Once upon a time, there was a magical forest. Many animals lived in this forest, and for the most part, they lived in relative harmony. Some animals didn’t get along so well with others, and sometimes there were fights, but mostly, the animals all agreed to live together without eating one another (though it did sometimes happen!)
However, some animals were treated a little differently by the others – the ladybugs. Most animals didn’t dislike ladybugs. In fact, most of them quite liked ladybugs, especially the very beautiful ones. Most of the animals liked to watch the ladybugs and liked it very much when ladybugs paid attention to them. In fact, sometimes, the other animals would get quite upset if the ladybugs did not pay attention to them. In any case, most animals were quite happy for ladybugs to live with them in the forest, and thought that they treated ladybugs very well.
But many animals did not feel very good when ladybugs did the things that the other animals did. It was thought that every animal had their own place, and ladybugs were there to be very beautiful, a job that many of them did very well. The other animals thought that it was not right for ladybugs to do the work of owls, or mice, or elephants, and that they should be happy simply being very beautiful.
Now, one of the things that the animals liked to do very much was to put on plays for the other animals to enjoy. They had a stage built of branches and vines set up in the middle of the forest, and occasionally, they would put on a show. Most of these plays were very exciting, full of gnashing teeth and gleaming claws. There was a time, quite a while ago, when plays were only enjoyed by a few animals, and others thought that they were silly. But, over time, most animals came to agree that the plays were quite good entertainment indeed.
Not all of the animals were happy that others were enjoying the plays, though. Least of all, the gators. They always felt that the plays were made specifically for gators and should only be about things that gators enjoyed.
“How dare they enjoy our plays?” the gators would ask, “They used to think that they were silly! Every animal has their place, and plays are for gators. Other animals should do their own thing, and leave the plays for us!”
After plays became more popular, there were a lot more plays being made, and some of them were quite different to the ones that gators were used to enjoying. Of course, there were still plenty of very exciting plays full of gnashing teeth and gleaming claws, so the gators were still fairly happy.
But then, one day, the unthinkable happened – a group of ladybugs decided to put on a play.
Lots of ladybugs very much enjoyed the exciting plays that the gators liked, but some of them also thought that there were lots of different plays that they could make about lots of different things, not just gnashing teeth and gleaming claws. If they used their imagination, they might even be able to come up with something that nobody else had seen before!
So the ladybugs used their imaginations and put on a play that most animals agreed was very unique indeed. Not everyone enjoyed it, but many did, and some of the animals reviewed it very well.
The gators, however, were very, very angry.
“That was not a very good play at all!” one insisted.
“Where were the gnashing teeth?” another demanded.
“Where were the gleaming claws?” asked another.
“How could anybody give that play a good review?” asked a fourth, “Plays are for gators, and that was not the kind of play that gators enjoy at all. That was a very bad play. Nobody should have enjoyed that!”
As the days went on, things only got worse for the poor gators. Some animals even began to ask whether plays should really be made just for gators to enjoy. Maybe plays should be for everybody, not just gators. That way, everybody could enjoy them, gators included.
Unfortunately, the gators only saw this as a threat.
“But plays are for gators!” they insisted, “They used to call our plays silly. They always hated plays and now they want to stop us from enjoying them too.”
The gators agreed that something must be done to stop the other animals from changing the way that they made and enjoyed plays. After all, every animal has their place. They should all go off and do their own thing and leave the plays to gators. “Most of all, those ladybugs. They do not make very good plays at all.”
They built a clubhouse in the forest where all the gators went every day to decide what was to be done about this new problem.
One day, a visitor came to the gators’ clubhouse. He was a snake. The gators were wary about listening to someone who was not a gator, but they paid attention and found that the snake had some things to say that they found very, very interesting indeed.
“I know sssecretsss,” the snake hissed, “There is a conssssspiracy.”
According to the snake, the gators were right. Nobody could possibly enjoy a ladybug play, so it was very suspicious indeed that many animals had thought highly of it. The snake told them that he knew the ladybug who had written the horrid play, and he thought that she was not a very nice ladybug at all. It was a fact that many animals enjoyed getting attention from pretty ladybugs. What if the ladybugs had paid extra special attention to animals who agreed to review their play very well?
