Now listen and attend, O Best Beloved, because this is important. The story I'm going to tell is about the High and Far-Off Times when the world was younger, and we were younger too. The beasts and birds and men and trees, we were all like children in those days, and not quite sure what we'd grow up to be. Everything was more changeable back then. Each morning the sun would rise, a-glinting and a-gleaming across the land with more than oriental splendor, and you never knew just what it would show, how the world would have changed since you went to bed.
That's how everything came to be what it is. From all these stories that took place in those long ago days. So listen close and don't interrupt, or I might get mixed up, and then the stories would get mixed up, and then the whole world might change.
[[“Yes, Papa.”->tiger]]The story begins with Tiger, who was the fiercest and meanest of all the beasts. No one was stronger, and no one could run faster. His claws were swords and his teeth were crueler than any spear. When he walked the earth trembled, and when he roared his voice was thunder. Everyone was scared of Tiger, the little people and the big ones too. When he got hungry he ate what he liked. No one was safe. The touch of his shadow would send birds flying or the antelope bounding across the plain.
And Tiger was always hungry. No one's appetite was bigger than his.
<img width="100%" src="assets/hunting_tiger.png"/>
But one morning he awoke with an even bigger appetite than usual. He was accustomed to being hungry, but not like this. He ate an emu, but he was still hungry, He ate fifteen rabbits and half a dozen oryx, but he was still hungry. Small morsels like that could not touch a vast hunger like this. He ate bats and gnats, and hogs and dogs, and mice and lice, and cattle and chattel, and still he was hungry. Never had his stomach felt so empty before. So he decided the only thing to do was to eat something truly huge, something bigger than any meal he had ever eaten.
And what do you suppose he decided to eat?
[[“An Elephant?”->eat elephant]]
[[“A Whale?”->eat whale]]The Elephant is the biggest creature that walks the land, so Tiger decided that's what he would eat. And not just a small one, no Elephant's Child would do. Only a full grown bull Elephant would be big enough to fill his belly.
This was no easy prey, not even for Tiger. The Elephant may not have claws or fangs, but its skin is tougher than the toughest tree bark. Its legs are trees, and its nose is another tree swinging through the air. Alone of all animals, the Elephant was not afraid of Tiger; it feared only Man. So he would need all his cunning and all his skill to bring it down.
Can you guess how he decided to do it?
[[“By sneaking up on it.”->sneak up on elephant]]
[[“By outsmarting it.”->outsmart elephant]]The Whale is the very biggest creature there is, on land or in the sea. So Tiger decided nothing else would do. He must find a Whale and eat it right up, and only then would his hunger be satisfied.
Now this presented a difficulty, for Whale lives far out in the deep ocean, miles and miles from land. Tiger could swim as well as the next fellow, but such a long swim as that would be tiresome indeed. And then after he ate the Whale he would have to swim back on a full stomach, and that would give him cramps and be more annoying still.
So he strolled to the shore hoping to find some other way of getting out to Whale's house in the deep ocean. And when he came to the edge of the water he saw just the thing. What do you suppose it was?
[[“A Raft?”->find raft]]
[[“A Turtle?”->find turtle]]When Tiger walked the earth trembled, and when he roared his voice was thunder. But when he crept, he crept like a mouse. Not a leaf, no not a single stalk of grass stirred to show where he lay. He could sneak up on a mongoose or a marmoset, and that poor person would never know he was there till the moment he pounced. And once his teeth and claws were into it, well that was that and Tiger had his lunch.
But for Elephant he knew a different stratagem was needed. He might creep up on it easily enough, and he might leap from behind and take it by surprise. But even his fearsome claws would need many strokes to cut through Elephant's stony skin. And all the while he'd be subject to those trampling feet and that terrible thrashing trunk. So he plotted, and planned, and devised, and strategized, and in the end he decided the thing to do was attack from above.
The Elephant was browsing through a grove of trees, lazily reaching up with its trunk and pulling down bunches of leaves to stuff in its mouth. You must never eat that way, for it is not good manners in a human, but that was how Elephant was wont to eat back in those early times (and still is to this day). It just so happened that Tiger was a master at climbing trees and hiding in the branches. In later years he lost the knack of it, but back then he could climb just as deftly as any of his smaller cousins. So he decided to hide in a tree and jump down on the Elephant when it wandered underneath.
And that is exactly what he did. He climbed into a tree (as he was very deft at doing), and he waited for the Elephant to wander underneath, and then he jumped.
And what do you suppose happened when he did?
(set: $cameFrom to "sneak")
[[“He missed!”->jump on elephant]]
[[“He ate it right up!”->jump on elephant]]Tiger considered himself a very clever fellow, and perhaps he even was. So this is what he did. He padded right up to Elephant, as calm and polite as you please, and he said, “Good morning to you, my fine Pachyderm. And how are you doing this lovely day?”
“I am doing right well, Mr. Tiger,” said the Elephant, “and enjoying a pleasant meal of leaves and grasses, as you can see.” For the Elephant was browsing through a grove of trees, pulling down bunches of leaves to stuff in its mouth.
“I say, my good friend,” said the Tiger, “I do believe you have a patch of dirt right behind your left ear.”
“Why thank you,” said the Elephant, “it's kind of you to point that out.” And he shook his head and flapped his ears and brushed at them with his trunk to remove the dirt.
“No,” said Tiger, “it's still there. Kneel down and lower your head to the ground, and I will lick it away for you.”
“I'm much obliged,” said Elephant. “That really is most uncommon civil of you.” And he kneeled down and lowered his head to the ground so Tiger could reach behind his ear. He thought nothing of any deception, for he alone of all animals did not fear Tiger.
