Short Story: The Alligator – Adapted from an ancient Amerindian myth – By Peter Halder

Short Story: The Alligator – Adapted from an ancient Amerindian myth

By Peter Halder

Sun owned a giant lake in the forest.

In it was a wide variety of fishes which it prized.

From day to day, however, Sun observed that fishes were disappearing from the lake. It did not believe that they were eating each other or that some left the lake and migrated on land. Fishes are excellent swimmers but they cannot walk or survive on land. They are water creatures.

Sun arrived at the conclusion that someone or something was stealing fishes from the lake on a daily basis, most probably at night when it had set and was not around.                

It therefore decided to engage a watchman to keep an keen eye on the fishes.

It took some time to observe several creatures in the forest. It decided to make Water Lizard the watchman. The Lizard could live in the lake and on land thus overseeing both areas.

Sun shed a ray of light on Water Lizard while it was swishing around in the lake and spoke to it.

“Oh Water Lizard, I give you life so you owe me big time. The fishes in the lake are my prized possessions. But something there or something or someone on land is stealing them. I would like you to be my watchman day and night and tell me who or what is doing it so I can put an end to it.”

Water Lizard replied, “Oh mighty Sun thou sayest the truth. Thou giveth me and all living things life in one way or another. I am therefore beholden to you. Anything I can do for you I will gladly and certainly do it. I do hereby undertake to be your watchman over the fishes in the lake.”

“Thank you,” answered Sun, “Be thou a good and faithful servant and you will live long and prosper.”

Water Lizard began to watch over the fishes in the lake.

Alas, it was not as vigilant as it should have been. It had a female lizard friend living in a thick patch of weeds on the bank of the lake and another on the limb of an oak tree on land. It shared brief periods of time between the two, day and night and thus failed to honor its promise and obligation to watch over the fishes constantly and intensely. And the fishes continued to disappear.

Sun soon found out about the neglect of the Water Lizard. It became annoyed and fired the unreliable creature. It began to look around for a replacement.

It selected Alligator which spent some of its time during the day basking on the bank of the lake but especially because it spent all night in the waters of the lake, which was the time Sun believed that the fishes were stolen.


Sun approached Alligator and said, “Alligator as the Sun I give you life and you owe me. The fishes in the lake are my prized possession but something in the lake or someone or something on land is stealing some of them daily. I am annoyed over it. I would therefore like you to be a watchman over my fishes day and night and tell me who or what is doing it so I can put an end to it.”

“Oh mighty Sun,” replied Alligator with a wry grin on its face and a chuckle in its throat, “thou speakest truly. Thou givest me and all living things life one way or another. I am deeply indebted to you. Anything I can do for you I will do especially since it concerns the fishes. It will be my greatest pleasure and wonderful treat to be your watchman over them. Believe me. You can rely on me and, ahem, the satisfaction it will give me. Think no more about it. I will of course report to you when I find out who or what is doing the stealing.”

“Thank you Alligator. You will live long and prosper.”

“With this job, I am sure I will,” retorted the reptile.

Too late, Sun to its dismay and disgust, found out that Alligator was the predator which was stealing and eating the fishes at night to satisfy its long and huge stomach.

Filled with anger, Sun grabbed a sharp cutlass and attacked the thieving Alligator. It slashed the reptile again and again, longways, sideways and every which way on its head, neck, back and long tail.

Within an inch of losing its life, Alligator pitifully and with tears running from its eyes, confessed and begged for mercy. Sun stopped slashing.

“Okay,” it said, “let’s make a deal. You offer me something that I would like and I will stop slashing you.”

Now the clever reptile owned nothing and had nothing it could trade for its life. So it had to rely on its wits to get out of the deadly situation it found itself in. It knew that Sun was not married. It was all alone in the sky during the day. Moon came out at night but they were not close to each other. Despite the slashes on its body, the pain they caused and the suffering, Alligator managed a smile and said, “Oh mighty Sun I have the greatest gift you could ever want or have. I have a one and only most beautiful daughter in the world and I offer her to be your wife if you would spare my life. Life whether in the sky or on earth was not made to be alone.”

“All right then. I will no longer slash you up provided you give me your one and only most beautiful daughter to be my wife. Bring her to me on the east bank of the lake in five days to be my bride,” said Sun.

