the Jaws of Danger
long ago, in the land of Egypt, a mother bird was worried.
She was a little bird, called a plover, and she lived on the
sandy bank of the great Nile River. She had a brood of four
fine chicks. Three of the chicks were happy to run about on
the sand and catch insects with their parents. But the other
-- the first born chick -- was different. He seemed restless.
He seemed to be looking for something.
Each day he ran farther and farther away by himself. One night,
in the moonlight, the mother plover crept quietly down to
the edge of the river. In a chirrupy whisper, she called out
to the Spirit of the Nile, "What can I do for my first born
chick? Will he ever be happy?"
At first there was no answer, only the quiet rippling of the
water. Then a breeze began to blow along the river. It ruffled
the mother plover's feathers. She stretched her neck up high
and peered out over the water. And she heard a faint, sighing
murmur, "In the jaws of danger, there he will find happiness."
The mother plover shivered and walked slowly back along the
sand. She had an answer, but what did it mean? The restless
young plover had followed his mother along the riverbank.
He had heard his mother's question and the Nile Spirit's answer.
And as he skipped back through the shadows, he too wondered
-- what did it mean?
Early the next morning, the young plover set out on a journey.
He would seek the jaws of danger -- whatever they might be
-- for there he would find happiness.
Along the riverbank he ran, stopping now and then to peck
a caterpillar off a leaf or scoop up a snail from the damp
sand. Suddenly there was a noise and a churning in the river.
A hippopotamus, fresh from her bath, was climbing out onto
the bank. She heaved herself up out of the water and gave
a mighty yawn. The young plover gazed at her open mouth, gaping
wide at him. Could these be the jaws of danger? Fearlessly
he leaped inside.
The startled hippo closed her mouth with a snap. It was dark
in there, and there was not much air. "Help!" yelled the plover,
and he hopped up and down inside the hippo's mouth. The hippo
was starting to swallow now. In a second he would be sliding
down her throat. He fluttered his wings. His feathers tickled
the hippo's throat, and...she sneezed.
What a mighty sneeze it was! The wind from the hippo's throat
blew the little plover out of her mouth, up into the air,
and straight into a tree that was growing near the riverbank.
Shaking, the young plover clutched a tree branch. Then he
heard a rustling noise. A big snake was gliding down the tree
trunk and out along the branch. Now her jaws were gaping wide,
ready to swallow the little bird. The young plover gazed into
the snake's mouth. Could these be the jaws of danger?
Snap! He was inside. It was even darker than it was in the
hippo's mouth. The snake gave a gulp, and he slid down her
throat. The plover hopped and fluttered, but it did not seem
to bother the snake at all. She gulped again, and he slid
farther down her long body. This wasn't happiness! What could
The snake glided down the tree trunk and slithered along the
sandy riverbank. Down to the edge of the water she glided,
gulping every now and then. She did not seem to notice the
struggles of the frightened plover inside her.
And she also did not notice the beady eyes of a crocodile
watching her from the water. When she got close enough, he
gave a sudden snap and caught her tail in his jaws. Before
the snake knew what was happening, the crocodile had pulled
her down into the water. The snake struggled and spat -- and
the plover went somersaulting out of her mouth and up onto
For a while the little bird just lay there on the sand. When
he opened his eyes, another crocodile was lying nearby. It
was half asleep, and its mighty jaws were gaping wide open.
"I will try just once more," thought the plover, and he walked
over and hopped into the crocodile's mouth.
Nothing happened. The crocodile did not move. Boldly the little
bird looked around. There, wiggling on the crocodile's gums,
were some wormlike leeches. The plover leaned down and pecked
one of them. It was tasty. He ate another, and then another.
The crocodile sighed with pleasure. Those leeches had been
bothering him for a long time. But they held on so tightly,
he never could get rid of them. The plover was just what he
had wanted all his life. And the crocodile was just what the
plover had been seeking. At last he had found the happiness
that the Spirit of the Nile had promised. And from that day
on, that plover and all of his children and their children
worked with the mighty crocodiles of the Nile in peace and
2013 The Silversteins