And what do you suppose Tiger did then? Why, he jumped right up onto Elephant's back and began clawing at him with his terrible claws!
(set: $cameFrom to "outsmart")
[[“But what about the dirt behind his ear?”->jump on elephant]](if: $cameFrom is "sneak")[Not a chance! No, Best Beloved, this is what actually happened when the Tiger jumped. He landed with a thump right smack in the middle of that Elephant's back. And he ]\
(else:)[There was no patch of dirt. Tiger just made that up to trick the Elephant. It was very wrong of him to tell an enormous fib like that, and you must never do it yourself. As you will see, it did not end well for him.
Well, Tiger ]\
tried to dig in his claws, but the skin was as tough as the toughest tree bark, and in no wise could he get a good grip. And the Elephant began bucking and turning and leaping and twisting to dislodge him, and the Tiger knew if he fell off he would be in sore danger of being trampled to death.
It was a prickly situation and no mistaking it. But there right in front of him was the one place where the skin was not so thick and not so well armored: the two great flappy floppy ears. So he stretched out a paw to either one and dug in his claws and held on for dear life.
Who can say how long it went on, with the Elephant bucking and leaping and turning and twisting and flapping his ears to dislodge the Tiger, and the Tiger digging his claws and holding on for dear life? And as the Elephant leapt and bucked and twisted and flapped, and as the Tiger clawed and held, the ears began to stretch. They grew longer and longer and flatter and flatter, pulled tight between the Tiger and the Elephant. And as the ears grew longer and longer and flatter and flatter, the flapping became more powerful and more ferocious. It sent wind whistling on all sides and stirred up a perfect hurricane of dust and branches. And then (this is magic) the Elephant rose right up into the air, for his ears had become big enough to use as wings, and he could flap as powerfully as any bird. And the Tiger watched in great dismay as the ground disappeared far away beneath him.
[[“Poor Tiger! Was he very frightened?”->elephant flying]]
Tiger had as much courage as the next fellow, but it was a prickly situation and no mistaking it. Being trampled was now the least of his worries, for if he fell he would surely be smashed to bits on the ground far below.
“Elephant!” he cried in his most commanding voice. “Set me down at once! For if I should fall I would surely die, and I should not like that, not one little bit.”
“In no wise will I do that,” replied the Elephant. “For if I set you down, you will go back to trying to eat me, and I should not like that, not one little bit.”
“Then how am I to get down?” asked Tiger. “I certainly cannot jump from such a great height to the hard ground below, and you cannot keep flying forever.”
“I will fly out over the ocean,” said Elephant, “low enough that you can safely jump down into the water and swim back to shore. But no tricks, mind you! For if you start trying to eat me I will immediately climb higher again.”
So Elephant flew out over the ocean, low enough that Tiger might safely jump down and not be hurt by landing in the water (but not too low, for although he did not fear Tiger, he also did not trust him), and Tiger jumped down and swam back to shore. It was a long and weary passage. Tiger could swim as well as the next fellow, but by the time he finally reached the shore he was thoroughly wet and cold and shivering and angry and in a really truly foul temper.
The Elephant flew off, soaring high on his new wings, and that is how Elephants first gained the ability to fly.
(set: $animal1 to "elephant")
[[“But Elephants can't fly!”->end story 1]]*Mister Kipling was an author great.
His use of language was first-rate.
His "Just So Stories" could make you sigh
And laugh, and smile, and nod, and cry,
Then wonder about the reasons why.
The poetry was “dretful” though,
All childish sentiment, just so.
It preached in a most exhausting way
And never had too much to say.
He really should have stuck to prose.
It would have been better, as heaven knows.
So forgive this rhyme,
I won't waste more time,
And I'll let you be on your way.*
<div style="font-size: 2em;">
</div>There on the beach was a raft. It was made of sticks all tied together with a pair of suspenders. A shipwrecked sailor had made it and ridden it back to shore, and although the sailor had no use for it anymore, Tiger still should have asked permission before taking it. He was not always a well mannered cat.
“That's just the thing!” exclaimed Tiger. “With this raft I can get out to Whale's house in the deep ocean in two shakes of my tail.” So he pulled the raft back into the water and climbed aboard and began to row.
He rowed for a very long time. The deep ocean was much farther than he had thought, and it took many more than two shakes of his tail to get there. He soon began to feel warm under the collar, but he kept rowing. Sometimes a fish would swim past, and he would reach down with his paw and scoop it out of the water and eat it, just to keep up his energy. He checked his bearings against the stars and kept on his way, and at last he reached the proper spot.
“Yes,” said Tiger examining the stars, “latitude 50 North longitude 40 West. That is Whale's address. But where is he?” For he looked around over the sea and saw no sign of Whale.
[[“Was the Whale not at home?”->meet whale]]
There resting on the beach was an enormous Sea Turtle, with an enormous shell all black and brown and shiny and sparkly in the sun.
“Turtle!” he roared. “Carry me out to the deep ocean where Whale lives! And do it at once, for I am most inordinately hungry today and I wish to eat him right up.”
Now Turtle had no wish to do this, for he and the Whale were fast friends and often played tennis or croquet together on sunny afternoons. But he also had no wish to displease a hungry Tiger, for here on the beach he was slow and clumsy, and the Tiger might decide to eat him up instead. So he said, “Very well then, climb onto my back and I will carry you out to the deep ocean where Whale lives. But I must warn you that he is a creature of infinite resource and sagacity.”
