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All right, internet. I believe I can get through the rest of the terrible elephant book tonight. Grab your beverages, and let’s do this thing.
You can catch up on previous installments of 1903’s most regrettable children’s book here!
Just...promise me, gang, if I am trampled by a yak on this trip, don’t let this series of tweets be my last contribution to the world. Make @KBSpangler finish writing my last manuscript or something. Please.
When last we left our pair of wandering asshole protagonists, they had trashed the Forbidden Palace in suits of armor that they had apparently stored under the couch. Then they stole a brick from the Great Wall and put it...probably under the couch.
Now they are going into “Tartary” and indeed, chapter eighteen is titled “Among the Savage Tartars” and because of how awful the author’s geography is, I honestly don’t know WHO they’re insulting, although I suspect Mongolians.
They ride the elephant into wherever the author thinks “Tartary” is, and into the mountains. They see the locals and immediately begin describing them to each other, out loud, as repulsive and bloated. This is even less charming than you’re thinking and the narrator dwells on it.
The locals throw spears at the elephant. Harold makes the elephant run into the mountains, in the direction that the locals came from, because...uh...look, over there! *smokebomb*
He is running the elephant into mountains with such narrow paths that the narrator keeps telling us that the elephant could fall and be dashed to bits at any moment, but Harold nevertheless keeps running until they get to the local village.
There they find a man tied to a stake with his eyelids cut off, and Harold decides he has had enough of these people and just flat out murders everybody. He crushes people with the trunk, then remembers he’s got an electrocute button.
Some heroes might have that moment of self-reflection about the ends and the means, but not Harold!

I guess the one positive is that he does not say “Now for some fun!”
You know, when I think of all the times, as a children’s book author, an editor has told me something might be too dark...
After Harold has crushed all the village’s buildings with the elephant, they head back down the mountain. The man with no eyelids dies of his wounds. Ione declares she is tired of China and its inhabitants, although she phrases it in the most offensive way possible.
I suspect China’s pretty well over these murder children with their elephant, too.
Chapter Twenty: Midnight in the Jungle.

They head into India! There are crocodiles and rhinos and parrots, which makes me wonder what happened to all those pet parrots they acquired in Japan.
Probably they’re under the couch. Anyway, they park in the middle of the jungle and Harold decides he will attract all the animals they want to see by turning on the searchlight.
So he turns on the lights and the lions and tigers and leopards all cone to see what’s going on. Then he hears an elephant and turns off the searchlight, and the big cats all turn on each other and “simply chewed each other up.”

I am not entire sure that’s how that works.
The elephants arrive! Harold pulls out a pint of elephant oil—it was with the parrots, okay?—and coats the elephant so it smells right. The bull elephant challenges the electric elephant to a fight.
Then “for fun” Harold fills the elephant’s trunk with giant firecrackers—THEY WERE UNDER THE COUCH OKAY—and shoots them at the bull elephant, then chases him, throwing firecrackers that “stung and burnt as they struck him.” We are told he and Ione have a good laugh.
Nothing like chasing an elephant with firecrackers to put the cap on a good day’s mass murder!
Chapter Twenty One: Ione Has Two Narrow Escapes from Death

Not nearly narrow enough, I’m sure we are all thinking...
They get out of the elephant and gather flowers. Ione nearly sits on a python. Harold spends the rest of the day topping up the elephant’s coolant or whatever, while Ione decorates the interior with flowers.
Ione falls asleep on the couch and Harold comes in, sees her, and thinks—I quote—“She looks too beautiful to be alive.”

Harold’s...uh...got some stuff going on, I think.
He goes to kiss her and horrors! Her lips are cold! She is limp and apparently lifeless! Harold begins to pray, telling god it would be too cruel to take her, she’s all he has (because a mechanical murder elephant is chopped liver, I guess) etc etc.
Suddenly he spots the flower she is holding, the Death Flower whose perfume means doom. He runs to the cabinet where he put the vial of immortality water that the old man dropped and there’s a drop left, so he gives it to her.
She wakes up and he rejoices.

If this was the X-Files, this would be the moment Ione became immortal. Please make a note of it, all you people writing Wonderful Electric Elephant fan-fic.
They get up the next morning and see a lion. Harold wants to shoot it and get the hide, but laments they have no way of curing it, despite the bit where they cured two bearhides a few chapters back because continuity is for losers.
Ione is like “No problem, just sprinkle the snow-melting powder on it and the hide will be cured, flexible, and the hair won’t fall out.”

I can only assume she knows this because she has been taxiderming the parrots.
He kills the lion and in mid-skinning, the lioness shows up and jumps Ione. Harold has nothing in his hands but the snow-melting powder, but he throws that in the lioness’s face. Ione faints again. Harold kills the lioness and they take the skin and get back in the elephant.
Chapter Twenty-Two: The Sacred Pink Elephant of Siam.

