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 Post subject: The Gunga Diner Elephant
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 1:32 am 
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While rewatching the movie, I got back to thinking about the Gunga Diner elephant blimp. Obviously, the giant floating pachyderm is one of Watchmen's most iconic images and no adaptation of the novel would have been complete without it.

What I can't figure out is why.

In all the time I've been running this forum, I can't remember the elephant blimp ever being properly addressed. I've got absolutely no idea what symbolic importance the elephant has, but I'm interested to hear your interpretations of it.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:01 am 
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The elephant is an ancient symbol of sovereign power is India, China and Africa and by this association linked with dignity, intelligence, prudence and peace...Ancient Rome associated the elephant with victory...Medieval Europe...made it into a symbol of chastity, fidelity and love... ~ The Complete Encyclopedia of Sign and Symbols


And the elephant is purple which is considered the color of royalty...

I think it might be a symbolic interpretation of Ozymandias hovering over the city, watching over it and waiting for the right moment to usher in his Utopia...

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:51 am 
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I don't know. I always liked it, however, and made a small reference to the blimp in a poem I wrote at the Walt Whitman Birthplace museum thing.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:58 am 
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Lady_Rorschach wrote:
I think it might be a symbolic interpretation of Ozymandias hovering over the city, watching over it and waiting for the right moment to usher in his Utopia...

Okay. Then where does the Gunga Diner fit in?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:14 am 
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GUNGA DIN
By
Rudyard Kipling

You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.
Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din. He was "Din! Din! Din!
You limpin' lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din! Hi! slippery ~hitherao~! Water, get it! ~Panee lao~! [Bring water swiftly.]
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din."

The uniform 'e wore
Was nothin' much before,
An' rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind,
For a piece o' twisty rag
An' a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment 'e could find.
When the sweatin' troop-train lay
In a sidin' through the day,
Where the 'eat would make your bloomin' eyebrows crawl,
We shouted "Harry By!" [Mr. Atkins's equivalent for "O brother."]
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e couldn't serve us all. It was "Din! Din! Din!
You 'eathen, where the mischief 'ave you been? You put some ~juldee~ in it [Be quick.] Or I'll ~marrow~ you this minute [Hit you.]
If you don't fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!"

'E would dot an' carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An' 'e didn't seem to know the use o' fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin' nut,
'E'd be waitin' fifty paces right flank rear.
With 'is ~mussick~ on 'is back, [Water-skin.]
'E would skip with our attack,
An' watch us till the bugles made "Retire",
An' for all 'is dirty 'ide
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire! It was "Din! Din! Din!"
With the bullets kickin' dust-spots on the green. When the cartridges ran out, You could hear the front-files shout,
"Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!"

I shan't forgit the night
When I dropped be'ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should 'a' been.
I was chokin' mad with thirst,
An' the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.
'E lifted up my 'ead,
An' he plugged me where I bled,
An' 'e guv me 'arf-a-pint o' water-green:
It was crawlin' and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din. It was "Din! Din! Din!
'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through 'is spleen; 'E's chawin' up the ground, An' 'e's kickin' all around:
For Gawd's sake git the water, Gunga Din!"

'E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An' a bullet come an' drilled the beggar clean.
'E put me safe inside,
An' just before 'e died,
"I 'ope you liked your drink", sez Gunga Din.
So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone --
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din! Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din! Though I've belted you and flayed you, By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:44 am 
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Lady_Rorschach wrote:
Quote:
The elephant is an ancient symbol of sovereign power is India, China and Africa and by this association linked with dignity, intelligence, prudence and peace...Ancient Rome associated the elephant with victory...Medieval Europe...made it into a symbol of chastity, fidelity and love... ~ The Complete Encyclopedia of Sign and Symbols


And the elephant is purple which is considered the color of royalty...

I think it might be a symbolic interpretation of Ozymandias hovering over the city, watching over it and waiting for the right moment to usher in his Utopia...


*nods*

Also, elephants were a part of some of Alexander's battle strategies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_elephant. The imagery of them floating by while Adrian holds court in his office just makes sense...


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:48 am 
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Gunga Din was made into a movie. I believe an elephant plays a part in one particular scene (I had to look it up).

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:47 am 
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Janx wrote:
*nods*

Also, elephants were a part of some of Alexander's battle strategies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_elephant. The imagery of them floating by while Adrian holds court in his office just makes sense...

But again, if the elephant is supposed to be symbolic of Veidt, why does the elephant advertise for Gunga Diner instead of Pyramid Industries or something?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 12:00 pm 
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Curiosity Inc. wrote:
Janx wrote:
*nods*

Also, elephants were a part of some of Alexander's battle strategies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_elephant. The imagery of them floating by while Adrian holds court in his office just makes sense...

But again, if the elephant is supposed to be symbolic of Veidt, why does the elephant advertise for Gunga Diner instead of Pyramid Industries or something?


The elephant isn't supposed to be symbolic of Veidt, that's just Lady_Rorschach's interpretation.

Gunga Diner is a play on Gunga Din. Gunga Din was made into a movie in 1939. There is a scene where an elephant is used to help spring someone from a prison. So the elephant logo probably is just a visual reference.

Also, it could just be a reference to the Indian Elephant. The Gunga Diner is an Indian restaurant.

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Last edited by t3cii on Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:53 pm 
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Curiosity Inc. wrote:
Janx wrote:
*nods*

Also, elephants were a part of some of Alexander's battle strategies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_elephant. The imagery of them floating by while Adrian holds court in his office just makes sense...

But again, if the elephant is supposed to be symbolic of Veidt, why does the elephant advertise for Gunga Diner instead of Pyramid Industries or something?


