when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers

African proverb, meaning that the weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful.

1936 New York Times 26 Mar. (online) As citizens of a country whose fate depends on the policies and changing moods of powerful neighbours, Belgians quote frequently these days a proverb learned in the Congo: ‘When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.’

1986 New York Times 23 Nov. (online) ‘Angolans say “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,” ’ an aide worker here commented.

2003 Journal of Literacy Research Spring (online) ‘When elephants fight, only the grass gets trampled.’ This African proverb is used regularly to describe..officials and leaders whose disputes and divisions end up hurting innocent..people.


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