Ancient fossils show that crabs used to have ten fingers, instead of two claws. The fingers were similar in shape to yours, long and thin with three sections connected by three joints. Why the fingers evolved into claws remained a mystery for a very long time, until the world’s brightest marine biologists put their minds to it. After years of studies, they all came to the same conclusion. Claws had developed to crack open clams, one of the most abundant sources of food in coastal areas. But one day, a scuba diver hunting for octopus discovered an underwater cave. Deep in the cave, he found an ancient manuscript, probably left behind by mermaids in ages past. The manuscript tells a much more interesting tale.
At the beginning of time, crabs indeed had ten fingers. It made them very dexterous with their hands. In fact, they were the most dexterous animals in the entire Ocean Kingdom (other than the mermaids, of course). They used their little hands to do many things, such as weaving nets from seaweed and making sharp spikes to protect their homes from preying octopus.
When they weren’t gathering food or sleeping, crabs spent most of their time drawing. Yes, that’s right, they were excellent artists. Sandy beaches provided an endless canvas for elaborate designs. Some were collections of harmonious geometrical patterns. Others told the ancient stories of the Ocean Kingdom. Some were masterpieces, like “The Battle of Poseidon”. Visitors would travel thousands of miles from all seven seas to see it. It was an exquisite design, depicting Poseidon’s victorious battle over the Krakens, huge, terrible sea monsters which had ruled the Northern Seas. It was such a magnificent work of art that a pod of whales once got stuck on the shallow reefs, attracted by its beauty.
Each crab colony had different styles, depending on their inspiration and materials at hand. Tropical crabs used carefully selected coral branches as their preferred drawing tool. Nordic crabs used razor-sharp codfish bones. Most colonies also enriched their designs with objects such as seaweed, seashells or pebbles of all different shapes and colors.
Poseidon himself, ruler of the Ocean Kingdom, sometimes visited the crabs’ work. Few marine species, other than the mermaids, had developed any form of art. Mermaids made beautiful sculptures, but these could only been found deep in the ocean. Crab drawings, on the other hand, were visible to birds and all the land-based creatures. Poseidon received many compliments from other kings on the beauty of the crabs’ drawings. They became a source of pride for the entire Ocean Kingdom.
With the fame, the crabs themselves grew very proud. Too proud. They had decided, on their own accord, to control access to every beach in the world. Beaches were declared “Protected Zones for Ocean Kingdom Art”. To visit the beaches, animals now had to pay a fee in the form of food to the crabs. Pride had turned into greed. The crabs developed sophisticated weapons with their dexterous hands, and would threaten anyone who didn’t pay.
Poseidon first heard of this from a sea turtle, which he had found crying in the deep. “The crabs have taken over all the world’s beaches, and we turtles have nowhere to freely lay our eggs”, she sobbed. “The crabs are making us pay for nesting space”. The laws of the Ocean Kingdom ordained that the sea, including beaches, should be free for all to enjoy. Poseidon threw a fit of rage. To punish the crabs, he immediately unleashed storms to wash away the beach drawings. But the crabs were resilient, and immediately got to work on new designs. They only became more greedy, and increased the price of beach visits.
Poseidon had enough. He shook his golden trident to the heavens, and cursed the crabs for their greed. “For a million years, your masterful hands will become large clumsy claws”. All of a sudden, the crabs couldn’t draw anymore. They couldn’t use their weapons or weave their fishing nets. They became easy prey for birds and fish. They realized they had become too greedy, and begged Poseidon to give them back their hands. But Poseidon’s curse couldn’t be reversed. They had to wait a million years.
Till this day, most crabs are still terrified of Poseidon’s anger. They live deep in their holes on the beach, only coming out at dusk to search for food. However, the crabs never completely abandoned their art. They learned to use their claws to decorate their underground galleries, far away from Poseidon’s vengeful eyes. Waves don’t wash the drawings away anymore, but no one can admire them. They look forward to the time when Poseidon’s curse will break, so that they can decorate the beach again. This time, for free and for all to enjoy.