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I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100 percent.
—Horton the Elephant, in Horton Hatches the Egg
Thanks to its size, the movements of an elephant tend to be slow and ponderous. While it's impossible to know whether an elephant's inner life is more somber and serious than, say, that of an otter, it certainly looks that way. The somber image of elephants is compounded by the fact that elephants are observed engaging in what appears to be reverence for their dead. It seems likely that they are aware of their own mortality. The prodigious memory of elephants also makes it seem that their lives must be more burdened by history and the past than animals with less powerful memories, which exist more "in the moment".
An anthropomorphized elephant or mammoth will typically be honorable and stoic. Young elephants may be more playful, but is unlikely to be a willful troublemaker. Ironically, while in Real Life female elephants tend to be the most involved in the complex social behaviors which make them so easily identified-with, fictitious elephantine heroes tend to be males—perhaps because something so massive and thick-skinned as an elephant seems masculine even when the beast is female.
Some aspects of Real Life elephants, such as their excellent memories, may be portrayed widely in fiction, while other aspects, such as the feeling of uncontrolled rage and lust males feel during musth, may be played down.
Anime and Manga
- In Sands of Destruction, hospital administrator Elephas Rex refuses to turn away patients.
- It turns out that he is a former war criminal who hopes to die having saved more lives than he took.
- Big Convoy, Santon, and they toy only Ironhide.
- Benjamin Blümchen, the hero of the eponymous German Language audio drama series for kids, is a talking elephant with a strong sense of justice and a Gentle Giant personality.
- In Magic: The Gathering, elephants are usually Green or White, the colours most invocative of honour. Still, as Light Is Not Good, the loxodon of Mirrodin were brute bigots incapable of acknowledging moral complexity.
Film — Animated
- The title character in Dumbo is playful but never malicious. The Matriarch plays the trope more straight: "We elephants have always walked with dignity."
- The Matriarch would be a subversion because she ostracizes Dumbo for his big ears.
- Manny from Ice Age is an honorable mammoth. He feels morally obligated to return a human baby to his family even though he knows that the child could one day grow up to be a mammoth-killer.
- In The Jungle Book, elephants are like honorable, respectable (if not too bright) British army officers.
Film — Live Action
- Inverted in the Syfy movie "Mammoth". Scientists reconstituted a mammoth from DNA. It Came Back Wrong and went on a murderous rampage.
- In Babar, the elephants live in The Kingdom, while the rhinoceroses seem to be a military dictatorship ruled by an Insane Admiral.
- Polite Elephant in the works of Richard Scarry.
- Dr. Seuss wrote of Horton, an elephant who was always faithful, 100%: He both safeguarded the Whos and incubates an egg in his custody.
- The Tarzan novels feature an elephant named Tantor.
- In The Jungle Book, Hathi is a wise (and honorable) Lord of the Jungle, who follows orders from nobody. Except for Mowgli, sending him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Elmer the Patchwork Elephant which is about an elephant named Elmer who for some reason is colored like a rainbow patchwork quilt.
- Not a anthromorphized example, but Prehistoric Park features Martha the mammoth.
- She first appears unsuccessfully trying to aid her sister, who has died falling in a pit trap made by early humans.
- Though an outcast from the herd, it is Martha who stands up to Matilda, a young T. rex, when Matilda targets the matriarch's calf.
- In Primeval, a Columbian mammoth once saves James Lester's life.
- The Pokémon Donphan is known for clearing roads after disasters
- Woolie from Cats Don't Dance.
- Subverted with Stampy from The Simpsons. As Bart's pet, he was surly and destructive, so the family sends him to a sanctuary, thinking that he would be more peaceful among his own kind. But once there, he started being the same way toward the other elephants, causing the caretaker to remark that some elephants are just jerks.
- In Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo", an elephant loyally defends Jerry from Tom after Jerry pulls a nail from the elephant's foot.
- Dolores from some of the Classic Disney Shorts.
- Other shorts Disney elephants include:
- Lumpy from Winnie the Pooh.
- Raj from Camp Lazlo.
- Mama Mirabelle and her son Max from Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies
- Strong Sad from Homestar Runner, who apparantly has elephant feet which he calls "soolnds".
- Ellivan from Jungle Junction.
- The Looney Tunes short Hobo Bobo.
- The Elephants from the elephant village in ThunderCats (2011) . These elephants notably subvert the "elephant never forget" stereotype, since while they are wise, they have very poor memories which they are apparently infamous for. They're also pacifistic to the point that they prefer to solve their problems by meditating until the answer comes to them rather than act straight away. But that doesn't mean they're complete pushovers.
- Inverted in the comic song "The Elephant" by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, which starts, "An elephant's life is tedious, laborious, and slow. / I've been an elephant all me life, so I bloomin' well ought to know!" The elephantine narrator then describes how he avoids the dutiful life of the typical elephant by shamming amnesia. "Me mind's a perfect blank. / Now life is very much easier. Amnesier's to thank."
- The United States Republican Party has an elephant as the mascot. And that is all we will be saying about that.