“In the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn’t pick up things with it. But there was one Elephant — a new Elephant — an Elephant’s Child — who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his ‘satiable curtiosities.”
This is the captivating beginning of The Elephant’s Child, one of the tales spun in Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. In it, we learn that this young Elephant, so full of “curtiosity,” begins to wonder what the Crocodile has for dinner, and that he is told by the Kolokolo Bird to “go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees” to find out. And we find out, in the end, that this adventure is the reason why Elephants have trunks instead of blackish, bulgy noses. Who would have thought?!
The Elephant’s Child is one of a dozen fantastical tales that explain things such as how the camel got its hump and why the rhinoceros has such wrinkly skin, with exotic, story-telling flair. These stories are truly meant to be read aloud. Kipling, who was born in India in 1865, told them first to his children, and later (1902) wrote them down in his distinctly narrative style. They are far-fetched, highly imaginative stories, deliciously sprinkled with intriguing, invented words and places, and marvelous animals, such as the incredible seventeen-foot high Giraffe, “of a ‘sclusively fulvous golden-yellow from head to heel.” Shortly after these stories were published, Kipling received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his many highly-original works.
The stories have been illustrated by Kipling himself, and have also been tackled by many other fine illustrators. A number of the more well-known tales have been published as separate picture books. Besides that, there are numerous excellent audio versions of the stories. Because they are so perfect for being told aloud, I thought I’d give you a couple samples of what’s available on recordings.
This first one is recorded by Jack Nicholson with background music done by Bobby McFerrin! The story is spun out in a long, leisurely fashion by the fabulous vocals of McFerrin. Give it a listen by clicking on this link http://library.booksontape.com/bookdetail.cfm/YA1190ACD
This other fabulous one I found is read by Art Malik, who has a gorgeous British accent that completely draws me into the story. I love this! Listen to it by clicking on this link http://www.silksoundbooks.com/audiobook-genres/childrens-books/the-just-so-stories.html
Whether you read them yourself or listen to them along with your kids, do not miss these wonderful, classic stories from one of the great British writers.