Sunday, November 28, 2010


At this time of year, people sometimes have parties, and they tell everybody to bring a "white elephant" gift.  And as far as I can figure out, this means you are supposed to bring something to the party that you don't want, and then you will give it to someone else who also doesn't want it.  Plus you will end up with another gift to bring home that you don't want, either.

And all of this seems kind of dumb to me, when I get to thinking about it.  Not that I really understand some of the stuff that humans do anyway.  But this white elephant thing brought several questions to my mind, such as:

1.  Are there really any elephants that are white?
2.  If so, is there something wrong with these elephants that makes people not like them?
3.  What do elephants have to do with giving gifts?

Anyway, after I thought up these excellent questions, I started doing my usual in-depth research, and I learned some interesting things.

First of all, I found out that there really are white elephants living in Asia.  They are albinos, and they are kind of rare.  Also they are not white-white, like my cute little feet are white.  They are just sort of a dirty whitish color, but mostly they are lighter in color than a regular elephant.

And the second thing I learned is that in the past, white elephants were considered very, very special in countries like Thailand or Laos or Myanmar, where they were sometimes even worshipped.  You could not use white elephants to carry stuff or do other work.  That's how special they were.  So a white elephant couldn't earn its keep, and only rich people such as emperors could afford to have white elephants.

Which is why white elephants made bad gifts.  People say that the King of Siam used to give a white elephant to somebody he didn't like anymore. And the person who got the white elephant couldn't use it to work, but still had to pay for its food and make it available so that people could come and worship it.  And in the end, the person who got the white elephant would go broke.

The term "white elephant" to mean a gift that is expensive to take care of without bringing you any money in return was first used in the 15th century.  Now it mostly just means that you are making a gift out of something that you don't want anymore.  But the person you are giving it to may not want it either.  I guess this is supposed to be funny, but it just seems kind of dumb to me, like I said before.

In June of this year, some people in Myanmar found a white elephant roaming around in the jungle, and they captured it and gave it to the king.  White elephants are still symbols that make people feel like they will be lucky and rich -- well, as long as they personally don't have to pay for the white elephant's food.

So that's the story of white elephants and why you don't want anyone to ever give you a real, live one unless you don't mind going bankrupt in order to feed it.  But guess what I found out!  There is a really pretty hosta plant called "White Elephant," so you could get one of those, and it would be easy and cheap to take care of, and you could tell everybody that you had a white elephant, and you would not be telling a lie!


  1. Very nice pictures and sharing about elephants. Its very informative and hope people respect these lovely creatures the way they are in the jungles and captivity

  2. Beautiful information. Let people know what is really out there.

  3. Thanks for reading my blog! I'm glad you liked it and learned some stuff about white elephants because I had fun writing about them.

    Sincerely, Piper

  4. wow! super! excellent!white elephants are very lovely creature .I am glad to see it.

  5. I agree that white elephants are very pretty. I'm glad you found my blog and liked reading it!


  6. Thanks for sharing the article. The saying had never made sense until now

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