A Tale from Africa
A very long time ago, before man came along to upset the natural balance, all animals lived together peacefully. But in those days, none of the animals had heads of their own, except the elephant, who was the King of the animals.
He had a large collection of heads in all shapes and sizes, which he kept stored in a large cave. Every time an animal wished to leave the village compound to go out into the field or the bush, he would go to the elephant first and ask to borrow a head. On his return to the animal village the head would be returned to the king’s store. This worked very well for a time. The only problem was that there were not quite enough heads for all the animals. There always seemed to be one short, so at least one of the animals always had to stay behind in the village.
Eventually some of the animals became dissatisfied that every time they wanted to go out, they had to waste time to collect a head and then return it again. The King agreed to have a meeting and it was decided that each animal should be given its own head to keep for all time. The King started making all the arrangements, assisted by his secretary, the crab, and when all was ready and all the heads were lined up in the village square, he sent out the cockerel, who had been given a head for this purpose, to announce that all animals should come to the square so that the King could give them a head.
The cockerel went round the whole of the village and every body who heard the message rushed to the square. When he thought e had informed every body, and was just making his way back to the square, the cockerel spotted the crab, without his head, meandering down a track on his way to the river bank. The cockerel advised him to make his way back to the square quickly, but crab just shrugged. “I am the secretary of the King”, he said, “the King will keep a head for me, I am sure of it. I need to have a quick bath. I will see you bye and bye”. And he sauntered on his way.
At the village square where all the other animals had gathered, the elephant started giving out heads. He tried to make sure that each animal received a head that suited it. So the hippopotamus got a very large, fat head; the rhinocerus got a head with fierce looking eyes; the giraffe got a long head to go with his long neck. Nobody liked the hyena very much, so he got the ugliest head there was, but the antelope, who all thought was the most graceful of the animals, got the most beautiful head. This went on all morning until all the animals had their own head. Just as the King thanked the cockerel for his work, and was about to return to his palace, the crab came sauntering back. “Where have you been hiding out”, asked the King. “I’m afraid all the heads have been given out, and there is not a single one left for you!”
However much the crab protested, there was nothing to be done, and that is the reason why to this day the crab goes through life without a head.