HOW THE LEOPARD BECAME A PANTHER
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .by Michael Rzepka1
..... A long, long time ago, when gods reigned over the Earth, and before people existed, there were only a few of each animal in the world. These animals were young and wild.
.....One of these animals was a fast leopard who lived in a humid rain forest in the East Indies. During the long, hot days, the leopard slept in the tall trees. But when night brought a curtain of darkness, the hungry leopard hunted for food.
.....The leopard had a large body and long legs. His legs were good for jumping and running. Each paw had huge claws that the leopard used for hunting. He had good eyesight for seeing in the dark, and big teeth for eating his unfortunate prey. The leopard also had a soft skin covered with smooth fur. The fur was spotted with all the colors of the rainbow and each spot was outlined in white.
.....The other animals in the rain forest thought the leopard's coat was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen. They were always complimenting the leopard on his beautiful spotted coat. "How handsome you look today," grunted the elephant. "How your brilliant coat sparkles!" screeched the peacock. Everyone admired the leopard's coat because it contained so many colorful colors!
.....The leopard became conceited and vain about his beautiful spotted coat and thought he was the most beautiful creature in the world. He even believed he was more beautiful than the gods!
.....The gods were very upset because the leopard was so vain, and they sent a messenger to confront the leopard. The messenger came down from the heavens and said to the leopard, "Who are you to think that you are the most beautiful creature in the world?"
.....The leopard replied, "There are two reasons why I think I am the most beautiful creature in the world. The first is that everyone says I am beautiful, and the second is that I am the color of the rainbow! I am sorry that the gods are jealous, but I am even more beautiful than them!"
.....The messenger answered, "Fine, but you may come to regret this bragging." Then the messenger left.
.....The leopard left the meeting site and went on with his life.
.....That night, the leopard went out to hunt, like always. He did not know that his spots were glowing! The gods had put a spell on the leopard so the leopard's colors could be seen even at night. The leopard started stalking his prey, as quietly as a mouse at midnight. But then, his prey saw the leopard and ran away!
.....The leopard had no clue as to why his prey ran away. He thought he was doing everything right. So, the leopard tried hunting again, and again his prey ran away! After the third night of missing his prey, the leopard was getting very hungry and very frustrated.
.....That is when the leopard noticed a clear, small stream nearby. As the leopard walked over to the stream to take a drink, he asked himself, "Why do I keep missing my prey?"
.....As the leopard bent over the stream to take a drink, he looked into the water and discovered that his spots were glowing in the dark. That is when the leopard knew the gods had put a spell on him.
.....The next morning, the leopard called to the gods and asked to meet with them. A beam of sparkling yellow light came down from the heavens and took the leopard up to the gods. After all the gods gathered around, the leopard asked, "Why have you cast this evil spell on me? Why have you made my spots glow in the dark?"
....."We wanted you to realize how vain you had become," answered one of the gods.
....."Color isn't all it's cracked up to be," said another god.
.....The leopard thought for a moment, then asked the gods, "I am sorry for being so vain. Could you please change my spots so I will be able to hunt again?"
.....Then the gods said to the leopard, "The only way we will stop your spots from glowing is if you agree to be the color black. If you will be all black, like the night, you will be able to hunt again."
....."Oh… I guess so," said the leopard.
.....Poof! The gods changed the leopard's beautiful spotted coat into soft, black fur. "You are now all black," the gods told the leopard, "and from now on, instead of being a spotted leopard, you will be called a black panther."
.....From that day forward, there was a new kind of leopard in the rain forest—a fierce, lonely hunter known as the black panther.
The moral of this story is that beauty isn't everything. Don't be vain about your appearance!
©2000 Michael Rzepka
1Michael Rzepka, age 12, is a Freeport, Il. student. He wrote this story as a homework assignment, then asked if the story could be shared with other visitors to this site. If anyone wishes to contact Michael privately, I will be glad to send him your messages.
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