The little elephant
(Stories Just Like That, Rudyard Kipling)
In ancient times the elephant did not have a trunk, but a nose as big as a shoe, not very mobile and not at all prehensile. But there was a new Elephant - a baby elephant - who, full of insatiable curiosity, was constantly asking a world of questions. And he lived in Africa, and filled all of Africa with his insatiable curiosity.
He asked his uncle Ostrich why his tail feathers sprouted like this, and uncle Ostrich struck him with a hard paw; he asked his Aunt Giraffe why his skin was speckled, and Aunt Giraffe thumped him with a hard hard hoof. And yet he was full of insatiable curiosity. He asked his uncle the hippopotamus why his eyes were red like that, and uncle hippopotamus beat him with his big big hoof; and he asked his aunt la Bertuccia why the melons were so sweet, and aunt Bertuccia patted him with her shaggy paw.
And yet he was full of insatiable curiosity. He asked questions about everything he saw, heard, felt, smelled, or touched, and all his uncles and aunts beat him up. And yet he was full of insatiable curiosity.
One fine morning, in the middle of the precession of the equinoxes, that insatiable little elephant came out of the blue with a question of a new kind: - What does the crocodile eat? -
- Ssst!... - everyone said, forcing him to be silent.
He walked away from the Colocolo bird, who was sitting in the middle of a Wait-a-Piece bush, and said to him: 'My father beat me, and my mother beat me; all my uncles and aunts beat me for my insatiable curiosity, but I also want to know what the Crocodile eats.-
The Colocolo bird said to him with a plaintive cry: – Go to the banks of the Limpopo River, flanked by the fever trees, and you will know.-
The following morning, when there was nothing left of the equinoxes, because the precession had proceeded according to precedents, the insatiable elephant's cub grabbed a hundred kilograms of bananas, a hundred kilograms of sugar cane and seventeen melons, and said to all his dear family: – Goodbye! I go to the Limpopo River, all lined with fever trees, to find out what the Crocodile eats.–
He set off a little hot, but not at all surprised, eating melons and throwing away the rinds because he couldn't pick them up. He went from the city of Grahara to Kimberley and from Kimberley to the country of Khama, and from the country of Khama he went east to the north, eating melons all the way, till he came to the banks of the great river Limpopo, flanked by fever trees, like the bird Colocolo had told him.
Now it must be said that up to that week, day, hour and minute, that insatiable Baby Elephant had never seen a Crocodile and did not know what it looked like. And that was all his insatiable curiosity. The first thing he found was a two-colored python snake wrapped around a rock.
'Sorry,' said the Elephant's Child politely; – but have you seen anything like a Crocodile in these promiscuous parts?
– Did I see a Crocodile? said the Two-Coloured Python Serpent disdainfully. – And what else do you want to know?–
'Sorry,' said the Elephant's Child; – but would you do me the favor of telling me what you eat?
Then the Two-Coloured Python-Serpent unfurled swiftly from the rock, and with his scaly leathery tail struck the Elephant's Child.
So very courteously he bade farewell to the two-coloured python snake, and after helping it to coil itself around the rock, set off again, a little hot, but not surprised, continuing to eat mellons and throw away the rinds, because he could not picking them up, till he put his paws on what he thought was a tree stump on the far edge of the Limpopo River, all lined with fever trees. But it was actually the Crocodile, and the Crocodile winked—so!
'Excuse me,' said the Elephant's Child, very politely, 'did you happen to see a Crocodile in these promiscuous parts?
Then the Crocodile winked the other eye, lifted his tail out of the mud, and the Elephant's Child stepped back very politely.
'Come here, little one,' said the Crocodile. – Why are you asking such questions? –
'Sorry,' said the Elephant's Child, very politely; – but my father beat me, my mother beat me, plus my uncle the Ostrich and my aunt the Giraffe who kicks so hard, and my big uncle the Hippo, and my hairy aunt the Barbary monkey, and even the two-colored python snake with a scaly and leathery tail, which beats harder than the others; and if you want to beat me, know that I don't want to be beaten anymore.
'Come here, little one,' said the Crocodile, 'because I am the Crocodile.
And to show that it was true he cried crocodile tears.
Then the little elephant held his breath and all fluttering knelt on the shore and said: - You are exactly what I have been looking for for so many days. Can you tell me, please, what do you eat?
'Come here, little one,' said the Crocodile; – and I'll whisper it in your ear.
Then the Elephant's Child lowered his head and put it to the Crocodile's musky, fanged mouth, and the Crocodile caught him by the nose, which until that week, day, hour and minute, had been no bigger than a shoe. , although it had proved much more useful.
'I think,' said the Crocodile, 'and he said it between his teeth .
The Elephant's Child, my dears, was greatly disconcerted, and said, speaking through his nose, thus: - Leave me, leave me! You're balking!
Then appeared the Two-Coloured Python Serpent who approached the shore and said: – My young friend, if you now, immediately and instantaneously do not throw as hard as you can, it is my firm opinion that your acquaintance with that handsome champion in the overcoat of leather (and by this he meant the Crocodile) will carry you into the clear current before you can say amen.
