The Shadow Elephant: Acceptance and Improvement

the shadow elephant

Life is strange which is filled with various emotions, instances, and situations. While it is easier to say that each situation and emotion has its individual identity, it is impossible to dull one hue of our emotional experience without dulling the entire spectrum.

This is the reality of life, still, we go beyond our means to avoid any shocks, emotions, or situations that may create some form of discomfort or inconvenience. To shoo away the sadness we avoid taking risks or walk away when we fail.

The Shadow Elephant

A similar emotion is depicted by the Canadian author Nadine Robert and Italian artist Valerio Vidali in the book ‘The Shadow Elephant’

The book starts with a quote from Little Prince:

And when you are comforted
(we all eventually are)
you will be happy to have known me.
You will always be my friend

Acceptance is a feeling, that not only brings happiness to the giver but also instills a sense of confidence in the receiver.

Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.

Gautama Buddha

The shadow elephant is an illustration that very beautifully portrays the striking contrast between shadow and light. It revolves around a moody blue elephant, who appears to live in a different world from his colorful savannah friends.

Some said the elephant was gloomy.
Some said he was trying to hide his sadness.
Some said he preferred the shadows.

His friends every now and then visited him to bring the color shade of him back by telling silly stories, dancing silly dances, and bringing his favorite foo. However, the elephant manages to walk the fine line between melancholy, comprehension, and emotional connection.

Not a smile. Not a sound.
The elephant listened attentively,
but remained in the shadows.

There are often times in our life, where we too feel blue, and enter a mental situation that is different from the mental state of people around us.

After some time a small mouse, completely out of breath, walks up to the elephant and asks if he can sit beside the elephant and rest a little.

This small incident, which was free from any judgment became the reason for the Elephant’s transformation.


Sometimes, it’s okay to be sad and to show it. It’s also okay not to have a quick fix. Better, in fact, to acknowledge someone else’s feelings without judgment, which can be the very best gift of all.

While the elephant was happy that the mouse did not try to cheer him, he becomes more touched by listening to the mouse’s story.
She had gone to the savannah to find her sister’s most precious possession. Despite walking for the whole day, she got lost as the key. She was now afraid that she might not find what she was looking for nor actually return home.

The elephant is touched by the story and begins to cry, which makes the mouse also cry owing to the natural bond of creaturely sympathy.
No matter how much we try to feel separate and alone in our sorrow, someone else’s pain develops a natural bond.

The elephant rises and hoists the mouse on his back, offering to help the mouse reach home. She invites him to tell her his own experience in a kind, non-demanding manner.

As they recede together beneath the horizon of aloneness, he exhales, “I can try.”


The story beautifully depicts how acceptance is the way to live. There are many people around us, but very different from us in habits, nature, and traits. Similar to the other animals of the savannah, we try to cheer them up and make them more like us. Instead, we should be the mouse and accept the person for who they are. Respond to people not react.

Acceptance is the ability to recognize that others have the right to be themselves. That implies they should be able to express their own feelings, thoughts, and opinions. You let go of your need to alter people when you accept them for who they are.

Being free is being able to accept people for what they are, and not try to understand all they are or be what they are.

Mary Angelou

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