Elephant Girl


Elephant Girl: A Human Story
Elephant Girl: A Human Story


This is not a book review, but my reflections from a recently read book, Elephant Girl. An intense and disturbing memoir of Jane Devin, it highlights how abuse – verbal, physical and sexual – suffered as a child has consequences that last a lifetime.

Let me share some parts of the introduction to Elephant Girl with you. Apparently, in Thailand, the practice of breaking an elephant’s spirit is called phajaan, also known as “The Breaking Ceremony”. Young elephants a, preferably female, are separated from their herd and corralled in a tight enclosure where movement is restricted. She is deprived of food and water for several days and beaten with ropes and hooks and forced to take men on her back. The idea is to force the elephant to fear her keepers. The torture continues, even when she is eventually let out of the enclosure. If she survives she is sold to perform tricks. Every once in a while an elephant escapes, often with disastrous consequences.  However, rarely, a true escape is possible.

Devin likens her own childhood to a phajaan.  Here in her words:

Sometimes, though, a true escape is possible. In my eyes, I see fields of green and a bright yellow sun. There are no chains to bind my feet and no ropes to tie me down. All the scars that I have close themselves, fading into memories that will grow more distant with every night that I will sleep, free, under a gently lit moon.

I was born a human being but became an elephant girl, and this is just one of my many, many dreams.

I would invite you to read Jane Devin’s post ‘In Praise of the Elephant Girls‘ on her blog.

April is Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.  No child should go through what Jane Devin and what millions of other children go through. We need to add our voices to this initiative.  Together we can prevent the abuse of children. Let us work together to stop it now!

PS: I just took Thailand off my to-travel-to list – elephant tourism encourages this awful practice of animal cruelty.   Read more  here.


Today we’re on E of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.


33 Replies to “Elephant Girl”

  1. Gave me goosebumps . Cruelty never ends…isn’t it 🙁 . Am glad you took off Thailand off from your to-travel list 🙁

    1. Terrible, isn’t it, Sridevi? Two years back we cancelled our trip to Hong Kong which we had booked – as a protest against cruelty to animals by China. I know it might seem like a small drop in the very large ocean, but who wants to add to the tourist trade of such countries.

  2. My heart wrenched in pain reading this. No child should ever go through such pain, not an elephant either. I hate phaajan of any form. Let me check the link to the blog.

  3. What men will do to subdue another! Shocking and very disturbing. Jane Devin’s post was great. Will keep the book in mind. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It is very disturbing, indeed, Suzy. Like I told Vinita, I’m not sure whether to recommend the book. However, I wanted to draw attention to two kinds of terrible atrocities that are prevalent in the world.

    1. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to stop reading the book, Laxmi – even though I have read and heard worse. But I thought it was important to understand the victim’s view better.

  4. Wow, what a shocking story. It was gruesome enough when you described the practice in elephants let alone with a human. Suffering is horrendous especially when experienced by children who are new to the earth.

    1. Jane Devine wrote a book and continues to write her blog. There are many courageous people like her who share their stories in order to shed light on this issue.

  5. Disturbing as the book sounds and pathetic and miserable as Jane’s experience was, I would still like to read this book. To be aware is the first step to spreading awareness. Not enough is being done to highlight the cruelty that is child sexual abuse.

  6. It is heartbreaking to me just to read your description. I’m not sure if I can go through the actual description though I promise not to shut my eyes to this cruelty and do all I can to prevent it.

  7. That passage is so disturbing, can’t imagine what she must have actually gone through.

    And, why does it have to be “preferably female”….insane! I had such high regards for Thai travel till now 🙁

  8. This IS disturbing. Makes me think of how the elephant goes through life like a slave, and only a small chain is used to tie it – it never thinks of escaping. Animal and human torture are equally disturbing. You’ve chosen an apt book in support of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, Corinne. Thank you for sharing Jane Devin’s link. My being cringes at the thought of any human abused…and worse still, bears it in silence.

  9. Now, I feel lucky. A person I loved very much tried his best to break me and make me something I wasn’t, but I “escaped”, too, and am now striving to be what I was meant to be… Thank you for this article.

  10. I’m not sure I could stand to read this book… I’ll have to think about it. There are certain subjects that rip my heart out, and this would be one of them.

    Thank you for sharing! Jenn

  11. Corrine, what a sad and interesting post. I despise child abuse and it was also hard reading about these poor elephants being abused. Thanks for sharing and forcing me to give attention to the month of April.

  12. Corinne, people can be very cruel at times. I will try and read her story, she has gone through it so my suffering will be less than hers or so I think.

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