The elephants in The Elephant Keepers' Children are the metaphorical kind.
They are a whimsical way of explaining the secrets kept by the parents of three obscure children: Hans, Tilte and Peter (and their dog, Basker III). The parents of said children are not in fact keepers of elephants, but rather swindlers and con-artists, and have been in trouble with the authorities before for misdirection, trickery and all manner of hoodwinking. The Christian congregation of the small island upon which they live when the children’s parents go missing, agree that something appears to be very off. Enlisting the help (and often hindrance) of a variety of bizarre and quirky characters, Tilte, Peter and Basker set off on a quest to track down their parents and uncover what dastardly deeds they have planned.
Høeg has produced a peculiar story full of strange characters that pop in and out of the narrative almost at random. The overall feeling is one of being mixed up in a plan without fully being party to the bigger picture (think Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49). Mysterious, enigmatic, and at times just plain ludicrous, this is a comic, extravagant romp that will leave the reader both bewildered and endeared at once.