Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Rudyard Kipling

Title Page

Introduction

How the Whale Got His Throat

How the Camel Got His Hump

How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin

How the Leopard Got His Spots

The Elephant’s Child

The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo

The Beginning of the Armadilloes

How the First Letter was Written

How the Alphabet was Made

The Crab that Played with the Sea

The Cat that Walked by Himself

The Butterfly that Stamped

Copyright

About the Book

Have you ever wondered how the leopard got his spots? Or how the camel got his hump? Rudyard Kipling’s witty and beautifully written stories explain these secrets and many more and introduce such memorable characters as the Elephant’s Child, the Cat that Walked by Himself and the Butterfly that Stamped.

About the Author

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in India on 30 December 1865. He was sent back to England when he was seven years old but returned to India in 1882 to work as the assistant editor of the Civil & Military Gazette in Lahore. He published poetry and stories in newspapers but it was the publication of Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888 that brought him his first major success. His most famous works are Barrack-room Ballads (1892), The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and Just So Stories (1902). Just So Stories was written for his children and the tales are addressed to his six-year-old daughter Josephine, his ‘best beloved’, who died of pneumonia in 1899. In 1907 Kipling became the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Rudyard Kipling died on 18 January 1936.

ALSO BY RUDYARD KIPLING

Departmental Ditties

Plain Tales from the Hills

Soldiers Three

Wee Willie Winkie

Life’s Handicap

The Light that Failed

Barrack-room Ballads

The Jungle Book

The Second Jungle Book

Captains Courageous

Stalky and Co.

Kim

Puck of Pook’s Hill

Rewards and Fairies

Something of Myself

title

Introduction

When I was about five years old and learning to read, I sat down alone one day with a book I knew well and pretended to read it to myself. I was in a cabin on a ship of the Union-Castle line, bound for Cape Town, and I suppose I was alone because I was thought to be asleep. The book was Kipling’s Just So Stories. I knew it well because my mother had read it to me many times, and I used to mutter or whisper or mouth the words along with her as she read.

The tale I happened to be reading that day in the hot little cabin was ‘How the Camel got his Hump’. Well, I say reading: I wasn’t really reading so much as remembering. But I must have had a notion of what those printed words did, because I remember following them with my finger as I spoke the well-known words:

In the beginning of years, when the world was so new-and-all, and the Animals were just beginning to work for Man, there was a Camel, and he lived in the middle of a Howling Desert because he did not want to work; and besides, he was a Howler himself. So he ate sticks and thorns and tamarisks and milkweed and prickles, most ’scruciating idle; and when anybody spoke to him he said ‘Humph!’ Just ‘Humph!’ and no more.

Something odd was happening as I went along. The marks on the page were becoming transparent. Or not transparent, exactly, so much as – what? Meaningful? At any rate, they were no longer meaningless. I could see what they meant, and whether that meaning was behind them or within them or somewhere else entirely, the shape of the word and my apprehension of the meaning were one and the same thing, or seemed to be so, and most miraculous it was.

I have never stopped reading since.

The reason that revelation happened with Kipling, and not with Enid Blyton, whose first Noddy book I also possessed and enjoyed, is that he was a master of language, and she was not. There was nothing memorable in the language of Noddy Goes to Toyland (though there was quite a good joke: when Noddy and Big-Ears are building a house, it starts to rain, and Noddy suggests that they put the roof up first and shelter under it while they build the walls. That was the sort of joke I could get), there was nothing that made you want to move your mouth along with it as your mother spoke it aloud, nothing that hummed and beat and sang and danced. Noddy was inert and the Just So Stories were throbbing with life, and it was all in the language. As Auden said in his poem on the death of Yeats,

Time that is intolerant

Of the brave and innocent,

And indifferent in a week

To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives

Everyone by whom it lives –

which may not be fair, but it seems to be true. It was the words, those delicious, crunchy, flavoursome words that I so enjoyed, enjoyed well before I knew what they meant. What were tamarisks? I neither knew nor cared. Something to eat, obviously; and they tasted almost as good to say as to eat. What did ’scruciating mean? I hadn’t a clue. But I scruciated up my mouth to say it, and it felt properly important and grown-up.

And that, I think, is the most important lesson I ever learned about literature – poetry in particular, but prose like this is almost poetry – which is this: it doesn’t live only in the eye, it lives in the mouth and in the ear; our senses get the point long before our brain does. ‘Take care of the sense,’ said Lewis Carroll’s Duchess, ‘and the sounds will take care of themselves.’ But the two things can’t be so easily separated: in the best writing each is part of the other, and genuine poetry, as T.S. Eliot pointed out, can communicate before it is understood.

Adults sometimes forget this, and insist on ‘translating’ poetry or poetical prose into simpler English, in the earnest hope that this will take the problems out of it, and that children will enjoy it more. They won’t. Quite the worst way of dealing with that most rhythmical and energetic of all the Just So Stories, ‘The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo’, would be to explain what a salt-pan is, and define spinifex, and find a picture of a blue gum; whereas quite the best way is simply to read it aloud:

He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.

He had to!

