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Let’s get back to Martin Luther today.

The Frog and the Mouse
by Martin Luther

A mouse would have liked to cross the water, alas she could not do it. So she asked the frog for help. The frog was a jokester and the mouse’s enemy and so he said to the mouse: “Tie your foot to my foot and I will swim across the water pulling you with me.”

But as they were in the water, the frog took a dive and wanted to drown the mouse. And while the mouse is struggling and fighting, a harrier comes a-flying, snatches the mouse with the frog still tied to her leg and eats them both.

This fable shows that the world is filled by evil and betrayal. But in the end, betrayal beats her master.

Copyright for the fable’s translation: TaleTellerin

*****

The jump from past tense to present tense is actually in the original text and it’s very interesting. Obviously, we know this from novels and stuff as a technique to quicken the pace so the reader is pulled in and left breathless. It’s interesting to see it in such a short text. Not sure it’s quite working.

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Remember the Russian folktale about The Plague that I told you a while ago? I don’t know about you but all creepiness aside, it sure re-woke my interest in Russian folktales. So, here be another one.

The Poor Man and the Judge

Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived upon a piece of ground. The one was rich and the other poor. One day the poor brother went to the rich one to ask him to lend him a horse, so that he might carry wood from the forest. The rich brother lent him the horse, and then the poor one asked him to also let him have a collar for it. The rich man, however, got angry, and would not let him have one, and then it occurred to the poor man that he could fasten the sledge to the horse’s tail. Away he went to the forest to get his wood, and he got such a load that the horse could scarcely draw it. When he came home with it he opened the gate, but lie did not think of the board at the foot of the gate, and the horse tumbling over it tore its tail out!

...and the judge made his decision...

The poor fellow took the horse back to his rich brother, but he, when he saw that the horse had no tail, would not receive it, and went off to the judge Schemyaka to complain to him of the poor brother. The poor man saw that things looked bad for him, and that he would be sent for by the judge. He thought over the matter for a long time, and at last set off after his brother on foot.

On their way the two brothers had to pass over a bridge, and the poor man, thinking that he should never return from the judge alive, jumped over it. It chanced that, just at that time, a man’s son was driving his sick father to the baths, and was passing under the bridge. The poor man fell upon the old man and killed him, and the son went off to the judge to complain of his father’s having been killed. Continue Reading »

Time for some more Aesop. He is the godfather of fables after all. So it can’t hurt to read some more of his stuff. Or – to be it correctly – the stuff that is thought to be his. After all, it’s still not completely clear that he even existed. 😉

The Donkey and the Fox
by Aesop

A donkey and a fox lived together as friends for years upon year and also went hunting together. On one of their forays they so suddenly happened upon a lion that the fox feared that he would not have time to flee. So he took to a trick. With factitious friendliness he said to the lion:

“I have nothing to fear from you, most noble king! But if I may offer you my stupid friend’s meat, do just give the order.”

The lion promised him mercy and the fox lead the donkey into a pit in which he was caught.

Roaring the lion rushed upon the fox and snatched him with the words: “The donkey is a safe bet for me but you I tear apart first for your deceitfulness.”

One certainly makes the most of treason but one still does not love the traitor

*****

Copyright for the fable’s translation: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image used: depiction of Aesop from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1483)

It might be the fact that I have too much to do with Genghis Khan in my real life but that line of moral there? Pretty much sums up how he did it. If you tried to buy yourself safety by betraying your own king/master then he would happily listen and then kill you. After all, what guarantee can there be that you wouldn’t betray him, too, if the pressure was there?

Thus this fable’s moral to me would be a more believable Genghis Khan quote than all those “I am the punishment of God”-blahs that make twitter buzz.

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The fables of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing were one of my subjects in my final exams at university and I still cannot remember having ever read this one. Or actually these ones as there are four of them. Did I skip them because otherwise I would surely remember as they are awesome. Right?

The Animals’ Contest
in four fables by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

1.

A heated dispute about rank arose amongst the animals. In order to sooth the tempers, the horse spoke: “Let us ask the human for his advice as he is not part of the disputing parties and can thus be all the more impartial.”

different animals, same dispute of egos?

“But does he possess the intelligence necessary for such an undertaking?” asked the mole. “He certainly needs the most precise one to recognise our often times deeply hidden perfections.”

“That was very wisely remarked!” said the hamster.

