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Ronald W. Hull

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Elephants and Donkeys: A Fable for Our Time
By Ronald W. Hull
Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Ronald W. Hull
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           >> View all 65

This story was ripe for the political season.

Featured in my upcoming book: Verge of Apocalypse Tales



It came to pass that Mother Nature had an endless ocean with nothing in it.  So, she decided that she would create an island that she could put life on to grow and prosper.  She planted the island with a primary food, the tree of life, many flowers and vines, and grass underfoot.  For water, she provided a large watering hole near the center of the island so that all the occupants, butterflies and other insects, lizards and snakes, small animals of every kind, would have water to drink.

On the island Mother Nature placed two intelligent animals: a donkey and his mate and an elephant and his mate.  Her only instructions to both the elephant and donkey was, “Go forth and multiply.”  It was a simple request that was easy to follow.  Soon the donkey's mate was full with child to be born later that year.  Likewise, the elephant's mate was also pregnant with a baby due in about a year and a half.  This was very good news.  The elephants and donkeys shared the tree of life with all the birds, insects, reptiles, and small animals.  The elephants were tall with long trunks to reach to the top of the trees.  The donkeys shared fruit from the lower branches of the trees.


Things were fine for many years and the elephants and donkeys prospered and multiplied.  Eventually, the original donkey, now wise with age, saw that when his herd reached twenty donkeys that they would soon eat up all of the low hanging fruit from the trees of life closest to the water hole.  With simple arithmetic, the old donkey determined that his herd could not exceed twenty-five or the tree of life would not be able to grow enough food on its lower limbs to support his family.  Therefore, he decreed to all the donkeys to refrain from having babies until he died, and to never to replace any more than twenty-five donkeys so that the island would support the donkey family forever. 

Now the old elephant only had ten elephants in his herd, half the donkey population.  However, he had grown fat from the fruit of life and wanted more.  When he heard what the old donkey had done, he thought the decree was absurd.  After all, his elephants could reach the entire tree and were growing very fat on the fruitful bounty of the trees.  The elephant felt, because his family was only half the size of the donkey family, that he should continue to have baby elephants until he caught up, stating to the donkey that it was sacrilege (against his religion) to Mother Nature who had told them to “Go forth and multiply.”  Mother Nature would provide.


So, it came to pass that the elephants continued to multiply until they were a herd of about seventeen and approaching twenty like the donkeys.  By that time, they had eaten all of the fruit from the trees of life, including the lower branches where the donkeys’ food was and were starting to eat the tender branches that remained.  As soon as the donkeys saw what was happening, that all of the fruit they usually ate was gone, they had to eat grass.  The grass was difficult to eat and hard on their stomachs, so the donkeys all got quite thin.  To compound the problem, the elephants began trampling the grass, especially near the water hole, so there was less and less grass for the donkeys to eat.  In the meantime, the elephants became so many that they filled the water hole completely and begin to destroy the water with the mud they kicked up.  

 When the donkeys asked the elephants to leave the water hole so that the water could clear up and all of the occupants of the island could drink from it, the elephants laughed and said that they enjoyed mud baths and were not going to give them up for the donkeys or anyone.  Since the sea was salty, the only other source of water for the donkeys and all the other creatures on the island was the morning dew that fell on the grass and leaves.  So the donkeys stayed far away from the water hole and ate the dew-covered grass by the sea.  The old donkey survived, but some of the younger ones died from lack of good food and water.  By now, almost half of the island's fauna and flora had also died from lack of food and water.  But those creatures that remained were stronger and more adaptable, so it was with the donkeys.


When the multitude of elephants reached twenty, they only had muddy water in the water hole to drink.  Some of the younger elephants began to die of starvation because almost all the branches of the trees of life had been so badly damaged, that the trees were dying.  Still, the old elephant was resolute.  He was surviving on his storage of fat and he didn't realize that the others, the younger ones, did not have enough fat to live on.  The only trees left with any branches on them were very far from the water hole where the elephants could barely walk to.  The wise old donkey, now seventeen years old and close to death, decided to try to talk to the old elephant about the situation and convince him not to destroy the remaining trees of life.

 He approached the old elephant lounging in the mud of the water hole. “My dear friend and original occupant of the island.  I have noticed your plight:  that you are too fat to range the whole island anymore, and your youngsters are too weak from lack of food to hunt the island.  I have come here to ask you a favor.”

“Oh, what favor is that?”

“I too, have lost some young.  However, those that have survived are very strong and hardy.  I believe they can carry food to you on their backs.”

“Well, that would be very neighborly of you.  I suppose you would want something in return for your hard work?”  The elephant disguised his skepticism with false praise.

