The Elephant and the Cassowary

by Ruskin Bond

Read this in about 5 minutes

My newfound love for short stories has brought me to India’s most loved author - Ruskin Bond. This book of short stories collected by Ruskin bond over the years. This book features some of the best-loved stories of the author by other author.

Cover: The Elephant and the Cassowary

Cover page

The cover page features a comic book like graphic. The animals that get their place inside the book have a grip on the cover too. The intertwined design of the farmhouse and the animals makes it a great cover. The name of the author dominates the book. A clean design. Much liked!

Characters

There are plenty of characters in the book that you will learn of, all of them endearing. A mongoose who kills the cobra in the garden. A nag who takes pride in being blessed by Lord Brahma. Little Toomai is loveable little boy who masters the elephants. Each story is made more engrossing by the characters it features!

Content

The book contains ‘accounts of those who had ventured into the forest, either to survey or as shikaris and then wrote their experiences’. It is beautiful collection of anima stories that you may have come across from when you were a child or this may be the first time you will read them. The collection begins with ‘The Falcon and I’ by Jean George where a girl draws a parallel to the life of a falcon and discovers what freedom mean to each one. She bids farewell to her childhood as she lets go of the Falcon with tears in her eyes. One by Rudyard Kipling follows this story. I had read this particular one when I was a child. A reread was like living my childhood. ‘Riki-Tikku-Tavi’ is the story of a British family in India and their house that is surrounded by animals, including snakes. These snakes are nasty and that is when a mongoose called Rikki-Tikki-Tavi helps the family and chases the Nag away. Nag believes himself to be blessed by Lord Bhahma itself but that does not save him from the mongoose who wants to help the family. There are several sweet moments in the book that will remind you the reason why you loved you grandparents telling you tales. ‘The Pale One’ by John Eyton is a beautiful story of a Tusker and her Mahout. A love of a mother for her child and the shackles of slavery that she gives in to. It is a heart breaking story of freedom and what it means to the animals. ‘Hunting with a Camera’ by E W Champion talks about the best kind of hunting. It is with camera and mere observation that you find yourself closest to animals. The joy of killing last seconds while watching a new life stand on its staggering feet, a lifetime. ‘The Eye of the Eagle’ by Ruskin Bond finds its place in the book too. It is about a boy who is given the responsibility of sheep in his farm but he is fighting a battle with the eagles to keep the sheep safe. It is a story of a boy becoming a man. After all, it does not matter what stick one hold but who holds it.

There are many stories in the book that will make you feel connected to the animal kingdom like never before. There are several authors that I had never heard of before but now I find myself digging for more stories by them. Ruskin bone has compiled a great collection for children and adults alike.

Language

The language is more refined; almost British like, though many authors featured are not British. Reading the stories may remind you of the English literature class where pronouncing ‘envelope’ was a litmus test. The language is, frankly, a little intimidating. The lovers of English literature may not have a problem but those who love simlpified stories may not have the patience.

Good points

The fact that Ruskin Bond himself compiles the book is a great point by itself. Doesn’t everyone want to know what India’s most loved author actually reads? The cover page is beautiful. The characters form an instant connection with you. The stories by themselves are beautiful.

Bad points

I liked most of the stories, just not all of them. Rudyard Kipling is great short story writer but my attempt to read ‘Kim’ still remains unfinished. The language takes a little more time since I am not in school anymore. No teacher to ease your way into classics.

Overall

I am glad I came across this book. I enjoyed the collection. Recommend.

Whom do I recommend this to

This book is for those who enjoyed English literature classes. Those who sat through Kipling are going to love this college too.

Quotable quotes

From ‘The Falcon and I’

…Freedom begins only when necessary restrictions are buried in habit.

From ‘The Pale One’

She was fighting for more than life, or honour of the herd, or the freedom of the south: she was battling for her young, and dimly she knew what the loss of fight would mean - the loss of the love she felt for him.

From ‘Hunting with a Camera’

Wild creatures do not know what death is and are not troubled by thoughts about heaven and hell, so that the sudden passing of one of their number as the result of the advent of some flesh-eating animal or bird is but fleeting incident soon forgotten by survivors.

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com