| 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 SING-SONG OF OLD MAN KANGAROO
 NOT always was the Kangaroo as now we do behold him, but a
Different Animal with four short legs. He was grey and he was
woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in
the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.
THIS is a picture of Old Man Kangaroo when he was the
Different Animal with four short legs. I have drawn him
grey and woolly, and you can see that he is very proud
because he has a wreath of flowers in his hair. He is dancing
on an outcrop (that means a ledge of rock) in the middle
of Australia at six o’clock before breakfast. You can see
that it is six o’clock, because the sun is just getting
up. The thing with the ears and the open mouth is Little
God Nqa. Nqa is very much surprised, because he has never
seen a Kangaroo dance like that before. Little God Nqa is
just saying, ‘Go away,’ but the Kangaroo is so busy dancing
that he has not heard him yet.
The Kangaroo hasn’t any real name except Boomer.
He lost it because he was so proud.
He went to Nqa at six before breakfast, saying, "Make me
different from all other animals by five this afternoon."
Up jumped Nqa from his seat on the sandflat and shouted, "Go
He was grey and he was woolly, and his
 pride was inordinate: he
danced on a rock-ledge in the middle of Australia, and he went to
the Middle God Nquing.
He went to Nquing at eight after breakfast, saying, " Make me
different from all other animals; make me, also, wonderfully
popular by five this afternoon."
Up jumped Nquing from his burrow in the spinifex and shouted, "Go
He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he
danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to
the Big God Nqong.
He went to Nqong at ten before dinner-time, saying, "Make me
different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully
run after by five this afternoon."
Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, "Yes,
Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the
sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, "Dingo! Wake up,
Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants
to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him SO!"
 Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said,
Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a
coal-scuttle,—ran after Kangaroo.
Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.
This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!
He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran
through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran
through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till
his front legs ached.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a
rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther,—ran after
He had to!
Still ran Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo. He ran through the
ti-trees; he ran through the mulga; he ran through the long
grass; he ran through the short grass; he ran through the Tropics
of Capricorn and Cancer; he ran till his hind legs ached.
 He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier,
grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting
farther; and they came to the Wollgong River.
Now, there wasn't any bridge, and there wasn't any ferry-boat,
and Kangaroo didn't know how to get over; so he stood on his legs
He had to!
He hopped through the Flinders; he hopped through the Cinders; he
hopped through the deserts in the middle of Australia. He hopped
like a Kangaroo.
First he hopped one yard; then he hopped three yards; then he
hopped five yards; his legs growing stronger; his legs growing
longer. He hadn't any time for rest or refreshment, and he wanted
them very much.
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—very much bewildered, very
much hungry, and wondering what in the world or out of it made
Old Man Kangaroo hop.
For he hopped like a cricket; like a pea in a saucepan; or a new
rubber ball on a nursery floor.
 He had to!
He tucked up his front legs; he hopped on his hind legs; he stuck
out his tail for a balance-weight behind him; and he hopped
through the Darling Downs.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Tired-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, very
much bewildered, and wondering when in the world or out of it
would Old Man Kangaroo stop.
Then came Nqong from his bath in the salt-pans, and said, "It's
Down sat Dingo—Poor Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusky in the
sunshine; hung out his tongue and howled.
Down sat Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo—stuck out his tail like a
milking-stool behind him,
and said, "Thank goodness that's
Then said Nqong, who is always a gentleman, "Why aren't you
grateful to Yellow-Dog Dingo? Why don't you thank him for all he
has done for you?"
Then said Kangaroo—Tired Old Kangaroo—He's chased me out of the
homes of my childhood; he's chased me out of my regular
 meal-times; he's altered my shape so I'll never get it back; and
he's played Old Scratch with my legs."
Then said Nqong, "Perhaps I'm mistaken, but didn't you ask me to
make you different from all other animals, as well as to make you
very truly sought after? And now it is five o'clock."
"Yes," said Kangaroo. "I wish that I hadn't. I thought you would
do it by charms and incantations, but this is a practical joke."
"Joke!" said Nqong from his bath in the blue gums. "Say that
again and I'll whistle up Dingo and run your hind legs off."
"No," said the Kangaroo. "I must apologise. Legs are legs, and
you needn't alter "em so far as I am concerned. I only meant to
explain to Your Lordliness that I've had nothing to eat since
morning, and I'm very empty indeed."
"Yes," said Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo,—'I am just in the same
situation. I've made him different from all other animals;
but what may I have for my tea?"
Then said Nqong from his bath in the
salt-  pan, "Come and ask me
about it tomorrow, because I'm going to wash."
So they were left in the middle of Australia, Old Man Kangaroo
and Yellow-Dog Dingo, and each said,
"That's your fault."
THIS is the mouth-filling song
Of the race that was run by a Boomer,
Run in a single burst—only event of its kind—
Started by big God Nqong from Warrigaborrigarooma,
Old Man Kangaroo first: Yellow-Dog Dingo behind.
Kangaroo bounded away,
His back-legs working like pistons—
Bounded from morning till dark,
Twenty-five feet to a bound.
Yellow-Dog Dingo lay
Like a yellow cloud in the distance—
Much too busy to bark.
My! but they covered the ground!
Nobody knows where they went,
Or followed the track that they flew in,
For that Continent
Hadn't been given a name.
They ran thirty degrees,
From Torres Straits to the Leeuwin
(Look at the Atlas, please),
And they ran back as they came.
S'posing you could trot
From Adelaide to the Pacific,
For an afternoon's run
Half what these gentlemen did
You would feel rather hot,
But your legs would develop terrific—
Yes, my importunate son,
You'd be a Marvellous Kid!
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