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HOW THE BEAR LOST HIS TAIL

Believe it or not, there was a time when the bear had a lovely long, furry tail- quite unlike the short, stumpy one he sports today! But how did he lose it? Ah, therein hangs a tail-er, sorry, tale!

The bear was very proud of his beautiful tail. He took great care of it and spent hours brushing it out and keeping it glossy and tangle-free. Wherever he went, he would spread it out like a fan behind him, and people had to walk round it. Everyone was on tenterhooks around him, for, if they stepped on it by accident, he would nearly snap their heads off!

The bear's tail was also his main conversation topic. Whomsoever he met, he would ask, "Don't you think my tail is the most beautiful tail you've ever seen?"

As you can imagine, the animals didn't think much of the foolish bear, who had nothing to talk about except the glory of his tail! However, all of them were frightened of his big claws and didn't want to make him angry. So, without exception they all told him, "Yes indeed, Bear – yours is the most magnificent tail in the whole world! And it makes you really smart and handsome!" On hearing this, the bear would beam with pride and feel ten feet tall.

However, he wouldn't have been so happy if only he'd known what was coming to him. As it turned out, among the animals who admired his tail was one who had resolved to teach him a lesson he would never forget! This was none other than the fox, who was furious with him ever since the day he had slapped him for treading on his precious tail. From then on, the fox had been biding his time, awaiting revenge!

One icy cold day, the bear went lumbering down to the lake in the middle of winter; the lake was completely frozen over.

As he neared the lake, he saw a most alluring spectacle. On the bank sat the fox, and he was surrounding by a pile of fish! The bear's stomach was rumbling with hunger, and his mouth watered at the sight of so many delicious-looking fishes.

He approached the fox and said, "Hello, brother Fox! Where did you get all those fish?" This was the moment the fox had been waiting for!

"Why, I caught them, of course, from that hole!" he said nonchalantly, pointing to a hole in the ice before him.

"But how?" asked the bear in bewilderment. "You don't have any fishing tools, so what did you fish with?" (In reality, of course, the fox had seen him approaching from afar and carefully hidden his fishing implements, making up his mind to play a trick on the unsuspecting bear!)

"With my tail, as usual," he answered in a casual tone.

Now the bear was really astonished. "With your tail? But how can you fish with your tail?" he asked curiously.

"Why, bear, don't tell me you know the art of fishing with one's tail!" exclaimed the fox in mock surprise. "Don't you know it's the best method for catching fish?"

"Really?" asked the bear, his eyes widening in wonder. "Fancy, I never knew that! Can I catch fish with my tail, too?"

"Sure, why not?" replied the fox, turning away to hide a smile. "With a long and beautiful tail like yours, you'll never go hungry- you can always catch as many fish as you want to eat! Would you like me to show you how to do it?"

"Yes, please!" said the bear eagerly.

The fox peered into the hole in the ice and said, "There are no more fish left in this! Let's go to another part of the lake where there's more."

He led the bear to a shallow part of the lake. The bear swiftly dug out a hole in the ice with his claws.

"Here's how you do it," said the fox. "Sit down with your back to the hole and drop your tail into the water!" The bear obeyed, wincing at the contract with the icy water. However, he wanted the fish so badly that he quickly forgot the cold.

"Now," said the fox, "you'll feel when a fish bites. Sit absolutely still, and wait until a number of fish have bitten, and then you can pull out your tail with your magnificent catch!"

The bear's mouth watered and he scratched himself with pleasure. "Don't move!" ordered the fox, and he sat still.

"Good!" said the fox. "I'll watch from those trees, so that I don't scare away the fish."

The bear sat stiffly, thinking about the fish jumping onto his tail. It was tiring and after a while, he dozed off.

It became very cold and started snowing. The fox collected his fish and returned home. After a couple of hours, he came back to the lake.

He saw that the bear was still exactly as he had left him. His fur coat was completely covered with snow, and he was snoring away to glory. It was such a ludicrous sight that the fox burst out laughing.

Finally, he composed himself and went up to the bear. He then shouted, "Bear, wake up! There's a fish on your tail! Can you feel it?"

Startled, the bear woke up. He could feel a sharp pain in his behind.

"Yes, yes, I feel it!" he cried and jumped up. The next moment, there was a popping sound.

Looking behind him, he saw, to his horror that his beautiful black tail had snapped right off! There it lay, as if mocking him- a stiff, frozen lump of fur, stuck in the transparent ice! All that was left on his backside was a small stump- an apology for a tail.

"Oh, no! My lovely long tail!" Wailed the poor bear. The fox ran away, laughing heartily.

The bear would have given anything to be able to get his hands on the fox; if he had caught him that day, he would have killed him! But the fox knew this and was crafty enough to keep out of his way thereafter.

And that is how the bear lost his beautiful tail. To this day, bears sport short, stumpy tails. If you ever hear a bear groaning, it is because he's still thinking of the lovely tail he lost that day!

Moral: Do not blindly believe what others say.

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