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The Beginning Of The Armadillos

from Just So Stories





THIS, O Best Beloved, is another story of the High and Far-Off Times. In
the very middle of those times was a Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog, and he
lived on the banks of the turbid Amazon, eating shelly snails and
things. And he had a friend, a Slow-Solid Tortoise, who lived on the
banks of the turbid Amazon, eating green lettuces and things. And so
that was all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?

But also, and at the same time, in those High and Far-Off Times, there
was a Painted Jaguar, and he lived on the banks of the turbid Amazon
too; and he ate everything that he could catch. When he could not catch
deer or monkeys he would eat frogs and beetles; and when he could not
catch frogs and beetles he went to his Mother Jaguar, and she told him
how to eat hedgehogs and tortoises.

She said to him ever so many times, graciously waving her tail, 'My son,
when you find a Hedgehog you must drop him into the water and then he
will uncoil, and when you catch a Tortoise you must scoop him out of his
shell with your paw.' And so that was all right, Best Beloved.

One beautiful night on the banks of the turbid Amazon, Painted Jaguar
found Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog and Slow-Solid Tortoise sitting under the
trunk of a fallen tree. They could not run away, and so Stickly-Prickly
curled himself up into a ball, because he was a Hedgehog, and Slow-Solid
Tortoise drew in his head and feet into his shell as far as they would
go, because he was a Tortoise; and so that was all right, Best
Beloved. Do you see?

'Now attend to me,' said Painted Jaguar, 'because this is very
important. My mother said that when I meet a Hedgehog I am to drop him
into the water and then he will uncoil, and when I meet a Tortoise I am
to scoop him out of his shell with my paw. Now which of you is Hedgehog
and which is Tortoise? because to save my spots, I can't tell.'

'Are you sure of what your Mummy told you?' said Stickly-Prickly
Hedgehog. 'Are you quite sure? Perhaps she said that when you uncoil a
Tortoise you must shell him out of the water with a scoop, and when you
paw a Hedgehog you must drop him on the shell.'

'Are you sure of what your Mummy told you?' said Slow-and-Solid
Tortoise. 'Are you quite sure? Perhaps she said that when you water a
Hedgehog you must drop him into your paw, and when you meet a Tortoise
you must shell him till he uncoils.'

'I don't think it was at all like that,' said Painted Jaguar, but he
felt a little puzzled; 'but, please, say it again more distinctly.'

'When you scoop water with your paw you uncoil it with a Hedgehog,' said
Stickly-Prickly. 'Remember that, because it's important.'

'But,' said the Tortoise, 'when you paw your meat you drop it into a
Tortoise with a scoop. Why can't you understand?'


Red and Black. It hasn't anything to do with the story except that there
are two Armadillos in it--up by the top. The inciting part are the
adventures that happened to the men who went along the road marked in
red. I meant to draw Armadillos when I began the map, and I meant to
draw manatees and spider-tailed monkeys and big snakes and lots of
Jaguars, but it was more inciting to do the map and the venturesome
adventures in red. You begin at the bottom left-hand corner and follow
the little arrows all about, and then you come quite round again to
where the adventuresome people went home in a ship called the Royal
Tiger. This is a most adventuresome picture, and all the adventures are
told about in writing, so you can be quite sure which is an adventure
and which is a tree or a boat.]

'You are making my spots ache,' said Painted Jaguar; 'and besides, I
didn't want your advice at all. I only wanted to know which of you is
Hedgehog and which is Tortoise.'

'I shan't tell you,' said Stickly-Prickly, 'but you can scoop me out of
my shell if you like.'

'Aha!' said Painted Jaguar. 'Now I know you're Tortoise. You thought I
wouldn't! Now I will.' Painted Jaguar darted out his paddy-paw just as
Stickly-Prickly curled himself up, and of course Jaguar's paddy-paw was
just filled with prickles. Worse than that, he knocked Stickly-Prickly
away and away into the woods and the bushes, where it was too dark to
find him. Then he put his paddy-paw into his mouth, and of course the
prickles hurt him worse than ever. As soon as he could speak he said,
'Now I know he isn't Tortoise at all. But'--and then he scratched his
head with his un-prickly paw--'how do I know that this other is
Tortoise?'

