Modoc’s story, commonly known as the story of the greatest elephant that ever lived, tells of the friendship and love that existed between one of the most intelligent animals walking the earth and the man who fought to keep him. Modoc (the elephant) and Bram (the son of the elephant trainer at the provincial circus, Wunderzirkus, in Germany) are born within the same hour on the same day, over 100 years ago. The baby weighs in at less than 5kg, and the baby elephant astronomically more. As each becomes a toddler, their unique understanding of one another develops, and their lifelong friendship solidifies. Bram’s father becomes fatally ill and some of his last counsel to his son is for him to take special care of Modoc.
For years, Bram trains Modoc as they travel the world together as part of the famous Wunderzirkus. Unfortunately, the circus is sold to an American buyer, who insists that Modoc is shipped back to America to continue her acclaimed career as a circus performer. Bran is crushed and is forced to choose between his best friend and confidante, and the woman with whom he has fallen in love. He is unable to allow Modoc to be shipped to America, at the mercy of a cruel circus owner. He boards the vessel in secret to pursue her. He is quickly discovered, but manages to form a close relationship with the conceding captain, who allows him to stay aboard. As they follow their course around the coast of India, a hurricane shipwrecks the vessel, leaving passengers and animals adrift in the Indian Ocean. Bram, the captain and a few others manage to cling onto Modoc’s buoyant expanse and she keeps them all afloat until help arrives. This single feat establishes her as a hero, even to this day.
Once safely on land, Bram and Modoc flee into the teak forest, where the locals live in compounds built completely from the woods of the forest. They continue to practice their famous acts and their isolation continues to reinforce their unique bond as man and beast. During these years, Bram meets and marries a local woman, while the American circus owner continues to hunt them down. Rebels attack their village and kill Bram’s wife. Through this rebellion, the circus owner tracks them down, and forces their moving to America to continue their famous performance. During this time, Modoc survives many abuses and dangers at the hands of the circus, and Bram continues to battle to preserve her health and safety. Finally, the circus owner sells Modoc without the knowledge of her faithful friend because of her scarred body as a result of the abuse.
For 20 years, Bram sacrifices time and money to find Modoc. Meanwhile, she is abused and neglected beyond his imagination. Eventually, an animal trainer from Hollywood discovers and buys the battered and bruised animal and gently nurses her back to health. As he begins to train her, he is puzzled by the number of acts she already knows. Eventually, Bram finds his beloved friend, guided only by motivation and a special connection that defies a logical explanation. Together, they care for one another through the final years of their lives, determined never to lose contact again. Bram is the first of the pair to pass away, and Modoc loyally stays with him until he is finally gone.
This true story was written into a novel by Ralph Helfer called Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived, and was published in 1998. For more info please Click Here