| Just So Stories|
|by Rudyard Kipling|
|Fanciful explanations, that delight both young and old, of how some curious things came to be, including stories of how the elephant got his trunk, how the camel got his hump, and how the alphabet was invented. Ages 6-9 |
THE CRAB THAT PLAYED WITH THE SEA
 BEFORE the High and Far-Off Times, O my Best Beloved, came the
Time of the Very Beginnings; and that was in the days when the
Eldest Magician was getting Things ready. First he got the Earth
ready; then he got the Sea ready; and then he told all the
Animals that they could come out and play. And the Animals said,
"O Eldest Magician, what shall we play at?" and he said, "I will
show you. He took the Elephant—All-the-Elephant-there-was—and
said, "Play at being an Elephant,"
 and All-the-Elephant-there-was
played. He took the Beaver—All-the-Beaver-there-was and said,
"Play at being a Beaver," and All-the Beaver-there-was played.
He took the Cow—All-the Cow-there-was—and said, "Play at being
a Cow," and All-the-Cow-there-was played. He took the
Turtle—All-the-Turtle there-was and said, "Play at being a
Turtle," and All-the-Turtle-there-was played. One by one he took
all the beasts and birds and fishes and told them what to play at.
But towards evening, when people and things grow restless and
tired, there came up the Man (With his own little
girl-daughter?)—Yes, with his own best beloved little
girl-daughter sitting upon his shoulder, and he said, "What is
this play, Eldest Magician?" And the Eldest Magician said, "Ho,
Son of Adam, this is the play of the Very Beginning; but you are
too wise for this play." And the Man saluted and said, "Yes, I am
too wise for this play; but see that you make all the Animals
obedient to me."
Now, while the two were talking together, Pau Amma the Crab, who
was next in the game, scuttled off sideways and stepped into the
sea, saying to himself, "I will
play my play alone
 in the deep
waters, and I will never be obedient to this son of Adam." Nobody
saw him go away except the little girl-daughter where she leaned
on the Man's shoulder. And the play went on till there were no
more Animals left without orders; and the Eldest Magician wiped
the fine dust off his hands and walked about the world to see how
the Animals were playing.
THIS is a picture of Pau Amma the Crab running away while
the Eldest Magician was talking to the Man and his Little
Girl Daughter. The Eldest Magician is sitting on his magic
throne, wrapped up in his Magic Cloud. The three flowers
in front of him are the three Magic Flowers. On the top of
the hill you can see All-the-Elephant-there-was, and
All-the-Cow-there-was, and All-the-Turtle-there-was going
off to play as the Eldest Magician told them. The Cow
has a hump, because she was All-the-Cow-there-was; so
she had to have all there was for all the cows that were
made afterwards. Under the hill there are Animals who
have been taught the game they were to play. You can see
All-the-Tiger-there-was smiling at All-the-Bones-there-were,
and you can see All-the-Elk-there-was, and
All-the-Parrot-there-was, and All-the-Bunnies-there-were
on the hill. The other Animals are on the other side of
the hill, so I havenít drawn them. The little house up the
hill is All-the-House-there-was. The Eldest Magician made
it to show the Man how to make houses when he wanted to.
The Snake round that spiky hill is All-the-Snake-there-was,
and he is talking to All-the-Monkey-there-was, and the
Monkey is being rude to the Snake, and the Snake is being
rude to the Monkey. The Man is very busy talking to the
Eldest Magician. The Little Girl Daughter is looking at Pau
Amma as he runs away. That humpy thing in the water in
front is Pau Amma. He wasnít a common Crab in those days.
He was a King Crab. That is why he looks different. The
thing that looks like bricks that the Man is standing in,
is the Big Miz-Maze. When the Man has done talking with the
Eldest Magician he will walk in the Big Miz-Maze, because
he has to. The mark on the stone under the Manís foot is a
magic mark; and down underneath I have drawn the three
Magic Flowers all mixed up with the Magic Cloud. All this
picture is Big Medicine and Strong Magic.
He went North, Best Beloved, and he found
All-the-Elephant-there-was digging with his tusks and stamping
with his feet in the nice new clean earth that had been made
ready for him.
