Why the Crocodile Has a Wide Mouth
"COME to my kingdom whenever you will," said the goddess of the water to the king of the land. "My waves will be calm, and my animals will be gentle. They will be as good to your children as if they were my own. Nothing in all my kingdom will do you harm."
The goddess went back to her home in the sea, and the king walked to the shore of the river and stood gazing upon the beautiful water. Beside him walked his youngest son.
"Father," asked the boy, "would the goddess be angry if I went into the water to swim?"
"No," answered the father. "She says that nothing in all her wide kingdom will do us harm. The water-animals will be kind, and the waves will be calm."
The boy went into the water. He could swim as easily as a fish, and he went from shore to shore, sometimes talking with the fishes, sometimes getting a bright piece of stone to carry to his father. Suddenly something caught him by the foot and dragged him down, down, through the deep, dark water. "Oh, father!" he cried, but his father had gone away from the shore, and the strange creature, whatever it was, dragged the boy down to the very bottom of the river.
The river was full of sorrow for what the creature had done, and it lifted the boy gently and bore him to the feet of the goddess. His eyes were closed and his face was white, for he was dead. Great tears came from the eyes of the goddess when she looked at him. "I did not think any of my animals would do such a cruel thing," she said. "His father shall never know it, for the boy shall not remember what has happened."
Then she laid her warm hand upon his head, and whispered some words of magic into his ear. "Open your eyes," she called, and soon they were wide open. "You went in to swim," said the goddess. "Did the water please you?"
"Were the water-animals kind to you?"
"Yes, surely," answered the boy, for the magic words had kept him from remembering anything about the strange creature that had dragged him to the bottom of the river.
The boy went home to his father, and as soon as he was out of sight, the goddess called to the water-animals, "Come one, come all, come little, come great."
"It is the voice of the goddess," said the water-animals, and they all began to swim toward her as fast as they could.
When they were together before her, she said, "One of you has been cruel and wicked. One of you has dragged to the bottom of the river the son of my friend, the king of the land, but I have carried him safely to shore, and now he is in his home. When he comes again, will you watch over him wherever in the wide, wide water he may wish to go?"
"Yes!" "Yes!" "Yes!" cried the water-animals.
"Water," asked the goddess, "will you be calm and still when the son of my friend is my guest?"
"Gladly," answered the water.
Suddenly the goddess caught sight of the crocodile hiding behind the other animals. "Will you be kind to the boy and keep harm away from him?" she asked.
Now it was the crocodile that had dragged the boy to the bottom of the river. He wished to say, "Yes," but he did not dare to open his mouth for fear of saying, "I did it, I did it," so he said not a word. The goddess cried, "Did you drag the king's son to the bottom of the river?" Still the crocodile dared not open his mouth for fear of saying, "I did it, I did it." Then the goddess was angry. She drew her long sword, and saying, "The mouth that will not open when it should must be made to open," she struck the crocodile's mouth with the sword. "Oh, look!" cried the other animals. The crocodile's mouth had opened; there was no question about that, for it had split open so far that he was afraid he should never be able to keep it closed.