The story is a fable which symbolically illustrates the type of society created by colonialism and, more specifically, by the British Empire in Africa, and in the author’s country of origin, Kenya. In the author’s view, the colonial powers (represented in the story by the animals) have established their rule in the colonies by appearing friendly and interested to protect the people and develop their society. However, the colonisers took advantage of the natives’ lack of power (just like the elephant takes advantage of the man), and soon began to occupy the land and exploit the people, revealing their true intentions.
The man is forced to build huts that are occupied by the animals, without being able to oppose them: “The man, having no alternative, and fearing that his refusal might expose him to the teeth and claws of members of the Commission, did as they suggested” (p. 173, ll. 14-16). In a similar manner, the colonisers’ dominance was maintained through manipulation and the threat of violence through their superior military power. Other important aspects of this society are bureaucracy and corruption, as shown by the formalities that the man has to go through – several investigations led by a Royal Commission (p. 173, ll. 16-21) – which are ultimately useless to him, because they always rule in the animals’ favour.
The lion and the rest of the a...