Friday, June 03, 2011


There was a Snail who was painfully shy and timid.

“You know what your trouble is,” said the Blackbird, “you’re far too insular and self-possessed, too reticent and retiring. You need to come out of your shell more.”

More?” said the Snail. “I’ve never come out of my shell!”

“You haven’t?” asked the Blackbird in mock-amazement. “My dear! What have you been doing?”

“No a lot,” replied the Snail feeling awkward and embarrassed.

“Well then,” the Blackbird enthused, “You really mustn’t delay any longer! You need to come out and enjoy a bit of freedom!”

“I’m not sure,” hesitated the Snail. “I certainly couldn’t do it with you watching… I'm far too shy and bashful…”

“I understand, of course,” replied the Blackbird, “but supposing I were to look away?”

“Then," said the Snail after some deliberation, "I guess I might be able to manage it.”

“Good!” said the Blackbird, turning around and savouring the prospect of the effort-free lunch that he would soon be enjoying. “Just let me know when you’re out...”

The moment the Blackbird’s back was turned, the Snail silently slithered away and hid herself amongst a pile of several dozen large stones.

“Are you ready yet?” asked the Blackbird but there was silence and when, at last, he turned around there was no sign of the Snail anywhere.

The next few minutes proved two things: that snails are much better off not coming out of their shells and that a blackbird’s beak bashed against several dozen large stones will eventually break.

© Brian Sibley 2007

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The Leopard was, to speak frankly, an oddball and a misfit. He was the kind of cat who doesn’t run - let alone hunt - with the rest. If you spotted a leap of leopards crossing the veldt, he would be the one who leapt least or last or both.

The others urged him to conform, but he would have none of it. In fact, he grew more and more rebellious as time went by, to the extent of even regretting his beautifully inky spots.

At last he consulted the Ancient Dung Beetle, who was the wisest of all animals (because his knowledge of them was so basic) and who was greatly skilled in the deep, dark magic known only to a few in the animal world.

“What do you want?” enquired the Dung Beetle.

“I want to change my spots!” said the Leopard.

Showing no surprise, the Beetle asked “And what do you wish to change them for?”

“Stripes!” came the confident reply. “Black and white stripes!”

“I wonder,” mused the Beetle, “do you think that’s altogether wise? After all, spots are spots and stripes are stripes and each have a purpose all their own.”

“Stripes!” repeated the Leopard. “Perform your deep, dark magic so that may be able to go around in black and white stripes!”

Unable to convince him to the contrary, the Beetle (who believed that every creature is captain of its soul) performed his deep, dark magic and the Leopard instantly changed his spots for black and white stripes.

The Leopard ran in his new coat, delirious with joy and his happiness was soon complete when the other leopards, who had never before had time for him, started running after him across the veldt. At last he was acknowledged as a leader amongst leopards, an individualist who lead rather than followed.

But his happiness was, unfortunately, short-lived: had he leapt with the other leapers and prowled like the other prowlers, he would have learned that spots and stripes are part of the code of survival. Each spot says ‘hunter’, ‘killer’, ‘eater’; each stripe says ‘hunted’, ‘killed’, ‘eaten’.

The other leopards knew their codes and saw life in simple terms. None of them thought that the zebra they chased that afternoon looked quite unlike the dozens of other zebra they had pursued to their deaths.

As the claws tore and the jaws ripped, the Leopard learned not just the true cost of non-conformity, but also that it is far better to die for a principle than merely for something as trivial as having a preference for stripes over spots.

© Brian Sibley 2006

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The colour-blind Chameleon simply couldn’t change colour properly. If he was sitting on a bush of green privet, he went a bright, blistering red and when he was basking on the yellow sandstone rocks, he turned sky blue.

Everyone warned him to start doing things in the proper chameleon way so as to blend in with his surroundings rather than stand out.

"If you don’t conform, you’re done for!” said one old chameleon who had spent her life changing colour in the regulation fashion. "Don’t you realise that there are enemies of chameleonkind just waiting for you to show up?!”

But the colour-blind Chameleon just smiled and went on changing colour in his own highly individual way. Climbing up the rough black bark of a tree, he gleamed as yellow as the sun; silhouetted on a branch against the cobalt blue sky, he sported a vivid shade of green.

All the other chameleons waited for the day when a jackal or a buzzard would spot and make short work of their non-colour-coordinated friend.

But that day never came.

It wasn’t that he didn’t get noticed, because he did. However, it wasn’t a jackal or a buzzard that spotted him, but a famous TV naturalist who was so fascinated by the Chameleon’s radical determination to stand out from the crowd and to be seen that he took him off to the Big City and offered him an exclusive television contract which, in turn, led to personal appearances, a lucrative publishing deal and international celebrity.

Even in the unrelenting glare of media attention and public notoriety, he somehow managed to avoid the jaws of jackals and the claws of buzzards and became the wealthiest, longest-lived chameleon in the history of zoology.

© Brian Sibley 2007


To begin with the forest creatures simply referred to him as “The Wise Old Owl”, without ever actually knowing how old or wise he was. But then that, of course, is precisely how reputations are made.

Every evening (which was the beginning of the Owl’s day) a queue of animals could be seen at the bottom of his tree, waiting for him to emerge and dispense wisdom and knowledge.

Whatever they asked him, it seemed, he would have an answer. No question was too trifling or too profound for his expertise. True, there were times when his answers proved challenging - even difficult - for the less intellectual creatures such as shrews and moorhens. But, by and large, everyone accepted that if anyone knew SOMETHING about ANYTHING, it was the Owl.

