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