So Tiger climbed onto Turtle's back, and Turtle waded out into the water and began to swim. He swam and swam and swam, faster and faster and faster, and soon they reached the deep ocean where Whale lives.
“Here we are,” said the Turtle. “I do not know if Whale is at home, but I have done what I said, so now I must leave you.” And without another word he dived under the water and swam away, leaving Tiger to tread water far out in the middle of the ocean.
[[“And was the Whale at home?”->meet whale]]
“Hello there Whale!” Tiger roared in his mightiest voice. “I am here to see you, and please come out at once, for I am dreadfully hungry and if you don't mind I would like to eat you up.”
The Whale, who was in fact at home and curled up in his bed down below the waves, heard the roar and rose to the surface to see what the hullabaloo was about. He was a creature of infinte resource and sagacity, and though he had never seen a Tiger before, he had read about them in his school books and had no fear of this one. So he peered at the Tiger first through one eye, then through the other, then swam around him four times to get a good look from all sides.
“Hello Tiger,” he said at last. “What are you doing here in the middle of the deep ocean? For (as I have read in my books) this is not where Tigers natively are found.”
“I have come because I am most immoderately hungry today,” answered the Tiger. “And because I believe nothing smaller will satisfy my appetite, I have decided to eat you up.”
“Dear me,” said the Whale. “I don't really wish to be eaten today. Are you sure there is nothing else that would satiate you?”
“Nothing,” said Tiger. “Now if you would be so kind, please come close so I can eat you up.”
“That is unfortunate,” said the Whale. “But if you really want it of course I will come close.” And he opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly touched his tail, and lunged at the Tiger, and in one gulp swallowed him right down.
[[“Poor Tiger! Was that the end of him?”->tiger eaten]]
It was a prickly situation and no mistaking it. As soon as Tiger found himself in the belly of that Whale, he began to realize that his plan had perhaps been not so well thought out as he supposed. So he raised his voice and exclaimed, “Whale! Let me out of here at once!”
“I am sorry,” said the Whale, “but I am not inclined to do that. For you see, I have never eaten a Tiger before, and I believe it is worthwhile to seek out new experiences.”
“Whale!” shouted the Tiger. “If you let me out I will teach you to dance a hornpipe, and I judge that would be a most useful skill for a nautical Cetacean like yourself.”
“Pshaw!” replied the Whale. “No one can dance a hornpipe like I can!” And then and there he stood up on his tail and danced the most spirited hornpipe you ever did see, just to show he could.
“Whale!” shouted the Tiger. “If you let me out I will teach you to navigate by the stars, and I judge that would be a most useful skill for a seafaring Cetacean like yourself.”
“Pshaw!” replied the Whale. “No one can navigate like I can!” And then and there he swam from the Equator to the Tropic of Capricorn and back again, navigating by the stars all the way, just to show he could.
“Whale!” shouted the Tiger, who was now starting to be seriously alarmed. “If you let me out I will teach you to climb trees and hide in the branches to catch children passing underneath, and I judge that would be a most useful skill for a hungry Cetacean like yourself.”
“Hum,” said the Whale. “That does sound like a useful skill, for I have never eaten a child before, and I believe it is worthwhile to seek out new experiences. Very well, I will do as you say.”
So the Whale swam back to land and opened his mouth and let the Tiger go (for he was an honorable Whale and always kept his word). And for his part the Tiger taught him to climb trees, and hide in the branches, and jump down on unsuspecting children as they passed underneath.
(set: $animal1 to "whale")
[[“But Whales don't really climb trees, do they?”->end story 1]](if: $animal1 is "elephant")[Didn't I tell you not to interrupt? Are you trying to make me get confused and mix up the stories?
No, Elephants can't fly anymore. In later years they lost the knack of it, or at least most of them did. But there was a time when all Elephants could fly by flapping their big floppy ears like wings.]
(else:)[Not very often, for they spend most of their time at home in the deep ocean, eating fish and krill and squid and sailors. But now and then when they tire of their usual diet, they come onto land and climb a tree, waiting for a child to pass by whom they can eat.
But as for Tiger, once he had taught the Whale to climb trees he mostly stopped doing it himself. For he always remembered the time he spent in that Whale's belly, and the thought of running into one in the treetops made him feel most uncomfortable.]
Now listen, because I want to tell you about another animal. This one lived far away from Tiger, way off on the other side of the world in South America. And it's an animal that was very different back then from what it is now. Can you guess which one?
[[“A Capybara?”->capybara]]The Chinchilla lives high among the peaks of the Andes. It has big round ears, and a big bushy tail, and the softest fur you ever saw: softer than a bunny, softer than a kitten, softer even than your hair, Best Beloved. But in those long ago days of which I am telling it was quite different. Its fur was not soft at all, but coarse and a bit wiry. And the importance of that will be seen in time.
<img width="60%" style="filter: invert(100%);" src="assets/papapishu-chinchilla.svg"/>
And there was one particular Chinchilla who lived in a warm burrow in a high rocky meadow. He was much like all the other Chinchillas who lived in the meadow, with coarse fur and round ears and a big bushy tail. But there was one respect in which he was quite special, and which you must know if you are to understand this story:
He was in love.