Rhythm must be the most ancient form of common enjoyment among human beings – clapping, stamping, beating a hollow log; it goes right back to the very dawn of humanity, and it lives again in every baby jogged up and down on a parent’s lap. Children who are lucky enough to meet the Just So Stories before they are old enough to worry about what they mean are profoundly lucky; these tales do what nursery rhymes do, which is to envelop the child in a happy sense that language brings delight, that it’s full of fun and pleasure. How unlucky those children are who never experience this in their earliest childhood, and who know nothing of language except instructions and curses.

Auden’s poem on the death of Yeats, which I quoted above, goes on to mention Kipling directly. Time, he says, which worships language –

Pardons cowardice, conceit,

Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse

Pardoned Kipling and his views …

The views that in Auden’s opinion needed pardoning were, of course, the imperialist ideas which Kipling championed, and which were so closely identified with him in the public mind. It was always more complicated than mere jingoistic bluster; one of Kipling’s great gifts was his understanding of and sympathy for human beings, no matter how different their circumstances from that of an Englishman. His portraits of the various Indian characters in Kim, not least the saintly lama, are warm and richly varied; and one of the best-known lines in English verse is ‘You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!’

Do these ‘views’ – does this imperialism – show up in the Just So Stories? The Ethiopian in ‘How the Leopard got his Spots’ is referred to more than once as a nigger, but he is represented as an intelligent, amiable and eloquent individual. For the Kipling who wrote this book, human beings are human beings, and so are animals. The clearest sign that it was the work of a child of the British Empire comes not in the stories but in the verses between them, which are full of references to what was a rich strand of common experience in colonial family life: the sea voyages from Southampton or Tilbury to Aden, Bombay, Colombo, Calcutta, Cape Town, and every other port where the map was coloured pink:

But it’s hot – too hot from Suez

For the likes of you and me

Ever to go

In a P. and O.

And call on the Cake-Parsee!

The verse that follows ‘The Crab that Played’ is full of the names and initials of shipping lines, including the U.C.S. which owned the Edinburgh Castle, on board which I read ‘How the Camel got his Hump’. I must be one of the last children to have those shipping lines in my memory, and to have that sort of Imperial experience, and to know exactly what it felt like

When the cabin port-holes are dark and green

Because of the seas outside;

When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)

And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,

And the trunks begin to slide …

It’s all gone now.

* * *

The tales I cared for least when I was young are the two about Tegumai and his daughter Taffy: ‘How the First Letter was Written’ and ‘How the Alphabet was Made’. They are different in feeling from the other stories – there are no animals in them, for a start; and the overlong explanation of how the first letters were formed seemed to me, even when I was five, far-fetched in a way that the story of how the elephant got his trunk didn’t. Not that I thought that was true: but these two tales were a different kind of story-telling, and I was impatient with it.

Now that I am very much older, I can see what was going on, and feel more sympathy with it. They still, for my taste, drift too far in the direction of the whimsy that tempted Kipling elsewhere to perpetrate such horrors as Thy Servant a Dog, and the view of childhood carries a whiff of that nursery-nostalgia that was such a strong presence in late Victorian and early Edwardian culture, and which was still hanging around the pages of Punch in the 1920s, like a stale and sickly scent.

But Kipling was writing about his own daughter, Josephine, who had died of pneumonia, aged six, three years before Just So Stories was published. The verse that follows these two tales is more revealing than anything else in the whole book:

In mocassins and deer-skin cloak,

Unfearing, free and fair she flits,

And lights her little damp-wood smoke

To show her Daddy where she flits.

For far – oh, very far behind,

So far she cannot call to him,

Comes Tegumai alone to find

The daughter that was all to him.

Coming on that unexpectedly, especially when you are a parent, is to be reminded that behind the wit, the boundless invention, the unforgettable phrase-making and mastery of language, runs a vein of deep and true feeling. Like much of Kipling’s real life, it was not on open display, but it is all the more moving for that.

Just So Stories is, for me, the best children’s book to come out of what is often called the Golden Age of children’s literature – the period that followed Alice, and finished with Winnie-the-Pooh. The stories are creation tales to rank with the finest ever invented by that greatest storyteller of all, the anonymous maker of folk tales in cave or castle or cottage; and they are funny. What more could any reader want, whether at five or at ninety-five? So I now give thanks to whoever decided to put that book in my hands when I was learning to read, and make sure that my children, and my grandchildren, have it in their turn.

Philip Pullman, 2008

How the Whale Got His Throat

imageN THE SEA, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth – so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ’Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, ‘I’m hungry.’ And the small ’Stute Fish said in a small ’stute voice, ‘Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?’

‘No,’ said the Whale. ‘What is it like?’

‘Nice,’ said the small ’Stute Fish. ‘Nice but nubbly.’

‘Then fetch me some,’ said the Whale, and he made the sea froth up with his tail.

‘One at a time is enough,’ said the ’Stute Fish. ‘If you swim to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West (that is Magic), you will find, sitting on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing on but a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, one shipwrecked Mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.’

So the Whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West, as fast as he could swim, and on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, he found one single, solitary shipwrecked Mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his Mummy’s leave to paddle, or else he would never have done it, because he was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.)