And so, by degrees, his fame spread and more and more animals visited his tree. Before long they started referring to him as “The Wisest of the Wise” and it was now commonplace to hear it being said that Owl knew EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING.

The Owl, who should have known better, began to believe his own publicity and it eventually proved to be his undoing.

One night, an elderly Fox - who was to mendacity and deception what the Owl was to wisdom and knowledge - came for a consultation. He insisted that his enquiry was of a particularly intimate and personal nature and that, if the Owl would do him the courtesy, he would prefer to discuss it in private without broadcasting his concerns to the rest of the forest.

Now the Owl, who had become increasingly self-important, was mildly flattered by this approach and so shooed the other creatures away and flew down to the ground in order to be able to talk to the Fox in privacy.

“Tell, me,” said the Fox in a sly voice and with a twitch of his rusty-red brush, “what do foxes eat?”

“Ah,” responded the Owl, “that is very simple, and surely you must know the answer to that question for you are no cub! Foxes eat rabbits and mice and other little creatures commonly found in field and hedgerow, but also have a penchant for chickens and geese.”

“Do they ever eat any OTHER birds?” asked the Fox.

“Not to the best of my knowledge,” the Owl replied, “and, as you are aware, I know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING!”

“Really?” said the Fox, sounding incredibly impressed.

“Certainly,” the Owl continued, “But, of course, if you can enlighten me to the contrary, then I shall be glad to add the information to my ever-growing storehouse of wisdom.”

So the Fox opened his jaws - revealing a great many, extremely unpleasant, teeth - and with one bound and, with a fair amount of munching and crunching, he duly enlightened the Owl…

Wiping his whiskers, the Fox reflected that whilst a little learning is undoubtedly a dangerous thing, a LOT of learning can, on occasion, be downright fatal!

© Brian Sibley 2006

[Images: Clipart Etc]


There was an Ostrich who was the most nervous creature of its kind. At the least provocation, the merest hint of alarm and the flimsiest cause for concern, he would thrust his head into the sand and stay there until he was sure, beyond any doubt, that the coast was clear and the danger past.

He could often be seen - his neck, body and legs very much in evidence, but his head well and truly out of sight - long after the wildebeest stampede had galloped away in a cloud of dust or the big game hunters’ jeep had rattled off into the distance.

“Why do you wait so long before showing your face?” asked one of the other ostriches.

“Well,” said the Ostrich who kept his head down, “one really cannot be too careful…”

“But---” began the other ostrich and then stopped short on hearing a low snarly-roar that suggested that a large predator was lurking nearby.

Instantly, the other ostrich made a dash for safety, knowing that, with a head start, he could out-run anything on four paws.

The Ostrich who kept his head down, on the other hand, poked his head in the sand and pretended that, since he could see nothing, he could not be seen.

The Jaguar, for that is who was doing the stalking, sat for some time washing his paws and looking at the exposed haunches of the Ostrich. Eventually, however, he decided that without the chase the kill would be boring, so he wandered off to look for an antelope or two.

The Ostrich who kept his head down, kept his head down for several hours, congratulating himself on having eluded certain death.

As a result, he failed to notice great banks of black storm clouds rolling in across the veldt or hear the rumble of approaching thunder. In fact, he knew nothing about anything until - with a single, dazzlingly searing flash - he was struck by lightning and fried to a crisp.

© Brian Sibley 2007


The Crocodile was a child of nature. He lazed about in the sun on the banks of the Nile for quite a lot of the time and when he wasn’t basking, he was swimming around gobbling up hundreds of innocent little fish by the toothy jaw-full.

The Crocodile was happy and whilst the fish weren’t especially happy (although it all happened far too quickly for much in the way of philosophical reflection) everyone accepted that it was ‘nature’s way’: crocodiles ate fish; fish got eaten…

Then one day a Missionary came to call and, through the use of many texts of Holy Scripture and much passionate oratory, showed the Crocodile the error of his ways. So powerful a preacher was this Missionary that the Crocodile was quickly convicted of his fearful wickedness, after which - with many tears of contrition - he repented of his manifold sins and embraced the True Faith with every fibre in his scaly body.

Thereafter the Crocodile became a totally reformed individual and never again ate little fishes --- without, that is, offering up a devoutly fervent prayer for their tiny immortal souls!

© Brian Sibley 2006
[Image: Larvalbug]


The Rabbit was sitting quietly in the sunshine nibbling away at some very juicy grass when a furious argument broke out between the Hippopotamus and the Lion. The Hippopotamus stoutly maintained that since he had the largest mouth of any of the animals, it naturally followed - as night follows day - that whatever he said was more important than anything said by anyone else.

The Lion, on the other hand, loudly argued - with many ferocious snarls - that since he possessed what was, unquestionably, the loudest roar in the jungle, it was necessarily the case that what he had to say was of far greater significance.

The argument went on like this for many hours and became so noisy that it woke up all the other animals - even the Sloth who was the soundest sleeper imaginable. One by one (or, if they knew their Bible, two-by-two), they wandered away into the bush so as to get a bit of peace and quiet.

Only the Rabbit remained, quietly munching his grass.

Eventually, when both the Lion and the Hippopotamus realised that their dispute was getting no nearer being resolved, they decided to appeal to the Rabbit, since he alone had heard all the points of view and all the reasoning, back and forth.

“Who is right?” roared the Lion.

“Which of us is correct?” bellowed the Hippopotamus.