Perhaps there is nothing very unusual in that, for who has not been in love? But to him it seemed the most wonderful thing in the world. As for the one he loved, she was beyond wonderful. Her eyes were the brightest eyes in all the world. Her ears were the softest, roundest ears he had ever seen. As for the curve of her tail, it made him feel weak and fluttery inside every time he looked at it. But who was he to love such a one as she? For he was (in his own estimation) an entirely ordinary Chinchilla with no especial virtues to recommend him. Still, he knew that fortune favors the bold, and he clearly saw that something must be done. So at last he took all his courage between his paws and addressed her as follows:
“I love you. You are more precious to me than my own life. I would do anything for you. If you will condescend to grant me even the tiniest of smiles, I will devote—” But here he broke off, for she was looking at him in confusion.
“Excuse me for interrupting,” she said, “but didn't we just have this conversation yesterday? No? Then I suppose that must have been someone else. You see, you are the third person to declare his love for me just this week, and it's all getting very hard to keep track of.”
“I am different from the others,” he insisted. “My devotion to you is more than just love. It is all the passion and dedication of a lifetime, rooted in the very depths of my soul and—”
“Yes yes,” she said, “that's exactly what all the others said.” Then seeing the downcast slump of his shoulders, she added hastily, “Please don't take this as a rejection. I am entirely willing to return your love. Only you must give me some way to distinguish you from the others. Else how am I to remember which person I'm supposed to be in love with? And that would become terribly confusing and embarrassing.”
“Then I will do it,” he said. “I will prove to you that I am a Chinchilla unlike any other, and truly worthy of your esteem.”
“Oh yes please!” she exclaimed. “For I *want* to love someone, really I do!”
So he climbed onto a large rock and began to think. He must find some way to distinguish himself, but how was it to be done? Clearly he could not rely on his appearance, for that was exactly like his rivals'. Nor could he dazzle her with his brilliance, for he was (in his own estimation) a Chinchilla of entirely ordinary intelligence. But some aspect must be discovered in which he was, or could become, different from all other Chinchillas in the world. So he sat and thought, and hours passed by, and still he thought, entirely oblivious to everything around him. He did not even notice when the sky grew light and the sun rose (for Chinchillas habitually sleep during the day). Even long after it was full daylight he continued to sit, absorbed in his own meditations. Only when a huge shadow came between him and the sun did he suddenly realize where he was.
And what do you suppose was casting the shadow?
[[“An Eagle! With a black head and a brown chest and big claws just like in the picture over my bed!”->eagle]]
The Capybara is a rodent of most unusual size, with short legs like a pig and a round body like a hippopotamus, and it spends its days paddling about in the lakes and rivers of South America. But back in those High and Far-Off Times it was a rodent of entirely ordinary size, about as big as a rabbit. And it never went into the water, because everyone said That Was Not Done.
<img width="100%" style="filter: invert(100%);" src="assets/Capybara_BW_T.png"/>
And there was one young Capybara, Best Beloved, who lived with his brothers and sisters, and parents and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and all manner of other relations. And he was different from the other Capybaras, because he was not interested in what people told him Was Not Done. So he was always asking vexatious questions that drove his relatives to distraction.
“Why do we only eat plants and grass,” he asked one day, “instead of eating meat like an Alligator?”
“Child, child,” said his brothers and sisters, and parents and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and assorted relations. “Hush and don't ask such questions! It Is Not Done.”
“Why do we always stay on the ground,” he asked another time, “instead of climbing among the trees like a Monkey?”
“Child, child,” said his brothers and sisters, and parents and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and diverse relations. “Hush and don't ask such questions! It Is Not Done.”
And yet another time: “Why do we never go into the water and swim among the reeds like a fish?”
“Yes,” said a voice behind him, “that's exactly what I've been wondering too. Why must everyone only do what people say they're supposed to?”
The Capybara turned round most tremendously astonished, for never before had anyone encouraged him in asking questions. And who do you suppose he saw?
(link: "“A Panther.”")[(set: $capybaraFriend to "Panther")(go-to: "capybara2")]
(link: "“An Anaconda.”")[(set: $capybaraFriend to "Anaconda")(go-to: "capybara2")]There, lounging in the grass just behind him, was a very young $capybaraFriend.
“How do you do?” asked the Capybara politely, for they had never met before. And then, “Are people always telling you what not to do?”
“Constantly,” said the $capybaraFriend, “As for myself, I'm very fond of swimming. I do it almost every day, and I don't see why you shouldn't too. And I've often thought I would like to try eating plants like you. But all my relations say no, It Isn't Done, and they won't tell me why. I don't understand what makes grown-ups so stuffy and unwilling to try new things.”
“Nor do I,” said the Capybara, “and I would ask them, but I feel quite certain they would scold me as usual and say not to ask such questions. But tell me, since you are a swimmer yourself, would you teach me how? For surely there could be no harm with an expert instructor like yourself to guide me.”
“I would be delighted,” said the $capybaraFriend. “And afterward you can show me which plants are best to eat and I can try some of them.”
So the $capybaraFriend led the Capybara to a nearby stream. “Here we are,” it said, “one of my favorite swimming spots. Just step into the water. Yes, like so. (if: $capybaraFriend is "Anaconda")[Now flex your coils back and forth to— oh, you don't have coils, do you? Well, just use whatever you have.](else:)[Now paddle with your feet, just as if you were walking. Yes, exactly. Hold your tail out like— oh, you don't have much of a tail, do you? Well, never mind.] Yes, excellent!”
“I think I'm getting the hang of it,” said the Capybara.
“That's very good indeed,” said the $capybaraFriend. “Now try this. It's called the side-stroke. Just twist your body like so. Yes, exactly.”
So they swam together all morning until the sun was high in the sky, and they were both quite tired.
“I declare, I'm famished from all this exercise,” said the $capybaraFriend. “So if you would kindly point out to me some of the best plants, I will now try eating them.”
