The Tragic Tale of the Goethe-Elefant

March 20, 2011

Before you read this, I warn you: This is no tale for the faint of heart. In fact it might be quite the tear-jerker, especially if you harbor a love for pachyderms, as I know so many in the great state of Alabama, particularly around our dear university, do.

Once upon a time, there was a young elephant. He lived happily and free in India with his mother in a great herd which traveled in a big long line, one right after another. Until one day, the young elephant wandered away from home, and was captured by some hunters and taken far, far away.

The young elephant was scared, but when his travels finally ended in the city of Kassel, Germany, he was rather pleased to find that he had a nice home. He was allowed to roam all around the gardens of the great palace there, for King Freidrich II wished to have a very exotic menagerie outside his palace, and he quite loved having the elephant added to his collection. The people in the city loved the elephant also, and would travel from miles around to come and see him.

Over the years, the elephant learned many tricks and performed in many shows around the city. He would go up on the stage and perform for large crowds, who loved to see his talents. Unfortunately, the elephant did not like to be up there in front of so many people. It frightened him badly, and one day, when he was about nine years old, he ran away from the show and got loose in the city.

Desperate to get away from the large crowd and get back to his lovely home in the gardens, the young elephant ran about the city looking for his home. When he saw it, far below down some very steep hills, he tried to run down the cliffs to the palace gardens. But the cliffs were too steep, and he slipped. Many people watched from high above as the poor elephant tumbled down the cliff and landed far below.

The people of the city were devastated. They greatly mourned the loss of their beloved elephant, so much so that they retrieved his body from under the cliffs and displayed his bones, broken skull and all, in the Kassel natural history museum, so that everyone might know the tale of the elephant. His skin was also displayed elsewhere, but a fire destroyed the exhibit and one threatened to destroy the bones, though they survived and are still there to this day.

We were told this sad tale of the “Goethe-elefant” in Kassel, where we saw his bones and almost even shed a tear for his tragic fate. I hope you enjoyed this tale and learned that it is not only elephants who never forget, but also the people who never forgot this elephant.  RIP, my pachyderm friend, 1771-1780.

One Response to The Tragic Tale of the Goethe-Elefant

  1. Linda Eckl
    March 24, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Great story!