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Those Juniors, Part 41: Master Crooked Ears

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: Story-telling is one of the best ways to impress a lesson or point on others. There are many wholesome, true stories out there for all ages. When telling a story, there are certain things you must do: know your story, see it, adapt it, tell it, live it, feel it, and have a climax.

In closing this series, I want to give an illustration of the way stories are found in life, and built into things that charm and stimulate to better living. One day I was visiting the little Sabbath school at the village of Tha Kwe Kla, about twelve miles north of our Karen mission station. The bamboo schoolhouse was crowded with jungle folk, for the boys and girls had brought their mothers and fathers, their aunties and uncles, their grandpas and grandmas, till there was hardly room for another one. While we were singing the second hymn, I saw Thara John move over on the floor a little and say to a man who was coming up the bamboo ladder, “Come on, Uncle Crooked Ears, sit here near me.”

Immediately I smelled a story.

I cast sly glances at his ears; they were no more crooked than my own ears were. Crooked ears! I couldn’t forget it, and as I turned the words over in my mind, I noted that that was the jungle expression for disobedient. Obedient children have straight ears in our jungle language. I was more interested than ever, and when the meeting was over, I went over to him, and asked, “Uncle, why do they call you Crooked Ears?” He smiled, lifted his shirt till it revealed an ugly scar on his stomach, and told me that his first child name was “Loving Water,” but when he was ten years old, he disobeyed his father and went over to a little hill, climbed up a tree, and teased an elephant that was feeding there. The elephant became angry and knocked the tree right over. He fell down, was stunned with the fall, and had his stomach torn by the tusk of the elephant. When he came to, he ran, almost frightened to death, to his mother, and although he did not die, his father changed his name, and ever after he was called Master Crooked Ears.

What marvelous material! And how much I know about the setting! I know the village, the place in the jungle, how near to the river it was; I know the trees—the mangoes, the banana trees, the coconut palms. I know the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the language they talk, the work they do, the games they play. But I do not need it all. Too much would make the story tiresome. But I want just enough to help me develop my theme—“The Results of Disobedience.” So I want to tell where it happened, why he was called “Loving Water,” what he did—ten years old, disobeyed, teased elephant, fainted—and why he was called Crooked Ears.

Note the similarity to selecting the setting of a photograph.

And now the story fitted to little folks four to nine years of age:

Once upon a time, away up in the jungle where Mr. Stripes, the tiger, lives, there was born a little baby boy with little pink fingers and little pink toes and the dearest little turned-up nose. His mother thought he was the sweetest little baby boy that ever lived in all the world, and she loved him and cuddled him and loved him and cuddled him all day long.

When he was about six months old he began to cut his teeth, and oh, how he slobbered! Our mothers put bibs on us when we began to cut our teeth, so we wouldn’t spoil our nice clean dresses, but this jungle mother didn’t have any bibs for her little boy, and her little boy didn’t have any nice clean dresses—he had no clothes at all— so when he slobbered he got his little fists all wet and his little feet all wet and his little tummy all wet, but still his mother loved him and cuddled him and loved him and cuddled him all day long. And he was so sweet and he was so slobbery that his mother called him “Mother’s darling little slobber chops!” But she couldn’t say it in our words, so in the jungle words it was “Mother’s darling little loving water!” Loving Water! Isn’t that a lovely name for a lovely little jungle baby boy?

Well, Loving Water grew and grew and grew and grew until he was ten years old, and he thought he was quite a man. Then one day his father came home all excited, and said, “Oh, children, whatever you do, don’t go near that little hill where the little tree and the little bamboos are growing, for I saw a big elephant over there as I was coming home, and he doesn’t like children, and if anyone goes near him he might hurt him.”

And all the children said, “O-o-o-oh! No! We won’t go”—that is, all but Loving Water, and Loving Water said in his heart, “Huh! I’m not frightened of elephants! I’m ten years old! He couldn’t hurt me! I’d climb up a tree!” And I’m sorry to tell you that while all the other children were playing tiggy-tag, Loving Water sneaked down the bamboo ladder, got behind the chicken house, peeked around the corner to see if anyone was following him, then off he ran, past the mango trees and the banana trees and the coconut trees, across the rice fields, to the little hill where the little trees and the little bamboos were growing.

