Elephant Boy (1937) - full transcript

This black and white movie is based on Rudyard Kipling's "Toomai, of the Elephants", in which a small native lad claims he knows the congregating place of the elephant hordes.

I salute you, sahibs.

How do you do?

Men call me Toomai of the Elephants.

At one time
they called me Little Toomai...

meaning “no harm”...

but because my father
was called Toomai also.

So was my grandfather
and so was his father before him.

All mahouts – drivers of elephants.

There is no other
such honorable occupation.

Petersen-sahib told me himself...

he wanted to drive a railway engine...

when he was a boy...

for that is the largest...

and the strongest thing
in the white sahib’s country.

That is good, but for such as I...

who are, what you say – tough...

it is not as good as the hunting
and the jungle.

For the wild elephant
must be caught and tamed...

to carry, to draw, to build...

to help his masters.

To capture this wild one...

the bravest of us men...

and the strongest
of our tame elephants...

take the forest path...

and we track the wild herd...

and we drive them over the hills...

till at last we have them caught...

in a great ring...

built of tree trunks...

which we call the stockade.

Then we rejoice, we hunters...

and feast!

And it was at such a feasting...

that they gave me my name
of Toomai of the Elephants...

in honor of what I had done.

I, and Kala Nag, that is.

To him, his share of the honor.

He’s my elephant, a good one.

The best in Mysore.

He is my best friend.

And I am his.

And here’s the beginning of our story.

Get away. Leave it.

You hear me?

Jump for it.

Catch it!

Where is my sugarcane?

You big robber! I’ll teach you.

Did I not say leave it?

Lift up your foot.

Am I not your master?

Foot up.


Petersen-sahib is in the town.
He chooses elephants for his hunting.

He will choose Kala Nag.

That is sure!

Please the gods.

Oh, for four legs and a trunk...

that Petersen-sahib might choose me!

Four legs and two long ears
would fit you better, scatterbrain.

A son that lives, breathes, dreams
nothing but hunting.

May I come with you...

when you take Kala Nag
to Petersen-sahib...

so that I may see him,
the great hunter?

Off with you.
Wash Kala Nag well.

- You may come.
- Acha! Quick, Kala Nag! Quick!

Come on, my beautiful.

We are going hunting.

Up, up.

Mind the baby, Kala Nag.
Mind the baby.

Be careful.

Hey, hey, hey.
Wait a little, Kala Nag. Wait.

Here’s our breakfast.

Come here, Kala Nag. Come here.

Move on, Kala Nag. Quick.

Kala Nag, very good breakfast.

Come on, Kala Nag.
Pick a stone.

A nice stone to wash you with.

Not that one. A bigger one.

That’s right. Good fellow.

Make way for the king’s elephant!

Turn over. Turn over.

Over you go.

If only I could go with you.

But you won’t go yourself...

if Petersen-sahib sees
those dirty ears.

You must look beautiful
to please Petersen-sahib.

They say he’s the greatest
hunter of them all.

- What’s the hurry, Petersen?
- I tell you, I saw the great man himself.

Oh, yes. He wrote me.

I told him there wasn’t a single
darn wild elephant on the southern hills.

I told him I’d go north.

I told him what that would be like.
There aren’t words to describe it.

- What did he say?
- Oh, he said...

“Mr. Petersen,
here we only have two words:

success and failure.”

- What did you say?
- Oh, I said, “Give me a free hand.”

- Well, you’re going to get it apparently.
- Yes.

Of course, you can have all
the tame beasts you want for your drive.

- How many do you want?
- I want 40.

But, man, think of the
hire and the fodder.

- Yes, I shall be thinking.
- What will the government say?

Oh, “Thank you very much”
if I capture half a hundred.

But if I don’t, “Good-bye,
Mr. Petersen.”

So you see, Bob, I’ve got to gamble on it.
It’s a devil of a year for wild elephant.

You ought to hear what Machua Appa
has to say about it.

- He’s your jemadar, is he?
- Yes.

He’s all right.
Let’s have him in.

