By S M Chen, Submitted June 18, 2015

 

And it came to pass that the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the air gathered together, but the Spirit of the Lord was upon them not.

A question was put by one as to who was greatest.

The lion spake first.  “Am not I the king of beasts?”  And he gave a mighty roar.  The ground shook, trees swayed, and animals shuddered.

But an elephant stepped forth, and the lion stepped back.  The elephant trumpeted loudly and stamped the earth with such force that the ground shook, trees swayed, and animals shuddered.

“Who is king?” asked the elephant, as he picked up a large tree trunk and tossed it to one side.

No animal dared answer.

Then a giraffe stepped forth, with awkwardness, and spake, “Am I not the tallest?”  The other animals looked up at him and acknowledged none was taller.

“Am I not the fleetest?”  asked the cheetah, slinking forward.  None could gainsay her.

A chimpanzee waved a peeled banana.  “I’m probably the smartest.”  Animal boos all around.

A hippopotamus waddled out of the water.  “None can stay underwater longer than I,” saith she.  “Unless they be a fish.”

A python uncoiled itself and slithered into view.  “At over thirty feet long, I think I’m the longest,” it hissed.

“I live the longest,” lumbered the giant tortoise.  “Doth that count?”

“No other animal cometh near me,” squeaked the porcupine, preening itself, “because of my quills.”

“Same here,” saith the skunk, “because of my spray.”  As he turned around the others shrank back.

A swift chirped, “I fly the fastest.”

An eagle said, “I have the keenest vision,” but the vulture protested.

The albatross said, “I have the greatest wingspan,” and unfolded its long wings in demonstration.

And the animals contended among themselves, who was greatest.  The bickering went on for some time.  It sounded like a zoo at mealtime.

Finally, they were about to concede that the elephant, because of his enormous size and strength, was the greatest, when a small gray mouse ran up inside the trunk of the elephant.

The elephant trumpeted and tried to dislodge the mouse by exhaling through his trunk with force and thrashing it about.

To no avail; all for naught.

Finally, frustrated and a little fearful, the elephant lay down, defeated.

The mouse emerged from his trunk and scampered into the brush.

Whereupon an owl, which had hitherto been quiet, hooted, “The first shall be last, and the last first.”

All the animals fell silent.

A light rain began to fall, a rainbow appeared in the sky, and, in the midst of the rainbow, a white dove hovered.

 

*

 

Ever thereafter, the animals agreed that none was greatest, but that each of God’s creatures was fine the way he or she was created.  And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Peaceable Kingdom, oils, by Edward Hicks. Original is in National Gallery. This piece is in public domain.

Peaceable Kingdom, oils, by Edward Hicks. Original is in National Gallery. This digital print is in public domain.