Then the Whale opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly touched his tail, and he swallowed the shipwrecked Mariner, and the raft he was sitting on, and his blue canvas breeches, and the suspenders (which you must not forget), and the jack-knife – He swallowed them all down into his warm, dark, inside cupboards, and then he smacked his lips – so, and turned round three times on his tail.

But as soon as the Mariner, who was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, found himself truly inside the Whale’s warm, dark, inside cupboards, he stumped and he jumped and he thumped and he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped, and he danced hornpipes where he shouldn’t, and the Whale felt most unhappy indeed. (Have you forgotten the suspenders?)

So he said to the ’Stute Fish, ‘This man is very nubbly, and besides he is making me hiccough. What shall I do?’

‘Tell him to come out,’ said the ’Stute Fish.

So the Whale called down his own throat to the shipwrecked Mariner, ‘Come out and behave yourself. I’ve got the hiccoughs.’

‘Nay, nay!’ said the Mariner. ‘Not so, but far otherwise. Take me to my natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and I’ll think about it.’ And he began to dance more than ever.

‘You had better take him home,’ said the ’Stute Fish to the Whale. ‘I ought to have warned you that he is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity’

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THIS is the picture of the Whale swallowing the Mariner with his infinite-resource-and-sagacity, and the raft and the jack-knife and his suspenders, which you must not forget. The buttony-things are the Mariner’s suspenders, and you can see the knife close by them. He is sitting on the raft, but it has tilted up sideways, so you don’t see much of it. The whity thing by the Mariner’s left hand is a piece of wood that he was trying to row the raft with when the Whale came along. The piece of wood is called the jaws-of-a-gaff. The Mariner left it outside when he went in. The Whale’s name was Smiler, and the Mariner was called Mr. Henry Albert Bivvens, A.B. The little ’Stute Fish is hiding under the Whale’s tummy, or else I would have drawn him. The reason that the sea looks so ooshy-skooshy is because the Whale is sucking it all into his mouth so as to suck in Mr. Henry Albert Bivvens and the raft and the jack-knife and the suspenders. You must never forget the suspenders.

So the Whale swam and swam and swam, with both flippers and his tail, as hard as he could for the hiccoughs; and at last he saw the Mariner’s natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and he rushed half-way up the beach, and opened his mouth wide and wide and wide, and said, ‘Change here for Winchester, Ashuelot, Nashua, Keene, and stations on the Fitchburg Road’; and just as he said ‘Fitch’ the Mariner walked out of his mouth. But while the Whale had been swimming, the Mariner, who was indeed a person of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, had taken his jack-knife and cut up the raft into a little square grating all running criss-cross, and he had tied it firm with his suspenders (now you know why you were not to forget the suspenders!), and he dragged that grating good and tight into the Whale’s throat, and there it stuck! Then he recited the following Sloka, which, as you have not heard it, I will now proceed to relate –

By means of a grating

I have stopped your ating.

For the Mariner he was also an Hi-ber-ni-an. And he stepped out on the shingle, and went home to his Mother, who had given him leave to trail his toes in the water; and he married and lived happily ever afterward. So did the Whale. But from that day on, the grating in his throat, which he could neither cough up nor swallow down, prevented him eating anything except very, very small fish; and that is the reason why whales nowadays never eat men or boys or little girls.

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HERE is the Whale looking for the little ’Stute Fish, who is hiding under the Door-sills of the Equator. The little ’Stute Fish’s name was Pingle. He is hiding among the roots of the big seaweed that grows in front of the Doors of the Equator. I have drawn the Doors of the Equator. They are shut. They are always kept shut, because a door ought always to be kept shut. The ropy-thing right across is the Equator itself; and the things that look like rocks are the two giants Moar and Koar, that keep the Equator in order. They drew the shadow-pictures on the Doors of the Equator, and they carved all those twisty fishes under the Doors. The beaky-fish are called beaked Dolphins, and the other fish with the queer heads are called Hammer-headed Sharks. The Whale never found the little ’Stute Fish till he got over his temper, and then they became good friends again.

The small ’Stute fish went and hid himself in the mud under the Door-sills of the Equator. He was afraid that the Whale might be angry with him.

The Sailor took the jack-knife home. He was wearing the blue canvas breeches when he walked out on the shingle. The suspenders were left behind, you see, to tie the grating with; and that is the end of that tale.

WHEN the cabin port-holes are dark and green

Because of the seas outside;

When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)

And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,

And the trunks begin to slide;

When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,

And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,

And you aren’t waked or washed or dressed,

Why, then you will know (if you haven’t guessed)

You’re ‘Fifty North and Forty West!’

How the Camel Got His Hump

imageOW THIS IS the next tale, and it tells how the Camel got his big hump.

In the beginning of years, when the world was so new-and-all, and the Animals were just beginning to work for Man, there was a Camel, and he lived in the middle of a Howling Desert because he did not want to work; and besides, he was a Howler himself. So he ate sticks and thorns and tamarisks and milkweed and prickles, most ’scruciating idle; and when anybody spoke to him he said ‘Humph!’ Just ‘Humph!’ and no more.

Presently the Horse came to him on Monday morning, with a saddle on his back and a bit in his mouth, and said, ‘Camel, O Camel, come out and trot like the rest of us.’

