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The Transformation of Bayal the Porcupine

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"The Transformation of Bayal the Porcupine" is a short story by L. Frank Baum. It is the ninth and last of his Animal Fairy Tales, and originally appeared in the September 1905 issue of The Delineator.

Summary

Bayal is constantly dissatisfied with his lot; he longs to be a powerful and important animal, rather than a lowly and contemptible porcupine. He does not realize that the fairy Athlos hears his complaints, and grows tired of them. She appears to him one day, and points out to him that creatures smaller than he is — beetles and lizards, moles, squirrels, and hares — do fear and flee him. Yet this is not enough for Bayal. So Athlos grants his wish, and transforms him into an elephant.

Bayal is delighted with the change...at first. When he attempts to join an elephant herd, however, the dominant male challenges and attacks him. Bayal flees with a wound to his chest from his opponent's tusk. He calls again to Athlos for aid — but is still not ready to be a porcupine. He tries his luck as a bear, and then as a jackal, with uniformly unhappy results. Bayal finds that to succeed as a large powerful animal, he needs more than the soul of a porcupine within.

Once he learns his lesson, Bayal can return to his natural state with greater contentment. Indeed, he becomes something of an animal philosopher. (A lizard, who listens to his musings, pities Bayal, because he is not a lizard.)

Background

This story compares with another of the Animal Fairy Tales, "The Discontented Gopher," as a parable on contentment.

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