How the Crocodile Got its Long Teeth
An imitation of Rudyard Kipling’s style
When the world was much younger than it is now, two little twin crocodilians lived deep in the swamp, forever playing in the silt and the mud, twisting and turning around in the swampy water. The two troublemakers were well known by the folks thereabouts for being terrible pranksters, happy to take any opportunity to pull a joke on an unsuspecting victim. It was their favorite game –every chance they got they’d sneak up on someone from two different sides, using their identical features to confuse whatever target they had chosen, whether it be bird, fish, or even a deer, as they danced circles around the poor creature, weaving this way and that. When the creature would try to grab one, the other would circle around to its back and tie a bit of vine around its leg so that when the two crocodilians took off, the animal would only be able to make it a couple of steps before it was jerked back by the vine.
Before too long the other creatures grew wise to the crocodilian’s trick, but the two troublemakers made sure to always play their prank somewhere where there was enough mud or underbrush for them to disappear in so that they could pop their heads up out of it every once in a while, but their target wouldn’t be able to tell whether he was watching one or both of the crocodilians. Soon the problem had grown so severe that the other animals called a special meeting in order to deal with the problem.
“We cannot allow this to carry on as it has,” the Owl said, beginning the discussion as the rest of the animals settled down. “We should not have to go about our days worried those two will pop out of nowhere to accost and harass us!”
“All of that sounds well and good Owl,” the Raccoon said, “but what are we supposed to do about it? What can we do about it?”
The Snake hissed angrily. “We ssssshould punissshhh them for thisssss. They ssssshhhhould not be allowed to continue.”
“Of course they cannot persist in their tricks Snake,” Owl said soothingly, “But punishing them may not benefit us either.”
“Why not?” The Otter protested angrily. “They’re bullying us! We shouldn’t have to put up with this!”
“We all agree this isn’t fair, but punishing them will most likely just make them mad.” The Deer said, adding his level head to the discussion. “Punishing them may stop their tricks for a short time, but then they will only begin their tricks again more energetically than before. Then their tricks will truly be unbearable.”
“Then what do we do?” The Otter asked.
“We will combat their tricks on the most elementary of levels. We will make it impossible for them to trick us any longer,” the Owl said. “We must change one of their appearances.”
“Where is everyone today?” The Elder of the two –though only by a few seconds as the Younger always insisted—asked his brother, looking suspiciously around the swamp.
The Younger looked up, glancing around in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
“There isn’t anyone anywhere!” The Elder said, becoming more and more anxious as he searched the swamp for any signs of life.
“Really brother, you shouldn’t get so worried over something so ridiculous,” the Younger said with a shake of his head.
But as the Elder turned his eyes back to his brother, the still, silent swamp exploded with sound as animals shot out of the underbrush, water, and mud from every direction. Before the crocodilians had a chance to react, they had been seized by many pairs of paws, hooves, wings, and webbed feet. The Snake twisted around the Younger, holding him securely, as the Elder was trussed up with a few lengths of vine. When the two were safely pinned, the Otter approached the Younger as the Owl flew to a branch where both of the troublemakers could see him.
“We have had more than enough of your trickery and pranks. In order to keep you from continuing with your terrible behavior, the rest of us animals have decided there was only one course of action for us to pursue,” the Owl explained from his perch. “It has been decided that you, Younger, will be given longer teeth so that all of the animals may tell you two apart. From this day on, you will only be referred to by your given names, Alligator and Crocodile. And, most important of all, you must agree to stop your tricks, or we vow you will be banished from the swamplands. Do you understand?”
Crocodile looked up with wide eyes. “You can’t do that! It’s not fair!”
“Perhapsssss thisssssss lesssssson of yoursssss Owl will be more effective than I had thought.” The Snake hissed in Crocodile’s ear. “Perhapsssss now you will underssssstand how we have felt when you played your tricksssss.”
The Otter grabbed hold of Crocodile’s teeth and pulled as hard as he could until Crocodile’s teeth were obviously much longer than his brother Alligator’s. And that is how the Crocodile got his long teeth.