“These reeds over here are some of my favorites,” said the Capybara. “Just bite off a mouthful of them.”
“How very interesting,” said the $capybaraFriend. “They do have a curious, grassy flavor. But I'm not sure my mouth is quite adapted to eating things like this.”
“Take them between your molars and grind them back and forth,” said the Capybara.
“I don't think I have molars,” said the $capybaraFriend. “It's an interesting experience, but I think I'd better have a snack of my more usual fare instead.”
“What would that be?” asked the Capybara.
“Well, I eat lots of things,” said the $capybaraFriend. “But most often in my family we eat Capybara.”
“Oh,” said the Capybara. And then, “I see.”
“Yes,” said the $capybaraFriend.
“Does that mean you're going to eat me?”
“Well, that is what everyone in my family usually does,” said the $capybaraFriend.
“It just seems such a shame,” said the Capybara. “After we've gotten to be such good friends and had such a pleasant morning together.”
“It does, doesn't it?” said the $capybaraFriend. “But what can I do? It's what Everyone Does in my family.”
“Yes, but why should you care about that?”
“How do you mean?” asked the $capybaraFriend in surprise.
“We've both decided not to bother about what people tell us Is Not Done. So why should we worry any more about what they tell us Is Done?”
“And you mean I could *not* eat you, and we could go on being friends and swimming together every day?”
“Yes, exactly!” exclaimed the Capybara.
“What a capital idea!” said the $capybaraFriend. “I say, you really are a clever fellow.”
And that is exactly what they did. From that time on they were the best of friends. They went swimming together every day, and never thought about eating each other.
Of course, his brothers and sisters, and parents and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and other eclectic relations all disapproved, and they proclaimed most emphatically that it Absolutely Was Not Done. But when the family saw how much fun he was having, they soon came round and took up swimming themselves. From that day to this all Capybaras have been excellent swimmers, and now you know how it came about.
(set: $animal2 to "capybara")
[[“But when did they get to be so big?”->end story 2]](if: $animal2 is "capybara")[Oh, that happened gradually. It was from all the swimming, you see, which is an excellent form of exercise. And if you exercise every day, you too will grow up to be big and strong like a Capybara.](else:)[I was hoping you would not ask that. Yes, there was a price, and it was a terrible one. In time humans came to covet Chinchillas for their soft fur, and more than could ever be counted were killed to make hats and coats and other articles of clothing.
If that first Chinchilla had known the price, would he still have accepted it? Or would he have sacrificed his own chance at love? Who can say? He did not know, and he chose what he chose, and what happened happened. Remember this well: a granted wish always comes at a price.]
But now listen carefully to what I have to say. I want to tell you one more story, and this one is the most important of all, because it happened to a relative of yours. So you see, this is not just a story about things that happened in the distant past. It is a story about your own family.
Long long ago, a cousin of your seventeen-times-great-grandfather-once-removed lived in a cottage on the golden banks of the Limpopo river. The cottage stood in a clearing surrounded by the spreading boughs of fever trees. And what do you suppose this cousin of your seventeen-times-great-grandfather-once-removed did in that cottage by the river?
[[“He told stories!”->storyteller]]
[[“She painted pictures!”->painter]]Yes of course, you're quite right. That's exactly what it was.
He really should have been more careful, for birds of prey are always a danger to Chinchillas. But apparently this one was not hungry. Or perhaps it had sorrows of its own and recognized a kindred sadness in the Chinchilla, for it merely settled down on the rock beside him. For long moments they sat side by side, watching each other but not speaking. Then the Eagle said:
“It looks to me as if you are troubled, my friend.”
“You see truly,” answered the Chinchilla, “for I am in love.”
“And why should that be a trouble to you?” asked the Eagle.
So the Chinchilla told him all about it. He spoke of the depths of his love and his most ardent hopes for the future. He described the beauty and incomparable sweetness of the one he loved. He told of the charge she had placed upon him, and his uncertainty in how to accomplish it. The Eagle listened silently to the whole narration. When at last he had finished, it sat for a time in thought, gazing into the distance with its piercing eyes that see more than what is there. And then it recited the following *Sloka*, which, as you have not heard it, I will now proceed to relate:
*A Chinchilla in love*
*Needs help from above.*
“Does that mean you will help me?” asked the Chinchilla.
“Yes, I will help you,” replied the Eagle. “But I must warn you that there will be a price. For getting what you most desire always involves a price.”
“I will pay it, and gladly,” said the Chinchilla. “Without love, nothing in my life is worth anything to me.”
“Then I will take you where you can get what you wish. I must carry you in my talons, but do not be afraid. I will not hurt you.”
“I will not be afraid,” said the Chinchilla.
So the Eagle grasped him in its talons (very gently and carefully, you may be sure), and the Chinchilla was not afraid. But when the Eagle flapped its wings, and his stomach lurched, and he saw the ground falling away below, it was hard not to feel just a little bit afraid. So he closed his eyes and thought of his love. And for long and long they soared through the air, going he knew not where, and he kept his eyes tight shut and held the image of his love before him.
At last he felt they were beginning to descend, so he decided it was time to brave a look. And when he opened his eyes, what do you suppose he saw approaching from below?
(link: "“An island?”")[(set: $poolLocation to "island")(go-to: "pool")]
(link: "“A mountaintop?”")[(set: $poolLocation to "mountain")(go-to: "pool")](if: $poolLocation is "island")[The Eagle had flown far out over the ocean, and they were descending toward a small rocky island. As it came nearer, he saw the island was covered by grass and little shrubby plants. Then it was rushing toward them, and the Eagle settled lightly beside a clear pool where a spring bubbled up out of the rock.](else:)[The Eagle had flown high into the mountains, right up among the very peaks. Now they were descending toward a rocky, barren slope. It gave a few great flaps, then settled down beside a small round pool where a spring bubbled out of the rock.]