“This is a conspiracy!” the gators cried, “Those ladybugs have always complained about not being treated fairly, even though we think they are very beautiful! Every animal has their job to do, and a ladybug’s job is to be very beautiful and pay us attention. Our job is to make and enjoy plays. Not only do they not pay enough attention to us, but now they also want to take away our plays!”
As this conversation was happening, however, they were unaware that a suspicious gazelle was eavesdropping nearby. He approached the gators’ clubhouse now, even though gators were extra specially wary of gazelles.
“Wait just one moment,” the gazelle said, “Is it not true, Mr Snake, that you have run afoul of forest law? If I remember correctly, you have been very mean to ladybugs and the law has ruled that you’re not supposed to talk about them anymore.”
“Jussst another victim of the conssssspiracy,” the snake hissed, narrowing his eyes. “The ladybugsss know that I know their sssecretsss. They want to sssilence me. That is why I cannot tell you any ssspecificsss. But if I have the law reversssed, then I can tell you everything you need to know to ssstop the ladybugsss from taking away your playsss. In order to do that, however, I will need lotsss and lotsss of acornsss.”
(Acorns were what they used in the forest instead of money).
“Good. Shut up, gazelle,” the gators replied, “You probably want to take away our plays too. Mr Snake, we will give you all the acorns you need so that you can help us fight the ladybugs. This is a culture war! We will put every animal back in their place so that we can enjoy our plays in peace. Especially ladybugs.”
“Exsssselent,” the snake grinned, and slithered away back into the forest.
Over the next few weeks, the gators began to take action. They held protests to raise awareness of the ladybug conspiracy. But they insisted that this was not only about gators, although gators were treated very unfairly indeed. They wanted to warn other animals, too, that the ladybugs were way out of line. It was, after all, a fact that most other animals liked it very much when ladybugs paid attention to them, especially the very beautiful ones. If ladybugs started wanting something in return for their attention, then they might start ruining the things that other animals enjoyed, too!
Some of the other animals agreed with the gators. There were also some who disagreed very strongly. Many did not listen to the gators’ protests at all, thinking that gators and their plays were not very important issues in the forest.
In fact, there were even some ladybugs who agreed with the gators. One ladybug named Christina agreed with them very much indeed, and the gators often placed her at the front of their protests, because they thought that people would be more willing to listen to a ladybug.
“Gators enjoy exciting plays full of gnashing teeth and gleaming claws,” Christina announced, “That is what gators are like. Why should gators act against their nature? Every animal has its place. A ladybug’s job is to be very beautiful and to pay other animals attention, so that other animals can be happier doing their own jobs! Ladybugs who do not to their job properly are not very happy at all. They must hate other animals very much!”
“Christina is a very good ladybug,” the gators said, “She believes in true equality among all animals, because she understands that every animal has their place and every animal’s job is equally important. A ladybug’s job is to be very beautiful and pay us attention. That is an important job too! If ladybugs want to make and enjoy plays as well, then they must want to be even more important than any other animal!”
The gators appreciated Christina’s help so much that they paid her many acorns to speak on their behalf and praise their cause.
The gators’ protests began to grow, with many other animals showing up to give them support. Many of these animals did not care very much about plays at all, in fact more than a few thought that plays were silly, but they had their own complaints about ladybugs. The gators decided that making their group larger to stop the ladybugs was more important, and besides, by accepting many different animals, nobody could argue that the gators were not being inclusive.
But one day, the gators noticed that there was one animal showing up at their protests who some of them were not too happy to see. He was a rat, who went by the name Ratsh V, and he was not a very nice creature at all.
When he added his own voice, Ratsh V suggested that they should only allow the very most beautiful ladybugs to live in the forest, and all the rest should be driven away. Not just that, but the other animals should take all of the acorns away from the ladybugs and force them to do their job and give other animals attention. Furthermore, there should be no law against doing harm to a ladybug, because ladybugs were all liars and criminals.
Many gators were uncomfortable with Ratsh V speaking at their protests, as they felt that his ideas were far too extreme. But other gators disagreed.
“That is what a gazelle would say,” they said, “We may not agree with everything that he says, but the important thing is that he agrees with us that ladybugs should not be allowed to mess with our plays. Besides, every animal has their place. He is a rat, and being a vile rodent is his job, and he does his job very well. And he has many rat friends who can help us spread the word!”
