A Heffalump is a type of elephant-like character in the Winnie the Pooh stories by A. A. Milne. Heffalumps are mentioned, and only appear, in Pooh and Piglet's dreams in Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and seen again in The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Physically, they resemble elephants; Shepard's illustration shows an Indian elephant. They are later featured in the animated television series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1988–1995) and presented again by two animated films in 2005, Pooh's Heffalump Movie and Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie.
Although this is not explicitly stated, it is generally thought that heffalumps are elephants from a child's viewpoint (the word "heffalump" being a child's attempt at pronouncing "elephant"). E. H. Shepard's illustrations in A. A. Milne's original books depict heffalumps (as seen in Piglet's dreams) as looking very much like elephants.
In the books
Although the fifth chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh is titled "In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump", Piglet only actually meets a Heffalump in his imagination. In this chapter, Pooh and Piglet attempt bravely to capture a heffalump in a clever trap; however, no heffalumps are ever caught, and indeed they never meet a heffalump in the course of the books. The sole appearance of heffalumps in the books is imagined, as Pooh tries to put himself to sleep:
[H]e tried counting Heffalumps [but] every Heffalump that he counted was making straight for a pot of Pooh's honey ... [and] when the five hundred and eighty-seventh Heffalump was licking its jaws, and saying to itself, "Very good honey this, I don't know when I've tasted better", Pooh could bear it no longer.
In the third chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, Pooh and Piglet fall into a similar trap (it is implied it was the same trap) and think that it was made by a Heffalump to catch them. Pooh and Piglet rehearse the conversation they will have when the heffalump comes, but Pooh falls asleep and when Piglet hears a voice, he panics and says the wrong thing. He is mortified when the voice turns out to be that of Christopher Robin.
Heffalumps are first mentioned in the 1968 featurette Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and seem to be a product of Tigger's imagination. Because of Tigger's words, Pooh stays up throughout the night, guarding his honey. After hours of staying awake, he lulls to sleep in which, much like the first book, he dreams of heffalumps, and, this time, woozles as well. While he does not look deeply distressed by the nightmare itself, Pooh does show signs of uncomfortableness all throughout. When he wakes up, he finds his house flooded by rainwater and never mentions his dream to any of his friends.
Yet, both heffalumps and woozles were only confirmed to be real creatures in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. In the episode "There's No Camp Like Home", Piglet also shows deep distress while experiencing a heffalump and woozle induced nightmare of his own. After reluctantly going camping with Tigger and Pooh, he soon meets a son named Junior Heffalump and his parents who, while obsessed with honey as past Winnie the Pooh literature and animation suggests, are not necessarily evil. This and the next episode they appeared in, "Trap as Trap Can", suggest that not all heffalumps are to be feared, though the extreme desire for honey still remains evident. When the episode "The Great Honey Pot Robbery" was released, we're introduced to another heffalump named Heff, who, much like the heffalumps depicted in Pooh and Piglet's nightmares, is a villain who chose to associate himself with a woozle named Stan.
After the appearances of the heffalump family and Heff himself, actual heffalumps are not seen again in any Winnie the Pooh animation, except as intimidating figments, as seen in Tigger's song sequence in Boo to You Too! Winnie the Pooh. While they are indeed mentioned by the main characters in other Pooh works as well, none are physically seen.
In 2005, Pooh's Heffalump Movie brings heffalumps back and are not only physically seen, but, as the title suggests, they are the main focus of the film. Rabbit decided to form an expedition to take action and stop the heffalumps from stealing honey and ravaging the Hundred Acre Wood once and for all. In the song "The Horribly Hazardous Heffalumps", he and the others outlined some even more dangerous things about heffalumps, such as their fiery eyes and a tail with a spike. With the help of Roo in particular, everyone learned that heffalumps were not so scary after all when they met Lumpy. After a misunderstanding, the others soon warm up to him as well, introduce him to Christopher Robin, and are soon seen interacting with other members of the heffalump community. Lumpy continued to appear in Winnie the Pooh media, including Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie and in a semi-regular role in My Friends Tigger & Pooh.
In a fantasy sequence in the 2018 film Christopher Robin, when the title character almost drowns in a Heffalump trap, he hallucinates seeing an actual elephant as a Heffalump.
Before the release of Pooh's Heffalump Movie, heffalumps were mostly seen as villains who often partnered up with woozles and selfishly took honey without much thought, which is where a great deal of the fear the Hundred Acre Wood has for them comes from. While there was a rare case of Papa, Mama and Junior Heffalump who were at least willing to help Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet in a couple of instances in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, after this series ended, heffalumps, as well as woozles, were once again seen as frightening thieves and could not be trusted. Formerly, Hefalumps were depicted as bipeds and wearing clothes, caps, and collars. They were of different colors, they didn't honk, and they weren't that gigantic, but they left big marks (like Papa Heffalump in episode Trap as Trap Can). Heffalumps themselves were trapping the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood, not the other way around.
After the Pooh's Heffalump Movie, they are pleasantly purplish color with a big trunk, large floppy ears and a small roundish fluffy tail rather like that of a rabbit. Older heffalumps are capable of issuing a call that can travel over great distances and one of the ways a heffalump can tell that it is growing up is if it discovers its special call. Within the Hundred Acre Wood, heffalumps generally reside within Heffalump Hollow, though more recently Lumpy has taken to spending large amounts of time outside of it, playing with his best friend, Roo. True to the original song, heffalumps are, in fact, quite fond of honey. When trying to convince the others that heffalumps weren’t so bad after all, Roo pointed this out as being a similarity that they had with Pooh.
Trivia and cultural impact
- The term "heffalump" is whimsically used by adults to describe an elephant, or a child's view of an elephant.
- The term "heffalump trap" has been used in political journalism for a trap that is set up to catch an opponent but ends up trapping the person who set the trap (as happens to Winnie the Pooh in The House at Pooh Corner).
- The protagonist, Gnossos Pappadopoulis, in Richard Fariña's 1966 novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me believes his best friend to be named Heffalump for the majority of the novel, although Gnossos discovers in Cuba that Heffalump's birth name was Abraham Jackson White.
- There is an orchestral score called To Catch a Heffalump (1971) by Willem Frederik Bon.
- The Swedish newspaper Expressen's Heffalump Award is an annual literary prize awarded to the year's best Swedish author for children and young adults.
- A search for "heffalon particles" is the subject of an April Fool's Day paper posted on a scientific pre-print server.
- The heffalump operator "=>" is used in the BCPL programming language for structure references.
- The 2018 Cosmo Sheldrake song "Come Along" featured in an ad for the iPhone XR, contains the line "Come along, catch a Heffalump".