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292 of 322 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modoc: A fictional tale of true beauty
Let me start off by saying that I do love this book. It's a beautiful story that is well written and filled with emotion. Admittedly, this book had me in tears a few times. It is definitely aimed at tugging the heart strings.

What disappoints me about this book is that it claims to be a true story, when it is indeed mostly fiction. There are only tiny bits...
Published on February 16, 2007 by M. King

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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was enchanted...until I found out...it's probably not true
I fell hook, line and sinker for this book. I fell in love with the story, the elephant Modoc, the boy....even the author -- Ralph Helfer -- who becomes a character in his own book as the rescuer of "Modoc."

And as a true story -- I was spellbound. Why, this elephant had more character than most humans I know!

But that was when I thought it was a...
Published on March 6, 2008 by Gaia1muse


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292 of 322 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modoc: A fictional tale of true beauty, February 16, 2007
By 
M. King (Louisville, KY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
Let me start off by saying that I do love this book. It's a beautiful story that is well written and filled with emotion. Admittedly, this book had me in tears a few times. It is definitely aimed at tugging the heart strings.

What disappoints me about this book is that it claims to be a true story, when it is indeed mostly fiction. There are only tiny bits of fact in there, and those facts are mostly exaggerated. Things that started tipping me off:

1. The author describes most of the Indian elephants (aka Asian elephants) as having tusks. In reality, tusks on Asian elephants are pretty uncommon.

2. The author describes Modoc as having tusks, even to the end of the book soon before she died. Yet in the pictures in the book, the elephant shown has no tusks at all.

3. A circus owner on the hunt for *years* in a foreign country all for one elephant? I doubt that seriously.

4. No dates are given, and for being a work of "fact", I found it odd that no sources are ever listed except for very vague comments (i.e. saying that newspapers wrote articles, but never naming any specific paper)

5. Most information cannot be found except in reference to this particular book.

6. There is an act of a bull's mating with a cow (bull=male elephant, cow=female elephant) that seems way over the top and incredibly ferocious, quite unlike actual mating "rituals" among elephants.

After some extensive research, including research with the Circus Historical Society, I discovered that many elephants were named Modoc, the most famous being "Big Modoc" owned by the Ringling Bros Circus. In fact, Ringling Bros owned 3 elephants named Modoc, the youngest eventually being owned by Helfer, only years after being passed around from circus to circus. Helfer only owned this elephant for 3 years before she was passed onto another place, where she died at the age of 55, not 70 as the book claims. The elephant pics of one performing in the circus is that of Big Modoc, the elephant Helfer did *not* own. While a wonderful story, the bottom line was that Helfer made up most of what was going on. There is no elephant that went through the life that this fictional Modoc went through, there is no Bram Gunterstein...this is a story made up by a man who took an elephant he owned for three years and greatly exaggerated her life.

I also did take issue with the absolutely unnecessary writing style towards human sexuality. It was too graphic, and served no purpose except to throw in sex. The graphic details could have easily been left out without compromising the tenderness of the romantic relationships described in the story.

As I said, I do love this book. But I love it as a work of fiction, not as one of fact. I do not understand why Helfer would choose to make up a story and then call it true, because in my opinion, that greatly hurts his credibility. Unfortunately most people simply take him at his word without actually researching the truth behind the book. I believe the actual plot, writing style, and emotional depth make it a five star book. However, after my extensive research proved that Helfner fabricated almost all of this yet claimed it to be true, the credibility made me think "three star". Yet I couldn't justify rating such a lovely and romantic story so low, so I compromised and gave it four stars.

Please, do read and enjoy this book. But read it with the thoughts that the "greatest elephant whoever lived" merely lived in someone's imagination. It is a great love story that ultimately teaches that it's love, kindness, and affection that prove to be the best way to care for ANY animal. And even for a work of fiction, that is a lesson that is definitely applicable to real life.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modoc: True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived, January 22, 2001
By 
Sally B. Lambert (Rocky Gap, VA United States) - See all my reviews
My life will never be the same after having read this book! I find myself thinking of all the perils and hardships and suffering both the elephant and man went through. Ralph Helfer is to be praised for bringing this story to life. As an animal lover, I relate totally to the love and attachment of the boy/man and the elephant. I, too, believe that the "cross over"/heaven will include our beloved animals. I cried my eyes out when Modoc was saved after abuse and when she and Bram were reunited for the rest of their lives. Everyone should read this book - it is unbelievable, the best book I have ever read in 51 years!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it!!!!, August 28, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
I am an elephant person, and I am a voracious reader. While the writing is not terribly sophisticated, the story is beautiful. I bought this book on a whim and it is perhaps one of my favorites of all time. I could not put it down and cried at the end for two reasons - one of which being the book was finished. It lifted my spirits and made me feel the world is a better place. I have decided to believe the story as true. Whether or not it is, it is a triumph of the spirit - go Modoc!!!
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was enchanted...until I found out...it's probably not true, March 6, 2008
By 
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
I fell hook, line and sinker for this book. I fell in love with the story, the elephant Modoc, the boy....even the author -- Ralph Helfer -- who becomes a character in his own book as the rescuer of "Modoc."

And as a true story -- I was spellbound. Why, this elephant had more character than most humans I know!

