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Why the crocodile has a wide mouth.
From The Book of Nature Myths by Florence Holbrook.
Start of Story
"Come to my kingdom whenever you will," said the goddess of the water to
the king of the land. "My waves will be calm, and my animals will be
gentle. They will be as good to your children as if they were my own.
Nothing in all my kingdom will do you harm."
The goddess went back to her home in the sea, and the king walked to the
shore of the river and stood gazing upon the beautiful water. Beside him
walked his youngest son.
"Father," asked the boy, "would the goddess be angry if I went into the
water to swim?"
"No," answered the father. "She says that nothing in all her wide
kingdom will do us harm. The water-animals will be kind, and the waves
will be calm."
The boy went into the water. He could swim as easily as a fish, and he
went from shore to shore, sometimes talking with the fishes, sometimes
getting a bright piece of stone to carry to his father. Suddenly
something caught him by the foot and dragged him down, down, through the
deep, dark water. "Oh, father!" he cried, but his father had gone away
from the shore, and the strange creature, whatever it was, dragged the
boy down to the very bottom of the river.
The river was full of sorrow for what the creature had done, and it
lifted the boy gently and bore him to the feet of the goddess. His eyes
were closed and his face was white, for he was dead. Great tears came
from the eyes of the goddess when she looked at him. "I did not think
any of my animals would do such a cruel thing," she said. "His father
shall never know it, for the boy shall not remember what has happened."
Then she laid her warm hand upon his head, and whispered some words of
magic into his ear. "Open your eyes," she called, and soon they were
wide open. "You went in to swim," said the goddess. "Did the water
"Were the water-animals kind to you?"
"Yes, surely," answered the boy, for the magic words had kept him from
remembering anything about the strange creature that had dragged him to
the bottom of the river.
The boy went home to his father, and as soon as he was out of sight, the
goddess called to the water-animals, "Come one, come all, come little,
"It is the voice of the goddess," said the water-animals, and they all
began to swim toward her as fast as they could.
When they were together before her, she said, "One of you has been cruel
and wicked. One of you has dragged to the bottom of the river the son of
my friend, the king of the land, but I have carried him safely to shore,
and now he is in his home. When he comes again, will you watch over him
wherever in the wide, wide water he may wish to go?"
"Yes!" "Yes!" "Yes!" cried the water-animals.
"Water," asked the goddess, "will you be calm and still when the son of
my friend is my guest?"
"Gladly," answered the water.
Suddenly the goddess caught sight of the crocodile hiding behind the
other animals. "Will you be kind to the boy and keep harm away from
him?" she asked.
Now it was the crocodile that had dragged the boy to the bottom of the
river. He wished to say, "Yes," but he did not dare to open his mouth
for fear of saying, "I did it, I did it," so he said not a word. The
goddess cried, "Did you drag the king's son to the bottom of the river?"
Still the crocodile dared not open his mouth for fear of saying, "I did
it, I did it." Then the goddess was angry. She drew her long sword, and
saying, "The mouth that will not open when it should must be made to
open," she struck the crocodile's mouth with the sword. "Oh, look!"
cried the other animals. The crocodile's mouth had opened; there was no
question about _that_, for it had split open so far that he was afraid
he should never be able to keep it closed.