I promise I won’t be doing this that often. I’m equally proud of all of my wonderful children. It has taken self control not to ramble on here about my son’s recent robotic successes or how great my oldest daughter was the other day as Lady Macbeth. The difference here is that while those accomplishments were incomparably fabulous, I had little to do with them, except enjoy it as an onlooker.
The project depicted here is an entirely different matter. Today I’ve completed a unit study with my youngest (12 year old) daughter on Just So stories. I repeatedly read them to her. We studied the use of phrase repetition, alliteration, dialogue, change agents, morals, slokas, terms of endearment, run on silliness, and the rhythm of every phrase which makes them “Just So.” Then she had the assignment of writing her own story with all of the elements Just So. To do that we played word games, vocabulary games, and listened to the sounds strings of words made. We also had to settle on an animal with a distinctive feature as well as a flaw to be fixed that resulted in that feature. Before settling on her topic, my daughter seriously considered rabbits and their ears, platypus and their bill, turtles and their shells, and the octopus’ eight legs. Even though I was very involved as described above, the story is all hers. She can vouch that other than considerable spelling help and some dialogue punctuation assistance I was hands off. Below is her story – just finished – which even Kipling would agree is Just So.
How the Porcupine Got His Quills
Now, once upon a time, oh my Sanguine Sassafras, in a faraway land, there was a forest, and in that forest lived a porcupine. (In those days porcupines had no quills; they had soft, cuddly fur that was brownish-grayish in color.) This particular porcupine loved to beeeeeee with people. He also liked to give people great big hugs. He was always hanging about other people and when he was not doing that, he was sleeping. Oh, my Sanguine Sassafras, how he loved to sleep. His bed of pine needles was four feet across and two feet thick. And it was so soft you could almost say it was superfluously soft. He would disappear altogether in that comfy bed of his. Then, his friends (they weren’t really his friends but he thought they were) would creep away on cat feet to have a blissful hour or two all to themselves, with no porcupine to give them backbreaking hugs or to beg for attention.
One day, the porcupine’s friends had a meeting in a secret grove of spruce trees, while the porcupine was asleep. They thought and they thought and they talked and they talked but they could not think of anything to stop him from pestering them.
In the grove of trees where the friends were talking, tree spirits heard the complaint and decided to help. In disguise, they too had met this porcupine and had found him most disagreeable. So the head of the tree spirits, masquerading as an old but cleverly wise owl, darted into the clearing on his silent wings. When he had alighted he asked, “My friends, such frowns, what ails you so. Maybe I can offer you some assistance?”
“We sure could use some of your cleverly wise advice.” Crow cawed (since he was running things, he spoke for everyone).
“I would be delighted to bestow some of my wisdom as a gift to you all. It would be my pleasure, yes indeed. It would be my pleasure to give you all some advice,” replied the cleverly wise owl.
“Now that that’s settled, let’s get down to business,” growled a grumbly mother bear, “I can’t even raise my cubs properly with that porcupine around being a bad example for them.”
“So what exactly is your dilemma?” asked the cleverly wise owl, who liked to use fancy words instead of plain ones.
“The problem is this: there is a porcupine and he is a nuisance and follows me around everywhere. He gives me great big hugs about six times each day. I don’t mind a regular hug, but they are not regular hugs. They are agonizing, backbreaking hugs,” shouted a fuming rabbit.
“Ok, so you are trying to acquire relief from the exasperating presence of this porcupine?” asked the cleverly wise owl.
“Quite right,” Crow replied.
“Where is he located?” the cleverly wise owl inquired.
“The southern forest, Ever-Sunny Glade,” Rabbit responded without thinking.
“What exactly is he doing?” asked the cleverly wise owl.
“He is languorously sleeping on big pile of pine needles,” said a sly fox who prided him self for knowing everything.
“Pine needles, mhmmmmmm,” the owl mused in contemplation, “I have an idea.”
“What is it?” they all cried.
“Pine needles can be poked into his skin. Then you should move into the northern-most part of the forest. It would be only a matter of time before he learns his lesson and you can move back. That is the simplest way I can think of,” the cleverly wise owl offered.
“Its better then anything we’ve come up with,” Crow commented.
“When are we going to do it?” Rabbit inquired. He was eager to get rid of the porcupine’s annoying behavior.
“Tonight, but we have to be ready,” the owl replied.
“Great! What do we have to do to get ready?” asked Crow.
“All you have to do is be there and be quiet and I’ll take care of the rest,” said the cleverly wise owl.
“Great!” Crow repeated, “Meeting adjourned.”
Now, in Ever-Sunny Glade, oh my Sanguine Sassafras, the porcupine was waking from his long nap. He wondered where his friends were. Just as he thought this, he saw Rabbit hopping toward him. The porcupine scampered over, and flung his arms around Rabbit as though he had not seen him in a month. Rabbit, already exhausted from his exertion, was out of breath. Then he was being hugged. He felt as though he would die for lack of air. When the squeezing finally stopped, Rabbit went limp. He was sore all over; there was no spot on him that didn’t throb with pain.
It was night when the friends gathered in Ever-Sunny Glade. The cleverly wise owl had brought with him Quetsa Cou (the only living magical creature in the world), who flew down out of the sky into the clearing below.
“I have heard of this porcupine and I will help you,” Quetsa Cou boomed as he landed.
After that, he went over to the bed of pine needles where the porcupine lay sleeping, and majestically proclaimed this sloka:
You’ve been a pill
So you will
Get your fill
Then, without a moment’s hesitation he spread his wings and flew off. The others looked after him in awe.
The next morning, the porcupine woke up and to his horror found he had quills all over him (except his tummy). He raged and he raged, lashing out at everything. “These profoundly prodigious tickly prickly odious quills are horrible!” complained the porcupine.
After the porcupine got his quills, everyone kept their distance from him. The other animals were enthusiastic about the porcupine’s quills and never experienced one of his backbreaking hugs again. The porcupine learned to beeeeeee satisfied with himself. They all lived happily ever after.
So, my Sanguine Sassafras, that is how the porcupine got his quills.