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When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animalsby Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Synopses & Reviews
Prologue: Searching the Heart of the Other
The Indian elephant is said sometimes to weep.
Animals cry. At least, they vocalize pain or distress, and in many cases seem to call for help. Most people believe, therefore, that animals can be unhappy and also that they have such primal feelings as happiness, anger, and fear. The ordinary layperson readily believes that his dog, her cat, their parrot or horse, feels. They not only believe it but have constant evidence of it before their eyes. All of us have extraordinary stories of animals we know well. But there is a tremendous gap between the commonsense viewpoint and that of official science on this subject. By dint of rigorous training and great efforts of the mind, most modern scientists--especially those who study the behavior of animals--have succeeded in becoming almost blind to these matters.
I was led to my interest in animal emotions by experiences with animals--some traumatic, some deeply touching--as well as by the seeming opacity and inaccessibility of human feelings compared with their undiluted purity and clarity, at times, in my animal friends, and especially of animals in the wild.
In 1987 I visited a south Indian game reserve known for its wild elephants. Early one morning I set out with a friend to walk in the forest. After a mile or so we came across a herd of about ten elephants, including small calves, peacefully grazing. My friend stopped at a respectful distance, but I walked closer, halting about twenty feet away. One large elephant looked toward me and flapped his ears.
Knowing nothing about elephants, I had no idea this was a warning. Blissfully ignorant, as if I were in a zoo or in the presence of Babar or some other story-book elephant, I felt it was time to commune with the elephants. Remembering a Sanskrit verse for saluting Ganesha, the Hindu god who takes elephant form, I called Bhoh, gajendra--Greetings, Lord of the Elephants.
The elephant trumpeted; for a second I thought it was his return greeting. Then his sudden, surprisingly agile turn and thunderous charge in my direction made it all too clear that he did not participate in my elephant fantasies. I was aghast to see a two-ton animal come hurtling toward me. It was not cute and did not resemble Ganesha. I turned and ran wildly.
I knew I was in real danger and could feel the elephant gaining on me. (Elephants, I later learned in horror, can run faster than people, up to twenty-eight miles an hour.) Deciding I would be safest in a tree, I ran to an overhanging branch and leapt up. It was too high. I ran around the tree and raced into tall grass. Still trumpeting menacingly, the elephant came running around the tree in close pursuit. He clearly meant to see me dead, to knock me down with his trunk and trample me. I thought I had only a few seconds to live and was nearly delirious with fear. I remember thinking, How could you have been so stupid as to approach a wild elephant? I tripped and fell in the high grass.
The elephant stopped, having lost sight of me. He raised his trunk and sniffed the air, searching out my scent. Fortunately for me they have rather poor vision. I realized I had better not move. After a few long moments he turned away and raced off in another direction, looking for me. Soon I quietly picked myself up and, trembling, made my way slowly ba
A study of the complex emotional lives of animals provides fascinating insights into and anecdotes about the existence of animal emotion and offers a compelling analysis of the ways in which humans treat animals. Reprint. 60,000 first printing.
This national bestseller exploring the complex emotional lives of animals was hailed as "a masterpiece" by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and as "marvelous" by Jane Goodall.
The popularity of When Elephants Weep has swept the nation, as author Jeffrey Masson appeared on Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, and was profiled in People for his ground-breaking and fascinating study. Not since Darwin's The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals has a book so thoroughly and effectively explored the full range of emotions that exist throughout the animal kingdom.
From dancing squirrels to bashful gorillas to spiteful killer whales, Masson and coauthor Susan McCarthy bring forth fascinating anecdotes and illuminating insights that offer powerful proof of the existence of animal emotion. Chapters on love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness are framed by a provocative re-evaluation of how we treat animals, from hunting and eating them to scientific experimentation. Forming a complete and compelling picture of the inner lives of animals, When Elephants Weep assures that we will never look at animals in the same way again.
Table of Contents
Searching the heart of the order — In defense of emotions — Unfeeling brutes — Fear, hope, and the terrors of dreams — Love and friendship — Grief, sadness, and the bones of elephants — A capacity for joy — Rage, dominance, and cruelty in peace and war — Compassion, rescue, and the altruism debate — Shame, blushing, and hidden secrets — Beauty, the bears, and the setting sun — The religious impulse, justice, and the inexpressible — Sharing the world with feeling creatures.
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