"Kun?" said All-the-Elephant-there-was, meaning, "Is this right?"
"Payah kun," said the Eldest Magician, meaning, "That is quite
right'; and he breathed upon the great rocks and lumps of earth
that All-the-Elephant-there-was had thrown up, and they became
the great Himalayan Mountains, and you can look them out on the
He went East, and he found All-the-Cow there-was feeding in the
field that had been made ready for her, and she licked her tongue
round a whole forest at a time, and swallowed it and sat down to
chew her cud.
"Kun?" said All-the-Cow-there-was.
 "Payah kun," said the Eldest Magician; and he breathed upon the
bare patch where she had eaten, and upon the place where she had
sat down, and one became the great Indian Desert, and the other
became the Desert of Sahara, and you can look them out on the
He went West, and he found All-the-Beaver-there-was making a
beaver-dam across the mouths of broad rivers that had been got
ready for him.
"Kun?" said All-the-Beaver-there-was.
"Payah kun," said the Eldest Magician; and he breathed upon the
fallen trees and the still water, and they became the Everglades
in Florida, and you may look them out on the
Then he went South and found All-the-Turtle-there-was scratching
with his flippers in the sand that had been got ready for him,
and the sand and the rocks whirled through the air and fell far
off into the sea.
"Kun?" said All-the-Turtle-there-was.
"Payah kun," said the Eldest Magician; and he breathed upon the
sand and the rocks, where they had fallen in the sea, and they
became the most beautiful islands of Borneo, Celebes, Sumatra,
Java, and the rest of the Malay
Archi-  pelago, and you can look
them out on the map!
By and by the Eldest Magician met the Man on the banks of the
Perak river, and said, "Ho! Son of Adam, are all the Animals
obedient to you?"
"Yes," said the Man.
"Is all the Earth obedient to you?"
"Yes," said the Man.
"Is all the Sea obedient to you?"
"No," said the Man. "Once a day and once a night the Sea runs up
the Perak river and drives the sweet-water back into the forest,
so that my house is made wet; once a day and once a night it runs
down the river and draws all the water after it, so that there is
nothing left but mud, and my canoe is upset. Is that the play you
told it to play?"
"No," said the Eldest Magician. "That is a new and a bad play."
"Look!" said the Man, and as he spoke the great Sea came up the
mouth of the Perak river, driving the river backwards till it
overflowed all the dark forests for miles and miles, and flooded
the Man's house.
"This is wrong. Launch your canoe and we
 will find out who is
playing with the Sea," said the Eldest Magician. They stepped
into the canoe; the little girl-daughter came with them; and the
Man took his kris—a curving, wavy dagger with a blade like a
flame,—and they pushed out on the Perak river. Then the sea
began to run back and back, and the canoe was sucked out of the
mouth of the Perak river, past Selangor, past Malacca, past
Singapore, out and out to the Island of Bingtang, as though it
had been pulled by a string.
Then the Eldest Magician stood up and shouted, "Ho! beasts,
birds, and fishes, that I took between my hands at the Very
Beginning and taught the play that you should play, which one of
you is playing with the Sea?"
Then all the beasts, birds, and fishes said together, "Eldest
Magician, we play the plays that you taught us to play—we and
our children's children. But not one of us plays with the Sea."
Then the Moon rose big and full over the water, and the Eldest
Magician said to the hunchbacked old man who sits in the Moon
spinning a fishing-line with which he hopes one day to catch the
world, "Ho! Fisher of the Moon, are you playing with the Sea?"
 "No," said the Fisherman, "I am spinning a line with which I
shall some day catch the world; but I do not play with the Sea."And he went on spinning his line.
Now there is also a Rat up in the Moon who always bites the old
Fisherman's line as fast as it is made, and the Eldest Magician
said to him, "Ho! Rat of the Moon, are
you playing with the Sea?"
And the Rat said, "I am too busy biting through the line that
this old Fisherman is spinning. I do not play with the Sea." And
he went on biting the line.