‘Humph!’ said the Camel; and the Horse went away and told the Man.

Presently the Dog came to him, with a stick in his mouth, and said, ‘Camel, O Camel, come and fetch and carry like the rest of us.’

‘Humph!’ said the Camel; and the Dog went away and told the Man.

Presently the Ox came to him, with the yoke on his neck, and said, ‘Camel, O Camel, come and plough like the rest of us.’

‘Humph!’ said the Camel; and the Ox went away and told the Man.

At the end of the day the Man called the Horse and the Dog and the Ox together, and said, ‘Three, O Three, I’m very sorry for you (with the world so new-and-all); but that Humph-thing in the Desert can’t work, or he would have been here by now, so I am going to leave him alone, and you must work double-time to make up for it.’

That made the Three very angry (with the world so new-and-all), and they held a palaver, and an indaba, and a punchayet, and a pow-wow on the edge of the Desert; and the Camel came chewing milkweed most ’scruciating idle, and laughed at them. Then he said ‘Humph!’ and went away again.

Presently there came along the Djinn in charge of All Deserts, rolling in a cloud of dust (Djinns always travel that way because it is Magic), and he stopped to palaver and pow-wow with the Three.

‘Djinn of All Deserts,’ said the Horse, ‘is it right for any one to be idle, with the world so new-and-all?’

‘Certainly not,’ said the Djinn.

‘Well,’ said the Horse, ‘there’s a thing in the middle of your Howling Desert (and he’s a Howler himself) with a long neck and long legs, and he hasn’t done a stroke of work since Monday morning. He won’t trot.’

‘Whew!’ said the Djinn, whistling, ‘that’s my Camel, for all the gold in Arabia! What does he say about it?’

‘He says “Humph!”’ said the Dog; ‘and he won’t fetch and carry.’

‘Does he say anything else?’

‘Only “Humph!”; and he won’t plough,’ said the Ox.

‘Very good,’ said the Djinn. ‘I’ll humph him if you will kindly wait a minute.’

The Djinn rolled himself up in his dustcloak, and took a bearing across the desert, and found the Camel most ’scruciatingly idle, looking at his own reflection in a pool of water.

‘My long and bubbling friend,’ said the Djinn, ‘what’s this I hear of your doing no work, with the world so new-and-all?’

‘Humph!’ said the Camel.

The Djinn sat down, with his chin in his hand, and began to think a Great Magic, while the Camel looked at his own reflection in the pool of water.

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THIS is the picture of the Djinn making the beginnings of the Magic that brought the Humph to the Camel. First he drew a line in the air with his finger, and it became solid; and then he made a cloud, and then he made an egg – you can see them at the bottom of the picture – and then there was a magic pumpkin that turned into a big white flame. Then the Djinn took his magic fan and fanned that flame till the flame turned into a Magic by itself. It was a good Magic and a very kind Magic really, though it had to give the Camel a Humph because the Camel was lazy. The Djinn in charge of All Deserts was one of the nicest of the Djinns, so he would never do anything really unkind.

‘You’ve given the Three extra work ever since Monday morning, all on account of your ’scruciating idleness,’ said the Djinn; and he went on thinking Magics, with his chin in his hand.

‘Humph!’ said the Camel.

‘I shouldn’t say that again if I were you,’ said the Djinn; ‘you might say it once too often. Bubbles, I want you to work.’

And the Camel said ‘Humph!’ again; but no sooner had he said it than he saw his back, that he was so proud of, puffing up and puffing up into a great big lolloping humph.

‘Do you see that?’ said the Djinn. ‘That’s your very own humph that you’ve brought upon your very own self by not working. To-day is Thursday, and you’ve done no work since Monday, when the work began. Now you are going to work.’

‘How can I,’ said the Camel, ‘with this humph on my back?’

‘That’s made a-purpose,’ said the Djinn, ‘all because you missed those three days. You will be able to work now for three days without eating, because you can live on your humph; and don’t you ever say I never did anything for you. Come out of the Desert and go to the Three, and behave. Humph yourself!’

And the Camel humphed himself, humph and all, and went away to join the Three. And from that day to this the Camel always a wears a humph (we call it ‘hump’ now, not to hurt his feelings); but he has never yet caught up with the three days that he missed at the beginning of the world, and he has never yet learned how to behave.

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HERE is the picture of the Djinn in charge of All Deserts guiding the Magic with his magic fan. The Camel is eating a twig of acacia, and he has just finished saying ‘humph’ once too often (the Djinn told him he would), and so the Humph is coming. The long towelly-thing growing out of the thing like an onion is the Magic, and you can see the Humph on its shoulder. The Humph fits on the flat part of the Camel’s back. The Camel is too busy looking at his own beautiful self in the pool of water to know what is going to happen to him.

Underneath the truly picture is a picture of the World-so-new-and-all. There are two smoky volcanoes in it, some other mountains and some stones and a lake and a black island and a twisty river and a lot of other things, as well as Noah’s Ark. I couldn’t draw all the deserts that the Djinn was in charge of, so I only drew one, but it is a most deserty desert.