“Certainly!” cried the hedgehog. “I shall never believe that the human has the necessary ingenuity.”

“Be silent!” the horse ordered. “We all know: who can rely on his own qualities the least, is always the most eager to doubt his judge’s insight.”

2.

The human was made judge. – “Upon a word,” the majestic lion called, “before you deliver your verdict! On which standard, human, will you measure our worth?” Continue Reading »

I’ve been indeed telling you all kinds of tales from all kinds of cultures. But how do for example the Mongols believe that tales and stories first originated among them? Read the answer in todays tale.

The Legend of Blind Tarvaa

It is told, that many years ago the black plaque spread out among the Mongols killing hundreds, no thousands of people. Those who were still healthy ran away to save their own lives leaving behind their sick loved ones to let fate decide their futures.

telling a story

Among those left behind there was also a fifteen year old boy called Blind Tarvaa. When he lost consciousness, his soul left his body and came to the khaan of hell. The khaan of hell was astonished upon seeing the soul and said: “Why have you come here? You’re body isn’t dead yet.”

“They left me behind because they thought my body was already dead,” the soul answered, “And so I didn’t wait any longer but came right here.”

The obedience and the patience of the soul pleased the khaan and he said: “Your time hasn’t come yet. You have to return to your master. But before you go, you shall make a wish.”

The khaan lead the soul through hell and there were all the things which humans can encounter in life: wealth, fortune and contentment, sorrow and grief, happiness and pleasure, songs and music, dance, tales and legends. The soul of the blind Tarvaa looked at everything and finally asked for the tales. The khaan gave them to him and sent him back to earth.

The soul went back to the body which was showing no signs of life. A crow had already picked out the body’s eyes. The soul was very sad to see the body he had been born in like that but he did not dare disobeying the khaan’s order. And so the soul had to slip back into the body.

After that Blind Tarvaa lead a very long life and knew all the magic and tales in the world. Although he was blind, he could still see what would happen in the future. He went throughout Mongolia, told his tales and with them he taught people. And since that time, it is told, there are tales being told by the Mongols.

Copyright for translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: “Jeon (telling a story)” painted by Jang Seungeop

*********

I love, love, love this tale. It’s so sad and yet hopeful and beautiful.

And from a folkloristic perspective, I find the evidence of the special time continuum in folklore interesting. Tarvaa is introduced as Blind Tarvaa even though he only becomes blind in the course of this tale. One has to remember that in the old days, you were rarely told a story you genuinely did not know already. Telling and listening, all was done just for the joy of language and story. So it’s not exactly a spoiler to introduce him as Blind Tarvaa. 🙂

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Yes, no tale in this post, though I still have to tell you something. Remember that ambitious plan of publishing a new tale every day? Yes, it’s not really working. Too much is going on in the rest of my life – from demanding phd supervisor, to demanding phd topic, to demanding job, to demanding friends – to keep that up.

Instead the plan is right now to switch to a new tale every other day. Or at least thrice a week. That way this won’t become another stress factor but remain FUN. And you get quality stuff instead of rushed whatever-I-could-find. Which should be in all our interests. Heh.

Oh, and later today there also will be a proper tale: The Legend of Blind Tarvaa or How tales and stories originated among the Mongols. It’s very awesome so you better pop back in later.

As this is the 42nd tale and we all know the special meaning of the number “42” – after all it is the not yet fully understood answer to life, the universe and everything 🙂 – let me celebrate this occasion by telling you another one of my favourite Mongolian animal tales.

The Two Good Horses

In times long past, two horses that had been sold to a place far away longed for home. But while they were on their way home, one of the horses had grown old and then one day it stayed behind as it could not go any further.

...and so the young horse walked on alone

“Now, little brother, be good and always follow the road. Your aged, older brother is going to die. Little brother, do not wander off the road. Do not approach things that you can only dimly see. Do not untie a bundle’s opening.” In this way the old horse instructed his brother and then it fell behind.

The young horse slowly and hesitantly continued on its way. But then it saw the shape of something it could only dimly see, it is told. The horse wanted to explore the mysterious thing and ran impatiently towards the shape. It turned out to be a bundle and whatever was inside it, made it move about. “Whatever that may be,” thought the young horse. It could not wait any longer and untied the opening at once. Immediately, a big, hungry, brown wolf jumped out. Continue Reading »