A tale from India
On an island in the middle of the river grew a tall mango tree.
The fruits of the mango were fat. They were ripe. They sent their irresistible smell to the monkeys that lived by the riverbank.
One young monkey stood and stared sadly at the mango tree. He sniffed the air and whimpered.
A crocodile surfaced in the river. “Ah, friend monkey! I, too, have been wanting some of those delicious mangoes. Suppose we work together, as friends, to get them. I can swim across the river, but I cannot climb a tree. You can climb trees, but you cannot swim. So, jump on my back and I will carry you to the island. You can climb up the tree and eat all the mangoes you want, and throw the rest down to me.”
The happy monkey leaped onto the crocodile’s back and the crocodile swam away from the shore. But when they were no more than halfway to the island, the crocodile dived under the water. The poor monkey clung to the crocodile’s scales and held his breath.
When the crocodile surfaced, the monkey gasped and coughed. “What are you doing, friend crocodile? You know I cannot breathe underwater.”
“I am trying to drown you. Then, after I drown you, I will eat you.”
“Oh dear,” said the monkey. “That is so sad. So very sad. You are going to eat me, but you will not be able to taste my heart. It is the most delicious part of my body.”
“I will eat your heart!” said the crocodile.
“No,” said the monkey. “I don’t think so. You see, I keep my heart in the mango tree. I left it there just last week when I was checking to see if the fruit was ripe.”
“I will take you to the mango tree, and you will climb up and get your heart for me,” hissed the crocodile. “Then I will eat you and your heart.”
“Very well,” replied the monkey, “since you insist.”
The crocodile reached the far shore of the river and the monkey leaped onto the sand and scrambled up the tree. He began eating the ripe mangoes, and for good measure he threw some hard green ones down on the crocodile.
“Come down here!” growled the crocodile.
“Ha!” laughed the monkey. “A crocodile who believes that a monkey keeps his heart in a tree is as foolish as a monkey who calls a crocodile his friend.”
The monkey spent many happy days on the island. But he knew he must find a way to get back across the river to his home. Around and around the island swam the crocodile, still very angry.
The monkey went down to the sandy shore where the river was very narrow. Soon enough, the crocodile appeared.
“I guess I might as well give up,” said the monkey sadly. “I can’t get back across the river, the mangoes are all gone, and I shall soon die of starvation.”
The crocodile licked his crooked lips.
“So I might as well let you eat me,” continued the monkey. “Open your mouth and I will jump in.”
The crocodile opened his mouth.
“Get just a little bit further back from the shore, so I can make a good final leap,” called the monkey.
The crocodile backed up.
“Now open your mouth wide, wider, wider . . . so wide that you even have to close your eyes.”
The crocodile opened his jaws as wide as they would go and scrunched his eyes shut. Monkey made a stunning leap . . . over the crocodile’s mouth, landing on his back, and with one more bound he was back on the bank of the river with his family and friends.
Colour the monkey and the crocodile on both sides. Cut the crocodile’s mouth on the dotted line. When he opens his mouth at the end of the story, take the two parts of his mouth and separate them, making him open wide. Cut four or more mangoes and colour them orange (or use orange felt). Place them on the tree, and place the tree to the left of the felt board at the beginning of the story. When the monkey eats the mangoes, remove them from the board. The monkey begins the story standing on a small bit of sandy shore at the right of the felt board.