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ⓘ Blind men and an elephant. The Blind men and an elephant is an idiom. The story of the blind men and an elephant comes from India. It is about a range of truths ..



Blind men and an elephant
                                     

ⓘ Blind men and an elephant

The Blind men and an elephant is an idiom.

The story of the blind men and an elephant comes from India. It is about a range of truths and mistakes. It is also about the need for communication and the need for respect for different perspectives.

The idiom shows the effects of observation and bias. Idioms are a common stumbling block for learners of a language.

                                     

1. Story

A group of blind men or men in the dark touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part. For example, one touches only the side and another touches only the tusk.

The blind men discover that they disagree when each describes what he has learned from touching the elephant.

                                     

2. Poem

A famous poem -- "The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John Godfrey Saxe 1816–1887.

The poem begins:

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant Though all of them were blind, That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind

They conclude that the elephant is like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they touch. None of blind mens description is correct for the whole elephant.

                                     

3. Other websites

  • Buddhist Version as found in Jainism and Buddhism. Udana hosted by the University of Princeton
  • Jainist Version hosted by Jainworld Archived 2009-01-23 at the Wayback Machine
  • All of Saxes Poems including original printing of The Blindman and the Elephant
  • John Godfrey Saxes version hosted at Rice University Archived 2005-11-07 at the Wayback Machine
  • Story of the Blind Men and the Elephant Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine from www.spiritual-education.org Archived 2006-08-31 at the Wayback Machine
  • Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumis version as translated by A.J. Arberry
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