'But I am Tortoise,' said Slow-and-Solid. 'Your mother was quite
right. She said that you were to scoop me out of my shell with your paw.
Begin.'

'You didn't say she said that a minute ago,' said Painted Jaguar,
sucking the prickles out of his paddy-paw. 'You said she said something
quite different.'

'Well, suppose you say that I said that she said something quite
different, I don't see that it makes any difference; because if she said
what you said I said she said, it's just the same as if I said what she
said she said. On the other hand, if you think she said that you were to
uncoil me with a scoop, instead of pawing me into drops with a shell, I
can't help that, can I?'

'But you said you wanted to be scooped out of your shell with my paw,'
said Painted Jaguar.

'If you'll think again you'll find that I didn't say anything of the
kind. I said that your mother said that you were to scoop me out of my
shell,' said Slow-and-Solid.

'What will happen if I do?' said the Jaguar most sniffily and most
cautious.

'I don't know, because I've never been scooped out of my shell before;
but I tell you truly, if you want to see me swim away you've only got to
drop me into the water.'

'I don't believe it,' said Painted Jaguar. 'You've mixed up all the
things my mother told me to do with the things that you asked me whether
I was sure that she didn't say, till I don't know whether I'm on my head
or my painted tail; and now you come and tell me something I can
understand, and it makes me more mixy than before. My mother told me
that I was to drop one of you two into the water, and as you seem so
anxious to be dropped I think you don't want to be dropped. So jump into
the turbid Amazon and be quick about it.'

'I warn you that your Mummy won't be pleased. Don't tell her I didn't
tell you,' said Slow-Solid.

'If you say another word about what my mother said--' the Jaguar
answered, but he had not finished the sentence before Slow-and-Solid
quietly dived into the turbid Amazon, swam under water for a long way,
and came out on the bank where Stickly-Prickly was waiting for him.

'That was a very narrow escape,' said Stickly-Prickly. 'I don't like
Painted Jaguar. What did you tell him that you were?'

'I told him truthfully that I was a truthful Tortoise, but he wouldn't
believe it, and he made me jump into the river to see if I was, and I
was, and he is surprised. Now he's gone to tell his Mummy. Listen to
him!'

They could hear Painted Jaguar roaring up and down among the trees and
the bushes by the side of the turbid Amazon, till his Mummy came.

'Son, son!' said his mother ever so many times, graciously waving her
tail, 'what have you been doing that you shouldn't have done?'

'I tried to scoop something that said it wanted to be scooped out of its
shell with my paw, and my paw is full of per-ickles,' said Painted
Jaguar.

'Son, son!' said his mother ever so many times, graciously waving her
tail, 'by the prickles in your paddy-paw I see that that must have been
a Hedgehog. You should have dropped him into the water.'

'I did that to the other thing; and he said he was a Tortoise, and I
didn't believe him, and it was quite true, and he has dived under the
turbid Amazon, and he won't come up again, and I haven't anything at all
to eat, and I think we had better find lodgings somewhere else. They are
too clever on the turbid Amazon for poor me!'

'Son, son!' said his mother ever so many times, graciously waving her
tail, 'now attend to me and remember what I say. A Hedgehog curls
himself up into a ball and his prickles stick out every which way at
once. By this you may know the Hedgehog.'

'I don't like this old lady one little bit,' said Stickly-Prickly, under
the shadow of a large leaf. 'I wonder what else she knows?'

'A Tortoise can't curl himself up,' Mother Jaguar went on, ever so many
times, graciously waving her tail. 'He only draws his head and legs into
his shell. By this you may know the Tortoise.'

