How the Elephant Got His Trunk
(With apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

n 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 wiggle 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 curiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions.

One fine morning in the middle of the Precession of the Equinoxes this 'satiable Elephant's Child asked a new fine question: 'What does the Crocodile have for dinner?' Then the Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, 'Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.'

So he said goodbye, very politely, and went on till he trod on what he thought was a log of wood. But it was really the Crocodile, O Best Beloved, and the Crocodile winked one eye - like this!

Then the Elephant's Child grew all breathless, and panted, and kneeled down on the bank and said, 'You are the very one I have been looking for all these long days. Will you please tell me what you have for dinner?'

'Come hither, Little One,' said the Crocodile, 'and I'll whisper.'

Then the Elephant's Child put his head down close to the Crocodile's musky, tusky mouth, and the Crocodile caught him by his little nose. 'I think,' said the Crocodile - and he said it between his teeth like this - 'I think today I will begin with the Elephant's Child.'

At this, O Best Beloved, the Elephant's Child was much astonished, and he said, speaking through his nose, like this, 'Led go! You are hurtig be!'

Then the Elephant's Child sat back on his little haunches, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose began to stretch. And the Crocodile floundered into the water, making it all creamy with great sweeps of his tail, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled.

Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake came down from the bank, and knotted himself in a double-clove-hitch round the Elephant's Child's hind-legs, and said, 'Rash and inexperienced traveller, we will now seriously devote ourselves to a little high tension, because if we do not, it is my opinion that yonder self-propelling man-of-war with the armour-plated upper deck' (and by this, O Best beloved, he meant the Crocodile) 'will permanently vitiate your future career.' That is the way all Bi - Coloured - Python - Rock - Snakes always talk.

And at last the Crocodile let go of the Elephant's Child's nose with a plop that you could hear all up and down the Limpopo.

The Elephant's Child sat there for three days waiting for his nose to shrink. But it never grew any shorter, and, besides, it made him squint. For, O Best Beloved, you will see and understand that the Crocodile had pulled it out into a really truly trunk same as all Elephants have today.

So the Elephant's Child went home across Africa frisking and whisking his trunk. When he wanted fruit to eat he pulled fruit down from a tree, instead of waiting for it fall as he used to do [Advantage Number One]. When he wanted grass he plucked grass up from the ground, instead of going on this knees as he used to do [Advantage Number Two]. When the flies bit him he broke off the branch of a tree and used it as a fly-whisk [Advantage Number Three], and he made himself a new, cool, slushy-squshy mud-cap whenever the sun was hot [Advantage Number Four].

At last things grew so exciting that his dear families went off one by one in a hurry to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy, Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to borrow new noses from the Crocodile. When they came back nobody spanked anybody any more; and since that day, O Best Beloved, all the elephants you ever see, besides all those that you won't, have trunks precisely like the trunk of the 'satiable Elephant's Child.

Adapted from Rudyard Kipling (1902) "Just So Stories" by ©2006 Steven M. Carr