When the world was young and the Lord of All was old, all the animals were the same. Every creature was a simple thing, just arms and legs on a useless barrel devoid of strength, claw, or wing. The animals saw the lush world created by the Lord of All, and they rejoiced with what they had.
When the Lord of All was satisfied that each animal had been given the opportunity to think about the world, a decree was issued. Every animal was to come from across the plains, walk through the tundra, and rise out of the oceans in order to approach the Lord’s Throne. There, they could ask for any gift they wished.
Everyone knows the story of Rabbit, who asked for strong legs to run fast and ears to hear well, or the story of Wolf, who asked for great senses of smell and sharp teeth to better hunt Rabbit and all the bunny offspring. You may even know the story of Mouse, who asked for quick multiplication and stealthy movement.
What you may not remember was that the Lord of All had deigned it appropriate to put the Throne at the top of a tall mountain. Mouse, even with such a strong gift as innumerable numbers, found it difficult to leave the mountain after receiving the gift. The mountain was steep, and a great snowstorm made the way treacherous for Mouse. As the world became white, Mouse found a small house in a tree and, discovering it was no longer occupied, moved in. Though Mouse surely multiplied, the food was scarce. The weather was cold.
“Oh, Lord of All!” cried Mouse. “Help me! I am trapped on your mountainside!”
The Lord of All replied with a voice of thunder, “I cannot leave my throne. There are two animals left to ask for their blessing, and I must give everyone a fair chance to get what they ask.”
“But, Lord of All, I might die!”
“Many Animals I have created will die.”
Unbeknownst to Mouse, another creature climbed the mountainside. It heard the cries of Mouse and the thunderous replies of the Lord of All. Elephant redoubled its efforts to climb the mountain and eventually made it to the Throne.
Elephant entered the room of the Lord of All and bowed. It had not yet received the gift of Animals, and it sought to change that.
The Lord of All smiled with fiery countenance. “Elephant! My friend. I have long awaited you to ask your gift – what would you wish?”
Elephant raised its head and looked to the Lord of All. “I wish to be tall enough to reach the house where Mouse is trapped, strong enough to carry Mouse’s house, and dextrous enough that I can keep care of that charge.”
“Oh?” The Lord of All frowned. “Your gifts weren’t meant to be helpful to others. They are to help you compete, help me determine which animal chose most wisely. Why not ask for claws like Lion? For a beautiful coat like Mink? For a hard carapace like Beetle?”
“But Mouse is suffering,” Elephant pleaded. “You said you would give me whatever I asked for, and I have made up my mind.”
The Lord of All harrumphed. “Very well. But know this – you will lose most of your sight, and from now on, Mouse will frighten you. That is your curse for requesting a gift I don’t approve of.”
Once Elephant was grown to impressive size and given a long trunk, it rushed down the mountainside to where Mouse was shivering. Elephant knocked on the door and said, “Hurry – get out of your house! I’m going to try to save you.”
So Elephant pushed the house out of the tree in order to place it in a safe crook on its back. Mouse remained quiet on Elephant’s back until they all got off the mountainside and were safe on the flat plains.
After Elephant came down from the Mountain, there was only one animal that had not yet asked a gift of the Lord of All. I suppose the Lord of All is still waiting – Elephant wouldn’t give Human the directions to the Throne. Therefore it is up to us not to forget Elephant’s sacrifice to save Mouse, up to Humans to do right by all the animals that the Lord of All refuses to protect.
This was written for Diana Wallace Peach’s monthly Speculative Fiction Writing Contest for February 2019. I feel like mythological stuff has been pretty common, and I have to admit being inspired by a bunch of the previous responses!
Though… I almost named the deity in this story Frith, for those of you who get that reference…