The Elephant’s Child


The tale of how the elephant got its trunk, with a musical twist.

How did the camel get its hump? Why is the rhino so wrinkly? How did the elephant get its long trunk? In his series of Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling composes fantastical answers to intriguing questions.

My favorite is “The Elephant’s Child,” which explains how a curious elephant gets his trunk through an unfortunate encounter with an alligator and a snake. Jack Nicholson’s smooth, expressive voice and Bobby McFerrin’s genius soundtrack brings the story to life. As a young kid, I appreciated Kipling’s unconventional use of language, onomatopoetic words like “schloopy” and “flail-some,” even if I didn’t always know what they meant. For some reason, the phrase “the great, green-grey, greasy Limpopo River” really resonated with six-year-old me. I remember looking through atlases with my dad and pointing out the winding path of the Limpopo River’s exotic waters. Twenty years later, I saw the Limpopo for myself, and sure enough, it was as “great, green-grey, greasy” as Rudyard Kipling had promised.