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This fable from Africa – yes, I’d love to be more specific but sadly my sources don’t tell me any more either – is all kinds of interesting. But read first, discuss after. 🙂

The Chameleon and the Elephant

One day, the chameleon invited the elephant for a race and the elephant accepted the challenge which, so they decided, would take place the next morning.

During the night the chameleon stationed many of his brothers in a short distance from each other along the track. At dawn, the elephant came and immediately started running. The chameleon, though, quickly climbed upon the elephant’s tail.

chameleon no. 5 a-racing

Upon every encounter with a chameleon the elephant asked: “Are you not tired?” “No,” answered the animal that was only now off to run the small part of the race that was his to do.

Finally the elephant halted, out of breath and tired, admitting defeat.

Copyright for translation: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: chameleon @ WikiMedia Commons

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I’m sure you’re also reminded of the famous animal tale about the hare and fox where the hare also wins by having many of his brothers substitute? What I find fascinating is not so much that this is the same plot as it’s not such an original idea that not many peoples could have come up with it over the centuries.

But what is kind of fascinating is that this fable here actually hints at another trick as well – when the chameleon is said to climb the elephant’s tail then this seems to allude to just letting the big one carry him. Like is the case in the Mongolian animal tale about the drinking contest between wolf, fox and hedgehog. But either this tail-climing is a case of mistranslation or this tale has somehow been altered to maybe focus on just the one? In any case – so interesting.

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