Jacob vs. Jacob: Hidden Meaning in Water for Elephants

18 Apr

Another article in our series highlighting Water for Elephants

By:  Parisienne

Have you ever wondered if the story your reading have any hidden meaning to it?  In the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, there are some slight biblical themes if you look closely. The name of the character Jacob is the first clue and it’s pretty obvious. However, if we dig a little deeper, we find the story of Jacob in the King James Old Testament bares some resemblance to the story of Jacob in Water for Elephants. If you didn’t catch it the first time around, here’s a brief overview of the similarities that were recently discovered. 

According to comments made by Sara Gruen on July 8th 2007, on the customer review site on Amazon.com Gruen states;[1]

There are anagrams, both exact and phonetic: Catherine Hale=Leah, Marlena L’Arche=Rachel, Alan Bunkel (Uncle Al)=Uncle Laban

There is the flat rock, the dream, the animal husbandry for Uncle Laban, Jacob and Rachel (Marlena) leave with Uncle Al’s (Uncle Laban’s) best livestock, Jacob must do an additional seven years of animal husbandry in order to be with Marlena, he breaks his hip, etc. Some of his children’s names are the same as well.”

Since we don’t wish to ruin the story for those who have yet to read Water for Elephants. We will refrain from going any further to allow for your own personal discovery. However, for those of you who’ve read the book we have a few questions for you. Were you surprised to learn about the biblical references or did they easily stand out to you? After learning this information are you curious to read the book again?  Please share with us your thoughts.

  Please join us for a discussion on Tuesday Apr 19th 7pm E/12 UTC

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Parellels-the-biblical-story-Jacob/forum/Fx2LPKXA2VQG496/Tx1CDSX921LNXP9/1/ref=cm_cd_ef_tft_tp?%5Fencoding=UTF8&asin=0002007770

61 Responses to “Jacob vs. Jacob: Hidden Meaning in Water for Elephants”

  1. Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    Wow Paris! I wish I had my book on me but I don’t. It’s with my bff in Texas. I never thought of there being any biblical similarities. Hmmm…Can’t wait for the discussion tonight!

  2. Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 4:10 PM #

    Thank you LB! and thank you Open Book for the assistance that you gave me with the article. I appreciate it.

    I had a fun time looking for the similarites between JJ and OJ (Old Jacob is what I call Jacob from the bible). The story is the Bible is really quite intruiging, I must say. I was SMH at alot of it.

    I’m going to start with the anagrams mentioned by Sara Gruen. Marlena L’arche is Rachel. Catherine Hale is Leah. For those that don’t remember Catherine Hale is the girl that JJ liked while at Cornell. Uncle Al is Uncle Laban. Uncle Laban is the brother of Jacob’s mother. Rachel and Leah are Jacob’s cousins.

    Similarities that stood out to me were both Jacob’s have to leave their home. JJ had to leave because his parents died. OJ had to leave because he tricked his father into bestowing a blessing upon him that was meant for brother Esau. Once Esau found this out, he planned to murder Jacob, Jacob’s mother over heard the plot and warned him. She told him he had to leave and to go live with her brother Laban.

    Jacob had to wait to marry Marlena and worked for Uncle Al OJ had to wait seven years to marry Rachel and in turn worked for Uncle Laban. OJ told Laban that he wanted to marry Rachel and Laban told him that if he wanted to marry her Jacob had to work for him for seven years. At the end of the seven years, Jacob asked for Rachel’s hand in marriage. On the wedding night Laban tricked Jacob by putting Leah in Rachel’s place in the bed. When Jacob woke up he was mad because he was supposed to marry rachel. (He must have been drunk, to not notice the switch
    ) According to Laban, Jacob had to marry the eldest daughter first. (Why not tell him this before he asked for Rachel’s hand? It would have saved him alot of trouble) In order to marry Rachel, he had to work another seven years for Laban. After that he married Rachel. FINALLY. 🙂 He stayed married to both sisters but loved Rachel more than Leah.

