Once upon a time there stood on the banks of a river, near a large forest, a village of Woodcutters. These Woodcutters would go in their boats to the forest and there they would chop down trees. Then they would roll the logs down to the river, and the river would carry the logs to the village, where they were cut into boards and used by the carpenters in building houses and temples.
One day, when the Woodcutters were all busily at work chopping down trees, they heard a great bellowing. A huge Elephant came limping along on three legs, and every little while he gave a great snort.
One of the Woodcutters went up to the Elephant and examined his sore foot. “Come here and help me pull out this big splinter in the Elephant’s foot!” he called to the other men. “No wonder the poor fellow is crying with pain.”
The Woodcutters all helped. They pulled the splinter 12out of the Elephant’s foot and they brought water from the river and washed the wound carefully. They brought mud from the river banks and spread a mud plaster upon it, and one man tore up his scarf and bound it about the sore foot. Then the men gave the Elephant some food, and he stretched out under the trees to rest.
While he was resting, he watched the Woodcutters at their work. “These men have done so much for me I should like to help them,” said the Elephant. So, a few days after that, when his foot was well, the Elephant came again to the place where the Woodcutters were working.
The Woodcutters were cutting down a tree, chop, chop, went their axes and a great tree fell to the ground. Then the Elephant took the log and rolled it over and over until he had pushed it into the river.
“Why, our friend, the Elephant, is helping us with our work!” exclaimed the Woodcutters.
Every day the great Elephant came back. Sometimes he would pull down the trees, and roll them to the water. Other times he would carry the tools for the Woodcutters; and every day the Woodcutters fed him, morning, noon and night, and give him fresh water to drink.
He saved them much hard work and the Woodcutters grew very fond of the big Elephant. He worked for them many years.
Now, this Elephant had a young baby Elephant, who was white all over; and he was very beautiful, indeed.
When the old Elephant saw that his Baby Elephant was strong enough to work, he said to himself: “I must take my son to the Woodcutters, for I am getting old and I am no longer strong. He can learn to do my work and be of service to them.”
So the old Elephant said to his son: “White Elephant, now that you have grown large and strong, I want you to help my friends, the Woodcutters. One day, many years 13ago, when I had a cruel splinter in my foot, they pulled it out for me and bound me up, and gave me food. I have tried to repay their kindness by serving them each day. And each day they give me food and water and are most kind to me. They are my friends and I wish now that you would be friendly with them, also.”
So the old Elephant took the White Elephant to the Woodcutters and soon the White Elephant learned to help them, just as his father had done, and they fed him and treated him kindly.
The White Elephant became very friendly with the Woodcutters and every night, when he had finished his work, he would go down on the banks of the river and take a bath and play in the water; and the children of the Woodcutters played with him. Sometimes he would pick the children up in his long trunk and swing them back and forth. Sometimes he would pick them up and put them on his back, and give them a fine ride. And sometimes he would lift them up into the branches of the tall trees.
When it was very warm, he would wade out into the water and take a bath, and often he would take a deep drink of water and then let it out upon the children like a shower bath.
The children loved to romp and play with the White Elephant, and he loved to play with them.
One day the Rajah of the country came down the river and when he saw the White Elephant working for the Woodcutters, he ordered his men to stop while he watched the Elephant. Then the Rajah said:
“I wish to own that Elephant, for I want to ride upon him, myself. He looks so very kind and gentle, and he is very beautiful.”
So the Woodcutters had to sell their friend the White Elephant to the Rajah. He paid them a very large price, and then the servants of the Rajah led the Elephant away.
But, as he left the forest, he gave one last look at his playmates, the children, as though he was sorry to say goodbye to them.
The Rajah was so very proud of his beautiful White Elephant he had made for him a robe of crimson velvet embroidered in gold. On his back, the White Elephant carried a throne of gold covered by a gorgeous canopy of cloth of gold.
When the Rajah rode out in great processions he always went upon the back of the beautiful White Elephant. All the days of his life the Rajah cared for the White Elephant, and always the White Elephant served his master, the Rajah, gladly and proudly.