THE Camel’s hump is an ugly lump

Which well you may see at the Zoo;

But uglier yet is the hump we get

From having too little to do.

Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo,

If we haven’t enough to do-oo-oo,

We get the hump –

Cameelious hump –

The hump that is black and blue!

We climb out of bed with a frouzly head

And a snarly-yarly voice.

We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl

At our bath and our boots and our toys;

And there ought to be a corner for me

(And I know there is one for you)

When we get the hump –

Cameelious hump –

The hump that is black and blue!

The cure for this ill is not to sit still,

Or frowst with a book by the fire;

But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,

And dig till you gently perspire;

And then you will find that the sun and the wind,

And the Djinn of the Garden too,

Have lifted the hump –

The horrible hump –

The hump that is black and blue!

I get it as well as you-oo-oo –

If I haven’t enough to do-oo-oo!

We all get the hump –

Cameelious hump –

Kiddies and grown-ups too!

How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin

imageNCE UPON A time, on an uninhabited island on the shores of the Red Sea, there lived a Parsee from whose hat the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour. And the Parsee lived by the Red Sea with nothing but his hat and his knife and a cooking-stove of the kind that you must particularly never touch. And one day he took flour and water and currants and plums and sugar and things, and made himself one cake which was two feet across and three feet thick. It was indeed a Superior Comestible (that’s Magic), and he put it on the stove because he was allowed to cook on that stove, and he baked it and he baked it till it was all done brown and smelt most sentimental. But just as he was going to eat it there came down to the beach from the Altogether Uninhabited Interior one Rhinoceros with a horn on his nose, two piggy eyes, and few manners. In those days the Rhinoceros’s skin fitted him quite tight. There were no wrinkles in it anywhere. He looked exactly like a Noah’s Ark Rhinoceros, but of course much bigger. All the same, he had no manners then, and he has no manners now, and he never will have any manners. He said, ‘How!’ and the Parsee left that cake and climbed to the top of a palm-tree with nothing on but his hat, from which the rays of the sun were always reflected in more-than-oriental splendour. And the Rhinoceros upset the oil-stove with his nose, and the cake rolled on the sand, and he spiked that cake on the horn of his nose, and he ate it, and he went away, waving his tail, to the desolate and Exclusively Uninhabited Interior which abuts on the islands of Mazanderan, Socotra, and the Promontories of the Larger Equinox. Then the Parsee came down from his palm-tree and put the stove on its legs and recited the following Sloka, which, as you have not heard, I will now proceed to relate: –

Them that takes cakes

Which the Parsee-man bakes

Makes dreadful mistakes.

And there was a great deal more in that than you would think.

Because, five weeks later, there was a heat-wave in the Red Sea, and everybody took off all the clothes they had. The Parsee took off his hat; but the Rhinoceros took off his skin and carried it over his shoulder as he came down to the beach to bathe. In those days it buttoned underneath with three buttons and looked like a waterproof. He said nothing whatever about the Parsee’s cake, because he had eaten it all; and he never had any manners, then, since, or henceforward. He waddled straight into the water and blew bubbles through his nose, leaving his skin on the beach.

Presently the Parsee came by and found the skin, and he smiled one smile that ran all round his face two times. Then he danced three times round the skin and rubbed his hands. Then he went to his camp and filled his hat with cake-crumbs, for the Parsee never ate anything but cake, and never swept out his camp. He took that skin, and he shook that skin, and he scrubbed that skin, and he rubbed that skin just as full of old, dry, stale, tickly cake-crumbs and some burned currants as ever it could possibly hold. Then he climbed to the top of his palm-tree and waited for the Rhinoceros to come out of the water and put it on.

And the Rhinoceros did. He buttoned it up with the three buttons, and it tickled like cake-crumbs in bed. Then he wanted to scratch, but that made it worse; and then he lay down on the sands and rolled and rolled and rolled, and every time he rolled the cake-crumbs tickled him worse and worse and worse. Then he ran to the palm-tree and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed himself against it. He rubbed so much and so hard that he rubbed his skin into a great fold over his shoulders, and another fold underneath, where the buttons used to be (but he rubbed the buttons off), and he rubbed some more folds over his legs. And it spoiled his temper, but it didn’t make the least difference to the cake-crumbs. They were inside his skin and they tickled. So he went home, very angry indeed and horribly scratchy; and from that day to this every rhinoceros has great folds in his skin and a very bad temper, all on account of the cake-crumbs inside.

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THIS is the picture of the Parsee beginning to eat his cake on the Uninhabited Island in the Red Sea on a very hot day; and of the Rhinoceros coming down from the Altogether Uninhabited Interior, which, as you can truthfully see, is all rocky. The Rhinoceros’s skin is quite smooth, and the three buttons that button it up are underneath, so you can’t see them. The squiggly things on the Parsee’s hat are the rays of the sun reflected in more-than-oriental splendour, because if I had drawn real rays they would have filled up all the picture. The cake has currants in it; and the wheel-thing lying on the sand in front belonged to one of Pharaoh’s chariots when he tried to cross the Red Sea. The Parsee found it, and kept it to play with. The Parsee’s name was Pestonjee Bomonjee, and the Rhinoceros was called Strorks, because he breathed through his mouth instead of his nose. I wouldn’t ask anything about the cooking-stove if I were you.

