The Beautiful Story of the Chained Elephant
In the story of the chained elephant, a very playful, curious, and funny child lived in a small town. His parents had a farm and he considered all animals to be his friends. The chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows were his playmates. He spoke to them as if they could understand him.
One day, a gigantic circus arrived at their town. This little boy had never seen a circus before. Everybody at school was talking about it. They all said they were going to go to the circus after school. They wanted to see how they put up the tent and how they set everything up for the big circus.
The little boy asked his parents if they could take him to the circus. He was dying to watch the jugglers, the clowns, and the animal tamers. He had noticed that they carried huge, mysterious animals with them: a tiger, a lion, an elephant, and several zebras.
“When attachment has no more reason than habit and there’s no purpose that gives meaning and transcendence, it’s time to let go.”
An evening at the circus
The child’s parents agreed to take him to the circus. The boy was very excited. He couldn’t sleep on Saturday night knowing that the next day he would see the show that interested him so much. As soon as the sun rose, he got out of bed. Time passed slowly until it was finally time to go.
The parents bought their son popcorn and cotton candy. He enjoyed his snacks, but he was more excited to see the show. To him, it was so fantastic that it seemed as if it was from another world. He loved the trapeze artists and the animal shows. The lion was so tame and docile that he greeted the audience. The zebras were agile. They ran in perfect circles without losing their rhythm. And the elephant was so amazing that it stood on two legs and joked with the clowns.
The boy was so fascinated that, at the end of the show, he decided to go to the back to see the artists with their wonderful animals. He walked with his parents to the back of the circus and he saw that the animals were in cages. The elephant, however, was outdoors. The boy approached the elephant and saw that someone had chained one of its legs to a stake in the dirt. The animal wasn’t moving at all.
Why are we interested in the story of the chained elephant?
The boy couldn’t get the chained elephant out of his head. He didn’t like to see the animals in cages. However, what had affected him the most was the elephant. He was free but tied down at the same time. Although the chain was thick, the boy could tell that the elephant could remove the stake from the ground if it wanted to. After all, it was a gigantic animal.
The boy asked his parents why the circus people had chained the elephant. They replied, “So he doesn’t run away”. “So he doesn’t run away? He could run away if he wanted to!” replied the boy. For the boy, the chain and stake weren’t obstacles for the elephant. The boy then asked his parents, “Why doesn’t he run away then?” His parents shrugged their shoulders and couldn’t give him an answer.
The boy continued with his questions and overall restlessness. The next day, he asked his science teacher the same question. She gave him a blunt response, “He doesn’t run away because he’s trained”. The science teacher then explained how trainers train their animals.
Reasons for staying
The child in the story of the chained elephant understood that although the animal was quite big now, it was once very small. When it was small, someone tied one of its legs to a chain and a small stake. The boy imagined how much the baby elephant probably fought to release the chain without getting hurt or getting into trouble.
The boy understood that the elephant didn’t realize how big and strong it was when it grew up. The elephant only remembered being a small elephant fighting against a chain and stake that wouldn’t budge. This is why, although it could now free itself, it no longer tried. To the elephant, the memory of that impossibility in the past was stronger than the real possibility of the present.
The story of the chained elephant resembles many people’s stories, people who remain tied to bad past experiences. They don’t try again because they’re holding on to their negative experiences. This holds them back from the real possibilities of the present that could completely transform their lives.