The Red Dragon
The Red Dragon
Once upon a time many thousands of years ago animals were not the same as they are now. It was a rather strange time in history because, you see, it was hard to distinguish one animal from another.
“Look at that magnificent striped cat,” one person might exclaim to another, only to be told by a rather indignant animal, “Why, you silly human. I am no cat. I am a rhinoceros!” For you see, these were very magical times, and not only did the animals all look the same, but they all had the ability to talk to humans.
This situation led to very confusing conversations.
“Do you know the gazelle that lives by the edge of the great lake?” asked one woman of another as they walked through the village market.
“I know of no gazelle,” responded the other woman. “I do know of a hippo that likes to wade along the banks of the great lake, though.”
As it turns out, they were both speaking of the same animal, but it was just so difficult to identify it. For although, in general, a hippo weighed a bit more than a gazelle, in every other way they were indistinguishable. Almost all of the animals were more or less the same height. And all had four legs, of similar size and style.
And, yes, there were very slight signs indicating which animal was which. For instance, it was true that the elephant
You should know that there were just a few in the animal kingdom that did look distinct. These included the lion, who, as we know it today, already had his luxurious mane and tremendous roar; the tiger, who had his distinctive black stripes; and the butterfly with his lovely coloring and delicate wings.
This is how life went on in the animal kingdom for a long, long time. Although at times it was frustrating, all were accustomed to the animals looking quite similar.
One day, though, this all abruptly changed.
This occurred as all the animals were relaxing in a field.
“Do you know,” asked the gazelle, “that a woman at the market thought I was a hippo? Isn't that amazing?”
“Oh, it is not so surprising,” said a jaguar, who looked very much like the gazelle. “Humans aren't as clever as they think they are.”
As they rested and chatted about their lives, a red dragon suddenly swooped down upon them. This red dragon was out of breath and clearly very upset about something. “Oh, no!” the dragon cried out. “We're in danger, everyone! Listen to me! I have evidence that the world is about to come to an end!”
At first, his announcement was met with stunned silence by the assembled animals, but then they all began to chatter, mutter, squeak, and squawk at once.
“How do you know?” cried the gazelle.
“Who told you this?” roared the hippo.
“What makes you think this will happen?” snorted the rhino.
The dragon replied, “I read it in the stars. There really isn't time for discussion. We must escape right away!”
“But where can we go?” the animals asked in unison.
“I am afraid that there is only one place to go. And it won't be easy getting there. We must all go to another world,” he replied. “But I can take you there. I can fly, and I'll take you to a faraway planet that is safer than this one. Now, hurry!”
The animals looked at one another. Did this red dragon know what he was talking about?
They whispered to one another.
“Should we go?” asked the hippo.
“I don't know,” responded the gazelle, “but I don't know that we have any choice. If what he says is true, we are in great danger here. So, perhaps, we'll just have to be brave and climb onto his massive back.”
So, frightened as they all were, all the animals clambered, one by one, onto the red dragon's scaly, ridged back.
A few of the animals, though, chose not to go. For instance, the lion turned away with a bored look and said, “I'm not scared of anything. What could possibly endanger a fierce creature like me? So, I'll just stay here on Earth.”
Most of the others, however, were getting terribly anxious about the impending world's end and were fighting to get on the dragon's back.
“Don't push. You're hurting me,” shouted the angry crocodile.
“Hey, move that paw! You just hit me on the back,” another animal cried.
Maybe you've seen a similar scene. Have you ever been to a popular movie and seen people pushing and shoving to get in? Or, maybe, you've seen people pushing and shoving and being generally rude, trying to move unfairly to the front of the line. This type of animal behavior still exists today!
At last, though, all of the animals were aboard the dragon's scaly back. It wasn't too comfortable there. For one thing, the scales were quite prickly and hard. And it was very crowded. The red dragon was gigantic, but there were hundreds of animals crowded onto his back and there wasn't any room to spare. There wasn't room for a tail to swish or a paw to move.
Finally, the red dragon cried, “Ready? Off we go,” and he started to run for takeoff. He had misjudged the weight of the animals on his back, though, so the first and the second runs weren't fast enough. The red dragon wasn't one to give up, though, so on the third attempt he finally got off the ground, flapping his wings as vigorously as he ever had in his whole life and waving his huge, lumpy tail.
Right away, complaints came from his animal passengers.
“Not so fast!” shouted one of the animals.
Then another voice yelled: “Faster, faster, faster, or we will end up crashing back onto the ground!”
The dragon replied, “Please, please! I'm doing the best I can. Why don't all of you please keep quiet?” The dragon needed to concentrate on his flying and the incessant chatter was bothering him. He worried that he would indeed crash if the animals continued to yell at him.
Unfortunately, because they were all so frightened, the animals did everything but keep still. And so, inevitably it seems, after a while the poor red dragon, now very tired, simply could not flap his wings any longer, and he crashed. Fortunately, he crashed onto a lush green meadow that offered a relatively soft landing pad to his animal load. All the animals shrieked with terror but none of them lost their lives.
There were other effects, though, from the forced landing. For instance, the snake lost his legs and slithered away through the grass. The rhino bumped his head as he tumbled off of the dragon and grew a horn. The elephant took a particularly spectacular tumble from the dragon's back. As a result, all of the elephant's teeth fell out, except for two that became very long. As you probably know, today's elephants still have these two very long teeth, called tusks.
The giraffe, which had been seated near the dragon's head, fell a particularly long way and sprained his neck. This resulted in the neck growing to an astonishing length. The hippo, given to being rather dramatic in worrisome situations, rolled about and groaned so much he became nearly round. Finally, he rolled right into a pond and didn't come out. He found his round shape rather peculiar and was too ashamed to be seen.
After their traumatic ride on the scaly back of the red dragon, all of the animals looked different and became what they are today. Now, as you know, it's very easy to tell the difference between a rhino and a cat. Or a hippo and a gazelle.
When the bored lion saw them, what he said was, “Oh, how funny you look.” He was glad he hadn't climbed aboard the back of the red dragon.