“This pool is magic,” said the Eagle, “and known to all the birds of my clan. Whoever bathes in it may receive a wish, but always there is a price. If that is still your choice, speak your wish and enter the water.”
The Chinchilla stepped cautiously to the edge of the pool and sniffed the water. It was cold and shallow and seemed entirely ordinary.
“I wish to be different from all other Chinchillas, so my love will accept me,” he said, and then plunged into the water. He dunked his head several times, then began to scrub at his fur until every last hair was thoroughly wet and clean. When at last he was satisfied, he stepped out of the pool and shook himself to scatter the clinging drops.
“And now what?” he asked. “How will I know when the wish has been granted?”
But the Eagle was gazing at him with its piercing eyes that see more than what is there. “I believe,” said the Eagle, “that it already has. Behold your fur.”
So the Chinchilla sniffed at his drying fur, and to his astonishment it was no longer coarse and wiry, but delicate and soft as gossamer. Then the Eagle picked him up (very gently and carefully, you may be sure) and flew him home (and he was not even the least bit afraid). When he presented himself to his love, she was delighted with his new fur and could hardly restrain herself from rubbing against it. So they were married on the spot, and had nineteen children, and lived happily ever after to the end of their days.
As for their children, all of them had soft velvety fur like their father. So did the children's children, and the children's children's children, right down to the present day. And that is how Chinchillas first came to have soft fur.
(set: $animal2 to "chinchilla")
[[“But what was the price for the wish?”->end story 2]]Yes that's right. He was a famous storyteller, and people would come from far and wide to listen to the marvelous stories he told about the days when the World Was New. He would sit in the clearing before the cottage by the river, and all the folk would gather round to listen.
And his Cat would sit and listen too, for it loved the stories, and was very proud to live with such a famous storyteller. And sometimes the Cat would climb into the branches of a fever tree, and look down over the gathered crowd, and think how lucky it was to live such a comfortable life. And the cousin of your seventeen-times-great-grandfather-once-removed would speak on, telling of how all things came to be what they are today.
(set: $he to "he")\
(set: $him to "him")\
(set: $his to "his")\
(set: $master to "master")
[[“Just like you!”->begin journey]]Yes that's right. She was a famous painter, and people would come from far and wide to see the marvelous pictures she created. She would stand in the clearing before the cottage by the river, and paint scenes of things very Long Ago and Far Away. And folk would gather round to watch, and Kings and Princes would pay enormous sums for her paintings.
And her Cat would sit and watch too, for it loved the pictures, and was very proud to live with such a famous artist. And sometimes the Cat would climb into the branches of a fever tree, and look down over the gathered crowd, and think how lucky it was to live such a comfortable life. And the cousin of your seventeen-times-great-grandfather-once-removed would paint on, creating images of things Strange and Wonderful.
(set: $he to "she")\
(set: $him to "her")\
(set: $his to "her")\
(set: $master to "mistress")
[[“Just like Mama!”->begin journey]]But one day the cousin fell ill. At first it was just a cough, hardly worth bothering about. But the next day the cough was worse, and $he had begun to feel feverish. A doctor was sent for, who listened to $his chest and prodded $his throat and peered into $his ears. The doctor left medicine for $him to take. But the Cat, who watched everything, saw the worried look in the doctor's eyes and was not comforted.
The next day, the illness was yet worse. All $he could do was lie in bed, gasping for air and tossing with the heat of the fever. The doctor returned, and listened and peered and prodded as before. Then he shook his head sadly.
“This is an illness beyond my skill to treat. Your life is in the gods' hands. Only they can decide your fate.”
And the Cat, lying in the window, watched everything, and saw, and heard.
<img width="100%" src="assets/cat_cropped.jpg"/>
When the doctor had left, the Cat looked long and hard at its $master. Then it jumped down from the window, turned its nose away from the cottage and away from the clearing by the river, and began to walk. For it knew what all animals know: that in times of direst need, they must seek out the Great God Nqong. He alone is their unfailing friend, and will always help them if they are brave enough to find him.
So the Cat began to walk, not knowing where it was going but trusting Fate to guide its steps. And who do you suppose it met as it walked?
(link: "“A Warthog?”")[(set: $catGuide to "Warthog")(go-to: "cat meets guide")]
(link: "“A Buffalo?”")[(set: $catGuide to "Buffalo")(go-to: "cat meets guide")]
[[“A Unicorn?”->unicorn]]No, it was not a Unicorn. There are no Unicorns in Africa. Try again.
(“But I like Unicorns!”)
That doesn't matter. What matters now is who the Cat met on its journey.
No, there are no Tyrannosauruses in Africa either.
(“How about a Pony?”)
No, it absolutely was *not* a Pony.
(“Please can't I have a Pony? I'll take such good care of it!”)
We'll talk about that later. Now stop changing the subject and tell me who the Cat came across.
(link: "“A Warthog?”")[(set: $catGuide to "Warthog")(go-to: "cat meets guide")]
(link: "“A Buffalo?”")[(set: $catGuide to "Buffalo")(go-to: "cat meets guide")]Before long the Cat came upon an enormous $catGuide resting under a tree.
“Excuse me,” said the Cat. “I am on a journey searching for the Great God Nqong. Do you know where he can be found?”