Well...not to sound like an idiot, but...I don't know. That's puzzled me for a while. They seem to me to be connected visually to Adrian while not being connected to him business-wise -- one of the few pies he doesn't have his fingers in, as far as I can tell. And that feels significant, too, but I don't know why.

(Hey, it took forever for it to dawn on me that Rorschach couldn't be at Blake's funeral in vigilante garb because the police would have hauled him off to jail. Mine is not a dizzying intellect, apparently... :? )



EDITED TO ADD: Errr...or maybe I'm totally conflating the movie with the GN. *sigh* Went back through the GN to look for pics, but nothing that really looks like what I meant. Don't mind me. :oops:

And...acknowledging t3cii's absolutely correct post about the Gunga Diner being a reference to "Gunga Din".


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:06 pm 
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Janx wrote:
EDITED TO ADD: Errr...or maybe I'm totally conflating the movie with the GN. *sigh* Went back through the GN to look for pics, but nothing that really looks like what I meant. Don't mind me.


Have you ever seen Children of Men? There's a scene in the movie that sounds like what you are talking about:Image


Although in this case it's a pig instead of an elephant, but it reminded me a lot about it.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:38 pm 
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Janx wrote:
Well...not to sound like an idiot, but...I don't know.

Hey, it's no problem. If the answer were obvious, I wouldn't have started a thread about it.

I'm perfectly aware of the "Gunga Din" reference, but I still don't understand how the poem, an elephant and Watchmen are tied together.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:38 pm 
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Curiosity Inc. wrote:
Janx wrote:
*nods*

Also, elephants were a part of some of Alexander's battle strategies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_elephant. The imagery of them floating by while Adrian holds court in his office just makes sense...

But again, if the elephant is supposed to be symbolic of Veidt, why does the elephant advertise for Gunga Diner instead of Pyramid Industries or something?


Weren't there blimps and zeppelins in the film that advertised Veidt Industries?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:07 pm 
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Curiosity Inc. wrote:
I'm perfectly aware of the "Gunga Din" reference, but I still don't understand how the poem, an elephant and Watchmen are tied together.


I don't think it serves any purpose other than being a bit of a joke. The Gunga Diner is an Indian restaurant. Gunga Din is an Indian character. The diner itself is a play on Gunga Din. The elephant is a reference to the movie of the same name. I think that's as deep as it gets.

Moore probably was just sitting around one day, thinking of different names he could give for the shops, restaurants, etc, that make up that little section of New York where much of the story the climax would take place, and thought "Wouldn't it be cute if we put in an Indian restaurant called 'Gunga Diner'?".

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:03 pm 
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t3cii wrote:
Janx wrote:
EDITED TO ADD: Errr...or maybe I'm totally conflating the movie with the GN. *sigh* Went back through the GN to look for pics, but nothing that really looks like what I meant. Don't mind me.


Have you ever seen Children of Men? There's a scene in the movie that sounds like what you are talking about:Image


Although in this case it's a pig instead of an elephant, but it reminded me a lot about it.



Piggified, it makes me think of Pink Floyd.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:06 pm 
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Janx wrote:
Well...not to sound like an idiot, but...I don't know. That's puzzled me for a while. They seem to me to be connected visually to Adrian while not being connected to him business-wise -- one of the few pies he doesn't have his fingers in, as far as I can tell. And that feels significant, too, but I don't know why.


Perhaps to signify that world events are not one of those "pies" that he has full control over, and that he is looming over the city, ready to spring his plan.

Another reference to this might be the specific "Tandoori [an indian food] to go", but, frankly, I have no idea what Indian food has specifically to do with Adrian.

Also recall that in the beginning of Chapter XII, we have a crashed blimp in a panel, but no elephant can be seen.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:15 pm 
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Last edited by People Must Be Told. on Sat Jan 30, 2010 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:25 pm 
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Rorschach/Walter used the Gunga Diner partially as a look at the world around him. He would drink coffee and look at his mail drop from the diner. He was spying.

Some have suggested that Veidt used the Gunga Diner elephant blimp as a way to spy on others.

That's the connection I make. The elephant is shaped like a blimp. Both the Gunga Diner and its blimp are used by different people to spy on their world.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:06 pm 
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Burgers N Borscht wrote:
Rorschach/Walter used the Gunga Diner partially as a look at the world around him. He would drink coffee and look at his mail drop from the diner. He was spying.

Some have suggested that Veidt used the Gunga Diner elephant blimp as a way to spy on others.

That's the connection I make. The elephant is shaped like a blimp. Both the Gunga Diner and its blimp are used by different people to spy on their world.


Interesting parallel, given the journal excerpt on V.18.3 - "Over 40th Street, an elephant was drifting. Beyond that, unseen, spy satellites. If they so much as narrow their glass eyes, we shall all be dead."

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 26, 2009 11:10 pm 
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t3cii wrote:
Curiosity Inc. wrote:
I'm perfectly aware of the "Gunga Din" reference, but I still don't understand how the poem, an elephant and Watchmen are tied together.


I don't think it serves any purpose other than being a bit of a joke. The Gunga Diner is an Indian restaurant. Gunga Din is an Indian character. The diner itself is a play on Gunga Din. The elephant is a reference to the movie of the same name. I think that's as deep as it gets.

Moore probably was just sitting around one day, thinking of different names he could give for the shops, restaurants, etc, that make up that little section of New York where much of the story the climax would take place, and thought "Wouldn't it be cute if we put in an Indian restaurant called 'Gunga Diner'?".


This is certainly my impression. Moore and Gibbons were having a bit of fun with a visual pun. Nothing more or less significant. The farthest stretch I will make is to note that the elephant *could* be construed as a symbol of the Nixon-led Republican Party that dominates the US and "watches" over everyone. But I think this is just a coincidence and not intent from the creators. Too abstract.

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