If you take a look inside my home, you’ll notice one thing – I have a lot of elephants. I don’t know exactly how many, though it’s probably well over 22 ;). Stuffed, wooden, soapstone, silver, you name it, I probably have it. Why so many? Well, they are truly beautiful, majestic, humble animals. Actually, I feel that way about all animals, but today is about the elephants. They also possess many human-like qualities; they are maternal, family oriented and sentient, as in they experience emotion and have memories. They are many documentaries, videos, and books that attest to these facts. This is why it kills me to see these innocent animals hunted and killed for their ivory tusks.
Since today (August 12th) is World Elephant Day and this blog is mostly about book reviews, I’ll take this opportunity to review an older book from my vast library – “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen. Although I was aware of the book, as it had been a bestseller and was prominently displayed in the bookstore, it still flew under my radar for a couple of years. I finally purchased it during a special e-book sale. This was one of the best books that I read that year, maybe even ever.
Set in the 1930’s, “Water for Elephants” provides a rather eye-opening behind-the-scenes view of what happens outside of the big top. Circus life is hard on the workers as well as the animals, especially when under the direction of a cruel and sadistic ringmaster. It tells the story of a young, grieving and impoverished veterinary student named Jacob who joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth circus. He learns how to maneuver through the complicated hierarchy of circus performers, while attending to the animals in the menagerie. He develops a close relationship with Rosie, an Asian elephant, and star performer Marlena. As you may know, this book was adapted into a movie staring Reese Witherspoon and that creepy teen vampire dude, Robert Pattinson. Despite their lack of chemistry and some watering down of the animal abuse, the movie was decent, but, of course, nowhere near as good as the book.
My takeaway from this book was a better awareness of the hardships of circus life, particularly on the animals. I’ve made a conscious decision not to attend any more circuses, especially those with documented cases of animal abuse. I try to support facilities that provide natural habitats for rescued/retired circus elephants such as The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and I don’t purchase anything that is or contains “pure” ivory. These are my own ways in which I celebrate the beautiful animals that I proudly display in my home. Happy World Elephant Day!