So the gators allowed Ratsh V to join their cause, and some even began to agree with him and pay him acorns to help spread the word about ladybugs and their conspiracy.
One day, the gators had another visitor to their clubhouse. He was a weasel, wearing a nice suit and carrying a camera around his neck. He introduced himself as a journalist, and said that he was very interested in their cause.
“I have always suspected that those ladybugs were up to something!” he exclaimed, “I agree that every animal has their place, and it is time that those ladybugs go back to doing what they’re supposed to do. In fact, I suspect that some of those ladybugs weren’t even born ladybugs! They merely painted themselves up with spots! I will expose these liars and help spread the word in my newspaper. You will have to pay me many acorns, of course.”
But that suspicious gazelle was listening again. He knew that he had seen this weasel somewhere before.
“Excuse me, Mr Weasel,” the gazelle said, “Is it not true that you have printed many articles in your newspaper about how you think that gators are losers and that plays are silly?”
“I cannot deny that,” the weasel replied, “But once I saw that they were paying acor- I mean, once I saw that the gators were being victimized by those wretched ladybugs, I realized that gators are not so bad after all! And I actually came to like their plays very much. In fact, you can say that I am now a big fan of plays.”
“Yes, shut up, gazelle,” the gators said, “Mr Weasel, most of the media is already part of the ladybug conspiracy and they want to take away our plays. We need your help! We will pay you many acorns.”
“Great!” the weasel replied, “In fact, I believe I will write a book about this! I trust that you will all buy a copy!” With that, he skipped merrily back into the forest.
Now the gators believed that their cause was doing very well indeed. And they continued to get many new visitors to their clubhouse, many of whom had some very useful and interesting skills to offer. Although, they did begin to notice that their supply of acorns was starting to get smaller. But they knew that the fight against the ladybugs would not come cheap!
One day, a gorilla even showed up at their door. He was a very intimidating fellow indeed! But he introduced himself as a lawyer, and said that he agreed with their campaign against ladybugs and could offer them good advice from his gorilla mindset.
“First of all, if you want to stand up against ladybugs, you need to be big and strong, like me!” the gorilla boasted. “You may have gnashing teeth and gleaming claws, but you spend too much time watching plays and not enough time working out! The reason ladybugs want to take your plays away is because you are too scrawny. Ladybugs always do what I say and pay me lots of attention, because I am a big, strong, alpha male silverback. If you pay me lots of acorns, I will teach you how to be strong, too!”
“Great!” the gators said, “And it is good to have a lawyer on our side! In fact, we met a snake who needs a lawyer so that he can tell us more about the ladybug conspiracy! We have paid him many acorns, maybe if you find him, you can get some acorns too!”
“That’s great!” the gorilla exclaimed, and he strutted back into the forest, flexing his gorilla arms.
The next day, a turkey pecked on the door of the gators’ clubhouse. He told them that he was a big fan of gators’ plays and that he, too, was sick of ladybugs trying to ruin everything in the forest and replace it with stupid ladybug stuff.
The turkey had a big idea, though. He would write and perform a spectacular documentary play that would expose the ladybug conspiracy once and for all! All of the animals in the forest would see it! The ladybugs would be finished! The only problem was that this project would cost thousands of acorns a month. But he assured the gators that he could dig up enough dirt on the ladybugs to shut down their plans.
“Well, we’re starting to run a little low on acorns,” the gators admitted, “But you sound like a trustworthy fellow! We will give you all the acorns you need to make your wonderful play!”
“That is excellent news!” the turkey replied, “Also, you should meet my partner!”
The turkey introduced his partner, a white rhino with a tiny goatee beard, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and carrying a glass of scotch and a small, plastic skull.
“I have many opinions that you would like to hear!” he said.
“Hooray!” the gators exclaimed.
Soon after that, a group of honey badgers appeared at the gators’ clubhouse.
“We have a clubhouse of our own!” they said, “And we have known about the ladybug conspiracy for much longer than you have. Those darn ladybugs have had everyone fooled for years. Just because they are very beautiful, they think that they should rule the forest, and they want all the other animals to worship them, even when they’re not doing their job! Every animal has their place, and we should not be ruled by ladybugs!”