Then the little girl-daughter put up her little soft brown arms
with the beautiful white shell bracelets and said, "O Eldest
Magician! when my father here talked to you at the Very
Beginning, and I leaned upon his shoulder while the beasts were
being taught their plays, one beast went away naughtily into the
Sea before you had taught him his play.
And the Eldest Magician said, "How wise are little children who
see and are silent! What was the beast like?"
And the little girl-daughter said, "He was round and he was flat;
and his eyes grew upon
 stalks; and he walked sideways like this ;
and he was covered with strong armour upon his back."
And the Eldest Magician said, "How wise are little children who
speak truth! Now I know where Pau Amma went. Give me the paddle!"
So he took the paddle; but there was no need to paddle, for the
water flowed steadily past all the islands till they came to the
place called Pusat Tasek—the Heart of the Sea—where the great
hollow is that leads down to the heart of the world, and in that
hollow grows the Wonderful Tree, Pauh Janggi, that bears the magic
twin nuts. Then the Eldest Magician slid his arm up to the shoulder
through the deep warm water, and under the roots of the Wonderful
Tree he touched the broad back of Pau Amma the Crab. And Pau Amma
settled down at the touch, and all the Sea rose up as water rises
in a basin when you put your hand into it.
"Ah!" said the Eldest Magician. "Now I know who has been playing
with the Sea;" and he called out, "What are you doing, Pau Amma?"
And Pau Amma, deep down below,
 answered, "Once a day and once a
night I go out to look for my food. Once a day and once a night I
return. Leave me alone."
Then the Eldest Magician said, "Listen, Pau Amma. When you go out
from your cave the waters of the Sea pour down into Pusat Tasek,
and all the beaches of all the islands are left bare, and the
little fish die, and Raja Moyang Kaban, the King of the
Elephants, his legs are made muddy. When you come back and sit in
Pusat Tasek, the waters of the Sea rise, and half the little
islands are drowned, and the Man's house is flooded, and Raja
Abdullah, the King of the Crocodiles, his mouth is filled with
the salt water.
Then Pau Amma, deep down below, laughed and said, "I did not know
I was so important. Henceforward I will go out seven times a day,
and the waters shall never be still."
And the Eldest Magician said, "I cannot make you play the play
you were meant to play, Pau Amma, because you escaped me at the
Very Beginning; but if you are not afraid, come up and we will
talk about it."
"I am not afraid," said Pau Amma, and he rose to the top of the
sea in the moonlight.
 There was nobody in the world so big as Pau
Amma—for he was the King Crab of all Crabs. Not a common Crab,
but a King Crab. One side of his great shell touched the beach at
Sarawak; the other touched the beach at Pahang; and he was taller
than the smoke of three volcanoes! As he rose up through the
branches of the Wonderful Tree he tore off one of the great twin
fruits—the magic double kernelled nuts that make people young,—
and the little girl-daughter saw it bobbing alongside the canoe,
and pulled it in and began to pick out the soft eyes of it with
her little golden scissors.
THIS is the picture of Pau Amma the Crab rising out of the
sea as tall as the smoke of three volcanoes. I havenít
drawn the three volcanoes, because Pau Amma was so big.
Pau Amma is trying to make a Magic, but he is only a
silly old King Crab, and so he canít do anything. You
can see he is all legs and claws and empty hollow shell.
The canoe is the canoe that the Man and the Girl Daughter
and the Eldest Magician sailed from the Perak river in.
The sea is all black and bobbly, because Pau Amma has just
risen up out of Pusat Tasek. Pusat Tasek is underneath so
I havenít drawn it. The Man is waving his curvy his-knife
at Pau Amma. The Little Girl Daughter is sitting quietly
in the middle of the canoe. She knows she is quite safe with
her Daddy. The Eldest Magician is standing up at the other
end of the canoe beginning to make a Magic. He has left his
magic throne on the beach, and he has taken off his clothes
so as not to get wet, and he has left the Magic Cloud behind
too, so as not to tip the boat over. The thing that looks
like another little canoe outside the real canoe is called
an outrigger. It is a piece of wood tied to sticks, and it
prevents the canoe from being tipped over. The canoe is made
out of one piece of wood, and there is a
paddle at one end of it.
