This is a tale about a little rat who disliked his tail. It all started when he put his head out of his den for the first time and looked at the world outside. On a nearby tree was an animal that looked a lot like him. “Hello!” said the little rat. “You look a [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The Tail of a Rat


This is a tale about a little rat who disliked his tail. It all started when he put his head out of his den for the first time and looked at the world outside. On a nearby tree was an animal that looked a lot like him. “Hello!” said the little rat.

“You look a lot like me. Are we related?” The animal laughed making a sound like a bell. “No, we are not related. I am a squirrel,” he said. Then he showed his tail to the little rat. “See my bushy tail? This is different to a rat’s tail!” The squirrel was right. It didn’t look anything like a rat’s tail. Just then another animal hopped past him. “Who are you?” asked the little rat. “I am a rabbit!” said the animal and hopped away with his ‘powder-puff’ like tail. “Both of them have such nice tails!” thought the little rat, feeling kind of unhappy about his own tail.

Then he observed all the other animals’ tails he could see. Most of them were very bushy soft tails. They were not thin and hair-less like his. He took his tail into his hands and examined it. “It looks more like a ‘worm’ than a tail,” he thought sadly. He felt shy so he tried to hide it behind him.

The little Rat’s mother saw him trying to hide something. “What is that you’re hiding behind you?” she asked. “It’s my tail!” the little rat answered sadly. “What’s wrong with it?” “It’s not nice like the other tails. It’s thin and hair-less; the rabbit, squirrel and even the monkeys have nicer ones than mine!” “Son, their tails are different because they are different animals. You are a ‘rat’ and you can’t have the tail of some other animal. Look at what a fine tail you’ve got!”

But this didn’t convince the little rat or make him feel any better. “So, where did you see all these other tails?” his mother asked him. “When I peeped out of our den, today!” answered the little rat. “Well, be careful! There is an animal called the fox. He is dangerous and if he sees you, he will bite and swallow you!” his mother warned him. “What does his tail look like?” he asked his mother. “It doesn’t matter what his tail looks like. I think it’s time you stopped worrying about others’ tails!” his mother said sternly.

The little rat pictured himself with the tails of the other animals and wished his tail looked like theirs. “I don’t like my tail,” he thought. “I would look better if I didn’t have such an ugly tail. But how do I get rid of it?” He suddenly remembered what his mother said about the fox biting and swallowing him. “If I can get my tail bitten off by the fox, I’d get rid of it for good!” he thought. “But how do I get the fox to bite-off only my tail? I know! I’ll put my tail out of the den. When he sees it, he’ll bite it and it will snap off. That way I’ll be able to get rid of it!” he though forgetting about his mother’s warning.

So the next day the little rat waited till his mother went out in search of food and put his tail out of the den. He waited and waited for a very long time. But the fox didn’t come that way. Finally he fell asleep with his tail sticking out of the den.

Suddenly he felt a terrible pain in his tail. It was unbearable. He screamed and jumped out of the burrow in pain, hoping to see the fox with a broken rat tail in his mouth. But no, his tail was not broken. It was still attached to him! And there was huge animal looking very shocked and upset.

“Who are you?” the little rat asked through tears. “I am a baby elephant and I am so sorry for stepping on your tail! I didn’t see it till I stepped on it,” he apologised. “What on earth were you doing with your tail sticking out of the den?” “I kept it out for the fox to bite it off!” sniffed the little rat, who was still in pain. “What a silly little rat! Why would you do something so dangerous?” “Because my tail is ugly,” wailed the little rat. “It’s not bushy like the other animals’ tails.”

“Well, look at mine!” said the baby elephant and showed his tail. “Mine is also not bushy. But I am happy with it because it’s my tail and it’s an elephant’s tail!” The elephant pointed at a frog with his trunk. “Look at him! He doesn’t even have a tail but do you see him complain? Everyone can’t have the same tail. We should all look different. That’s what makes the world beautiful. You should be very happy with your tail. It’s a very good tail for a little rat!”

The little rat looked at the frog and then at the baby elephant’s tail and felt very silly about how he behaved. He was glad the fox didn’t come his way because now he could see how dangerous it would have been. If being stepped on it hurt this much, he didn’t even want to think about getting rid of it. He looked at his tail and for the first time he was glad to see it still there. He was glad he had a tail to call his own. After all he was a rat, he had a rat’s tail and that’s all that mattered.

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