But that was when I thought it was a true story. If I had thought Modoc was a fictional account I would have been less enchanted. It would be a nice tale, but not well written enough to warrant my enchantment.

In doing my own research after the reading I came up with several sites and people who doubt Helfer's veracity. Moreover, I could find only one (audio) interview in which Helfer talks about the book -- but it's not with an interviewer who had ever read it! So no questions were asked about how much truth there was in this literally "fabulous" tale.

I'm afraid I have to say -- after reading people's blogs and comments and noticing discrepancies myself now that I don't think the story is true. I think it's a collage of Modoc stories and pictures (it turns out there were three elephants named Modoc in U.S. circus history.)

Helfer even says in the beginning that he takes truth, hearsay and a dash of some of this and thatand then combines it all to make his story. He even says he stretches the truth -- but we want to believe it so much -- we take it all as gospel.

So my recommend is -- until Helfer has a serious interview about the facts in Modoc -- unlikely since he spends most of his time in Africa -- that you read this book as fiction -- in which case, I'm sad to say, it's okay. Not great. Okay.

And now I know why there was such a commotion about A Million Little Pieces -- James Frey's book. When it's true the reader's heartstrings are tugged in a different way. Really "true" life is still what amazes us most. It makes a difference.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and touching story, but with a few problems, September 26, 2004
By 
Anyechka (Rensselaer, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
This is a really incredible and moving story about how Bram Gunterstein and his elephant Modoc grew up together and shared all of their lives together except for the years when they were separated after the circus they were in sold all of the animals. I love animals, and it's nice to see a story about the bond between a human and an elephant; most human-animal stories feature dogs, cats, horses, ponies, and sometimes birds and small mammals like guinea pigs. It's also told in a very lively and page-turning way, which makes it a quick read. Some reviewers have suggested that there's no way Bram and Modoc could have had all of those adventures, like being shipwrecked, the mystical psychic encounter with the Raja's white elephant in the middle of the night, the war in Burma around the time of WWI, and all of their circus adventures, but many times truth is stranger than fiction, even if Mr. Helfer might have taken artistic license with some of the things he obviously wasn't there for.

My main problem with the story is that dates are only given maybe two or three times. We're not even told what year it is when the story begins. That makes it really hard to keep track of how old the two main characters are over the years and through their many adventures. And where are all of the important world events going on during this time, particularly WWI (which we only see a little of towards the end of their stay in Burma, when the liberation army comes to their village and terrorises everyone) and WWII? Don't they have any impact on the lives of these characters and the events they're taking part in? Also, a lot is made of Mr. North's "racial attitudes," but the only thing Jewish about Bram that I saw in the book is his last name. I know that's enough for some people, but it's like it was made into something much bigger than it really was, unless the true scope of Bram's religious identity was deeper and not mentioned in the book. The other issue I have is the one other people have pointed out, how the elephant pictures don't match. Modoc is described many times as having beautiful long tusks, but none of the elephants in the photo pages have any tusks.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Judging a book by the cover, April 27, 2003
By 
Robert M. Novak (Tustin, CA United States) - See all my reviews
I picked up the book because of the cover, a boy sitting with
an elephant with his arm around it.Little did I know I was about
to embark on a journey to Germany, England, and India. "MODOC", a story that spands seventy-eight years of a boy and his love for an elephant, who sacrifice family and friends to be together. Their true story of a rescue at sea, fighting off bandits in the forest, and a guerrilla war are only a few of their adventures. I could not put the book down till I was finshed..."MODOC" THE TRUE STORY OF THE GREATEST ELEPHANT THAT EVER LIVED. Would make a great movie...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful heartfelt story about an amazing animal., October 4, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
Modoc is an amazing story for people of all ages. It is a very easy story to read. I was able to finish it in one sitting but was unable to keep a dry eye throughout the book. If you can look past proper documentation, as this seems to be the book's greatest critisicm, you will truly enjoy a wonderful story. It will make you think differently about animals and their feelings.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing story of the bond between two species, March 12, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
i thought this was one of the best stories ever! it covered so much ground, even spiritually. Brams dedication to this animal was remarkable. this is a hartwrenching story, one that both shows the strong bond humans and animals are capable of and one that shows the injustices animals endure everyday. im glad modoc and Bram had eachother in their lives.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modoc, March 7, 2002
A Kid's Review
This book is one not to be overlooked. It is a tale of love, passion and trust. Modoc and Bram are the same age and are the best of friends. This is one of te best books I have EVER read. There is sadness, happieness, strenth, disapointment and a strong sense of willpower. READ THIS BOOK!!!
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heartwarming, breathtaking, and wonderfully written for all, July 31, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived (Paperback)
Modoc has to be the most amazing story ever told about one's love for the animal kingdom. I was astonished with the retold accounts throughout the text........always reading on to find out what happened next to Bram and his beloved Modoc. I can honestly say it is my favorite book of all time for it touched my heart and actually did bring tears to my eyes as I completed it aboard an airline. I've handed it down to my sister to be read to my 6-year-old nephew. He's intrigued with the story and loves hearing it aloud. It's a book for all ages indeed!
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Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived
Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer (Paperback - August 26, 1998)
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