The incident was related to the time when Orwell was a sub-divisional police officer in Moulmein in lower Burma. One day he had an information from a sub-ordinate native police officer about the rampage done by an elephant. That elephant was ravaging the local market and had killed one Indian coolie, too He sought the author’s immediate assistance for the safety of the local people and property.
Orwell decided to respond to the call promptly. He set off at once on a pony. He took his own rifle that was an old 44 Winchester, not at all suitable for shooting any elephant. But he thought that it might be useful to scare the animal. On his way, the author gathered information about the elephant. It was no wild elephant, but a tame one, suddenly gone mad. He also learned in details the ravages done by it. A bamboo hut was demolished, a cow was killed and a man (an Indian coolie) trampled under feet. What was more, it had raided some fruit stall and devoured the entire store and turned over a municipal rubbish van. The local Burmese, who had no weapon, were quite helpless. and completely unnerved.
The author reached the appointed place where the Burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables had been waiting for him. It was a slum area, thickly populated. There were numerous huts, made of bamboos and thatched with palm leaves. The weather was sultry and cloudy and the rainfall seemed imminent. The author came across a good many local people who could hardly give any definite information about the elephant. They were terribly afraid and gave exaggerated accounts which were of no use to him. Suddenly loud cries from the elephant at a distance were heard. The author rushed forward. He saw the dead body of the coolie and came to the decision to shoot the elephant. So he sent a messenger to a friend to bring from him an appropriate rifle for killing the elephant.
From the available information, Mr Orwell proceeded further to the site where the elephant had been last seen. Followed by a big Burmese crowd he reached the spot and found the elephant quietly grazing in a big paddy field. It did not appear to be wild at all. The author thought that it would not be proper to kill the animal that looked quite normal. He, therefore, decided to wait for some time and watched its behaviour. In case, it did no further damage, he would return and do not harm to it.
But the vast local people behind him were restless. They had the much cherished expectation that the Saheb would do a heroic job by killing the elephant that had been so dangerous to them. Moreover, they were eager to have the flesh of the elephant as their much-desired food. So they were all noisy and eager for the shooting of the elephant by the author.
The author who had got the required rifle in the meantime. was in a fix. He did not want to kill that innocent creature that was of great value to its owner. At the same time, he could not ignore the pressure of the crowd behind him. Moreover, his prestige, as an Englishman, was at a stake. If he did not shoot the animal, the Burmese would laugh at him and look down upon the English men as ‘cowards’. That he could not at all tolerate. Yet, the author consulted some aged local people. But no one gave him any firm advice, and none of them could give any clear indication about the future behaviour of the apparently tame animal.
So the author had to take a desperate decision to shoot the elephant. He became ready for the act of shooting. He took a position and aimed at the big creature He shot, one after another, three bullets from his rifle. The elephant was struck, but it did not fall down immediately. There was a severe jolt in its whole body and it raised its front legs high as if to stand erect. Then it collapsed after trumpeting very loudly.
The native crowd behind Mr Orwell shouted with wild glee. They rushed madly forward through the muddy land. The elephant could no more rise to hit back. But it was not yet dead. The author found it breathing long and loudly. It continued to gasp, as he stood before it and awaited its death. Finally, the author decided to end its agony. He fired two more shots at it. Yet, the big animal continued to survive in a dreadful, agonised state. The author then took his own rifle and fired several shots to stop its breathing. That was how the elephant was shot dead.