“About what?” asked the Rabbit looking up for the first time.

“About our argument!” demanded the Lion.

“What argument?” asked the Rabbit.

“You’ve got the longest ears of any of us animals,” stormed the Hippopotamus, “you must have heard what we were arguing about!”

“It is true,” said the Rabbit. “I do have long ears and so I hear better than any of you. But that doesn’t mean that I am also obliged to listen…”

© Brian Sibley 2006

Saturday, March 31, 2007


Try as he might, the Dog had never been truly content with his lot. He had lived a longish life and although he’d never bothered to learn counting, he knew that it was a good few years.

He had spent this life with a variety of people, good and bad: a family with a brattish Baby who had constantly pulled his tail, chewed his ear and banged him on his nose with a toy truck with sharp edges; a Society Lady who had kept him shut up in a penthouse apartment except for short, one-a-week walks round the block with the Butler; and, most recently, by an elderly Hobo who shared with him his bed (a draughty, leaky barrel by a railway siding) and his food: chuck-outs from smart restaurants and hand-outs from the Salvation Army.

Then, one day, the Dog woke up and the Hobo didn’t. The old tramp was cold and stiff and the Dog realised that another chapter of canine life was at an end.

It was only a matter of days before the Dogcatchers were after him and his doggy instinct told him that whatever the future now held it was, in all likelihood, not going to be good.

Nevertheless, he decided, he was going to give the men with their nets and leashes a good run for their money and he did.

He raced up and down town, tore here, there and everywhere: digging up flowerbeds; chasing cars, cats and chickens; knocking over trashcans; barking outside hospital windows; shaking rain off his fur in crowded hotel lobbies; leaving muddy paw-prints on newly washed doorsteps; frightening horses and startling old ladies; biting bicyclists and puncturing babies’ balloons.

They caught him at last, needless to say, but as they slammed the barred door on him in the Dog Pound and a man with rubber gloves and a syringe loomed up out of the darkness, he knew that at least he had, finally and very decidedly had his day --- and enjoyed it!

© Brian Sibley 2006


There was once a Pig who was absolutely not as happy as a pig in s---!

He lived with a lot of other pigs that obviously were as happy as pigs allegedly are when living in that substance, whereas he couldn’t even bring himself to allow such an offensive word to besmirch his piggy lips, let alone feel happy about it.

While other pigs lived in sties that were messy and mucky and conducive to average pig-happiness, the Pig with whom we are concerned was prim and proper and kept his sty in astonishingly prissy and pristine condition.

He was, incidentally, also the only pig on the farm who had a corner of his sty designated as what his American cousins would call ‘The Restroom’.

His sty was so clean that, as the saying goes, you could have eaten your meal off the floor - which is exactly what he did everyday when the Farmer upturned a battered swill-bucket all over the neat little yard to the Pig’s neat little home.

The moment he had finished his meal, the Pig felt obligated to spend the next several hours cleaning and tidying-up.

Every few days, the Pig would notice that one or two of his neighbours were led away from their sties and never came back.

“That’s what happens,” he said to himself, “when you don’t keep your sty spick and span! You get your marching - or, I suppose I should say, ‘trotting’ - orders!” Then with a smug laugh he went to check that everything in his sty was just as it should be.

And so he went on for a long time, never allowing so much as an apple-core or a potato peeling to litter his home; priding himself on what a clean pig he was and how he found true happiness by not allowing his living standards to drop to the excremental levels of his peers.

Then, one day, the Farmer came to his sty, tied a rope around his neck and led him away.

At first, the Pig was confused and wondered whether he had, perhaps, slipped up somehow: overlooking, perhaps, a stale crust or two or a piece of pumpkin rind…

But then, knowing that that was a total impossibility, he decided that, on the contrary, he was being moved to more palatial accommodation as a reward for his impeccable manners and behaviour.

Alas, however, that was not the case and it was only as he got his first glimpse of the great gleaming Sausage-Making Machine that he knew that not only were his days of happiness truly at an end, but that he was now - like it or lump it - in the s***!

© Brian Sibley 2007


The Lion constantly complained about the fact that he never got the lion’s share. He knew that everyone always spoke about the lion’s share, but to the best of his knowledge, he hadn’t even seen a hint of it, let alone actually had it!

One day, he was lounging on the edge of the African desert considering how badly off he was compared with all those other lions who presumably got their due, picked up their rightful share.

“Who knows?” he muttered to himself, “For all I know they may have had my lion’s share, in addition to their own!”

At that precise moment, a Bald Ibis flew down and sat on a nearby boulder.

“What’s your complaint, O Royal and Regal One?” he asked in a highly deferential tone.

So the Lion told him…

“If that’s all that’s troubling you,” replied the Ibis, “I can fix that for you!”

“You can?” said the Lion in some surprise.

“I am the keeper of the magical mysteries of the ancient pharaohs and can easily grant a little wish such as yours. But, first, tell me: of what, in particular, do you want the lion’s share?”

Food!” said the Lion without pausing to think.

“Anything else?” asked the Ibis.

“The affection of my lionesses,” he added, “and the respect of my cubs…”

“Is that it?” the Ibis enquired.

“Well,” went on the Lion, “good health, long life, peace of mind and freedom from worry…”

“All of that is possible,” responded the Ibis, “you have but to say the word and the lion’s share of all those things will be yours along with everything else!”

Everything else?” queried the Lion.

“Most assuredly,” replied the Ibis.