Come in, Machua Appa.

Tell the commissioner-sahib
about the hunting.

- Sahib, it has been a strange year.
- How so?

For six weeks, sahib,
my men have been in the southern hills.

- Nothing.
- Nothing?

No elephants, sahib,
but plenty of talk.

- What do you mean talk?
- Stories, lies, dreams of the jungle men.

- What sort of stories?
- All the elephant kind have gone, sahib.

They’ve gone north
for a great herding.

- As they do once in a hundred years.
- Poppycock.

Even so, sahib.

There are such old tales, Bob.

And that’s my gamble.

- More like your funeral, if you ask me.
- Well, I don’t want to be late for it anyway.

Well, the men are here with the beasts.
You can look them over when you like.

- Now.
- All right.


Yes, Huzoor?

Summon the drivers.

Come on. Up with you.

That elephant’s not clean yet.

There’s a bit of rubbish on his neck.

Watch your back, Tchala.


let’s have a look at ’em.

Which is first?

- Mala Ras.
- Mala Ras.

Mala Ras.

What about her?

She worked for Jackson-sahib
five seasons...

and he said she worked well, sahib.

Hmm. All right.
That’s good enough for me.

Write her down. Next.

- Jowar Narein.
- Jowar Narein.

Jowar Narein.

Hmm. That’s a tusker.

Why is he chained?

- He has given much trouble, sahib.
- Run amok, eh?

Please, sahib.
He’s the strongest elephant in India.

That’s enough of that nonsense.

You know very well you’ve no business
to bring him here at all.

If the government heard of it,
they’d have him shot. Take him away.

You heard Petersen-sahib. Go.



That’s a magnificent beast.

It’s the finest elephant
in this country, sahib.

- Ever run amok?
- No, sahib.

Very good elephant, sahib.
Very good worker.

Sign him on.

Oh, by the way,
what’s your elephant’s name?

Kala Nag, sahib. Kala Nag.

And why did you teach
your elephant that trick?

To steal from the
rooftops green corn, eh?

No, protector of the poor.

Not green corn. Melons.

Who is he? Your son?

My worthless son, heaven born.

And why worthless?

Mad to be a hunter.

Heaven help him. And what other trick
have you taught your elephant, little one?

Mostly I learn from him.

Oh? And how?

He is so wise, sahib.

He has hunted tiger in Nepal...

and wild elephant in Assam.

He has been in many wars.

Even in my grandfather’s day...

he fought in Africa.

Father says he knows
more than all the –

all the –

All the what?

All the white sahib.

- Well, you must certainly learn from him.
- I do, sahib.

All about the elephant kind.
By watching him.

So that I may be a hunter.

Oh, so you’re keen, are you?

Well, if you’re a good boy
to your mother...

perhaps Kala Nag will bring you back
a fine story from the jungle.

Sahib, he has no mother.

Well, who looks after him
when you’re away?

No one, sahib.

Only the gods above
and the gutter below.

Listen, frog on the elephant’s back...

what sort of nuisance would you be...

if I let your father
bring you along with us?

- Hunting, sahib?
- Uh-huh.

Sahib, I – I’ll make fires...

and scour pots
and clean your boots and gun too...

and fetch water and kill snakes...

and move the fan, wash the rice
and help the cook and –

That’s enough. That’s enough.

Leave something for us to do.

All right then.
Get ready.

- We start at noon.
- We shall be there, sahib!

Salute, Kala Nag! Salute!

Mighty One, I go a-hunting –

a-hunting with Petersen-sahib...

Machua Appa...


and Kala Nag.

See, I break my toys before thy face.

Grant that I may be a hunter,
Lord of All.

Please, take my poor gift.

Grant Petersen-sahib good hunting.

And I will never steal melons again.

Bye, Swami! Bye!

Steady, Kala Nag.

Hold it steady.

Hi, you straggler.
Get back into the line there.

But, sahib, see what I found.

- See the little one.
- Mmm. Very pretty.

And I saw the wild pig, sahib,
and a great snake.

