Legend has it that the King of Siam would present courtiers—specifically annoying or obnoxious ones—with the royal gift of a White Elephant. Despite the gift’s incredible rarity, the animal was such a burden to sustain that the unpleasant courtier would be ruined financially just trying to keep the animal fed and maintained.
Today, the term “white elephant” refers to any possession whose cost to maintain far surpasses its usefulness. In business or government, a white elephant is a costly project which is begun—and possibly finished—but is never used as intended (think of a new airport built in a small town with no flights scheduled).
The white elephant, pictured above, is nothing of the sort. He was made in (the former) Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s or 1960’s. Once purchased, he requires no further maintenance.