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Literature / The Ant and the Elephant

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The Ant and the Elephant is a 1972 children's storybook by Bill Peet.

A chain of animals — an ant, a turtle, a hornbill, a giraffe, a lion, and a rhino — are left in a bad position one day; then an elephant happens along to help. When the elephant is in trouble, can the ant fulfill his promise to help his rescuer?

This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Androcles' Lion: The elephant helps the ant back to shore when he's stranded out on a twig in the middle of the stream, and the ant later brings his friends to help get the elephant out of a rut he fell into.
  • Break the Haughty: Downplayed; the elephant, who is otherwise a very decent animal, presumptuously remarks that he's the only one in the jungle strong enough to stay out of trouble and then tumbles into a pit, landing in a position where he's unable to escape. He promptly berates himself for being so cocky.
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  • Cats Are Mean: The lion just laughs at the giraffe's predicament, only to get his tail caught in a rock. When the elephant frees him, he tells the elephant he'll thank him when he's in a better mood, rather than doing it right away.
  • Genial Giraffe: Subverted; the giraffe comes across as snobbish, refusing to help the hornbill put her egg back in her nest and not bothering to thank the elephant for getting his legs untangled from the vines.
  • Honorable Elephant: The elephant of the title shows the most kindness of any of the animals for most of the story. He goes through the day helping multiple creatures stuck in unfortunate situations, often without getting any reward (even so much as a "thank you") from the animals he assists.
  • Left Stuck After Attack: A variant; a rhino walks into a tree stump and gets his horn caught. He initially tries to push it over, but soon discovers he can neither do that nor back out of his predicament.
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  • Rhino Rampage: The rhino loses his temper when his horn gets caught in a stump and tries to push it over, only to get his horn stuck even further.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: A hornbill is among the animals that get into trouble, her egg falling out of her nest and too heavy for her to lift it back in.
  • Strong Ants: The ants, working together, are able to carry the elephant out of the rut by themselves.
  • Tempting Fate: The elephant notes how everyone has problems, but declares confidently that won't happen to someone as big and strong as he is...right before he falls into a pit.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The turtle, hornbill, giraffe, lion, and rhino don't so much as thank the elephant for helping them. Only the ant is grateful and later returns the favor.
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