Trunk Line

An elephant never forgets … and holds a grudge, apparently:

An 84-year-old man was killed in Lizy-sur-Ourcq near Paris when an elephant belonging to a local circus escaped from its pen and hit him with its trunk, police said. The elephant grabbed a tarpaulin and placed it over the electric fence surrounding its pen, before breaking through barriers and trailers that formed a second enclosure.  The elephant then moved toward the elderly man and struck him with its trunk, slamming him to the ground. The unidentified man was taken to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries overnight Sunday.


En francais:

Un retraité de 84 ans participe à un concours de pétanque sur la place de la république, à Lizy-sur-Ourcq. ‘Tanya’ a jeté une bâche sur les fils électriques avant de s’échapper. C’est là qu’elle s’est dirigée vers les boulistes. L’animal a alors asséné un coup de trompe à la victime. Souffrant d’un traumatisme thoracique et d’une fracture à la jambe et malgré le fait que le retraité ait été héliporté rapidement vers l’hôpital du Kremlin-Bicêtre (Val-de-Marne), il est décédé pendant la nuit.

At its most prosaic, this could be a cautionary tale about disturbing an elephant’s slumber with the low-frequency clank and clatter of pétanque. But it also seems as though there could be a backstory worthy of Georges Perec hidden somewhere here.  But we’ll probably never know.  Three key questions come to mind: how old was the elephant?  And had she originally roamed free in the forests of what used to be French Indochina? Had victim and pepetrator met previously?


But this story has even stranger dimensions, ones that take the form of ‘unusual coincidences’. Lizy-sur-Ourcq isn’t just some sleepy rural commune on the fringes of Paris:  it’s the final resting place of France’s pioneering circus dynasty.

La cimetière de Lizy-sur-Ourcq regroupant de nombreuses tombes des gens du cirque, dont une grande nécropole rom, celle de Bouglione. … Les Bouglione, roms Sintis de la branche pakistanaise, sont montreurs d’ours au XVIIIe siècle en Italie.”

At the turn of the 20th Century, after generations of the Bouglione clan had plied their trade throughout Europe as itinerant exhibitors of trained bears, an enterprising scion of the family spotted posters for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in a French railway car.  He decided to adopt (copy) the concept, and France’s first circus was born.  The rest is histoire.


So: a cluster of gypsy circus spirits haunting the environs of Lizy-sur-Ourcq. Steer clear. Arouse them at your peril.


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