When is a book like an elephant?

Here’s one of my favourite poems, from C19th American poet John Saxe:


There were six men of Hindustan,
to learning much inclined,
Who went to see an elephant,
though all of them were blind,
That each by observation
might satisfy his mind.

elephant approaching isolated

The first approached the elephant,
and happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
at once began to bawl,
“This mystery of an elephant
is very like a wall.”

The second, feeling of the tusk,
cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an elephant
is very like a spear.”

The third approached the elephant,
and happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
thus boldly up and spake,
“I see,” quoth he,
“the elephant is very like a snake.”

The fourth reached out an eager hand,
and felt above the knee,
“What this most wondrous beast
is like is very plain” said he,
“‘Tis clear enough the elephant
is very like a tree.”

The fifth who chanced to touch the ear
said, “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
deny the fact who can;
This marvel of an elephant
is very like a fan.”

The sixth no sooner had begun
about the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
that fell within his scope;
“I see,” said he, “the elephant
is very like a rope.”

So six blind men of Hindustan
disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
exceeding stiff and strong;
Though each was partly in the right,
they all were in the wrong!


Great isn’t it? I’ve used it in lots of different contexts to illustrate various points. So why do I mention it here? And what’s the book cover doing next to the elephant anyway?

Well, as your very nice reviews come in (thanks!) I’ve realised how everybody ‘sees’ A DEAD ELF differently. For some it’s a detective novel with fantasy elements. For others it’s fantasy with a mystery involved. Others  appreciate the comedy and aren’t really worried about whether its crime or set in a different world at all.

Which is great, exactly what I intended and of course none of you is wrong! It’s all of those things and it’s got a great cover too! So thank you everybody for reading A DEAD ELF and season’s greetings to you all!

I sneakily cut the last verse from John Saxe’s poem to make it better for my purposes! Here it is (love the prate):

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!


Published by


Author and scriptwriter, Terry Newman

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