World War II

This tag is associated with 2 posts

“Faithful Elephants”- How a children’s story taught me war is terrible

faithful-elephantsI vividly remember the day I first had read to me Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War by Yukio Tsuchiya. [There are SPOILERS for this short children’s book in this post.] I was around 5 years old. My family was looking at a garage sale and I saw the book, which looked interesting to me. We brought it home and my mom read it to me. I remember we were both crying by the end. I was inconsolable for a while. “Why did the elephants have to die?” I remember asking.

The story of Faithful Elephants is a story about three elephants at a zoo in Japan during World War II. It was the late part of the war and Japan was being bombed. The army was worried the zoo would be hit and animals would escape and harm people. Thus, they poisoned the tigers, bears, and other dangerous animals. The elephants were considered in this category because they might stomp down houses and the like. But the elephants were too smart to poison through food; they just set the poisoned food aside and ate the good food. They couldn’t find a syringe strong enough to penetrate the elephants’ skin to inject the poison, so the elephants were to be starved.

They continued to starve, but the zookeepers had to keep passing by, knowing their beloved elephants needed them. Eventually, one elephant handler gave in and gave the elephants food, but the war kept going on and although no one found out, they couldn’t get food to the elephants again. The elephants died one day, their trunks sticking out of their cage because they were doing the trick that would always get them treats and food. The elephant handler and others hugged and cried over the bodies and the handler shook his fists at the sky while bombs fell, crying out against war.

There remains a monument for the elephants at the zoo to this day, and the story is read over the radio annually. I’ll admit it, I’m positive I couldn’t read this book aloud without crying, and I can’t get through it on my own without crying either. It’s an extremely sad story.

But my memory of the day involves more than just wondering why the elephants couldn’t have been spared. I also remember it as the first time I genuinely thought war is terrible. You see, before, war had always been something kind of cool. War was the realm of John Wayne movies: glory, some humor, and the good guys always win. But the Japanese in World War II were supposed to be the “bad guys”; suddenly I felt empathy for them. I realized that war had horrific side effects which were often unpredictable. It involved the innocent; not just animals but also people. I remember crying the whole day, pretty much without end. I just kept thinking: if that happened to elephants, what about the children? It’s not that I assumed the children starved to death, but I had realized that if something as bad as starving elephants had to happen, there were also probably way worse things. War wasn’t always a John Wayne flick.

The book taught me that war is terrible. I think that it is a lesson worth learning. It is easy to get caught up in the on screen glory of the good triumphing over bad. It is not easy to confront the actual horrors of war. From a Christian perspective, it seems quite clear we should work against these horrors wherever they might be found. We should work to keep peace; we should help those in need; where war is found, we should work towards a peaceful resolution. I’m not saying Christians must be pacifists. What I am saying is that we need to defend the defenseless and work towards peace.

The book is recommended for grades 3-8. I think that is probably a good age category, but parents should be aware it will be an extremely emotional work. I’d recommend reading it before sharing with children.

Recently, I found the book again while going through the attic at my parents’ house. Reading it still made me cry.

Appendix: An Alternate Reality?

There is some dispute over the historicity of the story. A little searching turned up this critical investigation into the story. Interestingly, it appears to be true that the elephants were starved, but the author of this historical report argues that the elephants could have been shot or poisoned and the starvation was cruel. He thus sees the story of the starving of the elephants (and a few other animals) as “Until it is understood that the story of Ueno Zoo’s slaughtered animals illuminates less the nature of war, but rather some human beings’ moral failure, this will remain an instance of not coming to terms with the past.” However, Tsuchiya provided a reason for starvation to be the preferred method: the possibility that the war would end and the animals could be saved. It seems to me this is not implausible.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Yukio Tsuchiya, Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War illustrated by Ted Lewin, translated by Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes (Trumpet, no date).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Railway Man”: Forgiveness is more powerful than hate

The-Railway-Man-2013-movie-posterForgiveness is Stronger than Hate

“Railway Man” is a film based on a true story about WW2 prisoners of war held and tortured by the Japanese. There are SPOILERS in what follows.

Colin Firth plays Eric Lomaz, one of the prisoners. He struggles with PTSD and his wife tries to help him through it. Ultimately, he finds that Takashi Nagase, one of the Japanese soldiers who tortured him, is still alive. He goes back to confront Nagase with malignant intent, but cannot bring himself to kill him. Instead, he goes back to the United Kingdom after the confrontation. Nagase writes to Lomaz in apology and of how he is working towards reconciliation. In the final scene, Lomaz returns with his wife to speak to Nagase, thank him for his work on reconciliation, and offer forgiveness.

The way this film plays out therefore offers a powerful apologetic for the Christian worldview, which values forgiveness very highly. Nagase turned to Buddhism to try to make penance for his sins and work towards reconciliation, but only in the act of forgiveness is any comfort found. True reconciliation is found in the act of forgiveness and the realization that only by acknowledging the incapacity of humanity to work off their sins might one come to the free gift of grace. Nagase is redeemed, but he is redeemed through the free, unmerited forgiveness offered by Lomaz.

Here we have a powerful message which, though never explicit, speaks of the Christian worldview and power of forgiveness.

Conclusion

I was greatly moved by this film. Christians can reflect much on the power of forgiveness and the need for reconciliation from the film. There are a number of themes running throughout “The Railway Man” which have not been discussed here, so feel free to bring more up in the comments. It is a film with great power, and I recommend you watch it.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

The image used in this post was a movie poster and used under fair use. I make no claims to the rights for the image.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,566 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason