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Honorable Elephant

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Maybe monkeys can get away with lounging on the ground, but elephants must be held to a higher standard.

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant! An elephant's faithful, one-hundred percent!
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Thanks to its size, the movements of an elephant tend to be slow and ponderous. While it's impossible to know whether an elephant's inner life is more somber and dignified than, say, that of an otter, it certainly looks that way. This impression of elephants is compounded by the fact that elephants are observed engaging in what appears to be reverence for their dead. It seems likely that they are aware of their own mortality. The prodigious memory of elephants also makes it seem that their lives must be more burdened by history and the past than animals with less powerful memories, which exist more "in the moment".

An anthropomorphized elephant or mammoth will typically be honorable and stoic. A young elephant may be more playful, but is unlikely to be a willful troublemaker. Ironically, while in Real Life female elephants tend to be the most involved in the complex social behaviors which make them so easily identified-with, fictitious elephantine heroes tend to be males — perhaps because something so massive and thick-skinned as an elephant seems masculine even when the beast is female.

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Some aspects of Real Life elephants, such as their excellent memories, may be portrayed widely in fiction, while other aspects, such as the feeling of Unstoppable Rage and lust males feel during musth, may be played down. Except in the case they encounter dirty rats.

Compare Genial Giraffe, another friendly animal that is often seen together with elephants. The polar opposite of the Cruel Elephant.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
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    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Master Paopao is an anthropomorphic elephant who loves to advocate peace, is known for his fairness when holding court trials, and is all-around friendly.

    Audio Play 

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 

    Eastern European Animation 

    Fan Works 
  • In This Bites!, Funkfreed (the sword-turned-elephant belonging to Spandam of Cipher Pol 0) comes into the possession of self-insert hero Cross. He proves to be quite a friendly individual when he's working with the Straw Hats, if a bit of a bruiser, which is why he was never satisfied with having Spandam as a wielder.

    Film — Animated 
  • Dumbo: The title character is playful but never malicious. The Matriarch invokes this trope ("We elephants have always walked with dignity.") but is actually a Cruel Elephant behind her dignified facade. Mrs. Jumbo plays it straighter, not that it helps her.
  • Ice Age: Manny is an honorable mammoth. He feels morally obligated to return a human baby to his family even though he knows that the child could one day grow up to be a mammoth-killer.
  • In The Jungle Book (1967), elephants are like honorable, respectable (if not too bright) British army officers.
  • Tarzan: Tantor, the African elephant, may be a coward, but when his friends are in danger he overcomes his fear and helps them.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Jungle Book (2016) has the elephants play a more important role, with them becoming Physical Gods who had shaped the jungle into its current state. They become grateful to Mowgli rescuing one of their calves, and they in turn help him put out the fire he accidentally started near the end of the movie.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Behemoth — a Kaiju who resembles a cross between a mammoth and a ground sloth — plays with this; he's portrayed as destructive under Ghidorah's command, but later proves to be a docile and beneficial creature once Godzilla takes charge, restoring much of the Amazon rainforest just by walking around.
  • Mowgli: This incarnation of Haithi is more true to his book counterpart, being a benevolent ruler of the jungle. He saves Mowgli from a tiger pit and later gathers the other elephants to help the boy defeat Shere Khan in return for showing him the hunter who shot part of his tusk off.

    Literature 
  • In Babar, the elephants live in The Good Kingdom, while the rhinoceroses seem to be a military dictatorship ruled by an Insane Admiral.
  • In Bravelands, elephants are the most spiritual animals in the Bravelands, telling the future by touching the bones of dead animals. The past is very important to them, and they love telling stories. Just like in real-life, a matriarch leads them and lets the herd make decisions together.
  • Dinotopia: Mammoths and other prehistoric proboscideans are all portrayed this way. One particular mammoth, Bigtusk, is one of the leading Habitat Partners.
  • Dr. Seuss wrote of Horton, an elephant who was always faithful, 100%: He both safeguards the Whos and incubates an egg in his custody.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Prehistoric Park features Martha the mammoth. She first appears unsuccessfully trying to aid her sister, who has died falling in a pit trap made by early humans. Later, although she becomes an outcast from the African elephant herd the park attempts to bond her with, she stands up to Matilda, a young T. rex, when Matilda targets the matriarch's calf, leading to her being accepted into the herd.
  • In Primeval, a Columbian mammoth saves James Lester from a Future Predator in one episode. At the beginning of the episode he'd been making jokes about selling the mammoth for ivory. At the end of the episode, he brings it treats and cements his status as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • In Walking with Beasts, honorability seems to increase in the proboscidean family tree as it gets closer to modern elephants.
    • In "Mammoth Journey", female woolly mammoths and their young live in family groups that stick together and quietly help each other when facing predators and climatic hardships. The most unprovoked aggression seen consists of an adult male on heat chasing a bison herd away with a mildly threatening trotting and an old male scaring two cave lions out of his way when he migrates south (but said lions were feeding on a human carcass).
    • Deinotheres in "Next of Kin", in contrast, are sadistic bullies that seem to revel on chasing hominids out of waterholes or because they are on heat. Bear in mind that this is as much elephantine behavior as the one exhibited by the mammoths. The series gives all positive traits to one lineage and all negative traits to the other, who also happens to be the uglier, less elephant-looking one.
    • Goofy-looking moeritheres in "Whale Killer" are perfect pacifists that don't really look or act like elephants. One is chased by the threatening Basilosaurus, but unlike most prey animals in the series it is given the chance to escape.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible: A likely candidate for the Behemoth, a biblical creature mentioned in the Book of Job, is the now extinct giant Syrian elephant. Described to show the limits of man's power against God's nature, Behemoth is described as the most powerful land animal on the planet. In particular, the wording used to describe its greatness imply both physical and intellectual might. It's so big it has to use trees for shade and has giant horns/tusks it can gore the Leviathan with — certainly a beast that shouldn't be trifled with. Yet it spends its days peacefully in the fields and swamps, eating grass as the smaller beasts play around it, showing that it's a Gentle Giant herbivore if left in peace.
  • Buddhism: The Buddha was an honorable elephant in several of his previous lives, and the popularity of white elephants in Thailand has to do with Buddha taking the form of a six-tusked white elephant.
  • Hindu Mythology: Played entirely straight, as elephants often symbolize wisdom, grace, power and kingliness. Eight divine elephants carry the world on their backs, and a white four-tusked elephant is the mount of the storm god Indra. The elephant-headed god Ganesha, one of the most popular gods in Hinduism, removes obstacles and gives people good luck, as well as protecting children.

