Something about the mouse’s plight, about the ease with which she shares her sorrow with him, unlatches something in the elephant. He begins to cry — big, silent tears. Then she begins to cry, by that exquisite natural bond of creaturely sympathy that binds us when we cease to feel separate and alone in our sorrow.
Slowly, “drained of his tears,” the elephant rises, large and light, and hoists the mouse onto his back, offering to give her a ride home. Gently, without unease or demand, she invites him to tell her his own story.
“I can try,” he exhales as they vanish together behind the horizon of aloneness.
The Shadow Elephant comes from my friends at the visionary Enchanted Lion Books, makers of uncommonly poetic and profound illustrated portals into the emotional universe — treasures like Cry, Heart, But Never Break, Big Wolf & Little Wolf, The Lion and the Bird, Bertolt, This Is a Poem That Heals Fish, and The Forest (also illustrated by Vidali).
Complement this particular treasure with The Heart and the Bottle — Oliver Jeffers’s tender illustrated fable of what we stand to lose when we deny our difficult emotions — then revisit a moving animated short film about depression and what it takes to recover the light of being.
Illustrations courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books; photographs by Maria Popova