Folktale of the day: All About the Elephant

A professor of zoology at Harvard some years ago asked his graduate students, among whom were several foreigners, to write papers on the elephant.

A German student wrote: “An Introduction to the Bibliography for the Study of the Elephant.”

A French student wrote: “The Love-Life of the Elephant.”

An English student wrote: “Elephant Hunting.”

An American student wrote: “Breeding Bigger and Better Elephants.”

There was also a Jewish student in the class. He wrote: “The Elephant and the Jewish Problem.”

– From A Treasury of Jewish Folklore edited by Nathan Ausubel

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Folktale of the day: All About the Elephant

  1. I’m sure this is truly hilarious/clever/whatever, but I admit– despite some casual and not-so-casual study of WWII and the Holocaust, I think I’m missing at least some of the significance. Maybe it’s because I know little about the more general history of anti-semitism?

  2. Ted

    i think the joke is that Jewish people are very introspective and navel gazing about their role in society and history. We Mormons also share the same trait where we obsess about the same things. I think when the Jewish student wrote about “the Jewish problem,” he meant the conundrum Jews face in living in the world, but not of it, not that Jews are the problem. I would be surprised if a Jewish was anti-semitic and that the folklore book would then list that story under the heading “droll characters.”

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