February 07, 2023

#08-283: The Elephant's Child

"This is the Elephant's Child having his nose pulled by the Crocodile..." (Gutenberg)

Note: Rudyard Kipling wrote a huge number of short stories, many of them for children. This one is from a collection that is one of his most famous.

Get Ready: Have you ever wondered why elephants' trunks are long? Here's the answer! 😉

British Indian author Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book, also wrote a collection of Just So Stories explaining (humorously) for children why certain things are the way they are. "The Elephant's Child" tells how the elephant got its trunk.

"In the High and Far-Off Times," the story begins, the elephant had no trunk, just a bulgy nose as big as a boot. And the curious Elephant's Child--who went around getting spanked by his relatives for asking too many questions, because he was full of "'satiable curtiosity" (insatiable curiosity)--came to wonder: what crocodiles have for dinner?

When he asked, "everybody said, 'Hush!' in a loud and dretful (dreadful) tone," and spanked him without stopping for a long time because of his insatiable curiosity. (Presumably because this was a dangerous thing to wonder!)

Of all his relatives--his tall aunt, the Ostrich; his tall uncle, the Giraffe; his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus; his hairy uncle, the Baboon--it was only the Kolokolo Bird who suggested "Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out."

And so he did, taking along with him "a hundred pounds of bananas..., a hundred pounds of sugar-cane..., and seventeen melons." He ate the melons as he went, throwing the rinds on the ground.

When he reached the banks of the Limpopo River, he realized that he didn't know what a crocodile looked like! So he asked a Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake some questions--and got spanked for doing so--and as he walked away he stepped on a log of wood at the river's edge--or so he thought.

But it was really the Crocodile, who winked one eye, then the other, as the Elephant's Child asked if he'd seen the Crocodile! "Come closer," said the Crocodile, "for I am the Crocodile."

When the Elephant's Child asked what he had for dinner, the Crocodile asked him to come closer still, "and I'll whisper." The Crocodile then caught the Elephant's Child by its little boot-like nose and said, "I think to-day I will begin with Elephant's Child!"

As the Crocodile pulled, the Elephant's Child pulled back, until, through the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake's help, at last he escaped--with the trunk we see today. The Snake then taught him that this new trunk was good for swatting flies and gathering food and schlooping mud on his head when it was hot. And as he headed home he used his trunk to pick up his melon rinds, for he was a very Tidy Pachyderm.

His trunk was so useful that, when they saw it, all the other elephants went down to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to get new noses from the Crocodile. 

And that's why today, all the Elephants have trunks precisely like that of the Elephant's Child.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bulgy
  2. crocodile
  3. humorously
  4. hush
  5. insatiable
  6. precisely
  7. spanked
  8. swatting
  9. trunk
  10. winked

  1. sticking out; having a bump
  2. an elephant's nose
  3. unable to be satisfied
  4. closed one eye
  5. hit on the bottom
  6. exactly
  7. a large reptile that lives in slow-moving water
  8. in an amusing way
  9. striking; hitting
  10. be quiet

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 7, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. g; 3. h; 4. j; 5. c; 6. f; 7. e; 8. i; 9. b; 10. d