This is my re-telling of Rudyard Kipling’s tale from his Just So Stories
Long ago in the land of the tsetse fly and near the banks of the great, grey, green, greasy Limpopo river Elephants lived and way back then their noses were no bigger than a boot, and the best they could do, was wriggle it from side to side. There was one young Elephant-the elephant’s child who was very curious though-full of ‘satiable curtiosity’ as the story goes.
His curiosity got him into all kinds of trouble and although he was a very well mannered, polite and good natured little elephant with a stubby nose he was always being spanked and scolded because of his nosiness and curiosity. He had been spanked and scolded by his Aunt the Ostrich and His Uncle the Giraffe, and his other Aunt the Broad Hippopotamus (imagine being scolded and spanked by a hippo?) and not to mention his uncle the cheeky baboon.
One fine morning (almost all mornings in the land of the tsetse fly and near the banks of the great, grey, green, greasy Limpopo River are warm and sunny) The little elephants' curiosity burned more strongly and he asked ‘What does the crocodile eat for dinner?’ His parents and Uncles and Aunts all said ‘hush’ and then scolded him for asking such a question!
A few days passed and he was still full of curiosity and he came across the koloko bird sitting in the wait-a-bit tree. He told the bird how he had got into trouble for asking too many questions but he was still VERY curious to know ‘What does the crocodile eat for his dinner?’
The koloko bird let out a cry and replied ‘You must go right to the banks of the great, grey, green, greasy, Limpopo river all set about with fever trees, and there you will find out’
And so he set about with a lunch box of bananas, and melons and purple stemmed sugar cane to sustain him on his quest. It must be made clear that this nosey little Elephant’s child had never seen a crocodile until this time, and thus had no idea what he was looking for. And so he walked along, dropping banana skins and melon rind (for his nose was small and stubby and that was all he good do with those discarded pieces) until he came across the python and he asked his question and it goes without me saying that the python scolded the little Elephant before letting him go on his way. On the Elephant went leaving the python behind him all coiled on a rock in the sun when he suddenly trod on what he though was a log at the very edge of the great, grey, green, greasy Limpopo river all set about with fever trees…BUT it was really the crocodile, who winked one eye.
‘Pardon me’ said the polite but ever so curious little elephant ‘but do you know where the crocodile lives?’
The crocodile winked again and slithered toward the Elephant ‘why do you want to know’ The Elephants child was not used to having a question answered with a question, or for that matter for not being scolded for asking one and wondered whether he was in for another scolding. ‘ I really am just curious is all, I want to know what he has for his tea but if it makes no difference to you and you do not know I really would rather not be scolded again thank you’ said the little grey elephant demurely.
‘Well come closer little grey pachyderm’ said the crocodile now beginning to cry crocodile tears for ‘I am the crocodile’
The Little elephant got all terribly excited and asked again ‘Well what do you have for dinner please tell me’
‘Come closer’ said the crying crocodile ‘and let me whisper in your big grey ear.’ The obedient and polite little Elephant knelt down and leaned close to the Crocodile’s musky, tusky mouth and the crocodile ‘SNAPPED his smelly jaws and caught the Elephant's nose (which was no bigger than a boot) in his musky tusky jaws. ‘I think today’ said the crocodile who by now had stopped crying his crocodile tears ‘I will have elephant’s child’
The ‘Elephants child was very vexed at this and momentarily let go of his politeness. He stomped his round grey foot and said through his nose. ‘led go, dats by dose’ The python, who was still sunning himself, all coiled up on a rock, heard the commotion and slid down to the banks. He took in the scene before him. The young elephant sat back on his rump, digging his feet in the mud and pulled with all his little, elephant might and ….his nose, which was no bigger than a boot up until now, began to stretch. The crocodile floundered in the water stirring up all the mud and disturbing all the barbel fish. The little Elephant felt his feet begin to slide ‘You are hurtig be, led be go!’
The python slid down and in looped itself in a granny not around the Elephants back end and between a tree and proclaimed a tug of war with the crocodile, and the little elephant’s nose stretched a whole lot more. At last the crocodile gave up and let go of the Elephants nose which made a very loud plop in the waters of the great grey green greasy Limpopo River.
‘Thank you' said the Elephant who had let his politeness return. Then he set about dressing his trunk in leaves and waiting for it to shrink. By and by the snake slid by again and asked what the Elephant was doing, He replied forlornly that he was waiting for his trunk to shrink, the python tut tutted and told the Ellie his nose was now a trunk and that he ought to get used to it. The Elephant felt very sad.
Suddenly a tsetse fly stung him on his shoulder and without thinking the Elephant raised his trunk and with a loud thwack rid himself of the pesky bug.
'Ha! you couldn’t have done that with a boot sized nose' said the python.
The Elephant felt hungry and again without really thinking pulled up some grass and swished it against his legs (this is what Elephants do to get mud off the grass, they prefer their salad undressed) before shovelling into his open mouth.
'Ha ha again' said the python, 'you couldn’t have done that either with a stubby nose.'
The Elephant started to smile and became aware of how the hot sun was beating down on his head he schlurped up a big schlurp of mud from the great grey greasy Limpopo River and spouted it over his head so that the cool mud made a cool cap and trickled down behind his ears.
'Ha ha ha ha' said the python, 'how do you feel about your mear, smear, nose now?'
And with that the Elephant did a little jig (sometimes known as the gumboot dance in yonder regions) and decided to go back home to his family, swishing his trunk and trumpeting (trumpeting was yet another ‘vantage of his long trunk) all the way, and picking up his trail of banana skins and melon rinds because he was tidy as well as well as a well mannered little pachyderm. (according to Rudyard Kipling himself)
And in the very words of Rudyard Kipling at the end of this story‘ O Best beloved, all the Elephants you will ever see, besides all those that you won’t, have trunks precisely like the trunk of the ‘satiable Elephant’s Child’