Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
As carefully and as gently as he could he removed the thorn and the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man and, with a rather stern look on its face, stared at him. For a good ten minutes the man stood frozen - thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.
For years after, the man remembered the elephant and the events of that day.
One day the man was walking through the zoo with his son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to where they were standing at the rail. It stared at him and the man couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.
After a while it trumpeted loudly; then it continued to stare at him. The man summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.
Suddenly the elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of the man's legs and swung him wildly back and forth along the railing, killing him.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.
Origins: During the summer of 2006, this pachydermic updating of the Androcles and the Lion fable once again began to work its way from inbox to inbox. Sometimes it was presented as reproduced above, an account of a tragedy that befell an unnamed man
However, whether titled "A Touching Story," "Incredible Story About an Elephant's Memory," or "Elephants Never Forget," the work was not an account of actual events. It was instead a well-worn leg pull that had been dusted off and given a facelift, then set loose upon the Internet to reach and entertain a new audience. (Indeed, the version that bestowed a name on the hapless man provided a joke within a joke, as a fictional creature described as a living specimen of the lost brontosaurus and said to wander wild in the jungles of Africa has been dubbed the mkele mbembe.)
As for how old this leg pull is, we spotted it posted to the newsgroup rec.humor.funny in March 1995:
Many years later, the same man visits a circus, and sits in the front row. The elephant acts come on, but one of the elephants keeps looking over at the explorer. Eventually, the elephant breaks free, runs over to
Why did the elephant do this?
It wasn't the same elephant.
"Can I do anything for you?" The man said, "Yes, take me to the end of the jungle." So the elephant did.
Many years went by. One day the man was at a circus and all the elephants came in. One elephant looked at the man and went to him. The man thought that it must be the elephant he had helped many years ago. He picked the man up and smashed him on the ground. It was the wrong elephant.
Barbara "maul of america" Mikkelson
Last updated: 29 July 2011
Kemp, Genel. The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1977. ISBN 0-571-10966-7 (p. 101).