Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lafontaine's Fable: The Stag Who Saw His Reflection in the Pool

The Stag Who Saw His Reflection in the Pool

In a deep crystalline pool of water a stag gazed
lovingly at his own reflection.
The beauty of his antler array  
impressed him.
But his slender legs
vanishing in the water
tortured his inner thoughts.

He vainly stood  there  
in satisfied self-regard.
Only his slender legs did not speak to
what a fine fellow he was.
“What dumb luck!” said he
“that I should bear such branches on my proud head,
as if I had robbed a tree, yet
my legs are spindle-thin!”
While the stag was thus complaining bitterly
came panting a wild hunting dog.
The stag by running into the
wooded preserve thought to save himself.
But his antler piece – treacherous ornamentation –
stopped him in his tracks.
His legs would save his life,
but his antlers became tangled  in the bush,
where he did curse aloud those very gifts,
that heaven had bestowed so plenteously year for year.

Beauty corrupts; what is useful we forget.
We call marvelous what brings us down.
The stag abjures his legs that make him mobile.
It’s his antlers, he thinks, that make him noble.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fables, a Type of Fairy Tale New Year's Resolution

Fable of the Lion and Mouse
A small act of kindness is often received with enormous gratitude, as this fable teaches.

A lion once lay sleeping in the forest when a group of mice were frolicking merrily. One fell on the lion causing him to awake abruptly. The lion snatched the poor mouse enraged. But the mouse cried, “Spare my life!” for he hadn’t strayed near the sleeping lion intentionally. He had been playing with the other mice and they had all quite forgotten themselves.  The lion reflected and came to the conclusion that a small imposition from a little mouse was nothing to get excited about, so he let the creature go. The mouse promptly ran away in gratitude.
A few days later the lion fell into the net of a hunter. When he realized his end was near, he roared and bellowed and howled. Soon, the little mouse heard him, came running and gazed on the accident that had befallen the lion. But when the mouse recognized the lion he said “I will reward your prior kindness to me.” And he immediately began to gnaw on the ropes and break the knots of the netting, so that the lion was soon free and could return to the forest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fresh Starts and False Starts in the New Year: A Viper in the Smithy's Shop

Aesop’s Fable No. 19: Tale of the Viper and the File 

Moral: This fable teaches caution in handling sharp-toothed objects.

A hungry viper went to a smithy’s forge, where he found a sharp-toothed file, which he promptly began to gnaw upon. The file spoke to the little snake: “Oh you silly one! What are you doing? Do you want to ruin your teeth completely?  Don’t you know that I, with my sharp little teeth, can destroy the strongest, hardest iron? And you want to gnaw on me? One can only laugh at such false starts!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fairy Tale of the Beggar Woman and the Fire

(Pablo Picasso, Weeping Woman with Handkerchief, 1937)

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 150: The Old Beggar Woman

There once lived an old woman, surely you have seen this type of person begging?
When the old woman went out crying for alms, if she received something, she said to her benefactor, “May God give you your just reward.” Now the beggar woman arrived at the door of a rapscallion, a young chap warming himself by the fire. The fellow greeted the woman friendly enough and asked why the woman stood at the door shivering. “Come here, old mother and warm your bones.” She approached the fire but came too close so that her old rags began to burn, but she did not notice what had happened. The youth stood quietly, and saw it all. He should have done something! Even if he didn’t have any water, then he should have cried bitter tears so forcefully, that two watery streams flowed from his eyes to quench the fire.