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Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, November 11, 2016

An Ancient Fable

Now, dear readers, after the events of the last week, it is time for a retelling of a very old story, first written down in Aesop's Fables. This, I fear, is a prophecy.

Once upon a time there was a lovely pond full of frogs, all happy and fat and singing. Things were  largely good. The pond always stayed full; it didn't dry up like other ponds and leave them stranded in mud. There were lots of bugs and many large green lily pads to sit upon. Still, the frogs were not happy because they were bored. Things were dull here, always the same. They thought they might like to have a king so that he could devise things for them to do. Kings, they knew, paraded about in pomp and splendor, which would be entertaining. So they petitioned Jupiter, Father of Gods and Men, to send them a king.

Jupiter, understanding the true nature of kings, thought the little frogs were foolish, but decided that, as they weren't very bright either, he'd send them a king who would neither hurt them nor take advantage. He dropped a huge log into the pool. This fell with a tremendous splash, and the frogs, naturally, were terrified. They all hid, some down deep in the water, others under the lily pads and behind rocks. Trembling, they waited to see what this new king would do. Of course, the log did nothing.

After a while, the frogs recovered from their initial fright. They approached the log and swam around it. Nothing happened. After a little while, the young frogs jumped up on the log and took turns diving into the pond. Growing braver, they began to sit on the log and take in the sun and hunt for flies. The log was excellent for these purposes.

This was entertaining for a time, but pretty soon the frogs were again sitting around complaining about how boring things were in their lovely green pond. This king that Jupiter had sent, they said, was "a milk and water king," nothing to be afraid of. This king made no great displays of his power or courage; he didn't go to war. This king held no ceremonies filled where they all had to bow and salute. Eventually, the elder frogs made the log their meet-up place and here they sat around for hours upon hours, complaining endlessly about the state of the government. Near the end of summer, the log grew sodden and sank.

Once again the frogs petitioned Jupiter, Father of Gods and Men, saying that this king he'd sent hadn't added up to much. In fact, he hadn't been a king at all, hadn't done a single kingly thing during his rule. Now, he'd sunk, leaving them in the same state as before,
without a king.  "This time," they said, "Oh great God, send us a REAL KING."

Jupiter had pretty much had it by now. After all, he'd been listening to them gripe all summer, so, this time he sent a large crane to be king over frog land. The crane was different right from the start. As soon as he landed, big feet entering the shallow water with a splosh, he began to gobble up frogs as fast as he could choke them down his long skinny neck. He ate and ate and ate while the frogs scattered, hopping and swimming in utter terror. The crane used his long bill to probe the mud where they tried to hide; he turned over rocks. When he found them, he skewered them like shish-kabobs.

The frogs who survived the first onslaught
cried out pitifully, once again calling upon Jupiter, Father of Gods and Men. "Oh, please, no! This is not the king we wanted! Save us! Take the crane away! He's cruel; he's a tyrant! His belly is a bottomless pit! His appetite is insatiable! If this continues, he will soon devour every single one of us!" 

"How now!" Jupiter said. "Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes."

Aesop for Children (translator not identified), 1919. Illustrations by Milo Winter (1886-1956). Available online at Project Gutenberg


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