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Introduction

 

The first time I met Sabatino Scia was at a seminar on writing that I was holding in Florence , where I said to myself that his kindly, innocent and earnest face reminded me of an animal, but which animal? Was it a Polecat, was it a young wolf, or maybe a fox? It was, however, a face which inspired happiness by just looking at it, for its capacity of making you feel part of a story still to be written and acted out.

I then met him again on a course on dramatic writing that I was holding at the"Teatro Due", in Rome . He would come up from Naples once every two weeks, sit among the other students and read out his works; he was well-liked by everyone on the course for his generosity, for his kindness, and for his affability.

I asked him to write dialogues for the theatre, but every time he would come back with a fable as well, in verse or in prose, in narrated or dialogued form, but always about animals with a human mind, and their clumsy or graceful movements, given to the difficult art of contemplating and analysing the world around them.

There is no doubt that Sabatino has an inborn narrative talent: he can use his voice to tell fables as if he is rattling them off to his own children around the breakfast table. Sabatino is, in fact a father, and maybe he is used to telling fables to his children. His skill is born first from the use of his own voice, from his capacity in forming the words, giving them rhythm, speed and modulation, whilst learnedly playing with both dialect and Italian.

His are Aesopic fables, where the animals behave like humans, anthropomorphizing themselves through the use of indirect free thought: the fox thought, the wolf said, the chicken did. In Sabatino Scia's fables the animals talk, think, decide, act, regret things, they think up survival strategies, but they are also tenderly capable of friendship and loyalty.

Some might say that this is the same description that Walt Disney gives us of animals on the screen: they also talk and think common sense in a way which is clearly apologetic to underlining human feelings, such as curiosity, arrogance, simple-mindedness, honesty, hate, friendship and trust, in such a way as to make them exemplary and understandable to the mind of a child.

In his clear "Neapolitaness", Sabatino Scia's narrating voice follows principles which precede the humanisation found in Disney's cartoons. Here the influence and origin is vocal and rustic, its roots deeply engrafted in archaic Mediterranean culture.

These, like fables the world over, have an underlying moral to them: only that it is not the "good moral" to be found in American cartoons or comics where the nicest and richest always win by being sincere and telling the truth. We are closer to Plato and Pulcinella (Punch) rather than Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Sabatino's are ancient Neapolitan "masks" where hunger and survival strategies predominate over civic or nationalistic values.

These are fables that understand the bitter humour of defeat, the cruelty of surrender and robbery. The love of animals which comes across is both deep and radical: a love that knows the extreme brutality of equality of "the oil that is boiling and calmly awaits them both", as the fisherman who watched from afar, as the big fish threw itself on the little fish says, whilst with a quick and careless gesture he throws both of them into the pot full of oil. DACIA MARAINI

 

Sabatino Scia

 

The fable and the myth

 

At times Man gives gloomy descriptions of his past. He has equally "angelic" ones, which become real "spirituals" in the formal dimension of the written phrase. These have nothing tender about them, but are comparisons between dreams and reality: this is how the fable was born.

The fable does not have a cathartic function, but is "what is possible" and instils the focal point of the ego with what is most immovable in Man.

After all, the "angelic" essence of the fable goes beyond poetry; In Sabatino's existential dionysiac form there is not the rhythmic pretence that poets have, but his fables are imbued with melody, making the figure of the text comparable to verse, to that which in the fantastic autumn of my life, I simply call lyric poetry.

I am not one who believes in the scholastic usefulness of the fable, but I find that the fable has travelled alongside childlike poetics which is often uncompromising when Man is "grown-up and mature."

Hence Sabatino is a poet who has trodden the hardest and least responsible path, and maybe is celebrating his own life with a single vocal cord like Paganini, who managed to master the violin, doing without all the other accompanists.

The "sorcery" of the fables, question mark, there is always a wolf in the fables, and who is often the driving-force behind the tale; but, if there were no wicked wolves, sly polecats or crazy foxes, we wouldn't have the demons of creativity.

However Sabatino Scia is the brilliant heir to the ancient fable.

 

ALDA MERINI

 

 

 

 

"Slavery has always been subservient,

and wanted to say something but didn't dare,

and poured out its heart in short fables

Jesting about the subtle misunderstanding:

Aesop's path. It's now a road,

as I wanted, and I had many other thoughts

which the ancient one did not tell us;

I have loved things which have ruined me.

If it were not Seano, but another who accused me,

if the witness was another and the judge another,

I would openly accept my trouble

and this art would not console me."

Phaedrus Fables

 

 

To Scirac the wolf

so that he may change idea and

thus render our dreams

peaceful

 

THE TORTOISE AND THE WOLF

­­

It so happened one day that a tortoise, neither old nor young, was just outside the verge of a hedge, drinking the droplets of dew from the tiny leaves of a wild rocket plant.

While it was chasing the crazy droplets which dripped down from one leaf to another, with its frenzied and unruly tongue, the brink of the hedge gave way and the tortoise fell rolling over, and landed upside down, daubed in mud with its head and little paws in the air!

The tortoise thought it was done for when it could no longer see the ground, but only a lot of warm light and the vast starless sky; it could already see its tiny little body in its shell, withered by the sun, and the ants all celebrating as they carried its flesh off into their holes!

It was terrified and frantically moving its four little paws and head, when along came a hungry wolf! It threw itself at the shell and then started to bite all over…

The wolf broke two teeth, and in its frenzy of biting and blows with its paws, without meaning to it turned the tortoise back to its natural position.

"Oh how wonderful it is to be a tortoise and not a blackbird! Very often the very wolves that want to hurt you help you. How wonderful it is to have a shell!" the tortoise shouted happily…it then carefully scratched its tail by way of exorcism!

And the happy tortoise fled very slowly, without being able to think that life in the woods is sometimes, very, very strange!

 

THE FOXES

 

 

And one day, who knows how it came about, there was peace between the foxes and chickens!

The foxes could no longer eat the chickens! Who knows why, maybe the farmers had intervened…

However, it was like, like…I don't know why this was so! The chickens could happily scratch around here and there, and the foxes watched them with their snouts wide-open without so much as being able to touch a single egg!

"Not even one egg!" said a fox who was being driven crazy by this.

"Not even dead, can we touch a chicken," a fox quietly repeated to a friend of hers.

"Who knows when the end of the world will come, here in the countryside! We are foxes!" the third fox re-repeated to the first fox that was being driven crazy by this.

The chickens happily fluttered round in the sunny spring grass right in front of the foxes, as if to provoke them.

Everyone knows that chickens are chickens and are conceited! Knowing that the foxes couldn't touch them, they would lay eggs and roll them around in the grass like billiard balls with their yellow claws!

But the chickens didn't know or understand how strange the world is! Because if they had known they would have stayed nice and quiet in the middle of the farmyard or the hen house, and the foxes wouldn't have indulged in their fancies! Because, as the proverb goes: "Out of sight, out of mind!"

It was now night, and an old fox that was having difficulty sleeping under a bush, was bouncing around in its sleep like a crazy ball!

Who knows why she was jumping? Maybe she was thinking? And if she was, what was she planning to do?

Morning came, and the old fox, who was the first up, angrily bawled out:" Ah, you are rolling your eggs under our noses? Didn't you know that as well as foxes, there are wolves as well and that wolves eat chickens? They certainly haven't made any agreement with the farmers!"

She called a fox over and told it this: "Toddle through the cyclamen wood where you will surely meet some wolves and…don't say much! Later the farmers will know everything. Start off talking about this and that and that and this, but then just say that the foxes no longer like chickens, and that there are a lot of them here. During the day they happily scratch around in the grass so calmly, that it's as if they are on their way to a party! Say no more, and then come straight back here."

Then the old fox, who gave the orders round there, instructed the foxes to browse the grass like goats do.

"We must eat…" mumbled a fox.

"Yes! Grass!"

"But…"

"Quiet. No fussing, just eat the grass like goats do." So all the foxes started to eat the grass like goats, right under the nose of the wide-eyed farmers!

"Are the farmers looking?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Ah they're looking are they? Good, good: eat a lot of grass and show them that you have filled-up your bellies! Then they will never be able to say that we ate their damned chickens."

Then the wolves came and…

…So this was how all the chickens came to be eaten! Because once a fox, always a fox, and he who knows one and does one more than the devil must never be teased!

So the chickens were eaten, the wolves were skinned and the farmers were left to drown their sorrows and anger in their wine!

 

THE WOLF WHO KNEW HOW THE WOODS WORK

 

 

And there was once a wolf that seemed strange to the eyes of those who saw him. But he really was remarkable; with the strength of his teeth and a monkey's agility he was able to catch so much game, but then after having eaten just a bit, he would save the rest, afraid that famine may hit the woods and the surrounding countryside, just as it had many times before.

One day he discovered a den in the woods, amongst the bramble bushes and chestnut tree stumps. It was very, very long and dark and it continued downhill further and further down into a Tufa mountain.

The wolf then realised that the den was very, very nice and cool and that he could keep his food in there much better than in a fridge, but as we well-know there were no fridges in those days, and even if there had been, how would a wolf have been able to run one, as nobody could ever provide him with electricity? He had stuffed so much food into the den, and had stored it away just like a good housewife who has a cellar under her house.

He then set out for the woods to look for an animal to use to guard his den.

He saw a hare and thought it was only fit to be eaten: "Too small and silly," he said.

A rabbit, the same thing.

The beechmarten, too small.

What could a blackbird do? "just cheep, cheep" he thought.

The weasel, too small like the beechmarten.

A fox! Yes, why not have a fox as a watchman: not too small, and crafty as anything!

"Oh yes, a fox is what I need to guard my food. A fox! Nothing but a fox will do: never a wolf, for God's sake! : It would only devour me and everything I'm keeping in there.. One of my wolf friends? No, what could be worse! : God protects me from my friends, and I can take care of my enemies! Yes, yes, a fox is what I need, if she does anything silly I'll just cut her into pieces and I could even make a stew of her! And if I wanted to I could even use her tail as a brush: yes, this little fox is smaller than me…and she's sly, and I like that: she'll know that I'm a wolf. So, a fox it shall be. A fox is just what I need here." he said out loud so happily that you could see it from his muzzle. The wolf then rolled over into the brambles with a long and affected summersault.

So he then made his way into the wood of a thousand chestnut- tree stumps where the hill was hunchbacked: this was where he was sure to meet a lot of foxes and choose the one he wanted.

Once he got there he gathered all the foxes round. Then, one by one, he took them behind a big oak tree stump. Here he started to ask them a lot of simple questions and some very strange and muddled ones. In the end he chose a fox, and took her with him.

"Do you want a steady supply of food?" the wolf asked the fox. "I can give you food for as long as you live, and you will never even know what famine is. So, do you want this food?", asked the wolf." Yes, I do", said the fox. So off they set.

Once they reached the den, the wolf started to toddle here and there with the fox, to show her round the place. He showed her the paths and where they led to, and told her all about the many animals that lived in the different bushes.

"Can you see that bush over there? No, not there, where are you looking? There, there, where my paw is pointing. You must keep your eye on that one! That's where the rats are, they will whiz into the den in a flash and take everything we have! You don't see them, but they dig like crazy and next thing you know you find them inside, without knowing how they got in. Keep your eyes open and sniff them out, you will be able to tell them from their smell, oh yes you will: the rat smells like anything! I'm telling you to look out, because those rats are quite capable of nibbling away at you as well. Be careful not to fall asleep when the sun is baking the woods. The rats are cunning and know everything; it's just when the sun is beating down in the afternoon that they come out to do their thieving…Oh, one last thing, if you should see a wolf heading this way don't let him see you or challenge him, as he would only butcher you. Just run to call me, and I'll take care of him."

The wolf waved good-bye to the fox with its paw, and left in a hurry as that night there was hunting to do.

Time went by, and in passing and passing it brought both happy times and famine, but the wolf and the fox never suffered.

However, once a fox, always a fox and the wolf knew this well!

The wolf also knew that she would sometimes steal something and then say it had been nibbled away by the rats and that she hadn't noticed, as rats are just like the devil! But in return she was very good as a guard.

Word got around that she was happy with the wolf and had become nice and fat. A lot of the animals were envious of her.