You’d better look out,
or something will see you.

Something hungry.

Tiger, sahib?

And will the sahib shoot the tiger?

I will find him.
You will have a fine skin, sahib.

Yes, well, you stray one more yard,
my boy, and I’ll have your skin.

You’re in the jungle now,
and don’t you forget it.

This looks a good place for camping,
Machua Appa, if there’s any water about.

There is a fine stream, sahib,
half a mile away.

Hmm. Good boy.

That’s the makings of a hunter.

Come on, Machua Appa.
We’ll camp before nightfall.

One good thing.
There’s plenty of straight young timber.

I want you to build me
the devil of a stockade, Machua Appa.

- Big enough to hold a couple of hundred.
- Yes, sahib.

Oh, and send a jungle wallah
down to the village we passed...

and tell him to hold every man ready.

I want every tracker and beater
I can get hold of.

The sahib’s hopes are high.

Hardly that.

But if the south country herds
have drifted up this way...

there must be a lot about somewhere.

It’s all or nothing.

Lord, I wish I knew which.

All right. Let’s try the gate now.

Ready, eh.

Cut the rope.

Hmm. That ought to hold ’em.

It’s no good, Machua Appa.
I’m through.

Do not despair, sahib.

Do you think we shall find elephants?

There you are.

Six weeks, day after day,
we’ve combed this jungle...

till we know the tracks of every rat.

There’s not an elephant in it.

We’re wasting our own time
and the government’s money.

- We may as well face it.
- We will wait for one more moon, sahib.

Oh, it’s a wild goose chase.

Even the least man
in the camp knows it. Listen.

Do they sing now as they did?

No, they’re too tired.
They’ve no heart left.

They go to sleep
as soon as they’ve eaten.

They know.

They have ranged far, sahib,
and are weary. So are you.

Sleep now,
and in the morning you will say...

“Machua Appa,
we will try for one more moon.”

When the wild ones move strangely,
it is the moon that moves them.

All right, Machua Appa.

We’ll try it again.

A bad year, my masters. A bad year.

That is why the sahib
draws the northern hills.

- And that is the bad country.
- It was never elephant country.

- Tigers’ range.
- Wolves’ country.

Unless they moved here
out of their own hills.

That’s what the jungle men say.
And they know.

It is well a child should believe them.

Petersen-sahib believes them.

When Machua Appa shook his head,
“Fear not, sahib,” said I.

It is so. I feel it.

And if they should find them
by some chance?

To drive them over the hills,
full of ravines!

Not so!

- But how? How?
- Bring down the river.

What bantam is this?

“Try,” Sahib-Petersen said
when he and I spoke together.

With such a hunter to lead us, friends,
we cannot fail.

Where is he?

He’s not very big
from this side of the fire.

Here he is!
See, one and all, our new leader.

The sahib’s adviser.
Teacher of Machua Appa.

Father and mother
of all the hunters of India.


You mock me?

- Mock you?
- Because I’d be a hunter.

So you shall be.



When you have seen
the elephants dance.

- What’s the big joke?
- Petersen-sahib, they say –

- That you should be asleep.
- No, sahib.

They say I may not be a hunter.

Not till I have seen
the elephants dance.

Oh? Who says so?

The other hunters.

Well, Hop Frog, they know.

They were not mocking me?

Nay. You must see
the elephants dance.

Tell me, sahib, where?

I’d tell you if I knew.

Ah, if only I did know.

You find a score or two elephants dancing
and lead me to them, my boy...

I’ll make a hunter of you.

Now cut along. I’m busy.

You hear Petersen-sahib, boy.
Begone. Seek your father.

Yes, sahib.

Have you ever seen the elephants dance,
Machua Appa?

No, sahib.
No one has ever seen them dance.

It is just an old tale for children.

Go to sleep.

And dream not of hunting.
It’s a dog’s dream.

And mine too when I was your age.

- Sahib!
- Hello, who’s there?

- Toomai, sahib.
- Come in, Toomai.