“Then I would also have the Lion’s share of hatred, jealousy and malice; hunger and thirst; pain, sickness, grief and death…?”

“Yes, that is so,” agreed the Ibis.

“Then,” said the Lion, “I will content myself with an ordinary share of all those things and forego the lion’s share.”

“You choose well,” said the Ibis, “and in making that choice you reveal that when it comes to wisdom you truly do have the lion’s share!”

© Brian Sibley 2006

Monday, February 12, 2007


“You drive me CRAZY!” screamed the Female Bear. "I mean C R A Z Y ! ! You lounge around all day doing nothing, saying nothing and then snore and fart all though the night! And what happens when I point out that we’ve nothing in the cave to eat? You go out fishing, are gone for hours and hours and hours on end and catch what? NOTHING! Or you go off looking for honey, are missing for what seems like days and come back with what? NOTHING! Apart from a mass of bee-stings that you spend the next week scratching to death! And if I so much as even open my mouth, utter even the merest word of complaint, suggest that your behaviour is less than perfect, you stomp about, growling and grumbling like the proverbial bear with a sore head! Oh, but my mother was right! I was a FOOL to have ever gone into hibernation with YOU!

The Male Bear said nothing; he simply picked up a very large rock and brought it down on his mate’s cranium with a sickening, skull shattering---


“There!” he said with what might have been a growl or could have been a laugh as he shambled out of the cave and off into the woods to join his mistress, “Now I’m not the only bear with a sore head!”

© Brian Sibley 2006


There was a cat - a pitifully pampered pet - who, if you had looked at him, you would have said had that smug, self-satisfied look of a cat who had got the cream. And, indeed, he had.

In truth, he got the cream every day - and twice-a-day on Sundays, high days and holidays!

But, after a year or two of lapping up the cream and licking out the bowl, he rarely if ever relished the experience as he had once done when he was a kitten.

The special treat was now a commonplace event; the privilege, a right; the surprise, expected. And so, eventually, the Cat who got the cream looked less and less smug and self-satisfied and increasingly sated and bored with life.

Other cats - those who haunted dingy alleyways and seedy rubbish tips, living on rotting fish-heads and the rancid dregs from beer cans - had always envied the Cat who got the cream.

But they were rather less envious - and realised the true price of a saucer of cream - when their mollycoddled contemporary died, long before his time, of coronary heart disease resulting from an exceptionally high intake of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

© Brian Sibley 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006


There was once a Rabbit who refused to breed, declining absolutely and without any apparent remorse, to indulge in the business of procreation that so occupied all the other rabbits in the warren.

The Bachelor Rabbit maintained that his decision was a moral stand against the threat of over-population. However, others were soon putting around the story that his abstinence was, in truth, a clear indication of moral corruption and sexual deviancy.

Concerned that their young might be at risk from his unnatural perversions, the community ostracised the Bachelor Rabbit and avoided all contact with him. The single Rabbit, nevertheless, remained surprisingly cheerful and resolutely refused to be rushed into the mating game merely in order to save his reputation.

One day a Polecat caught and was about to eat one of the warren’s most prolific breeders, a rabbit who had already fathered several dozen young and whose sexual prowess showed no sign of flagging.

The Bachelor Rabbit, seeing the Father Rabbit’s plight, hopped swiftly over and pleaded with the Polecat on his behalf. “Please,” he begged, “this rabbit has a huge family to support, I have none. Eat me instead.”

The Polecat who had already breakfasted on two starlings and a baby ferret and was, therefore, not hungry enough to eat both rabbits agreed without hesitation, gobbled up the Bachelor Rabbit and allowed the Father Rabbit to go free.

Later, passing the warren, the Polecat heard the rabbits discussing the incident and praising the Polecat's generosity and thoughtfulness in ridding the rabbit community of a perverted and morally bankrupt misfit.

The Polecat smiled to himself. “How strange!” he thought, “It was merely an economic decision: given a choice, why would I eat a rabbit who still has many years left in which to provide me with new generations of breakfasts, lunches and dinners?”

© Brian Sibley 2006


“I know I’m sticking my neck out,” said the Young Giraffe, “But those trees, way over there, look to me as if they are covered in really luscious leaves right at the very top.”

What trees?” asked one of his elderly relatives.

“Trust me,” said the Young Giraffe, “with due respect, my eyesight is better than yours.”

So the whole herd followed the Young Giraffe and headed off for the trees, which were, even further away than they had at first supposed.

Although they began their journey almost as a canter, their speed soon dropped to a lope and, by the time they reached the trees, they were going at little more than a dawdle and were exhausted and very hungry.

They were pleased to discover that the trees were indeed covered in the most lip-smackingly luscious leaves at the very top of their branches. But unfortunately however far they stuck their necks out every single bunch of leaves was just beyond their reach.

As can be imagined, they were not best pleased with the Young Giraffe.

A few weeks later, the Young Giraffe coughed politely and said that whilst he was probably sticking his neck out once more, he could smell a waterhole full of fresh, clear drinking water off in the distance beside a large outcrop of rock.

What rock?” asked another of his relatives.

“Trust me,” said the Young Giraffe, “I have a very keen sense of smell.”

Against their better judgement - and only because they were very thirsty - the herd agreed to follow the Young Giraffe to his waterhole.

After another long, tiring trek, they arrived at a muddy puddle at the bottom of a deep hole that was currently occupied by a bad-tempered and overweight warthog.

Even if they had been willing to drink a warthog’s bath water, it would have made no difference for however far they spread their long legs and however far they stuck out their long necks they couldn’t reach the brown, brackish sludge.

