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The tragic story of Jumbo, the elephant that inspired Dumbo's films - Magical Tip

The tragic story of Jumbo, the elephant that inspired Dumbo’s films

Many of us remember this cute elephant with his big ears and flying ability, which broke our hearts when he was separated from his mother. However, this famous work of Disney is inspired by a true story 500 times sadder and much less magical than we could have imagined.

MagicalTip decided to investigate the true life of Jumbo, the famous elephant that inspired the realization of children’s works by Disney Studios

Deprivation of it’s freedom

© The Walt Disney Studios   © Unknown / Wikimedia Commons  

Jumbo was a small elephant about two and a half years old who lived with his mother in Abyssinia, a territory we now call Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the small Jumbo was captured in 1862 by poachers who killed his mother. The simple act of love that led to Jumbo’s mother’s death was that she tried to protect her baby just as any mother would. The baby elephant was then called Jumbo, which means “hello” in Swahili, an African language, while the film adapted the name to Dumbo, which means “idiot” in English.

In the uncertainty of surviving the trip, Jumbo was transferred to Paris in deplorable conditions. From there, the elephant being in a sorry state, the zoo in which he was, ends up exchanging him for a rhinoceros with the zoo of London.

The arrival of Jumbo at the zoo

© The Walt Disney Studios   © Unknown / Wikimedia Commons  

Unlike the big ears that characterize the Disney Dumbo, the particularity of Jumbo resided in its African genes, giving it a large size and reputation (good or bad according to each) that this type of elephant, unlike Asian elephants, is too violent and too rebellious to be domesticated easily.

These are the characteristics that seduced Abraham Bartlett, the director of London Zoo, who decided to keep Jumbo, even if he was very sick and he was unlikely to escape a certain death if he continued to live in such conditions: “Never had such a sick and deplorable creature walked the path of God,” writes the director, who no doubt inspired the character of Max Medicis, played by Danny DeVito. He, therefore, appointed an employee to deal only with the pachyderm (as in the film).

Holt Farrier / Matthew Scott

© The Walt Disney Studios   © Unknown / Wikimedia Commons  

In real life, the elephant’s personal guardian was named Matthew Scott, a person hard to pin down because of his great nuances of harm and kindness in his relationship with Jumbo. Matthew still slept six months next to the elephant, in his cage, so long enough that an emotional bond is created between them, so much that one could say that only death could separate them.

Matthew managed to heal Jumbo. The elephant grows at the same time as his fame, and his love for his guardian also grows, a situation that reminds us a little bit of the connection that Dumbo made with the Farrier family, namely former circus star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell ) and his two children, in the version made by Tim Burton. Jumbo was the kind and friendly elephant everyone wanted to meet. People came to see him at Regent’s Park, where he carried the children on his back, an experience lived by a certain little Winston Churchill, as well as by other children of European nobility.

Jumbo’s Personality Disorder

© The Walt Disney Studios  

1054/5000For 15 years, Jumbo was the most famous animal on a national scale, but he began to suffer from split personality. During the day he lived with children and adults in an atmosphere of kindness that made him grow in popularity, but during the night, Jumbo turned into an aggressive animal, with fits of violence that only Matthew could control. The sad reality is that Matthew controlled these tantrums with whiskey. The man made Jumbo drink to the point of intoxicating it, a fact that reminds us of one of the most iconic scenes of the animated film.

Bartlett attributed Jumbo’s personality disorder to his age and hormones, but the truth is that Jumbo’s seizures were due to the massive ingestion of cakes that visitors gave him, damaging the elephant’s teeth. to the point of breaking his defenses several times. It is not difficult to imagine the intensity of the pain felt by Jumbo, which explains these episodes of violence.

Jumbo, the new circus acquisition

© The Walt Disney Studios   © Unknown / Wikimedia Commons  

Before the jumbo outbursts signaled a catastrophe, Bartlett made the heavy decision to sell his elephant to the tycoon, businessman, and circus director P.T. Barnum for £ 2,000. This is another fact that reminds us of one of the characters in the film, played by Michael Keaton, who wants to buy Dumbo to take advantage of his skills.

This decision provoked the indignation of the Londoners, who considered it a national crime. The crowds wanted to say goodbye to Jumbo, and sought to raise funds to buy him back, to no avail. By the time Jumbo refused to board the vehicle that would take him to the United States, patriotic symbolism exploded among the English, who considered the elephant one of their own.

Its last years of life

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When Jumbo arrived in the United States, P.T Barnum paraded through the streets of Broadway, where he was acclaimed by the American people. He also crossed the famous Brooklyn Bridge with 20 other elephants to demonstrate his imposing size and strength.

From that moment, Jumbo stopped suffering from the depression he endured in London because of loneliness, because he was now part of a traveling circus that moved from town to town, and where he could satisfy his need to socialize with other pachyderms. Jumbo was touted as the world’s largest animal, and the children’s favorite mascot, but its story tragically ended when a steam locomotive killed him.

Attenborough and the Giant Elephant (Attenborough and the giant elephant), the documentary about Jumbo

© Unknown / Wikimedia Commons  

P.T Barnum used all his resources to create a fictional story about Jumbo’s death and continue to profit from it, selling his bones and ransacking his body to continue exposing him. In this story, Jumbo died during a heroic act during which he found himself between a locomotive launched at high speed and a small elephant named Tom Thumb. But in 2017, the BBC produced a documentary in which this version was denied.

In this documentary, other facts discovered after an investigation were also revealed, such as the fact that Jumbo had ingested many coins that were thrown at him and that he sucked with his trunk, and that the bones Jumbo were as worn as those of an old elephant, because of the life he had led in London, and excessive overweight. Jumbo died at the age of 24, while the life expectancy of African elephants is at least 70 years old.

Although it is a dramatic story for an animal, it is also a story that allows us to reflect and become aware of human acts, or rather inhuman, that we are able to put to endure to other species . Write us in the comments what you think of the use of animals for human entertainment, and share this article with the people around you!

Cover Photo By  The Walt Disney StudiosUnknown / Wikimedia Commons