| 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 |
HOW THE LEOPARD GOT HIS SPOTS
 IN the days when everybody started fair, Best Beloved, the
Leopard lived in a place called the High Veldt. "Member it
wasn't the Low Veldt, or the Bush Veldt, or the Sour Veldt, but
the "sclusively bare, hot, shiny High Veldt, where there was sand
and sandy-coloured rock and "sclusively tufts of sandy-
yellowish grass. The Giraffe and the Zebra and the Eland and
the Koodoo and the Hartebeest lived there; and they were
"sclusively sandy-yellow-brownish all over; but the Leopard, he
was the "sclusivest sandiest-yellowish-brownest of them all—a
greyish-yellowish catty-shaped kind of beast, and he matched
yellowish-  greyish-brownish colour of the High
Veldt to one hair. This was very bad for the Giraffe and the
Zebra and the rest of them; for he would lie down by a
"sclusively yellowish-greyish-brownish stone or clump of grass,
and when the Giraffe or the Zebra or the Eland or the Koodoo or
the Bush-Buck or the Bonte-Buck came by he would surprise them
out of their jumpsome lives. He would indeed! And, also,
there was an Ethiopian with bows and arrows (a "sclusively
greyish-brownish-yellowish man he was then), who lived on the
High Veldt with the Leopard; and the two used to hunt
together—the Ethiopian with his bows and arrows, and the Leopard
"sclusively with his teeth and claws—till the Giraffe and the
Eland and the Koodoo and the Quagga and all the rest of them
didn't know which way to jump, Best Beloved. They didn't indeed!
After a long time—things lived for ever so long in those
days—they learned to avoid anything that looked like a Leopard
or an Ethiopian; and bit by bit—the Giraffe began it, because
his legs were the longest—they went away from the High Veldt.
 for days and days and days till they came to a
great forest, "sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy,
speckly, patchy-blatchy shadows, and there they hid: and after
another long time, what with standing half in the shade and half
out of it, and what with the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees
falling on them, the Giraffe grew blotchy, and the Zebra grew
stripy, and the Eland and the Koodoo grew darker, with little
wavy grey lines on their backs like bark on a tree trunk; and
so, though you could hear them and smell them, you could very
seldom see them, and then only when you knew precisely
where to look. They had a beautiful time in the "sclusively
speckly-spickly shadows of the forest, while the Leopard and the
Ethiopian ran about over the "sclusively
greyish-yellowish-reddish High Veldt outside, wondering where all
their breakfasts and their dinners and their teas had gone. At
last they were so hungry that they ate rats and beetles and
rock-rabbits, the Leopard and the Ethiopian, and then they had
the Big Tummy-ache, both together; and then they met Baviaan—the
dog-headed, barking Baboon, who is Quite the Wisest Animal in All
This is Wise Baviaan, the dog-headed Baboon, Who is Quite
the Wisest Animal in All South Africa. I have drawn him
from a statue that I made up out of my own head, and I
have written his name on his belt and on his shoulder and
on the thing he is sitting on. I have written it in what
is not called Coptic and Hieroglyphic and Cuneiformic and
Bengalic and Burmic and Hebric, all because he is so wise.
He is not beautiful, but he is very wise; and I should like
to paint him with paint-box colours, but I am not allowed.
The umbrellaish thing about his head is his Conventional Mane.
 Said Leopard to Baviaan (and it was a very hot day), "Where has
all the game gone?"
And Baviaan winked. He knew.
Said the Ethiopian to Baviaan, "Can you tell me the present
habitat of the aboriginal Fauna?" (That meant just the same
thing, but the Ethiopian always used long words. He was a
And Baviaan winked. He knew.
Then said Baviaan, "The game has gone into other spots; and my
advice to you, Leopard, is to go into other spots as soon as you
And the Ethiopian said, "That is all very fine, but I wish to
know whither the aboriginal Fauna has migrated."
Then said Baviaan, "The aboriginal Fauna has joined the
aboriginal Flora because it was high time for a change; and my
advice to you, Ethiopian, is to change as soon as you can."
