If you’re looking for some new books for reading time or bed time, I highly recommend the Just-So Stories for Little Children. Written by Rudyard Kipling, these charming tales are of the “origin” genre and are a wonderful way of explaining the differences among the animals. They are highly entertaining and a mix of fairy tale and reality and with 13 to choose from, you might even find your kids’ favorite animal among them. Here’s a few of the Just-So Stories you might like to pick up to read with your little ones.
1. How the Leopard Got His Spots
Perhaps the most well known of all the Just-So stories, the leopard, once without pattern and sandy colored, lived in a similarly colored environment with an Ethiopian where it was easy for them to hunt as the zebra and giraffe could not see them. These hunted animals then began to move to the forest where they grew stripes and spots to blend in with the scenery, and became harder to hunt. Upon discovering this, the Ethiopian turned his skin black and spotted the leopard with black fingerprints, and they never had hunting troubles again.
2. How the Camel Got His Hump
When animals first for started working for man, the camel was a lazy creature that refused to do his share, instead replying “humph!” to any order. Other animals - the dog, the horse and the ox - complained to their master about this and out of magic he conjured a hump for the camel, condemning him to three days work without eating. The camel, though, is still lazy and misbehaving, and still has his hump.
3. How the Alphabet Was Made
Tegumai Bopsulai, a Neolithic man, is out fishing with his daughter Taffy and they are discussing a message that Taffy sent in the form of drawings that was completely misunderstood. To solve the problem, they come up with a way of representing different pictograms by their sounds, evolving a system that eventually becomes the alphabet.
4. How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin
There was once a Parsee who lived on an island in the Red Sea. He was making a fruit cake, and the then smooth skinned rhinoceros came along and ate it all. Afterward, the rhinoceros left his skin on the beach whilst swimming, and the Parsee came and filled it with stale crumbs. When the rhinoceros put his skin back on, he rolled around from the itch so many times that the skin became loose and baggy, and it has been this way ever since.
5. How the Whale Got His Throat
Once upon a time the whale could, and did, eat fish of all sizes in the ocean. When there was only one little fish left, hiding behind his ear, he instead swallowed a shipwrecked mariner who danced around so much that the whale spat him out, but not before he has fastened his raft to the whale’s throat so that he could only eat the very smallest fish from then on.
6. The Elephant’s Child
Back when elephants had small boot-sized noses, the elephant’s child was inquisitive and kept asking questions only to be spanked by every animal he asked. Finally, he made his way to the water to ask the crocodile, who while whispering to him, bit his nose, and in the struggle the elephant’s trunk was created. Afterwards, all the other elephants were jealous of the long trunk, and each went to the crocodile for the same reason.
7. The Sing Song of Old Man Kangaroo
The kangaroo used to have four short legs, until he asked all three gods, Little God Nqa, Middle God Nquing and Big God Nqong to be different, popular and “wonderfully run after”. In response, Big God Nqong set a yellow dingo dog after the kangaroo, chasing him for so long that his front legs grew tired and he started to use his tail for balance. After the chase, the kangaroo’s body was changed forever.
8. The Beginning of Armadillos
A jaguar was trying to hunt a prickly hedgehog and a slow tortoise at the same time, following the instructions that his mother had given him. Trying to confuse him, though, the hedgehog and tortoise started to switch traits, with the hedgehog swimming and the tortoise curling up. The jaguar gave up, and both animals were changed, creating the armadillo.
9. The Crab That Played with the Sea
In the beginning, the eldest magician made the earth and the sea and instructed all the animals to play themselves, but the crab slipped away, refusing to take orders. Later, the magician found out that the sea was misbehaving and flooding homes with tides because the crab had refused to take his orders, and as punishment made him very small and cursed him to lose his shell once every year.
Did your parents read any of the Just-So Stories to you when you were younger?