Crocodile tears

The tale of how the conniving old crocodile had tried to trick the innocent elephant spread through the jungle like wildfire. A warning went out not to fall for the crocodile’s tears as they were just a ruse.
Last Updated : 24 May 2024, 22:49 IST
Last Updated : 24 May 2024, 22:49 IST

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The crocodile lazed drowsily on the banks of the muddy river, basking in the hot sun. He was the king of the river — feared by all. Known for his stealth and swiftness, he’d remain submerged and sneak up on unsuspecting animals that came to the river to quench their thirst. Once he had them in his vice-like jaws, there was no escape. He grinned at the thought — baring his razor-sharp teeth. Even the hippos kept their distance from him.

One day, when he was underwater, he was disturbed by an unfamiliar whirring sound. Rising towards the surface, he noticed the rapid motion of something large passing overhead. Of late, his supply of fish had dwindled drastically. Perhaps, he thought, this unknown creature was stealing his fish. “I’ll teach you a lesson”, the arrogant crocodile said and opening his huge jaws he clamped down on what he thought was the creature’s tail.

He got the shock of his life when he heard a sharp clink-clink and he felt his strong teeth snap and break. Unknowingly, he had bitten into the stainless steel propeller of a boat. Slightly dazed by the impact, he got a further shock when he felt a heavy thwack on his head. The boatman had whacked him with a metal oar. Stunned, the crocodile opened his mouth and the boat swiftly sped away.

Amazed at the powerful creature he had attacked, the crocodile made a note not to mess with it again. Ruefully, he spat out his broken teeth. The frogs, fish and river birds had a good laugh. They were glad their tormentor had been taught a lesson. They nick-named him Crooky, as his teeth were now crooked with a large gap in them.  

Thereafter, the smaller fish could escape through the gap in Crooky’s teeth. As he grew older, Crooky lost his agility and quite often his quarry was quicker than him and got away.  Frequently, Crooky went hungry. 

Living up to his name, Crooky decided to resort to crooked means to catch his prey. He thought up a devious plan. He announced aloud, “I am old. My time has come. You need not fear me anymore. I am going on a fast to death.” He did not attempt to hunt for several days. The cautious river creatures thought it prudent to keep their distance from him anyway.

One afternoon, a lone, young elephant came to the river.  A wicked gleam glinted in Crooky’s hooded eyes. This was the chance he had been lying in wait for. As the elephant slaked his thirst, Crooky groaned, “Help! Help me, please. I am old and feeble and my hind legs and tail are stuck in some weeds.  I’ve tried to cut through them but I can’t reach.” He then writhed and thrashed about in the water as if he were struggling to break free of his bonds.

“I beg you; have pity on a dying, old crocodile. I am very cold and wish to die in the warmth of the sun on the river bank.  Please use your sharp tusks to break through the tough vines of the weeds and release me”, he wailed and two large tears plopped out of his droopy eyes.

The elephant looked up and said, “I’m not dumb.  If I free you, you will attack me.” Crooky sobbed, with more tears streaming down his face, “I promise I won’t eat you.  Everyone knows I’m on a fast to death”.  

The inexperienced but kind young elephant stepped into the water, wading towards Crooky.  The thought of a big meal after so many days made the crocodile’s mouth water. As the elephant bent his head to lower his tusks into the water, Crooky’s impatience and eagerness got the better of him. He opened his mouth with the gaping hole in it and lunged at the elephant. The young elephant had quick reflexes and stepped back while Crooky’s teeth gnashed empty air.  The elephant charged back towards the bank a few feet away, trumpeting in terror, with Crooky snapping at his heels.  He made it by the skin of his teeth. Crooky’s cleverly planned ploy had failed.

The tale of how the conniving old crocodile had tried to trick the innocent elephant spread through the jungle like wildfire. A warning went out not to fall for the crocodile’s tears as they were just a ruse. To this day, when someone pretends to shed tears, in order to get something they want — they are called crocodile tears. 

Published 24 May 2024, 22:49 IST

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