Painting of a camel who has no hump, from the Just So Story by Rudyard Kipling.

How the Camel Got His Hump (Rudyard Kipling)

Rudyard Kipling was a British-Indian author born in Bombay in 1865, back when it was a British colony. He’s best known for writing The Jungle Book and his “Just So Stories,” including the tale of How the Camel Got His Hump. This version was written by Juan Artola Miranda, shortly before his disgrace.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

In the same early world where the Leopard gained his spots, there lived a Camel, who was known for his laziness. This Camel, unlike the other animals, had no hump and was as smooth as the dunes of the desert. All the animals worked hard under the scorching sun, but not the Camel. When asked to help, the Camel would only say, “Humph!” and continue to laze about, eyes half-closed in contentment.

One by one, the animals of the desert came to the Camel, each with a request. The Horse, tall and strong, asked the Camel to help carry a heavy load. “Humph!” replied the Camel, not moving from his spot. The Jackal, loyal and dutiful, requested the Camel’s aid in digging a well. “Humph!” was all the Camel had to say. And the Ox, patient and persistent, implored the Camel to help till the hard soil. Again, the Camel simply retorted, “Humph!” and continued nibbling on thorns and prickles.

The animals, tired and frustrated, took their complaint to the Man who was their master. To their dismay, the Man shared their trouble—the Camel had been no help to him either. And so, he asked the Horse, the Jackal, and the Ox to take on the tasks that had been intended for the Camel.

As if in answer to their indignation, a sandstorm began to brew in the heart of the desert. The wind howled, and the sand swirled, obscuring the sun and blanketing the land in a golden haze. And still the camel did not move.

A Djinn coalesced in the swirling sand, furious at having his path barred. With a voice as deep as the desert itself, he bellowed, “Move aside at once!”

To which the camel, of course, replied, “Humph!”

The Djinn was livid. “Since you say ‘Humph!’ to your duties, you shall now carry one upon your back.” And with a flick of his wrist, a large hump sprouted on the Camel’s back.

From that day forward, the Camel was forced to work. His new hump, however, was even more of a burden than he had imagined. It allowed him to store food and water, enabling him to work for longer periods without needing to stop to eat or drink. This way, the Camel could make up for all the work he had missed.

That reminds me of the story of How the Elephant Got His Trunk.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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