Once upon a mid-day down under, in a radiant riverbed, a perplexed platypus woke up not knowing who or what he was. When he yawned, he thought he was a leopard. When he breathed, he feared he would spew fire like a dragon. When he leaped up he thought he was a Mexican jumping bean. The platypus wanted to solve this puzzling predicament, so he set off on a quest to discover his true identity. He looked at the birds with their fabulous wings, and the fish with their magnificent gills, and wondered if he could be any one of these. He asked the locals, and pointed at himself. "Do you know who I am?"

"Bodgy barnacles!" Mrs. Kangaroo shrieked. "You are one odd bird!!" and jumped off with her joey in sheer horror. The platypus was enchanted with this newfound information, and set off to a nearby bird colony.

The birds were busy giving their young flying lessons.

"Mrs. Kangaroo told me I'm a bird," said the platypus, "so here I am."

The leader of the flock looked right through him for a second, then declared with great dignity, "Well, he does have a beak. Flying lessons are now in order. Come join us and help us train our young, odd one!"

The platypus, eager to be of use, used his claws to climb up into the tree and then he poised himself for the big take-off. The leader blew a whistle, and at the sound, they all took off faster then you could say "Bob's-yer-uncle." The platypus plummeted pathetically, and decided then and there that being a bird was strictly for the birds. The fowls told him he was fishy. Undeterred, he headed back to the riverbank to find his kind. He swam around in the water and found a school of fish. The platypus extended his webbed paws as evidence of kinship. The leader fish glanced him over skeptically, but concluded, "If you can swim with us, you're OK."

He swam like an Olympic swim champion, and they got along like old friends. He was able to dig up good worms and food for them all using his trusty beak, but he kept having to go up for air. When night came, and the fish went to the river bottom to sleep, the platypus could not sleep underwater.

"You're not a fish," the leader fish concluded after giving it much thought. "That tail of yours, the fur, the fleas on your back, no doubt about it, you're one of those dang beavers."

The platypus was discouraged, and hesitantly searched for some beavers. When he finally found some, they were constructing a dam. A ray of hope entered the mind of the platypus, for they had similar physical characteristics, the tails, the fur, the fleas--surely these were his kin. He immediately began helping them take down a tree for a dam. But he only gnawed helplessly on the bark with his soft bill.

The foreman beaver sighed and said, "Where's your utensil?"

The platypus blinked. "Huh?"

"The tooth. Where is it?" He shook his head. "It should stick out right here, where you got this abnormal protrusion." He ran his paw over the platypus's beak. "You're in need of cosmetic dentistry. Why don't you head on over to the Elder Echidna Shaman...he should know the procedure required to remove this indignity and restore your implement."

The platypus started walking sadly back home, when he plummeted into a seemingly endless pit. When he landed with a plop, there, in a tunnel lit by glowworms, stood the Elder Echidna Shaman. He was covered in spines; he stood on clawed paws, and his beak was as long as the platypus's tail. He carried a huge wooden staff. The elder looked at him with soul searching eyes.

"Who are you?" asked the Elder Echidna.

"I don't know," said the platypus. "The birds told me I was a fish, and the fish told me I was a beaver, and the beavers told me I needed cosmetic dentistry. I just want to fit in and be of some use to the world, but I'm afraid there is nothing I can do properly."

"But there is plenty you can do properly," said the Elder Echidna. "You've been going about this identity search the wrong way. Just look in this nifty pool of water I got right here."

The platypus examined his reflection.

"I look a little like you," said the platypus, "but my beak is round and I don't have spines."

"Don't look to others to decide what you are," said the Echidna, "Look to yourself. You are what you are. You don't need plastic surgery; you are a multi-talented being. You can use that webbing to swim, you can climb with your claws, you can dig for food with your beak, and your species can lay eggs. Your fur is warmer than feathers. You can do almost anything the others can do, within certain limitations. To top that, you're an irreplaceable link in that whole chain of life thingy."

"Why didn't I know this before?" asked the platypus.

The Elder Echidna thought for a moment. "Excuse me for a second there, mate. I need to go and meditate about that!" When he returned, he said, "I had a vision. You were hit on the head by a boomerang, and your memories departed, but like a boomerang, your memories will return. They just need some jogging." With that, he took his staff and touched it to the platypus' head.

The platypus immediately remembered his name (which happened to be Plavin) and how to get back to the Platypus tribe. When he got home, he was sure of who he was, and where he belonged.

Moral: Don't look to others to find out who you are; look to yourself.