Based on the story “Toomai of the Elephants,” from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” online Elephant Boy is the tale of Little Toomai, who seeks and wins adulthood and professional stature as an elephant herder by witnessing the secret and sacred nighttime dance of the elephants. Sabu, who plays the charismatic and cheeky Toomai, was discovered for the film while working in the Maharaja of Mysore’s stables and lived an almost parallel life to the character that Robert Flaherty crafted. As Flaherty’s wife and collaborator Frances wrote “I sometimes have an uncanny feeling about Sabu. This is the boy we imagined way back in ’29 when we were writing our story in Germany. We wrote down in so many words: ‘He is a little orphan boy and hanger-on of the Maharajah’s stables… His father died, and the elephant, the beloved elephant who had been in the family since his grandfather’s time, went mad with grief and broke his chains and went off into the jungle.’ And now here is Sabu in the flesh, a little orphan Indian boy, ward of His Highness’s stables.” A beautiful film for the big screen, Elephant Boy is also a story about the cooptation of myth and history, evoking the paradigms of treachery and colonial sleight of hand.
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