Stuffed Lion Toys & The Famous Lioness Elsa

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Anyone fond of lions and stuffed lion toys, may know a thing or two about the most famous lioness in the world, Elsa. After seeing the 1966 film Born Free, which is based on the incredible story of Joy and George Adamson, who went on to raise an abandon lion cub (Elsa) to adulthood, there can be no doubt that the sale of stuffed lion toys skyrocketed following the films release. Not to mention an additional surge of popularity for stuffed lion toys after the 1972 release of the sequel, Living Free.

Born Free, the film, was based on Joy Adamson’s non-fiction book of the same name which was published in 1960. While she is best known for the book and its subsequent sequels, she was also an avid Naturalist and wildlife preservationist. She spent close to forty years working on wildlife preservationist activities while living on game reserves in Kenya. Born to wealthy parents in Austria in 1910, on her family’s estate, hunting was a favorite sport. As a teenager, Joy shot and killed a deer with the estate’s gamekeeper and vowed to never kill another animal for sport ever again. In 1935, Joy married a Jewish man who decided that they should move to Kenya so as to escape the Nazi movement which was quickly rising in Austria. Joy was sent ahead to Africa by her husband, where she met a botanist (one who studies plants) named Peter Bally whom she married in 1938 after divorcing her first husband. She met her soon-to-be third husband, George Adamson, in 1943, while he was working as a game warden in the outlying area of Kenya.

In 1956, after a lioness attacked George Adamson while trying to protect its three cubs, George was forced to shoot her. With no mother to care for them, two of the three cubs were sent to a zoo. The third cub – a small female – was kept by the Adamson’s and was eventually named Elsa. Joy and George went on to raise Elsa but realized when she became an adult that having been born wild, she should return to her wild life. Despite her nature, Elsa had no idea how to hunt in the wild having been hand raised and fed by humans all her life. Born Free documents the Adamson’s journey in both raising and training Elsa to be the wild cat she should be by teaching her to hunt and fend for herself in the wilderness. After leaving Elsa on her own in the wild for a week, the couple knew their training had been a resounding success when they discovered Elsa had killed an African antelope on her own. Elsa eventually went on to have three cubs which she proudly showed off to Joy and George.

While Elsa died in early 1961 after becoming ill, her cubs were left with no one to raise them. Once again, as documented in the books Living Free and Forever Free, Joy and her husband George went on to train the cubs to be hunters and then eventually released them into the wild.

If you have not had the pleasure of either reading Joy Adamson’s books, or seen the movie, you are missing out on a truly remarkable story. When you do eventually find the time to learn about the Adamson’s and lioness Elsa, you will find yourself wanting to run right out for some stuffed lion toys.

Angeline Hope is a collector of stuffed lion toys. You can view a large lion stuffed animal selection at MyBigPlush.

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