Elephant tusks in the novel symbolize greed, and particularly how some people are willing to sacrifice both nature and their own personal relationships all for the sake of money. Elias is always looking for new schemes to make money, but he obsesses over one scheme in particular: he wants to kill an elephant and sell its tusks. Elephants are a powerful force of nature, so dangerous that locals refer to them as “bigfeet,” superstitiously fearing that simply saying the word “elephant” aloud might summon a deadly stampede. Elias believes he can overcome the more powerful elephants by setting traps, but he fails to get the tusks he wants and only ends up enraging the elephants, who seem to target him specifically.
Elias’s obsession with collecting an elephant tusk contrasts with Fiela’s own healthier relationship with nature. Whereas getting a tusk requires killing an elephant, Fiela makes a living selling aloe and ostrich feathers, which are both more sustainable resources than elephant tusks. Elias’s willingness to sacrifice elephants for profit—despite the fact that elephants show clear signs of intelligence throughout the novel—reflects his broader willingness to sacrifice even his own family for personal gain. Elias’s constant desire for tusks represents his insatiable greed and shows how this striving for wealth and his controlling nature lead him to destroy his relationship with nature and his family.
Tusks Quotes in Fiela’s Child
‘What are bigfeet?’
‘Don’t you know? The animals with the trunks, elephants,’ she whispered. ‘You’re not supposed to say the name out loud, they’ll hear you and think you’ve called them and come and trample you.’
A snare-pit. That was what he had to have, he sat thinking that Sunday. The sheer prospect of it brough a funny feeling to Elias’s stomach for if it worked once, it would work again if you were clever enough
‘Pa is a dirty swine.’ Just that.
‘Why do you say that?’
‘It was a trap. An elephant trap.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I went there. There’s a dead elephant calf lying in the pit.’
But she had thrown away her name: half a crown a week with food and clothing was all the people were prepared to pay. What could he do? Nothing. He had to accept it. But as soon as he could get to the village himself again, he would go and see if he could not get her price raised to three shillings.