We are nearly done. God help us all.
For absolutely no reason, they decide to paint the elephant pink.
They have whitewash brushes and pink paint. This joins the large quantity of giant firecrackers, armory, two suits of armor, multiple sandalwood boxes, a raided village worth of curios, a lion skin, two bearskins, pet parrots, some kind of bronze pagoda, clothes, fans...
...immortality elixir, vases full of flowers, a chest of pearls, a brick, a wedding trousseau, all of it under the couch.
A rhino charges them! They drop their buckets and run for the elephant. The rhino charges the elephant. Harold electrocutes the rhino.
They are ambling through the jungle when a dude shows up on an elephant. Harold immediately knows this is the head hunter of the prince of Siam, come to capture the elephant. Harold decides to follow him, presumably to commit breaking and entering here, too.
The hunter is like “woohoo, free elephant!” which has been an oddly recurring theme of this book.

They reach the palace and the elephant is treated like royalty, bathed, given treats, and covered in jewels.
Chapter Twenty Three...sigh...”The Elephant Turns Buddhist.”

This book is killing my soul.
The elephant is presented to the Prince and Princess of Siam, who are described in the kind of terms that make your skin want to crawl off your body. The Prince is “exceedingly handsome in spite of his yellow skin.”
Ione thinks the Princess is just like their friend Cherry Blossom, but prettier because she does not have Japanese eyes. The eye-twitch I have developed would make it hazardous to drive.
They decide to ride on the elephant—they’re a couple, not siblings—and Harold runs off with them “for fun.” When he finally allows them to dismount, Harold makes the elephant talk, claiming to be the Prince’s great-great grandfather returned from the dead.
He tells them he has been reincarnated but to tell no one, but that they must take him to visit the king in Bangkok.

Let no one say this man is not committed to his sightseeing. And also a goddamn sociopath.
Oh, hmm, I’ve taught my iPad that “goddamn” is most likely followed by “sociopath.” Thanks, Harold!
They get to Bangkok to meet the king. The rest of the chapter is just pages and pages of descriptions of scenery.
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Prince And Princess Of Siam Are Kidnapped.

This chapter is self-explanatory. A terrible storm hits. Everyone is running around the palace, but Harold and Ione get out and hustle the Prince and Princess (they will never get names) into the pink elephant.
The Prince and Princess are getting a little worried about the weirdos in the elephant now, but Harold assures them he’ll take them home. (Oddly, they do not have the “About impersonating my grandfather...” talk.)
He shows them his sweet ride and they are terribly envious. They are very bored and want to have adventures. “Come with us!” says Harold. “For we are longing for the companionship of someone our own age.”
There’s plenty of room for another couple. Under the couch.
They immediately decide to abdicate so they can cruise around with Americans in a metal elephant. People at home worried about them? Nah.
Chapter Twenty-Five: A Runaway Elephant.

They’re having a picnic in the middle of nowhere and the elephant suddenly runs off. They chase it in a panic, when it falls in quicksand and slows down. They manage to wrangle it loose.
It turns out that if you keep the arsenal against the power mains, occasionally a dagger falls down and hits the run button.

They wash off the elephant and change the color back to gray, then walk up Mount Everest.

That’s the whole chapter.
Chapter Twenty-Six: The Wonderful Transformation.

On top of Everest, they unfurl the American and Siamese flags. Despite the narrator mentioning it’s hard to breathe, no one seems to have any difficulty.
“Oh, if only we had a balloon or a flying machine,” says Harold. Everyone rhapsodizes about what fun it would be to sail through the stars.

The Prince accidentally hits a button and a door opens and a book falls out, containing instructions on running the flying machine.
Ione hangs a lampshade on this display of authorial fiat—“Did you ever hear of such a state of affairs?”—and the books includes the old man talking about visiting the various planets.
If you hit the right button, the elephant grows a huge balloon, golden butterfly wings, and an eagle’s tail as a rudder.

If you can picture this, you’re doing better than I am.
“Do we do it?” says Harold. “Oh yes, let’s!” say the party, delighted to test an interstellar elephant for the first time while on top of Mt. Everest and certain death if anything fails.
Harold hits the button! They soar across the Himalayas, butterfly wings flapping. The Princess doesn’t want to go back to earth at all.

They vow to make a stock of condensed food and water—the old man left a recipe—and sail the cosmos together in their metal murderphant.
“And they all laid down in their palatial little bunks to dream, as they softly drifted about in cool invigorating air, of the joyous times that were in store for them.”

The End

This has been Frances Montgomery’s “The Wonderful Electric Elephant” from 1903 and if anything, I have made it sound less offensive than it was.

Yes, there is a sequel.
The sequel is “On A Lark To The Planets” from 1904.

Again, these are some of the earliest children’s science fiction, and I suspect that might explain a few things.
Imma go have some rum.
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