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This Viral Cartoon Depicting The Thai Cave Rescue Actually Has A Hidden Meaning

*Update: Since this story was originally published, all of the boys and their coach have been rescued from the cave.

The incredible story of the trapped Thai kids has kept us tense for two weeks, and rescue efforts have been on par with that of the Chilean miners back in 2010. The saga has captured the attention and the imagination of the entire world, and an adorable cartoon recently went viral on the subject. Check it out:

Cute, right? That’s “Operation Bring Wild Boars Home” courtesy of two artists who call themselves Sisidea. The cartoon blew up, even being shared by the Thai Royal Navy’s elite SEALS team leading the operation. While it might seem merely quaint on first blush, it just so happens that every character in the image correlates to a person or group involved in the international rescue effort.

  • Wild boars (12 small ones and one larger one): the stranded boys and their soccer coach
  • White elephant: Narongsak Osottanakorn, the leader of the command center in charge of the rescue mission
  • White horse: a symbol of all the heroes involved in the operation
  • White seals: the Thai Navy SEALs who have been leading the rescue efforts
  • Frogs: the cave divers who have been helping.
  • Blue lion: rescuers from Britain and Belgium
  • Kangaroo: rescuers from Australia
  • Panda: rescuers from China
  • Crane: rescuers from Japan
  • Moose: rescuers from Sweden
  • Tiger: rescuers from Myanmar
  • Brown elephant: rescuers from Laos
  • Eagle: rescuers from the US
  • Iron Man mask: Elon Musk, who has been tweeting his support for the rescue effort
  • Swallows: climbers from Thailand
  • Dog: a K9 unit at the scene
  • Dragon: the team drilling into the cave and pumping water out
  • Birds facing all the animals at the end of the cave: journalists covering the rescue mission
  • Black crow among the birds: the inevitable critics of the operation

You don’t often see a moose working with a dragon but that’s just how worldwide this rescue effort has become. Aruni Aunhawarakorn and Jantima Manasviyoungkul, the sisters behind Sisidea, had the idea for the cartoon weeks ago but didn’t have the heart to actually sketch it out until the first of the boys was successfully rescued. The Bangkok-based artists told Business Insider:

This picture is to show appreciation of the Thai people to the collaborations from many people around the world. These 13 footballers are represented as the little wild boars. Tons of kindness has been flowing from many countries and specialist teams, so I am presenting all of them [in the cartoon].

To a tense and beleaguered international community watching the events unfold, the image is a visual expression of the collective sigh of relief we’re allowing as these boys are gradually returned to the surface.

Here’s a layout with some handy labels:

Eight of the boys have been rescued from the cave, and as of this writing, four more and their coach have an escort forthcoming. We’ll be chewing our nails to the bed until the full soccer team is back topside. Best of luck, all.

H/T: Insider, Facebook

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Written by Chet Dawson

Reformed ruffian.