    Video Games 
  • Elephant Quest: The title character is both stoically determined to regain his hat, and loyally prepared to undergo Side Quests for his friends while he does so. Averted with the other elephants, who are excitable Apathetic Citizens.
  • King of Dragon Pass tells the story of Issaries' quest to make peace between the Big-Teeth (sabretooth cats) and Long-Noses (mammoths). It's specifically noted that the Long-Noses didn't cause the war and are only fighting back in self-defense. Unlike their enemies, they care about Long-Nose fallen being given their rightful Due to the Dead, and will not try to treacherously attack Issaries after he helps them.
  • Pokémon Donphan is known for clearing roads after disasters, while Cufant and Copperajah are both known to help humans with heavy lifting. Copperajah is even Chairman Rose's signature Pokémon.
  • Smite: The elephant-headed god Ganesha is a guardian that shares his kill benefits even better to his nearby teammates. He's also able to slow down while granting protections to his teammates.
  • Far Cry 4: In a franchise known for Everything Is Trying to Kill You when it comes to wildlife, elephants stand out for being the one animal that won't try to harm Ajay unless he attacks them- the only humans that they attack unprovoked are Royal Army troops. With the right skill, it's even possible to ride on their backs and deliver a Foe-Tossing Charge at enemies and vehicles.
  • Downplayed in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Chloe and Nadine's Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure is healed when they work together to save a female Asian elephant pinned under a stone column that Asav's men blew over with their explosive weaponry. They then have a Pet the Dog moment riding the elephant back to her family, but once they're reunited, the elephants don't do anything more to help the girls, and Nadine has to warn Chloe not to step too close to them, otherwise the bull "Will. Kill you."

    Web Original 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Even after Dave ends up scaring him, Eunice the elephant abruptly stops rampaging when he runs up to Asia.

    Western Animation 
  • Journey Through the Jungle of Words has Schnoz Ali, who is said to be a well-known explorer, as Dualot said: "Who doesn't know Schnoz Ali?"
  • The Lion Guard has the Pride Lands' local African elephant herd which consist of these. Particularly Ma Tembo, the leader of the herd, and Mtoto, a young calf who looks up to Beshte and hopes to grow up into a hero like him.
  • In Primal, Spear and Fang hunt and kill an injured wooly mammoth for food and insulation. The rest of the herd come across the dead mammoth's remains and track down Spear and Fang to the cave where they're hiding for the night, upon which the herd attacks the two of them relentlessly. As it seems, though, what they really wanted was a tusk of the dead mammoth, which the herd leader picks up; they bring the tusk to an Elephant Graveyard to mourn him.
  • Silly Symphonies: In "Elmer Elephant", the title character is a heroic anthropomorphic elephant who saves his Love Interest Tilly Tiger from a fire.
  • Thunder Cats 2011: The Elephants from the elephant village notably subvert the "Elephants Never Forget" stereotype, since while they're wise they also have very poor memories, which they are apparently infamous for. They're also pacifistic to the point that they prefer to solve their problems by meditating until the answer comes to them rather than act straight away. But that doesn't mean they're complete pushovers.
  • Tom and Jerry: In "Jerry and Jumbo", an elephant loyally defends Jerry from Tom after Jerry pulls a nail from the elephant's foot.
  • In The Wild Thornberrys, every elephant which Eliza befriends has played this trope straight.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: Lumpy and his mother are both kind and heroic Heffalumps (elephant-like creatures) =- in stark contrast with the other, villainous and most likely imaginary Heffalumps of the rest of the franchise.

    Real Life 
  • The Oakland Athletics baseball team uses an elephant as its mascot, as well as one of its alternate names.
  • Real elephants are used in Indian temple processions to carry gods, and some of them are sacred animals that bless devotees.
  • Elephants are not really as noble-hearted as you might think for such intelligent organisms; adolescents have been known to kill rhinos and other animals for amusement.Note  There are even claims that elephants occasionally indulge in necrophilia both with members of their species and with other creatures. On the other hand, they are social animals and do have something similar to human empathy, especially toward their fellows or young.
  • Elephants are one of the few animals that display something akin to 'funerary rituals', like gently touching dead elephant heads with the trunk, or putting dirt and branches on them. They will still do this to elephant skulls after the carcass has decomposed to the bone, and they can apparently recognize them from the bones of other animals which don't elicit the same gestures.

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