Mystery and marvel: Why the Elephant only has one child at a time.

Mystery and marvel: Why the Elephant only has one child at a time.

This week we are sharing a traditional Central African tale. To fully understand this tale and the way it was written we recommend you read our introduction to our folklore series.

Among the animals that roams the forest, the elephant is not happy with his lot. For as long as the elephant can remember, elephants have only one child at a time, and it seems unfair as other animals have many children at the same time. The elephant decides to go and ask God for an explanation.


God accepts to see the elephant. God offers the elephant an excellent meal. As they sit down and eat, God and the elephant talk « I appreciate your visit » says God. « You know you're always welcome to see me. I assume you have something important to tell me and that is why you are visiting me today. »

« Yes » replies the elephant. "I have a question. All animals give birth to several young at the same time. But I, the elephant, the biggest and strongest of all animals, why do I only have one baby elephant at the time? » God smiled and calmly said « I can't answer that right now. But tomorrow you'll have an answer, I promise. »


As the sun was setting and the day was fading away, God invited the elephant to spend the night. There were many pretty huts in the village where God lived, but they're were too small for such a large animal as the elephant. Therefor the elephant had to sleep outside under the bare sky. The elephant settled in the cornfield.

The next morning, God and the elephant meet to continue their conversation. Suddenly, loud cries are heard. One of God's servant comes running and shouts:

« God, this is a catastrophe! » « What are you talking about? » asked God.
« The cornfields !! » cried the servant. « This enormous forest beast trampled everything with its large feet during the night. There's nothing left. The whole harvest is lost, our village has nothing to eat. »


At that very moment, God turns to the elephant. « Now do you understand why I'll never give you more than one child at a time?« 

If elephants become too numerous, there will be nothing left on earth to eat for anyone else. The elephant returned home with his head bowed and ashamed for the loss he had caused the farmer. Since that day, the elephant has never been sad again about their lot to only have one young at a time.