Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji    

Chapter 6: Kari's Story

Performer: Librivox - Adrian Praetzellis

I cannot tell how many hours passed. I think I fell asleep, but perhaps I saw this waking — I cannot tell. Suddenly Kari's face changed. He moved his eyes forward, looked at me, and said:

"Brother, this is the night of the jungle and I want you to hear a tale that my mother told me when I was four months old, and still roaming in the jungle. That was a short time before she and I were captured by men. I was born near the foot-hills of the Himalayas, for the snow-covered mountains could be seen in the distance, but we elephants were so proud of our own height that we never bothered about the hills. I once asked my mother, 'Why do tigers smell like this? Wherever a tiger goes, he brings a terrible stench with him.' This is what she told me:

"'Every animal that lives in the jungle is born to one kind of food or another. He either eats meat or he lives on herbs and fruits. Those who eat herbs never hate or fear, but those who eat other animals are tainted with both. We elephants never fear anyone or hate anyone and that is why we exude no stench, but a tiger has to live by killing. In order to kill one must hate, and in order to hate one must fear, and those spirits that you see walking through the air have taught all animals the secret of the jungle.

"'Now the secret of the jungle is this — the animal that lives by killing is diseased. He carries a strange, festering sore within him and that poisons his whole blood. Wherever he goes the stench of that poison reaches other animals, and this mother of us all who loves tigers, as well as the antelopes they kill, is so wise that animals that kill must be branded so that their victims will be able to take shelter. For this reason wherever the tiger goes his stench precedes him, and knowing this the fox comes out of his little hole and calls through the jungle that the tiger is out. Hence, here in the night when the moonlight falls on the thickest gloom, following the plaintive cry, the cunning fox, the servant of our mother, threads its way through the jungle giving the warning to all animals.'

"Very soon one sees the black form of a tiger moving in the moonlight without the slightest sound. He never attacks elephants. After he passes, the horrible smell of carnage grows less and less, and then another fox gives the call throughout the jungle, telling the animals that the tiger has passed.

"If on the morrow thou comest to the same spot where the tiger and fox have passed, thou shalt not find a trace of their coming and going for it is the law of the jungle that no animal leaves the mark of his foot or the stain of his presence on leaves or grass. The victims of the tiger dare not leave footprints for it will give away their whereabouts. The cheetah, the tiger, and even the wild cats who live by killing, leave no trace behind. And that is why the dwelling of men annoys me so; they cannot even raise their heads without disturbing the air."

In my dream, I asked him, "How did you live with your elephant mother in the jungle?"

"Our life was a playing and a toil," he answered, "but the toil was a playing, and the playing was a toil. When the leaves began to get crisp and colored and the sun called us to the South, we would leave the foot-hills of the Himalayas and follow the sacred river bed through the vast forest lanes, going further and further south. Time and again we would come to dwellings of men. How wretched are men! Wherever they go they murder trees and slaughter forests! And in these comings and goings, I saw strange things.

"One winter we came to jungles on the seashore where I saw crocodiles lying on the banks of the Delta in the daytime, with their mouths open and little birds going in and out of them, cleaning their teeth, and eating all the insects that poison their gums. It is a pity we elephants have no birds to clean our teeth. And, there too, even in the water you could smell animals that lived on other animals.

"When we traveled, the old male masters went first, then the children, then babies and the mothers, and in the rear all the maidens and young fathers. When we went to sleep at night, the old ones made a ring of tusks, within which the young maids and the males each made rings, and in that triple ring we children slept guarded by elephants and stars. In my sleep in the jungle I have seen elephant ghosts in the sky shaking their tusks of lightning, roaring in anger and battling with the moon. These elephants of the sky are our dead ancestors watching over us. You know, in the beginning, elephants ruled over all other animals, and hence, men and monkeys and snakes and tigers were created."

"Who made the rhinoceros?" I asked in my dream.

"The rhinoceros," Kari answered, "is a wayward elephant. Once when our ancestors were making a very beautiful animal they fell asleep. They had already completed the thick hide and the small legs, when some malicious spirit completed the head and instead of putting a trunk put a horn on it, and that is why the rhinoceros goes through the jungle like a spirit of evil. Dost thou not hear him coming tonight? The trees are falling and the saplings are cracking. The rhinoceros is snorting. That is the way of his coming; wherever he goes he carries destruction before him and he is not afraid to leave a trail behind, for no animal could kill him and tigers do not want to kill him because they cannot get beyond his hide."

That minute a tall tree fell in front of us and the raging rhinoceros went by.

"Why does he walk straight?" I said to Kari. "Most animals do not."

"Only the well-born go round," Kari said. "The ill-bred find the shortest road to everything."

