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VARIOUS TEXTS: THURBER - SEVERAL FABLES

The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Not very long ago there were two sheep who put on wolf's clothing and went among the wolves as spies, to see what was going on. They arrived on a fete day, when all the wolves were singing in the taverns or dancing in the street. The first sheep said to his companion, 'Wolves are just like us, for they gambol and frisk. Every day is fete day in Wolfland.' He made some notes on a piece of paper (which a spy should never do) and he headed them 'My twenty-four Hours in Wolfland', for he had decided not to be a spy any longer but to write a book on Wolfland and also some articles for the Sheep's Home Companion. The other sheep guessed what he was planning to do, so he slipped away and began to write a book called My Ten Hours in Wolfland. The first sheep suspected what was up when he found his friend had gone, so he wired a book to his publisher called My Five Hours in Wolfland, and it was announced for publication first. The other sheep immediately sold his manuscript to a newspaper syndicate for serialization.
Both sheep gave the same message to their fellows: wolves were just like sheep, for they gambolled and frisked, and every day was fete day in Wolfland. The citizens of Sheepland were convinced by all this, so they drew in their sentinels and they let down their barriers. When the wolves descended on them one night, howling and slavering, the sheep were as easy to kill as flies on a windowpane.

Moral: Don't get it right, just get it written.


The Peacelike Mongoose

In cobra country a mongoose was born one day who didn't want to fight cobras or anything else. The word spread from mongoose to mongoose that there was a mongoose who didn't want to fight cobras. If he didn't want to fight anything else, it was his own business, but it was the duty of every mongoose to kill cobras or be killed by cobras.
'Why?' asked the peacelike mongoose, and the word went around that the strange new mongoose was not only pro-cobra and anti-mongoose but intellectually curious and against the ideals and traditions of mongoosism.
'He is crazy,' cried the young mongoose father.
'He is sick,' said his mother.
'He is a coward,' shouted his brothers.
'He is a mongoosexual,' whispered his sisters.
Strangers who had never laid eyes on the peacelike mongoose remembered that they had seen him crawling on his stomach, or trying on cobra hoods, or plotting the violent overthrow of Mongoosia.
'I am trying to use reason and intelligence,' said the strange new mongoose.
'Reason is six-seventh of treason,' said one of his neighbours.
'Intelligence is what the enemy uses,' said another.
Finally the rumour spread that the mongoose had venom in his sting, like a cobra, and he was tried, convicted by a show of paws, and condemned to banishment.

Moral: Ashes to ashes, and clay to clay, if the enemy doesn't get you your own folks do.


The Fairly Intelligent Fly

A large spider in an old house built a beautiful web in which to catch flies. Every time a fly landed on the web and was entangled in it the spider devoured him, so that when another fly came along he would think the web was a safe and quiet place in which to rest.
One day a fairly intelligent fly buzzed around above the web so long without lighting that the spider appeared and said, 'Come on down.' But the fly was too clever for him and said, 'I never light where I don't see other flies and I don't see any other flies in your house.' So he flew away until he came to a place where there were a great many other flies. He was about to settle down among them when a bee buzzed up and said, 'Hold it, stupid, that's flypaper. All those flies are trapped.' 'Don't be silly,' said the fly, 'they're dancing.' So he settled down and became stuck to the flypaper with all the other flies.

Moral: There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.

The Bears and the Monkeys

In a deep forest there lived many bears. They spent the winter sleeping, and the summer playing leap-bear and stealing honey and buns from nearby cottages. One day a fast-talking monkey named Glib showed up and told them that their way of life was bad for bears. 'You are prisoners of pastime,' he said, 'addicted to leap-bear, and slaves of honey and buns.'
The bears were impressed and frightened as Glib went on talking. 'Your forebears have done this to you,' he said. Glib was so glib, glibber than the glibbest monkey they had ever seen before, that the bears believed he must know more than they knew, or than everybody else. But when he left, to tell other species what was the matter with them, the bears reverted to their fun and games and their theft of buns and honey.
Their decadence made them bright of eye, light of heart, and quick of paw, and they had a wonderful time, living as bears had always lived, until one day two of Glib's successors appeared, named Monkey Say and Monkey Do. They were even glibber than Glib, and they brought many presents and smiled all the time. 'We have come to liberate you from freedom,' they said. 'This is the New Liberation, twice as good as the old, since there are two of us.'
So each bear was made to wear a collar, and the collars were linked together with chains, and Monkey Do put a ring in the lead bear's nose, and a chain on the lead bear's ring. 'Now you are free to do what I tell you to do, ' said Monkey Do.
'Now you are free to say what I want you to say,' said Monkey Say. 'By sparing you the burden of electing you leaders, we save you from the dangers of choice. No more secret ballots, everything open and aboveboard.'
For a long time the bears submitted to their New Liberation, and chanted the slogan the monkeys had taught them: 'Why stand on your own two feet when you can stand on ours?'
Then one day they broke the chains of their new freedom and found their way back to the deep forest and began playing leap-bear again and stealing honey and buns from the nearby cottages. And their laughter and gaiety rang through the forest, birds that had ceased singing began singing again, and all the sounds of the earth were like music.

Moral: It is better to have the ring of freedom in your ears than in your nose.

Source: James Thurber, Stories and Fables - Hueber Verlag 1978


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