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The Three Elephants

Once upon a time there were three elephants. The first elephant was as big as a house. The second elephant was as big as a room. But the third elephant was very, very small. He was only as big as your thumb.

The big elephant thought he was the king of the forest. The ground shook when he walked. The trees swayed when he roared. Even the mighty lion was afraid of him. One day the big elephant said to the other two elephants, "Let's have a contest, to see who is the best elephant of the forest." (He was sure he would win.)

''All right," squeaked the littlest elephant.

The middle-sized elephant nodded. "What shall we do first?"

"We'll have a race," said the big elephant. "Whoever can get to the edge of the forest first wins."

All the animals of the forest gathered to watch. The lions came, and so did the antelopes. Monkeys, squirrels, and birds chattered excitedly as they watched from the trees. A porcupine poked its nose out from a bush, and a frog hopped up from a nearby pond.

A large green and orange parrot started the race. "GO!" he called.

The big elephant thundered off. The middle-sized elephant ran as fast as he could, but he was soon far behind. The littlest elephant just sat there for a moment, thinking. Then he squeaked three times.

Down fluttered a small bird from a tree. The littlest elephant hopped on the bird's back. Off flew the bird, toward the edge of the forest. Swiftly he flew, swifter than a train, swifter than an antelope, swifter even than the big elephant.

When the big elephant reached the edge of the forest, there was the littlest elephant waiting for him.

"The littlest elephant has won the race," called the parrot."

The big elephant was angry. "Let's see who can build the highest mound," he thundered. But first they had to sit down and wait until the middle-sized elephant reached the edge of the forest.

At last he arrived, huffing and puffing. Now the animals gathered around once more to watch the new contest.

The big elephant found a boulder as big as a house. Then he found another boulder as big as a room. With his trunk and his front legs he gave a mighty heave and lifted the room-sized boulder onto the larger boulder. Then he climbed on top of the pile and sat there proudly. "No one could build a mound as high as this!" he thundered. "I am higher than the tops of the trees."

The middle-sized elephant huffed and puffed. He pushed a boulder the size of a room into a clearing. Then he lifted one the size of a table on top of it. He looked up at the big elephant's mound and sighed.

Then he found another boulder the size of a chair and put it on the top of his pile.

Sadly the middle-sized elephant climbed on top of his mound. He did not even reach the top of the trees.

The littlest elephant looked around for a boulder he could lift. Finally he chose a pebble the size of a pea. Nearby there was a very high hill.

The littlest elephant carried his pebble up to the top of the hill. There he put it down and climbed on top of it. He was higher than the treetops and higher even than the big elephant on his great mound.

"The littlest elephant has won," squawked the parrot.

The big elephant was very angry now. He stormed, "Let's see who can make the loudest noise." Then he roared. He roared so loud that the ground shock and the trees swayed.

Now it was the middle-sized elephant's turn. He trumpeted as loud as he could. But the ground did not shake and the trees did not sway. Only a single leaf fluttered.

Now it was the littlest elephant's turn. He picked up a pebble in his trunk. Then he blew it out. Through the air the pebble flew -- straight into a hornet's nest.

Hundreds of angry hornets stormed out. They buzzed about and began to sting all the animals. They stung the lions. They stung the antelopes. They stung the monkeys and squirrels and birds, too. They even stung the middle-sized elephant and the big elephant. But they did not sting the littlest elephant, for he was hiding under a leaf.

Each of the animals that was stung let out a scream or a yell or a roar. All together it was a mighty sound. It was louder than thunder, louder than a cannon, and louder even than the roar of the big elephant.

"The littlest elephant has won again," cried the parrot, dodging a hornet.

The big elephant did not hear him. For he was running away from the forest, with a dozen hornets chasing him. He was very, very angry now. And he never came back to the forest again.

©1972, 2013 The Silversteins