This week’s card was the 10 of diamonds. Diamonds mean I read a story out of one of Andrew Lang’s Rainbow Fairy Books. I’ve been choosing stories I haven’t read before, out of the later books, which deal with non-European cultures.
I read two, actually: a short one and a long one.
The Two Frogs
The short one is “The Two Frogs”, a Japanese fable. One frog lived in Osaka and one lived in Kioto. Each one decided to explore the country, so each set off at opposite ends of the same road. They met in the middle at the peak of a high mountain, exchanged their origins, and decided to visit one another’s home. They couldn’t wait, though, and figured out that, if they stood on their back legs, propping one another up, each could look over the other’s shoulder and see where they were going.
This is where I started looking for an eagle or a stork or something to eat both of them as a warning against travel. But no. Unaware of their own physical circumscription, they didn’t realize that, when their noses looked over one another’s shoulders, their eyes looked backwards. Disappointed that their destinations looked exactly like where they had come from, each went home.
That’s a good fable, right there.
The Story of a Gazelle
The long story was “The Story of a Gazelle”, supposedly a tale from the Swahili. I say “supposedly” because it has Sultans and Emirs in it. This was part Puss in Boots, part Jack in the Beanstalk, part Camille, and part I don’t know what. A beggar buys a gazelle — not to eat, mind you, just as a pet. The gazelle is pretty amazing, for no apparent reason, and manages to get his beggar master married to a Sultan’s daughter, kills a giant seven-headed snake and gives the snake’s palace and treasure to his master, and becomes beloved by one and all.
But, once the master is firmly established, he suddenly has no love or respect for the gazelle. The poor li’l gazelle dies of a broken heart, in spite of the master’s wife’s attempts to nurse it back to health. Everybody except the master mourns the gazelle’s death. That night, the wife dreams she’s back in her father’s palace and the master dreams he’s back grubbing in the dust, and when they wake up, their dreams are true.
Weird. Don’t get me wrong: I like weird. I just expect a touch more motivation, even in fairy tales.
I mean, at one point, on the way to taking the beggar to claim his royal bride, “as they were resting near a stream, the gazelle gave its master a sound beating and then bade him stay where he was till it returned.” The gazelle tells the Sultan that its master has been beaten by robbers and all his clothes stolen, so it can get rich clothing from the Sultan to take back in place of the beggar’s rags. But it doesn’t explain that to its master. Just rest, beat, run. The master doesn’t say, “Hey! What the fonk’s the big idea?” and he’s happy to see the gazelle return. I’d be hiding behind a tree with a club and a sharp stick and I’d have gazelle for dinner. But, there, that’s me.
It’s spot on, though, about some people climbing high and then devaluing the people (magic gazellian or otherwise) who helped them get there.
A WRITING PROMPT BASED ON MY POST: Write about self-centeredness.