The Mouse and the Elephant – An African Fable

I have always liked this fable which I first heard growing up as a kid in the Northeast corner of the Congo. So here it is.

Central Rock-rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus)

There was a mouse who built a nest. All know that of all the animals of the field, the mouse is the least.

A female African Bush Elephant raises her trun...

An elephant, a bull, full-grown, with tusks the length of a man, made his way through the grass to drink at the water hole. He saw the nest of the mouse in the grass and said to himself, “That is only the nest of a mouse. What can a mouse do to me?” And he stepped on the nest of the mouse.

The mouse said, “He is an elephant, what can I do to him? He is so big, and I am so small,” and so the mouse built another nest somewhere else. But the elephant came another day from a different direction and stepped again on the nest. The mouse built a third nest and the elephant stepped on that also.

The mouse said to himself, “If I would live peacefully in my nest I must get rid of the elephant. To get rid of the elephant, I must first learn the ways of the elephant.”

So the mouse followed the elephant. He saw the elephant pull up the grass with his trunk and put it in his mouth. He pulled down branches from the trees and ate them also. At the water hole the elephant sucked up the water in his trunk and put it in his mouth. He sucked up the water and blew it over himself to cool off from the hot sun and all the time the mouse was saying, “The elephant is too large. How can I come against so strong an elephant?”

The elephant lay down to sleep, its stomach full with grass and water. The elephant said to himself, “I am full and content. I am large and strong. Nothing can hurt me while I sleep.”

The mouse saw the elephant sleeping and said to himself, “I am small and weak. The elephant is big and strong. I must use cunning, not strength.”

When the elephant slept the mouse ran up into his trunk. The elephant tried to blow the mouse out of his trunk, but the mouse crawled up farther; scratching and tickling. The little squeaking of the mouse sounded loud inside the elephant’s trunk. The elephant shrieked in anger, but the mouse stayed right there, scratching and tickling and squeaking.

The elephant beat his trunk against the ground, but the mouse stayed right there, scratching and tickling and squeaking. The elephant got up and started running among the trees; bellowing, waving his trunk, beating his trunk against the trees. The mouse just kept scratching, tickling and squeaking.

Whenever the elephant would try to eat, the mouse would scratch and tickle and squeak. When he tried to drink the mouse would scratch, and tickle and squeak and the elephant would wave his trunk or beat it against the trees, until finally it became so sore and bleeding that he could not use his trunk to feed himself or water himself.

So, the elephant lay down again, bleeding from beating his trunk against the trees, tired from running from tree to tree, hungry from not being able to feed, thirsty from not being able to drink and the mouse ran out of the trunk. The elephant died and the mouse built a nest.

Tell me now, which is stronger, the dead elephant, or the live mouse? There is no strength in death, and to be cunning is to be wise.

A fable from the Northeast Congo.

Copyright © 2012 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved


Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. The Telephone Killer is also available as an audiobook.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under books, fiction, writing

6 responses to “The Mouse and the Elephant – An African Fable

  1. I had never heard this one. Cool fable, and dark, just like the real ones always are.

  2. Hi Paul. What a delightful fable, especially after my spending nearly a month in Rwanda and Uganda. I just posted my lasting impressions of Rwanda when I came across your blog. It took me last night and this entire day finishing my blog. Your blog has given me such pleasure as it reminds me of my special and wonderful time in Africa. I can’t wait to return. The Continent is a blessing and Rwanda is not only physically, but spiritually the heart of Africa. Thanks for posting such a delightful fable. Now I wish I had also taken the time to visit with the mice!

  3. Pingback: The mouse and the elephant – VirItaly

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