'I don't like this old lady at all--at all,' said Slow-and-Solid
Tortoise. 'Even Painted Jaguar can't forget those directions. It's a
great pity that you can't swim, Stickly-Prickly.'

'Don't talk to me,' said Stickly-Prickly. 'Just think how much better it
would be if you could curl up. This is a mess! Listen to Painted
Jaguar.'

Painted Jaguar was sitting on the banks of the turbid Amazon sucking
prickles out of his paws and saying to himself--

'Can't curl, but can swim--
Slow-Solid, that's him!
Curls up, but can't swim--
Stickly-Prickly, that's him!'

'He'll never forget that this month of Sundays,' said Stickly-Prickly.
'Hold up my chin, Slow-and-Solid. I'm going to try to learn to swim. It
may be useful.'

'Excellent!' said Slow-and-Solid; and he held up Stickly-Prickly's chin,
while Stickly-Prickly kicked in the waters of the turbid Amazon.

'You'll make a fine swimmer yet,' said Slow-and-Solid. 'Now, if you can
unlace my back-plates a little, I'll see what I can do towards curling
up. It may be useful.'

Stickly-Prickly helped to unlace Tortoise's back-plates, so that by
twisting and straining Slow-and-Solid actually managed to curl up a
tiddy wee bit.

'Excellent!' said Stickly-Prickly; 'but I shouldn't do any more just
now. It's making you black in the face. Kindly lead me into the water
once again and I'll practise that side-stroke which you say is so easy.'
And so Stickly-Prickly practised, and Slow-Solid swam alongside.

'Excellent!' said Slow-and-Solid. 'A little more practice will make you
a regular whale. Now, if I may trouble you to unlace my back and front
plates two holes more, I'll try that fascinating bend that you say is so
easy. Won't Painted Jaguar be surprised!'

'Excellent!' said Stickly-Prickly, all wet from the turbid Amazon. 'I
declare, I shouldn't know you from one of my own family. Two holes, I
think, you said? A little more expression, please, and don't grunt quite
so much, or Painted Jaguar may hear us. When you've finished, I want to
try that long dive which you say is so easy. Won't Painted Jaguar be
surprised!'

And so Stickly-Prickly dived, and Slow-and-Solid dived alongside.

'Excellent!' said Slow-and-Solid. 'A leetle more attention to holding
your breath and you will be able to keep house at the bottom of the
turbid Amazon. Now I'll try that exercise of wrapping my hind legs round
my ears which you say is so peculiarly comfortable. Won't Painted Jaguar
be surprised!'

'Excellent!' said Stickly-Prickly. 'But it's straining your back-plates
a little. They are all overlapping now, instead of lying side by side.'

'Oh, that's the result of exercise,' said Slow-and-Solid. 'I've noticed
that your prickles seem to be melting into one another, and that you're
growing to look rather more like a pine-cone, and less like a
chestnut-burr, than you used to.'

'Am I?' said Stickly-Prickly. 'That comes from my soaking in the water.
Oh, won't Painted Jaguar be surprised!'

They went on with their exercises, each helping the other, till morning
came; and when the sun was high they rested and dried themselves. Then
they saw that they were both of them quite different from what they had
been.

'Stickly-Prickly,' said Tortoise after breakfast, 'I am not what I was
yesterday; but I think that I may yet amuse Painted Jaguar.'

'That was the very thing I was thinking just now,' said Stickly-Prickly.
'I think scales are a tremendous improvement on prickles--to say nothing
of being able to swim. Oh, won't Painted Jaguar be surprised! Let's go
and find him.'

By and by they found Painted Jaguar, still nursing his paddy-paw that
had been hurt the night before. He was so astonished that he fell three
times backward over his own painted tail without stopping.

'Good morning!' said Stickly-Prickly. 'And how is your dear gracious
Mummy this morning?'

'She is quite well, thank you,' said Painted Jaguar; 'but you must
forgive me if I do not at this precise moment recall your name.'