For the second time in too short a time, the Young Giraffe was not especially popular with his family.

A week or two passed and, one day when the giraffes were roaming the savannah, the Young Giraffe once again felt compelled to make an announcement.

“I know you are tired of me sticking my neck out,” he began, “but I really think that I can hear a pride of lions creeping up on us through the long grasses.”

SHUT UP!!” shouted the giraffe family as one animal.

So he did

Feeling unbelievably humiliated, tears welled up in his big brown eyes and it was at that moment that the lions sprang!

The first animal to fall was the Young Giraffe, proving that if you keep sticking your neck out, sooner or later, you are going to get your head bitten off…

© Brian Sibley 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Ever since she could remember, the starfish had only ever had one thought in her mind: to find out why she was a starfish…

“The answer is simple…” said the Conger Eel, who lived in a deep dark hollow beneath a mountain of rocks and who was generally reckoned as knowing more about the ways of life beneath the waves than any other sea creature.

The Starfish was prepared to wait a long time for a reply because everyone said that the Conger Eel always took a long time to answer the questions he was asked, which was proof positive of wisdom and sagacity. In truth, being bored by a succession of the most trivial and stupid questions, he often fell asleep before getting around to answering…

On this occasion, however, the answer came instantly and was brief and to the point. “You are a starfish because you are called a starfish!” And with that, the Conger Eel promptly settled down to have another sleep.

“But why am I called a starfish?” the persistent Starfish demanded.

The Eel began to regret not having had his nap before answering the Starfish’s question, but trying not to sound too irritated, he elucidated.

“Because you are shaped like a star…” And, without waiting for the next question, he went on to explain that there was another world above the roof of the sea: a world that also had a roof which, at night, swam with great shoals of bright shining creatures who were shaped --- like starfish!

The Starfish was so entranced by this knowledge that she decided, there and then, to witness this amazing phenomenon for herself.

So that very night - when all the fishes and other sea creatures were asleep, hanging suspended, unmoving in the gently shifting current or hidden away among the waving fronds of seaweed or lying on or under the rocks - she swam all the way to the very roof of her world and looked up and saw, vaguely and a long way off, what she felt sure were the lights that the Conger Eel had told her about…

Because it was hard to see clearly, the Starfish decided to swim further in-shore and eventually reached a part of the sea where the distance between the sandy floor and the roof was hardly anything at all and very soon, she found herself half-in and half-out of her world and for the first time could fully see the star creatures suspended from the dark, blue-black roof above…

“They must be sleeping, too,” she thought and decided that she would wait to see if they would wake up and begin swimming about.

She waited a long time - though it felt like no time at all, she was so dazzled by the cold, shimmering brilliance of the star creatures - and as she waited the tide, unnoticed, went out and came back and went out and almost came back and went out and out and didn’t come back…

Too late, the Starfish realised that she was out of her element and, being unable to return to her own world, must now surely die…

Dying, as it turned out, was long and painful, but, just before she finally dried out, stiffened and lost consciousness, she saw something so wonderful, it almost took the unbearable pain away: one of the star creatures suddenly broke free from the shoal floating in the darkness and swimming fast and free through its sleeping companions plummeted into the blacker-than-black line that marked the point where the roof of this strange dry world met the roof of the sea…

In that moment the starfish understood everything and nothing and then died…

The next morning, a young child running on the beach found a dead starfish that had been washed up and stranded by the tide.

“Look!” said the child’s mother, “It looks just like a star!

The child looked pitying at its parent. “It looks nothing like a star,” it said contemptuously, “A star is an incandescent body comprising a sphere of hot gasses held together by its own gravitation and emitting light, energy and electromagnetic radiation drawn from thermonuclear reactions in it’s interior!”

On hearing this, the soul of the starfish - skipping through limitless galaxies unseen in the light of day - emitted a celestial laugh…

© Brian Sibley 2006

[Image: © Celina Macdonald 2006]

Friday, August 11, 2006


There was once a Moth who was such a dreamer that all the other moths dismissed as a hopeless romantic.

Every evening when the candles were lit, all the moths - except one - flew straight for the light, fluttering around the dancing flames, drawn to the warm, glowing brilliance and totally oblivious to the dangers they risked - until, that is, their bodies became charred and their wings were singed and caught fire.

One by one the moths would immolate and fall to the ground in tiny heaps of ash - except for the Moth who was a dreamer. He was never seduced by the candle-flames because he was drawn to another light: the pale, cold, creamy-blue disc of the moon which slowly crossed the sky and which the Moth, entranced, would watch through the glass of the windowpane.

Each night new moths would appear and rush towards the candles and certain death, while the dreamer Moth fluttered up and down against the glass, gazing at the moon and wishing that a day would come when he might find a way to fly to the beautiful pale light in the velvet-black night sky.

Of course, he never achieved his dream, but at least he knew what it was to dream and, at any rate, he lived many, many times longer than any of the other moths…

© Brian Sibley 2006

[Image: Clipart Etc]


There was once a Sloth whom, everyone said, lived up to his name. He was, as the term ‘sloth’ suggests, idle, indolent and inactive, lazy, languid, listless and lethargic. Despite being permanently surrounded by animals that were concerned - day in and day out - with hustle and haste, the Sloth remained resolutely indifferent, even apathetic.

The other creatures had no time or sympathy for the Sloth’s slothfulness.

“Hurry up!” the Cheetah would yell every morning as he rushed by in a blur of whisker and tail. “You’ll miss everything that’s going on!”

