Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A fable from Aesop

I'm having a bit of a crazy week, preparing to change jobs, trying to sell a car and getting ready for a houseguest and big social weekend, so this is not the post I had intended. Instead, that one will hopefully come next week.

In the meantime, I thought I would share one of my favourite books: the magnificently illustrated Unwitting wisdom: an anthology of Aesop's animal fables. These 12 classics are retold and illustrated by Helen Ward in what is one of the most beautiful books in my collection, given to me by a very special friend.

Incredibly, these simple stories are more than 2,500 years old, and the wry humour and often probing insights into the human condition have entertained countless generations (at least until the advent of Nintendo, X-box, and Wii....)

Helen Ward herself opens the book with the following insight:
To Aesop and all tellers of moral tales who, despite a monumental ineffective history, still gently try to point the human race in a better direction.

Anyway, today I thought I would share one of them and have chosen this one more based on its length than the moral of the story ... although it has a biting moral lesson nonetheless.

Sour grapes
- in which a fox tries to hide his disappointment with insults

There once was a bunch of particularly fine grapes hanging temptingly from a vine that had wound its way up a tree. And as is usual with such unguarded temptations, there was soon also a fox.

The tantalising fruits hung just a little higher than the fox could reach but he would not be thwarted.

He leapt as high as he could, twising in the morning light, his jaws clapping shut on air and flies and dust until his teeth hurt. He tried to climb the tree but the trunk was too straight, the bark too smooth, the first branch too high. Everything about the tree was unhelpful. It refused to so much as twitch a twig when he tried to shake it.

The fox found a long cane and tried to prod the grapes from their vine, but the cane snapped. He threw and kicked sticks and stones at the vine, but the grapes were determined to stay put. Their sweet smell drifted amoung the branches, wasps and butterflies few by with casual ease, while on the ground below, the fox lay panting and exhausted.

Not even a few moments' patience solved the fox's problem. By the evening, the dark fruits hung as resolutely from the vine as they had that morning.

The shadows had lengthened by the time the fox finally turned his back on the grapes, muttering to himself that they were undoubtedly
the nastiest
most horrid
disgusting, revolting
inedible, indigestible
and very probably the sourest grapes he had ever had the pleasure of NOT eating!

Moral: It is easy to despise what you cannot obtain.


Bec said...

As a child, I had a book of fables (alas I no longer have it..) and this one about the fox and the grapes always stayed with me so vividly. I absolutely love moral fables - they have always resonated with me in a particularly special way. No sure why. I guess they speak volumes about the human condition, and that is something I have always found to be absolutely fascinating....

...good luck with all the job stuff, car stuff, and having fun stuff! It all sounds very exciting :)

Carla Sonheim said...

I have always loved fables... thank you for the book recommendation... I will definitely put it on my wish list!! Hope you are well...

raych said...

Oh, I love me some Aesop's.

'And as is usual with such unguarded temptations, there was soon also a fox.' Hilarious and brilliant, no?