Object Number 26

Object Name: Collection of wooden elephants
Accessioned: various
Donor: gift
Notes: three wooden elephants from around the world. Update to Object Number 7.

Comments: Like many people I have a fondness for elephants. They do seem like mythical creatures in many way, their size, their magnificent trunks, the odd elegance they can exhibit and of course their role in military history. My little parade of elephants (no pink ones as of yet) happened by accident rather than design. Like many of the objects I have catalogued here so far, two of these I have known for most of my life – the largest and the smallest, though it is the middle elephant that helped establish this herd. After a trip to India my brother presented me with an Indian elephant, the light coloured one in the middle of the troupe. I was so taken with him that I immediately received the next two. The larger elephant, I am told, was a present brought back from Africa by a relative of my mother along with a carved crocodile. Both animals were regularly played with by all of us when we were small and bear the scars from that. The elephant has been chipped a lot, and both have pen marks – perhaps an attempt to add a little colour to these wooden characters. When it was noticed that I had a little collection emerging the last and smallest elephant emerged from a drawer in my parent’s house, just as previous elephant had from a cupboard. Our littlest elephant was purchased at a jumble sale by my brother when he was still quite young. It is hard to tell what he is made of, given he is almost jet black in colour, but he seems to have white bead eyes inset. Unlike his larger brethren however, this little fellow isn’t moving in step. He has his little legs firmly unmoving, and even though the African elephant is rather abstract his movement makes him seem rather more real than this little fellow. Perhaps he was made by someone unfamiliar with elephants, or due to his size a more static pose is more stable and easier to carve. Nonetheless, his stubborn rigidity only adds to his charm.

Although we don’t know where the third elephant came from originally I like to think of my parade of elephants as representing the three extant species of elephant in descending order in the photograph: the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and African forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis or Loxodonta cyclotis).

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