The Dodo Who was King
By David Hartley Mark
(With Apologies to James Thurber)
There was a Dodo who would sneak up behind other dodos and yank out their feathers in a painful fashion. When they protested, he would say, "Ah, who cares about you?" Or, "I'll sue!" He would weave the stolen feathers into exotic and lovely clothing, which he would sell to wealthy buyers who did not know anything of his underhanded and crooked ways. In this way he grew very rich, and thought himself admired by all the other animals of the forest, which was mainly untrue.
As is often the case with wealthy animals, the Dodo felt that his money gave him the right to shoot off his beak about issues he didn't understand. He also loved to mock smaller and more helpless animals, which endeared him to some predators, but not many.
Eventually, the Dodo decided to become King of the Animals although, in truth, he knew nothing about being king. He would spend hours preening himself in front of the mirror in his palatial nest, uttering admiring phrases to himself. He even hired a bevy of secretary birds to record his thoughts, though they were often at a loss to state what those thoughts were about, since they rarely made sense.
When the time came for the Animals to choose a king, the Lion thought that, after all, he had ruled for years and years, and that he would be a shoo-in. Unfortunately, the Dodo had become highly skilled at insulting his fellow candidates, and would take advantage of their perceived weaknesses:
To the Kangaroo, he would say, "How's it going, Hoppy? How will anyone of the animals approach you with a request or even talk with you, if you're always scaring us with your jumping? Stand still!"
To the Mole, he turned up his beak, and said, "I don't think is ready for a King who spends all of his time Underground. Maybe he's a spy!"
And to the Giraffe, he jibed, "How can you see to rule from 'way up there? What good is a King who can only see over the heads of the other animals?"
In the end, despite a well-run and honest campaign by the Badger, whose service to as Vice-King, High Counselor, Regent, and Master of the Privy Seal (which was a real Seal, capable of juggling red beach balls on its nose), was unsuccessful, and all of was surprised to awaken the day after Choose-a-King Day, to find that the Dodo was their new King. Most decided to give him a chance; they had no choice, anyway.
The problem was that the Dodo was entirely unprepared for leadership; all he knew how to do was fool other birds and steal their feathers. He also favored being center of attention at all times, and was given to making cheap jokes at the expense of other animals whom he disliked, or whom he believed had crossed him. Rather than read the speeches which his staff of secretary birds delivered to him, he would depart from the script frequently and strive for humor, forgetting that was the active center for all animal activities worldwide, and that the World looked to it for guidance and leadership.
As the weeks and months progressed, the Dodo kept making gaffes; at least, in the opinion of the Rabbits, who published The Gazette. During press conferences, the Dodo usually did not answer their questions, referring them to a Macaque who spent most of her time either spitting at the rabbits, or flinging lumps of offal at them.
"Such a shame that I must put my royal opinions to the Animal Council," complained the Dodo, "since I do such a remarkable job ruling by myself. What would it take for me to become Emperor, rather than King?"
One day, the Dodo was out in the Royal Gardens, cogitating on this dilemma. He was bemused to see a Fox, who was catching Chipmunks and eating them in a crude and bloody fashion.
"You're my kind of Animal," said the Dodo, patting the Fox on the back, "and I think that, together, we can make beautiful music."
"," said the Fox, for his muzzle was full of shredded Chipmunk, "I've always wanted to enter Government."
"Will you become my new Press Secretary?" Asked the Dodo, "since the Macaque is getting tired of doing the work, though I cannot say why. She also demands more bananas."
"I work better behind the scenes," said the Fox, "and I believe that my fellow foxes would be drawn to the Message you are trying to share."
"What message is that?" Asked the Dodo, puzzled, for he was not a Deep Thinker.
"Leave the message to me," smiled the Fox, blood dripping from its teeth and nose, "There are plenty of chipmunks out there to eat."
After the Fox took over as Chief Theorist of what he dubbed the Movement, riots and panic ensued among the Animals, with some backing the Dodo, some the Fox, and some the Badger, who had come out of forced retirement to pick up the Cudgels. In the midst of all this, a rabid Pug Dog overthrew the elected government of far-off , and began to manufacture and test missiles capable of reaching . The Pug assured his followers, "This will make our little state the leading Power in . Death to the Dodo and his underlings!"
An air of Panic began to infest , as the Pug urged his on. Ignorant of how to lead, the Dodo blustered and fulminated, making statements like, "We will reduce all Pugs to ashes!" And firing most of his secretary birds, whom Chief Justice Owl later found to be guilty of stealing and artwork from the Executive Nest, which they smuggled out, hidden in their beaks.
Eventually the Dodo was left alone. All that remained was a small but effective anti-animal missile, which he had stolen from the Royal Arsenal, planning a Sneak Attack the Pug. Unfortunately, the Pug got wind of it from the Dodo's Chief Secretary Bird, to whom the Pug had given a medal.
In the ensuing Anti-Animal Missile exchange, both and might have been reduced to ashes, but the Brave Badger risked his life, herding Animals into the fallout shelters left over from the Administration, in West and .
About five or six missiles were pre-programmed to strike the Executive Nest, where it was well-known that the Dodo spent most of his time. Following the brief but all-out Conflict, a squad of Animal Marines combed the smoking ashes of the Nest, but the Dodo was never found.
Moral: Who aspires to lead beyond the powers of his brain
Will cause the Animals nothing but pain.