Fiela’s Child


Dalene Matthee

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Tusks Symbol Icon

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

The Fiela’s Child quotes below all refer to the symbol of Tusks. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Identity Theme Icon
Chapter 5 Quotes

‘When the bigfeet are on you, you can’t choose what you let go of and what you want to keep, woman!’

Related Characters: Elias (speaker), Barta
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

‘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.’

Related Characters: Benjamin (speaker), Nina (speaker), Elias
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Elias, Fiela, The Magistrate
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

‘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.’

Related Characters: Nina (speaker), Benjamin (speaker), Elias
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Nina, Elias
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tusks Symbol Timeline in Fiela’s Child

The timeline below shows where the symbol Tusks appears in Fiela’s Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Humanity vs. Nature Theme Icon
...he can use this information to kill an elephant without a gun and sell its tusks for money (full context)
Humanity vs. Nature Theme Icon
...about to get his sons to help him to avoid having to share his elephant tusks with any of the other families. He partially cuts the tree that the elephants use... (full context)
Chapter 16
Humanity vs. Nature Theme Icon the pit on one of them. He doesn’t want to have to share his tusks, so he doesn’t ask anyone for advice about building his pit. He figures elephants are... (full context)
Chapter 18
Race and Identity Theme Icon
Parenting Theme Icon the pit and finding a dead elephant calf in it, too young to have tusks. (full context)
Chapter 20
Humanity vs. Nature Theme Icon
Elias regrets that he killed an elephant calf, since it had no tusks and was therefore worthless to him. He’s jealous that so many people he knows own... (full context)