The Elephant From Baghdad

The Elephant From Baghdad


A monk, Notker the Stammerer, tells the story of Charlemagne and his elephant Abu who had come all the way from Baghdad.  How in the world did Charlemagne come to be in the possession of an elephant from the Middle East?  Charlemagne, who ruled most of Europe, had heard of Harun al-Rashid, who was caliph of Baghdad.  He sent ambassadors to visit the caliph in Baghdad to learn about the Middle East and come back and report.  Harun also wanted to know all about Charlemagne.  In the end, Harun wanted to send the ambassadors back with gifts.  The most stupendous gift was the elephant Abu.  The elephant began to be seen in tapestries and coins, and Abu lived with Charlemagne until his death in 810.

A note from the author tells us while Notker the Stammerer was truly the historian for the abbey of St. Gall in the Swiss Alps, they have imagined that Notker was the historian telling this story.  The other source of information was by a historian named Einhard who was a courtier and secretary to Charlemagne. 

The illustrations are in watercolor and ink, but there are photographs of antiques such as a silk cloth interspersed throughout the book.  I did not know this story, and found it to be a gem.


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