How the Elephant Got Its Trunk

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Sinead
Apr 18, 2024
 by Sinead on Drama Notebook

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6-30+ characters, flexible casting. Approximately 12 minutes long. An origin story about how the elephant got its trunk. Based on the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Elephant Child has an insatiable curiosity, but the elder animals grow tired of answering the young one’s questions. An imaginative origin story of the elephant’s trunk, this short play is inspired by one of The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. This is a perfect piece for exploring movement and ensemble work. It has been performed by adult professional actors for family audiences as well as teenage actors performing for elementary school audiences.

There are enough roles in this piece for everyone in your class, and we have four more plays in this series. Perform them one at a time or all together for an entire show-length presentation! Narrators can be “on book” to prompt other cast members.

Suggested Order for Show-Length Presentation:

How the Rhinoceros Got Its Wrinkly Skin
How the Kangaroo Got Its Jump
How the Camel Got Its Hump
How the Whale Got Its Throat
How the Elephant Got Its Trunk

You may also inspire your students to write their own origin stories with our popular Myths Drama Activity.

About the Playwright:

Greg Cummings is a member of Dramatists Guild. His plays are published by Concord Theatricals, Smith and Kraus, Brooklyn, Dominion, and Heuer, and have been produced at regional theatres, colleges, arts centers, high schools, and middle schools in all fifty states, Canada, and England.

Excerpt from the Play:

CHARACTERS:

ENSEMBLE 
(Flexible casting. Any number and gender of actors. They take on many different characters) 

ELDEST MAGICIAN
ANIMAL FAMILY: OSTRICH, GIRAFFE, HIPPO, BABOON
KOLOKOLO BIRD
FEVER TREES
CROCODILE

Cast size can be from 6-30+ by adding more ensemble members. The teacher could also take on a narrator role.

SETTING
The jungle and then the “great grey-green greasy Limpopo River.”

AT RISE: ENSEMBLE, as ELDEST MAGICIANS, enter, with great style, and stand upstage. This can be one actor or a group speaking in chorus, or the lines may be divided up.

MAGICIANS
Good evening, O my Best Beloved! We are The Eldest Magicians! MAGICIANS bow. Welcome to our production of, ”The Elephant’s Child, or How the Elephant Got Its Trunk”, from Rudyard Kipling! In the High and Far Off Times the Elephant, O My Best Beloved, had no trunk. No, no, no. She had only a short, squat bulgy nose that she could wriggle about from side to side. But she couldn’t pick up things with it. Or do much of anything at all with it. Look, here’s one now: a new elephant-an Elephant’s Child! Just look at that short squat, bulgy nose that can only wriggle about from side to side!

ELEPHANT’S CHILD emerges from MAGICIANS and stands downstage. Instead of a trunk, Elephant’s Child has an unfurled ribbon or an un-stretched Slinky, or anything to represent the “bulgy nose.”

CHILD
Hi, everybody! Doncha just love my bulgy nose?

MAGICIANS
Unfortunately, this Elephant’s Child was also full of “insatiable curiosity.” And that means that she was ever so curious! About everything! And that means she asked ever so many questions! Every day! Day in and day out! And soon her Animal Family grew weary of her ‘insatiable curiosity!

MAGICIANS transform into ANIMAL FAMILY, with sound and movement.

CHILD
Aunt Ostrich! Oh, Aunt Ostrich!

AUNT OSTRICH bedecked with feathers and the like, steps forward.

OSTRICH
Yes, Elephant’s Child? What is it now?

CHILD
Why do your ostrich feathers grow just so?

OSTRICH
Why do my ostrich feathers grow just so? You ask too many questions! Shush!

CHILD
Aunt Ostrich! You shushed me!

OSTRICH
I know! You ask too many questions!

OSTRICH re-joins ANIMAL FAMILY.

ANIMAL FAMILY
But the Elephant’s Child couldn’t help herself!

CHILD
Tall Uncle Giraffe? Oh, Tall Uncle Giraffe?

GIRAFFE, with a long neck and spotted skin, steps forward.

GIRAFFE
Yes, Elephant’s Child? What is it now?

CHILD
Why is your neck so long and spotty?

GIRAFFE
Why is my neck so long and spotty? You ask too many questions! Shush!

CHILD
Tall Uncle Giraffe! You shushed me, too?

GIRAFFE
Yes! You ask too many questions!

GIRAFFE re-joins ANIMAL FAMILY.

ANIMAL FAMILY
But Elephant’s Child couldn’t help herself!

CHILD
Broad Aunt Hippo? Oh, Broad Aunt Hippo?

HIPPO, with red eyes, steps forward.

HIPPO
Yes, Elephant’s Child?

CHILD
Why are your eyes so red?

HIPPO
Why are my eyes so red? You ask too many questions! Shush!

CHILD
Broad Aunt Hippo! Another shushing?

HIPPO
Elephant’s Child! You ask way too many questions!

HIPPO re-joins ANIMAL FAMILY.

ANIMAL FAMILY
But I guess you know what happened next!

CHILD
What can I say? I can’t help myself! I’m just the question-asking type! (Calling Uncle Baboon)
O Mighty Uncle Baboon?

BABOON, with furry paws, steps forward.

BABOON
Yes, Elephant’s Child?

CHILD
Why do melons taste just so?

BABOON
Why do melons taste just so? You ask too many questions! Shush!

CHILD
Wow! So many shushes today!

BABOON
We keep shushing you because you keep asking questions!

BABOON re-joins ANIMAL FAMILY.

CHILD
Hey! Animal Family! Animal Family!

ANIMAL FAMILY
Really?

CHILD
Just one more question!

ANIMAL FAMILY
You’re kidding!

CHILD
I’m not! Just one more question: What does the Crocodile have for dinner?

ANIMAL FAMILY
“What does the Crocodile have for dinner?!”

CHILD
Yes! I’d really like to know!

ANIMAL FAMILY
Really? You’d really like to know: “What does the Crocodile have for dinner?!”

CHILD
Yes, please!

ANIMAL FAMILY
The answer is (loudly) Shushhhhhhhhhh!

The power of this loud, long Shush blows ELEPHANT’S CHILD to a seated position.

CHILD
Wow! Such a loud shush!

ANIMAL FAMILY
Now, no more questions!

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