Although I had already fallen in love with the original story. Through the course, La lectura del ilustrador (The illustrator’s reading), we were invited to appropriate the story. What struck me most from my first reading was the wonderful companionship between the elephant’s child and the snake. It made me wonder…why would a snake help a baby elephant? is it a coincidence that the very shape of the snake is the part that the elephant is missing (his trunk) and obtains at the end of the story? does the snake have hidden motives to help the elephant? what is it about the elephant that moves him to act against his nature?
I was fascinated by their link and thought it would be interesting to explore the possibility that instead of their encounter happening right before the conflict of the story, that the snake should serve as the protector of this very special Elephant’s child from his birth. I remembered stories of hindu mythology that I had been told by my grandparents as a child and remembered the cobra that cradles baby Lord Krishna through the storm as he floats down the river in a basket his parents put him in to protect him from being killed by the king. I began to imagine a whole parallel story in which the wise snake already knows that this baby elephant will be a transgressor of his time and is sent to care for him and help him achieve his greatness.
All these contemplations made me think about stories of the nagas (snake in sanskrit) in hindu mythology. So I began to research and found that repeatedly, nagas protect gods and goddesses. Then all kinds of wonderful coincidences began to happen. I also found that in many stories, Vishnu (one of the main 3 deities) protects humans and maintains order in the world. While he sleeps, Vishnu is protected by Shesha, king of the serpents called Nagas. This illustration shows Shesha supporting Vishnu and his wife Lakshimi over the cosmic ocean.
I also found the story of Gajendra Moksha. The elephant Gajendra tries to quench its thirst in a pool of water, demon in the form of a crocodile sinks its teeth into one of its legs. After his struggling, Gajendra seeks Lord Vishnu’s intervention, the lord kills the crocodile and sets the elephant free. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I imagine that Kipling may have used these elements as inspiration for his story.
So once I managed to digest all this wonderful information, I began to construct the elements of my version. My Elephant’s Child would be somewhat of a god, but would not know it until he undergoes his transformation. The snake would know it from before his birth and thus care for him discreetly, watch over him and give him the courage and strength on his quest.
Now that my story was clear, I began doing what I love most…cutting! I cut the setting of the story, a little Elephant’s child and began to play around with my ideas.