- What is it?
- Tiger.

- Tiger? Where?
- Near the goat pen, sahib.

- Anybody else know?
- No, sahib.

I wakened nobody,
lest they should be afraid.

Good man.
Might have the whole lot deserting.

- Shall I call the hunters?
- No. Rouse no one.

I’ll try and get him myself.

- Alone, sahib?
- Oh, it’s all right.

Moonlight. Clear ground.

Then I go with you.

All right. Come on.

Dead, sahib!
He dropped like a stone.

Come back, man!

Hey! Where is the tiger?

- Hey! Where is the tiger?
- Get out of my way. This is men’s work.

- Give me that spear.
- I’ll give you a spear!

You strike me,
my father will strike you.

Better go and find your father then.


Machua Appa! Machua Appa!

- Where is Petersen-sahib?
- Machua Appa!

- He’s gone off for the tiger.
- Hello!

- Follow me.
- Hello!


Take him down.


What’s wrong, Kala Nag?

What’s wrong?

Father dead?

Come with me, Hop Frog.

Bring him to my tent,
Machua Appa.

Did it –

Did it hurt him?

For a little while.

And then dead?

It’s cruel.

But what can I say to you?

He loved you, and now he’s dead.

And you’re all alone.

All alone, sahib...

save for him.

Kala Nag.

He cries.

- I won’t cry, sahib.
- Cry if you want to.

It helps.

No, sahib.

He died bravely.

And he would have you be brave too.

Is that it?

Yes, sahib.

It’s a heartbreaking business,
Machua Appa.

The elephant
may break his heart too, sahib.

Oh, the elephant.

Nay, sahib, even now
they fear he may break his chains.

The elephant kind sometimes go crazed
with grief for their dead master.

What are we going to do with him?

Here we are faced with a big job.

A job that’s going all wrong.

I’d give my eyes not to have to do it,
but I can only see one thing.

We shall have to
send him back to Melkote.

And the mahout will take you to
the schoolmaster, who is a good man...

and he will look after you
until I come down.

And I shall sleep in a bed
and be taught lessons?

That’s right.

And Kala Nag
will be alone, grieving?

Not so, but working...

which is best for him
as it is for all who grieve.

It is better to be
with those we love, sahib.

But you can’t work him yourself.

So Rham Lahl must.

Then Kala Nag’s hire
will pay for your keep and his.

He’s – He’s still grieving, sahib.

And Rham Lahl is a bad man, sahib.

Now come, Hop Frog.
That is neither sensible nor brave.

What did you promise me?

I know, sahib, but –

Very well, heaven born.

Only until the rains come.

We shall all meet again.

Cheer up, boy. Cheer up.

Anyone would think
you were going to jail.

Take heart.
Why, at your age, no sorrow lasts.

You’ll be all right.

After all, nobody wants you here.

- He wants me.
- Who?

Kala Nag.
Don’t you hear him?

I’m your master now...

you pampered beast.

I’ll show you.

I’ll teach you!

You beast.

Kala Nag!
Stop, Kala Nag! Stop!

- Come back, you fool! He’ll charge you!
- Don’t shoot, sahib. Don’t shoot.

He won’t charge me.

Kala Nag.

Kala Nag!

Don’t you know me?

What is this wickedness?

Will you bring shame on all of us?

What would Father say?

Fear nothing.

I will not hurt you.

Come. We are together again.

Be easy. Be easy now.

Come now. Come now.

Back to your tree.

Back to your tree.

Rham Lahl.

Are you badly hurt?

No more than you will be
when I’m about again.

Can I help you?

Yes, you can.

By getting out!

I could bring
your food and water.

Get back to that
murderous beast of yours.

I wish you might both be shot.

Yes! He must be shot!

Shoot Kala Nag?


Rham Lahl, you take him.
He shall be yours.

Mine indeed.

Yes, he’ll be mine...

for what his carcass will fetch.

His tusks for my head...

his hide for my ribs
and his feet for my foot.

- That’s right.
- That’s right!

