Death and Compassion

The Elephant in Southern African Literature

Dan Wylie



This book is the first study to probe the primary features, and possible effects, of some major literary genres as they pertain to elephants south of the Zambezi over three centuries: indigenous forms, early European travelogues, hunting accounts, novels, game ranger memoirs, scientists’ accounts, and poems. It examines what these literatures imply about the various and diverse attitudes towards elephants, about who shows compassion towards them, in what ways and why. It is the story of a developing contestation between death and compassion, between those who kill and those who love and protect.


[Wylie] combines a lifetime of experience and meditation with specialist knowledge of debates in ecocriticism and animal studies. — F. Fiona Moolla


Professor Dan Wylie teaches at Rhodes University, South Africa. He has published several articles on white writing on Shaka, and on Zimbabwean literature. He is also a poet.