The marmalade elephant was not happy.
His elephant friends blended in with the colours and shapes of the grass and bushes. But the marmalade elephant was a bright orange against green grass. You could almost hear how bright he was.
He had no camouflage. He was much too easy to see.
His friends did not want to walk with him during the day, because it made their lives much more dangerous. If any hunters could see the marmalade elephant, they would know his friends were nearby, and that put all his friends at risk.
His friends would only walk with him at night.
So, the marmalade elephant decided to ask the grey parrot for advice. The grey parrot was very clever, and would surely help him.
The marmalade elephant went looking, struggling through the jungle, pushing through leaves and branches and trees and bushes.
After a lot of pushing, he found the grey parrot.
He waited politely under the branch as the grey parrot cracked open a nut with its beak.
“How can I become hard to see?”, asked the marmalade elephant.
“Craaaaaaack”, said the grey parrot, “go and live in the desert.”
All my friends are here.
I want to stay here.
I’m not a camel”,
said the marmalade elephant.
“Craaaaack”, said the grey parrot, “you didn’t say that in your question.”
“Ok. How can I become hard to see in the jungle and the bush and the grasslands ?”, asked the marmalade elephant. “In the daytime”, he added.
“Craaaaack”, said the grey parrot.
“Well ?”, asked the marmalade elephant.
“Craaaaack”, said the grey parrot, “I’m thinking.”
“Humf”, humfed the marmalade elephant.
“Craaaaack. First”, said the grey parrot at long last, “you must find a sticky tree, and chew the sticky berries. Craaaaack, and rub the sticky berries all over your body. Then you must find a sticky pond, craaaaack, and rub the sticky mud all over your body. Then …”
“Then ?”, asked the marmalade elephant.
“Craaaaack, then we shall see”, said the grey parrot.
So off went the marmalade elephant, struggling through the jungle, pushing through leaves and branches and trees and bushes.
Now, a sticky tree is hard to find because there are not many of them. The berries taste horrible and are, well, sticky. No animal likes to touch them or eat them, so they do not get spread around.
After asking several animals, the marmalade elephant eventually found a sticky tree. He chewed the sticky berries, and rubbed them all over his skin. They tasted horrible. They sounded horrible. They felt horrible. He looked, well, he still looked marmalade.
Very grumpy now, the marmalade elephant went off in search of a sticky pond, struggling through the jungle, pushing through leaves and branches and trees and bushes.
But this time, bits and pieces of jungle were starting to stick to him. Mosquitoes, flies, fruit. Leaves, vines, chameleons. Hyena hair, twigs, dust. All stuck to his head and back. Criss-crossing the jungle, looking for the right pond. Branches and grass hanging from his tummy. Ants between his toes.
Now, a sticky pond is not just any pond. A sticky pond needs to be just right. Too much water, and the mud is runny and not sticky at all. Just a little water, and there is lots of very, very sticky, smelly mud. No water, and there is no mud.
And this is what the marmalade elephant found: too much water, or no water. All the small ponds had dried up. And the big ponds were, well, lakes, and far too wet.
Everywhere he went, it was the same story. <cue: different voices>
“Sorry. No sticky pond here.”
“It’s the dry season.”
“Hasn’t been a sticky pond round here for months.”
“Have you tried over in the other part of the jungle?”
After struggling through the jungle, pushing through leaves and branches and trees and bushes, to find seventeen small dry ponds, and three big wet ponds, the marmalade elephant stood at the edge of a big lake, with no sticky mud anywhere to be seen.
He turned to a nearby monkey and asked, “Excuse me, are there any sticky ponds left in the jungle ?”
“Who said that ?”, said the monkey in a surprised voice.
“Me. I said that”, said the marmalade elephant.
“All I see is a bush”, said the monkey.
“Arrgh”, said the marmalade elephant, thinking the monkey was making fun of him, and blew a loud raspberry at the monkey with his trunk. It was so loud, that the monkey’s hair was blown back like this <cue: brush back the hair on your head>
The marmalade elephant stomped off to look for the grey parrot and complain. He was sticky and tired and sweaty and so dirty and yuck, and the animals were making fun of him even more than before.
The marmalade elephant struggled through the jungle, pushing through leaves and branches and trees and bushes, picking up more and more jungle that stuck to his skin.
Finally, he reached the grey parrot.
“There is no sticky pond anywhere in the jungle”, shouted the marmalade elephant. “I know, because I checked everywhere.”
“Craaaaack. Who said that ?”, said the grey parrot in a surprised voice.
“I did. Me. The marmalade elephant”, screamed the marmalade elephant.
“All I see is a bush”, said the grey parrot.
“Arrgh”, said the marmalade elephant, thinking the grey parrot was also making fun of him.
He was about to blow another raspberry, when he stopped and thought for a few moments. “All you see is a bush ?”, he asked.
“Craaaaaack. Yes”, said the grey parrot.
“Its worked then”, sighed the marmalade elephant. “Thank you very, very much. Sorry for shouting earlier”.
“Craaaaack. No problem, Mr. Bush”, said the grey parrot.
“I’m not Mr. B… .Ah, I get it. Thank you again”, said the marmalade elephant, and off he went to find his friends.
They were gathered round an ant hill having a chat and a scratch.
“Hi everyone”, said the marmalade elephant.
“Who said that ?”, said his friends in surprised voices.
“I did. Me. The marmalade elephant”, said the marmalade elephant, proudly.
“All we see is a bush”, said his friends.
“Exactly”, said the marmalade elephant.
The Marmalade Elephant
(from The Grey Parrot Stories)
by Chris Gathercole
published: 30 September 2011
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
in the style of