So one day a fox who lived in the wood of a thousand chestnut-tree stumps came out of a bush and begged the wolf to take her with him, as she had heard that his very own fox had been stealing as much as she could from his den.

"With the excuse of guarding your food…she's robbing you! Don't trust her, she spends whole days eating the things you bring back, and then blames the rats. Kick her out and take me with you."

"Kick her out? ", answered the wolf. "To take you? Don't you know that I know she steals from me? She robs from me. But only just a little bit."

"You know this and you still keep her on? Bah, a wolf who knows this…and still you don't kick her out with your own paws?"

"Calm down, I can read those eyes of yours above your muzzle! Leave me alone! I know that you know, but you don't know that I know what I know! Just toddle off!", replied the wolf. He then went on to say: "All the foxes in this wood steal! But I'm sure, and I know that that one doesn't steal much, and she suits me fine. Let me tell you this: she suits me fine! If I took on you or another fox, I'm sure that you would even steal my den! Let me tell you… but why am I telling you this: you already know everything…It is a stupid person indeed that expects to have an honest fox working for them! If you need a fox, then find one, but one that only steals a bit from you!"

And the fox understood and blushed, and then quietly left; she had realised that that wolf knew exactly how the wood worked- if he had chosen her as a guard, he wouldn't even have had his den left!

 

AMBROGIO THE SHEPHERD

 

There once lived a shepherd named Ambrogio, who was so very, very kind and lived on the top of a long grey mountain.

One day while he was watering his sheep in a little stream, he noticed the twigs of small bush move and heard a soft, but gloomy wail. He was frightened and quietly crept towards the bush with his big docile hands in front of him, when he saw a wolf cub that was in a bad way; he gently took it and wrapped it in a piece of cloth, and then put it under his long cloak made of sacks and string.

After some time he picked up the cub to look at him, and the wolf cub stared at him with his little sick eyes, as if to ask him something- he had never seen a man before!

Who knows, maybe he had mistaken Ambrogio for his mother, and had thought that mothers were one thing and their children another? Bah, who knows? Who knows what those little eyes meant!

However, Ambrogio, who had or hadn't understood, took some milk from a lovely sheep, and put it in a dish to try and get the little wolf cub to drink it. The cub drank a little bit and fell asleep, his wails smelling of milk.

As Ambrogio had found the little wolf cub, he thought he would take his sheep back to the fold earlier than usual. So he did, and after arriving back early to his village and settling the sheep, he knocked on the door of his house.

"Who is it?" asked his wife.

"Ambrogio."

"Ambrogio? And…why are you home so early, Ambrogio?", asked his wife again.

"I found a little wolf cub mewing in a bush far, far up the mountain, and as it was already half-dead and I didn't want it to be cold, I thought it would be good idea to bring it home where it is nice and warm."

"A wolf cub? Are you mad Ambrogio? Don't you know that as soon as it grows it will eat your sheep? Why didn't you bury it? Where is it?"

"Here it is!" he said pulling it out from under his cloak." Do you like it?"

"You are mad Ambrogio! A shepherd who raises a wolf cub and then sees it eat all his sheep? You are mad Ambrogio!", his wife bawled.

"Hold you tongue! I'm not mad. Ambrogio is not mad!" he said, and went on: "It's not a wolf for me, but just a cub! It's only a cub. When it grows up it will become a wolf. Now it is only a cub, like all the puppies in this world of foolish people. Can't you see it's only little? So little that it doesn't even know it's a wolf, so how could I kill it! Ambrogio can't kill a wolf that isn't there. Can't you see that it doesn't exist? Wait…look, look: it's licking my finger! See? It's not a wolf! All the little animals who are born to all the animals of this world are only puppies, they have no identity, don't you see?"

"What are you talking about Ambrogio? I…ide...identity? You read too many magazines Ambrogio.This is a wolf and it will eat your sheep!" his wife screeched. "The sheeeep!!!"

Ambrogio turned red in the face with anger, and went on: "I'm a shepherd, I could kill a wolf…but never a cub! Because this is only a cub for God's sake! Can't you see!…It's a complicated matter, and it seems like I'm getting everything mixed-up…but the wolf would understand and accept this :it's the law of nature! He would understand as well!"

"Buuut…"

"I told you to shut up, I can't make this out anymore: all day long up on that cold mountain…I'll look after this cub and when he grows to be a wolf, I'll leave him to the woods, to the sheep and to the shepherds!"

Everything was clear in Ambrogio's mind. Ambrogio was Ambrogio. He was kind. There!

And so even though everyone in the village made fun of him saying: "A shepherd who raises a wolf in his own house, which will then flay his sheep!!", he brought up the little cub lovingly. But how could Ambrogio get them to see that it wasn't a wolf, but just a cub! How could he get it into their big, fat ugly turnip-heads?

Ambrogio had never been to school, and so he had difficulty in expressing himself, but the idea of "civility" was right there, very clear in his head! And he didn't even know that his just way of behaving was called "civility".

Ambrogio was Ambrogio. He was kind. There!

The wolf cub was raised lovingly until it was just about to become a wolf, when a crying Ambrogio left it to the woods, to the sheep, and to the shepherds.

Oh, yes, to the shepherds! Those thick turnip-heads!

Ambrogio lived a very long life; to be more than one hundred years old, yet no one was able to take away his way of thinking from him!

Why?

Ambrogio was Ambrogio. He was kind.There!

 

 

THE ANT THAT LOOKED LIKE A CICADA

 

 

One day it so happened that a colony of ants, as black as asphalt, had taken refuge in an old iron pipe clotted with rust that lay by the side of the road. A broom bush full of yellow flowers, sticky with mould and old leaves had sprung up next to this pipe.

Who knows who had planted the broom just there, maybe to give the ant-hill a bit of shade and to stop it becoming hot as an oven when the sun shone.

Just a bit further over and facing it, were two old rubbish skips, battered and baked by the sun, barely balancing on wheels which were now oval-shaped, as if they were eggs that had come out of a very strange chicken indeed.

The ants had found so much to eat in that place! As well as food they were lucky to find grooves which led across the road, and right in the very place where they had to cross the road too. Here the ants had built tiny little alleyways between the pebbles, so as not to be squashed to death by the cartwheels or some strange Episcopal coloured car!

In this way the ants would frenziedly leave the old iron pipe, all well lined-up like a column of soldiers, and they would dodge in and out of the pebbles before reaching the other side of the road safe and sound.

They would pick up tiny breadcrumbs or grains of sugar or flour which had fallen to the ground, and very slowly build up their supplies for the winter. Every now and then the bustle of busy ants was joined by a happy sparrow, that would jump and roll them down a dirty piece of bread from its beak.

Amongst these ants there was one who thought she was goodness knows who, and was extremely conceited, and who looked a bit like a cicada; she was bigger than the others, and domineering as well.

From time to time the ant that was as big as a cicada would barge through the others, bumping into them and making them roll-over, losing their little grains of sugar or tiny breadcrumbs as well! But the little ants would patiently start picking things up all over again.

Being as big as she was, she had the habit of walking on the smooth asphalt as if she had bought the whole road and owned it all herself! She would carry big pieces of bread, and then bawl out that all the other ants put together were not worth a fly with broken wings.

"Can you see her over there?" asked a tiny ant so small that you couldn't see her, to another ant. And pointing her out with her little paw that was so small that she almost didn't have one, she went on: "she'll be squashed on the ground in no time! She says she knows everything, and she doesn't even know never to walk on the smooth asphalt! Nature gives and gives, but if you are stupid, it takes everything back all in one go!"

And so it was ! One day a cart passed through and the horses with their black rings around their eyes didn't see her. The ant that was as big as a cicada was squashed under the wheel inside the piece of bread that she was rolling out of spite.

"Did you see that? ", the tiny little ant repeated to her friend," what did I tell you? She's stuck to the wheel and now she's on her way to Rome , to Rome to see the Pope!"

 

THE FOX AND THE OTHER ANIMALS FROM THE WOOD

 

One day all the animals from the wood met up in the same place! They wanted to decide whether the wood should continue to go this way or that way.

There was one of them for every species.

The blackbird was there with the hare, the porcupine and the mole, the rat and the screech owl, the squirrel and the owl, the snail and the snake, then the fox and many, many others…but the wolf was not there!

"Ah, but the wolf isn't here! We must be careful and weigh-up the situation," the fox very quietly whispered to herself.

"It's time to vote!" cried the hare.

"But the wolf isn't here," pointed out the tortoise.

"It doesn't matter! Just put the hazelnut between your paws: we are going ahead with the voting" stated the blackbird.

When the cunning fox heard this, she crouched down very quietly: she had decided to sneak away.

"Where are you going?!" asked the tortoise approaching the fox, with the porcupine by his side.

"I'm leaving! " replied the fox, " Because if there are blackbirds in this wood, I'm a fox and as I don't know the wolf's plans…I'll return when the wolf comes back!"

"Oh you clever scheming one! You don't want to risk crossing the wolf, do you!?" bawled the tortoise.

But the porcupine knew! Then without opening his mouth he moved his tiny-little, shy, pale paws to keep his friend nice and quiet: he had his spines and she her shell…but what about the other animals…?

"You keep quiet you good for nothing rascal! You can act the fool because you are ugly, flat and all shell. You know that the wolves' teeth can do nothing to you! You have no common sense. Would you have been able to tell me what you have just told me, if you had only been a poor, weak crawling animal without your armour around you! The porcupine has its spines, you have your shell, and I'm not even allowed to try and be cunning? I know how painful it is to be bitten by a wolf! Do you know what I'll do?

I'm going to hide right there in one of those bushes, and I'll only come out once I see my friend the wolf coming along."

The fox is cunning, and that is just what she did!

After some time the wolf slunk in!

And in the end, there was the wolf sitting next to his friend the fox on a chestnut-tree stump…both with a hazelnut between their paws just like all the others!

 

THE TICK AND THE CAT

 

 

One day a big fat tick that had fallen from a dog's ear, was waiting for the dog to come back and lie down so she could climb back in.

A cat that was passing by saw her and asked: "What are you doing all-alone on the ground? A tick on the ground is like a dying fish in the sand."

"I wanted to suck very hard, and I slipped while I was pushing with these damned little paws, the dog's ear suddenly flopped and I ended up on the ground!" answered the tick.

"What are you doing down there now? What are you waiting for?"

"I'm waiting for my dog or another dog, or maybe even a cat…I've got to sink my teeth into something!"

"Whatever, but just keep away from me, I really don't have much blood!" he went on: "Listen, I really shouldn't be telling you this, but you are in a bad spot at the moment. The farmers with their big boots walk through here, and you could end up squashed on the threshing floor! You should leave this yard as no dogs ever pass through here. Who knows what yours was doing here… move over there," and the cat pointed with its paw, "there are always lots of dogs over there."

The cat then shyly started talking about dogs, and how that very dog had it in for him and wanted the cat dead.

"Don't you see? He has it in for me. What have I done to him? I'm forced to walk along walls; I can't even put my paws on the ground. He chases me like a savage, with his big ugly mouth full of teeth, and if he catches me, I'll end up dead on the ground!"

The big fat wrinkled tick was all confused by the loud meowing in his ear and the hot sun beating down on the farmyard. He didn't want to die squashed in the farmyard, and he was roaring to jump up on something. The cat was bouncing up and down, and so he couldn't jump on the cat!

"Do you understand what dogs do?" the cat started up again. "Their owners give them everything, and they still take it out on us, when we have to hunt everywhere for mice unless we want to die of hunger. Does it seem fair to you?"

"Oh fuck off!" answered the tick, lying half-dead in the farmyard. "What do you expect me to say, I live off dogs! I live on them! How can I say a bad word about them? Only once did I bite into a cat! And God help me, it did nothing but jump from one wall to another and from one roof to another like a monkey looking for bananas! What little blood I got would lie heavy on my stomach and then I would be sick, so I wouldn't even have a single drop left inside me. Listen, yes I'm talking to you: the sun is already hot enough to kill me, so just fuck off and leave me alone, I really can't say a bad word about dogs and I think today is going to end in a bad way for me!"

