image of a whirling dervish Mythology and Folklore logo

Rumi Home Page

Background Information | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions
Reading Overview | Reading Quiz
| Storytelling | Discussion Questions
Responding | Web Project | Weekly Checklist | Extras | Online Resources


"Elephant in the Dark" by Coleman Barks

(Published in The Essential Rumi. Harper Collins, 1995.)

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk.
"A water-pipe kind of creature."

Another, the ear. "A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal."

Another, the leg. "I find it still,
like a column on a temple."

Another touches the curved back.
"A leathery throne."

Another, the cleverest, feels the tusk.
"A rounded sword made of porcelain."
He's proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole in that way.

The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark are
how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together,
we could see it.


University of Oklahoma logo

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Myth.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. 2002.  laura-gibbs@ou.edu.
Page last updated: February 9, 2003 9:21 PM

Search this site powered by FreeFind