Just then there was a stillness in the jungle and from nowhere, like marching clouds, came herds of elephants, silent and slow. Above there was no light. A vast blackness had been spread over the stars and moon, and throughout the gloom beyond there was a singing and an eagerness.

"Go up the tree," Kari said to me. "I want to be rid of you tonight."

Sleeping or dreaming — I do not know — I did his bidding and then saw Kari stand and give a call and the whole elephant herd stopped. I could understand everything they said; and when they looked at him some of the young elephants laughed, "Look, he has the mark of a chain on his ankle; he bears the slavery of man."

Kari raised his trunk and silenced their silly chatter by trumpeting. Then he said, "I want a mate tonight. How many of you free-born want to test my strength?"

One of the young elephants said, "How old are you?"

"There is no age to be a hero," answered Kari.

One of the elephants, the leader of the herd, shook his head. "We have amongst us younglings who have taught tigers humility; we have amongst us younglings who have broken hillocks with their fury, and pulled down the thickest trees of the jungle. So thou, man lover, temper thy speech to humility; it is not meet for thee to seek a bride amongst the free-born."

Kari snorted and said, "Give forth the challenge, I accept." And one of the elephants with two small tusks just coming out of his mouth stood out from the herd and trumpeted. Kari stood and a quiver ran through his muscles and I could see his body throb. "Don't be afraid," I whispered to him. "We have taught you the tale of man; he does not know it."

He waved his trunk at me and then plunged into the other elephant. The whole herd stood around and watched the fight. In a few moments a young girl elephant stood apart from the herd, watching the fight, and I knew she was the prize of this battle. First they put their trunks together and bellowed. Then the two mountains of flesh bounded at each other as if hills were striking hills. As I have said before, Kari's tusks were not long enough to be of any use, so every time they crushed against each other Kari had to be very careful to avoid the other's tusks.

At last their trunks came together and their bodies were tightly pinioned. They looked like a great mountain spinning round and round. There was a pause and Kari rose on his hind legs and held his front legs up. That instant the wild elephant let go of his trunk and leapt to cut Kari's trunk with his tusks, but before he could do that, Kari struck him on the head and he went reeling into the distance. He would have fallen if he had not struck against a tree, and if an elephant falls, that is the end of the battle.

As Kari thought he had struck his opponent down, he stood there feeling victorious and I could see a shiver of relief going through his body. The other elephant, however, gauged the distance and came upon him again with great momentum. Before Kari realized what had happened, the elephant gored him with his tusks. Kari gave a painful yell, and walking backwards drew his neck from the tusks of his opponent. I could feel a quake go through him as a tree which has just been cut throbs before it falls.

The herd yelled, and shook their heads with great glee, whispering, "We have won." Then Kari began to walk in a circle. The other elephant did likewise and they faced each other. Now and then they would come close; their trunks would strike each other, then they would separate and go around again.

By this time the sky was black and the livid tongue of the lightning flickered on the crest of the clouds. But the rumble of the thunder could not be heard because the two elephants were trumpeting so loudly.

Again they locked trunks and bodies and spun around. Quickly Kari released his trunk and stood aside, leaving the other elephant to go spinning against the herd. That instant Kari ran forward and struck the side of the other elephant, giving him a broad-side blow and throwing him to the ground. The herd scattered and a clamor of wonder spread from elephant to elephant. Kari rose on his hind legs and fell upon his opponent with his forefeet, as he started to rise. The oldest elephant said, "It is done." At this the herd slunk away slowly and the beaten elephant was seen no more.

The female who was waiting for the end of this battle came up to Kari and they put their trunks together. A deafening crash of thunder fell upon the forest and the lightning was striking trees far and near. A terrible deluge of rain came and blotted everything out of sight. I clung to the branch of my tree for fear that I might be washed down to the ground. I do not know how long it rained. When I looked up, I could see that there was a white light above, but the rain was still falling on me. Then I realized that the foliage above my head was so thick that the raindrops were caught in it and were still coming down. I did not dare to go up further into the tree, for the branches were very slippery, so I stayed until every drop of water had fallen.

The moon set and I could hear all kinds of noises. Many animals were moving about. From the treetop I heard the shaking of the coats of the monkey, and below on the ground I felt the heaving of hoofs on the wet grass. Then all this stopped and on the wet undergrowth again there was a movement like the zig-zag stripe of the tiger's skin.

