28 January 2009

What an elephant is like

We had a bit of a panic on Wednesday.  Ten minutes before break came the realisation that immediately after break we would be responsible for the weekly assembly.  What to do?

To the rescue a book; 'The Six Blind Men and the Elephant,' a Hindu parable, our version of which was retold by Clare Boucher.


I begin by asking; Why do you think I am going to read this book to you?

'Because we have to do assembly,' came the obvious answer.  Yes, but.....

Amelia thinks she knows: 'Maybe the elephant is made out of a material instead of being a real elephant,' she suggests.

Thomas has a different idea: 'Maybe it's because of what the blind men are wearing.'

Sharukh's suggestion: 'I think it's about that they are blind and walking all around materials.'

Meghna: 'The blind men went to a material shop and they were blind and they picked up some stuff and they didn't know what it was because they couldn't see.'

Ah ha.  Time to begin the story I feel.

"One day a little boy runs into the village to the place where six blind men are sitting in the shade of a neem tree.  'There's and elephant down by the river,' he shouts.


'An elephant!  What's an elephant?' they wonder.  And off they set to find out."

'But they're blind!' interrupts Sharukh.

'Well they can feel things!' explains Amelia.

And of course there is only one way to find out what something is like, if you are blind.  By touch.  By feeling things.

"And so our blind men take turns to feel the elephant.  And of course they each feel a different part, which means they each have a very different idea of what an elephant is like: It's.....

long and rubbery like a snake

sharp and cold like a knife

smooth and flat like a leaf

round and hard like a tree

high and wide like a wall

long and thin like a rope

An argument ensues.  'No! No! No! I am right and you are wrong!'

An argument that was eventually settled by the elephant himself, who told them, 'You are all right!

My trunk is like a snake

My tusks are like knives

My ears are like leaves

My legs are like trees

My sides are like walls

My tail is like a rope.'

'Oh,' said the six blind men.  'That is what an elephant is like.'"

And so 14 children very magnanimously gave up their break to practise a re-telling of the story.  Which they shared in assembly some 30 minutes after first hearing of 'The Six Blind Men and the Elephant'.

Oh and why did I read the story in the first place (other than out of sheer panic)?

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