Posted on 2009-03-30. By anonymous.
Harper Paperbacks | 1998 | ISBN: 0060929510 | 352 pages | PDF | 1 MB
Modoc is the joint biography of a man and an elephant born in a small German circus town on the same day in 1896. Bram was the son of an elephant trainer, Modoc the daughter of his prize performer. The boy and animal grew up devoted to each other. When the Wunderzircus was sold to an American, with no provision to take along the human staff, Bram stowed away on the ship to prevent being separated from his beloved Modoc. A shipwreck off the Indian coast and a sojourn with a maharajah were only the beginning of the pair's incredible adventures. They battled bandits, armed revolutionaries, cruel animal trainers, and greedy circus owners in their quest to stay together. They triumphed against the odds and thrilled American circus audiences with Modoc's dazzling solo performances, only to be torn apart with brutal suddenness, seemingly never to meet again. Hollywood animal trainer Ralph Helfer rescued Modoc from ill-treatment and learned her astonishing story when Bram rediscovered her at Helfer's company. His emotional retelling of this true-life adventure epic will make pulses race and bring tears to readers' eyes. --Wendy Smith
From Kirkus Reviews
The simply astonishing, exhilarating story--complete with high adventure, betrayal, and resurrection--of Modoc, elephant extraordinaire, told by Helfer (The Beauty of the Beasts, 1990). They were born on the same day, a hundred years back, in a Black Forest village: Bram Gunterstein, son of a circus animal trainer, and Modoc, an Indian elephant headed for big-top life with the Wunderzircus, a provincial troupe. Their love for each other develops early, when Bram is just a toddler and Modoc a youthful one-ton package, and Bram's father on his deathbed councils Bram to watch after Modoc. That he does, and the tribulations and pleasures they share defy the imagination: The circus is sold out from under Bram to the sinister Mr. North; Bram stows away on the vessel transporting Modoc, leaving behind the girl of his dreams; discovered, Bram wins over the captain, but the ship sinks during a hurricane; Modoc and Bram float to the shores of India, where Bram learns further tools of the trade at the maharaja's elephantarium; there he lives in a teak-built compound, tends to Modoc, and is honored to have an audience with the sacred white elephant; he woos and wins a woman from the village but is warned that North is on his trail. He strikes out with Modoc to the teak plantations of Burma, is captured by rebels, loses his wife, confronts North, journeys to the US and fashions a spectacular show for Modoc, wins back his earlier love, only to have the elephant sold out from under him again. Helfer (an animal trainer by trade) happens across Modoc and buys him in the 1970s, then Bram appears yet again. The story is told with a heart-tugging warmth that, granted, at times slips into Disney mode, but that feels credible: There is, amazingly enough, a truthful tang to the picaresque proceedings. One glorious pachyderm and one cracking story.
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