Ted Hughes How the Whale Became

ISBN 13: 9780571274208

How the Whale Became

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9780571274208: How the Whale Became

This collection of eleven evocative, accessible and funny stories for children of 5 and more tells how a particular animal came to be as it is now. The Whale grew up in God's vegetable patch but was banished to sea when he became too large and crushed all His carrots; the Polar Bear was lured to the North Pole by the other animals who were jealous that she always won the annual beauty contest; the Hare has asked the moon to marry him but can never stretch his ears high enough to hear her reply; and, the Bee must sip honey all day long to sweeten the bitter demon that runs through his veins...each story is a delight for reading alone or aloud.

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About the Author:

Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was born in Yorkshire. His first book, The Hawk in the Rain, was published in 1957 by Faber and Faber and was followed by many volumes of poetry and prose for adults and children. He received the Whitbread Book of the Year for two consecutive years for his last published collections of poetry, Tales from Ovid (1997) and Birthday Letters (1998). He was Poet Laureate from 1984, and in 1998 he was appointed to the Order of Merit.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

How the Cat Became

Things were running very smoothly and most of the creatures were highly pleased with themselves. Lion was already famous. Even the little shrews and moles and spiders were pretty well known. But among all these busy creatures there was one who seemed to be getting nowhere. It was cat.
Cat was a real oddity. The others didn’t know what to make of him at all.
He lived in a hollow tree in the wood. Every night, when the rest of the creatures were sound asleep, he retired to the depths of his tree then such sounds, such as screechings, yowlings, wailings! The bats that slept upside-down all day long in the hollows of the tree branches awoke with a start and fled with their wing-tips stuffed into their ears. It seemed to them that Cat was having the worst nightmares ever ten at a time.
But no. Cat was tuning his violin.
If only you could have seen him! Curled in the warm smooth hollow of his tree, gazing up through the hole at the top of the trunk, smiling at the stars, winking at the moon his violin tucked under his chin. Ah, Cat was a happy one.
And all night long he sat there composing his tunes.
Now the creatures didn’t like this at all. They saw no use in his music, it made no food, it built no nest, it didn’t even keep him warm. And the way Cat lounged around all day, sleeping in the sun, was just more than they could stand.
He’s a bad example,’ said Beaver, he never does a stroke of work! What if our children think they can live as idly as he does?’
It’s time,’ said Weasel,’ that Cat had a job like everybody else in the world.’
So the creatures of the world formed a Committee to persuade Cat to take a job.
Jay, Magpie and Parrot went along at dawn and sat in the topmost twigs of Cat’s old tree. As soon as Cat poked his head out, they all began together:
You’ve got to get a job. Get a job! Get a job!’
That was only the beginning of it. All day long, everywhere he went, those birds were at him:
Get a job! Get a job!’
And try as he would, Cat could not get one wink of sleep.
That night he went back to his tree early. He was far too tired to practise on his violin and fell fast asleep in a few minutes. Next morning, when he poked his head out of the tree at first light, the three birds of the Committee were there again, loud as ever:
Get a job!’
Cat ducked back down into his tree and began to think. He wasn’t going to start grubbing around in the wet woods all day, as they wanted him to. Oh no. He wouldn’t have any time to play his violin if he did that. There was only one thing to do and he did it.
He tucked his violin under his arm and suddenly jumped out at the top of the tree and set off through the woods at a run. Behind him, shouting and calling, came Jay, Magpie and Parrot.
Other creatures that were about their daily work in the undergrowth looked up when Cat ran past. No one had ever seen Cat run before.
Cat’s up to something,’ they called to each other. Maybe he’s going to get a job at last.’
Deer, Wild Boar, Bear, Ferret, Mongoose, Porcupine, and a cloud of birds set off after Cat to see where he was going.
After a great deal of running they came to the edge of the forest. There they stopped. As they peered through the leaves they looked sideways at each other and trembled. Ahead of them, across an open field covered with haycocks, was Man’s farm.
But Cat wasn’t afraid. He went straight on, over the field, and up to Man’s door. He raised his paw and banged as hard as he could in the middle of the door.
Man was so surprised to see Cat that at first he just stood, eye wide, mouth open. No creature ever dared to come on to his fields, let alone knock at his door. Cat spoke first.
I’ve come for a job,’ he said.
A job?’ asked Man, hardly able to believe his ears.
Work,’ said Cat. I want to earn my living.’
Man looked him up and down , then saw his long claws.
You look as if you’d make a fine rat-catcher,’ said Man.
Cat was surprised to hear that. He wondered what it was about him that made him look like a rat-catcher. Still, he wasn’t going to miss a chance of a job. So he stuck out his chest and said: Been doing it for years.’
Well then, I’ve a job for you,’ said Man. My farm’s swarming with rats and mice. They’re in my haystacks, they’re in my corn sacks, and they’re all over the pantry.’
So before Cat knew where he was, he had been signed on as a Rat-and-Mouse-Catcher. His pay was milk, and meat, and a place at the fireside. He slept all day and worked all night.
At first he had a terrible time. The rats pulled his tail, the mice nipped his ears. They climbed on to rafters above him and dropped down thump! on to him in the dark. They teased the life out of him.
But Cat was a quick learner. At the end of the week he could lay out a dozen rats and twice as many mice within half an hour. If he’d gone on laying then out all night there would pretty soon have been none left, and Cat would have been out of a job. So he just caught a few each night in the first ten minutes or so. Then he retired into the barn and played his violin until morning. This was just the job he had been looking for.
Man was delighted with him. And Mrs Man thought he was beautiful. She took him on to her lap and stroked him for hours on end. What a life! thought Cat. If only those silly creatures in the dripping wet woods could see him now!
Well, when the other farmers saw what a fine rat-and-mouse-catcher Cat was, they all wanted cats too. Soon there were so many cats that our Cat decided to form a string band. Oh yes, they were all great violinists. Every night, after making a pile of rats and another of mice, each cat left his farm and was away over the fields to a little dark spinney.
Then what tunes! All night long
Pretty soon lady cats began to arrive. Now, every night instead of just music, there was dancing too. And what dances! If only you could have crept up there and peeped into the glade from behind a tree and seen the cats dancing the glossy furred ladies and the tomcats, some pearly grey, some ginger red, and all with wonderful green flashing eyes. Up and down the glade, with the music flying out all over the night.
At dawn they hung their violins in the larch trees, dashed back to the farms, and pretended they had been working all night among the rats and mice. They lapped their milk hungrily, stretched out at the fireside, and fell asleep with smiles on their faces.

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