The Elephants That Struck

Author: Samuel White Baker

I remember an occasion, many years ago, when in Ceylon, I, in connection with my brother, had organized a scheme for the development of a mountain sanitarium at Newera Ellia. We had a couple of tame elephants employed in various works; but it was necessary to obtain the assistance of the government stables for the transport of very heavy machinery, which could not be conveyed in the ordinary native carts. There were accordingly a large number of elephant wagons drawn by their colossal teams, some of which required four elephants.

It was the wet season upon the mountains. Our settlement was 6200 feet above the sea, and the zigzag pass from Rambodde, at the base of the steep ascent, was fifteen miles in length. The crest of the pass was 7000 feet in altitude, from which we descended 800 feet to the Newera Ellia plain.

The elephant wagons having arrived at Rambodde from Colombo, about 100 miles distant, commenced the heavy uphill journey. The rain was unceasing, the roads were soft, and the heavily laden wagons sunk deeply in the ruts; but the elephants were mighty beasts, and, laying their weight against the work, they slowly dragged the vehicles up the yielding and narrow way.

The abrupt zigzags bothered the long wagons, and their still longer teams. The bridges over dangerous chasms entailed the necessity of unloading the heavier carts, and caused great delay. Day after day passed away; but although the ascent was slow, the wagons still moved upwards, and the region of everlasting mist (at that season) was reached. Dense forests clothed the mountain sides; the roar of waterfalls resounded in the depths of black ravines; tangled bamboo grass crept upwards from the wet soil into the lower branches of the moss-covered trees, and formed a green curtain impenetrable to sight.

The thermometer fell daily as the altitude increased. The elephants began to sicken; two fine animals died. There was plenty of food, as the bamboo grass was the natural provender, and in the carts was a good supply of paddy; but the elephants' intelligence was acting against them—they had reasoned, and had become despondent.

For nine or ten days they had been exposed to ceaseless wet and cold, dragging their unmanageable wagons up a road that even in dry weather was insufficient to sustain the weight. The wheels sank deep below the metal foundation, and became hopelessly imbedded. Again and again the wagons had to be emptied of their contents, and extra elephants were taken from the other carts and harnessed to the empty wagons, which were by sheer weight of animals dragged from the deep mire.

Thus the time had passed, and the elephants had evidently reasoned upon the situation, and had concluded that there was no summit to the mountain, and no end to the steep and horrible ascent; it would be, therefore, useless to persevere in unavailing efforts. They determined, under these heart-breaking circumstances, to strike work; … and they did strike.

One morning a couple of the elephant drivers appeared at my house in Newera Ellia, and described the situation. They declared that it was absolutely impossible to induce the elephants to work; they had given it up as a bad job!

I immediately mounted my horse and rode up to the pass, and descended the road upon the other side, timing the distance with my watch. Rather under two miles from the summit I found the road completely blocked with elephant carts and wagons; the animals were grazing upon bamboo grass in the thick forest; the rain was drizzling, and a thick mist increased the misery of the scene. I ordered four elephants to be harnessed to a cart intended for only one animal. This was quickly effected, and the drivers were soon astride the animals' necks, and prodded them with the persuasive iron hooks. Not an elephant would exert itself to draw. In vain the drivers, with relentless cruelty, drove the iron points deep into the poor brutes' necks and heads, and used every threat of their vocabulary; the only response was a kind of marking time on the part of the elephants, which simply moved their legs mechanically up and down, and swung their trunks to and fro; but none would pull or exert the slightest power, neither did they move forward a single inch.

I never saw such an instance of passive and determined obstinacy; the case was hopeless.

An idea struck me...

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  • Reviewed by parag  on  February 18th, 2012

    It's half written!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reviewed by KayBee  on  September 16th, 2012

    It is not Complete!

  • Reviewed by qwerty  on  October 13th, 2012

    half stories are of no use

  • Reviewed by babloo  on  January 7th, 2013

    a good half story which triggers our imagination

  • Reviewed by sneha  on  August 14th, 2013

    not useful

  • Reviewed by sneha jain  on  August 14th, 2013

    really helped me a lot!!!!!!! thank u

  • Reviewed by hemant  on  August 18th, 2013

    half story

  • Reviewed by HEMANT.K  on  August 18th, 2013


  • Reviewed by khushi  on  September 3rd, 2013

    its not complete

  • Reviewed by Rishi.  on  September 4th, 2013

    So far so good.I read this story at aother book.

  • Reviewed by Rohan Agarwal  on  September 19th, 2013

    half story of no use.............rubishhhhhh

  • Reviewed by Rohan Agarwal  on  September 19th, 2013

    I wanted the summary for project...instead they dn't give the full story also

  • Reviewed by Silvio  on  September 19th, 2013

    If you register you get access to all the issues, including the one with this story.

  • Reviewed by Mallinath Mandal  on  September 21st, 2013

    I wanted summary but it is the whole story

  • Reviewed by Vivek  on  September 21st, 2013

    Please give the summary not the whole story

  • Reviewed by ratika  on  October 18th, 2013

    please give the summary

  • Reviewed by radhika  on  October 19th, 2013

    plz give the summary

  • Reviewed by aravinachu  on  November 1st, 2013

    it is completed aranot

  • Reviewed by priti  on  November 5th, 2013

    i wanted a summary not the lesson this lesson is thier in my book also

  • Reviewed by ruqaiya  on  November 18th, 2013

    its a nice story

  • Reviewed by tahaaaz  on  December 1st, 2013

    its half and no summary

  • Reviewed by sadikha irfan  on  December 3rd, 2013


  • Reviewed by ananya  on  January 16th, 2014

    its an half story but helpful!!!!!!

  • Reviewed by ananya  on  January 16th, 2014

    its an half story but helpful!!!!!!

  • Reviewed by ambreen  on  January 16th, 2014

    half story!! useless,half knowledge is dangerous !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reviewed by simran  on  June 12th, 2014

    its useless!!!!

  • Reviewed by Texts truthfully  on  July 1st, 2014

    This sucks it's only half the story

  • Reviewed by Texts truthfully  on  July 1st, 2014

    This sucks it's only half the story

  • Reviewed by Texts truthfully  on  July 1st, 2014

    This sucks it's only half the story

  • Reviewed by syed hasan  on  August 11th, 2014

    what was narrator's bright idea?how did he think this might help solve the problem

  • Reviewed by john  on  August 23rd, 2014

    what is the summary of this poem

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