MODOC by Ralph Helfer

MODOC

The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The simply astonishing, exhilarating story--complete with high adventure, betrayal, and resurrection--of Modoc, elephant extraordinaire, told by Helfer (The Beauty of the Beasts, 1990). They were born on the same day, a hundred years back, in a Black Forest village: Bram Gunterstein, son of a circus animal trainer, and Modoc, an Indian elephant headed for big-top life with the Wunderzircus, a provincial troupe. Their love for each other develops early, when Bram is just a toddler and Modoc a youthful one-ton package, and Bram's father on his deathbed councils Bram to watch after Modoc. That he does, and the tribulations and pleasures they share defy the imagination: The circus is sold out from under Bram to the sinister Mr. North; Bram stows away on the vessel transporting Modoc, leaving behind the girl of his dreams; discovered, Bram wins over the captain, but the ship sinks during a hurricane; Modoc and Bram float to the shores of India, where Bram learns further tools of the trade at the maharaja's elephantarium; there he lives in a teak-built compound, tends to Modoc, and is honored to have an audience with the sacred white elephant; he woos and wins a woman from the village but is warned that North is on his trail. He strikes out with Modoc to the teak plantations of Burma, is captured by rebels, loses his wife, confronts North, journeys to the US and fashions a spectacular show for Modoc, wins back his earlier love, only to have the elephant sold out from under him again. Helfer (an animal trainer by trade) happens across Modoc and buys him in the 1970s, then Bram appears yet again. The story is told with a heart-tugging warmth that, granted, at times slips into Disney mode, but that feels credible: There is, amazingly enough, a truthful tang to the picaresque proceedings. One glorious pachyderm and one cracking story. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-018257-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997




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