Read by Rachel Spicer
The mighty Elephant thundered along the jungle path, the trees shaking in his wake.
“Oooh!” panted the Monkey, swinging along the vines besides him. “Where do you go in such a hurry?”
The Elephant cast him a contemptuous glance, and slowed his pace a fraction. “I go to the woods, beneath the falls, below the mountain of the moon,” he trumpeted. “There to eat my fill of the delicious fruit that hangs from the trees.”
The Monkey scratched his head. “And how will you cross the river, so high up? Surely you should descend to the plains and cross at the ford by the ancient ...”
“Too long!” interrupted the Elephant. “I cross by the fallen tree over the ravine just after the falls.”
The Monkey chortled. He knew the fallen tree the Elephant spoke of – all the beasts of the jungle did. “Oh Elephant! I'm afraid your journey is a wasted one, and you'll have to take the long way round after all. That bridge will not take your weight!”
“Monkey,” said Elephant, coldly. “Are you aware that the muscles in my trunk are immensely strong, and that I am more than capable of crushing the life out of an insignificant creature such as yourself?”
The Monkey paused, pondering this strange question. “Well, yes. But I don't see how that changes anything – the bridge is still too weak ...”
Quick as a flash, the trunk darted out, seizing the Monkey around the waist. Lifting the Monkey aloft, the Elephant held him before his eye.
“You think I'm a fool, Monkey? I know you, I know your kind; you like the fruit of those trees just as much as I do. Is it a coincidence that you cross my path, that your lies and deceit aim to slow me down? I think not! Monkey, I am wise to your devious games. Now admit it, the bridge is strong enough for me, am I right?”
The Monkey squirmed. “Well, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no ...”
The trunk squeezed.
“Arghh! Yes! Yes! You're right! You're always right!” gasped the Monkey. “Please, mighty Elephant! Let me go!”
The Elephant gave one last squeeze before tossing the Monkey behind him, and thundered on.
The Monkey gingerly picked himself up, dusted himself down, and looked disdainfully after the Elephant. He'd only been trying to help. Every year, the fallen tree trunk got a little weaker, worn away by the elements, and hollowed out by the insects. Why, this year, there were even nests of paper wasps hanging beneath it, who chewed the wood to make their homes. He decided to follow the Elephant, and see what would happen next.
The Elephant thundered along the jungle path, till he was suddenly aware that there was something making almost as much noise as he was, just ahead. He slowed as he entered the clearing.
“What-ho Elephant!” cried the Boar joyously. “Long time no see! What brings you to these parts?”
The Elephant narrowed his eyes. There was always something ... disrespectful … about the Boar's demeanour. “I go to the woods, beneath the falls, below the mountain of the moon!” he trumpeted. “There to eat my fill of the delicious fruit that hangs from the trees.”
The Boar looked at the Elephant, and then the path he was taking, and back to the Elephant. “Oh Elephant!” he guffawed. “You can't go this way! This way leads to the ravine, and the bridge there will not take your weight. You will have to descend to the plains – here, let me show you the way –”
“Boar,” said Elephant, coldly. “Are you aware that my tusks, which are so much longer and sharper than yours, could easily pin and skewer a lowly creature such as yourself?”
The Boar scratched at his hindquarters. “Well, yes, I dare say they could. But I don't see how that changes anything – you're still too heavy for the bridge.”
“Oh, am I?” the Elephant thundered, and in a trice, he'd flipped the Boar on his side and pinned him against the buttress of an immense tree. “Evil, spiteful Boar!” spat the Elephant. “More delays, more deceit! I know you, and your kind, and you too are after my fruit. You think me a fool? That bridge was strong enough last year, and the year before, and the year before that. It will be strong enough this year. Am I right?”
The Boar tapped one of his tusks against the white bars of his prison, and gulped. “Well, Elephant, actually, no ...”
The Elephant twisted his head, pinching the Boar's body between his tusks. “Am I right?”
“Yes! Yes, you're right!” winced the Boar. “You're always right. Please, mighty Elephant, let me go!”
The Elephant gave one little twist more, and then as the Boar squealed, he let him go, and thundered on down the path.
The Boar licked at his coat where the tusk had dug in, and looked after the Elephant in shock. He'd only been trying to help. It was true, the bridge had been strong enough last year, and the year before, but every year the Elephant got heavier and heavier. Something would eventually have to give. He decided to follow the Elephant – at a safe distance – and see what happened next.
The Elephant crashed to a halt at the edge of the jungle, and looked out across the ravine, catching his breath.
“Ho there, Elephant!” a thin voice trilled.
The Elephant peered around, but could see no-one.
“Hey! Over here! In front of you!” It was the Mouse.
The Elephant eyed him suspiciously. “Mouse,” he said impatiently. “I'm in a hurry.”
“Oh?” said the Mouse, cleaning a whisker. “And where is it you're going to?”
“I go to the woods, beneath the falls, below the mountain of the moon,” Elephant trumpeted. “There to eat my fill of the delicious fruit that hangs from the trees.”
