Peter Duchene is a young orphan who lives with his guardian, an old soldier called Vilna Lutz, in the town of Baltese.
Baltese is a place recovering from a recent war, where people are simply doing their best to get by, trying to put the losses of the past behind them. Peter lives a quiet, restricted life with Lutz, who is still haunted by memories of the battlefield, but then one day something extraordinary happens.
On his daily visit to market to buy bread and fish, Peter is amazed to see a red and white fortune-teller’s tent, right there in the market square. On the tent, hangs a sign which promises answers to the most profound and difficult questions. Peter has a question that troubles him. It is about a dream he keeps having in which he hears a baby crying. He steps inside.
Without Peter needing to ask, the fortune-teller guesses his question. It is a memory, not a dream, she says. Peter had a sister and she lives. Peter is stunned. How will he find her? The fortune-teller explains that he must follow the elephant. Peter is disappointed. That's impossible. There are no elephants in Baltese. Or are there?
That same night, across town a magician is performing at the opera house. He tries to conjure a bouquet of lilies but instead conjures an elephant from the sky. It crashes through the roof of the opera house.
The appearance of the elephant sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that it changes Baltese forever. Suddenly Peter is catapulted into the quest of his life, overturning everything he ever thought he knew, and discovering that happiness can come from the most unexpected places.