Sunday, June 13, 2004

Kings and dogs

13 June 04 Kings and dogs

Three moral tales, The Dog and the Shadow, Sleeping Beauty and the Fisherman and his Wife, seem unrelated but have a common theme.

Once a dog was crossing a bridge when he confronted an opponent carrying a leg a lamb. Unwilling to pass up the chance, he jumped to his death.

We snicker. Enron. Greed. Greed that overshadows common sense. Any right thinking animal recognizes a reflection on water for what it is. Unwilling to be satisfied with what he has, he takes the desperate plunge for more. The pigeon that exploded from eating too much. So easy to recognize in a story, but in business ignored. There must be always more taken from the hands of the laborer to satisfy the tables of the owners. The history of literature is filled with novels and political essays based on this.

Sleeping Beauty? What caused the demise of the young princess? Was it her fault? Did she do something wrong or did she pay the penalty for someone else's vanity? Once there was a King and Queen, who said to each other every day of their lives, "Would that we have a daughter," and yet they had none. Go on, how goes the rest of the story?

The King had a banquet.


He invited everyone in the kingdom to his party.


Well, no—He invited his family, friends and acquaintances.

In that order?

Yes, because when you are a King you rule by blood. Inter-marriage is politics. Cliques form power centers. You want to marry your daughter off to the right person and build through bedroom policies, like the Hapsburgs or Queen Victoria.


Friends come next because you don't want to offend them and make them your enemies.

And acquaintances?

Oh, they're very important, because you never know who can help you in the future. You keep the fishy handshake ready. While talking stalemate with China, you keep your delegate in Russia. It's a matter of utilizing your knights correctly while keeping the courts occupied with bishops. You know Kissinger is doing thriving business.

So it was thought out?

Of course he planned his party. They went through the list four times to make sure that everyone who was anybody and anybody who might become somebody was invited. It's that way with political shindigs. Do you think it's any different now?

Then why?

Why the twelve gold plates? You're really dim. Don't you know that thirteen is unlucky? There are twelve months in the solar calendar, but there are thirteen moons? Don't you know that thirteen symbolizes Death? Hecate or Artemis and that sort of thing?

So he was making a power play?

You bet, but he was pretty stupid for a King. You can't deny death in this world.

So he was really trying to be like the dog with the shadow?

You got it. he wanted to have it all—beauty, wealth, grace—he wanted control over every aspect of his daughter's life, so much that he even thought he could burn all the spindles in the kingdom.

Is it possible?

No, of course not—didn't you ever bother to read the story?

Well, not so closely as you. And after all, it came out happily in the end.

You think so? You think to wake up a hundred years behind the time without any understanding of the contemporary civilization blossoming around you is a happy ending? Give me a break, will you? How would you like to be a living anachronism?

Okay, then what about the third story about the Fisherman and His Wife.

Man, you are illiterate—and dense. It's obvious. The old bag kept nagging after her worn out rabbit of a man for a bigger fish and bigger house. She was never satisfied with anythign. She wanted to be King and Pope at the same time just like all those medieval pretenders-- you know the ones that got thrown out and exiled from their own countries—and in the end, she ws consumed by her own greed and ambition.

Pretty harsh, don't you think?

Not, really—the underdogs are usually happy to watch the castle topple in the sand while the sand-fleas do a hornpipe on the ruins.

So what do you think?

Human nature never changes—never in a thousand ages.

Boy, you are pessimistic.

So-- I've been through a lot—and besides the stones in the earth have their secrets.

and so you think--

the fleas will celebrate.

Aesop's Fables: The Dog and the Shadow
dog crossing over a bridge

Sur la Lune, Grimm: Sleeping Beauty
by Heidi Anne Heiner

Golden Fish by Pushkin
with lacquer illustrations

Fisherman and his Wife
illus by Walter Crane Engl/German text

Lang, Green Fairy Book : Fisherman and Wife

Lang, Green Fairy Book : Fisherman and Wife p343