 

 

SCIRAC THE WOLF

 

 

There was once a beautiful wood with perfumed trees and flowers all year round, lots of tiny little lakes full of geese, swans and ducklings. It was here that Menia the tortoise lived; she was small, and as she was old, she spent all her time in her den, looking for a dead worm in the earth.

But one day not long ago, she decided to come out of her long warm den, and to very slowly run into the wood to refresh her body and breath, which both smelt musty. She picked up a dry salad leaf and made a hat that looked like an ugly boat, stuck it on her head and went out.

Her little wrinkles, hard and grey from old age, hung from her neck and burnt as she scratched them with the nails of her paws, while she toddled around as slow as a snail. She was so hot underneath and above her shell, that she moved to where the treetops meet to form a hut.

Toddling here and there, she saw some inscriptions carved in the bark of the trees: " Scirac the wolf, think how horrible war is!" "Scirac the wolf, no to the experimentation and building of new traps!" "Scirac the wolf, think about your cubs!" "Scirac the wolf has knocked his head on the ground and wants to see us all dead!"*1. "Scirac the wolf, hasn't the harrowing history of the woods taught you anything?"

Menia the tortoise read some here and some there, slowly reading the words out to herself.

"Who is this Scirac the wolf?" she asked herself. "Damned old age, I don't even read the papers anymore! The fact is that I don't have ear-laps to balance spectacles on; other animals have ear-laps…and nice big ones too!" Menia thought of an elephant; she then laughed, rolling around in the earth, leaves and thorns, imagining her tiny body with two enormous elephant ears!

1 . Note:In the original this is a Neapolitan phrase:"Lupo Scirac è ghiuto cu à capa n'terra e nce vo fà murì a tutte quante!"

"I wonder who this Scirac the wolf is?" she asked herself, becoming serious again," Another wolf who is giving orders?"

The tortoise lifted her neck and noticed an ugly old bald-fox with its spectacles on, reading a little newspaper in the shade of a bramble-bush full of berries.

"What does the paper say?" the tortoise asked the fox timidly. "It says that there is ozone with a hole in it in the sky," answered the fox. "But don't worry, it's not a doughnut: if it were a doughnut I'd already be up there, quick as a flash to eat it!" He continued: "Why are you peeping at me like that? Do you want to know what the hole in the ozone layer is? I'll tell you if I can! The ozone with a hole in it is…well, it consists of…ozone is…it is Allotropy of the oxygen…it's complicated and the thing is…don't worry…I only fished this complicated word out of the dictionary yesterday. Allotropic ozone…allotropic ozone is caused by electrical discharge in the atmosphere! Oh heavens, what is going on in the atmosphere! The experts say that ultraviolet rays…well…they, the sun's rays…pass through the hole like this!" the fox said excitedly!

"Ozone with a hole in it? Oh my God! Is it dangerous?"

"What are you worried about? Can't you see that you are old, and then…you have a shell and I have is this fur! We are all right, you and I. It's the poor worms who are naked that should worry! And the snakes as well. They really are in a fix, poor creatures."

The frightened tortoise stared at the bald fox that looked pitiful with her tiny little unseeing eyes.

"Why are you looking at me, ugly one? The fox started to blather, "I can see you have just come out of your den; you were probably even still in hibernation, and now you want to know everything, and all at once?! Anyway, tomorrow go down there: all the different animals will probably be there and they will definitely quite rightly protest, shout and rail against Scirac the wolf, saying that they don't want to die like fools.

I personally think that Scirac the wolf is like "an old rag in a bottle," as they say around my way! He doesn't know that we've enough trouble already round here in the woods! We just want to be left alone! The old rat! He's scarin' the whole world!" Rolling his eyes behind his glasses, he stared at the tortoise and said, " Now youse want to knooww why I'm in ere, don't yeh?"*2.

Menia shuddered with fear, thanked her, said good-bye and left.

Nobody knew why the old fox was there, seeing that she came from who knows which Neapolitan wood. Anyway, she hadn't told Menia who Scirac the wolf was, or what he was really up to. But the tortoise thought that she might meet her the following day, demonstrating in the middle of the clearing, and that maybe even she had written something against Scirac the wolf in the bark on the trees.

And so she set off on her tired little aged paws, in search of someone selling magazines and newspapers, because she wanted to know.To know.

She got right to the bottom of the path where there were three overturned hampers, each with a parrot standing on it. Their heads were held high and their claws wide, with all the colours in the world on them; each one held a newspaper with a different headline in its beak.

Another overturned hamper was covered with magazines, with articles about almost all the topics regarding the woods and the undergrowth. Another still had a few magazines with baboons and snakes exposing their sexual organs on the cover, and finally a newspaper written in American, coloured in light-yellow and sea-green, showing a fox and a wolf making love surrounded by baskets full of berries and blackberries in the sunlight.

Menia the tortoise lowered her gaze to the ground; she could feel her face reddening, and in a meek little voice she asked the fat polecat who ran the place, for copies of the three newspapers that the three young parrots were holding in their beaks. 2 . Note-In the original this is a Neapolitan phrase:"nu' scicchignacco dinto 'a butteglia",come si dice dalle parti mie! Nunn' ha capito che nuie vulimmo stà quiete:'e guaie dd"o bosco già song' assaie! E na zoccola vecchia! Sta appauranno 'o munno! Ma tu mò'o vuò sape' pecche' stò ccà dinto? 'O vuò sape'?" A scicchignacco is an old rag or ear of corn used to clean the inside of bottles etc

She paid with one hundred and five long and short aromatic worms, which she kept round her neck in a bag, made of tobacco leaves .

Just a bit further across in the sun, an elderly weasel was standing in the bushes, loudly rehearsing her speech which she had written down on a pile of long wide leaves:

"What else does Scirac the wolf want? Doesn't he have enough traps? He still wants to experiment? To make the traps even more powerful? It's always war and blood: blood that costs us food and labour, all just wasted on the ground making the cyclamen petals and all the leaves sticky!…"

Menia looked at her and sighed. Then she moved under a clump of low bristled plants full of black berries, and unfolded her newspaper. With her head glued to the paper, as she couldn't see much, she started to read a bit of the bottom and a bit of the top, a bit of the right and a bit of the left. It took her four hours, but she read it all! Her head was throbbing and her eyes seemed to want to roll out and escape through the woods!

She wasn't used to reading so much anymore, not since she had been a teacher of the things of life when she was young. But Menia had finally understood everything, and realised that things had changed a lot from that far-off time when she had been young.

She thought and thought.

She thought that stream water was once the most deadly trap known to her!

"Oh my God, oh God; a thousand and a thousand and a thousand animals dead, all in one go!" she exclaimed. And she remembered the bygone days when wolves and foxes had held rally after rally from the tree stumps, bawling and sweating, and then forcing the cubs that had just grown up, to go off and die in war because they had to defend their woods! Their woods! Them! The very same animals that had to feed off those few animals that had survived the very war they had won for them!

And she thought about how everything in this world is decided by wolves and foxes! It's a well-known fact, and anyone, who doesn't know this is a foolish animal indeed! She also realised that a lot of the wolves and foxes no longer wanted war. They preferred to eat in peace, because they could end up dying in war as well! Things really had changed!

"Why is Scirac the wolf doing this? Even he has his cubs. Doesn't he think of his cubs? Bah. What more does he want, when even the wolves and foxes want to live in peace? Things have changed! Oh God, oh God; a thousand and a thousand and a thousand animals dead, all in one go!" she exclaimed again.

Night had fallen, and Menia the tortoise's head was spinning and her shell was squashing her to the ground. She decided to sleep just where she was; she was so tired that her old paws were all curled up. She hid further inside the hedge, for fear of nasty animals, and then rolled up in a pile of dry leaves and fell asleep.

Morning came, and Menia awoke with a sudden start; the wood was alive with the sound of slender trumpets and whistles, and then from afar came the rolling of drums…

A flock of animals was toddling past noisily, heading for the clearing. A myriad of snails with coloured shells and long antennae were following the procession, crawling in a frothy sweat full of bubbles and they muttered amongst themselves like nuns in a convent.

So the tortoise slowly hurled herself into the fray and started to follow the group of animals.

The stage was at the far end of the clearing and was made of intertwined poplar branches. The same weasel that had been rehearsing her speech in the bushes the previous day was now on the stage. She asked everyone to be quiet through a binocular-shaped microphone made of long reeds, and asked the blackbirds and parrots not to repeat everything, and not to mimic her.

She unfurled the wide leaves one by one, and started: "This …this moment we are going through is very particular, really particular for the history of the woods. All the intelligent wolves and foxes want peace and not war! They are wise and they prefer to eat in peace, and are worried that they may die as well, if there is a war. We are settled with them: that they may eat peacefully and healthily and leave us alone, for it's peace that we want: peace. We are scared of the crazy wolves and foxes! Today's traps are powerful enough to kill us all! Does Scirac the wolf know this? Scirac the wolf, for example, is a crazy wolf! He is chasing glory! He who chases glory turns the woods into pools of blood…"

"Into pools of blood, into pools of blood," echoed a parrot that ended up mimicking, as they do.

The weasel was sweating and the microphone was shaking between her paws, who knows, maybe it was the parrots untimely interruption, or the exhaustion she felt in her paws which no longer supported her…what is sure is that she fell flat on her face!

She was assisted, and quickly replaced by the porcupine who started out: "My friends, I ask myself what would happen if these traps were used by the vainglorious wolves and foxes, what would happen then?…"

"Vaingloriousss, what would happen?" warbled a blackbird.

"Have you ever asked yourselves? Animals whose brains are worm-eaten and seeking false glory! (as our friend the weasel had just said before falling flat on her face) It's all they know how to do. They are scary.

"They are scary, they are scary…. "the blackbirds and parrots started to repeat together.

"Useless animals who don't even love a flower, a tree, nor the wind, nor the rain! They just want to shed blood here and there, left, right and centre! Scirac the wolf: we don't want to die skinned."

"Scirac the wolf, we don't want to die skinned!" a blackbird and a parrot re-repeated. And all the animals that were there laughed at the top of their voices and beaks.

The porcupine stopped for a moment then went on.

"It has already happened that wolves and foxes who lust for glory have started to give orders, and have caused massacres in the woods! One day not so long ago, they divided up animals of the same race into many different races…."

"Of the same race, into many different races…"re-re-re-repeated the blackbirds.

"…They burnt part of a race that they claimed wasn't a good race in the ovens! Race! What does race mean? They don't know…."

"Race! What does race mean? They don't know shit!" re-re-re-repeated the parrots.

And all the animals started loudly applauding the porcupine and the parrots with their paws.

Menia the tortoise was almost up on the stage, and she was laughing like mad at how those nice strange birds grimaced.

But suddenly there was a strong wind, a lot of squawking, and the sky was filled with colours.

The animals all raised their eyes to the sky, and saw millions and millions of blackbirds and parrots of all different races and colours! They nose-dived onto the branches that surrounded the whole clearing where the meeting was being held. They came from every corner of the world and brought a new message with them; they mingled with the other blackbirds and parrots who were already there and started to say "PEACE, PEACE, PEACE."

It was then that something really strange happened. Everyone started to repeat: "PEACE"! The ants and the crickets whispered it amongst themselves: "peace…" the ferns with the cyclamens from the undergrowth: "Peace…peace." Until even the blades of grass echoed out: "Peace…peace…peace " Then it became one loud voice that shouted out from the clearing, to the whole wood, to the whole world: "PEACE!"

This went on all day, and who knows if they did the same at night.

Then Menia the tortoise, who was up on the stage in that bawling of words of peace, grabbed the microphone made of reeds with one of her trembling little paws, and concluded:

"Scirac the wolf should heed the blackbirds and parrots! They have learnt to say "peace, peace, peace" so well (and it's hard, very hard to make blackbirds and parrots repeat anything without anyone here prompting), that it shows that everyone in this world, all over and at every moment, is pronouncing the word "peace", because everyone wants peace, which is a such beautiful thing!"

Then Menia lifted her pretty little head to the star-filled sky and made a wish: That Scirac the wolf abandon his experiments on his already powerful deadly traps, and spend his time bringing his cubs together with all the cubs from the wood, and all holding onto each others paws, they form a big circle and sing: "Ri-ng a ri-ng of ro-ses, how bea-uti-ful the wo-rld is…"

 

 

ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS FAMINE IN THE WOOD

 

 

Once upon a time there was famine in the wood, and a tortoise that couldn't find food was weak with hunger.

