Donkey - Elephant

Animal Mind, Animal Sense

I am beginning a rather large task of research for a book and a play about Madame Helena Blavatsky. HPB was a prodigious writer which is a key aspect of one of the storylines. She began writing only in the latter years of her life even while she was afflicted by Bright’s disease and other mysterious illnesses.

Without the aid of typewriters and libraries, she wrote something on the order of 10-15,000 pages of newspaper articles and books with hundreds of references. These fill 14 volumes of Collected Writings as well as Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine and other weighty tomes. Yet to be counted are the thousands of letters she scribed which are just now being compiled over 100 years after her death. Merely reading all of her authored material is a large endeavor. Think about writing all that ‘stuff.’

HPB wrote in English, French and Russian (she was fluent in several other tongues), but most of her output was intended for an English-reading western audience as she became a citizen of the  USA after settling in 1874. She died in1891, with less than 17 years to produce her great works and lesser writings.

I read Isis and Secret Doctrine years ago and am half through re-reads now. I am also midway through Collected Writings V. 1 (13 to go) after completing From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan. Caves and Jungles is a travelogue of India which was originally serialized in Russian newspapers.

Two wonderful stories about animals appear in pages 601-602. They speak of cooperation and communication among creatures which we humans might try to emulate. The first is strictly about elephants, the second is one about an elephant, a donkey, and a human. Our American political parties might take some clues from the latter tale.


The whole town (of Mathura) is criss-crossed with narrow streets of uneven stone steps, ascending and descending like the streets of Malta, up and down which it is hardly possible to ride even a mule. However, the elephants, also sacred, with their heavy pillar-like legs, move easily over them, going to visit each other from one pagoda to the next. It appears the meeting each other trunk to trunk and realizing the impossibility of continuing -- one uphill and the other down -- resort to the following trick: After exchanging a few words, accompanied by flapping of the ears and embraces with the trunk, and ascertaining their mutual friendship, the smaller of the two leans against the wall and the larger one lies down on the ground and tries to become as inconspicuous as possible. Then the first one lifts a leg and cautiously, without haste, climbs over his friend easily and gracefully. Sometimes this elephant stumbles and falls through the trunk of the elephant lying down, raised in the form of a question mark throughout the entire hazardous operation, is always ready to help with all its might his smaller and weaker brother. The respect and helpfulness given to each other by the elephants have become proverbial and are a standing reproach to the people.


The Donkey and the Elephant

It is remarkable that the elephants, creatures with great ambition and easily offended, never fight each other when living in the towns, though they often destroy one another in their native habitat. It is also remarkable that while they show each other signs of mutual respect, they never become friends, but frequently choose as object of their passionate and fiery attachment dogs, donkeys and other smaller animals.

One such elephant becoming attached to a donkey took it under his protective care. The elephant was free and belonged to a pagoda, while the donkey was hired out for work.

Once an English soldier, who had hired it, mounted it and began to hit its sides with his heavy boots. The elephant stood at the gate of the stable where his friend lived and, observing the abuse of his favorite, took hold of the British warrior with his trunk and gave him such a shaking that the latter, upon freeing himself, wanted, in his rage, to shoot the elephant on the spot.

He was presuaded not to do it because the other elephants standing near would sooner or later certainly kill him, so astounding is the esprit de corps of the elephants. Interested by what he had heard, he forgave the elephant and, as a peace offering, gave him a piece of sugar cane.

The elephant stood over it for a while, thought a bit and then, taking the luscious morsel, went straight to the donkey and, with his trunk, put it into the mouth of the abused creature, then turned around and went his way “without looking at me, like a man who had been offended,” said the soldier who related the circumstance to us himself.

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