“Where were you?” the Cheetah would laugh as he sped back at the end of each day. “You’ve no idea how many thrills and diversions you passed up on today!”

The Sloth never bothered to think of a reply because he knew the Cheetah would be gone before he could begin.

He sometimes wondered - briefly - what it was that the Cheetah and so many of the other animals found to do that was so essentially thrilling and diverting. He assumed it involved a lot of rushing and tearing about and no doubt a good deal of bounding and leaping as well.

No one stopped long enough to ask the Sloth how he passed each boring day or what he did to fill each monotonous hour.

Had they done so, the Sloth would have replied:

“I really haven’t done anything of importance… I woke early and hung from a branch pondering the way in which the early morning sun danced on the dew-sparkled grass.

“I took an hour selecting the single most luscious bunch of berries on my favourite berry-bush and then spent another hour savouring each juicy mouthful…

“I watched a spider tirelessly weaving a web of gossamer fineness and a butterfly struggle free from its chrysalis, dry its wings and fly off into the forest…

“After a light lunch of another bunch of berries, I looked on as a platoon of ants transported a leaf that was one hundred times larger than themselves and a tiny bird peck its way out of the blind-dark prison of its shell…

“Following supper, I watched the hummingbird hover in mid-air and suck the nectar of the hibiscus flower and at sunset I gazed at the sky as it turned first gold, then crimson and, finally, took on the blue-black shades of the star-pocked night…”

And such, I regret to tell you, was the shamefully unfulfilled existence of the Sloth who refused to be rushed.

© Brian Sibley 2006

[Image: Clipart Etc ]


Everybody knew that the Ass was stubborn - in fact, as stubborn as Hell - but they soon found out that he was also incredibly stupid!

He lived in a damp, dismal, run-down corner of a field that consisted mainly of nettles, thistles and dock leaves as well as quite a lot of stagnant, insect-infested water.

Few of the other animals visited the Ass, not because they were being unsociable, but because the dock leaves, nettles and stagnant water had only a limited appeal.

Every now and again, however, one of them would look by in the hopes of involving the solitary, standoffish Ass in the wider community.

One day, the Cow came by and spoke to the Ass. “How would you like to help me crop some of the grass in the meadow,” she asked in a gentle, lowing voice. “It needs doing and it’s rather a lot of work for one - but the grass is beautifully green and really flavoursome…”

“No way!” snorted the Ass crossly, “You just want to get me out of my little corner so you and others can move in and chew up all my thistles!” Then, because he always had to make some smart-ass reply, he added: “Besides, I know all about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence!”

A few weeks later, the Rabbit and his family hopped by and spoke to the Ass: “We’re getting ready to harvest our carrot-patch and there are far too many even for our large family, so perhaps you’d care to join us? As carrots go, they are really sweet and tender.”

“No way!” snapped the Ass. “You just want to get me out of my little corner so you can invite all your thousands of rabbit friends-and-relations round to rob me of my nettles! Apart from which, I know that there’s no such thing as a carrot without a stick!

Shortly afterwards, the sheep decided to call. “I say,” she began with a nervous bleat, “I’ve got a big field full of choicest clover that makes a really good summer snack. I’d be very happy to share it with you. Sometimes you can even find a four-leaf clover which is lucky as well as tasty!”

“No way!” the Ass grunted without looking up from his thistle. “You just want to get me out of my little corner so that all and sundry can come down here and gobble up my dock leaves! And, anyway, I know perfectly well that no one truly ever lives in clover!”

From then on, nobody bothered about the Ass any more until, one morning after several weeks of continuous rain, his cousin the Horse, galloped down to the field, calling out in a loud urgent voice: “GET OUT! Get out of here while you can! I live up on the hill and I’ve been watching the river! The waters are rising dangerously high and this corner of the field is going to flood. If you don’t go now, you may not escape with your life!

“No way! NO WAY! the Ass brayed. “I’ve had enough of all these attempts to get me to leave my home! Well, you’re wasting your time, because I’m not moving! I’m STAYING - come Hell or high water!”

Seeing it was useless, the Horse turned and galloped away. When he looked down from the top of the hill the next morning he saw that all that was left of the Ass’s stubbornness and stupidity was now floating in the floodwaters.

The Horse gave a whinny: “Ah, well,” he said sadly, “an ass is TRULY an ass who repeatedly looks a gift-horse in the mouth…”

© Brian Sibley 2006

[Image: Clipart Etc ]


There was once a Flea who, for an invertebrate, was an inveterate social climber. He lived on the back of an old, fat, grey Rat in a farmer’s barn, but was deeply dissatisfied with his way of life and was always boring the other fleas with his dreams of getting on in the world.

One day his opportunity came when the farmer’s Dog (who was a lazy individual) decided to chase the only rat in the barn who looked too old and too fat to give him much a run for his money.

The Dog quickly cornered the rat and as his jaws clamped themselves around the rat’s neck, the Flea deftly jumped from prey to predator.

Life on the Dog was better than life on the Rat, but still the Flea wasn’t satisfied and soon another opportunity presented itself for social improvement.

The Farmer who owned the Dog took him foxhunting and whilst the Dog, being lazy, never got within a yard of catching the Fox, he and his master arrived in time to see the kill.

The flea judged his moment to perfection and in a series of calculated moves leapt from dog to dog and finally onto the brush of the unfortunate Fox, just as the leader of the hunt seized the corpse and held it aloft for the satisfaction of the assembled company.