The $catGuide peered down her nose at the Cat. “Nqong lives high in the mountains, a very long walk from here,” she said. “Why do you seek him out?”
“My $master is ill. I seek a medicine that will make $him well,” said the Cat.
“Yes,” replied the $catGuide, “Nqong might give you that. But it will be a hard journey, and a dangerous one. You must be brave and steadfast and true if you are to reach your goal. Can you do that?”
“Yes,” said the Cat, “I can do that. I am not so large or strong as you. I cannot soar like the Buzzard or run for hours like the Wild Dog. But I can be brave and steadfast and true, and I will do it to save my $master.”
“Then point your nose to the mountains on the far horizon, and do not be daunted by any peril you may encounter. At the very top of the very highest peak, there you will find Nqong.”
So the Cat turned toward the mountains on the far horizon and began to walk. All day he walked, and all through the night, resting only when he could walk no farther. And just as dawn was breaking, he came to a swiftly flowing river. It stretched to left and right as far as he could see, cutting directly across his path. Somehow he must cross it, for it barred his way, but the powerful current would sweep him away if he tried to swim. How was he to cross?
[[“On a Crocodile.”->cross on crocodile]]
[[“On a fallen tree.”->cross on fallen tree]]A short way downstream he saw what appeared to be a log of wood floating in the water. But when he came close, thinking to use it as a raft, he saw it was actually a Crocodile, resting with just its nose and a bit of its back above the surface.
“Pardon me,” said the Cat, “but may I ask a favor of you? I must cross this river, and as I do not swim well, could I trouble you to carry me across?”
The Crocodile raised its head slightly, so its eyes were well above the water, and gazed at the Cat with a 'scrutable expression.
“Why do you wish to cross?” asked the Crocodile.
“My $master lies ill,” said the Cat, “and I seek the God Nqong to ask for a cure for $him. As Nqong lives in the mountains beyond this river, I must find some way across.”
“And if I do not carry you?” asked the Crocodile.
“Then I will continue to search until I find some other way across,” said the Cat.
“Yes,” said the Crocodile, “I will carry you and bring you safe to the other side. Climb on my back.”
So the Cat stepped onto the Crocodile's back, and the Crocodile lashed its powerful tail, and glided across the swift flowing river as easily as if it were but a trickle. When they had reached the other side and the Cat had stepped onto the far bank, the Crocodile turned its 'scrutable gaze on the Cat once more.
“Now tell me,” it said, “were you not frightened that I would eat you as I carried you across?”
“No,” said the Cat, “for I had no choice but to cross, and so I did only what I had to do. How then could I be afraid? Besides, you gave your word to carry me safe across.”
“But did you not fear that I would eat you anyway,” asked the Crocodile, “for such was my nature, and no animal can act contrary to its nature, however much it may wish to?”
“No,” said the Cat, “for you gave your word.”
“You are wise,” said the Crocodile. “Indeed, no animal can act contrary to its nature, and so I could not do otherwise than keep my word. Go well on your journey, and may you find what you seek.”
(set: $riverCrosser to "crocodile")
[[“What a nice Crocodile!”->cliff]]A short way upstream he found an enormous tree that had fallen into the river, with its roots sticking up from the near bank and its topmost leaves reaching almost to the other side. So he scrambled up among the roots, then with one bound was on top of the enormous trunk.
At first it was easy going, almost like crossing a bridge. As the branches began to spread out he had to pick his way more carefully, selecting the sturdiest ones leading toward the far bank. As the branches became thinner the going became steadily harder, until at last he found himself faced by a mass of leaves and twigs too narrow to bear his weight.
As he stood puzzling over how to proceed, a voice called to him from among the branches. “What brings you to this place, my furry friend? For indeed you seem much perplexed by the abundant verdure within which you are now situated.”
Looking around, the Cat saw a Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake casually looped across some nearby branches of the fallen tree.
“Thank you for inquiring,” said the Cat, unconciously imitating the Snake's manner of speaking. “Yes, I suppose I am perplexed. For somehow I must reach yonder bank, and I cannot say how it is to be done.”
“And why should that present a quandary to you?” queried the Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake. “Surely yon sluggish rivulet is no impediment to one such as yourself? Dive in and swim, for the water is delightful.”
“I regret that I am not a strong swimmer,” said the Cat. “And while it may seem sluggish to you, for a small animal like myself it might as well be a raging torrent. Were I to dive in, I would surely be swept away.”
“Truly?” asked the Snake. “I do see the problem then. Well, never mind. Give me just one moment please.” And knotting its tail in a double-clove-hitch round a nearby branch, it dived into the water and swam to the far bank where it wound its front end round a tree.
“There,” said the Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake, “you can cross on me. Only tread carefully, if you would, for my belly is most inordinately ticklish.”
So the Cat crossed the final part of the river, walking along the Snake which was pulled tight like a rope. When he was safely on dry ground once more, the Snake untied itself and curled up on a nearby rock.
“Thank you very much for your help,” said the Cat.
“Think nothing of it,” said the Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake. “Always glad to provide assistance to a visitor in the neighborhood.”
And so the Cat continued on its way.
(set: $riverCrosser to "tree")
[[“What a nice Snake!”->cliff]]Yes, it was nice, wasn't it? (if: $riverCrosser is "crocodile")[Remember that Crocodiles always keep their word. But do be careful around any Crocodile who *hasn't* given you his word, for they have most extraordinary appetites, and would think nothing of eating you.](else:)[Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snakes are famous for their courtesy and helpfulness.]
