I’ll never forget the first time I saw that grainy old photograph of Mighty Mary’s last moments. I’d seen plenty of photographs of humans in that position, but there was something infinitely more disturbing about seeing an elephant like that. Perhaps it was the effort that was gone to by the people of Erwin, Tennessee to see it through? Or just the fact that no animal should ever be there. It’s bad enough we did this kind of thing to people, but an elephant? I knew immediately this was a story that had to be told.
Delving into research I found very little credible evidence for the life story of Mary and decided more and more that my biography would be ninety per cent fiction. After all, Mary was not the only elephant to experience such a life as the circus. I kept thinking of seeing Tyke on the news as he ran amok in Honolulu, and the police chasing after him and shooting and shooting him until he was streaked in blood and his eyes were wild with terror and pain and they just coming until he keeled over in agony and died. And for what? Being a wild animal? Becoming sick of a life of servitude and spectacle? When I was little a circus pitched near my house, and I clearly remember going to see the elephants at night; there were three of them, all chained to one tree, and they’d just stand there and sway their heads from side to side. The memory is so vivid, I can still hear the slither of the chains and see the wet stains spreading across the skin beneath their eyes. Mary had to speak for Tyke as well, and these three, and all the elephants still suffering this cruel and bizarre treatment. There are no other creatures on earth that will capture, torture and break an animal for no other purpose but to make a spectacle of them. It has to change.
Mighty Mary might not change anything, but it’s something.
Up until the final chapter, Mary’s life is a composite of circus elephants through the ages. Just the way the entire life of a dying person centres in their eyes right before the end, my biggest hope is that the release of Mighty Mary marks the final years of circus animals. As a society we’ve grown beyond that sort of garbage. Ringling is no more. It’s time for the others to follow suit.
Max Davine was born in a suburb of Frankston, Victoria in 1989. He began writing dramatic pieces throughout highschool, and upon graduating set off to Los Angeles to learn the art of writing and pitching screenplays. Returning the same year, he went on to study acting with Peter Kalos at the Melbourne Actor’s Lab from 2010 to 2012, the year his first novel, “Terra Domina”, was published by ASJ Publishing. As well as novels, he has written for the stage and screen.