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Actually, I just wanted to post another classic with this famous fable by Aesop but incidentally – I’m also keeping with the idea of posting a tale from a nation in the football world cup. As Greece played today, winning against Nigeria as well.

The Fox and the Grapes
by Aesop

One evening in autumn, a mouse and a sparrow sat beneath a grape-vine chatting about this and that. Suddenly, the sparrow chirped to his friend: “Hide yourself, the fox is coming!” And he himself quickly flew up into the vine’s foliage.

trying to get to those grapes

The fox sneaked closer and closer to the grape-vine, his eyes longingly on the fat, blue, overripe grapes. Carefully he peeked into all direction. Then he pounced, put his fore-paws against the vine’s stem, stretched his body and tried to catch a few grapes with his mouth. Alas, they were hanging too high.

Somewhat angered, he tried his luck again. This time he took a giant leap but again he only caught empty air.

He tried a third time and he tried as hard as he could, jumping with all his might. Almost beside himself with greed, he snapped after the juicy grapes and stretched and stretched until fell down on his back. Not a single leaf had moved.

The sparrow who had silently observed the fox’s attempts until now, could no longer contain himself and chirped cheekily: “Mister fox, you have your sights set too high!”

The mouse peeked out from her hiding place and piped up: “Do not bother, you will never get the grapes.” And like an arrow she shot back into her mouse-hole.

The fox bit his teeth, turned up his nose and said loftily: “They are simply not ripe enough yet. I don’t like my grapes sour.” And with his head held high he pranced back into the forest.

Copyright for this fable’s translation: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image used: The Fox and the Grapes, from ”The Æsop for Children”,

*****

Re-reading this fable, I’m wondering about hens and eggs. Because has this one become a classic because it successfully and entertainingly embodies the lesson about over-ambition and pride which is at the heart of Western societies. Or has this critical stance on ambition and pride become central because it has been advocated in central socio-cultural texts such as these? Huh.

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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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Today, let me tell you another Mongolian animal tale. One that is poetic and beautiful and – pretty long. As always – at the end you will find some information on the folkloristic background. Enjoy!

The Fox and the Little Birdie

just imagine the fox instead of the confused cows

Once upon a time, a little birdie had become friends with a fox and he adored him very much. But the fox had a cunning character and thought all the time, how to outsmart him. One day, the fox said: “Let’s sow wheat, the two of us together. We will share the work equally and the wheat as well.”

People say, the birdie agreed. And off they went to the cornfield as it was time to sow the grain. But since the fox was unbelievably lazy, he outfoxed the birdie.

“Oh, this does not look good at all. The sky is about to crumble. I will hurry to climb that mountain and brace the sky. If I don’t do it, then the sky will surely fall down and crush out cornfield,” he told the birdie and the little birdie believed him. (more…)

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it does look a little drunk...

I love the title of this really tiny Mongolian animal tale. As I do love the content – it’s clever and hilarious. The usual celebration of wit and humor. What more do we want?

A Tiny Tale

In earlier times, a wolf, a fox and a hedgehog, these three, lived together.

Then one day, they found a single plum and when they discussed who should eat the tiny thing, the wolf said: “Whichever one of us gets drunk the easiest on arkhij, our schnaps made from milk, should ear it.” The other two agreed.

And so the wolf continued: “As soon as I taste arkhij, I’m drunk.”

And the fox said: “If I even smell it, I’m already drunk.”

The hedgehog meanwhile sat between them, swaying back and forth as if drunk, so people say. When the other two realized his state, they asked: “What is with you?”

“Oh, I’m drunk just from listening to you talk about arkhij. What have you been saying?” the hedgehog said swaying ever more dangerously from side to side. The hedgehog seemed the clear winner but just as he was about to eat the plum, the wolf interrupted by saying: “Let us make a race. Whichever one of us wins it, shall eat the plum.” Again the other two agreed.

When the started racing, the hedgehog hold onto the fox’s tail and when they approached the finish line, he swung himself over and – most unexpectedly won the race.

Copyright for translation and narration: TaleTellerin
Copyright for image: Albertus Seba’s illustration of a European hedgehog

*****

This one not only strongly reminds of the tale of The Fox and the Wolf I have told you before, but also of the German (European?) tale of the race between hare and hedgehog.

But instead of musings about motifs and origins at length, today I’d like to share with you a peculiarity of the Mongolian language and my attempt to ‘transcreate’ it. In Mongolian you don’t say “fox and wolf” but “fox wolf two”. Or in this case, “wolf fox hedgehog three”. Now, how to translate this phrase without making it sound weird but still hinting at the special ways of the Mongolian language? I tried it with “a wolf, a fox and a hedgehog, these three”. What do you think? Useful translation without too much ‘transcreation’?

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What always fascinated me is the fact that while some folktales are completely endemic, some motifs but also whole folktales are apparently almost universal in their appeal – either forming in different places at once or being easily transferred across cultural borders. Or: Going global before that became a buzz word.

Let’s follow one such an example. Namely the animal tale of The Fox and the Stork (or The Fox and the Crane in some versions). If you look at its adaptation in the arts alone, you’ll be dazzled…

Tile, Museum Vleeshuis Danish Curch Wall Painting Ebstorfer Medaillonlaken

But of course, it’s spread even more in it textual/oral form. Today this fable/animal tale can be found all over Europe – I have found ones in Germany, France, England, Sweden, Turkey, Greece and also in Estonia and Russia and I’m sure you’d find many more if you’d take a harder look. Well yes, you might say, no wonder as it all comes from the fable by Aesop and it’s well-known by now that his fables had a huge impact on European folklore. Right you are. But what then about the same fable also existing in India and in Mongolia? Let’s have a look… (more…)

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Since I personally love the Mongolian animal tales dearly. For their lack of bloodiness and crass black-and-white-painting, for their lovely simple yet poetic language and their promotion of wit and cleverness. So, here is another one.

The story of a lame magpie, a cunning fox and an even more cunning mouse is not only a typical example for the genre but also one of the most beautiful ones. In my humble opinion.

The Lame Magpie Who Had Seven Green Eggs

Once upon a time there lived a lame magpie who had seven green eggs. The family lived in peace and quiet until one day, a fox came along and said: “Give me one of your seven eggs! I want to eat it!” (more…)

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Fox against Wolf the European Way

Now that I got the rambling introduction out-of-the-way, let’s start this blog for real – with my favourite Mongolian animal tale about a fox, a wolf and a lump of butter.

The Fox and the Wolf

Once upon a time – or as the Mongols put it – in times long, long past, a fox and a wolf lived together as close and peacefully as brothers. One day, they had just gone out to find something to eat, when they suddenly came upon a lump of butter that lay right in the middle of the road. A fat, shiny lump of butter. (more…)

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