    Both Jacobs worked/lived among tents and worked with animals. JJ took care of zoo animals and OJ took care of Laban’s sheep.

    J&J both broke a hip. JJ broke his hip because he’s old and fell. That’s how he ended up in the nursing home. OJ had his hip broken by an angel/God. Jacob was going back to his homeland with his families and was alone in his camp when he was approached by a man who i assume is an angel for God. (he identity is never revealed) Anyhow, he gets into a fight with Jacob and tears his hip out of his socket. Jacob asks this man to bless him and the man says to him because you have fought against God and man, you’re name will now be Israel. (I would not have asked for a blessing, I would have asked for my hip to be placed back how it was.)

    At the end of WFE. Jacob and Marlena leave with the best animals. OJ and his families leave Laban and take his best animals. Actually OJ tricked Laban into giving him his best animals. So technically, IMO, he stole them. Jacob told Laban that he would go seperate his flock into two seperate groups and only leave him with the sheep that were completely white. (the better sheep) when Laban when out to check the next day, OJ had taken the white sheep and left laban with the spotted and black ones, which were not considered the best of the flock.

    And another interesting tidbit of info I found….Rachel and Jacob had a son named Joseph. ( Yes that Joseph)

    Jacob is the father of Joseph from Joseph and the technical dreamcoat.

    I included a clip of Joseph with Jacob in it. Jacob is the hippy looking guy with the red sunglasses and the beard.

    • Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 5:05 PM #

      “Go, Go Joe!” hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PARIS, I LOVE YOU SO FRIGGIN’ MUCH FOR THAT VIDEO!!!!!!

      Go Donny! Go Donny! I’m so rockin’ out right now!!!! This is my favorite part of the musical!!!! I think this is like my bajillionth time watching this!

      • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 5:12 PM #

        LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love that musical too but I never put two and two together until I read the Bible.

  3. Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 5:02 PM #

    *applause, applause* That was an awesome summary, Paris! Holy frijoles!

    I have to laugh though, because every time I read “OJ”, I was thinking OJ Simpson!!! hahaha! I’m so lame!!! 🙂

    • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 5:25 PM #

      I thought of OJ Simpson too but I didn’t know what to call “Bible Jacob” so I just called him OJ. I won’t be here tonight for the discussion unfortunately but wanted to fill everyone in on what I found. 🙂 I’ll be back as soon as I can.

      • Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 5:31 PM #

        Well calling him OJ is better than “BJ” hahahaha!!!!! Will miss you tonight. Thanks again for the 411. 🙂

        • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 5:37 PM #


  4. Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 5:36 PM #

    Leah also had children with Jacob. They are the brothers that sold Joseph into slavery. Jacob showed Joseph favor by making a “coat of many colors” it symbolized that he was more loved than any other child of Jacob’s. The reason why Jacob did this is because of Rachel. He always loved Rachel more than Leah and that was his way of showing that fact to his children I guess.

    Leah and Jacob had about 5-6 children together and Rachel and Jacob had two. Now the “supposed” reason behind that is. God saw that Jacob did not love Leah as much as he loved Rachel. So he made Leah more fertile than Rachel.

    The entire story gives sister wives a whole new meaning,

    • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      I think looking at the bible to see the spiritual meaning behind other periods of famine is a good way to develop characters.

  5. Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:08 PM #


      • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

        Hello all!

        That was a very interesting article! I did not know that the author had included biblical references in it.

        • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:14 PM #

          Hi Ozzie!

          • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

            Hi Open Book!

  6. Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 7:09 PM #

    Hi ladies. Im on my phone.

    • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

      Ok! Trying out new technology! That’s always good!

    • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:14 PM #

      Hi Paris-

      I love the video by the way!!

  7. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:13 PM #


    I did not see the comparison between WFE Jacob & Jacob in the bible until I read your article. I have gone back since and read the book.

    • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

      I’m actually curious. Did she purposely write it with the references or did they just happen? I’m not sure I’m clear on that.

      • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

        Yes, was it intentional that she put them there? If so,what was the reason why?

        • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:29 PM #

          I’m guessing here!!

          It’s been known people in an attempt to understand the reason behind difficult times will seek out spiritual support to help them out. Given Gruen was writing about the great depression, perhaps the Bible was a way of humanizing the characters. Does that make sense?

          • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 7:32 PM #

            Yes it does.

      • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

        lurker she did it on putposr lp

        • Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

          I’m loving your phone type! I actually understand what you are writing which must make me crazy. 🙂

          • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:24 PM #


          • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 8:46 PM #


  8. Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

    Me too glad u like yhe videoo.

  9. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:24 PM #


    Did u notice the biblical themes instantly when reading the book? How did u discover the resemblance?

    • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 7:48 PM #

      I read the q and a in the book.. Them just researcned it.

      • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

        Oh! They were in the novel? See now I feel stupid. LOL!

        • Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

          Me stupider. 🙂

  10. Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

    Hi girls! I”m in between here and watching a movie with the hubs. 🙂

    • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

      Hi LB!

      How are u?

  11. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

    Given that F. Lawrence merged the two characters Uncle Al with August in the film. Will u miss Uncle Al as an independent character?

    • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:38 PM #

      I’m not sure, probably not, if he took the essence of each character and merged them. Guess I’ll have to come back to you on that.

      • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

        Yeah! I’m looking forward to see how that all works out. From what I here CW character is really strong. So I might not miss him.

        • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

          I am also anxious to see CW.

          • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:53 PM #


            • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

              Well I think he’s a terrific actor from seeing him in Inglorious Basterds. I think the character August has a lot of dimension from the book and I think he could really do an excellent job bringing this character to life.

              We’ll see, but I have high expectations.

              • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:03 PM #

                I agree with u. He’s very compelling to watch. My favorite line from the film so far is from him. “I’ll show u a life most suckers can’t even dream of.” LOL!! Love it….

                • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 8:07 PM #

                  There really is so much in the story about August. It looks like CW really did it justice from the trailers. But I can’t wait to see the movie.

                  • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:08 PM #


      • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

        I don’t think he’ll be missed. I think the only major scene that Al has by himself that maybe missed, is when he talks to Jacob about getting Marlena and August back together. I think that same scene can be done with another less important circus worker.

        • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:47 PM #

          That’s really true!! That scene can easily be passed off to another character.

  12. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

    Do u think we’ll see Rosie kill August in the film?

    • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

      Good question, they might play on that somehow I would think.

    • Parisienne April 19, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

      no. do u?

    • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

      Not sure about that. I think it maybe done through camera tricks and editing. Like we’ll see Rosie lift up the stake, August collapsing and see the fear in his eyes and then show Jacob grimacing maybe. Something like that. Implied rather than show.

      • Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 8:14 PM #


    • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

      I think we won’t see the graphic details depicted in the book. Maybe we will hear and see flashes of the deed. I could deal with that.

  13. Lurker April 19, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

    Those of you up north, did you know there is the Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, Indiana?

  14. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

    Have any of u seen the Go Go Joseph video Paris put up?

    • Lurker April 19, 2011 at 8:12 PM #

      Yes, I did but I have to admit I’m multitasking.

      • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:16 PM #


        It’s hilarious!! When u get an opportunity watch it again.

        • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

          Did someone put LSD in my drink? Wow!

    • Littlebells April 19, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

      LOL’d all over the place!!!! Donny with a wig is total win!

      Ok, I’m here now, officially.

      I think CW will be wonderful. Lurker, I loved him in IB too and made my husband see it just because of him!

      (OB, I am good, thank you for asking!)

      • Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

        I know, it was totally unexpected that’s for sure. LOL!!

  15. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:23 PM #


    Do u have anymore Q for Paris? We have about ten more minutes to the discussion.

  16. Open Book April 19, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

    Well if know one has anymore Q for Paris. I would like to say goodnight and thank u new and returning visitors for joining our discussion tonight.

    Paris great article very informative.

    Take Care!

    • ozzie20 April 19, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

      Ok. Night all!

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