The Flea was enjoyed a light snack of freshly drawn fox-blood when fate dealt the Flea a winning card. It so happened that the Huntsman was employed by no less a person than the King and so, as duty demanded, he offered the bloody trophy to his monarch.

As His Majesty took hold of the fox’s brush, the Flea took another leap and landed on the royal personage itself. He could scarcely believe his good fortune and supposed that his life would, from then on, be one of peace and tranquillity with unlimited opportunity to gorge on the finest blue blood in the land.

But it was not to be. The other fleas who had been born and bred to the royal life looked down their proboscises at a Flea who came from such humble origins as a rat in a barn!

It wasn’t long before the Flea was once again very unhappy with his lot in life and, after spending only a few days in the King’s armpit, decided that he needed a change of air. One morning he hopped onto the Royal Butler and thence to a Royal Serving Man and by a series of brilliant manouvers made his way down into the Royal Kitchen where he found an old, fat, grey Rat who lived under a flagstone in the Cook’s pantry.

And there he lived happily for the rest of his long life, earning great respect from the other fleas dwelling on the kitchen Rat, who thought him a very superior individual. He was accorded all the bogus esteem shown to a celebrity and his fellow fleas constantly begged and pestered him to recount stories of his many adventures in the world and, most especially, his intimate and minutely detailed memoirs of his life in the service of Royalty.

© Brian Sibley 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Living, as he did, surrounded by the most disgustingly unpleasant sewage, the Sewer Rat was soon able - with only a minimal amount of muckraking - to find out the dirt on everyone!

There were no smelly, smutty secrets that he did not know and when others discovered that he knew things about them that they didn’t want ANYONE to know, they made the Sewer Rat their friend - inviting him to private parties, weekends in the country and all the most prestigious social events - in the hope that, through flattery, they could buy his silence.

The Sewer Rat enjoyed the kind of life denied to most rats and, since he was constantly discovering more and more dirt on more and more people, succeeded in widening his circle of intimate friends and social influence until he was able to forget that he was, in fact, just a Sewer Rat.

Everyone else, by common consent, decided to tolerate the Rat, since they knew that it is always better to have those who can damage you as an ally rather than an enemy, even if they were born and bred in the sewer. After all, as a price for confidentiality, the occasional, albeit pungent, smell of sewage was little more than a minor inconvenience.

© Brian Sibley 2006

THE HUNGRY PYTHON : A Cautionary Tale

The Python was unbelievably hungry. He hadn’t eaten in over a week and his last meal had been nothing more substantial than a very small bush pig that, to a python with a healthy appetite, was no more than a meager snack.

He slithered about all over the jungle looking for food but found nothing (and no one) to eat - until he ran across a scrawny little Mouse who was sitting in a state of some irritation attempting to bite his way into a large nut. Regardless of how hard he nibbled, there seemed to be no way of cracking through the shell. So busy was the Mouse that he didn’t notice the snake sidling up to him.

“Hold it right there!” hissed the Python and, when the Mouse looked up, he fixed him rigid with his famous hypnotic gaze. “Permit me to make the introductions,” he went on teasingly (he had never listened to his mother when she told him not to play with his food), “I am a python and you are a mouse who is shortly about to become my lunch!”

“In that case,” said the Mouse, “I shan’t be needing this…” and he dropped the nut.

“How do you mean?” asked the Python, a tad confused.

“Well,” the Mouse explained, “There’s no point in my bothering to eat a nut if I’m about to be eaten myself. Why should I fatten myself up just for you?”

“Well, since you ask,” replied the Python, “because I’m extremely hungry and you are a very small mouse. So, anything that makes you a more satisfying snack, is all to the good! I will accord you the privilege given to every condemned prisoner facing the gallows: you may enjoy a hearty last meal! I will wait until you have eaten your nut.”

“Then you will have a very LONG wait,” said the Mouse, “because I can’t break open the shell.”

The Python gave a patronising hiss. “That’s easy!” he said. “I can get that open in no time.”

“Very well, then,” sighed the Mouse, “You open the nut, I’ll eat it and then you can eat me!”

So, the snake opened his jaws wide and sank his fangs deep into the nutshell but it didn’t break. Not only that, but he found that, having bitten so deeply, he couldn’t pull his teeth out again. They were fixed fast.

The Python shook his head from side to side, trying to dislodge the nut but without success. In focusing on this unexpected difficulty, the snake had to release his hypnotic gaze on the Mouse, who scampered off, laughing loudly, leaving the Python - whose his jaw was beginning to ache badly - to consider the high price of greediness and the fact that food today was becoming less and less cooperative!

© Brian Sibley 2006

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


There was once an Elephant who had the worst memory of any pachyderm in history. He forgot everything: which waterhole provided the best wallowing; which mango-tree grove had the sweetest, juiciest mangos; and he never, ever, remembered the birthdays of his family.

In fact, he wasn’t precisely sure which, if any, of the elephants in his herd, WERE his relations!

“Don’t you know who I am?” asked his sister in considerable irritation and he innocently replied, “I’m sorry, I forget…”

“Don’t you even recognise your very own brother?” angrily demanded his own very brother and, since he didn’t, he could only reply, “I’m sorry, I forget…”

Eventually, his relatives shunned him and even his mother, to her great distress, decided that she had no choice but to disown him.

The Head of the Herd (an elephant of venerable age and great authority) summoned the Forgetful Elephant to give an account of himself but, unfortunately, he forgot to turn up for the appointment.

