Saturday, September 08, 2007


The importance of a white elephant to the kingdoms of Southeast Asia was featured in our previous post. The last King of Laos believed he had a white elephant – but on close inspection, unfortunately it wasn’t – and led to the eventual fall of his kingdom. What are the special characteristics of a true white elephant as mentioned in the ancient texts?

It appears that there wasn’t any mention of the requirement that a white elephant has to be entirely albino. The appreciation of the shade and the location of light spots are the first step in deciding whether the white elephant is worthy of being cherished as the most important possession in the entire kingdom.

Other skin tones are features that have to be considered as well -- subtle yellows, blacks, reds, blue-grays. But ideally, the creature’s skin tone is lotus-bud-pink. Eyes should be large like those of a cow and rimmed with white. Jet black irises are best of all, pink or blue tinged ones are remarkable enough.

The two bumps on the forehead (a major distinguishing feature between Asiatic elephants and their larger African cousins, which have only one) should be pronounced enough for a man to rest his neck between when the creature is fully grown. The tail should hang straight away from the body and seem to have a life of its own. It would be best if the hairs on its tip touch the ground.

The finest ears hang "prettily" and are long enough to touch when drawn across the eyes. Toe-nails are best red, white or pink with fine patterning on their soles. If the elephant is endowed with 20 toes instead of the normal creature (with 18), the better.

Three hair strands must emerge from one follicle -- the characteristic most failed to meet. The distribution of hair behind the ears, on the head and back is also important. The gums are almost white or pale pink. The genitals must be of the same color.

And the trunk? The longer the better. Because the trunk is very important to the elephant’s well-being. An elephant with a badly wounded trunk usually faces a slow sentence of death -- the damage is psychological as much as physical.

Having taken note of the creature's physical attributes, they assess its personality. An intelligent elephant, for example, will run ahead of the pack at bathing time and enter the waters before they are churned and muddied by its older companions. When eating grass, a well-mannered elephant selects choice grass and elegantly swishes them from side to side before eating, thus discarding irksome insects.

Determining whether or not a white elephant possesses special features is an overwhelming task. One bad assessment is a huge mistake of putting the kingdom’s fate at stake.


COMING UP: “How a White Elephant is Elevated to Royal Status”

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mariem said...

pretty complicated and crazy

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