That puzzled the Leopard and the Ethiopian, but they set off to
look for the aboriginal Flora, and presently, after ever so many
days, they saw a great, high, tall forest full of tree trunks all
"sclusively speckled and sprottled and spottled, dotted and
splashed and slashed and hatched and cross-hatched with shadows.
 that quickly aloud, and you will see how very shadowy the
forest must have been.)
"What is this," said the Leopard, "that is so "sclusively dark,
and yet so full of little pieces of light?"
"I don't know, said the Ethiopian, "but it ought to be the
aboriginal Flora. I can smell Giraffe, and I can hear Giraffe,
but I can't see Giraffe."
"That's curious," said the Leopard. "I suppose it is because
we have just come in out of the sunshine. I can smell Zebra, and
I can hear Zebra, but I can't see Zebra."
"Wait a bit, said the Ethiopian. "It's a long time since we've
hunted "em. Perhaps we've forgotten what they were like."
"Fiddle!" said the Leopard. "I remember them perfectly on the
High Veldt, especially their marrow-bones. Giraffe is about
seventeen feet high, of a "sclusively fulvous golden-yellow from
head to heel; and Zebra is about four and a half feet high, of
a'sclusively grey-fawn colour from head to heel."
"Umm, said the Ethiopian, looking into the speckly-spickly
shadows of the aboriginal Flora-forest. "Then they ought to
 in this dark place like ripe bananas in a smokehouse."
But they didn't. The Leopard and the Ethiopian hunted all day;
and though they could smell them and hear them, they never saw
one of them.
"For goodness" sake," said the Leopard at tea-time, "let us wait
till it gets dark. This daylight hunting is a perfect scandal."
So they waited till dark, and then the Leopard heard something
breathing sniffily in the starlight that fell all stripy through
the branches, and he jumped at the noise, and it smelt like
Zebra, and it felt like Zebra, and when he knocked it down it
kicked like Zebra, but he couldn't see it. So he said, "Be
quiet, O you person without any form. I am going to sit on your
head till morning, because there is something about you that I
Presently he heard a grunt and a crash and a scramble, and the
Ethiopian called out, "I've caught a thing that I can't see. It
smells like Giraffe, and it kicks like Giraffe, but it hasn't any
"Don't you trust it,
" said the Leopard.
 "Sit on its head till
the morning—same as me. They haven't any form—any of "em."
So they sat down on them hard till bright morning-time, and then
Leopard said, "What have you at your end of the table, Brother?"
The Ethiopian scratched his head and said, "It ought to be
"sclusively a rich fulvous orange-tawny from head to heel, and it
ought to be Giraffe; but it is covered all over with chestnut
blotches. What have you at your end of the table, Brother?"
And the Leopard scratched his head and said, "It ought to be
"sclusively a delicate greyish-fawn, and it ought to be Zebra;
but it is covered all over with black and purple stripes. What in
the world have you been doing to yourself, Zebra? Don't you know
that if you were on the High Veldt I could see you ten miles off?
You haven't any form."
"Yes," said the Zebra, "but this isn't the High Veldt. Can't you
"I can now," said the Leopard. "But I couldn't all
yesterday. How is it done?"
"Let us up," said the Zebra, "and we will show you.
 They let the Zebra and the Giraffe get up; and Zebra moved away
to some little thorn-bushes where the sunlight fell all stripy,
and Giraffe moved off to some tallish trees where the shadows
fell all blotchy.
"Now watch," said the Zebra and the Giraffe. "This is the way
it's done. One—two—three! And where's your breakfast?"
Leopard stared, and Ethiopian stared, but all they could see were
stripy shadows and blotched shadows in the forest, but never a
sign of Zebra and Giraffe. They had just walked off and hidden
themselves in the shadowy forest.
"Hi! Hi!" said the Ethiopian. "That's a trick worth learning.
Take a lesson by it, Leopard. You show up in this dark place
like a bar of soap in a coal-scuttle."
"Ho! Ho!" said the Leopard. "Would it surprise you very much to
know that you show up in this dark place like a mustard-plaster
on a sack of coals?"
"Well, calling names won't catch dinner, said the Ethiopian.
"The long and the little of it is that we don't match our
backgrounds. I'm going to take Baviaan's advice. He told
me I ought to change; and as I've nothing
 to change except my
skin I'm going to change that."