The Mouse looked up at him, and then over his shoulder at the ravine and the old rotten tree trunk that spanned it. “You're not ... going over the bridge, are you?”
“AND WHY NOT?” The Elephant blasted, the hot air pinning the Mouse's ears back to the side of his head.
Mouse blinked. “Well, it's not safe. It won't take your weight. Please, Elephant, reconsider. Go via the ford down by the ...”
“Oh!” roared the Elephant. “Ahah! I see how it is. You're all in it together. So, little mouse, you would cross by the bridge?”
“Well, yes but ...”
“And Monkey, he would cross by the bridge?”
“Indeed he would, however ...”
“And Boar, he would cross by the bridge?”
“Yes, yes, but ...”
“But you don't want me to cross by the bridge?!” The Elephant thundered.
“I'm sorry, I don't really ...”
“Mouse,” said Elephant, coldly. “Are you aware of how big my feet are, and how heavy?”
“That's what I've been trying to tell you!” piped Mouse.
“Heavy enough to crush a pitiful creature such as yourself? the Elephant continued.
“Well … yes …” said the Mouse slowly. “And heavy enough to break the bridge ...”
With a harrumph, the Elephant swung one foot forward and over the Mouse's head until it blotted out the sky, lowering it until it touched the Mouse's back, who frantically tried to find a hollow to flatten himself into.
“Despicable Mouse!” roared the Elephant. “If the bridge is strong enough for the three of you, it will be strong enough for me. Am I right?”
There was a muffled squeak from beneath the Elephant's foot. “Speak up, little Mouse!” the Elephant laughed, as he eased his foot down a fraction.
“Yes! Yes! You are right! You're always right!” shrieked Mouse at the top of his voice. “Oh, mighty, magnificent Elephant, the biggest and best of us, please, raise your foot and let a pitiful, lowly, insignificant creature live!”
The Elephant smiled, and slowly lifted his foot. “There.” he said. “That wasn't so very hard, was it?” And he casually sauntered over to the fallen log.
He eyed it cautiously. He was quite, quite sure it would take his weight – it always had, hadn’t it? And yet, the warnings of the other animals had cast their seed of doubt. What if it didn't? It was an awfully long way down. Perhaps it would be prudent ...
He turned around, took one step back along the path he had come, and then saw, on the brow of the little hill above him, the Monkey, the Boar, and the Mouse, watching attentively. He raised his trunk, gave them a cheery wave, screwed up his courage, and then turned and carefully stepped out onto the bridge.
When he'd passed into the woods beyond, the Monkey turned to the other two. “What do we do now?” he asked.
The Mouse sat down, rubbing his still tender head. “We wait,” he said, grimly.
The Elephant was gone a long time. The fruit was plentiful and good, and with his long trunk he could strip it from the lower branches, as well as from the ground. When he returned to the bridge over the ravine, he'd almost forgotten the warnings and his own short-lived fear, until, when he was about half-way across, the trunk gave an ominous groan and a cloud of angry wasps took flight. He froze in mid-stride.
“Oh Elephant!” He heard his name called out, and looked up in surprise to see the Monkey, the Boar, and the Mouse waiting by the end of the bridge. “How was the fruit?”
“Delicious,” he replied, nervously, quietly.
“And did you eat your fill?” said Mouse. “I'm sure you did! Tell me, how much heavier do you think you are now, than when earlier you crossed this termite-infested log?”
“I … er ...” the Elephant faltered as he heard something crack, and looked over the side to see a large chunk of rotten wood spinning into the abyss below.
“And yet you were right!” laughed the Mouse. “The bridge did take your weight. Oh mighty beast, you're always right! In fact, even though the wood is more rotten than ever before, and you are heavier than ever before, I'm sure it could also take the weight of Boar here ...”
The Boar hopped up onto the log, his heavy feet sending tremors down its length to where the Elephant stood, still frozen.
“... and Monkey ...”
Monkey swung up onto the trunk, and whooped in excitement, causing the bridge to sway gently back and forth.
“... and little old me!” said the Mouse, as he scampered up to stand between the Boar and the Monkey.
There was silence for a moment. The whole jungle seemed to hold its breath as the trunk creaked and groaned. One heartbeat. Two. Three. The Elephant opened his half-closed eyes, relieved.
“See?” he said triumphantly. “I was ...”
But the “right” was a scream, as with an almighty crack the aged tree trunk split in two. The Monkey, the Boar and the Mouse all jumped clear, but the Elephant was stranded in the middle of the log, and could do nothing but follow the rotten wood down into the ravine. And that, dearly beloved, is how the Mighty Elephant fell.
How the Elephant Fell by Liam Hogan was read by Rachel Spicer at the Liars' League Might & Right event on Tuesday 8th November, 2011 at the Phoenix, Cavendish Square, London.
Liam Hogan runs a sanctuary for homeless stories. If there is anyone else out there who can give a good home to one of his stories, please get in touch. Most of them are house-broken.