I have always had a fascination and love for elephants, and knew that one day I’d write a book about an elephant. While researching the book, I found that many elephants live sad existences in captivity. I wanted to write about one who was much-loved, yet lived in captivity…and then was set free. Thus was born Queenie Grace, a character in my novel One Amazing Elephant. It was an honor to get inside her head, her heart, and her soul.
I came across the stories of many different elephants while I was researching One Amazing Elephant. Here are a few of them:
The first elephant brought to America traveled on a ship from India to New York in December of 1796. Almost one hundred years later, an elephant named John L. Sullivan – “Old John” – performed a boxing act with his trainer, wearing a boxing glove on the end of his trunk. When he retired, Old John stayed on with the circus, babysitting the performers’ children, and leading the elephant herd to and from the show grounds and the trains.
There have been several famous circus elephants in America, including Jumbo, who was known as the biggest elephant in captivity. He debuted at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Easter Sunday, 1882.
Some elephants have died in strange and sad ways. One such elephant was Topsy, an attraction at a circus in Coney Island, New York. Topsy had at least three abusive trainers, including the last one, who tried to feed her a lit cigarette.
Not all elephant handlers and trainers are abusive, though. Many love their elephants and treat them as part of the family. My fictional Queenie Grace was lucky enough to have a trainer she loved, Bill the Giant.
There’s been much controversy about whether or not elephants should work in circuses or live in captivity. It is now estimated that twelve to fifteen thousand of the world’s elephants are living in captivity. However, things are changing: in 2016, Barnum & Bailey Circus as well as Ringling Brothers retired their traveling elephants to Florida. Across the world, elephant sanctuaries are being established to care for retired and displaced elephants with natural habitats and individualized care, away from the public.
No matter where they live, each and every elephant is One Amazing Elephant, and they all deserve to live with love and care.
- Tags: Elephants
Linda Oatman High
Linda Oatman High is a writing workshop teacher and the author of numerous books for children and teens. She is a graduate of Vermont College with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Linda is the mother of two and lives in Pennsylvania.