The Red Elephant who Stole a Sneeze – A Story for Children

Once upon a very lovely time there was a girl named Claire and an elephant named Marimbo. Claire was a pretty feisty girl from England. She had dark curly hair which she hated and wished was straight, and a dainty smile which she loved because it made her happy. She loved egg custards and cups of tea and she loved adventures. Most of all she loved her adventures.

Marimbo was a very large and handsome bull elephant who lived in Kenya. He was young and proud and slightly foolish. All of the herd liked him but they thought he was too proud. He liked to play in the watering hole with the baby elephants and to roll his wet skin on the ground and make it turn a fearsome red all over; covered in the dust of the savannah. Most of all he liked to try and impress Kora, the prettiest of all the she-elephants. Kora; who had the longest of eyelashes and the prettiest of tusks.

Now it so happened that Claire, the girl from England who hankered for adventures, took a trip to Kenya in an aeroplane that took her high above the mountains and clouds. She sampled the tasty local food and pretended to like the cups of tea they served which were never ever like those in England. She smiled her smile at all the lovely people of the towns and villages, joked with the happy children and danced with the proud Masai warriors. She climbed the dazzling slopes of Kilimanjaro mountain and marvelled at the wondrous views of the African plains.

Then, she declared, it was time for her to see the wildlife; time for a safari to see the lions and monkeys, zebras and giraffes, antelope and elephants. Of course elephants; most of all she wanted to see the elephants, so she boarded the safari truck and headed out across the savannah.

That very morning Marimbo had made sure that his skin was really bright red and orange by rolling lots of dust after bathing in the water hole. He thought he looked really impressive, and he went to find Kora.

He came upon her walking along with the herd. Now Kora liked Marimbo very much but she was shy and clever and she didn’t like the way that he was always showing off.

“Good day to you Kora,” said Marimbo, “did you know that I scared off twenty lions this morning with my tusks and my loudest trumpeting?”

“Really?” said Kora, who was not impressed at all,

“And just last week I pushed a big fat hippo out of our watering hole,”

“Really?” said Kora,

“And last month I knocked a whole umbrella tree down all on my own,”
“I see,” said Kora, who continued walking,

“And today,” said Marimbo, “today I will do something so amazing and strong that everyone will be really really impressed,”

“Oh, and what will you do today?” said Kora,

“You will see,” he said, and he turned and ran out onto the dusty road, for he had spied the safari truck coming,

“Look everybody,” he called, “look at me! Look at how I show that us elephants are truly kings of the savannah!”

The whole herd stopped to watch; the older elephants tutting at Marimbo’s foolishness and the baby elephants hiding between their mother’s legs frightened by Marimbo’s loud trumpeting.

Now, in the safari truck, everyone was frightened as they came upon this huge red elephant waving his trunk and trumpeting in the road. The driver stopped the truck, for everyone knows that you mustn’t upset an elephant because they never forget. Everyone in the truck was frightened. Everyone except that is for adventurous Claire from England. She was fascinated by this proud beast and stood up at the front of the truck to see.

“Hello proud elephant!” she called,

Now Marimbo had never heard a human being speak before, he had seen them in their trucks and seen the Masai warriors hunting the wildebeest but never heard their voices. The sight and sound of this girl made him nervous. He looked back at the herd watching him and realised it was too late to back down now.

He stamped his big feet in the red dust of the road and waved his head from side to side, hoping that his tusks would scare the humans away.

“Hurrah!” shouted Claire, for although she was sensible and knew that such a large elephant could indeed be a dangerous thing, she sensed that inside this elephant there was really a kind and gentle animal waiting to show itself.

Marimbo was confused and didn’t know what to do. He looked at Kora. In the end he decided that there was nothing for it but to charge at the truck because Kora wouldn’t be impressed if he just walked away, scared off by this human girl.

So he put his head down and began to run headlong at the truck, trunk waving. His big feet stamped the ground and made the truck shake and everyone inside cowered in fear, for they thought the elephant would knock the truck over with its tusks.

Brave Claire stood firm. She believed that the elephant would do them no harm.

Now it so happens that it was the driest of days on the savannah and Marimbo’s feet stirred up a mighty cloud of red dust and this dust mixed with the dust falling from his skin as he ran. So much dust flew into the air that the people in the truck could hardly see and the swirling dust flew over everything.

The dust went up Claire’s nose and the dust went up Marimbo’s trunk. The dust caused such a tickling feeling that it was inevitable that both would sneeze.

Marimbo shuddered to a halt, his knees bumping the front of the truck. He lifted his trunk up high. Claire could feel her sneeze building and she closed her eyes tight.

“Ahh, ahh, ahh,” they said, “ahh, ahh, ahh, CHOO!”

The two sneezes flew into the dust filled air at exactly the same time. Claire’s dainty human sneeze and the Marimbo’s thunderous elephant sneeze. The two sneezes crossed in the air and, unpleasant as it sounds, Claire’s sneeze hit Marimbo in the face and Marimbo’s hit Claire in the face.

The dust began to clear and the elephant and the girl found themselves staring at each other for a long moment, not knowing quite what to do.
And then Claire began to laugh, with a broad smile on her face for she knew that it was such a wonderful experience to share a sneeze with an elephant that she couldn’t help but think it was funny.

Marimbo didn’t know what to make of it; what was this girl laughing about. He made a little trumping noise to clear his throat and speak, but then thought better of it and turned to walk back to the herd.

“Bye bye wonderful elephant,” said Claire,

Back at the herd all the other elephants were laughing and joking about how Marimbo had traded sneezes with a human girl. Marimbo felt very silly. Even Kora was laughing when Marimbo found her. Marimbo looked sad.

