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The Teachings of the Rain God

Adapted from a version on the 2003 International Year of FreshWater website .

One day a long time ago, the elephant acted like a bully. He challenged the Rain God.

"You covered the Earth in green," the elephant said, "and I'll bet you feel pretty good about yourself. But guess what! If I tear up the grass and the trees and the bushes, the green will all be gone. What then?"

"What then?" answered the Rain God. "I'll stop sending rain. No more green will grow, and you won't have anything to drink or eat. That's what!"

But a few words weren't going to stop the elephant. He ripped up all the trees, the bushes, and the grass with his trunk. All the green disappeared from Earth.

That made the Rain God mad. He stopped the rain. Deserts began appearing everywhere.

Soon the elephant was dying of hunger and thirst. He tried digging where the rivers used to be, but he didn't find a drop of water. So the elephant changed his tune. He praised the Rain God and apologized.

"I'm sorry," the elephant said. "I was too proud, and I misbehaved. But now I've learned my lesson. I repent, so please make it rain!"

But the Rain God said nothing. Every day the world dried up more.

The elephant knew the rooster was loud, so he asked the rooster to praise the Rain God.

After looking all over the place, the rooster found the Rain God hidden behind a cloud. The rooster praised the Rain God with such fine words that the Rain God relented. A little rain fell and made a small pool very close to the elephant's home.

The same day, the elephant decided to go into the woods and look for food. He ordered the tortoise to protect the pool.

"Don't let anybody drink here," the elephant said. "Tell them the water is mine and nobody else's."

The tortoise tried to obey, and turned some small animals away. But then the lion came, and the lion wasn't impressed. He growled at the tortoise and drank all he wanted.

When the elephant returned, he grew very angry at the tortoise.

"Sir," said the tortoise, "what could I do? The lion was big and had sharp claws. And all the other animals were mad at me, so I got out of the way."

"I'll show you mad," the elephant said. He raised one foot and stamped on the tortoise to crush her.

The tortoise was very strong, and the elephant did not kill her. But he flattened her out, and the tortoise has remained flat ever since.

Suddenly the Rain God spoke. His loud voice filled the sky, and he warned the animals not to follow the elephant's example.

"If you want more rain, don't be like the elephant," the Rain God said. "Don't challenge powerful gods or anything more powerful than you. Don't wreck the things you need. Don't make weaker animals protect your property, and don't punish animals that are trying to help you. Most of all, don't be too proud and don't try to have everything for yourself. If you are lucky and have a lot, share it with others who need it."

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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