The circus trained the new baby elephant. They acquainted it with their old friend: they attached a gleaming, strong metal chain stakes to the ground around the tiny leg of the baby.

“Please,” he asked, “let me play in the grass. Let me blow water into the air.”

“No,” sang the chains as they rattled against each other “You will not play today. I am your master. I say when you come and go. I say when you feel happy or sad. I say when you blow water in the air.”

The baby elephant longed to run about in the sweet smelling hay—he wanted to be free of the master. The tiny being grew hungry, “please,” he implored “just let me free for a bit of food and a sip to drink.” “No.” rang the chains. After a long while, food was dropped within the reach of the tiny creature, and he ate with one eye glued to the shiny chain.

With each passing day, the elephant fought less and less against the iron grip of the master. He simply glanced at it warily from time to time, noting that the bright, slate colored metal remained impartial to his desires. The circus saw that the master was doing his work, and they replaced the huge, glimmering chain with a smaller, thinner chain.

More time passed. The tiny elephant grew large as 2 years passed in a whir of being forced to learn a myriad of different circus tricks. The elephant thought of the grass at times, and of spraying water into the wind—but these thoughts passed quickly when he remembered the master. His muscles no longer tensed against the sharp edge of the metal; he stopped trying to be free.

The elephant matured into adulthood. “I will never play in the grass. I will never be free.” The circus saw the master had done his work. One night, they replaced the small chain with a brown rope.

The elephant’s 50th birthday arrived. The circus celebrated and the elephant’s colossal body trudged into the main arena. He was led in by a thin, white string.