The elephant and the rope

By Paulo Coelho

This is the procedure adopted by circus trainers to ensure that elephants never rebel – and I suspect that it is also what happens with a lot of people.

When still a baby, the elephant is tethered by a very thick rope to a stake firmly hammered into the ground. The elephant tries several times to get free, but it lacks the strength to do so.

After a year, the stake and the rope are still strong enough to keep a small elephant tethered, although it continues to try, unsuccessfully, to get free. At this point, the animal realises that the rope will always be too strong and so it gives up.

When it reaches adulthood, the elephant can still remember how, for a long time, it had wasted its energies trying to escape captivity. At this stage, the trainer can tether the elephant with a slender thread tied to a broom handle, and the elephant will make no attempt to escape to freedom.

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  1. eleonora says:

    quanto leggo lo trovo talmente veritiero,anche noi da piccoli volutamente o involontariamente abbiamo ricevuto dei blocchi.Con il tempo ho imparato,che genitori si diventa,purtroppo per i nostri figli a volte trasmettiamo loro tutto quel bagaglio,o quella trappola che e’ la nostra mente ,(dalla quale non siamo riusciti ad uscirne)con concetti o atteggiamenti assurdi.Io in base alla mia di esperienza, ho compreso,che perdonando o rimuovendo quanto mi tratteneva dal proseguire il mio cammino,mi avrebbe permesso di confrontarmi e di cercare di fare meno danni possibili.Non so se sono riuscita in questo,quanto meno ho tentato.ciao

  2. Alexandre says:

    Very interesting this procedure which, in fact, describes how the brain works to form habits. Once an habit is formed and recorded in the subconscious mind, it becomes a second nature or “your truth”. Like this, we are, all of us, prisoners of our habits, or invisible ropes.

    The good news is that ropes can be removed. Find the ass story and the same invisible rope and read it. Then, apply the lesson you’d learned to remove your personal ropes.

    I invite you to read my blog also at: Cheers!

  3. […] which I believe was written originally by novelist Paulo Coelho, as I found a version of it on his blog: When still a baby, the elephant is tethered by a very thick rope to a stake firmly hammered into […]

  4. Marie-Christine says:

    and that is the reason why elephants have such good memory….:)

  5. Miriam, Barcelona 20 euros says:

    Sometimes we are in troubles (and more times the solution it’s really easy) or we have to do something different and new, and we think “I can’t do it” “I can’t go out of this trouble”… these words are for me the invisible rope. I think that the 90% of times we can do it, we only have to find our positivity force.

    (Excuse my english, I’m spanish and I don’t use more the english language).



  6. Jay says:

    RE; thought of the day,
    I always assumed that Love was a man’s personal legend….or at least a great part of it.
    What this means personally to you Paulo, shall it ever be a Mystery?
    Thanks, big smile, xx
    Love U

  7. Margie says:

    This rings so true to me.

    As a person who was brought up in a traditional eastern family, I am often held down by an invisible rope, namely norms and traditions.

    Not that I think they’re bad, but sometimes I feel like they clipped my wings so that I would stay on the ground forever, and not be able to fly and be free.

    But your words – your books – have inspired me so much that I decided to never give up. Whenever I feel down,I would look up for the words to lift me up again. And I thank you for that. =)

    May you keep on inspiring me – and many other people – forever.

    -from Indonesia-

  8. marina says:

    I agree with fLUXman, the invisible rope is everywhere. As an advocate against domestic violence and child abuse I’ve seen how easily a spirit can be broke down by the invisible hope. All of us have the moral duty to stop the hand which is holding the invisible rope around the body and soul of the unprotected and lonely – the ones who can not do for themselves anymore.

  9. Olá Paulo! Atma Namaste! :)

    That’s why, in every single day of my life, I keep repeating to myself: Marta, don’t give up, never never never give up!!! Keep on trying, forever trying, if it’s necessary! And one day, as soon as you can imagine, what you want, will be a reality, just because you’re building that, step by step, day by day!!!

    I know how much we need freedom and how much it’s important! Thank you very much for this message, Paulo! I knew that history before but it’s ALWAYS important to refresh our minds about that.

    Thank YOU! Be Blessed You, Paulo!
    Beijo in your heart!

    Marta :)

  10. Amir says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, Paulo.
    Sometimes the only limitation we have is our own mind.
    Amazingly, a couple of weeks ago, I shared the same story with my friends and readers on my blog :)

  11. fLUXman says:

    the invisible rope,
    this rope is every where,
    governments use it everywhere,
    now with the net and TV all the ropes can be easily felt by all ,
    did you know that drinking water in most countries has more than 64 additives,primary rope. Our useless education system which leads to mass production and kills creativity, another big rope. monetry system of control,this rope makes us believe that we are forever poor.
    bo0om paulo

  12. Leaf says:

    Lovely story Izz,
    and has anyone noticed that the same approach does not work with cats, rabbits, etc? – Just a thought, xx

  13. Izz says:

    This is a very important story and it bears so much reality. I know so first hand because at the current moment I’m battling such a non-existent rope. A lynch put on me by both those close to me and my educational system which taught me the limits of imagination vs turn-to-reality.

    Since some time last month, such a battle has become a lot more deeper – almost to qualify as a spiritual battle – and things, luckily, are starting to fall in to perspective. And I say saw because due to the tireless fight I put up against releasing myself from the fictional hold of this rope, I managed to create a fable that I am now busy writing in to a book. A debut book.

    And like you said somewhere on your blog in your prayer written in the late 80s, doubt is a vehicle that transports us to lands unknown, to the abilities we knew we had and could amaze us but always feared to try them out in case we failed.

    Thank you for such messages Paulo. And do look forward to my debut epic novel masterpiece: The Half Prince of Timbuktu: A Quest for True Joy.

    PS: Ironically enough, the book’s most important parts are being inspired by observations I make of my youngest daughter, 3 months old Nalika.