~ 177. The Elephant's Child ~


Some pilgrims who had grown hungry on their journey saw a young elephant wandering far away from the herd.
"Let's kill it and eat it!" they shouted.
One of the pilgrims protested. "We cannot kill and eat the elephant's child. The mother will be angry!"
But the other pilgrims didn't listen. They killed the young elephant and ate it, although the one pilgrim refused to eat.
Then, as they slept, the mother-elephant came sniffing. She sniffed the breath of each pilgrim. She spared the one pilgrim, but when she smelled the breath of the others, she trampled them to death.


Inspired by: The English prose version of Rumi in Tales from the Masnavi by A. J. Arberry.
Notes: This is story 64 in the book. In Rumi's version, there is a dervish who greets the pilgrims and warns them; I combined that character with the character of the pilgrim who did not eat the elephant. In Rumi's commentary, he compares the story to the Last Judgment: "On the Last Day the scent of pride, of greed, of concupiscence will become like the smell of onions when a man speaks." Arberry notes that this miracle is attributed to Ibn Khafif of Shiraz, as recounted by Ibn Battuta.



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