So the Cat continued on his way, with the ground now beginning to rise as he came into the mountains. All day he walked, and all through the night, resting only when he could walk no farther. And just as dawn was breaking on the second day, he came to the foot of a steep cliff. It towered far above his head and stretched to left and right as far as he could see. Somehow he must reach the top, for it barred his way, but how was it to be done?
[[“By climbing vines!”->climb vines]]
[[“By riding a Kangaroo!”->ride kangaroo]]He gazed upward, studying the face of the cliff. It was rough and rocky, with many plants and vines growing out of it. Cats are expert climbers, and he believed he could do it, but it would be difficult and dangerous. So he long paced back and forth, studying the cliff and planning out his path of ascent.
At last he began to climb. The going was slow and treacherous. He made his cautious way from one protrusion to the next, one leap or one scramble at a time. In some places where the face was less steep it was only slightly harder than climbing stairs. In others the cliff was completely sheer, and only by clinging to vines could he make any progress at all.
He did not look down. He knew he was high enough that a single missed jump could be disastrous. Looking down to confirm it would gain him nothing. So he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the path ahead, the next step, the next leap, the top of the cliff slowly drawing nearer.
The sun was already high in the sky when at least he pulled himself over the final edge and lay exhausted on the rim of the cliff. Only then did he allow himself to look down and survey the long and tiresome way he had come. And then, after only a short rest, he forced himself to rise again and continue on his way.
[[“What a brave Cat!”->meet nqong]]No, it wasn't. There are no Kangaroos in Africa. Try again.
(“It could have escaped from a zoo.”)
No, it couldn't have.
(“Please please *please* can't it be a Kangaroo?”)
No, I— oh, fine. Yes, he rode a Kangaroo. It was there on holiday visiting its aunt. The Cat climbed onto its back, and it carried him right up to the top of the cliff with a single bound. Then the Kangaroo hopped away to go visit its aunt, and it had such a lovely holiday that it decided to move there. And that is how Kangaroos first came to live in Africa.
[[“Thank you!”->meet nqong]]So the Cat continued on his way, now climbing ever higher into the mountains. All day he walked, and all through the night, resting only when he could walk no farther. And just as dawn was breaking on the third day, he came at last to the very top of the very highest peak. And there, perched right on the summit, stood Nqong in all his majesty.
The Cat bowed low before him. "Excuse me sir," he said most humbly, "but I have come to ask a favor of you. My $master lies ill, you see, and the doctor can do nothing to make $him better. So I hoped perhaps you might give me a medicine for $him."
"Yes," answered Nqong, "if you really wish it I will give you the medicine you seek. But tell me first: why do you care? For you are a Cat, and is that not everything? What is the life of any Human to you?"
But the Cat shook its head and smiled, and there was only a hint of sadness in its eyes. "Once I walked by myself, and all places were alike to me," it said. "But now I sleep by the fire and drink warm milk every day, and my $master is everything to me. And so, if in any way $his life may be saved, I would save it."
"Then I will give you the medicine you seek," said Nqong. "But first you must know that your $master now lies on $his deathbed. You were three days in coming here, and you will need three days to return, and I must tell you plainly that without this medicine your $master will not live another three days."
The Cat's tail drooped and its whiskers sagged. Its head felt hot and it could barely remain on its feet. "Then I have failed," it said. "And all my efforts have been for nothing."
"Not unless you had wings," said Nqong, "could you return with this medicine in time to save your $master."
"I have no wings," said the Cat. "And so I have failed. My $master will die, and all my efforts have been for nothing." And it sank to the ground in despair.
"That would be sad indeed," said Nqong, "after all your courage and all your dedication. For you have been brave and steadfast and true beyond any obligation or any expectation. And so it seems I must give you wings."
And that very minute and second, Best Beloved, a pair of wings sprung from the Cat's shoulders. They were the softest, fluffiest wings you ever saw.
[[“Just like my Pussykins!”->end story 3]]That's right, just like your Pussykins. So the Cat took the medicine and flew home, soaring swiftly above the land it had crossed so slowly on foot. Long before sundown it was already back home in the cottage by the river. It gave Nqong's medicine to its $master, who recovered at once and declared $he had never felt better.
So they lived happily together for many long years. And since that day all Cats have had wings, the softest, fluffiest wings that anyone ever saw. And now, Best Beloved, it is time for you to go to bed.
[[“Not yet! Just one more story!”->epilogue]]No, I think that's quite enough stories for one evening. And now it's your bedtime.
(“But these stories... they aren't real are they? I mean, they're just stories, right?”)
What do you mean, they aren't real? Of course they're real. You just heard me tell them.
(“But did they really happen?”)
What kind of question is that? Do Cats have wings?
(“Yes, of course, but—”)
(if: $animal2 is "capybara")[And do Capybaras swim?](else:)[And do Chinchillas have soft fur?]
Then what do you mean asking a silly question like that? Did they really happen! Of course they did. They all happened just so.
(“And is Tiger still the meanest of all the beasts?”)
He is still just as fierce as ever. But today we keep him in a zoo so he can't hurt anyone, and he only eats meat that comes out of a package.
(“And what about—”)
No more questions. I think you're stalling to try to delay going to bed. Now off you go.
[[“Good night, Papa.”->goodnight]]
Good night, Best Beloved.
(live: 4s)[(stop:)(go-to: "poem")]
You must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved.
<div style="left: 50%;">
*How The Whale Got His Throat*
(live: 8s)[(stop:)(go-to: "beginning")]<img width="100%" src="assets/title.png"/>
A CHOOSE YOUR OWN JUST SO STORY