stayed away from the elephants’ cage. Two weeks later they died of starvation. Their trainer found them lying on the ground with their trunks raised and hanging through the bars of their cage. “The elephants are dead! They’re dead!,” the trainer cried. Everyone went to the elephants’ cage and cried. As they sat there beside the dead elephants they raised their fists and cried out, “Stop the war! Stop the war! Stop all wars!” Today the three elephants rest in the zoo where a monument stands in their honor.
v “The elephants are dead! They’re dead!”
v “Stop the war! Stop the war! Stop all wars!”
Some of the issues dealt with in Faithful Elephants are appropriate for an adult audience. In Piaget’s cognitive development model adults deal with ego integrity versus despair, meaning that they must review life, consider its meaning and importance and determine the value of life. This is modeled in the story as the zoo keepers and the trainer face the tough decision of ending the lives of the animals they care for versus protecting the lives of the people of Tokyo should they be faced with bombing. Erickson’s model states that adults deal with intimacy versus isolation issues. The zoo keepers and the trainer developed an intimacy with the animals, especially the elephants, which made their task at hand more difficult. Everyday adults must deal with making choices that might mean hurting someone with various options. Other issues addressed in the story are the idea of mortality, relationships, responsibility and dilemmas. These are all things that adults must face in their day to day lives.
No other versions or variants of this story were found.
The challenge I am taking with this story is to try something more serious and “down” as I tend to be drawn to uplifting and more “fun” stories.