But the Parsee came down from his palm-tree, wearing his hat, from which the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour, packed up his cooking-stove, and went away in the direction of Orotavo, Amygdala, the Upland Meadows of Anantarivo, and the Marshes of Sonaput.

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THIS is the Parsee Pestonjee Bomonjee sitting in his palm-tree and watching the Rhinoceros Strorks bathing near the beach of the Altogether Uninhabited Island after Strorks had taken off his skin. The Parsee has rubbed the cake-crumbs into the skin, and he is smiling to think how they will tickle Strorks when Strorks puts it on again. The skin is just under the rocks below the palm-tree in a cool place; that is why you can’t see it. The Parsee is wearing a new more-than-oriental-splendour hat of the sort that Parsees wear; and he has a knife in his hand to cut his name on palm-trees. The black things on the islands out at sea are bits of ships that got wrecked going down the Red Sea; but all the passengers were saved and went home.

The black thing in the water close to the shore is not a wreck at all. It is Strorks the Rhinoceros bathing without his skin. He was just as black underneath his skin as he was outside. I wouldn’t ask anything about the cooking-stove if I were you.

THIS Uninhabited Island

Is off Cape Gardafui,

By the Beaches of Socotra

And the Pink Arabian Sea:

But it’s hot – too hot from Suez

For the likes of you and me

Ever to go

In a P. and O.

And call on the Cake-Parsee!

How the Leopard Got His Spots

imageN THE DAYS when everybody started fair, Best Beloved, the Leopard lived in a place called the High Veldt. ’Member it wasn’t the Low Veldt, or the Bush Veldt, or the Sour Veldt, but the ’sclusively bare, hot, shiny High Veldt, where there was sand and sandy-coloured rock and ’sclusively tufts of sandy-yellowish grass. The Giraffe and the Zebra and the Eland and the Koodoo and the Hartebeest lived there; and they were ’sclusively sandy-yellow-brownish all over; but the Leopard, he was the ’sclusivest sandiest-yellowest-brownest of them all – a greyish-yellowish catty-shaped kind of beast, and he matched the ’sclusively yellowish-greyish-brownish colour of the High Veldt to one hair. This was very bad for the Giraffe and the Zebra and the rest of them; for he would lie down by a ’sclusively yellowish-greyish-brownish stone or clump of grass, and when the Giraffe or the Zebra or the Eland or the Koodoo or the Bush-Buck or the Bonte-Buck came by he would surprise them out of their jumpsome lives. He would indeed! And, also, there was an Ethiopian with bows and arrows (a ’sclusively greyish-brownish-yellowish man he was then), who lived on the High Veldt with the Leopard; and the two used to hunt together – the Ethiopian with his bows and arrows, and the Leopard ’sclusively with his teeth and claws – till the Giraffe and the Eland and the Koodoo and the Quagga and all the rest of them didn’t know which way to jump, Best Beloved. They didn’t indeed!

After a long time – things lived for ever so long in those days – they learned to avoid anything that looked like a Leopard or an Ethiopian; and bit by bit – the Giraffe began it, because his legs were the longest – they went away from the High Veldt. They scuttled for days and days and days till they came to a great forest, ’sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-blatchy shadows, and there they hid: and after another long time, what with standing half in the shade and half out of it, and what with the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees falling on them, the Giraffe grew blotchy, and the Zebra grew stripy, and the Eland the the Koodoo grew darker, with little wavy grey lines on their backs like bark on a tree trunk; and so, though you could hear them and smell them, you could very seldom see them, and then only when you knew precisely where to look. They had a beautiful time in the ’sclusively speckly-spickly shadows of the forest, while the Leopard and the Ethiopian ran about over the ’sclusively greyish-yellowish-reddish High Veldt outside, wondering where all their breakfasts and their dinners and their teas had gone. At last they were so hungry that they ate rats and beetles and rock-rabbits, the Leopard and the Ethiopian, and then they had the Big Tummy-ache, both together; and then they met Baviaan – the dog-headed, barking Baboon, who is Quite the Wisest Animal in All South Africa.

Said Leopard to Baviaan (and it was a very hot day), ‘Where has all the game gone?’

And Baviaan winked. He knew.

Said the Ethiopian to Baviaan, ‘Can you tell me the present habitat of the aboriginal Fauna?’ (That meant just the same thing, but the Ethiopian always used long words. He was a grown-up.)

And Baviaan winked. He knew.

Then said Baviaan, ‘The game has gone into other spots; and my advice to you, Leopard, is to go into other spots as soon as you can.’

And the Ethiopian said, ‘That’s is all very fine, but I wish to know whither the aboriginal Fauna has migrated.’

Then said Baviaan, ‘The aboriginal Fauna has joined the aboriginal Flora because it was high time for a change; and my advice to you, Ethiopian, is to change as soon as you can.’

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THIS is Wise Baviaan, the dog-headed Baboon, who is Quite the Wisest Animal in All South Africa. I have drawn him from a statue that I made up out of my own head, and I have written his name on his belt and on his shoulder and on the thing he is sitting on. I have written it in what is not called Coptic and Hieroglyphic and Cuneiformic and Bengalic and Burmic and Hebric, all because he is so wise. He is not beautiful, but he is very wise; and I should like to paint him with paint-box colours, but I am not allowed. The umbrella-ish thing about his head is his Conventional Mane.