The gators decided that the honey badgers were right. This was much bigger than just being about gators and their plays. They must stop the ladybugs from taking over the whole forest! If that happened, then ladybugs would never need to do their job of being very beautiful and giving attention to other animals. In fact, the other animals would have to do their jobs even harder, while only ladybugs would be allowed to put on plays, and all the plays would be about stupid ladybug stuff that nobody cared about. The horror!
“We tried to infiltrate the ladybugs’ clubhouse,” the honey badgers confided, “We painted ourselves all up in spots. But when we tried to speak out against the ladybug conspiracy, they threw us out for bullying! We only care about equality for all animals, and that means making sure every animal knows that they have their place, especially ladybugs. We know you agree with us, so we have come to ask for help. We need many acorns so that we can hire a lawyer to fight the ladybug menace!”
“Well, we know a lawyer,” the gators replied, “But he is probably busy helping our snake friend. So, even though our acorn pile is getting very small, we will give you acorns to fight this good fight!”
“Thank you very much!” the honey badgers replied, and they took their acorns back into the forest.
Now, some very terrible things were happening in the magical forest by now. Ever since the gators’ campaign started, things had become dangerous for the ladybugs. For you see, a pack of wolves had emerged from the forest, and they were attacking ladybugs wherever they found them. Many ladybugs decided that it was best to hide so that they didn’t get swallowed up, and many of the other animals grew angry with the gators.
When the gators heard the news, they were offended that so many animals would think that gators had anything to do with wolf attacks!
“We do not agree with wolf attacks!” the gators cried, “In fact, it is well known that wolves hate gators too. But then, if ladybugs do not want to get attacked by wolves, maybe they should go back to doing what they are supposed to do and stop raising a fuss. Every animal has its place, and wolves are just doing what wolves do. You should stay out of their way. If ladybugs want to be treated equal with other animals, maybe they should learn to fight wolves. We suspect that most ladybugs are just lying about wolf attacks for sympathy, anyway.”
Many animals were not satisfied by this, and they decided to hunt down the wolves. What they found out was quite surprising – the leader of the wolf pack was a single toad!
Sadly, the toad was very sick, and had never been able to hop. Because of this, he had never been able to work and could not earn acorns on his own. But he was quite wily, this toad, and he figured out that he could earn many acorns by loaning his home to wolves.
These wolves did very, very terrible things. Not only did they enjoy attacking ladybugs for fun, but they also enjoyed sharing some very bad pictures of some very wrong things, and many of those pictures were of very young cubs. But when this became known, the wily toad knew how to reply.
“I might not agree with what these wolves do in my home, but it is the only way that I can earn acorns to survive. Every animal has their place, and terrible things are just what wolves do. We should let them be wolves, and stay out of their way. Besides, if you know that wolves are sharing these very bad pictures, then you must have been looking for them, and that means that you must like them too!”
The gators were very pleased with this. “How can ladybugs be so nasty as to try to take acorns away from a poor toad who cannot even hop? This just shows how evil and wrong the ladybugs are!”
The gators decided that anyone who did not agree with gators must agree with wolves, and must also enjoy looking at very bad pictures of very wrong things. The toad received many acorns for understanding every animal has a right to do what they do, and for giving wolves the freedom to do their job.
Many animals were still uneasy, but the gorilla lawyer was very keen to represent the toad, and received many acorns for doing so.
The turkey and the white rhino continued to receive many acorns every month, and they felt that their grand play was going very well. They interviewed the honey badgers, the toad, the weasel and the snake, and they all very satisfactorily declared that they did not like ladybugs very much at all. In fact, they even managed to interview a vulture, who thought that plays were extremely stupid and tried to have them banned from the forest, but the vulture also disliked ladybugs. Surely, if the vulture disliked ladybugs, this proved that ladybugs were even worse than the vulture!
But things began to go wrong. Other animals decided that they wanted to see what their acorns were paying for, and so the turkey and the white rhino began to show sneak previews of their upcoming play. It was a disaster! The turkey showed up on stage with his feathers all mussed up and read all his lines from a sheet of paper, and the white rhino tried to push his way into every scene so that everyone could see how nice his turtleneck was. There didn’t seem to be any reason for all those skulls at all!