They make of them furnishings,

that they stand in the halls
of the white Raj...

and they sell them
in the bazaars of Bombay.

The sahib will not allow it.

The law will demand it.
Get out.

That was in Peshawar.

“He has trampled a man,”
said the colonel-sahib.

“Let him be shot.”

What is it, Toomai?

Do not mock.

No, no, I shan’t mock.

Must Kala Nag die?

It is only just.
A beast’s blood for a man’s blood.

But who’s dead?
Broken ribs, and no more.

We all know
the sort of man Rham Lahl is.

Were I the sahib,
“Go Rham Lahl,” I would say.

“Throw Kala Nag down
and break his ribs.”

Still, a man is above a beast.

- The white lord must be just.
- He must shoot him.

Or none of us are safe.

He is better now.

He’ll be better still
when he’s had his cure.

What cure?

Lead pills, my son.

- Lead pill?
- That’s the word.

Lead pills.

Come, man. Compassion.

Come, man, sense, or leave me.

His great-grandfather
owned the beast...

and his grandfather,
and his father who is newly dead.

Will you rob the son
of his only possession?

Haven’t I been maimed?

I’ll have my reckoning.

And a reckoning with me, Rham Lahl,
when you’re afoot again.

Aye, if you were 20 years younger.

Out, you old braggart!

I’ll have justice.
He shall be shot!

Well, how’s the sick man?

Pretty bad, eh?

If ever I may drive elephant again.

Hmm. I heard someone
calling for justice –

for a shooting.

Strong voiced too.

You, I suppose, Balu?

Yes, sahib.

So say they all.

And you?

It’s the law.

Now, come, Rham Lahl.
Why don’t you give up this claim?

Your pay shall go on, and I’ll give you
a hundred rupees extra out of my own pocket.

His carcass is worth thrice that.

Oh, that’s yours, by the custom.

Aye. ’Tis mine.

And for the boy, no mercy?

All I want is justice.

No mercy.

And his father just dead.

- What is that to me?
- Very well then.

In the morning Kala Nag shall die.
It’s the law.

But it is also the law that I may choose
whom I’ll have in my camp.

- Is not that so, Machua Appa?
- Yes, sahib.

Very well then, Machua Appa.

Take three or four and bear this man
on his bed outside the camp.


Set him down by a water hole,
a mile away at least.

Two, sahib!
I will carry him the other mile myself.

But, sahib, I can’t walk.
My foot.

What’s that to me?

But, sahib, the tiger you shot.

What if its mate finds me?

You can tell her...

that as her mate served the father,
so you served the son.

You can argue it out for yourself...

as to who shows the most mercy.


I’ll take the hundred rupees.

He’s asleep.

Sleep is precious, sahib.

Yes. Heaven knows he needs it.

- Shall I wake him, sahib?
- No, no, no.

Let him sleep.

- Bring him to my tent in the morning.
- Yes, sahib.

Yes, in the morning.

To tell me he must be shot.


I will take him away
from all of you...

into the jungle, over the big river.

- Machua Appa! Machua Appa!
- Hmm?

- Bad news.
- Eh?

I rose early, feeling restless,
thinking of the boy and his beast.

- I went to see them.
- Well?

- Not there.
- What?

- Fled.
- How long ago?

No dry print where Kala Nag had lain.
Dew everywhere.


- Sahib!
- Hmm?

- What is it, Machua Appa?
- The boy has gone.


What do you mean?

He’s taken his elephant
and fled into the jungle...

being scared by the talk of fools.

Why didn’t I wake him?
Here, call your people, Machua Appa.

- Get the trackers.
- Yes, sahib.

Rouse the camp.
Prepare the elephants.

There’s a curse on this hunt,
Machua Appa.

Things go from bad to worse.

No elephants...

the old man killed,
and now this.

Shall we find him?

I fear he fled soon after
the camp was asleep, sahib.

It’s 3:00 now. That means
he’s been gone over six hours.

Yes, sahib.

- He’ll have reached the big river.
- Bad tracking ground.

