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Years of the Rat: 1996,2008,2020,2032

Year of the Ratthis story. which explains how they got their names. We also have a video about the Aesop Fable - the Rat and the Elephant.

Read by Natasha. Duration 8.30.

The other day, Bertie asked me to pop up to the palace kitchens to see if I could find him a nice piece of cheese. As you probably know, frogs don’t normally eat cheese, but Bertie is no ordinary frog – after all, he used to be a prince.

“Oh Natasha,” he said, “Green slime for dinner is all very well, but I do so miss the taste of a nice piece of creamy cheddar cheese with just a little tang to it. Be a dear, and see if you can find me some up at the palace.”

But before I reached the door of the kitchen, I heard a scream from inside. At first, I thought that perhaps someone had seen a ghost because there are a few of those hanging around the palace, but then I heard the cook call out, “Rat! Rat! RAAAAAAAT!”

The door was open a crack, and a moment later a grey creature with a pink nose squeezed through the opening and scuttled down the corridor. It almost ran over my toes.

I couldn’t help myself. I said, “EEEEEEEEK!”

Because although some of my best friends are animals, I can’t say I’m all that fond of rats. In fact, they are probably my least favourite creatures of all, apart from cockroaches, and spitting cobras, oh yes, and I”m not so keen on jellyfish either.

There was such a commotion inside the kitchen that it didn’t seem the right moment to wander in asking for a piece of cheddar, and so I went back down the garden to tell Bertie and the pondlife what I had just seen – a rat inside the royal palace. Whatever next?

When I arrived at the pond, I found that the birds, fish, and amphibians who live there were holding a meeting. Sadie the black Swan was speaking and when she speaks, everyone listens, because she has what is called a very commanding presence.

“This is not a village pond,” she said. “It’s a royal pond. There is no place here for a common, vulgar creature who belongs in the sewer.”

A Canada Goose said, “Honk honk!" And all the ducklings and cygnets – those are baby swans – cheeped and twittered in agreement.

Only Colin the Carp said, “Humph. She thinks she’s our queen, she does.”

It was only then that I noticed that that not far away, the rat was hiding in the reeds. His little pink nose was twitching, and I could see that he was frightened. To my surprise, I actually felt quite sorry for him.

“I say we should expel the rat forthwith!” Said Sadie. The waterfowl honked, quacked and twittered even louder than before.

I thought the rat was done for, but then Bertie began to speak.

“Quiet. Quiet!” he called out. Gradually the noise died down. “Now Sadie is quite right,” he said. “When she says that this is a special pond, it is indeed a royal waterway, and nobody is a greater patriot for a pond than myself. But I think I know a thing or two about being royal. After all, I used to be a prince. And let me tell you something.

First of all, a true prince never turns anyone away because of the way they were born. It doesn’t matter if you are a peacock or a rat. All creatures are equal. That’s the prince’s code. Except for dragons of course - we can’t have them around the place, because it’s our duty to fight them. But that’s a different matter.

Now let me tell you a secret. I might be a frog, but I was born in the Chinese Year of the Rat. And if a prince can be a rat – as well as a frog – then I say that rats have just as much right to live in a royal place as anyone.

As it happens, creatures who are born in the Year of the Rat are rather nice. They are smart and ambitious and easy to like.

Now here’s another thing. It just so happens that this year is the Year of the Rat. Do you know what that means? It means that rats are lucky this year! What’s more, to turn a rat away from our pond in the Year of the Rat would bring very bad luck indeed. So I say, let’s hold a New Year’s party for the Chinese Year of the Rat, and let’s invite our new friend to be our guest of honour!"

Everyone honked and squawked and twittered even loader than before. The little tadpoles did somersaults in the water and even Colin the Carp was so moved that there was a little tear in his eye.

Sadie said, “Oh Bertie. You’re so dignified. Now I see that it is indeed truly gracious to be kind to all creatures, even if they are yucky!”

At the party, everyone ate loads and loads of green slime, except for the rat and Bertie, who stuffed themselves with a huge piece of cheddar cheese which I brought down from the palace especially for them.

And that’s the story of how one of the ugliest and hated creatures on earth was granted sanctuary on the pond because it’s a royal pond that lives by the Prince’s Code – by the Royal Diktat of Bertie.

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