Elephant v. Rhinoceros

by Kate Sutherland

Kate Sutherland is the author of two collections of short stories, Summer Reading (Thistledown Press, 1995—winner of a Saskatchewan Book Award for Best First Book) and All In Together Girls (Thistledown Press, 2007). Her work has appeared in a variety of literary magazines including GrainThe New Quarterly, Taddle Creek, This Magazine, and Lemon Hound. She lives in Toronto.

 

I. Witnesses

Ctesias, physician
Artemidorus Ephesius, geographer
Diodorus Siculus, historian
Oppian, poet
Pliny, scientist and historian
Valentin Ferdinand, printer
Albrecht Dürer, artist
Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas, poet
Edward Topsell, naturalist
Oliver Goldsmith, novelist
Commodore George Anson
Captain Thomas Williamson

Jean Chardin, traveller
Comte de Buffon, naturalist
John Church, physician
Stephani Polito, menagerist
Richard Owen, anatomist

 

II. Opening Arguments

The rhinoceros is especially hostile to the elephant
There is a natural antipathy
a natural enmity between the beasts
The rhinoceros is a natural-born enemy of the elephant
It is the elephant’s inveterate
sworn
fierce
deadly
mortal enemy

 No antipathy has been observed between these animals
In captivity, they live quietly together
without offence or provocation

The rhinoceros prepares itself for combat by sharpening its horn against
gets ready for battle by filing its horn on
Before attacking, it sharpens
always first whets its horn upon the stones
against a rock

The rhinoceros attacks
surprises
opens the fight with
overcomes the elephant by

charging it at the chest
thrusting its forehead under the belly
fastening its horn in the lower part of the elephant’s belly
In the encounter it strikes the elephant on the chest
runs at the elephant with his head between his forelegs
slips under
goes especially for
strikes most of all at the belly
shoves its horn in the stomach

which it knows to be softer
the softest part
tenderest and most penetrable part
weakest part of the body
thinnest skin
where his sharpened blade will in

As the rhinoceros is naturally of a pacific temper
it is probable that accounts of it engaging the elephant
are without foundation

The rhinoceros rips open the flesh with its horn as a sword
rips up the elephant’s belly
tears it to pieces
without mercy
gores him
wounds mortally
opens his guts

The elephant’s entrails tumble out

The rhinoceros has no taste for flesh

 

III. Physical Evidence

The elephant is often found dead in the forests pierced
with the horn of a rhinoceros
elephants are occasionally found dead
obviously from wounds given by the rhinoceros

A rhinoceros dead at the London Zoo
seventh rib fractured by an elephant
poking its tusks through the palings
between their enclosures
death ascribed to injury of the left lung
caused by the fracture

 

IV. Eyewitness Accounts

Lisbon, 1515
Valentin Ferdinand:
On the day of the Blessed Trinity
an elephant was led to a courtyard
near the King’s Palace
A rhinoceros was led to the same place
The elephant uneasy and furious
uttered a tremendous cry, ran
to one of the barred windows
wrenched the iron bars
with trunk and teeth
fled away

Persia, 1667
Jean Chardin:
On the left of the Royal stables
were two great elephants
covered with cloths of gold brocade
And one rhinoceros
So near one to the other
the animals showed not the least
aversion or uneasiness

Africa, 1807
Captain Thomas Williamson:
The late Major Lally witnessed
a most desperate engagement
between a rhinoceros
and a large, male elephant
the latter protecting a small herd
retiring in a state of alarm
The elephant was worsted
and fled into heavy jungle

London, 1814
Stephani Polito:
The formidable rhinoceros
one of the largest ever seen
In the adjoining den, in the same apartment
a fine large male elephant
adorned with long ivory tusks
The two animals so closely united
so reconciled
as to take their food from one other

 

V. Closing Arguments

The rhinoceros kills the elephant
kills many of them
many a time it lays so mighty a beast dead in the dust

unless the rhinoceros is prevented by the trunk and tusks
the elephant may defend itself with the trunk or teeth then
throw the rhinoceros down
throw it on the ground
and kill it

the elephant succumbing to the pain drops
and crushes its enemy
by the weight of its body

seldom does combat cease without death of both fighters

 

The rhinoceros gores the elephant and carries him off upon his head, but the blood and fat of the elephant run into his eyes, and make him blind; he falls to the ground; and what is very astonishing, the roc carries them both away in her claws, to be meat for her young ones

 

The Court finds both weight and the weight of the evidence to be on the side of the elephant. The scales of justice tip in its favour.

 

 

[Note: Fragments of text borrowed from: Ctesias, Ancient India; Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica; Oppian, Kynegetika; Pliny, The Natural History; Valentin Ferdinand, Letter; Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas, La Semaine; Jean Chardin, Travels in Persia; Edward Topsell, History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents; Arabian Nights; Comte de Buffon, Natural History; George Anson, A Voyage Around the World; Oliver Goldsmith, A History of the Earth and Animated Nature; Thomas Williamson, Oriental Field Sports; John Church, A Cabinet of Quadrupeds; Richard Owen, On the Anatomy of the Indian Rhinoceros.]

 


Kate Sutherland is the author of two collections of short stories, Summer Reading (Thistledown Press, 1995—winner of a Saskatchewan Book Award for Best First Book) and All In Together Girls (Thistledown Press, 2007). Her work has appeared in a variety of literary magazines including GrainThe New Quarterly, Taddle Creek, This Magazine, and Lemon Hound. She lives in Toronto.

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