“How the Leopard Got His Spots” is the fourth of the “Just So Stories” to be introduced in the Rabbit Ears Storybook Classics Series. The story features narration from Danny Glover, African music from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Lori Lohstoeter’s colorful and beautiful illustrations.
During the days where everyone is equal, the Leopard lived in the High Veldt along with the Giraffe, the Zebra, the Eland, and the Koodoo. The High Veldt was known to be a place that was hot and full of yellowish grass and because the Leopard was the “sandiest-yellowish-brownest” creature in the High Veldt, it was difficult for the other animals to get away from him since they can not see him. The Leopard also hunted in the High Veldt with an Ethiopian man and they would both easily catch the other animals since the Ethiopian had his bows and arrows and the Leopard had his teeth and claws.
One day, the other animals decided to move away from the High Veldt and traveled for many days to find a place to hide in. The animals finally find a great forest that was full of bushes and trees with stripy, speckled, and blotchy colors. The animals soon start to change their colors such as, the Zebra gaining stripes on his skin and the Giraffe gaining blotches on his skin and the animals became more harder to see since they blend so well with the environment around them. The animals were so happy in their new home since the Leopard and the Ethiopian could no longer harm them.
Meanwhile, the Leopard and the Ethiopian were trying to find the other animals at the High Veldt but could not find them. At last, they were so hungry that they ended up eating rats and beetles and rock-rabbits and ended up having huge stomach-aches. The Leopard and the Ethiopian them meet up with Baviaan, the wisest animal in South Africa and ask him about where all the other animals have gone to. Baviaan tells them that the other animals have gone into other spots and tells the Leopard that he should go into spots too and then tells the Ethiopian that the animals have change themselves and that he should change too. Even though the Leopard and the Ethiopian were both confused by this advice, they went out to find the other animals. They traveled for days until they came to the same forest that the other animals were hiding in and they tried to find the other animals but they could not see them. So, both the Leopard and the Ethiopian decided to stay overnight in order to continue searching for the other animals. Later on that night, the Leopard hears something moving in the bushes and jump on the creature. But even though the creature smelled like Zebra, felt like Zebra and kicked like Zebra, the Leopard could not understand what the creature is and decides to sit on its head until morning. Presently, the Ethiopian starts fighting with another creature in the darkness and tells the Leopard that it smells like Giraffe and kicks like Giraffe but that it does not have any form. The Leopard then tells the Ethiopian to sit on its head until morning and so both hunters sat on each creature’s head until morning.
When morning came, both the Leopard and the Ethiopian tried to figure out what they were sitting on and they find out that the creatures were none other than Zebra and Giraffe. The Leopard then asks Zebra how he has gotten so stripy and Zebra tells the Leopard to get off of him first so that he and Giraffe could show them how it is done. When the Leopard and the Ethiopian let them go, the Zebra and the Giraffe went into the forest and blended themselves against the colors of the trees and the bushes and both the Leopard and the Ethiopian could not see them.
The Ethiopian then recalls what Baviaan said and starts to change his skin color into a blackish color, while the Leopard watches in awe at this spectacle. The Ethiopian then convinces the Leopard to change his skin too by having spots on his skin and the Ethiopian then proceeds to make the Leopard’s spots by putting his black fingers on the Leopard’s skin. After the hunters changed their skin, they decide to hunt for Zebra and Giraffe and the story ends with saying that they lived happily ever after.
Danny Glover narrates the story with an African accent, making this story filled with an African culture feeling to the story. Also, Danny Glover’s narration is full of energy as he seems to be ecstatic about narrating this “Just So” story. Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s African influenced music is mostly filled with the vocal talents of each member and in perfect harmony, they create a soothing and energetic vocal sounding music that greatly enhances the African roots of the story. Lori Lohstoeter’s illustrations are beautiful and colorful as the illustrator masterfully illustrates each animal with vibrant colors, especially when they changed their colors. The illustrations that are the true highlights of this story are the images of the Leopard drawn as an extremely beautiful creature as he is mostly yellow at first and is more beautiful when his skin is full of purple and reddish spots. Also, the Ethiopian is drawn as a calm and chubby man and when he changes his colors, he becomes more vibrant as he gets darker.
The only problem I found with this story is that Danny Glover’s narration is a bit difficult to understand. Danny Glover sounds as if he has a sore throat when narrating this story as his voice tends to give out on him at certain times such as, when he was describing the animals in the High Veldt and you can barely hear the words “Eland” and “Hartebeest” since his voice gets soft at these words.
“How the Leopard Got His Spots” is another classic from the “Just So Stories” collection and is truly a memorizing story about going through changes in life. This story is probably the most energetic and attractive of the four “Just So Stories” introduced on Rabbit Ears and is surely to delight children ages eight and up.
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Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8