She decided to visit an old wolf that nobody could work out how, always had food supplies stashed away in a large hole in an old tree. She started out, and slowly, slowly she finally reached the wolf's place; she saw him from afar. He had difficulty walking and was tripping over due to old age.

"Uncle wolf! Uncle wolf! How's life?"

"Hi there, young tortoise! What are you doing round here?"

"I have come to ask you for some food Uncle wolf, because as you know, there is so much famine around."

"Oh there's famine is there? Well, well, what an awful world! Come closer to me so I can talk to you. I'm deaf in this ear, damned old-age!"

"My paws are burning, this bloody shell of mine weighs a ton."

"It weighs a damn lot does it? Damn, damn those shells that you have!"

"It's a burden, a burden!"

"Oh yes, you would be better off without it; you would feel a lot lighter."

The tortoise came closer, and the wolf said: "Give me a kiss, my tortoise niece."

And the tortoise was about to kiss the wolf, when with a sudden youthful leap, the wolf almost managed to bite the poor creature's head off!

"Ahhh, you treacherous scoundrel! Now I know how you get all your food!" And without thinking twice, the tortoise escaped very slowly.

She walked and walked until she met a merry old sheep that was getting down to some hard work in a farmyard.

"Oh noble animal," bawled the tortoise "could you give me some…but tell me, what are you doing?"

"Well I'm certainly not making milk my girl! Can't you see I'm old? There's so much famine, you know? And that little bit of extra milk my daughters manage to save would go off, so we are forced to make cheese. But tell me, what do you want?"

"I would like…I would…I'm almost ashamed to…Oh nothing, nothing"; and the tortoise was about to leave.

"Come here! Come here!", shouted the sheep. "Here, take this little piece of cheese. It's all I can give you, but you'll see, it will be enough for you."

"Oh, thank you noble animal. But listen, do you know something?"

"No. What, what?"

"I went to the old wolf's place to ask him for some food, and do you know what he did? With the excuse of me giving him a kiss, he almost about bit my head off, but luckily my heavy shell saved me."

"Take good care of your shell my lovely! If only I had your shell; the wolves' teeth would send out sparks!"

"That’s true, that’s true, those wolves really are murderous animals!"

"When one is born wicked, my lovely, one cannot then die a virtuous person! Instead, when the wolves realise they have lost their strength, they grow even more wicked! On the contrary, when one is born kind, one wants to remain that way, and old-age only sweetens one even more…eat up, eat up and don't think about it…"

"Quite so, quite so!", said the tortoise with her mouth full.

 

THE CULTURED FOX

 

And once upon a time there was a fox who had taught herself such a lot, and who spent most of the day with a book between her paws. All the foxes kept away from her, and none of them wanted her as a friend, but she could not understand why they behaved like this towards her.

And one day, when almost all the foxes had gathered between the chestnut-tree stumps, she mustered her courage and decided to get up on a trunk and make a speech. She started out:

"Please, my friends and foxes, listen to me, for I am a fox as well. I don't know why you all keep away from me, but I know and swear that I have great respect for you all. I have never wronged any of you, so I very kindly ask you all to lend an ear. And then I would like to…it's a request I am making to you…."

Some foxes yawned, and others were bored.

"I think…allow me to say, that like all of you, I spend a lot of my time trying to understand the world. Without wishing to offend anyone, I know why there are so many stars in the sky and the equilibrium they give to the world and the entire universe. I know that the sun is the only star which is really close to us, and how it manages to bring its rays to us all and how these rays are light. And I know that the earth happily goes around and around the sun, which is how night comes. And there is the moon, which gives us a bit of light when it's dark, and sometimes so much light that it's as if it was another sun! It is smaller than the earth and its mass gives the sea high and low tides, its influence is even reflected in…."

A fox yawned, muttered and was bored.

"And why sea water is always salty and made up of tiny bubbles which fish happily dart around in. And I know how the mountains were formed, and why they have snow on them in winter and how trees climb in the air, that a tiny seed planted in the soil…"

Some foxes yawned, others were bored and others still left.

"Just look at this! Please! I don't understand! What I'm telling you is useful, and helps us understand our lives better and to make us happy!…Trees blossom and give many animals all sorts of different kinds of fruit, these animals are part of the same natural equilibrium in which we live and contribute to, for better or for worse…"

Yet another fox yawned, another still was bored, and one more left.

"For God's sake, listen to me! I'm telling you things that you have never heard and to tell you these things I have had to wear out the fur from my paws, turning page after page of book after book! To knooow! These things are useful and help us live better lives!"

"We can save our own lives and make it back alive to our dens, because I have discovered that the dogs that chase after us like crazy are controlled! I swear, someone really does control them! And…"

Some foxes yawned, others left and one fell asleep.

"Dogs are kept by these people who give them a pinch of bread and a bit of accommodation…"

The last fox yawned and then woke up, muttered and was bored…and then there was no one left! The fox was left all alone on her trunk! The only one left was a polecat who had been listening attentively and taking notes, saying "yes, yes" nodding her head up and down.

When the poor fox saw she was alone, she got down from her tree and gloomily asked the polecat:" Why, oh why have they all left without listening to me? I said so many reasonable things! And luckily for them, I discovered why so many dogs suddenly chase after us and the foxes wet themselves from fear."

The polecat winked with her tiny little eyes, levelled the fox with her crooked snout and said: "You know! Know! know! And know!, but what do you really know? You know for yourself, but not for them! With foxes all you can talk about is eggs and chickens! Try again tomorrow; get up on the log, and tell them that you know where there is a nice hen house chock-full of… Yes! Chickens! Chickens, chickens…chickens!"

Chickens?", asked the wide-eyed fox.

"Yes! Chickeeeens!!"

 

THE WOLF WHO DIDN'T WANT TO BE A WOLF

 

 

There was a wolf that was a freak of nature. He hated eating meat and only fed on herbs.

He learnt to discover the properties of the different plants, and to recognise them one by one. He would eat Lucerne and Angelica, Mallow flowers and many other plants, and even some fruit.

Who knows why, but due to a trick of nature, he loved all the other animals and spent entire days playing with them.

His fellow wolves pilloried him, tied a bundle of bramble thorns to his tail and kicked him out of the pack.

One beautiful spring day, while the sun was shining warmly in the sky, the wolf made friends with some little birds and started to play with them in the flower-filled fields. A lame hare whose belly was sucked in from hunger, but who was very cunning, watched the wolf playing with the little birds and flabbergasted, he thought: "I have never seen anything like this!" he exclaimed to himself.

The hare then very cautiously befriended the wolf.

The lame hare felt inferior to his fellow hares, and as he wanted to become their leader, he thought:" It will be easy to bring him with me and make them believe that I have captured and thrashed a wolf!"

This is what he did; he tied a long-thin twig around the wolf's neck and then led him to his companions.

To start with they all praised the skeleton-like hare, and celebrated by hailing him as leader of their flock; but once they realised the kind-heartedness of the wolf, they felt offended at having been swindled, and chased the deceiving hare away.

So the hares thought that due to who knows what supernatural event, the wolves had all suddenly become good! And when the innocent creatures saw other wolves, they approached them lovingly, but to their great surprise they were torn to pieces and eaten.

It was only a matter of days before all the hares from that part of the wood were devoured without pity!

And the wolf that hated eating meat and only fed on herbs, thought: "If I had been a real wolf this wouldn't have happened; the world works like this, and it cannot be changed radically, and he who tries to is doomed and only causes calamities!"

Weeping, he climbed up to the edge of a ravine, and hurled himself into the abyss.

 

THE TORTOISE WHO PHILOSOPHISED BECAUSE HE HAD

A SHELL

 

Once upon a time, there was a cluster of nice big fat worms that were having a whale of a time in the mud.

They were suddenly spotted by four cocks and a hen, which quickly started to peck at them as if they were grains of maize. The unfortunates tried to flee, to escape a certain death, but they would never have made it as we all know that worms are slow; the worm seems to be born of nature which loves to play cruel jokes on its creations!

The four cocks and the hen pecked at them and waved them around in the air before swallowing them, scattering some of the mud that was splashed all over them onto the ground.

A tortoise who had only just come out of hibernation a few moments before, saw the worms floundering in the quagmire and started barking out orders: "You, run away! Come on, run, run! Damn you! Come on, come on! Just run; hey, jump into that hole there. Hey, I'm talking to you; if you hide in that corner the cocks and the hen will never get you! " He continued: "Oh look at that one, how stupid can you get! The fool came out into the open! Damn and damn again! Ha, worms, you worms don't know a thing! The thorn bushes the thorn bushes, hide in the bushes! Ohhhh…caught! Pity, he was almost safe…"

A worm, seized by both panic and rage, started to shout from the far side of the quagmire: "Once a worms always a worm, but however stupid a tortoise is, it always has its armour to protect it! So if you really are so clever and want to show us, just chase away the cocks and the hens if you can! "

"Why, how cheeky! " bawled the tortoise. "What, you mean you don't even know that I'm not really very fast at all, because my shell gets in the way? Ha, if only I didn't have this shell…but my dear worm, you don't even know that do you? "

…But the poor worm couldn't answer back because it was already inside the hen's belly.

 

 

THE MULES, THE HORSES AND THE SOLDIERS

 

A long, long time ago there was once an enormous meadow covered in Lucerne and clover, where many horses and mules lived; but the poor mules were considered ugly by the horses.

The mules were almost all identical, as if they had all been born to the same she-ass on the same day! Instead the horses were tall and graceful. Some were white, and others were dappled black and white, or just black or grey… to tell the truth they were all beautiful. They would play together and walk around on two legs, as if they were coming up for air! Then they would chase after each other and suddenly brake with their hooves on the grass, and the earth would rise like steam; others who were even more conceited, would leap in the air and perform somersaults!

"Look, look he's cutting capers! ", said one mule very, very quietly, as if he was breathing into the droopy ear of his friend next to him. "Did you see that, did you see that one?! He's skidding on his hooves! He's dug a furrow in the ground!" said another mule to another friend.

The poor mules were all heaped together in the same place (next to a hedge), like sacks of wrinkled potatoes, and were ashamed to march through the meadow. The only reason they didn't cry was because, as we all know, mules don't have tears to cry with.

And one day…one day the soldiers came and wanted to take both the mules and horses off to war! It was then that the mules plucked up courage and started to chat to the horses.

"We're off to war!"

"Off to war? Oh God, my God, us off to war?"

"Yes, we're off to war! Us and you!"

"But…why us…to fight in the war?"

"Together, we're going off to fight the war together. It's better to die crushed, than to burst with anger here! We're all off to war to gallop through the dead bodies! Through the dead!" the mules shouted angrily.

And the ranked soldiers, who were well fitted-out, demanded and obtained the horses, which they then dressed with real leather saddles and decorated from head to hooves with valuable harnesses. While the unranked soldiers, who were poorly fitted-out, were forced to accept the mules, which they angrily dressed from head to stumpy paws with whatever they could find; ripped sacks for saddles, and many different thin frayed cords as harnesses.

The ranked soldiers then thus decided: "We will follow the road across the plain and you with the mules can climb the narrow mountain paths"

"But…, but why?…it's not fair that…"

"Quiet! Obey! How can we follow the mountain paths when the horses would only destroy their legs? We must surround and defeat the enemy! So no fussing- we give the orders round here!"

"But…"

"Silence! You must climb the mountains with your donkeys- we give the orders round here!"

"Aaahh, so that’s how it works here?! Let's go then! Let's go off to war!" shouted the poorly fitted-out soldiers.

"To gallop, to gallop through the dead bodies!" the mules repeated to the horses, which had become even more conceited with all those precious harnesses on them.

Then a crazy bugle was sounded, and off they went.

"Forward to glory!"

And they galloped off as fast as the wind, across the huge plain watched-over by a blue sky and deep blue clouds. But… but, what the horses didn't know was…what a dirty thing war is.

The mules loaded-down with rags, cloths and cords, slowly set off, and under a baking-hot sun, overcome with shame and anger, they followed the paths, plodding and slipping along.

