2 reviews

Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived
by Ralph Helfer

Published: 1998-08-26
Paperback : 325 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members

Spanning several decades and three continents, Modoc is one of the most amazing true animal stories ever told. Raised together in a small German circus town, a boy and an elephant formed a bond that would last their entire lives, and would be tested time and again; through a near-fatal ...

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Spanning several decades and three continents, Modoc is one of the most amazing true animal stories ever told. Raised together in a small German circus town, a boy and an elephant formed a bond that would last their entire lives, and would be tested time and again; through a near-fatal shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, an apprenticeship with the legendary Mahout elephant trainers in the Indian teak forests, and their eventual rise to circus stardom in 1940s New York City. Modoc is a captivating true story of loyalty, friendship, and high adventure, to be treasured by animal lovers everywhere.

Editorial Review

Modoc is the joint biography of a man and an elephant born in a small German circus town on the same day in 1896. Bram was the son of an elephant trainer, Modoc the daughter of his prize performer. The boy and animal grew up devoted to each other. When the Wunderzircus was sold to an American, with no provision to take along the human staff, Bram stowed away on the ship to prevent being separated from his beloved Modoc. A shipwreck off the Indian coast and a sojourn with a maharajah were only the beginning of the pair's incredible adventures. They battled bandits, armed revolutionaries, cruel animal trainers, and greedy circus owners in their quest to stay together. They triumphed against the odds and thrilled American circus audiences with Modoc's dazzling solo performances, only to be torn apart with brutal suddenness, seemingly never to meet again. Hollywood animal trainer Ralph Helfer rescued Modoc from ill-treatment and learned her astonishing story when Bram rediscovered her at Helfer's company. His emotional retelling of this true-life adventure epic will make pulses race and bring tears to readers' eyes. --Wendy Smith


Chapter Excerpt

On a gray, foggy morning they came, rising on the cold north winds from the icy peaks, sweeping across the timberland into the gray, misty valleys of the Black Forest . . . baby sounds! Somewhere below the fog layer, the insistent wails of a baby could be heard, their temerity as if from Mother Earth herself. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Do you think that Bram was meant to go to India?
How did you feel about North?
by abbeyonekanobe (see profile) 01/14/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Know that it is fiction.
by bcarroll (see profile) 06/14/16
The author is a well known animal trainer in Hollywood and has been in several movies with his animals, usually as a driver or something since some of the animals won't perform without him near.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by [email protected] (see profile) 02/11/18

One of my favorite books. Highly recommended!

  "Untrue Story of Modoc"by bcarroll (see profile) 06/14/16

Many of our book club members enjoyed reading this book but were so disappointed to find out it isn't true that they couldn't even rate it. They felt cheated. It is like an adventure story with a boy... (read more)

  "Moldoc"by actmccarthy (see profile) 12/03/15

Loved this story but as more and more disasters occurred we realized the story couldn't be true. That was disappointing but the story was inspirational and beautiful anyway

  "Modoc; the World's Greatest Elephant"by abbeyonekanobe (see profile) 01/14/12

I was entralled with this beautiful story. My love for animals told me to treat them with love but until I read this book I hadn't realized how intelligent and loving elephants could be. It is an absolutely... (read more)

  "Modoc Book Review"by whickidd (see profile) 02/21/11

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