That puzzled the Leopard and the Ethiopian, but they set off to look for the aboriginal Flora, and presently, after ever so many days, they saw a great, high, tall forest full of tree trunks all ’sclusively speckled and sprottled and spottled, dotted and splashed and slashed and hatched and cross-hatched with shadows. (Say that quickly aloud, and you will see how very shadowy the forest must have been.)

‘What is this,’ said the Leopard, ‘that is so ’sclusively dark, and yet so full of little pieces of light?’

‘I don’t know,’ said the Ethiopian, ‘but it ought to be the aboriginal Flora. I can smell Giraffe, and I can hear Giraffe, but I can’t see Giraffe.’

‘That’s curious,’ said the Leopard. ‘I suppose it is because we have just come in out of the sunshine. I can smell Zebra, and I can hear Zebra, but I can’t see Zebra.’

‘Wait a bit,’ said the Ethiopian. ‘It’s a long time since we’ve hunted ’em. Perhaps we’ve forgotten what they were like.’

‘Fiddle!’ said the Leopard. ‘I remember them perfectly on the High Veldt, especially their marrow-bones. Giraffe is about seventeen feet high, of a ’sclusively fulvous golden-yellow from head to heel; and Zebra is about four and a half feet high, of a ’sclusively grey-fawn colour from head to heel.’

‘Umm,’ said the Ethiopian, looking into the speckly-spickly shadows of the aboriginal Flora-forest. ‘Then they ought to show up in this dark place like ripe bananas in a smoke-house.’

But they didn’t. The Leopard and the Ethiopian hunted all day; and though they could smell them and hear them, they never saw one of them.

‘For goodness’ sake,’ said the Leopard at tea-time, ‘let us wait till it gets dark. This daylight hunting is a perfect scandal.’

So they waited till dark, and then the Leopard heard something breathing sniffily in the starlight that fell all stripy through the branches, and he jumped at the noise, and it smelt like Zebra, and it felt like Zebra, and when he knocked it down it kicked like Zebra, but he couldn’t see it. So he said, ‘Be quiet, O you person without any form. I am going to sit on your head till morning, because there is something about you that I don’t understand.’

Presently he heard a grunt and a crash and a scramble, and the Ethiopian called out, ‘I’ve caught a thing that I can’t see. It smells like Giraffe, and it kicks like Giraffe, but it hasn’t any form.’

‘Don’t you trust it,’ said the Leopard. ‘Sit on its head till the morning – same as me. They haven’t any form – any of ’em.’

So they sat down on them hard till bright morning-time, and then Leopard said, ‘What have you at your end of the table, Brother?’

The Ethiopian scratched his head and said, ‘It ought to be ’sclusively a rich fulvous orange-tawny from head to heel, and it ought to be Giraffe; but it is covered all over with chestnut blotches. What have you at your end of the table, Brother?’

And the Leopard scratched his head and said, ‘It ought to be ’sclusively a delicate greyish-fawn, and it ought to be Zebra; but it is covered all over with black and purple stripes. What in the world have you been doing to yourself, Zebra? Don’t you know that if you were on the High Veldt I could see you ten miles off? You haven’t any form.’

‘Yes,’ said the Zebra, ‘but this isn’t the High Veldt. Can’t you see?’

‘I can now,’ said the Leopard. ‘But I couldn’t all yesterday. How is it done?’

‘Let us up,’ said the Zebra, ‘and we will show you.’

They let the Zebra and the Giraffe get up; and Zebra moved away to some little thorn-bushes where the sunlight fell all stripy, and Giraffe moved off to some tallish trees where the shadows fell all blotchy.

‘Now watch,’ said the Zebra and the Giraffe. ‘This is the way it’s done. One – two – three! And where’s your breakfast?’

Leopard stared, and Ethiopian stared, but all they could see were stripy shadows and blotched shadows in the forest, but never a sign of Zebra and Giraffe. They had just walked off and hidden themselves in the shadowy forest.

‘Hi! Hi!’ said the Ethiopian. ‘That’s a trick worth learning. Take a lesson by it, Leopard. You show up in this dark place like a bar of soap in a coal-scuttle.’

‘Ho! Ho!’ said the Leopard. ‘Would it surprise you very much to know that you show up in this dark place like a mustard-plaster on a sack of coals?’

‘Well, calling names won’t catch dinner,’ said the Ethiopian. ‘The long and the little of it is that we don’t match our backgrounds. I’m going to take Baviaan’s advice. He told me I ought to change; and as I’ve nothing to change except my skin I’m going to change that.’

‘What to?’ said the Leopard, tremendously excited.

‘To a nice working blackish-brownish colour, with a little purple in it, and touches of slaty-blue. It will be the very thing for hiding in hollows and behind trees.’

So he changed his skin then and there, and the Leopard was more excited than ever; he had never seen a man change his skin before.

‘But what about me?’ he said, when the Ethiopian had worked his last little finger into his fine new black skin.

