Long ago when the world was new and things were different from the way they are now, all the animals lived peacefully and happily together, roaming freely about and taking pleasure in each other’s company.
Then came a day, a very bad day, when everything changed. It started as all others with a brilliant sun climbing above the horizon, but then without warning, great dark clouds boiled into existence, swirling and writhing as they grew. Everywhere fell into darkness, lit only for brief moments as bolts of lightning branched across the sky, and an ill and uneasy wind blew through the trees and across the grassy plains, sucking the joy from all it touched. From that moment, the bright new sparkling shine that the world had worn since its first day grew dull and the animals became aware of a wrongness in the world.
Now the camel was considered one of the most beautiful of animals. She was sleek and slim with a silky sheen on her tawny brown coat. She lived her life with carefree abandon, running through the day with the other animals and exulting in the sheer ecstasy of being part of all that was wonderful in the world.
But on the day the wind blew she changed.
It started with a doubt. There was a wrongness in the world, she could feel it, but where? At first she wondered if it might be in herself until her aimless drifting brought her to a clear pool of water. As she stooped to drink, she caught sight of her reflection and gasped. Two large and luminous eyes gazed up from the water, framed by luscious, long eyelashes. How could there be anything wrong with such beauty?
She wandered away from the pool, her thirst and her self-doubt gone, but continued to worry at the sense of wrongness. If not in her, perhaps it was in the other animals. She looked at the creatures around her through critical eyes. The elephant was wrinkly and had too little hair, the yak by contrast had far too much and the zebra was altogether the wrong colour.
In every animal she saw some ugliness that she did not possess, and she began to worry that perhaps a creature of such grace and elegance as herself should not be seen with them.
She raised her head high in the air, gave them each a disdainful look and turned away letting out a sort of a “hmph” as she went.
Now most of us have “hmphed” for one reason or another, and I’m quite sure you know as well as I that if you can close off your nose a little, the sound is far more impressive. The camel not only possessed a snout of impressive proportions, but she could also close off her nostrils almost completely, so when she “hmphed” it was a most explosive and impressive sound indeed.
The problem was that there was nowhere for the trapped air to go but back inside her, and finding no way to escape, it made a space under her skin and pushed up a large bulge on her back.
Embarrassed by this, she fled to a lonely place where she tried everything to make it go. She tried rolling, jumping, even breathing out until not a gasp of air was left in her lungs, but the bulge remained. She stopped eating in the hope this would cure her, but instead her legs became skinny and her knees bulged out. What’s more her beautiful coat lost its lustrous sheen and started to look shaggy and worn.
Eventually hunger won out and she started to eat again, but instead of replacing the flesh she had lost, she found the bulge on her back growing. It seemed that everything she tried only made the matter worse.
When she next saw the other animals, she was as sad as sadness itself. Things might have turned out different had just one animal shown her some kindness, but they remembered the way she had rejected them, and they all turned their backs to her and “hmphed”.
She turned away and walked into the desert where she remains to this day. She has not recovered her beauty and instead has become the most disagreeable of creatures, regarding everyone else with disdain. She spends her days in bitterness and self pity, and waits for a time when all things might be made right and the “hmph” removed from her back.
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