144 IVORY AND THE ELEPHANT
end, marvellous as it is in its. present form, is thought to have some foundation in fact, as the sura reciting it was composed by Mohammed not more than fifty-four years after the date of the supposed happening.*
curious fancy, often repeated by medieval writers, that the elephant's
legs were jointless, so that the animal could not lie down, is already
found in Caesar's Commentaries (of the elk) and also in Pliny (Hist.
Nat., viii, 39). It also appears in the Alexandrian Greek writing
called "Physiol-ogus," which in the form now extant belongs probably to
the third or fourth century of our era, although this is doubtless
based upon a much earlier original, from which Pliny (23-79 A. D.) and
possibly even Caesar (100-44 B. C.) may have derived their information.
An indication of the possible source of this tale is found by Dr.
Berthold Laufer in a Chinese work of the Sung period which gives a
story told by a seafaring man to Wu Shi-kao, a physician of the Τ'ang
period. Here we have to do, not with the elephant, but with the
rhinoceros, of which it is said that the front legs "were straight
without joints," and that the animal therefore slept "by leaning
against the trunk of a tree." Taking a perfidious advantage of this
interesting peculiarity, "the maritime people" when seeking to capture
a rhinoceros would set up on a mountain path structures of decayed
timber. When a rhinoceros, taking one of them for a tree trunk,
confidingly selected it as his upright bed, the rotten timber would
give way under his weight and he would topple in front without being
able for a long time to rise. "Then," we are told, "they attack and
kill it," and were thus able to obtain the much-prized horn.f
*See George Sale, "The Koran," Philadelphia, 1853, p. 499 (sura 105), and also J. M. Rodwell, "El Koran," London, 1876, p. 20.
Berthold Lauf er, "Arabic and Chinese Trade in Walrus and Narwhal
Ivory," Leyden, 1913, pp. 49-52; reprinted from the T'oung-Pao, Vol.