Friday, November 2, 2007

Rocking bears, dancing goats, gift elephants

I don't know why the editors of Russia in 1839 included this picture. Custine went to the giant commercial fair in Nijni Novgorod, but he never mentions any dancing goats or heavy metal bears

He does see an elephant. Retuning from the fair to Moscow, his coach moving at the typical Russian speed (as fast as the whip can make the horses go), he comes across, just on the highway in the middle of nowhere, a fully decorated Indian elephant, accompanied by a sort of caravan with camels, horses, and their riders. Custine's horses are spooked and he's nearly killed. The elephant turns out to be a gift from the Shah of Persia, on its way to St. Petersburg. How much time must the whole trip, walking the elephant from Persia to the Baltic, have taken? 6 months? How much did it cost.

This trip would be a good subject for a short story, about the Iranian elephant keeper and his trip to St. Petersburg. Or it could be a 500 page novel from the point of view of the elephant. Whatever.

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