“I hereby truly and faithfully promise to do so in five days,” replied Alligator grimacing since it had no daughter but it had five days to find one.

That night when Sun had set, the crocodile sat on the bank of the creek and thought and thought and thought how it could escape from the predicament, of its own making, it found itself in. Moon came out and the gator gazed at it. It would make a good bride for Sun but was out of reach. As if reading its mind, a ray of moonlight lit up a Wild Plum Tree on the east bank of the creek. A brilliant idea entered Alligator’s mind.

The next day, it approached the Tree and using the sharp claws on its four feet, its long sharp teeth and its long tail, severed all the branches of the Tree and the bough, leaving only the trunk with the normal height of a maiden. The following day, it removed all the bark and smoothed the entire trunk and began to sculpt the trunk into the shapely body of a female. Closely observing its handiwork it was not satisfied. Maidens rarely visited the forest or the creek. I think I need the assistance of someone who knows about damsels and can fashion the sculpture accordingly, Alligator said to itself and decided on Woodpecker.

It found Woodpecker on the trunk of a coconut tree at the edge of the lake. The bird was lustily pecking away at it.

“Hello, Woodpecker,” called out the gator, “I trust all is well with you and I trust you are having a hearty lunch. I know you fly around the forest and beyond where humans live. Tell me have you seen any beautiful, really and truly beautiful damsels during your travels?”

“Indeed I have my friendly Alligator,” said Woodpecker looking down into the lake where the voice came from, “but why are you asking?”

“Well you see I have been asked to carve a really beautiful damsel from the trunk of a tree. I did my best but since I have no idea of what one looks like I have been unable to complete it. Since we are friends, would you be so kind as to help me?”

“Indeed I will, indeed I will, but only if you promise me five fishes for my friend Crane,” said Woodpecker.

“It’s a done deal if you can finish what I started by the end of tomorrow.”

“Indeed I will. Indeed I will. It can and will be done.”

“In which case, your wish for the fish is a demand at my command. You have my word on it. The sculpture I did is on the east bank of the lake. Go there tomorrow and put all the finishing touches on it so that when I arrive in the afternoon with the fishes, I will mistake the sculpture for a real maiden.”

Woodpecker kept its promise. When Alligator turned up the next afternoon, the sculpture was done. The gator was surprised. It looked almost human. The gator brought two small blue pebbles it found at the bottom of the lake and asked Woodpecker to place them in the eye sockets of the statue. When it was done, they looked real.

Alligator went to the home of a certain Monkey and asked if it would be so kind as to use strands of its golden hair to affix to the head of his sculpture on the east bank. Monkey gladly consented and so the wooden statue had golden hair on its head.

The gator went to Peacock and asked it to make a dress of green leaves, to take it to the east bsnk and place it on the wooden statue. The Peacock gladly obliged.

And so at the end of the fourth day, when Alligator visited and finally looked at the statue, it was in a state of euphoria. If it did not know better, it would have sworn that it was looking at a most beautiful human maiden.

On the morning of the fifth day, before Sun was up, Alligator dropped by the work of art to ensure that all was as he saw it the previous evening.

Before Sun rose, it swam to the bottom of the lake where no sunlight reached.

As Sun was rising, it saw hazily the object on the east bank of the lake. It felt a strange emotion. As its rays grew brighter and brighter, the object became more visible and it fell  inlove with it. When it finally enveloped it, it grew angry and dejected when it realised it had embraced not a human damsel but a wooden sculpture. Alligator had once again tricked it. But love is stronger than hate. Because of its love, it used its heavenly power to transform the  object into a living being and thereupon married her.

It soon forgot all about Alligator and its treachery.

As time passed, the wounds caused by the slashes on Alligator’s head, neck, back and tail, healed but in doing so became bumps and ridges. And those bumps and ridges remain on Alligator’s skin until this day.

Alligator remained afraid of Sun for some time. It swam under the water with only its eyes and nose exposed above and ventured on land only at night after Sun had set.

But time is longer than twine and Alligator soon forgot all about the Sun and lived its life to suit itself.

(Adapted from an ancient Amerindian myth.)


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