"What to?" said the Leopard, tremendously excited.
"To a nice working blackish-brownish colour, with a little purple
in it, and touches of slaty-blue. It will be the very thing for
hiding in hollows and behind trees."
So he changed his skin then and there, and the Leopard was more
excited than ever; he had never seen a man change his skin
"But what about me?" he said, when the Ethiopian had worked his
last little finger into his fine new black skin.
"You take Baviaan's advice too. He told you to go into spots."
"So I did," said the Leopard. I went into other spots as fast as
I could. I went into this spot with you, and a lot of good it
has done me."
"Oh," said the Ethiopian, "Baviaan didn't mean spots in South
Africa. He meant spots on your skin."
"What's the use of that?" said the Leopard.
"Think of Giraffe," said the Ethiopian. "Or if you prefer
stripes, think of Zebra. They
 find their spots and stripes give
them per-fect satisfaction."
"Umm," said the Leopard. "I wouldn't look like Zebra—not for
"Well, make up your mind," said the Ethiopian, "because I'd hate
to go hunting without you, but I must if you insist on looking
like a sun-flower against a tarred fence."
"I'll take spots, then," said the Leopard; "but don't make "em
too vulgar-big. I wouldn't look like Giraffe—not for ever so."
"I'll make "em with the tips of my fingers," said the Ethiopian.
"There's plenty of black left on my skin still. Stand over!"
Then the Ethiopian put his five fingers close together (there was
plenty of black left on his new skin still) and pressed them all
over the Leopard, and wherever the five fingers touched they left
five little black marks, all close together. You can see them
on any Leopard's skin you like, Best Beloved. Sometimes the
fingers slipped and the marks got a little blurred; but if you
look closely at any Leopard now you will see that there are
always five spots—off five fat black finger-tips.
How the Leopard Got His Spots
"Now you are a beauty!
" said the Ethiopian.
 "You can lie out on
the bare ground and look like a heap of pebbles. You can lie out
on the naked rocks and look like a piece of pudding-stone. You
can lie out on a leafy branch and look like sunshine sifting
through the leaves; and you can lie right across the centre of a
path and look like nothing in particular. Think of that and
"But if I'm all this," said the Leopard, "why didn't you go
"Oh, plain black's best for a nigger," said the Ethiopian. "Now
come along and we'll see if we can't get even with Mr. One-Two-
THIS is the picture, of the Leopard and the Ethiopian after
they had taken Wise Baviaan’s advice and the Leopard had gone
into other spots and the Ethiopian had changed his skin. The
Ethiopian was really a negro, and so his name was Sambo. The
Leopard was called Spots, and he has been called Spots ever
since. They are out hunting in the spickly-speckly forest, and
they are looking for Mr. One-Two-Three-Where’s-your-Breakfast.
If you look a little you will see Mr. One-Two-Three not far away.
The Ethiopian has hidden behind a splotchy-blotchy tree because
it matches his skin, and the Leopard is lying beside a
spickly-speckly bank of stones because it matches his spots.
Mr. One-Two-Three-Where’s-your-Breakfast is standing up eating
leaves from a tall tree. This is really a puzzle-picture
like ‘Find the Cat.’
So they went away and lived happily ever afterward, Best Beloved.
That is all.
Oh, now and then you will hear grown-ups say, "Can the Ethiopian
change his skin or the Leopard his spots?" I don't think even
grown-ups would keep on saying such a silly thing if the Leopard
and the Ethiopian hadn't done it once—do you? But they will
never do it again, Best Beloved. They are quite contented as
I AM the Most Wise Baviaan, saying in most wise tones,
"Let us melt into the landscape—just us two by our lones."
People have come—in a carriage—calling. But Mummy is there....
Yes, I can go if you take me—Nurse says she don't care.
Let's go up to the pig-sties and sit on the farmyard rails!
Let's say things to the bunnies, and watch 'em skitter their tails!
Let's—oh, anything, daddy, so long as it's you and me,
And going truly exploring, and not being in till tea!
Here's your boots (I've brought 'em), and here's your cap and stick,
And here's your pipe and tobacco. Oh, come along out of it—quick.
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