Do you ever get nostalgic thinking about Disney movies and Saturday morning cartoons you used to watch as a kid? Yeah, we do too.
One classic scene in cartoons is when the domestic housewife sees a mouse on the floor and jumps on the nearest chair, screaming and clutching at her skirt. Cartoon elephants seem to react the same way—jumping back in fear and cowering away.
Notably, this happened with Dumbo the elephant in the 1941 animation film ‘Dumbo,’ which was created and produced by Walt Disney Productions, and again with Sidney: the blue cartoon elephant was first introduced in the 1950’s by Terry Toons, which was an animation company that frequently produced animated serials between the years of 1930-1971.
Question: Are these scenes only meant to add humorous effect to the storyline, or are they actually based on truth?
The beauty of cartoons is that they can get away with creating a world that’s completely separate from reality. Physics? Doesn’t exist. Animals talking? Why not!
Because cartoons regularly defy the laws of the real world, we begin to wonder what other facets of the cartoon world are based on falsehoods.
One topic that has been up for debate is whether or not elephants are actually afraid of mice.
Elephants being afraid of mice isn’t only a familiar concept in the modern world. This belief became popular in 77 A.D., after a Roman author named Pliny the Elder wrote the first story of elephants fearing mice in his book Naturalis Historia.
“Of all other living creatures, they cannot abide a mouse or a rat, and if they perceive that their provander lying in the manger, tast and sent never so little of them, they refuse it and will not touch it.” -Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia VIII.
Stories have also been traced back to ancient Greek mythology. Ancient Greek myths furthered the idea of elephants being afraid of mice, by suggesting that the elephant is afraid that the mouse may crawl into their trunk, obstructing their airway.
Another reason elephants may appear to be afraid of mice is that they get extremely anxious when small creatures move fast around them. So, fear may have nothing to do with elephants not liking mice and that it may just be the fact that elephants don’t like surprises.
Mythbusters, an American television show that attempts to expose if a myth is true or not, wanted to test the elephant versus mouse theory and conducted a test to put the myth to rest.
A mouse was placed in elephant territory beside a ball of elephant dung, hidden from the elephant. When the ball was removed, revealing the mouse, the elephant stopped what it was doing and avoided the area where the mouse was.
Although it was only one test, Mythbusters believed that the elephant versus mouse theory was credible enough.
To wrap it up: although there is some element of belief that elephants are afraid of mice, no one is completely positive that this is true.
Regardless of whether the myth is true or not, elephants and mice make for a good story and will always remain a classic pair in cartoons old and new.