Yes, if he’s gone that way.

Well, anyway,
we’ll find him if it takes a year.

Poor little devil.

I could wring his neck.

- Where are the trackers, Machua Appa?
- There, sahib.

Where did you see
the tracks of Kala Nag?

In the soft earth
down at the edge of the clearing.

- How do you know the boy was with him?
- Beside the prints of Kala Nag...

- I saw the boy’s also.
- Right. Show me the place.

- Come with me, Machua Appa.
- Yes, sahib.

They will never find us here.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep.

Kala Nag!

Kala Nag!

Where are you?

Kala Nag!

Kala Nag!

Kala Nag!

Kala Nag!

Kala Nag!

Look, Kala Nag.
Hundreds of elephants.

If Petersen-sahib could only see them.

They are mad.

They will trample the whole world.

I dreamt.

But –

But did I dream?

Kala Nag, did I dream?

There he is, sahib.

Run, Kala Nag! Run!

You shall not shoot him, sahib!
You shall not shoot him, sahib!

Take your hands off my gun,
you little fool.

- Give him one on the mouth.
- He deserves a good thrashing, sahib.

Beat me, sahib...

but spare Kala Nag.

I will do anything.

I will serve you, sahib, like a dog,
all my days.

Sahib, you shall have many elephants.

Many! Many!

Spare me this one.

Who said I’d shoot him?

- Rham Lahl said it.
- Did I say so?

You will not shoot him, sahib?

- No.
- No?

Oh, sahib, it is just...

for he took me and I saw them.

A hundred and a hundred...

and a hundred.

What’s this?

The elephants, sahib, at their dance.


- Some dream he has had.
- Fever.

No dream. No fever.

They shook the earth.
They spoke like thunder.

It is so, sahib.
Come, sahib. I show you.

Look, sahib. There they are.

- It is a fortune.
- A wonder!

Hasten, sahib.
If they move, they travel fast.

Machua Appa, take 50 of your men
to the other side.

When you’ve got them in position,
fire two shots.

- Right, sahib.
- Come on, Hop Frog.

Head ’em to the river!

Close in there, man!

Yippee! Yippee! Yippee!

Come on, Toomai.

Sahib, we’ve got them, sahib!
Sahib, we’ve got them!

Is hunting a trade
that any man can put his hand to it?

- Not so.
- We are, in a manner of speaking, chosen.

Chosen is the word.

For 40 years and five
have I followed my lord the elephant.

But never have I heard that any child or man
has seen what this child has seen.

By all the gods of the hills, it is.

- What can I say?
- That they have chosen him.

And I mocked, speaking
like a fool, truth without knowing it.

Stand around all of you.
Stand around here.

Hunters, here is one
who has a claim on you.

What was their promise?

That I should be a hunter.

So you shall be.

Nay, but truly.

Give him to me, sahib.

I’ll make a hunter of him.

Then take him, Machua Appa,
for 10 years.

But mind you,
make a great hunter of him.

He shall be greater than I.
Even I, Machua Appa.

- Truly spoken.
- Aye, aye!

He shall come to no harm
in the keddah...

as he runs beneath the big bellies
to rope the wild tuskers.

Aye, aye!

And if he slips before
the charging bull elephant...

that bull elephant shall know who he is
and not crush him!

Aye, aye!

Listen, my brothers, and you too,
my lords, in the line there.

This little one shall no longer
be called Little Toomai...

but Toomai of the Elephants,
as his grandfather was called before him.

Aye, aye!

The elephant folk
shall know their master...

for he has seen their dances
in their hidden places.

The gods of the jungle are with him.

Hi, hi, my lords in chains!

And you too,
Kala Nag, King of Elephants!

Give him honor, my lords.

My children, salaam!


To Toomai of the Elephants.

- Salaam!
- Salaam!

All together!
To Toomai of the Elephants!

Barra ho!

Barra ho!

Barra ho! Barra ho! Barra ho!

Barra ho! Barra ho! Barra ho!

Barra ho! Barra ho!