Paddlin’ Pachyderms

We’ve already encountered Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, in which a young elephant is spanked for curiosity, and seen an agreeable stage version from 1979. Since it’s a very popular tale, it’s often adapted for children’s theater, and the spanked jumbo is often our preferred age and gender for such treatment. Here’s a different version, from Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1998, in which, a contemporary review assures us, Tina Jo Hagens ‘takes each butt-slapping blow with good-natured grace’, even though it is, unfortunately, only a ‘spanking’ in quotation marks:

It’s more accurately called a smacked bottom, and of course that is not to be sniffed at. Not that sniffing is the only or even primary function of the elephant’s trunk, which is more like a prehensile tool for feeling and manipulating, more hand than nose. Which is perhaps just as well, for some elephants do seem to use it to satisfy a certain curiosity about the human nether regions.

But for less equivocal evidence of their spanking abilities, head for Thailand, to the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, where elephants are trained in the arts of massage. The client lies face down on the ground, usually with a blanket over them, and the elephant administers the massage, often with its foreleg. But when it uses its trunk instead, and when it’s aiming for the glutes, it can look an awful lot like a spanking:

And, judging by this lady’s face, it feels like a spanking too!

And on occasion, it appears that elephants think their massage clients have been particularly naughty…

Videos of elephant massage/spanking may be found here, here, here, here, here and here. It should be added that some people claim that in some other establishments the elephant masseurs are maltreated during training; these things are hard to judge, and I’d be sorry if that were true.

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