The Blind Men and the Elephant

by


The Blind Men and the Elephant is a parable from India that has been adapted by many religions and published in various stories for adults and children. It is about a group of blind men who attempt to learn what an elephant is, each touching a different part, and disagreeing on their findings. Their collective wisdom leads to the truth.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
Itcho Hanabusa, Blind monks examining an elephant, 1888
[The SIX BLIND MEN stand by the roadside, begging.
The DRIVER comes with his elephant.]

BLIND MEN. A penny, sir! A penny!

DRIVER (throwing pennies). There, and there, and there! 
Now out of the way with you! I must take my elephant by.

FIRST BLIND MAN. I have never seen an elephant, sir.

OTHER BLIND MEN. Nor I! Nor I!

DRIVER. Do you know what he is like?

BLIND MEN. No, sir! No, sir!

DRIVER. Would you like to touch him?

BLIND MEN. Yes! Yes!

DRIVER. Come, then, and stand by him.

FIRST BLIND MAN (placing hand on elephant's side). Well, well! 
Now I know all about him! He is exactly like a wall!

SECOND BLIND MAN (feeling the tusk). He is not like a wall! 
He is round and smooth and sharp. He is like a spear.

THIRD BLIND MAN (feeling the trunk). Both of you are wrong. 
He is like a snake.

FOURTH BLIND MAN (feeling a leg). Oh, how blind you are! 
He is round and tall like a tree!

FIFTH BLIND MAN (feeling an ear). Why, he is exactly like a 
great fan!

SIXTH BLIND MAN (feeling the tail). This elephant is not 
like a wall, or a spear, or a snake, or a tree, or a fan. 
He is exactly like a rope.

DRIVER. Ha, ha, ha!

[He goes, driving elephant and laughing.]

FIRST BLIND MAN. Ha, ha, ha! Hear how he laughs at you!

SECOND BLIND MAN. He laughs at you and the others.

THIRD BLIND MAN. He does not laugh at me!

FOURTH BLIND MAN. I say he laughs at you and the others.

FIFTH BLIND MAN. You cannot say he laughs at me!

SIXTH BLIND MAN. He laughs at all of you! He knows 
I spoke the truth.

[He goes.]

OTHER BLIND MEN. Hear him! Hear him!

[They go their different ways, shaking their fingers angrily 
at each other.]

The Blind Men and the Elephant was featured as The Short Story of the Day on Sun, Mar 10, 2019

We offer a longer version of this story by James Baldwin, The Blind Men and the Elephant. You may enjoy our collection of Short Stories for Children and Children's Poems


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