“Come hither, Little One,” said the Crocodile, “for I am the Crocodile,” and he wept crocodile tears to show it was quite true.
Then the Elephants’ child grew all breathless, and panted, and kneeled down on the bank and said, “You are the very person 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, which up to that very week, day, hour, and minute, had been no bigger than a boot, though much more useful.
“I think,” said the Crocodile – and he said it between his teeth, like this – “I think to-day I will begin with Elephant’s Child!”
At this, O Best Beloved, the Elephant’s Child was much annoyed, and he said, speaking through his nose, like this, “Led go! You are hurtig be!”
Then a Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake scuffled down from the bank and said, “My young friend, if you do not now, immediately and instantly, pull as hard as ever you can, it is my opinion that your acquaintance in the large-pattern leather ulster” (and by this he meant the Crocodile) “will jerk you into yonder limpid stream before you can say Jack Robinson.”
This is the way Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake always talked.
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.
And the Elephant’s Child’s nose kept on stretching; and the Elephant’s child spread all his little four legs and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose kept on stretching; and the Crocodile threshed his tail like an oar, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and at each pull the Elephant’s Child’s nose grew longer and longer – and it hurt him hijjus!!
Then the Elephant’s Child felt his legs slipping, and he said through his nose, which was now nearly five feet long, “This is too butch for be!
Then the Bi-Coloutred-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 impression 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.
So he pulled, and the Elephant’s Child pulled, and the Crocodile pulled, but the Elephant’s Child and the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake pulled hardest; 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.
Then the Elephant’s Child sat down most hard and sudden; but first he was careful to say “Thank you” to the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake; and next he was kind to his poor pulled nose, and wrapped it all up in cool banana leaves, and hung it in the great grey-green greasy Limpopo to cool.
“What are you doing that for?” said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake.
“’Scuse me,” said the Elephant’s Child, “but my nose is badly out of shape, and I am waiting for it to shrink.
“Then you will have to wait a long time,” said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake.
This text is an excerpt of ‘The Elephant’s Child’ from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Image copyright Johan Opperman, Solent News, first published in Travel Africa magazine edition 55.