Discworld Wiki
Advertisement

World Elephant was the name given to the gigantic elephant species to which Berilia, Great T'Phon, Jerakeen, and Tubul belong. The four elephants ride on the back of the great A'tuin, the world turtle and support Discworld on their backs. There is a legend that once there were five elephants, but one lost its footing, entered an unstable orbit and came hurtling through space, smashing into the Disc and causing the mountains to rise. Its blood and bones were not merely blood and bone but mercury and gold (the Dwarfs have some very good mythology for a race that holds that it is not religious), which is why they are found underground, and its body over the years became the huge fat deposits under and around Überwald at Schmaltzberg (Fat Mountain).

The legend is found in The Fifth Elephant.

Annotation[]

The "world-elephants" are mythical animals which appear in Hindu cosmology. The Amarakosha (5th century) lists the names of eight male elephants bearing the world (along with eight unnamed female elephants). The names listed are Airavata, Pundarika, Vamana, Kumunda, Anjana, Pushpa-danta, Sarva-bhauma, and Supratika. The names of four elephants supporting the earth from the four directions are given in the Ramayana : Viroopaaksha (east), Mahaapadma (south), Saumanasa (west), Bhadra (north).

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable lists Maha-pudma and Chukwa are names from a "popular rendition of a Hindu myth in which the tortoise Chukwa supports the elephant Maha-pudma, which in turn supports the world". The spelling Mahapudma originates as a misprint of Mahapadma in Sri Aurobindo's 1921 retelling of a story of the Mahabharata, The popular rendition of the World Turtle supporting one or several World Elephants is recorded in 1599 in a letter by Emanual de Veiga. Wilhelm von Humboldt claimed, without any proof, that the idea of a world-elephant maybe due to a confusion, caused by the Sanskrit noun Nāga having the dual meaning of "serpent" and "elephant" (named for its serpent-like trunk), thus representing a corrupted account of the world-serpent. In some legends the world is supported on a stack of elephants standing on the backs of each other and descending to infinity. In others, there is a mixture of animals standing on each other.

Appearances[]

Advertisement