How the Sloth Got Its Slowness

(I’ve started posting stories that I make up for my daughter here. This is the first one I’ve written up.)

Me: You’re acting like a sloth this morning!

E: What’s a sloth?

Me: An animal that moves very slowly.

E: Why’s it so slow?

Me: Well….

The Story of the Three-Toed Sloth

Once upon a time, when the world was young, the sloth was the fastest of all the animals. The sloth was so swift that, when he ran, you could hardly see him; “I’m faster than lighting, faster than a thought,” he liked to boast.

One day the sloth went to visit his friend the Learned Astronomer, up in his observatory at the top of a mountain. When the sloth arrived he found the Astronomer in despair, leaning against his telescope and weeping.

“What is it?” asked the sloth. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s better if you don’t know,” the Astronomer said, wiping the tears off his glasses.

“Please,” begged the kindly sloth, “you’re my friend. I’d like to help. What’s the matter?”

“Well, if you must know,” the Astronomer sobbed, “it’s terrible news. The very worst. A huge asteroid is flying toward us through space. It will hit the earth in two days, and smash our beautiful planet.”

“That’s awful!” cried the sloth.

“I know. And there’s no way to stop it. That’s why it’s better if no one knows,” the Astronomer sighed.

“No way at all?” the sloth asked.

“Well – there is one thing. But it’s impossible. If there was a way to move the planet itself out of the way. If, say everyone jumped at the same instant, at two PM day after tomorrow. But as I said, it’s impossible,” the Astronomer concluded. He turned to the sloth – but the sloth was already gone.

The sloth raced out of the observatory and down the mountain, faster than he’d ever run before. Halfway down the mountain he saw a family of mice. “At two PM, day after tomorrow, all of you jump at once,” he shouted, barely slowing down. “Tell everyone else! It’s a matter of life and death!” As he reached the forest at the bottom of the mountain he passed a bear searching for berries. “Two PM, day after tomorrow,” he called, “jump up and down! Pass it on!”

For the next two days, without stopping, the sloth ran raster than any animal had run before in the history of the world. He sloth raced from one place to the next, telling every animal and person he saw to jump at the appointed time. Like a streak if lightning he raced across plains, over bridges, through valleys. Some of the creatures he told to jump didn’t hear him, or thought it was a joke. But most of them saw the sloth’s expression of desperate seriousness and realized this was important.

Before the asteroid arrived, the sloth managed to tell nearly every animal and person in the world the news. And when the time came, and the asteroid was about to hit, the sloth was so exhausted he barely had the strength left to give one mighty jump before collapsing to the ground. But he wasn’t alone. All the other animals and people jumped with him, at the exact same time, and all of those jumps together pushed the earth just slightly to the side, so that the asteroid passed harmlessly by.

The sloth had saved the world. But he was so tired from all that running that neither he, nor any of his children, or his children’s children, ever ran again. And that is why, to this day, the sloth is the slowest of animals.

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