THE PORCUPINE


   "Arslan! Wake up!"
   Arslan opened his eyes. The sun was shining brightly. He could hear the jingle of Bubenchik's bell. The kid had been browsing since early morning on the leaves of the nearby shrubs.
   "You said you wanted to see all the different wild animals," Grandfather said. "So let's have a melon and some tea for breakfast and then I'll try to show you some of them. While you were still asleep I went out exploring and found..."
   "Let's hurry before it runs away!" Arslan cried.
   "It won't run anywhere. I found an old porcupine burrow."
   "The porcupine's burrow is very special: it's got three separate compartments. The male and female live in the first, the young in the second, and the third compartment is used to store provi- sions.
   The burrow had been dug up, and all three rooms were ex- posed. In the storeroom there were still tidy stacks of roots and tubers.
   "They live just like people!" Arslan exclaimed in astonishment.
   "Once upon a time the porcupine was human," Grandfather said. "Didn't Grandmother Mengli tell you that sad story?"
   "Then listen. Once, a long, long time ago a man borrowed two skeins of wool from his neighbor. But when the time came for him to repay his debt, he grew greedy and made one of the skeins smaller than it had been originally. The neighbor immediately saw through the deception and in anger he stuck a spindle into the small ball of yarn and flung it at the offender saying: 'May the spindle pierce your body like an arrow!'
   "No sooner had the spindle touched the man when his whole body became covered with needle-like arrows. Ashamed to appear before other people in such a condition, the man went far away where no one could see him. And to this day, ashamed of his dishonorable deed, he only ventures out of his burrow at night when everyone else is asleep."
   "Look, Grandpa! A porcupine needle!" Arslan cried. "It looks exactly like a spindle! Is it all right for me to take it?"
   "Take it," Grandfather said. "Keep it as a reminder. If one day you feel the temptation to be greedy, you'll remember this sad story."