How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin

: Just So Stories

ONCE upon a time, on an uninhabited island on the shores of the Red

Sea, there lived a Parsee from whose hat the rays of the sun were

reflected in more-than-oriental splendour. And the Parsee lived by the

Red Sea with nothing but his hat and his knife and a cooking-stove of

the kind that you must particularly never touch. And one day he took

flour and water and currants and plums and sugar and things, and made

ne cake which was two feet across and three feet thick. It was

indeed a Superior Comestible (that's magic), and he put it on the

stove because he was allowed to cook on that stove, and he baked it

and he baked it till it was all done brown and smelt most sentimental.

But just as he was going to eat it there came down to the beach from the

Altogether Uninhabited Interior one Rhinoceros with a horn on his nose,

two piggy eyes, and few manners. In those days the Rhinoceros's skin

fitted him quite tight. There were no wrinkles in it anywhere. He looked

exactly like a Noah's Ark Rhinoceros, but of course much bigger. All the

same, he had no manners then, and he has no manners now, and he never

will have any manners. He said, 'How!' and the Parsee left that cake and

climbed to the top of a palm tree with nothing on but his hat, from

which the rays of the sun were always reflected in more-than-oriental

splendour. And the Rhinoceros upset the oil-stove with his nose, and the

cake rolled on the sand, and he spiked that cake on the horn of his

nose, and he ate it, and he went away, waving his tail, to the desolate

and Exclusively Uninhabited Interior which abuts on the islands of

Mazanderan, Socotra, and the Promontories of the Larger Equinox. Then

the Parsee came down from his palm-tree and put the stove on its legs

and recited the following Sloka, which, as you have not heard, I will

now proceed to relate:--

Them that takes cakes

Which the Parsee-man bakes

Makes dreadful mistakes.

And there was a great deal more in that than you would think.

Because, five weeks later, there was a heat-wave in the Red Sea, and

everybody took off all the clothes they had. The Parsee took off his

hat; but the Rhinoceros took off his skin and carried it over his

shoulder as he came down to the beach to bathe. In those days it

buttoned underneath with three buttons and looked like a waterproof. He

said nothing whatever about the Parsee's cake, because he had eaten it

all; and he never had any manners, then, since, or henceforward. He

waddled straight into the water and blew bubbles through his nose,

leaving his skin on the beach.

cake on the Uninhabited Island in the Red Sea on a very hot day; and of

the Rhinoceros coming down from the Altogether Uninhabited Interior,

which, as you can truthfully see, is all rocky. The Rhinoceros's skin is

quite smooth, and the three buttons that button it up are underneath, so

you can't see them. The squiggly things on the Parsee's hat are the rays

of the sun reflected in more-than-oriental splendour, because if I had

drawn real rays they would have filled up all the picture. The cake has

currants in it; and the wheel-thing lying on the sand in front belonged

to one of Pharaoh's chariots when he tried to cross the Red Sea. The

Parsee found it, and kept it to play with. The Parsee's name was

Pestonjee Bomonjee, and the Rhinoceros was called Strorks, because he

breathed through his mouth instead of his nose. I wouldn't ask anything

about the cooking-stove if I were you.]

Presently the Parsee came by and found the skin, and he smiled one

smile that ran all round his face two times. Then he danced three times

round the skin and rubbed his hands. Then he went to his camp and filled

his hat with cake-crumbs, for the Parsee never ate anything but cake,

and never swept out his camp. He took that skin, and he shook that skin,

and he scrubbed that skin, and he rubbed that skin just as full of old,

dry, stale, tickly cake-crumbs and some burned currants as ever it could

possibly hold. Then he climbed to the top of his palm-tree and waited

for the Rhinoceros to come out of the water and put it on.

palm-tree and watching the Rhinoceros Strorks bathing near the beach

of the Altogether Uninhabited Island after Strorks had taken off his

skin. The Parsee has put the cake-crumbs into the skin, and he is

smiling to think how they will tickle Strorks when Strorks puts it on

again. The skin is just under the rocks below the palm-tree in a cool

place; that is why you can't see it. The Parsee is wearing a new

more-than-oriental-splendour hat of the sort that Parsees wear; and he

has a knife in his hand to cut his name on palm-trees. The black things

on the islands out at sea are bits of ships that got wrecked going down

the Red Sea; but all the passengers were saved and went home.

The black thing in the water close to the shore is not a wreck at all.

It is Strorks the Rhinoceros bathing without his skin. He was just as

black underneath his skin as he was outside. I wouldn't ask anything

about the cooking-stove if I were you.]

And the Rhinoceros did. He buttoned it up with the three buttons,

and it tickled like cake-crumbs in bed. Then he wanted to scratch, but

that made it worse; and then he lay down on the sands and rolled and

rolled and rolled, and every time he rolled the cake-crumbs tickled him

worse and worse and worse. Then he ran to the palm-tree and rubbed and

rubbed and rubbed himself against it. He rubbed so much and so hard that

he rubbed his skin into a great fold over his shoulders, and another

fold underneath, where the buttons used to be (but he rubbed the buttons

off), and he rubbed some more folds over his legs. And it spoiled his

temper, but it didn't make the least difference to the cake-crumbs. They

were inside his skin and they tickled. So he went home, very angry

indeed and horribly scratchy; and from that day to this every rhinoceros

has great folds in his skin and a very bad temper, all on account of the

cake-crumbs inside.

But the Parsee came down from his palm-tree, wearing his hat, from which

the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour,

packed up his cooking-stove, and went away in the direction of Orotavo,

Amygdala, the Upland Meadows of Anantarivo, and the Marshes of Sonaput.

THIS Uninhabited Island

Is off Cape Gardafui,

By the Beaches of Socotra

And the Pink Arabian Sea:

But it's hot--too hot from Suez

For the likes of you and me

Ever to go

In a P. and O.

And call on the Cake-Parsee!