“Yes, I certainly would.  I would ask that you would never eat anything from three trees that are farthest from the water hole.  These three trees are damaged from your younger brood, but they will survive as long as you forbid your youngsters from eating from those three trees.”

Now the so-called old elephant was not only fat, he thought that he was superior and smarter than the old donkey, although he was only in his teen years because elephants have to live at least sixty years to become wise.  He surmised that there were at least a thousand trees of life on the island and he wouldn't miss three of them if he let the poor stupid donkeys have them for a while… Hee hee.  “Okay then, it's a deal. My youngest son will go with you throughout the island and gather the limbs that your donkeys will carry to us.”  He snickered under his breath, because he knew this last child, one of too many from his mate, was mentally retarded.

So it came to pass that the old donkey led the youngest elephant out into the island, and the donkey was very careful to have the elephant tear only the limbs from of trees that he carefully selected to allow new limbs to grow back.  Unfortunately, the young elephant often tired of his labor, and wanted to go play with the young donkeys, seeing no difference in them from himself.  The old donkey dutifully loaded up all the branches and had them hauled to the water hole where all the elephants continued to get fatter and fatter until they couldn't leave the water hole at all and began dying again from lack of drinking water.

The old elephant (remember, he was still young) saw what was happening and decided that it was all the old donkey's fault for the deal he had agreed to, and he had to do something about it.  Only five of the elephants were still fit enough to leave the water hole.  They also happened to be the youngest.  The old elephant, sitting in the same place in the mud that he had for over five years, commanded them to leave the mud hole and go find trees with the good branches and bring those branches back.  The young elephants had never left the vicinity of the water hole and got lost and very tired.  They sat down often and slept.  Finally, very thirsty, they reached the ocean and took a drink.  They found the three trees of life that were recovering for the donkeys' use and tore the branches off them.  They found their younger brother playing with the young donkeys and began to tease him, calling him a monkey, and even worse, a donkey lover.


The youngest elephant didn't understand why his brothers and sisters had turned on him.  He began to cry and ran all the way back to the water hole and his mother.  When his mother saw him, she rejected him and his complaints.  When his father, the old elephant, saw the youngster whining to his mother, he chastised the boy greatly for leaving his duty with the donkeys.  For punishment, the old elephant pushed the young elephant deep into the mud hole. The youngster floundered in the deep mud, sank, and drowned an awful death.  The old elephant and his mother, looking the other way, didn't hear his muffled cries and ignored his death.  Better elephants than he had died.  They did not mourn him and his sacrifice for their cause.


When the five young elephants returned with tender young branches, the old elephant decided to punish the donkeys.  He ordered the five to go back and trample all the grass on the island and to tear out any younger branches from the trees of life that were left--anywhere.  The young elephants, by this time, were very thirsty again, so they were glad to heed his command.  They had walked off some of the fat and were energized by the drive to find water. So, the youngsters ran to the nearest beach and drank heartily from the sea again.  And then, they began to carry out their father's command.  It wasn't long before each of the young elephants got very sick and unable to trample the grass and tear limbs off of trees.  Soon, they were all delirious, and to the donkey's dismay, trying to help them by bringing dew laden large leaves to drip the water on their parched mouths.  The rescue effort was of no avail, and all of the foolish young elephants died.

When the young elephants didn't return, the old elephant became angry.  He commanded other elephants to go find them.  But none of these elephants, now dying from lack of food and obesity, could leave the mud hole. They were either too heavy or too weak. Gradually, one by one, they all died.  Finally, even his mate, the mother of the herd, died.  The old elephant cried and cried.  He prayed for deliverance and cried out to Mother Nature, “Why?  Why did you forsake me? 

There was no answer no matter how many times the old elephant cried out.  Mother Nature was off creating other islands on other endless seas.  She did not hear his cries nor come to help him.  But the old donkey heard, and came to his old friend's rescue.  When he got to the mud hole from his seaside retreat, the old donkey was dismayed by what he saw and cried out, “I'm so sorry to see that your wife has died.  I was away and didn't see what was happening.  Why didn't you call me earlier?”

“I didn't know that Mother Nature would not come and save us.  After all, she created us.  I need water.  I need food.  Can you get me water and food as soon as possible?”

“I can't get you water because I can't carry enough for you to drink, but I will get the other donkeys and we will pull you out of the mud.”