Suddenly, there was a bark followed by a deafening roar and then the thud of a leaping body falling on the ground. The tiger had found his kill. You know the tiger has three different calls — the hunger wail which is like a terrible sound cutting the jungle with hate; then the snorting bark of the tiger which means that he is nearing his prey; and then through the stillness of the jungle, one hears his third call, the triumphant roar of the kill, which means that he has found his prey. This roar has a terrible effect on the victim; it paralyzes him with terror, and like a lightning flash, along with the roar, the tiger falls upon his prey. This is just what was happening now a short while before sunrise. The tiger growled now and then to announce that he had had his dinner and then other small animals came up and fell upon the prey after he had left it.

All the animals who had taken shelter in their lairs and holes during the rain were now beginning to come out. This morning there was no silence in the jungle; in the small hours all the animals were eager to get something to eat, so that by day-break they could go to sleep with something in their stomachs. When the dawn came, I saw Kari standing under the tree in the thick twilight under the foliage. I came down on the ground to find traces of the struggle of the night. The rain had washed it all away, but as I got up and touched Kari's neck, he winced and I knew that the marks he bore were the only testimony of the battle.

We went back across the river, and found Kopee there, wet and miserable. He was glad to get down from the tree and get on the elephant's back and feel the sunlight on his skin. I urged Kari to get him something to eat, but he would not hear of it, so we hastened back toward the village. On our way home, I verified the law of the jungle, for Kari had really developed a slight stench. You may say that it was the wound that gave the odor, but I do not think so. When he went to war and battled with another elephant, he must have hated as well as feared, and the smell of fear and hate was upon him. It took nearly a fortnight to wash the stench away from him, and you must remember that it was not the bathing in the water that did it. It was in the gentle care and friendship of the village that Kari gradually forgot to hate his enemy.

    Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji    

Chapter 6: Kari's Story

Performer: Librivox - Adrian Praetzellis


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Discuss the review questions.


As the narrator, Kari, and Kopee continue their journey home through the jungle, the narrator is not certain whether he is awake or dreaming. Kari tells the narrator the tale of why the tiger has a horrible stench. Kari also tells the narrator of birds which clean the crocodile's teeth, how sleeping elephants rest in rings to protect their young at the center, and how the rhinoceros is a wayward elephant. Kari sends the narrator up a tree when they cross a herd of wild elephants. Kari fights one of the wild elephants for a mate and wins. When dawn comes, the narrator finds Kari and Kopee and they return to the village.


Stench: A strong foul smell.
Fester: To become rotten.
Toil: Work of an especially grueling nature.
Pinion: To bind the arms of anyone.
Gore: To pierce with the horns.
Fortnight: A period of fourteen nights or two weeks.


Activity 1: Recite the Book Information

  • Recite the name of the author, the title of the book, and the title of the chapter.

Activity 2: Narrate the Story

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 3: Copy and Dictate a Sentence   

Complete page 48 in 'Third Grade Prose Copywork and Dictation.'

  • Step 1: Students copy the script sentence.
  • Step 2: Instructors say the sentence aloud, and children write it.
  • Sentence: I have seen elephant ghosts in the sky shaking their tusks of lightning.

Activity 4: Sketch a Rhinoceros   

Complete page 49 in 'Third Grade Prose Copywork and Dictation.'

  • Make a quick pencil sketch of the rhino, including its ears, skin folds, and horns.

Activity 5: Map the Story

  • The story 'Kari the Elephant' takes place in the country of India.
  • Find and recite the name of the large, teardrop-shaped island to the southeast of India.


Question 1

Why do tigers have terrible stench, according to Kari?
1 / 5

Answer 1

According to Kari, a tiger must live by killing and must both hate and fear, poisoning his blood.
1 / 5

Question 2

Why do elephants sleep in rings?
2 / 5

Answer 2

Elephants sleep in rings to protect their young at the very center.
2 / 5

Question 3

How do some birds help crocodiles?
3 / 5

Answer 3

Some birds help crocodiles by eating the insects which poison the crocodiles' gums.
3 / 5

Question 4

What does Kari call, 'a wayward elephant?'
4 / 5

Answer 4

Kari calls the rhinoceros 'a wayward elephant.'
4 / 5

Question 5

Does Kari win his battle with the wild elephant for a mate?
5 / 5

Answer 5

Yes, Kari wins the battle with the wild elephant over a mate.
5 / 5

  1. Why do tigers have terrible stench, according to Kari? According to Kari, a tiger must live by killing and must both hate and fear, poisoning his blood.
  2. Why do elephants sleep in rings? Elephants sleep in rings to protect their young at the very center.
  3. How do some birds help crocodiles? Some birds help crocodiles by eating the insects which poison the crocodiles' gums.
  4. What does Kari call, 'a wayward elephant?' Kari calls the rhinoceros 'a wayward elephant.'
  5. Does Kari win his battle with the wild elephant for a mate? Yes, Kari wins the battle with the wild elephant over a mate.