A group of American tourists were on safari in deepest Africa. In meeting some of the local tribesmen, the women on the tour were fascinated by the natives’ jewelry, especially the unusual kind of necklace worn only by the chieftain. “What’s that made of?” asked one of the women.

“Alligator teeth,” replied the chieftain.

“Oh,” said the woman breezily, “I suppose they have the same kind of value for you that pearls have for us.”

“Not quite,” scowled the chieftain. “Anyone can open an oyster!” 

Source | Unknown


A second version of the story

A snobbish tourist was visiting a small Australian village when he noticed a local man wearing a highly ornate necklace that featured 10 alligator teeth. He approached the man and in a condescending manner said, “Goodness, what a fancy necklace! I guess you people must value alligator teeth the same way my people value pearls.”

The man replied, “Well, anyone can open up an oyster.”

Source | Unknown


A third, longer version of the same story

A young man routinely wore a string of alligator teeth around his neck. Although many people wondered why he wore this string of alligator teeth, they were all reluctant to ask. Finally, one evening while attending a social gathering he was approached by a lady who was wearing a string of pearls around her neck. After introducing herself she said, “Young man if you don’t mind, will you tell me why you are wearing those alligator teeth around your neck?”

The young lad replied, “I don’t mind, but first, you are wearing a string of pearls around your neck.”

He went on to say, “Now to my understanding, pearls are made from oysters which are known to make their home in shallow waters. In order to manufacture pearls, one only has to step into the shallow waters and fish out the oysters. Regardless of the fishing method, there is no struggle —there is very little work involved. There is little or no sacrifice made to fish in shallow waters. in other words, it does not take very much effort to make what you are wearing — a string of pearls.”

The young lad went on to say: “On the other hand, just think of the effort involved in making this string of alligator teeth. I mean, there is hard work, sacrifice, extensive training, struggling — one has to wrestle with that alligator. But once all the wrestling is over and the string comes together, I can stand tall and wear my alligator teeth with pride and joy because of the labor and effort that went into making this string of alligator teeth.”

L. D. Ervin, Meditations and Reflections,
(Dorrance Publishing, 2008) pages 64-65


  • The great secret of life is how to survive struggle without succumbing to it, how to bear struggle without being defeated by it, how to come out of the struggle better than when we found ourselves in the midst of it. | Joan Chittister,  Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope  (Eerdmans, 2003) page 13

Author: philipchircop

I'm a Jesuit from Malta, an artist at heart and madly in love with all things beautiful and soulful: music, painting, sculpture, photography, film, theatre, poetry, good company, good food, good wine and more. I believe that beauty is a wonderful entry into the mystery of the God “whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” God can be sensed in all things if and when we engage in a long, loving look at the real that surrounds us. I consider myself a seeker with bottomless curiosity, an eternal student of life, exploring fresh and creative ways to proclaim the Good News in the hope of helping fellow pilgrims and seekers to embrace real and radical changes that will lead to conversion and transformation.

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