 With that the old donkey left and came back with the other donkeys.  Soon, they had pulled the elephant from the mud.  And then, with the old donkey giving them instructions, the donkeys pulled all of the dead elephants, one by one, off to various parts of the island where they dug deep holes with their hooves in the ground and buried the dead.  The old elephant cried and cried with each body pulled from the mud.  In due time, it rained, and the mud hole, once again, had fresh water in it.  The old elephant drank his fill, and immediately felt much better.  Before the burying was over, the rejuvenated elephant was working alongside the donkeys to finish that awful job, still crying for each one.  There was precious little for him to eat because the trees of life were so badly damaged.  So he lived on his own fat and slimmed down considerably while he regained his strength from the fresh water in the, now being replenished, water hole 

And then a miracle happened.  The bodies of all the dead elephants fertilized the trees of life, and they began growing new sprouts and fruit again.  All of the creatures that benefited from the trees of life began to recover.  The donkeys, their bodies and minds conditioned to eating the abundant grass, never went back to eating the fruit of the tree of life except on special occasions as a wonderful dessert.  The elephant, on the other hand, continued to eat the ample branches of the tree of life, and, eventually, the fruit itself, once again.  He was so grateful to the donkeys for saving his life that he helped them gather grass with his versatile trunk and fruit for the celebrations to life that the donkeys often participated in with all the creatures of the tree of life forest.

Eventually, the elephant grew old and truly wise, and saw the error of his earlier, youthful ways.  Shaping the mud from the water hole, he spent his latter years creating beautiful mud sculptures honoring the donkeys and other creatures of the forest.  Unfortunately, the monsoon came periodically and washed away all of his mud sculptures, so he would start again, each time building more beautiful and intricate designs.  The old donkey died at the ripe old age of 27. Immediately, his first son set to work, and a baby donkey replaced the old man, according to the plan he had set out, a few months later.

The old elephant mourned the passing of his old friend and created a special statue in his honor made from mud, sand, and phosphate that he found on the island.  The statue was the tallest and most elegant of all the statues he had ever made.  This statue turned to concrete in the sun.  When it rained, the statute did not wash away, but developed a beautiful, dark gray, patina on its surface that resembled the donkey's real skin.  All of the young donkeys admired the old elephant's work and cared for him when he got too old to work and forage.  The wise old elephant lived well beyond his working lifetime to the ripe old age of 96.  He was greatly mourned by all the creatures on the island because he was the last one of his breed.  He got to see the island return to its pristine, cooperative and productive self before he died, something that the donkey that he now idolized never did.

When the sun came up the next morning, the first thing that the new sun's rays touched was the concrete statue of the original donkey, shining in the sun.  Thousands of years later, the donkeys on the island referred the statue as, “The Founder of the Island.”  There was no statue or any other evidence that elephants ever existed. Until one day, when some young ones were digging around and found some big old bones that they pieced together into an image of what they thought might be a “prehistoric” creature of the immense size. They called it, "elephant," because of the old legend they had heard since they were children that creatures of this size once roamed the island.

Copyright 2012 © Ronald W Hull






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Reviewed by Michael True 4/11/2013
Great story! As for morals... life is what it is. Differences exist. Our extinction will be a product of our self-centered nature. How's that for oversimplification!
Reviewed by Jon Willey 6/12/2012
Ron, a view equating current U.S. internal politics with a class warfare struggle. Republicans and Democrats, too often viewed as far right wing and far left wing rather than the true homogeneous mix of society that exists in America. This analogy is supportive of a purported class warfare and the inaccurate assessment that the wealthy in America are the the root cause of all of our challenges. Our society as diverse at it is, politically, socially, financially and fiscally remains a cohesive force filled with promise, continued growth and an overall harmony unequaled in any other society on earth. The continued efforts of the American media to drive a wedge between races, political persuasions and the economic strata of America do us all a grave injustice and foster only hatred and mistrust. I think your 'Fable' amply points that out and gives us reason to pause and reevaluate our impressions of everyone whose opinions do not perfectly coincide with our own. A good fable for our time my dear friend. I wish you love and peace - Jon Michael
Reviewed by Edward Phillips 6/9/2012
Ron: I’m not very good at finding cleverly hidden morals in stories, but I suspect one somewhere along these lines…
In the game of politics donkeys are inherently smarter than elephants even though both are rather stupid.
In game theory where survival is at issue, never cooperate with someone who wants to kill you.
If he only wants to form a larger gene pool, then mate up and make love—often.
When matching wits against the opposition, your best survival tactic is to never confess to anything.
Am I getting close?
Reviewed by Donna Chandler 6/8/2012
A truly well-written and entertaining story with many life lessons just below the surface.

Reviewed by Vivian Dawson 6/7/2012
So many great lessons
in Your great story....

Saluting your imagination,
Lady Vivian
Reviewed by Jane Noponen Perinacci 6/6/2012
Amazing how the greedy elephant who used the donkeys to serve him ended up spending his last days honoring the donkey knowing he was the last of his breed. Hmmmmmm!!! Good one!!

Love ya!


Oh, I just checked out Ron's Place! Cool!! I must go back and read some more!!

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