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Maybe monkeys can get away with lounging on the ground, but elephants must be held to a higher standard.

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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
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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.

Examples of Honorable Elephant include:

Anime and Manga


Audio Drama


Card Games


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.


Literature


Live-Action Television

  • 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.


Video Games

  • The Pokémon Donphan is known for clearing roads after disasters


Western Animation


Music

  • 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."


Real Life

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