A Note From Me About the Elephants
I want you to know that I asked the elephants if they would mind being the heavies in this story. Well of course their answer was “Heavy is us!”
I said it was going to be an allegory and they said, “Hey, no big words. Big is us!”
So I said I’d call my story a “parable”, which also means it’s a story about another story and you have to figure out that other story for yourself. My elephant friends counted the letters in “parable” and said it was still a bit big. So I said, “How about ‘fable’? That’s a story where animals act like humans.”
“Hey”, they said, “that’s us.” They counted the letters in “fable” and figured it was small enough. But they said they didn’t have a clue what “NDP” meant and didn’t see how you could have a name that meant anything at all with no vowels in it but at any rate it was a small word so I could carry on with their blessing.
How the NDP Got its Name
Once upon a time there was a village where the people were very hard working but very poor. They lived by cutting trees for firewood and for lumber, and they pulled each other’s ploughs to prepare the soil for planting. In spite of all the hard work they never seemed to get ahead.
One day a herd of elephants came by and the elephants began to knock down trees. They used their tusks to uproot the stumps and to plough furrows in the earth. The elephants were after food to feed themselves but the people were delighted to see the creatures doing so easily what they themselves worked so hard to do. They followed the elephants and planted crops.
It was not long before the people realized that the elephants were dropping great heaps of manure and that this manure, when worked into the ground, helped the crops to grow. The product of the elephants’ personal search for food was trickling down to help the people in their own search for food.
While they worked, the elephants sang a little song that went like this –
We’re big and strong
We get along
And leave our pooh –
They always gave a happy shout on the “For you!” because it rhymed with “pooh” and also made them feel very generous.
The leaders of the people watched this herd of elephants and said to each other, “This is good. They are very strong. They clear the land quickly. They make a great deal of fertilizer.”
But they also saw that the elephants sometimes terrified small children, and chased adults, and every now and then even trampled houses to dust.
The villagers demanded that their leaders find some way to control the elephants. This was a puzzlement for the leaders because they knew they’d lose respect if they couldn’t do it.
But then one clever man had an idea. “We villagers must form a political Party and elect someone to appear to be in charge of the elephants,” he said. “But first we’ll talk to that big bull elephant with the crinkly leathery hide and the long tusks to make sure he understands our problem.”
So the men went and talked to the big bull elephant with the crinkly leathery hide and the long tusks and found him very understanding.
“I’m running the herd anyway,” the big bull said to himself, “so why not let them pretend they can elect someone to run me.” He chuckled. (An elephant’s chuckle sounds like a truck going over a wooden bridge.)
The villagers were very pleased and their leaders created a political Party that the people could join in order to elect one of those leaders who, so they thought, would control the elephants. (The ordinary villagers had not heard that chuckle.)
The big bull elephant with the crinkly leathery hide and the long tusks soon had the gang well organized and pretending to work to rules.
“No more scaring small children,” he trumpeted, “no more chasing people, and certainly no more trampling houses to dust!”
He seemed very determined, even angry, and his group of giant beasts all agreed to play along.
Now a great deal of work was being done. Trees were being knocked down in orderly rows, the branches were being stripped off, the logs were being stacked in neat piles, the stumps were being uprooted, the earth was being ploughed in deep furrows and a great deal of fertilizer was being dumped on the fields all ready for the people to plant their crops.
And all the time the elephants sang their work song –
We’re big and strong
We get along
And leave our pooh –
They continued happily to shout the “For you!” so the people would know who to thank for all the ordure. (Ordure is a very old fancy word that might be fun to look up).
But the clever man had another bright idea. “Just one political Party,” he said, “looks undemocratic. We need another Party that will of course support the big bull elephant but will pretend that it might not. That way any villagers who don’t like the elephants will think they have a choice.”
This seemed such a good idea that the leaders created another political Party. They pretended that whichever Party could get the most village votes would handle the elephants. The losing Party would be The Loyal Opposition, a name that had a nice high-minded sound to it but what it meant at that time was that these two Parties would be opposed to each other while remaining loyal to the big bull elephant.
The leaders of both Parties sang a little song of praise to the elephants.
You’re big and strong
And all day long
We take your pooh –
They didn’t happily shout the “From you!” because they had found it necessary to hold their noses. (Have you ever tried to shout happily while holding your nose?)
They had to hold their noses because the elephants continued to eat so many leaves and to knock down so many trees and to uproot so many stumps that when the rains came the earth began to wash away into the rivers. And the great piles of fertilizer pooh the elephants were dumping also washed into the rivers. No houses were being trampled but before long people found they no longer controlled their own food crops, and their drinking water made them sick, and the air stank.
The Party leaders went to scold the big bull elephant with the crinkly leathery hide and the long tusks but he said, “This is the way elephants work. You must understand that we have to feed ourselves. If we cannot do it here then we’ll do it somewhere else and you’ll be just a third rate village like you were to begin with. You people have been living very well on what trickles down to you from us.”
The leaders of both Parties agreed that the big bull elephant was correct and decided that what the people really needed was to be reassured, so they went around the village preaching the advantages of having stuff trickle down upon them. ( I hope you’ve looked up that word, “ordure”.)
Now there was a young village boy, a little shaver whom everyone called “Jimmy”. Jimmy had been watching the elephants and the people and doing a great deal of thinking and one day he took a stick, drove a nail through the end of it, and followed the big bull elephant into the woods. There he climbed a tree where he sat on a low branch and waited patiently for the big bull to walk beneath him on the way back home.
Many hours later Jimmy, too, returned home but now he was riding the elephant! He was sitting just behind the giant’s ears and prodding him every so often with the sharp stick. (And now, instead of chuckling, the big bull was being very co-operative!)
“Look,” called Jimmy excitedly “this big bull elephant with the crinkly leathery hide and the long tusks can be guided by a small boy!”
Many of the people were also excited. They had suspected all along that people’s needs were different than elephant’s needs and now they saw a way for people to tame the elephants.
“These pachyderms,” said Jimmy – he liked big words and “pachyderm” sounded more elegant than “elephant” even though it meant the same thing – “These pachyderms don’t know it but before long they will destroy everything, even themselves. However If we the people guide them carefully we can live together and each be of help to the other. But people’s needs must come first, for our sake and for theirs.”
The most intelligent people in the village, who were not necessarily its leaders, decided to create yet another political Party that would put people before pachyderms. It was necessary, they said, to elect a guide for the elephants, or, as Jimmy put it, a New Driver for the Pachyderms. So they called their Party the NDP.
And it came to pass that ever since then the NDP has been striving to put people ahead of pachyderms knowing that the elephants have a right to survive but that people’s needs must come first. For the NDP, “Loyal Opposition” means remaining loyal to people and opposing control by pachyderms.
At least that’s the way I heard it.
Another Note from Me (who’s the Storyteller)
After reading this, my elephant friends still didn’t object to being the heavies in my story but hoped that you know it’s not really them I’m talking about but something else, which you’ve got to figure out for yourself.
But they wanted to know whether most people paid any attention to the little shaver Jimmy and his discovery.
“Getting a name is one thing,” they said, “but did the villagers do anything with the sharp stick idea?”
“Not really,” I said.
“You mean they didn’t put the NDP in charge?”
“So everybody’s still being trickled on and still shoveling all that pooh?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Why?” they asked, which is a very good question.
“That’s for another allegory,” I said.
“You mean a fable.”
Cover Art by: Brian Scott
Copyright © Munroe Scott 2010