There he could hear the swish-swoosh of the elephant’s big feet as he walked around, but he said to himself, “I won’t stand on the ground to watch him; I’ll climb up a tree—I will!” So he climbed up a little tree that was very nearby, and there he could see the old elephant eating the grass. With his great big trunk he was pulling up the grass and knocking the dirt off by hitting it against his foot. Then he poked it into his mouth, and on the other end his queer little tail was wagging this side and that side. Oh, it was all so interesting! And Loving Water felt so safe that he began to shout, “Heh! Mr. Elephant, what are you eating all my grass for?” And the old elephant heard him, and he turned around and lifted up his great big trunk and said, “Grouphgrrrouph!” And Loving Water was delighted. “Oh, he’s talking to me,” he said to himself. “Why he likes it, and father said he’d hurt me! Huh!”

Then he broke off a little branch from the tree and shouted, “Heh! Mr. Elephant, here’s something else for you to eat,” and he threw that little branch right at the elephant, and it hit him right on the nose, and old Mr. Elephant got mad and he turned around again and lifted up his great big trunk and said, “Grrrrrrouphgrrrouphgrrrrrrrrrouph! Grrrrrrouph!” Then he walked right up to the tree where Loving Water was sitting, and he put his head to the bottom of it, and he pushed and he grunted and he pushed and he grunted until the tree fell right over—Loving Water and all. Then the elephant plunged his tusks into the heap of leaves where he could see the little boy’s arms and legs, gave one more big grunt, and walked away. Poor little Loving Water was stunned with the fall and could just remember a sharp pain like a knife cutting him as he fainted away.

By and by Loving Water began to wake up, and the first thing he thought was, “I’ve been killed!” He felt so funny all over, his arms and legs were numb, and he couldn’t move. He began to cry, and he said, “Oh, boohoo! I’ve been killed, and now I am dead! Boohoo! and now they’ll come and dig a big hole and bury me—boohoohoo! Oh, I wish I had obeyed my father. Oh, I wish I hadn’t come to tease the old elephant, and now I’m dead! Is this the way dead people feel? I didn’t think dead people could talk. I wonder if dead people can wiggle their fingers.” He tried and he could. “Oh,” he said, “I didn’t know dead people could wiggle their fingers. I wonder if dead people can sit up.” He tried and he could. “Oh,” he said, “I’m not dead at all. Dead people can’t sit up. I know, I just fainted.”

Then he saw a big cut in his stomach, and the blood was running out. He got so frightened that he forgot all about the elephant, and he got up and ran as fast as he could back home to his mother, down the side of the little hill where the little trees and the bamboos were, through the rice fields, past the coconut trees and the banana trees and the mango trees, up the bamboo ladder into his little bamboo home, and he cried, “Oh, Mother! Quick! Look, Mother!”

His mother looked, and when she saw the big cut on Little Loving Water’s stomach with all the blood running out, she got frightened, too. She made Loving Water lie down on a mat beside the fireplace. She sent one of the children to call his father. She lit the fire and put some water on to get hot.

In a minute the father came running up the ladder. “Where’s Loving Water? Where’s Loving Water?” he cried.

“Over there, Father, on the mat,” the mother answered.

But, when the father saw that big cut on his little boy’s stomach he just wagged his wise old head and said slowly, “Mother, I know what makes cuts in little boys’ stomachs like that. I know—I know. Loving Water has been disobedient. I told him not to go to the little hill where the little trees and the little bamboos are growing. I told him not to go and tease the elephant. But he disobeyed me, and now he has a big cut on his stomach.”

And Loving Water was so ashamed of himself. He closed his eyes and tried not to hear, but his father went on—“Mother, we are not going to call him Loving Water any more, we are going to call him Mr. Crooked Ears, for ‘crooked ears’ means ‘disobedient.’” And that little boy was called Mr. Crooked Ears ever after.

So now, my little boys and girls, if you are B-A-D, we will call you Crooked Ears, too. But if you are G-O-O-D, I’m going to tell your mothers and your fathers and your teachers to call you “Loving Water.”

(Series concluded.)

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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