“You are a disgrace to pachyderm-kind!” said the Head Elephant when their paths finally crossed. “You should be ashamed to call yourself an elephant!” Then, glaring down his trunk at the miscreant, he trumpeted: “You are forthwith banished from the herd! Now GO!”

So, the forgetful Elephant sauntered off and no one saw or heard anything of him for many, many years.

But then, at long last - when all the other elephants of his generation had grown old and gone to the Elephant’s Graveyard - the forgetful Elephant was discovered to be still alive and wandering absent-mindedly through the world.

The Old Vulture, who was charged with overseeing such delicate matters, flew around for a great many days looking for the Forgetful Elephant in order to find out why he had outstayed his allotted time-span.

“You were never supposed to have lived this long!” the Vulture crossly announced when, eventually, he tracked him down.

“Oh,” replied the Elephant, genuinely surprised and even mildly interested, “I didn’t know that…”

The Vulture continued: “You should have gone to the Elephant’s Graveyard long ago!”

“Oh,” said the Elephant again, “I didn’t know that either…”

“Every creature under heaven,” explained the bird, “is told when the time has come for them to die. Were you not told?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Elephant with complete truthfulness, “I forget…”

The Old Vulture nodded, turned his back and went away to file a report saying that he had been unable to find the Forgetful Elephant. He had decided, on this occasion, not to enforce the rules since he thought that anyone who refused to accept the limitations imposed on them by convention - even if it was only because of a bad memory - deserved some reward.

And so, to the best of my knowledge, the Elephant is still alive, somewhere in the world. Of course, if he is ever asked how old he is, his answer is always the same: “I’m sorry, I forget…”

© Brian Sibley 2006
[Images: Elephant from Larvalbugg; vulture from Clipart Etc]


The Butterfly fluttered in at the open window of the art gallery and flittered about looking at the paintings hanging on the walls. She hovered in front of a vast, romantic landscape with rolling, wooded hills and a herd of cows standing by a stream, but it was nothing like the real countryside that she knew because there was no smell of grass, no sound of babbling water or lowing cattle.

Then the Butterfly paused by a still life depicting a pyramid of fruit and a scattering of dew-covered flowers; but it was also nothing like real life, having no mingled fragrances of orange, apple and wild roses.

Then she saw what seemed to her the most beautiful thing in the world: a huge canvas splattered with multi-coloured abstractions and vibrant explosions of vivid colour; dots and spots, dashes and splashes; a riot of hues and tints, pigments and tinctures…

It was love at first sight.

Dancing rapturously before the picture, the Butterfly bobbed and curtseyed in whirling gyrations by which she hoped to woo and win the affection of this dazzling creature. But the painting did not respond - even to the most sensual and seductive of her dances during which she brushed her delicate wings against his rough-edged brushstrokes.

The Butterfly’s life would, in any event, have been brief but here, in the art gallery, it was even briefer, though more ecstatic. In a heart-stopping spasm of unrequited love, she died, clinging to the canvas and shedding microscopic butterfly tears.

A passing Curator stopped in horror, appalled at what he saw: life crudely intruding into the hallowed sanctuary of High Art and daring to touch a priceless masterpiece…

A Child, who was wandering by, stopped in wonder, entranced by what he saw: a painting that in one corner and for one, brief, glorious instant, shimmered and fluttered and almost burst into life…

© Brian Sibley 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006


There was once a Laughing Hyena who, contrary to his name and the usual inclinations of his breed, never - under any circumstances whatsoever - LAUGHED...

This Hyena flatly refused to see the humorous side of anything and wouldn’t let his funny bone be even gently tickled.

When all the other hyenas were in their element, telling one another the funniest stories with the cleverest punch lines or the raciest double entendres and were rolling on the veldt with side-splitting hilarity, the Hyena who wouldn’t laugh still didn’t crack a smile, but merely wore a straight-faced expression that told the world that he was seriously not amused.

The other hyenas got bored with the Hyena who wouldn’t laugh and did their best to ignore the fact that whenever any of the rest of them told a joke, shared a gag or made a pun, this kill-joy merely shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and sighed heavily.

Then, one day, when the pack was sitting around cracking one another up with their usual funny anecdotes, something spooked a nearby herd of rhino. There were six of them - big, hefty brutes that were generously blessed with bone and brawn, but who had scarcely an atom of brain between them.

One second the rhino were grazing the grassland, mindlessly chewing the cud; the next, they were thundering here, there and everywhere, bellowing and snorting, crashing into one another and trampling anything and anyone in their path.

And in their path were the hapless hyenas, too busy laughing their silly heads off to hear the approaching tornado of hoof and horn.

It took less than a minute to leave the hyena pack limping around with broken legs, dislocated jaws, sprained ankles, strained backs and splitting headaches.

That was when the Hyena who wouldn’t laugh began to chortle and then chuckle, to giggle and then guffaw until he LAUGHED OUT LOUD for the very first time in his life. Tears streaming down his face, he fell on the ground and rolled hysterically about, clutching his sides in an agony of amusement!

One of the other hyenas, who had gained a black eye and lost most of his teeth, hobbled over and stood looking at what was now the only laughing hyena for miles around. “Why are you laughing?” he asked in great irritation. “You have never, ever, laughed at anything before.”

“That,” tittered the Hyena who wouldn’t laugh, with a smirk that widened into the widest of smiles, "is simply because there wasn’t anything worth laughing at before!

© Brian Sibley 2006
Read more of my Likely Stories.

[Image: Clipart Etc]