‘You take Baviaan’s advice too. He told you to go into spots.’

‘So I did,’ said the Leopard. ‘I went into other spots as fast as I could. I went into this spot with you, and a lot of good it has done me.’

‘Oh,’ said the Ethiopian, ‘Baviaan didn’t mean spots in South Africa. He meant spots on your skin.’

‘What’s the use of that?’ said the Leopard.

‘Think of Giraffe,’ said the Ethiopian. ‘Or if you prefer stripes, think of Zebra. They find their spots and stripes give them per-fect satisfaction.’

‘Umm,’ said the Leopard. ‘I wouldn’t look like Zebra – not for ever so.’

‘Well, make up your mind,’ said the Ethiopian, ‘because I’d hate to go hunting without you, but I must if you insist on looking like a sun-flower against a tarred fence.’

‘I’ll take spots, then,’ said the Leopard; ‘but don’t make ’em too vulgar-big. I wouldn’t look like Giraffe – not for ever so.’

‘I’ll make ’em with the tips of my fingers,’ said the Ethiopian. ‘There’s plenty of black left on my skin still. Stand over!’

Then the Ethiopian put his five fingers close together (there was plenty of black left on his new skin still) and pressed them all over the Leopard, and wherever the five fingers touched they left five little black marks, all close together. You can see them on any Leopard’s skin you like, Best Beloved. Sometimes the fingers slipped and the marks got a little blurred; but if you look closely at any Leopard now you will see that there are always five spots – off five fat black finger-tips.

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THIS is the picture of the Leopard and the Ethiopian after they had taken Wise Baviaan’s advice and the Leopard had gone into other spots and the Ethiopian had changed his skin. The Ethiopian was really a negro, and so his name was Sambo. The Leopard was called Spots, and he has been called Spots ever since. They are out hunting in the spickly-speckly forest, and they are looking for Mr. One-Two-Three-Where’s-your-Breakfast. If you look a little you will see Mr. One-Two-Three not far away. The Ethiopian has hidden behind a splotchy-blotchy tree because it matches his skin, and the Leopard is lying beside a spickly-speckly bank of stones because it matches his spots. Mr. One-Two-Three-Where’s-your-Breakfast is standing up eating leaves from a tall tree. This is really a puzzle-picture like ‘Find-the-Cat.’

‘Now you are a beauty!’ said the Ethiopian. ‘You can lie out on the bare ground and look like a heap of pebbles. You can lie out on the naked rocks and look like a piece of pudding-stone. You can lie out on a leafy branch and look like sunshine sifting through the leaves; and you can lie right across the centre of a path and look like nothing in particular. Think of that and purr!’

‘But if I’m all this,’ said the Leopard, ‘why didn’t you go spotty too?’

‘Oh, plain black’s best for a nigger,’ said the Ethiopian. ‘Now come along and we’ll see if we can’t get even with Mr. One-Two-Three-Where’s-your-Breakfast!’

So they went away and lived happily ever afterward, Best Beloved. That is all.

Oh, now and then you will hear grown-ups say, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the Leopard his spots?’ I don’t think even grown-ups would keep on saying such a silly thing if the Leopard and the Ethiopian hadn’t done it once – do you? But they will never do it again, Best Beloved. They are quite contented as they are.

 

I AM the Most Wise Baviaan, saying in most wise tones,

‘Let us melt into the landscape – just us two by our lones.’

People have come – in a carriage – calling. But Mummy is there. …

Yes, I can go if you take me – Nurse says she don’t care.

Let’s go up to the pig-sties and sit on the farmyard rails!

Let’s say things to the bunnies, and watch ’em skitter their tails!

Let’s – oh, anything, daddy, so long as it’s you and me,

And going truly exploring, and not being in till tea!

Here’s your boots (I’ve brought ’em), and here’s your cap and stick,

And here’s your pipe and tobacco. Oh, come along out of it – quick!

The Elephant’s Child

imageN THE HIGH and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn’t pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant – a new Elephant – an Elephant’s Child – who was full of ’satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his ’satiable curtiosities. He asked his tall aunt, the Ostrich, why her tail-feathers grew just so, and his tall aunt the Ostrich spanked him with her hard, hard claw. He asked his tall uncle, the Giraffe, what made his skin spotty, and his tall uncle, the Giraffe, spanked him with his hard, hard hoof. And still he was full of ’satiable curtiosity! He asked his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, why her eyes were red, and his broad aunt, the Hippopotamus, spanked him with her broad, broad hoof; and he asked his hairy uncle, the Baboon, why melons tasted just so, and his hairy uncle, the Baboon, spanked him with his hairy, hairy paw. And still he was full of ’satiable curtiosity! He asked questions about everything that he saw, or heard, or felt, or smelt, or touched, and all his uncles and his aunts spanked him. And still he was full of ’satiable curtiosity!

One fine morning in the middle of the Precession of the Equinoxes this ’satiable Elephant’s Child asked a new fine question that he had never asked before. He asked, ‘What does the Crocodile have for dinner?’ Then everybody said, ‘Hush!’ in a loud and dretful tone, but they spanked him immediately and directly, without stopping, for a long time.

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