Dusk came, and the fiery sun up in the sky laughed in amusement. Then the stars appeared, glittering, and inquisitively stammered and coughed, splitting into groups (small stars and big) taking sides and betting- some on the mules and others on the horses; who knows what they bet, maybe a few rays of light!

The evening went and the morning came.

The poor mules with their flayed hooves and legs had finally started the descent of the mountain. The soldiers pulled on the reins with all their might, while the wretched mules pounded their hooves on the ground, so as to save their own skin and go into battle, and maybe later even back to the peace of their stable. They watched wide-eyed as the rocks under their hooves rolled downhill…

And finally they set foot on the plain!

But not long after, from just over the way… came cries of anger and pain through a great cloud of dust which turned the sky white.

Then the dust rose and…what was there to see? That the enemy had won the battle!

Tall and graceful horses, some white and others dappled black and white, or just black or grey, and many well fitted-out soldiers…all lying torn into shreds on the ground! Conquered!

Conquered by whom? By other mules and poorly fitted-out soldiers, driven into battle by rage!

Suddenly another crazy bugle sounded.

The two squadrons of soldiers took sides on one side and the other…

They looked each other hard in the eyes, mules and mules and soldiers and soldiers…

They felt compassion for each other! A deadly silence came over the battlefield.

After some time they all scattered out over the plain, like a handful of yellow ants, all thinking the same thing: "That victory between warring kings is obtained through even more battles."

But that was one that they were really not up to fighting!!

 

THE FOX AND THE WOLF

 

A fox and a wolf, both reduced to skeletons and tormented by hunger, decided to raid a hen house which was not far away, and was packed with red and white hens. They also knew that if the farmer caught them…he would kill!

But as we know, hunger pays no attention to danger.

Once they were in the cool air under an oak tree, they decided on their plan. They waited patiently for the night to come, and then the fox and the wolf set out for their stealing. Once they got to the hen house, they crept in through a narrow gash in the wire netting.

The fox crept in first, followed by the wolf.

And after every hen the fox had eaten, he would measure his belly by passing through the narrow gash. Instead, the wolf just ate and ate; his eyes were gleaming with hens and eggs and he took no notice of anything else.

In the end, a cock that was fluttering around raised the alarm. The dogs started barking like mad and the farmer came running with his big, ugly knife.

The fox, which was already half way through the gash measuring his belly, quickly fled. The wolf tried to do the same, but he was so full of hens that his belly got stuck in the hole!

"Ha! The poor old wolf; he's going to throw up all his food!" the fox thought.

In the end the dogs tore the wolf to pieces, and the farmer picked him off the ground more dead than alive, tied a rope around his neck and hung him from a branch of the tree.

The fox, who had watched the scene from afar, muttered: " Fools are those who in good times don't think of the bad!"

 

 

 

THE OLD WOLF

 

 

Once upon a time there was an old wolf, who was so old that the few odd teeth that he had in his big deformed mouth wobbled so much that they were desperate to fall out.

He was so old, that he could no longer tear sheep and lambs to pieces.

He survived on the odd old-dried up chicken leg left behind in the bushes by a fox or a polecat. Every now and then he would catch a sick bird, or a mangy rat or another half-dead creature with slobber all over their teeth, and would eat them.

He lived in an old den, dug out under the roots of an oak tree that overlooked the whole plain.

The wolves from the many packs around would call him "Uncle Wolf." He liked being called "Uncle Wolf", and would laugh with a half-smile that would almost make him seem reborn and with him his long-lost strength. The young wolves were agile and so full of energy, which would burst out of their powerful brawny muscles, that Uncle Wolf was almost convinced, or better still, certain, that they would never end up like him! Or maybe they would, but when? In a thousand years from now?

He observed them enviously and felt even worse when he watched them from afar as they seized their huge prey and dragged it away to where they would quarrel, dividing up the steaming meat.

The wolves from the pack would call him "Uncle Wolf."

And "Uncle Wolf" would laugh with a half-smile, so that he would almost seem reborn! He would often say: "If you ever want any advice, my dear wolf grandchildren, I'm always here for you and would be more than happy to help you…" And he would start: " Confuse the prey and then seize it vigorously and firmly by the neck, the neck! And don't let go until it's nice and dead. When it's nice and dead!"

And one day when the old wolf was gnawing away at a wing he had found, he heard someone calling him: "Uncle Wolf, Uncle Wolf!"

It was a polecat. She was very cunning and very young, with a long snout, and was jumping around exhaustedly. And out of shame, Uncle Wolf hastily buried the wing he had found.

Then, on seeing the polecat, he started to mumble: "Your shrill little voice made me lose an enormous young stag that…damn you; I would have had food for at least a month or more! He's gone now, I'll never catch him up!"

"I'm sorry Uncle Wolf, how did I know? Damn, what bad luck; the stag got away, and I could have done with eating a bit as well!"

"Oh yes, of course I would have given you some as well, polecat granddaughter. I'm not a villain, me. Ah, what a stag it was too. I almost had it, you know?"

"I'm sorry Uncle Wolf; I'm mortified", but meanwhile she was turning her head this way and that, just in case the stag was still on the horizon.

Uncle Wolf scratched his eye with a bald paw.

"Uncle Wolf, I came to offer you a deal…"

Weakened by hunger, Uncle Wolf curled up his snout.

"Lots of sheep and white, white lambs…"

Uncle Wolf opened his sick eyes wide.

"Oh, there is something I must warn you about… before I tell you the details. It's an understanding between the two of us. Otherwise you know what often happens- you divide up wealth, and it turns into poverty!"

Uncle wolf pretended to be barely listening.

The polecats tiny eyes twinkled like stars on a dark night, and she went on to say: " An infinity of sheep and tender, tender white, white lambs, all in the middle of a farmyard bleating so loudly that it's the very sheep and lambs that ask you to eat them…"

"Yes, that's true! Often it is they who call you!"

"And then when you have them in your grasp and you tear into them, they bleat so much that you almost feel pity for them. Anyway, I've counted them; there are thirty nice fat sheep and seven nice little lambs. But there is a but. The farmer's house is close by. If the house with the farmer in it hadn't been there, I would have eaten at least one little lamb by now."

"And as I am so small and can't do everything on my own, I have come to ask for your help, as I know that you know exactly what to do. You have a lot of experience in these matters!"

"My dear granddaughter, I'm grateful for your offer, but here where I live, I don't want to… ,but even when things aren't going for the best, I still manage to skin a nice big hare every three days, I've just eaten the last piece, and if you had come earlier I'd have given you some. I have very little strength in my teeth, but talent, I still have a lot of, I can assure you! I have so much talent that I survive quite nicely. Oh yes, talent is valuable, sometimes more than strength"

"Oh yes, I know. That’s why I came to you. I could just as easily have gone to Crooked-Eye fox, who lives in the third den on right paw, going towards the spring; the third den on right paw, the one right next to the olive tree."

"Who are you talking about? Do I know her? I don't quite understand where she lives."

"I'll tell you…she's called Crooked-Eye fox because she had…she was shot at and a pellet shattered her eye, and since then she's had a crooked eye and she lives exactly…her den is…she hasn't been there long, it's right by the olive tree where the shepherds hung Broken-Paw wolf."

"Oh yes, now I know, her den is right under the tree where Broken-Paw wolf was hung. Crooked-Eye fox! But, who the hell were you thinking of contacting!? She can't see from her snout to her mouth!"

"She can see, oh yes she can see, but from her other eye, and she can see double!

"She's sly, so sly that she pretends she can't see so as not to rouse suspicion. I think she's the most cunning fox in the whole wood, and she's not even nice to the wolves."

"Wolves uh? And you call those wolves? We were wolves. Oh yes, Wolves. It doesn't matter if I'm old, and if it hadn't been for these damn teeth of mine which wobble about like marionettes then I'd have shown them! It doesn't matter if I'm old."

"That's why I've come to you, Uncle wolf. It doesn't matter if you're old."

"Oh yes, they all come to me. Here where I live I catch a nice big stag every three days. Tell me: do you think it's worth my while? For me to slip into a farmyard stuck between sheep and lambs? Then there's the farmer. Oh yes, once I used to do these things…"

"You're right, you're quite right, but…come on Uncle wolf! We can come to an agreement."

"If I hadn't been able to find any food, oh yes, then I'd really do it; hunger won't listen to any excuses!"

"Well, if that's the way things are, then I…then I really must go."

"Wait, I've just had an idea; I want to help you, but the fact is that you want to do this in two; that’s where the eggs begin to break! I'm a very good friend of Brigand wolf, and if I…if it were me to ask him, then he would agree. If we divide things between the two or the three of us, what difference does it make? It's still better than nothing! It just means that we have to steal two or three more sheep, and everything's fair and square again."

"Yes, that's true, but as often happens…you start out dividing riches, and end up with poverty. My tiny little paws are so worn out from searching for food for myself and the others from dusk till dawn, that they no longer support me…the other night I was gnawing away at a rabbit's neck when I bumped into four friends of mine, and guess what? All I got to eat was an eye; and I even threw that up because it was bitter. Eyes taste bitter. That eye…they threw themselves all over it like savages…and all out of spite! They are no good at finding anything, and when they eat what others have caught, they can never get enough and are nasty!"

"But we are talking about wolves here! And there are thirty nice big sheep and seven nice little lambs! Between the two of us, or three, isn't it the same thing? My dear granddaughter, are you not forgetting the farmer? I have so much talent that without the farmer…you are a polecat, what can a polecat do among all those sheep and lambs? I have the talent, tactics and experience. That's how I manage to catch a nice big stag every three days, and if you had come earlier I would have given you some. Sometimes I have so much stuff left over, that it goes off and starts to smell and I have to bury it; it's such a pity. Last week a leg of stag this big went off!

As I was saying, I'm happy to be old, my dear granddaughter, but I would be even happier if…that's for sure, but we all know that we may lose something, but we find something else. I have fifteen years of real wood experience behind me…I can't tell you how many sheepfolds and hen houses I have raided! I'd go in with my mouth wide open and start on the eggs, and then eat the chickens; I'd have to scoff everything just to annoy the farmer!

I remember once, it was thirteen years ago today! The damn snow was everywhere, so I hadn't had a bite to eat all night or the next day. I was on my way home with my tangled-up insides, when I heard two or three cock-a-doodle-do's. I thought: "It must be a hen!" The snow was so deep that I sunk in up to my snout. After a while I worked out that the cock-a-doodle-do's were coming from inside a house, as the damned farmers were keeping them inside so that they would lay eggs and not freeze to death. I was hungry, so hungry. I hadn't eaten for two days. I wanted to wait till nightfall as it was safer, but as we all know, hunger has no manners; it hates to wait and with tangled-up insides it becomes rude. I was blind with hunger! I had such sharp teeth and was so strong! Who was this Brigand wolf compared to me?

Very quietly…I was sure, absolutely sure that the cock-a-doodle-do's were coming from a house: we all know what farmers are like.

I was following the cock-a-doodle-do's with my trained ear, when I suddenly stood still…and the cock-a-doodle-do's stopped! I thought: "Damn! Who knows if I'll get to eat tonight" There was only snow all around."

"And then, what happened, what happened?"

"Wait. I moved forward a little…no cock-a-doodle-doo's!" I'm done for!" I thought, "I'll starve to death like a wretch in this snow! How am I going to get back to my den?" I felt awful.

Fortunately I had, and I still have, a good sense of smell. I snorted with my nostrils and I could smell blood in my nose!

"Someone has just killed a hen! That's why there is no cock-a-doodle-doing and I can smell blood in my nose!" I thought.

"And then? then what?"

"Wait!"

"What happened?"

"What happened? What happened was that sometimes your nose helps you more than your ear"

"That's true. But go on, tell me, tell me"

"I slowly followed the smell of drops of blood. They came from behind a half-open door. I was just about to storm in, as quick as a flash, when I saw a little black man who looked like a beetle coming out with his hands full of feathers, and holding a hen's head. He walked off, and I thought: "If he's only holding the head, then surely, but surely I'll find the…Now's the right moment to go in!" Quick as a thunder-bolt, I pushed the door open and saw something cooking up above with the headless hen inside it…who knows why it was giving off such a fog, but I jumped up and knocked the thingamajig down with one paw…it was full of loot, but even though it was disfigured I ate the whole thing in three gulps without even batting an eyelid. Damn it was hot, but I scoffed the whole thing inside the farmer's house! My mouth was smoking and that was the only time I ever ate a scalding chicken. I was about to leave, when I heard another three or four cock-a-doodle-do's; the farmer came in carrying another hen! Running off I jumped up and grabbed that one as well! I ate it later in the middle of a snowstorm, thinking what a blockhead the farmer had been letting me get away with two hens!

