It was because he would not do as he was told that Nabil, the eel, nearly lost his life.

“It is time for eels in our stream to swim down to the sea,” his mother had told him. “Get ready to come,” she added. “Our stream dries up in summer when birds are a special danger.”

But wriggling off to play, Nabil ignored his mother’s words. And when other creatures in the stream spoke of the annual eel migration, he simply laughed and swam away.

“Eels are lucky they can live in saltwater as well as fresh. Unfortunately, I have no choice,” said a golden fish.

“But I like it here,” said Nabil, turning somersaults with his paddle shaped tail.

“Your mother knows best,” croaked a brown toad.

“Do the right thing,” advised a small terrapin.

“Hiss-lissssssss-ten, hiss,” whispered a water snake.

But Nabil did not heed their advice.  He continued playing among the weeds and chasing baby shrimps. He even splashed a sheep that had stopped to drink.

Nabil was having so much fun he did not notice the stream was drying up. Then one afternoon he found himself alone. The fish had disappeared. The toad had burrowed into the mud and the waterfall feeding the river had ceased to flow.

“Help,” cried Nabil. “I want to come with you.”

But the other eels could not hear him. They had already joined the river and were swimming down to the sea.

“Save me,” he cried, splashing in the warm, shallow water. “I`m being cooked alive.”

“I will help you,” responded the terrapin who was sheltering under a stone. “You may be a disobedient little fellow, but you don’t deserve to die.” And that night when the ground was damp with dew, the terrapin took Nabil gently in its mouth and placed him on the bank. “Hurry,” he advised. “You must reach the river before sunrise.”

For hours Nabil wriggled towards the sound of the river. Stones cut his skin and he was tired and hungry but when dawn found him, he was still far from safety.

Daylight brought new dangers. The first enemy to attack was a falcon. Dropping out of the sky, it picked up Nabil in its claws.  “Help! Save me from becoming a meal,” shouted Nabil.

Suddenly something startled the bird and it dropped Nabil and flew away.

“Next time, young eel, you must listen to your mother,” said the sheep that Nabil had splashed the day before. “Climb up and I will carry you to the river,” he said.

Nabil wriggled gratefully into the wool. And on reaching the river, he slid down the sheep’s leg into the water.

“Thank you,” Nabil called back. “I promise never to be rude again.”

“Baa,” said the old sheep, “baa-baa.”

After the night’s adventure, it was wonderful to feel the cool water. Closing his eyes, Nabil let the current carry him downstream but when nearing the sea, he found himself caught in a net stretched across the river mouth.

“This is a nice surprise,” said the fisherman, pulling the net ashore.

“Eel is good bait for hamour,” his friend replied.“ Let’s drive to the beach and try our luck fishing in the sea.”

They put Nabil in the basket which they placed in the tray of their vehicle. With the rough track and in the hot basket Nabil could hardly breathe.

Bump! Bump! Suddenly the basket bounced up and out, and burst open on the sand.

Untangling himself from reels and lines, Nabil wriggled painfully towards the tidemark where he lay, unable to go any further.

Suddenly a big wave surged up the beach sending him rolling over in the foam. Over and over…over and over…

Now Nabil was awake. He opened his eyes to find himself in the familiar stream.

“Wake up Nabil,” his mother was saying. “Today we are meeting in the river for our annual journey to the sea.”

The other eels were very surprised when Nabil obeyed. The fish, the toad and the terrapin noticed he was even smiling.

They would never call him disobedient again.


This little story I wrote was not used in my recent book Wajid and The Perfect Pearl. The original version, illustrated with drawings, was published in 1980 by English Language Teaching for the Arab World, Oxford University Press, Lebanon.



About Travels with My Hat

Australian photojournalist and author. Used London as a base for nearly forty years while freelancing in the Middle East, Arabian peninsular, Africa and South Asia. Have written and illustrated more than a dozen books and travel guides. Operates a well regarded religious images stock photo library: Live in Leura in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
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  1. Colleen O'Brien says:

    A delightful story with a moral twist, so suitable for children and those wishing to learn English and to relate to a timeless tale.

  2. Christine Osborne says:

    Thank you for yr comment Colleen. I nearly didn’t include it as it is not really a travel story but there you go.

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