December 7, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Essay: Tooth Fairy Blues by Dilantha Gunawardana

2 min read

In this essay, Dilantha Gunawardana creates prose+poetry on elephants and explores their life cycle through a heart-wrenching poem.

When you think of an elephant, you always think, colossal or gigantic, while the conspicuous nose is a multi-purpose tool for uprooting, clutching, snorkeling, and of course, the simplest of them all, breathing, which can be performed by the trunk or the mouth. While unanimously a superlative sight, the largest elephant weighs up to 8 tons, whereas a blue whale measures on scales to a whopping 200 tons. So, in a nutshell, you can pack a whole 25-30 elephants inside the largest whale. 

What does science say about the classification of elephants? Although the old classification system divides the elephants into two genera (Loxodonta – African Elephant and Elephas – Asian Elephant), this has been updated and refined. The staggering morphologies of the Asian and African counterparts differ in-ear morphology, tusk size, nose length and other noticeable features. While the African Elephant has large pleated Japanese fans-like ears, which the ones with the brightest third eyes claim to draw the contour of the African continent, while the Asian elephant has rounder, smaller and smoother ears, that again is suggested to illustrate the Indian subcontinent. While Mercator might disagree on God’s drawing abilities (on elephant ear lobes), it is fair to say that there is some truth in the design of ears resembling a continent (Africa) and a subcontinent (India). Another difference is the head shape which is narrower and taller in the Asian elephant and larger, wider, and shorter in the African counterparts. While the elongated tusks are borne by both male and female African elephants, in Asian elephants the tusks can only be seen in bulls and they are much smaller in size compared to their African cousins. 

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