"Ah, my dear polecat granddaughter- I was a real brigand, I was! The wolf I was telling you about is a relative of mine and "A brigand uncle makes for a brigand nephew" as they say, and I'm so fond of him because he's very much like me …so how could I ever make a deal without him?

He would be offended. You know how many wolves come to me for advice…

There is a wolf…he often comes to me…his mouth is this big, and his teeth are this big, and his paws are this big…but he doesn't have much upstairs. I'm teaching him, I tell him to do this and to do that…and after a bit he is so grateful that he brings me…guess what he brought me the other day? All for some advice I gave him…you won't believe this, but he brought me a leg of wild boar this big!"

"Flippin'heck! You're joking, aren't you Uncle wolf? But...but no wolf has ever caught a wild boar before!"

"Joking, me? It's the truth! He'll tell you himself…he comes to see me almost everyday, why he might even come as I'm talking to you"

"Listen, nobody has ever. Yes, I know, nobody has ever. But two days ago it happened! He brought a leg of wild boar this big as a present, and if you had come earlier I would have given you some. My advice and a strong wolf…make for a dead boar!"

"What a pity, what a pity!" The poor hungry polecat said, shaking her head. " If a had come earlier, earlier and even earlier still, I would have had my fill for a month. One whole day and all I've had is one egg, and it's still heavy on my stomach. Who knows where the hen was! Who knows. Baah!"

" If you found the egg, then she must have been around there somewhere…"

"No, Uncle wolf! They are crazy hens who want to brood at all costs, and are scared the farmer will eat the eggs; so they take them far, far away and leave one here and one there. They can't make a pile, as they can't remember where they left the egg the day before, and this goes on and on. That's why you often find the egg, but not the hen."

The polecat exploded with laughter: " Ha, ha, ha!" and again: " Often…the hens lay their eggs here and there, so the farmers who want eggs at all costs think they are sterile and kill them. You know, there are some hens who want to be mothers at all costs."

"My favourite hens are the ones… I call "blue-blooded." They have blue blood…" butted-in Uncle wolf.

" I know, I'm a polecat. I know exactly what you're talking about. Let me explain: these take all their eggs to one place, day after day, they have some brains upstairs and they are so extraordinary that they frighten me! The others don't: they just roll eggs all over the place, even the eggs of other hens that haven't been fecundated…In short, they just cause trouble: it doesn't benefit anyone: neither themselves, nor the polecats, nor the farmer! On the contrary, the others are amazing, they line the eggs up perfectly, all in one place, so orderly that it's as if they are in a basket: and they punctually go to brood them…In other words…it's wonderful! You find a treasure under the hedge that makes your eyes twinkle with glee. You often even find chicks that have just popped out, and don't know you are a polecat and mistake you for their mummy. So there you are looking at that Godsend, when along comes the hen, sometimes even with a mate…so you crouch down between the wide leaves and wait for them to reach the bushes, when you shoot out and bite into ones neck, and then the others', you make a hole in their breasts because all the best bits are inside. Then later, in all tranquillity, you eat the eggs and chicks."

On hearing this, Uncle wolf licked the few teeth that he had left in his big, old mouth, with his fat tongue."A Godsend"

he started to say, " A Godsend: paradise under the hedge! But these things only happen once in a blue sun…"

" But, come now Uncle wolf, we're not recounting our adventures and ignoring our deal, are we?"

" So, yes! There are thirty sheep…like this…nice and fat, and seven nice little lambs…Oh, then there's the house with the farmer in it…Uncle wolf and the little young polecat…what we need here is Brigand wolf. If I had been hungry I would say:

" Yes, let's do this thing between the two of us", as I have so much strength and my teeth are still good…if I agree, it's on the condition that…that…Brigand wolf…because I'm a wolf! And not out of hunger. I catch a nice big stag every three days and I'm…" But he realised that she was quite a proud polecat, and so he said: " Believe me, we need Brigand wolf in on this."

"Okay, okay", agreed the polecat. "Let's do that, maybe it's best."

" Listen: So you go and call him, and tell him that Uncle wolf sent you. Tell him to come quickly as well, that there's loads to eat. If he asks, tell him that you work with me, that I send you out to look for nice things to eat. Don't say anything else, I know what to do. Now just go."

"Where do I go…if I don't know where his den is?"

"Right, yes, right. Well…to get there…Mmm…well you…

I…Aaaahh!"

"Hey, what's wrong Uncle Wolf?"

"Damn it…it's just that thinking makes me nervous…let's start from Crooked-Eye fox's den by the olive tree…and don't forget: don't say a thing if you meet the fox, she's half blind and half crazy. It's best if you don't say a thing. You get to the den…then you follow…straight after the olive tree on right paw there are lots of oak trees all in a row. Then it's…(it's ten wolf steps…) you skip for thirty little wolf steps, still on right paw until you see a great big chestnut-tree stump a bit further over to the left, and under it is a big den- It's Brigand wolf's. And don't forget that it's dangerous, so don't go in. Call him from outside and say: "Brigand wolf, Brigand wolf, Uncle wolf has sent me!" and you'll tell him a bit about the matter. But just a bit. I'll be waiting for you here. Don't say much!"

And the polecat very slyly went on her way.

She reached the den and called out: "Brigand wolf, Brigand wolf! Uncle wolf has sent me!"

A very big wolf who was chewing on something, and whose snout was covered in blood came out of the den. The polecat who was a little bit frightened, grew even smaller, greeted him and explained the matter: that Uncle wolf had sent her and that there was…

And so they went.

When Uncle wolf, who was sitting outside his den, saw them approaching he thought back to the things he had already thought about.

"Brigand wolf!"

"Uncle wolf! Here I am: any orders?"

"Listen. You were sent for because…thirty nice fat sheep and seven little white lambs are waiting to be eaten by us. They are in a farmyard. Has the polecat told you?"

"No"

"But there is … the …the…right there…the farmer's house is nearby, but he's a half-wit. Just imagine this: the polecat almost made off with a lamb. I thought, only Brigand wolf can help us in this deed, there are so many sheep!" We must act by night with the help of the moon and the stars. This is the plan: first the polecat enters the yard, has a look around and comes back to report to us. Then she goes back, looks again and signals to us, and if we haven't understood she returns to re-explain, then she goes back and waits for me. And then", said Uncle wolf, playing the part like a good actor, "I storm in to raid the place, and you Brigand wolf, are to wait outside and keep an eye on the farmer's house. And as the polecat and I grab the sheep and lambs, we'll bring them to you to put somewhere safe. It doesn't matter if I'm old and my teeth are about to fall out; I'm sure I'll succeed"

The polecat, playing the simpleton, looked at the old wolf and thought: "Who knows…" Brigand wolf didn't answer. He stared at Uncle Wolf and was quiet for a bit, then said: "Uncle wolf, you are offending me, "Brigand wolf has never kept a lookout!"

Sly as she was, the little polecat sensed something.

Uncle wolf already knew from the start…

And Brigand wolf really was a blockhead.

Playing the part again, Uncle wolf started: "I don't think I have said anything wrong, on the contrary…I'm…I'm talking for your sake. I'm old, very old- what have I got to lose? And if…the farmer catches me, do you know what I'll do? I'll give him my old age! How many years do I have left to live? So it's only fair that Uncle wolf takes the all risks! But you Brigand wolf…you take offence! But if that's the way things stand… and you really insist…I'll keep an eye on the farmer's house, and I'll put the sheep and lambs that you bring somewhere safe. I'm old? What can I do about it? I am old! Let the young perform the bold deeds! But, be careful."

Brigand wolf was touched and grew even fonder of Uncle wolf, whom he stroked with his paw. The polecat looked on, playing the simpleton and thought: "who knows…but, but…Uncle wolf really does know how to handle things!"

Time flew by and darkness fell, the sky full of stars and some moon. The polecat informed them that it was time to go, so off they set.

Later, they finally came to a halt about three hundred paw steps from the farmyard, and after having observed the area, they conferred again.

Very soon they heard the lambs bleating!

And Uncle wolf rubbed his snout with his bald paw.

And the polecat smiled with a loud jarring of her teeth.

And Brigand wolf mumbled like a fool.

Brigand wolf jumped three or four times to warm up and the polecat did the same, rolling around in a thicket. Uncle wolf noticed, and started giving orders: "Come on, you polecat: let's go, don't forget to…. You, Brigand wolf, wait."

The polecat crept into the yard, brushing through the hedges. And all those delicious things were in there, in that open pen. The polecat stuck out her tongue and licked her little snout. She didn't see any dogs. The farmer's house was there, fast asleep- all nice and quiet.

She came back and reported. She went back and signalled, on seeing everything was quiet.

Brigand wolf arrived and dived off a high wall, straight into the pen; the polecat followed.

The wolf started to butcher the sheep and lambs with huge bites, and with the polecat's help, he dragged them all off, one by one to where Uncle wolf was waiting.

The old wolf thought he was dreaming when he saw the treasure he had before him.

He tried to carry away a big heavy sheep, but when he grabbed hold of it, one of his old teeth fell out. When he realised he couldn't make it he started greedily eating a lamb.

But all of a sudden a sheep started bleating like mad, the farmer jumped from his bed and into the yard, and started to shoot better than a soldier! Brigand wolf was hit right under his tail, and just as the farmer was taking aim again, the polecat jumped up and dived right between his legs, giving him such a fright that the farmer fell to the ground and almost bent the barrels of his gun.

In the state he was in, Brigand wolf managed to flee, making off with a little lamb, as did the polecat who escaped with an unlucky hen that had been tottering around, in her mouth.

Uncle wolf had already run off on hearing the first bleating, leaving the whole treasure behind and completely forgetting that he was there to keep lookout.

The wolf and the polecat kept on running until they were out of danger, when they stopped to rest.

And after the fright they had had, and all that weariness…they fell asleep. The night passed peacefully and morning came.

Brigand wolf, with his gunshot wound, yawned, while the polecat who had been awake for quite a while, had been thinking: "A nice big stag every three days"…"If you had come earlier I would have given you a bit."…"The cock-doodle-do's"…"And you call those wolves?"…

Uncle wolf had swindled them! If everything had gone well…but everything had gone wrong, and he had run away.

So she spoke her mind.

Brigand wolf understood and didn't, and said: "He's a poor old wolf, he was frightened." And then as he was feeling a bit peckish, he took a bite out of the little lamb.

" He got you shot! He can't even keep lookout!", the polecat quickly answered; she was sure of what she was saying, jumping around in exasperation and scratching her little snout.

All of a sudden Uncle wolf came out of a bush. "Ah, I've found you at last. I've been looking for you all night. At last! I went back to where the three butchered sheep and the five little lambs were, because I wanted to take them with me, but I couldn't find them. I breathed a sigh of relief through my nose, because I thought: "What a wolf Brigand wolf is! He did what I wanted to do- he took the sheep and lambs to a safe place." What a fright I had with all that shooting! You know it takes a lot to scare me…and fear makes you so hungry…come, let's divide up the three sheep and the five little lambs. Come on! I'm starving…"

"What are you saying, Uncle wolf?! I didn't pick up anything from the ground, and the polecat knows nothing either. While I was escaping last night, I took a little lamb from the sheepfold. Look, here it is! And the polecat grabbed a hen. If we really have to, we'll divide this…"

" This? Are you crazy? There's nothing left there on the ground!" Uncle wolf kept on.

" The farmer probably took them back." suggested the polecat.

" The farmer? At that time of night? Brigand wolf, your snout is still dripping with blood! You ate them!"

"I ate them? And tell me, where are the bones? And…how can we have eaten all that already?"

" How should I know where the bones are?! Come on, let's not play around!"

