On the Third Day of Christmas...
The Little Ol’ Donkey
That Had Little To Say
t was the night before Christmas when all the beasts came together from the farthest places of the earth to talk. The first voice to be heard was the deep, rich bass of the lion. “I speak,” he said, “as the king of beasts.” And truly he looked a king with his beautiful thick mane and his tawny rippling muscles. “I won't repeat my good deeds. I shall not again tonight repeat the shining stories of the days when the Romans loved me. I shall not recall the story of the one man,
Daniel, who defied me in my own den—a story humbling to me—which I have often told you to prove I am not proud. I shall say nothing of my stealthy fury that makes the whole continent tremble at the very sound of my name...”
“Then I shall speak,” –and by the trumpet sound, the beasts knew the elephant spoke. “I am the biggest beast on earth. My size and my strength awe nations. Yet I can walk so softly and lightly that no ear can hear my coming. Isn't that something to be proud of? And I don't believe any of you can flip a tremendous teak log over your shoulder as handily as I can. That takes power. Yes, and who else here has been a beast of war? Who else has crossed the Alps ? You know how very high the Alps are! I and my strong brothers helped the famous General Hannibal and his soldiers over them in one of his great campaigns. And Hannibal's in history books all over the world.”
A strange, whispering voice broke in: “You know me, the giraffe. Usually I stay silent, but I hope you'll remember I'm the tallest and can look down on you. But please don't think I am bragging because I'm up here above you. I eat from the tops of trees. Nobody else here can do that.
Besides, being the tallest, I can run faster than most...”
“Let me interrupt.” It was the leopard's voice. “You'd have to move pretty fast to outrun certain striped and spotted cousins of mine who hold most of the speed records. Right, cousins?” The
tiger nodded his head and the cheetah, fastest of all, smiled.
The camel, till now, had been chewing his cud and watching with sad eyes. He cleared his throat and his voice rasped out: “I am neither handsome nor fleet. I have some trouble keeping clean. But I have the right to feel as proud as anyone here. I helped build the pyramids of Egypt! Have any of you ever tackled a job that big? I am also the only animal in the world that can have two humps on his back. I am used to going many days without water, across scorching sands that would burn the feet off most of you within hours. My friends, the camel counts, and I have a right to feel happy.”
For a long while after the camel's speech, there was silence. Then the llama coughed and said: “I am by nature modest. One thing, however—I have had much experience crossing mountains. You have heard of the Andes, my home, and the war work I've done.”
Others spoke too. The goose honked, “I layed a golden egg once. Who else has done that?” The turtle said, “I'm the slowest. It's better. When you are fast, you go round in circles.” The fox said: “I am the slyest, the trickiest, and probably the brainiest of you all.” The zebra said: “For confusion, I'm best. Am I black with white stripes or white with black?” The grizzly bear said: “Who that is as heavy as I am, can climb a tree as well?” And the polar bear said: “Can anybody but me swim with icebergs or catch fish with a paw?”
All this time a little gray beast stood listening. Finally, the other animals looked his way. There wasn't much he could do but speak. “I am a donkey,” he began, in a voice so hoarse and low that the beasts leaned forward to hear. “I can't run fast or go days without water. I couldn't swim a stroke among icebergs. I've never climbed a tree. Nobody is afraid of me.”
(C. Ralph Bennett)