The animals who had paid thousands of acorns for this fabulous play became uneasy, and the turkey grew angry. Why should anyone care about proper lighting and production value when they were revealing the truth about the ladybug conspiracy?
As their grand play progressed, the turkey became even more uncomfortable as his partner, the white rhino, started to bring his friends into the project: The white tiger, the white cockatoo, and the great white shark.
Of course, the white rhino was just as opposed to ladybugs as the turkey was, so his other politics should not matter. But the last straw was when the white rhino introduced the turkey to their new partner – none other than Ratsh V!
“I am excited to join this project to help us finally enslave all those nasty ladybugs!” the rat said.
“Now look here,” said the turkey, “I do not agree with this! You are driving this project astray, white rhino. I only want to stop the ladybugs from taking over the forest, not enslave them! And we are running out of acorns already! You wasted so many acorns buying a car! Why do you even need a car in the forest?”
“Oh, turkey,” the white rhino chuckled, “You sound like a gazelle! Are you taking the ladybugs’ side? I think you’re just upset that ladybugs don’t pay any attention to you, not even the not-so-beautiful ones. Ladybugs always pay attention to me, because I am a mighty rhino, and more importantly, white! It is probably better that I take all of the acorns and finish this play on my own!”
The turkey did not want to miss out on acorns, and it was more important to fight the ladybugs anyway, so he agreed to do whatever the white rhino said from then on. And so they finished their grand play and presented it in front of a small audience.
It was a very bad play.
And things were beginning to look quite dire within the gators’ clubhouse. The gators observed that, not only had the ladybugs not yet surrendered, but it seemed like even more animals were turning against the gators! The ladybugs were putting on more plays, and animals were enjoying them and reviewing them well, even though the gators knew that no ladybug could ever make a play that anyone could enjoy.
They knew they needed to protest even harder to get the other animals to agree with them, and that it would take even more acorns.
But when the gators turned to their acorn pile… there were no acorns to be seen!
The ladybugs must have stolen all of the acorns!
Meanwhile, there was a great disturbance in the forest. For many years, a cult of cockroaches had lived in their very own clubhouse, and the clubhouse had become very large. The cockroaches did not get along very well with other animals, but what they hated more than anything else were very large animals. Cockroaches were quite small creatures, and large animals filled them with rage. Especially large ladybugs! Because they knew that every animal had their place, and ladybugs were supposed to be very small and dainty.
Most animals were fine with the cockroaches, as long as they stayed in their clubhouse. But this was not enough for the cockroaches! Their favorite pastime was to rush out of their clubhouse at night, swarm over any animal larger than themselves, and poop all over them. They were a menace! The animals decided one day that the cockroaches should not be allowed to have their own clubhouse, and so they burned it to the ground.
The cockroaches were insane with anger! Where would they go? It wasn’t long before they discovered that there was still room in the gators’ clubhouse, and so thousands of cockroaches showed up at the gators’ door and asked to be let in.
The gators were astonished at their new arrivals, but they were also wary, for many gators were quite large, themselves. But the gators knew that every animal had their place, and pooping all over large animals is just what cockroaches do. So they welcomed thousands of new members to their anti-ladybug club. Surely all these cockroaches had plenty of new acorns to add to their pile – maybe this was the miracle they had been waiting for!
So the gators, most excited, threw a party to welcome all of their newest members and to celebrate the downfall of those dastardly ladybugs. But as the revelry increased, the gators slowly began to realize that they had a new problem.
Whenever a gator wanted to talk about how to defeat the ladybugs, the cockroaches would talk over them and insist that a much worse problem in the forest was that there were so many very large animals!
The gators had insisted that anyone who wanted to join their clubhouse was welcome, as long as they did not agree with ladybugs taking over the forest. But as the gators looked over their very diverse club, they were downhearted to see that there were very few gators to be found. They could only see honey badgers, weasels, toads, snakes, gorillas, turkeys, rats, wolves, vultures, thousands of cockroaches, and one very loud ladybug who kept on insisting that the time of the ladybugs was at an end. Every animal had their place.
That very same day, ladybugs put on another play, and it was quite well enjoyed by most animals. There were still plenty of plays to be seen, and most of them were very exciting, with lots of gnashing teeth and gleaming claws, but the gators couldn’t enjoy them so much as they used to. Gators weren’t sure that they liked plays very much anymore.