When the polecat saw the way things were turning out, she started to eat the hen.

"Uncle wolf, I'll cut off a piece of lamb for you and…" Brigand wolf offered in a conciliatory tone.

" What? " I'll cut off a piece of lamb…" to me who catches a nice big stag every three days!"

"… And if you had come earlier I would have given you a bit!" you certainly know that yarn. You know what I'll give you, don't you? The feathers of the hen I've just eaten!" And the polecat threw them up in the air. "Here. Feathers! You can write a nice long letter to the farmer with them, and tell him that if all wolves are like you, he needn't lose any sleep at night!"

" Uncle wolf, I was shot and the farmer, who is not a fool at all, took back his sheep and lambs. This is all I brought from the pen. Do you…want a bit or not?"

"It's all mine! Compared to what I should have had, it's as if I have nothing!" Uncle wolf shouted angrily.

" So…so…nothing at all! I'm not giving you a thing! Am I a thief? Yes! Brigand wolf is a thief! But he's a thief through and through and I'm going to eat my way through this whole lamb!" Saying this he furiously grabbed hold of the lamb and offered a piece to the polecat, who said "No", she was already full up with hen. He devoured the whole thing in seven mouthfuls, and threw the feathers and skin in the air shouting: " Take this, it's your share! I know what part you're playing! I'm Brigand wolf and I may be uncouth, but I'm not a fool!"

And the wolf and the polecat arrogantly stole away, leaving Uncle wolf all alone with his old age and his bitterness.

But…but, dear readers, these things…Animals don't do these things! And in telling stories, we often really ill-treat them…

THE BETRAYED WOLF

A wolf and a fox were such very, very good friends, that even if those who observed them were skilled in the art of conversing, they could never properly convey how and why they were so fond and thought so highly of each other.

The fox knew everything about the wolf, and the wolf knew almost all about the fox. The wolf had taken part in many a raid! Many, many more than the fox, and with a lion's heart he had slaughtered entire flocks! The shepherds were left to talk to themselves, and some even went crazy: from being rich in the evening, to impoverished the following morning!

Just think that one day the wolf managed to skin two big calves with the strength of his teeth alone, and God knows how, he even managed to carry them whole back into the wood. He invited his friend the fox and her relatives to the feast, where they all enjoyed the lovely meat, and almost wore out their paws applauding the wolf for the ability he had shown.

One day, the two of them caught two lambs and a sick sheep and tore them to pieces. But who knows the reason for what happened next? Maybe it was the heat of the sun, or the hunger they felt, or a stupid rivalry born from that strange situation…the fact is that the two of them fell out! The wolf was overcome with rage, and snatched the whole booty and left.

The fox felt betrayed, and in a second she forgot all about the long warm friendship she had shared with the wolf. She began to go round telling everyone about her old mate and his misdeeds, and, what's more, she added others the wolf had no part in!

So in the eyes of the people the wolf became so dangerous that he was ruthlessly hunted down!

He was soon captured and handcuffed by the shepherds! The following day in the square where the execution was to take place, there was the wolf with a noose around his neck! The wolf was asked to express his last wish. What was it to be?

" I want to speak to the fox called what's-her-name! She lives in the hole at the top of the branches of the fifth oak tree on Ambush Avenue ."

The fox was sent for and informed that the wolf wanted to talk to her- his last wish! But she didn't want to go.

The old animals advised her to go, and so in the end she went.

"What do you want from me? You drove me away!"

The wolf was upset by the betrayal, and said in a quiet, resigned voice:" Why have you done this to me? You spewed out what I did all over the place, but not…you never vomited the meat I always gave you! You are the most treacherous creature in the world! However…however you are still in time to save my skin, even though you did betray me."

" You talk of betrayal as if was something rare in this world! Don't you know that the closer a friendship, the worse the cataclysm is later if you end up arguing? That it's worse than a bomb going off?"

" Friendship? The proverb says it all: "Friendship is golden!" And as you taught me, my friend the wolf, to find gold is far from easy! Will we ever all be rich and rulers in this world? You were foolish to tell me everything!"

"Did you want to show off, maybe? I'm a fox, and so let me tell you, I know how the world works better than a wolf, and let me say to you: my deeds that could have really compromised me are still in here, right here in my chest! And if they begged me for a whole year to recount them to a dead animal, I swear that I would never do it!"

"I know, I know. I understand" the wolf joined in "that at times we can lose our way… the times when…euphoria…but come now! You are a fox, and if you want, you can at least save my life! I'm scared of dying! Say that you were mistaken; you took me for another wolf…that the night makes you have oversights… and if you want, you're a fox and you can do it! It's just that, a single wolf could never have done what you said! This is the proof."

"This is the proof!? And then? Listen,listen. I'm a fox you said? You were certainly right there! Let me ask you a question: Could I ever end up eaten by you?" The wolf didn't answer.

"Well then! You can see for yourself that I can no longer save you. But then, all things considered, I know one thing for sure, and I believe this! After we die, we are reborn!!!"

"We are reborn?"

"We are reborn, sure!"

"Well listen to me then; as soon as I'm reborn, you'd better start running, because if I get you I'll really tear you to pieces!!"

"See! There you are, I was right! If I had just saved you, you would have eaten me! So bye-bye! I really must be off now. Catch me if you can!"

THE DOVES OF SEUL

 

At the Seul Olympics, man invited white doves to act as "The Symbol of Peace in this World which is Round."

They all set out, except a few mothers who had to look after the little doves in their nests.

They arrived in droves from the furthest away countries, all so very happy to represent Peace, which is such a beautiful thing! So very, very many of them, all happy to celebrate Peace with the other animals.

They arrived in Seul sweaty and exhausted, but happy, because this long journey was a mission for them.

They spectacularly took over the sky, and then lay down to rest anywhere there was space. They were all joyous that day, because finally…

The doves softly pecked each other with their beaks and others even more head over heels in love, would rise up on their little red claws, spread their wings and hug their companions.

All sorts of insects and animals were taking part in this wonderful display of love! There were rabbits, and cats purring at dogs, the fox carrying the hen on its back, the mouse was playing with the worm, the polecat was chattering with the chick, the fly was jumping around with the spider, the mosquito was buzzing around with the wasp and the tiger was being chased by the hare…and endless other animal species playing all sorts of games.

The clear blue sky laughed.

The river lay watching, resting in its bed.

The sun shone, and some of its rays were so touched that they cried. And even the branches in the trees exchanged their leaves.

The zebra athletes dressed in green, and the giraffes in white, paraded across the field, while the anthems of the woods and forests, steppes and deserts and glaciers and cities rang out in the coloured sky. As the "Symbol of Peace in this World which is Round", the doves took it in turns to colour the sky white. Many of them were so tired that in order to get some rest and a better view of the show, they clung unawares to the edge of the brazier that stood at the top of a tall metallic tower…

On a given signal the torch with the flame from Olympia was lit…the flames flickered up like lightening and many doves were reduced to small shapeless smoking coals.

There was a horrified bustle amongst the animals, as the eagles and hawks and flamingos and others still all flew towards the brazier to save their friends.

The festive atmosphere became a tear-soaked silence.

An old dove with a lot of experience in life, witnessed the scene, burst into tears and said: " Oh mankind, mankind…Man has inflicted endless perils on the world! Even Peace is celebrated with fire, and the doves ended up as smoking coals! Man has inflicted endless perils on the world! One day the very men who are working for peace will destroy both themselves and all us animals without even noticing! Mankind, mankind; it would be better if you destroyed your arsenals of death rather than celebrating Peace. What are you up to? Are you pulling your own leg, and everyone else's? You want to look good to the eyes of the world? You wear robes of peace, but carry deadly weapons? Why not destroy the machines that soak everything with blood? Maybe one day…one day…it's better not to think!"

From then on the doves no longer wanted to take part, of their own accord, in anything organised by men, because they are complete IMBECILES!

So the doves we now see flying in stadiums, are just poor wretches that have been locked up in cages, and then released. Their wails that echo across the skies are heavy with sadness, because they are forced to fly all alone, in those places where other animals no longer want to go.

DEATH AND NATURE

There was once a time when the world was new!

When living creatures appeared on the earth, Death was born as well.

In the beginning nobody knew she existed, and Death knew nothing about the world, nor how or how many creatures lived on it. She would pass the time scratching her ears with her yellow nails, sitting on a boulder on the top of a cliff. Apart from this, Death never knew what to do.

But one day, very early in the morning, she shrugged off her idleness and came to a decision: "I must know and understand…investigate!" she said to herself loudly.

She took some tree bark and some reeds, from which she made herself a bag. She picked up some lumps of coal because she could write with them, some wide leaves, and then set off to discover the world.

She walked and walked and tripped over a gnarled branch, cursed, got up again and entered a thick forest where she met a tortoise and took fright! Then she stopped to observe it and thought: "Gosh how ugly she is!"

She approached the tortoise and asked her: "Being, who are you? What are you called, and where are you going so slowly with that stolen shell on you?"

"Who I am I don't know, and I'm called tortoise, and …and what do you care where I'm going?"

Death was angry, jotted down the species: "Tortoise" and drew her.

Death went on walking, and in a forest she saw a parrot, stopped to observe him and thought: "Gosh what beautiful colours he has! But what a horrible crooked beak!"

She approached the parrot and asked: "Being, who are you? What are you called, and where are you flying with all those beautiful colours and that strange twisted beak?"

"Who I am I don't know, and I'm called parrot and…and what do you care where I'm going?"

Death was angry, jotted down the species: "parrot" and drew him.

Death sat down on a knotty stump, rested and then set out again. In a savannah she met a giraffe, stopped to observe her and thought: "Oh my God, what a long neck…and what a lot of lovely colours!…what a waste of creativity if she has to die anyway."

She approached the giraffe and asked: " Being, who are you, what are you called and where are you running to, coiling that long neck?"

"Who I am I don't know, and I'm called giraffe and…what do you care where I'm going?"

Death was angry, jotted down the species: "giraffe" and drew her.

This went on…and in the course of her long journey Death classified all the various species with painstaking meticulousness, recording them all one by one.

But she never met Man!

One day Death was sitting on a sharp boulder by the river- bank, with her feet on a large basket full of coal and wide leaves. She was drawing a crocodile, which was wallowing in the mud and green reeds. She was observing him and painstakingly counting his scales, when she was overcome by a sudden desire to take the crocodile with her into the "Darkness of Nothingness."

Nature was happily passing by.

"Hey, Death! How's it going, Well? The crocodile? You're sketching the crocodile? But…why ever?"

"Oh, lo-ook who's here! Nature! But do you know, do you know that I am one of your creatures, as well?"

Oh yes, yes, of course I know; it was me who created you! And…and do you know why I gave you life?"

Death scratched her ears with her yellow nails and stared angrily at Nature. Nature said: "Come on…don't look at me like that. You know don't you? Of course you know!

"I…I…but…if things are always like this in the world…I can't wait for ever you know!"

"Forever? You must wait…don't you know that the world is new? It's new!"

"But I…I…" Death started to cry covering her face with her horrible black hands, and then continued to complain: "I'm tired of all this idleness, I don't feel gratified at all. What am I here for, eehhh? What am I doing in this damn, peaceful world?

The situation here is very strange and I don't really like it. In this entire world all I have carried away has been a worm that was eaten by a hen, a fly squashed by a horse's hoof and a dead rat with froth around its mouth."

Death went all yellow with anger and continued: "I belong to you as well, for God's sake Nature! Am I not one of your creatures? How can I live here, how can I live, if no one ever dies? Damn, damn this peaceful world!"

Nature shuddered and interrupted her: "Shut up! Shut up you ungrateful creature! Do you know why I gave you life? Do you?"
"Well…maybe…maybe I know or I don't…how should I know! All I know is that no one ever dies here!"

"I have given life on many other planets, but I have never given birth to a creature as evil as you, Death!… Maybe the earth has gone to your head? You will only be able to take away a creature when the years that I and only I have granted it, have passed! To make space…to make space for others still…new creatures whom must learn how to look into this New World of mine. This is all my doing! Do you understand?"

