The Happy Little Hermit Crab

One day, a sad little hermit crab realised his shell was too heavy and he just wanted to be free. So he got rid of his shell. Though his fragile body had never been exposed to the harsh sun, wind and sand for more than a few minutes when changing shells, he suddenly knew what freedom was.

The other hermits stared and taunted him, how could he think he would survive out of his shell? But the little crab walked away and never looked back.

He went inland, where the mythical, bullying land crabs lived. They made holes and were free of the burden of a shell. They lived in the moment, never worrying about their shelter being destroyed; they could always dig a new hole.

The little crab watched them and learned from them. He decided he would simply adapt to a life without a shell. He dug his first hole after spending a cold, scary first night outside, unsheltered.

The other land crabs watched sceptically, but went their own way, not really interested in the cooky little hermit.

His skin hardened as the days passed. He was getting better at digging holes and storing his food in a little storage hold at the bottom, where it would be safe even if the rest of his hole collapsed or filled with water.

As the moon changed, growing and retreating, the little crab changed, too. His back legs grew stronger and he was losing the dragging limp that made him stand out so much amongst the other land crabs. He was starting to fit in and forget about his previous life as a sheltered hermit.

Then the King Tide came.

He saw all the other land crabs running further inland, followed closely by all the hermits. If he stayed, he would surely drown. But if he left his hole, the other hermits would see him.

Waves started pouring into his hole and the little crab ran out, just missing another invasive splash.

When all the crabs were on safe higher ground, there was an unnatural silence. The little crab looked up to see all the hermits staring at him. The land crabs were also staring, amused by the odd meeting.

The hermits couldn’t believe their eyes. The little crab was hard and strong like the land crabs, but his long body would never look like the land crabs’ oval bodies.

After a few awkward moments, the land crabs lost interest, as did most of the hermits. But a few young hermits couldn’t stop watching this crab, now a myth himself, standing before them without a shell. A few grown hermits grunted their disapproval, prompting the kids to turn away, chastised.

After his initial fear and embarrassment, the little crab relaxed, a weight off his shoulders. He realised only then he had found true freedom, for although discarding his shell was the first step to liberty, the social pressures and expectations had been a heavier burden than the shell itself.

*

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