“Don’t worry Marimbo,” said Kora, “you have to admit it was very funny,”

“Everyone thinks I am a fool now,” said Marimbo,

“Yes, but making people laugh is a very special thing. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it means you have made them happy,” she said,

“Are you sure?” he said,

“Oh yes,” she said, “I’ve always loved the funny things you do,”

“Really?” he said, waving his trunk, for he was beginning to feel a little tickle in his trunk as it was still full of dust,

“Oh yes,” said Kora, “didn’t you know?”

Marimbo couldn’t reply because he knew he was going to sneeze. He turned his head to be polite and out came the sneeze. But instead of the enormous elephant sneeze, out came a small and very human sneeze. The kind of sneeze a human girl might make. All the elephants began to laugh again and Marimbo, realising it was actually funny for a big elephant to have a girl’s sneeze, began to laugh too, for he had learned that you don’t need to show off to impress people.

Back in the safari truck everyone was talking about the lucky escape they had had and of how the elephant had been stopped by Claire’s sneeze. Claire too felt a second sneeze coming, and yes you’ve guessed it, when she sneezed it was the loudest, most powerful sneeze of an elephant! The whole truck rocked with the sound of it and everyone laughed at how such a big sneeze could come from a girl like Claire.

And to this very day there is still a great big red elephant in Kenya with a small human sneeze which amuses the herd greatly and who is loved by all.
And in England there is an adventurous girl with the most enormous sneeze you will ever hear, and everyone loves her for it, because it makes them smile…

© 2014 Simon Poore


The Snowman and the Robin…a story for Christmas

Once there was a snowman, frozen still with coal black eyes. Forever staring forwards as if there were only one scene worth seeing. The kind of snowman you see here and there and everywhere when there is enough snow. Children would pass his unmoving gaze, their laughter like Christmas bells as they rubbed their frozen fingers through their snow-filled hair.
The snowman wanted to say ’hello’ and ’merry christmas’ and laugh with them as they made clumsy snow angels on the side of the hill. But he couldn’t say hello. He couldn’t move his smiling mouth made of stones. Inside he wasn’t smiling. Inside his big barrel-chest his ice heart was cold with loneliness, and a great sadness filled his fat round belly.
Soon the sun went down for the days of winter are short but sweet. The snowman stood alone at the bottom of the hill. The sky was clear and the air was colder. If the snowman could have breathed his breath would have formed icicles from his carrot nose. His body solidified more than ever and he felt stiff as stiff could be.
And so the cold days and colder nights would pass by as Christmas approached and the snowman stood firm as the children ran and played all around him. Sometimes snow would fall and add a couple of inches to the top of his straw hat, making him taller and wider. And still the children who had created him ignored him, and he felt ever more lonely.
At last it was Christmas Eve and as the sun fell beyond the trees the children scampered off one by one, ready to leave mince pies out for Santa. They left with an ache in their hearts, wishing more than ever that the morning could come quicker than the year before.
One very small boy was left, his nose red with cold in the dusk. For a moment he stared at the snowman, and then it was clear that he had an idea, as clear as if a light-bulb had actually appeared above his head. He ran up the hill and grasped handfuls of snow, packing it together with his small woolly gloves. He rolled the ball of snow back down the hill and it gathered weight and substance until it was too heavy for him to hold and it rolled under its own weight until it clumped with a thump, to rest at the foot of the snowman. The boy tumbled down after it.
He climbed upon the ball of snow he had made, so that he was eye to eye with the snowman.
“I’m so sorry Mister Snowman,” he said, “but I need your nose to feed Santa’s reindeer,”
The snowman simply stared.
“I’m sure you understand and won’t mind,” said the boy, and with that he plucked the knobbly long carrot from the middle of the poor snowman’s face and ran off.
The snowman wished he could have spoken to the boy. Of course he understood that it was important to feed Santa’s reindeer. But now his face felt even colder, left as it was with just a hole where his nose had been. He was so lonely and cold.
That night was the coldest, sparkliest, frostiest night of the year. So cold that the snowman had no choice but to fall into a deep frozen sleep. The kind of sleep with no dreams.
When midnight struck and it was at last Christmas Day, a little robin flew by, it’s redbreast filled with the joys of Christmas time. It noticed that the poor snowman looked sad in its slumber and had no nose.
The robin perched itself gently atop the snowman’s hat, puffed up the orange feathers of its chest and began to sing. The most beautiful joyous song of Christmas.
Now robins don’t normally sing at night so this was an unusual sound that floated up the hill and over the trees of the forest, far into the clear star-filled sky.
And it just so happened that at that very moment a certain sleigh was jingling past high in the sky. A sleigh that flew with nine bright reindeer pulling it joyfully forward. The first reindeer, whose name I am sure you know, heard the robin’s song as it twinkled past. He turned his head and whispered to the reindeer behind. And each reindeer in turn whispered to the next until at last the whisper made its way to Santa’s ear. And, as is so often the way of things at this time of year, Santa smiled the biggest of smiles.
The next morning, Christmas morning in fact, the snowman woke slowly as the light began to rise over the hill. He felt like he wanted to yawn and stretch from his long sleep and looking down he found that his stick arms were stretching wide and his back was flexing. He could move!
The thought made him smile even more and his stone mouth grinned just like all the children were grinning in their homes as they opened their presents. A grin just like Santa grinned.
The snowman reached up with his stick fingers and felt the new, perfect shiny carrot nose that was firmly in his face. This made him smile even more.
He looked around, and there, sat on the snowball the small boy had made, was the robin, and beyond that were all creatures of the forest, great and small.
“Merry Christmas,” said the snowman,
“Merry Christmas to you too,” said the robin, and he began to sing. Soon all the creatures of the forest were singing too, and so, would you believe, was the snowman…

© 2013 Simon Poore