The black-eared Snake was holding court again. He was coiled on a sun-kissed rock, surrounded by Cats and Lizards and Birds and Bugs. His sibilant voice carried on the breeze to where an Elkhound lay, curled and glaring.
She was tired of his stories and gossip. He thought himself so clever, slinking so low to the ground, up to the homes and huts of Humans, listening to their lives. When the Elkhound, or even the Cats or Lizards for that matter, got too close, they were always shooed away. But the Snake went unseen and with his big black ears, he heard everything. That made him more popular than any of the animals.
The Elkhound was a proud creature, with her curled tail and soft fur. When the nights grew chilly, the other animals liked to sleep near her, drawing warmth from her fur and comfort from the protection of her sharp, sharp teeth. But when the sun came up and spread heat over the earth, the Elkhound’s friends would abandon her to listen to the Snake weave his tales.
The Elkhound would give anything for his ears. Her ears were small and grey and not as good for hearing. Her eyes were amazing and her nose was a thing of wonder. That was all well and good. She could see over great distances, she could smell a Mouse buried in its hovel and the flowers that had yet to bloom. But no one gathered around her to hear about flowers. No, she needed stories. And for stories, she needed better ears.
One day, when the Snake had finished his tales and was coiled tighter for a well-deserved nap, the Elkhound sidled up to his rock.
“Dear, clever Snake,” said she, “wherever did you get your magnificent ears?”
She was not known for her subtle nature.
The Snake laughed a hissing laugh, “Off the old Seal down by the shore. It was years ago and he wasn’t using them. He didn’t even notice when I took them! Hah! Foolish Seal. Now go away. I wish to sleep.”
The Elkhound smiled a toothy smile and bowed her head. As she walked away, all four paws kicking up dust in the hot afternoon, she wandered between anger at being dismissed and elation at her new knowledge. He had stolen the ears! That meant she could steal them away for herself.
And so she started watching the Snake whenever and wherever he went. Weeks passed and then months. She had tried to sneak up on him while he slept, but those ears were so good, they picked up even the smallest of sounds. The Elkhound grew impatient. Would she never gain her heart’s desire?
Then came the day when the sun was exceptionally hot and the others had no interest in sitting in the glare, listening to stories. They took to hovel and cave and tree and burrow. They hid away and slept through the afternoon. The Snake lay coiled on his rock, ears folded over his eyes.
The Elkhound crept up, quiet and careful. Her steps made only the softest whiff as she moved closer and closer. She barely disturbed the dust. She had tried this before and failed each time, but the sun’s caress had lulled the Snake into a deep slumber.
The next morning, when the others gathered to hear tales of humans, the Snake was no where to be found. In his place sat a proud and fluffy Elkhound, new night-black ears perched high on her grey, grey head. Only the Mouse dared squeak in surprise, but all settled down when she began her story.
“Last night, under the moon’s gentle glow…”
They didn’t much care who told the tales. They only cared about hearing them.