Then the Elephant's Child sat down on his haunches, and began to pull and pull and pull, and his nose began to lengthen. And the Crocodile wriggled in the water, making it foam with great strokes of his tail, and in turn he pulled and pulled and pulled. And the elephant's baby nose kept getting longer, and the elephant's baby spread his four little legs, pulling, pulling, pulling, and his nose kept getting longer; and the Crocodile thumped his tail like an oar, and tugged and tugged and tugged, and with each tug the elephant's baby's nose grew longer... and, by the way! it hurt him.
Then the baby elephant felt himself slip, and said with his nose, which had become almost a meter and a half long: - No more boxwood!
Then the Two-Coloured Python-Serpent stretched out on the bank and coiled itself in a double loop round the Elephant-Child's hind legs, and said: 'Hasty and inexperienced traveller, now we shall seriously engage in some high voltage, otherwise it is my impression that that warrior with an armored back (and by this he meant the Crocodile) will permanently spoil your future career.
So he tugged, and the Elephant's Calf tugged, and the Crocodile tugged; but the baby elephant and the two-colored python snake pulled harder; and finally the Crocodile released the elephant's baby's nose with a snap that was heard above and below the Limpopo.
And suddenly the Elephant's Child fell backwards; but first he said thanks to the Two-Coloured Python Serpent, and then he attended to his poor nose, and wrapped it in fresh banana leaves, and dipped it in the fresh Limpopo water.
- What are you doing? said the two-colored python snake.
'Sorry,' said the Elephant's Child; – but my nose is twisted, and I wait for it to go away.
"You'll be waiting a long time," said the Two-Coloured Python Serpent. Some people don't know their luck.
The baby elephant waited three days for the nose to withdraw, but he had a long time to wait. The crocodile had stretched it to him in the same precise trunk shape that all elephants have today.
At the end of the third day a fly came and stung the Elephant's Child on the shoulder, and before he knew what he was doing, he lifted his trunk and killed the fly.
– Advantage number one! - said the two-colored python snake - the nose from before would have been of no use to you. Now, try to eat a little.
Before he thought what to do, the baby elephant stuck out his trunk and picked up a large bundle of grass, wiped it off his front legs, and stuffed it into his mouth.
– Advantage number two! - said the two-colored python snake - the nose from before would have been of no use to you. Don't you feel the sun burn?
'Yes,' said the Elephant's Child, and before he knew what he was doing he scooped up some mud from the Limpopo bank, and applied it to his head, forming a silly clay cap.
'Advantage number three,' said the Two-Coloured Python Snake, 'the old nose would have been of no use to you. Now what would you say if they beat you again?
'Sorry,' said the baby elephant. – They would have to do it with me!
– And would you like to give some? said the two-colored python snake.
– More than I would like! said the baby elephant.
'Good,' said the two-coloured python snake; – you will see that the new nose will serve you just right by the way.
'Thank you,' said the little elephant, 'I'll remember. And now I think it's time to go back to the family and try it out.
So the Elephant's Child went hopping and playing across Africa. When he wanted fruit, he plucked them from the tree instead of waiting for them to fall, as he did before. When he wanted grass, he picked it up from the ground, instead of kneeling as he did before. When the flies stung him, he broke off a branch and made himself a fly swatter, and when the sun was hot, he made himself a new, cooling clay cap. When he felt like a solitary traveler of great Africa, he hummed something to himself with his trunk, and the noise was louder than several fanfares. He deviated a little from his itinerary to go and see a certain big Hippo (who was no relation to him), and gave him plenty to make sure that the Two-Coloured Python Snake had told the truth about his new nose. Then for the rest of the time, being a clean pachyderm, he collected all the melon rinds that he had scattered on the way to the Limpopo.
One dark evening he reached his dear relatives, rolled up his trunk and said: - How are you? They were very happy to see him again, and immediately said to him: - Come here and we will fight you for your insatiable curiosity. - Ohibo! said the Elephant's Child. Leave it to me, I am a master.
Then he unwrapped the trumpet and gave many and many to two dear brothers to overthrow them on the ground.
– Strawberry trees! - they said, - and who taught you, and what have you done to your nose?
'I got a new one from the Crocodile on the Limpopo bank,' said the Elephant's Child. I said to him: What are you eating? and he gave me this gift.
- I think it's very ugly! - said his hairy aunt Bertuccia.
'It is true,' said the Elephant's Child, 'but it is precious. And in so saying he grabbed the Bertuccia by the leg and drove her into a wasps' nest.
Then that naughty little elephant beat very well those who came within range, until he left them warm and surprised. He pulled his uncle the Ostrich's tail feathers; he grabbed his aunt the Giraffe from behind by the leg and pushed her into a thorny bush; trumpeted into his big uncle the Hippo's ears, and blew soap bubbles into his ears, while he took a nap after his meal; but he never let the Colocolo bird touch him.
Eventually things became so serious that his dear relatives went off one by one to the banks of the Limpopo, and they all had new noses made by the Crocodile. When they returned, no one beat anyone any more, and since then all Elephants that have been seen, and those that have not been seen, have trunks exactly like that of the insatiable Baby Elephant.