'That's unkind of you,' said Stickly-Prickly, 'seeing that this time
yesterday you tried to scoop me out of my shell with your paw.'

'But you hadn't any shell. It was all prickles,' said Painted Jaguar. 'I
know it was. Just look at my paw!'

'You told me to drop into the turbid Amazon and be drowned,' said
Slow-Solid. 'Why are you so rude and forgetful to-day?'

'Don't you remember what your mother told you?' said Stickly-Prickly,--

'Can't curl, but can swim--
Stickly-Prickly, that's him!
Curls up, but can't swim--
Slow-Solid, that's him!'

Then they both curled themselves up and rolled round and round Painted
Jaguar till his eyes turned truly cart-wheels in his head.

Then he went to fetch his mother.


the Hedgehog and the Tortoise and the Armadillo all in a heap. It
looks rather the same any way you turn it. The Tortoise is in the
middle, learning how to bend, and that is why the shelly plates on his
back are so spread apart. He is standing on the Hedgehog, who is waiting
to learn how to swim. The Hedgehog is a Japanesy Hedgehog, because I
couldn't find our own Hedgehogs in the garden when I wanted to draw
them. (It was daytime, and they had gone to bed under the dahlias.)
Speckly Jaguar is looking over the edge, with his paddy-paw carefully
tied up by his mother, because he pricked himself scooping the Hedgehog.
He is much surprised to see what the Tortoise is doing, and his paw is
hurting him. The snouty thing with the little eye that Speckly Jaguar is
trying to climb over is the Armadillo that the Tortoise and the Hedgehog
are going to turn into when they have finished bending and swimming. It
is all a magic picture, and that is one of the reasons why I haven't
drawn the Jaguar's whiskers. The other reason was that he was so young
that his whiskers had not grown. The Jaguar's pet name with his Mummy
was Doffles.]

'Mother,' he said, 'there are two new animals in the woods to-day,
and the one that you said couldn't swim, swims, and the one that you
said couldn't curl up, curls; and they've gone shares in their prickles,
I think, because both of them are scaly all over, instead of one being
smooth and the other very prickly; and, besides that, they are rolling
round and round in circles, and I don't feel comfy.'

'Son, son!' said Mother Jaguar ever so many times, graciously waving her
tail, 'a Hedgehog is a Hedgehog, and can't be anything but a Hedgehog;
and a Tortoise is a Tortoise, and can never be anything else.'

'But it isn't a Hedgehog, and it isn't a Tortoise. It's a little bit of
both, and I don't know its proper name.'

'Nonsense!' said Mother Jaguar. 'Everything has its proper name. I
should call it "Armadillo" till I found out the real one. And I should
leave it alone.'

So Painted Jaguar did as he was told, especially about leaving them
alone; but the curious thing is that from that day to this, O Best
Beloved, no one on the banks of the turbid Amazon has ever called
Stickly-Prickly and Slow-Solid anything except Armadillo. There are
Hedgehogs and Tortoises in other places, of course (there are some in my
garden); but the real old and clever kind, with their scales lying
lippety-lappety one over the other, like pine-cone scales, that lived on
the banks of the turbid Amazon in the High and Far-Off Days, are always
called Armadillos, because they were so clever.

So that's all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?




I'VE never sailed the Amazon,
I've never reached Brazil;
But the Don and Magdalena,
They can go there when they will!

Yes, weekly from Southampton,
Great steamers, white and gold,
Go rolling down to Rio
(Roll down--roll down to Rio!)
And I'd like to roll to Rio
Some day before I'm old!

I've never seen a Jaguar,
Nor yet an Armadill--
O dilloing in his armour,
And I s'pose I never will,

Unless I go to Rio
These wonders to behold--
Roll down--roll down to Rio--
Roll really down to Rio!
Oh, I'd love to roll to Rio
Some day before I'm old!





Next: How The First Letter Was Written

Previous: The Sing-song Of Old Man Kangaroo



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