"Now," said the Magician, "make a Magic, Pau Amma, to show that
you are really important."
Pau Amma rolled his eyes and waved his legs, but he could only
stir up the Sea, because, though he was a King Crab, he was
nothing more than a Crab, and the Eldest Magician laughed.
"You are not so important after all, Pau Amma," he said. "Now,
let me try," and he made a Magic with his left hand—with just
the little finger of his left hand—and—lo and
Best Beloved, Pau Amma's hard, blue-green-black shell fell off
him as a husk falls off a cocoa-nut, and Pau Amma was left all
soft—soft as the little crabs that you sometimes find on the
beach, Best Beloved.
"Indeed, you are very important," said the Eldest Magician.
"Shall I ask the Man
here to cut you with kris? Shall I send for
Raja Moyang Kaban, the King of the Elephants, to pierce you with
his tusks, or shall I call Raja Abdullah, the King of the Crocodiles,
to bite you?"
And Pau Amma said, "I am ashamed! Give me back my hard shell and
let me go back to Pusat Tasek, and I will only stir out once a
day and once a night to get my food."
And the Eldest Magician said, "No,
Pau Amma, I will not give you
back your shell, for you will grow bigger and prouder and
stronger, and perhaps you will forget your promise, and
you will play with the Sea once more.
Then Pau Amma said, "What shall I do? I am so big that I can only
hide in Pusat Tasek, and if I go anywhere else, all soft as I am
now, the sharks and the dogfish will eat me. And if I go to Pusat
Tasek, all soft as I am now,
 though I may be safe, I can never
stir out to get my food, and so I shall die." Then he waved his
legs and lamented.
"Listen, Pau Amma," said the Eldest Magician. "I cannot make you
play the play you were meant to play, because you escaped me at
the Very Beginning; but if you choose, I can make every stone and
every hole and every bunch of weed in all the seas a safe Pusat
Tasek for you and your children for always."
Then Pau Amma said, "That is good, but I do not choose yet. Look!
there is that Man who talked to you at the Very Beginning. If he
had not taken up your attention I should not have grown tired of
waiting and run away, and all this would never have happened.
What will he do for me?"
And the Man said, "If you choose, I will make a Magic, so that
both the deep water and the dry ground will be a home for you and
your children—so that you shall be able to hide both on the land
and in the sea."
And Pau Amma said, "I do not choose yet. Look! there is that girl
who saw me running away at the Very Beginning. If she had spoken
 then, the Eldest Magician would have called me back, and all this
would never have happened. What will she do for me?"
And the little girl-daughter said, "This is a good nut that I am
eating. If you choose, I will make a Magic and I will give you
this pair of scissors, very sharp and strong, so that you and
your children can eat cocoa-nuts like this all day long when you
come up from the Sea to the land; or you can dig a Pusat Tasek
for yourself with the scissors that belong to you when there is
no stone or hole near by; and when the earth is too hard, by the
help of these same scissors you can run up a tree."
And Pau Amma said, "I do not choose yet, for, all soft as I am,
these gifts would not help me. Give me back my shell, O Eldest
Magician, and then I will play your play."
And the Eldest Magician said, "I will give it back, Pau Amma, for
eleven months of the year; but on the twelfth month of every year
it shall grow soft again, to remind you and all your children
that I can make magics, and to keep you humble, Pau Amma; for I
see that if you can run both under the water and on land, you
will grow too bold; and if you can climb trees
 and crack nuts and
dig holes with your scissors, you will grow too greedy, Pau
Then Pau Amma thought a little and said, "I have made my choice.
I will take all the gifts."
Then the Eldest Magician made a Magic with the right hand, with
all five fingers of his right hand, and lo and behold, Best
Beloved, Pau Amma grew smaller and smaller and smaller, till at
last there was only a little green crab swimming in the water
alongside the canoe, crying in a very small voice, "Give me the
And the girl-daughter picked him up on the palm of her little
brown hand, and sat him in the bottom of the canoe and gave him
her scissors, and he waved them in his little arms, and opened
them and shut them and snapped them, and said, "I can eat nuts. I
can crack shells. I can dig holes. I can climb trees. I can
breathe in the dry air, and I can find a safe Pusat Tasek under
every stone. I did not know I was so important. Kun?" (Is this
"Payah-kun," said the Eldest Magician, and he laughed and gave
him his blessing; and little Pau Amma scuttled over the side of
the canoe into the water; and he was so tiny that he could
hidden under the shadow of a dry leaf on land or of a dead shell
at the bottom of the sea.
