One day, a pretty young snake was bathing at the edge of a lake. Having washed, she stretched out on a warm rock to dry and began to preen herself. A fly buzzing by looked down, saw her, and commented, "My, your scales are gleaming so attractively in the sunlight. You look sleek and clean. You are such a beautiful snake."
The snake, shy and embarrassed, slithered off seeking somewhere to hide. Seeing a hut nearby she disappeared through the thatched grass walls. She didn't realize it was the home of the village sorcerer. He took fright at the sight of the snake, grabbed his drum, and started beating loudly to frighten away this evil intruder.
A tortoise that was slowly journeying across an adjoining field heard the rhythmic beat of the drum and began to dance. An elephant, seeing this unseemly display from such a sedate creature, stood on the back of the tortoise. The tortoise excreted fire and the fire ignited the sorcerer's tinder-dry grass hut. Black clouds billowed up into the sky, darkening the land. A deluge of rain fell from the heavens, but quickly abated, allowing the sun to disperse its warm and drying light. A mother ant, seizing the opportunity to dry her eggs following the flood of rain, spread them in the sun. An anteater, quick to see an opportunity for a meal, gobbled down the ant's eggs.
The ant took the anteater to court. Seeking redress under the laws of the land, she approached the judge of the jungle, the king of beasts, and described her problem. The lion convened a court, calling together all the parties involved.
First he addressed the anteater. "Anteater, why did you eat the ant's eggs?"
"Well," the anteater replied, "I am an anteater. I was only doing what came naturally, what anteaters do. What other alternative was there for me when the ant spread her eggs so temptingly in front of me?"
Turning to the ant, the lion asked, "Ant, why did you spread your eggs where they might tempt the anteater?"
"It was not my intent to tempt the anteater. Surely you can see I am a better mother than that, but what else could I do to care for my young?" replied the ant. "They got wet in the heavy deluge of rain. They needed to dry out when the sun shone so warmly."
Looking to the sun, the lion continued his investigation. "Sun, why did you shine?"
"What else could I do?" asked the sun. "It is my job. The rain had poured and, as everyone knows, the sun must follow the rain."
"Rain, why did you pour?" asked the lion in his search to unravel the truth.
"What else could I do?" responded the rain. "The sorcerer's hut was on fire, the whole village was under threat. I only wanted to help."
"Hut, why did you catch on fire?"
"I couldn't do anything else once the tortoise excreted fire on me," answered the charred remnants of the sorcerer's hut. "I was made of grass. I had stood there for years. I was very dry and had no resistance."
"Tortoise," inquired the king of beasts, "why did you excrete fire?"
"It was the only thing I could do. The elephant stood on me. With her weight, my life was threatened. I had to do something to try and escape."
The lion looked up at the elephant. "Tell me, elephant, why did you tread on the tortoise?"
"What else was there to do?" asked the elephant. "She danced so wildly. Her behavior was most unbecoming and inappropriate for a tortoise. I thought she had gone crazy or something. I didn't intend to hurt her. I just wanted to help settle her wild mood."
The lion turned back to the tortoise. "Why was it you were dancing so wildly?"
"What else could I do?" responded the tortoise. "The sorcerer was beating out such rhythmic and compelling dance music on his drum, I had no choice. I just had to dance."
"Sorcerer, why were you beating your drum?"
The sorcerer answered, "What else was there for me to do when the snake entered my hut? She frightened me. She was dangerous. Serpents are the representations of evil forces and bad omens. I had to chase its evil presence out of my home."
"Snake," inquired the king of beasts, patiently working his way through the line of witnesses, "why did you enter the sorcerer's hut?"
"What else could I do?" answered the snake. "The fly embarrassed me with its words ofpraise. Somehow, somewhere I had to hide my face, and the grass hut of the sorcerer was the closest refuge."
Finally the lion, lord ofjungle justice, turned to the fly and asked, "Fly, why did you praise the snake?"
The fly did not address the king of beasts but instead turned to look at the snake and asked, "What, don't you know how to take a compliment?"
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