"Was that well done?" said the Eldest Magician.
"Yes," said the Man. "But now we must go back to Perak, and that
is a weary way to paddle. If we had waited till Pau Amma had gone
out of Pusat Tasek and come home, the water would have carried us
there by itself."
"You are lazy," said the Eldest Magician. "So your children shall
be lazy. They shall be the laziest people in the world. They
shall be called the Malazy—the lazy people;" and he held up his
finger to the Moon and said, "O Fisherman, here is the Man too
lazy to row home. Pull his canoe home with your line, Fisherman."
"No," said the Man. "If I am to be lazy all my days, let the Sea
work for me twice a day for ever. That will save paddling."
And the Eldest Magician laughed and said, "Payah kun" (That is
And the Rat of the Moon stopped biting the line; and the
Fisherman let his line down till it touched the Sea, and he
pulled the whole deep Sea along, past the Island of Bintang, past
Singa-  pore, past Malacca, past Selangor, till the canoe whirled
into the mouth of the Perak River again. Kun?" said the Fisherman
of the Moon.
said the Eldest Magician. "See now that you pull the
Sea twice a day and twice a night for ever, so that the Malazy
fishermen may be saved paddling. But be careful not to do it too
hard, or I shall make a magic on you as I did to Pau Amma."
Then they all went up the Perak River and went to bed, Best
Now listen and attend!
From that day to this the Moon has always pulled the sea up and
down and made what we call the tides. Sometimes the Fisher of the
Sea pulls a little too hard, and then we get spring tides; and
sometimes he pulls a little too softly, and then we get what are
called neap-tides; but nearly always he is careful, because of
the Eldest Magician.
And Pau Amma? You can see when you go to the beach, how all Pau
Amma's babies make little Pusat Taseks for themselves under every
stone and bunch of weed on the sands; you can see them waving
their little scissors; and in some parts of the world they truly
 on the dry land and run up the palm trees and eat cocoa-nuts,
exactly as the girl-daughter promised. But once a year all
Pau Ammas must shake off their hard armour and be soft-to remind
them of what the Eldest Magician could do. And so it isn't fair
to kill or hunt Pau Amma's babies just because old Pau Amma was
stupidly rude a very long time ago.
Oh yes! And Pau Amma's babies hate being taken out of their
little Pusat Taseks and brought home in pickle-bottles. That is
why they nip you with their scissors, and it serves you right!
CHINA-GOING P's and 0's
Pass Pau Amma's playground close,
And his Pusat Tasek lies
Near the track of most B.I.'s.
U.Y.K. and N.D.L.
Know Pau Amma's home as well
As the fisher of the Sea knows
"Bens," M.M.'s, and Rubattinos.
But (and this is rather queer)
A.T.L.'s can not come here;
O. and O. and D.O.A.
Must go round another way.
Orient, Anchor, Bibby, Hall,
Never go that way at all.
U.C.S. would have a fit
If it found itself on it.
And if "Beavers" took their cargoes
To Penang instead of Lagos,
Or a fat Shaw-Savill bore
Passengers to Singapore,
Or a White Star were to try a
Little trip to Sourabaya,
Or a B.S.A. went on
Past Natal to Cheribon,
Then great Mr. Lloyds would come
With a wire and drag them home!
You'll know what my riddle means
When you've eaten mangosteens.
Or if you can't wait till then, ask them to let you have the
outside page of the Times; turn over to page 2 where it is marked
"Shipping" on the top left hand; then take the Atlas (and that is
the finest picture-book in the world) and see how the names of
the places that the steamers go to fit into the names of the
places on the map. Any steamer-kiddy ought to be able to do that;
but if you can't read, ask some one to show it you.
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