"Hey! One hen ate a worm, a fly was squashed by the horse's hooves and a rat died with froth…"

My huge task has only just begun. I'm trying so hard to make this world perfect that I have given myself a breakdown

…My heart has become sick, but really sick. Come, come. Look, look. My task has only just begun. But where are you looking? Here…here in my bag."

Nature pulled out a very long sheet of paper, and continued: "Look! Here is my plan. See? This is Man! This is what the New World will be like! Man; will Man be able to…will Man know…He'll know what to do!"*3 Death gazed at Nature and scratched her ears with her yellow nails, and with a distraught expression she said: "Maaaan? And…what'll he do?"

"Yes, Man!" And Nature was overwhelmed with happiness.

"My latest and most perfect creation! He will carry out my sublime task with so much love, and will teach living creatures not to eat each other, (and if the hen ate a worm and a horse squashed a fly with its hooves by mistake, and a rat died with froth…it means that my task is still almost at its starting point!) and he will make sure that they look for milk and fruit and berries and honey, without harming any of my creatures. Perfect, perfect. I'm going to delegate my task to my latest and favourite son! "He knows what to do!"

"I'll colour some black and some white, some blond and red, others black and white together, sometimes with more white, other times with more black; I'll give them light blue and green, black and blue eyes of all shapes and sizes. I'll make sure that they talk, and that they all talk in different ways; I'll colour their speech with endless different dialects. That's what I must do. In this way they will be more…more… how do you say…I'm so excited that I can't find the… I'm speechless. Anyway…"

Death heard so many very strange things all once that she almost went mad. She scratched her ears so hard again with her yellow nails, that she flayed them! She watched Nature wide- eyed and felt like fainting, but as soon as she had recovered a bit she begun to slowly study the leaves she had already drawn on, and understood why so many animals were similar! Nature had wanted them this way to give more colour to the earth! She then chose the widest and finest leaves, and the blackest pieces of coal, and put them aside to portray the latest creature which 3. Note:In the original this is a Neapolitan phrase "'O sape isso c'hadda fà!"

was due to come out any moment now: Man! Saddened, she wept slightly, and thought that as soon as Nature had gone she would bawl her eyes out, to give vent to her feelings. But for some reason, Nature kept on lingering…finally Death plucked up courage, said good-bye with a bow, and was about to leave…when Death started talking.

"Come now, why are you complaining? You'll be in charge of substituting…with new beings that I will invent. Come now, cheer up! Come, come with me- I'll show you my laboratory."

It was at that moment that Death realised! She had been conceived flawed! But why her? Yes, she fiendishly wanted the living creatures to die before they had run their natural cycle. She covered her face fleetingly with her horrible black hands with yellow nails. She was seized by terror. It was all clear: she realised that she was already in love with this flaw of hers and…didn't want Man to come into the world to put things right.

Nature and Death quickly crossed a big wood. At dusk they reached the foot of a very tall mountain. Nature took Death by the hand and led her to a big Bramble bush, which had an opening between the leaves, thorns, fruit and the black and red berries. They went through this opening, and soon found themselves in the belly of the mountain, in a vast area which was the workshop.

"Look! This is where I built the beings. Right there, and there. You were born there, look, there in that big jug. My cre-a-ture DEATH." Nature then kissed her, took her face in her hands, and caressed it.

Death knitted her brows; she had become very curious indeed. Then she said: "And the giraffe? Where was the giraffe born?"

"The giraffe was born there, in that tall, narrow tub…God, it was so hard to get her out! I pulled her neck with all my force; I pulled so hard and it stretched so very much that I was worried. But I made such a muddle of the colours that she came out really beautiful. Have you met the giraffe?"

"Yes, yes"

She's beautiful isn't she…by the way, those are the vessels for the colours. Poor old me! I really must get on with things. Not only must I give life to Man, but give the earth many, many more animal species than those that you have already seen.

There still aren't enough…there are only…let me add them up."

Nature pulled out an enormous book, wet her fingers with saliva and started subtracting and multiplying.

"Too few! I need a lot more. One hundred mixtures…two hundred to make Man…every mixture is one thousand plus one thousand plus one thousand times one thousand…yes, it might suffice. Can you see those? They are the mixtures I haven't prepared yet. Raw substances. I have refined them, but what hard work it was. What a job it was to clean some of those substances…my hands are having a nervous breakdown…to tell the truth, it didn't take me long to make the animals. But to make Man and to make his substances pure…I disposed of atrocity, barbarity, brutality, cruelty, godlessness…as well as envy, savagery, severity, tyranny, lust for power, harshness, inhumanity, greed, unbridled passion and idiocy and schizophrenia and schizothemia…and many, many others. If I had to list them all, I'd be here all day; I wouldn't be able to make Man, and then all the other animals in a month."

"All on your ooowwn? All… all this on your own? And those are the substances…"

"Yes, there they are in those jugs. They're accursed substances. Acc-ur-sed. I'm burying them all tomorrow, to avoid the beings slaughtering each other amongst themselves.

Death glared at Nature with her horrible black eyes, scratched herself all over with her yellow nails and became blacker still, and then started to quiver all over.

"There, in those phials? All in there? In thooose phiiaaaals?"

"Yes, but keep away- they're dangerous. As soon as I have time I'll bury them all in a deep hole.

Death noticed a little red phial on a shelf, and pointed at it with her crooked finger: "What's that one there?"

"Unlimited age. That's the phial for infinite age. Tomorrow it will end up in the deep hole, along with the others."

"In-fi-nite age??"In-fi-niiite?"

Hearing this, Nature suddenly became suspicious. "That’s enough! I don't like this; you look everywhere with those horrible black eyes of yours, and then want to know everything. I created you and that's why I tried to console you, but now I've had enough." She then grabbed her by the arm, and showed her to the exit. And Death left.

She was all worked up, and walked for a long time until she was tired and sat down on a crooked stump. For a while she thought it had all been a bad dream. Finally she ripped her bag open and took out the leaves and coal, and drew strange columns to fill with statistics…then she burst out: "Damned rotten bad luck!! I'll get a fly squashed by a cow's tail and a stupid sparrow that’s fallen from its nest and a chick that choked on an egg! Damn this peaceful world!" And then she thought…" Man will know what to do…" But what will he really be able to do?"

She thought back to "…accursed substances…greed…

envy…unbridled passion…schizothemia…they'll all come in handy, if…yeess!" And she understood, in her own way she understood. She bounced up and cried out: " I am Death, I am! And I'm tired of waiting."

She fell asleep and dreamt about what she would have liked to happen. She pictured Man, and it was one hell of a dream: Cracked-open heads and slashed-open stomachs, giraffes with their necks ripped apart and chopped up elephants, women raped to death and horses with their sides torn open…three hours later she woke up.

She grabbed her bag, took out some wide leaves and built some vessels that she filled with water, and then quickly toddled off. Where did she go? To Nature's place, hoping to find her asleep.

In less than no time at all she was in the belly of the mountain, in the vast area which was the workshop. She cocked her ear and heard Nature mixing and singing along.

Death waited. And Nature fell asleep.

Death crept in, walking like a sly dog. She grabbed at the substances with her horrible black hands, quickly pouring them into the mixers disregarding the quantities. She drank vast quantities of the cruelty liquid and all of the infinite age one. Then she gave out a cry of hysterical laughter, and filled up the empty phials with water she had brought from the woods, so as to hide her scheme from Nature.

Nature was sleeping, bent over on a stool. She snored, smiling.

Death gazed at her with her horrible black eyes, picked up a wide leaf and a piece of coal, and jotted down the species: "Nature", drew her and muttered: "She knows, now she knows exactly what to do!"

Two days had gone by, and Nature had given life to yet more animals and a multicoloured Man. Nature gazed at him and was moved to tears, caressed and kissed him, and stated: "I'll entrust you with the World! Look after it, this Old World , don't ruin it! It's lovely, all nice and round!"*4.

 

She dried away her tears, and with shrewd grace she took the phials and buried them in a deep hole, and flew away to God knows where in the sky.

And then…who knows what happened next…who knows…Baaah…whatever came out of that great mix up…maybe Death is tyrannising and Nature is disconsolate? Who knows.

Will Death, with its yellow nails, manage to take Nature with her into the "Darkness of Nothingness"? Baah, who knows.

Maybe…yes, yes! Here he comes now! He is bound to know! All we have to do is ask Man. He'll know exactly what to do: he is controlled by Death!

4 . Note:In the original this is a Neapolitan phrase:"Guardatillo, 'O munno: nunn 'o sciupà! È bello, tunno tunno!"

 

THE CRAZY FOX

 

There was once a fox that had gone crazy. She would toddle through the wood gracelessly, and with sudden furious outbursts, she would bite into the tree bark causing wounds to her mouth.

No one knows why she became crazy, or what cruel joke nature had played on her- because nature loves to play jokes on us, oh how it loves to play jokes! Anyway her bloodied, dirty mouth was stinging, and rivulets of blood were dripping onto the grass. In addition, the fox was frothing at the mouth and puckering her lips to bare her teeth, howling hysterically.

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

One day she saw a wolf out of the corner of her eye, and being in the state she was in, decided to attack him. The wolf fled, for he was ill! But even if he was ill, he still ran like hell! We all know that fear even gets hold of a wolf, when it is ill.

The fox seized it and killed it as quick as a thunderbolt with eleven bites to the neck! The fox wanted to eat the wolf, but he was so hard that she had to desist.

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

The stunned foxes all stood there watching! And by Jove! They appointed her leader of the pack there and then!

The news spread quickly, it got around as fast as the wind. All the fox packs from the many surrounding woods wanted her as leader of their pack. So from one day to another the crazy fox unknowingly found herself as the leader of all the packs that lived in the woods of the whole region.

What jokes life (or nature) plays on us! By Jove! It loves to play jokes!

And one day in the wood of a thousand chestnut-tree stumps, the foxes from all the packs joyfully organised a rally for her, where they all applauded her so loudly that their paws became bald from all the clapping!

The crazy fox gritted her teeth and pulled long faces, and she improvised, muttering things that sounded true to the ears of all the foxes in attendance.

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

Suddenly something popped out of a bush; it was a wolf cub that was passing by…the fox jumped from the stage like a thunderbolt and caught the cub, played with it, skinned it and ate it!

Good God, what next; she was overwhelmed by deafening applause, and the foxes were so carried away with clapping their paws, tails and everything else, that they really did lose all their fur!

Back on stage for the rally, she harangued them with a long speech at the end of which she stuttered her design: that of breeding from the same races of animals… because these races…

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

As luck would have it for quite a while she met no more wolves! So she would perform, slaughtering skeleton-like rabbits, ill sheep, yellow hens and the odd bird with broken wings, mangy hares and half-witted rats.

The crazy fox saw no more wolves; the crazy fox saw no more wolves!

How lucky she was, but she didn't realise, by Jove! She didn't realise her good fortune!

She refused to calmly sit back and enjoy life and wasn't in the least aware that luck must sometimes be left to rest peacefully, or it loses its patience…and turns into bad luck and kicks like a mule!

The crazy fox, the crazy fox that didn't realise…

Oh how she was applauded, how she was applauded when the foxes were told that the wolves could be destroyed!

The foxes all went to hunt them down while they were relaxing-this was the last thing the wolves expected, to be attacked!

"Good God!" the wolves said, "Good God! This time the foxes really have gone mad!! Foxes…foxes waging war on wolves? This crazy world really is turned upside down this time!"

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

The wolves decided that it would only take seven of the best wolves to destroy the foxes. And so it was!

In no time at all there was a bloodbath.

Very few foxes were taken prisoners.

And tortured…" Who was it? Who gave the orders? Whooo? Speak up!! It's best for you! Was it a shepherd? Did you sell yourselves out for a bowl of vegetables? Why? Don't you like sheep anymore? Don't you like sheep anymore? You! Talk! Now! Did you sell yourself for a few rotten eggs?" Then they were threatened and beaten as if it was hailing blows!

"It was…it's not my fault, it so happened that…the crazy fox! The crazy fox got it into her head that…that … and she ordered us to attack the wolves!"

"The crazy fox? What, what…"

"Yes! The crazy fox!"

"The crazy fox? So it wasn't the shepherds?"

"No, no!"

"So let's go, let's go and straighten out this world of ours!"

It wasn't long before the crazy fox was captured; she wasn't even given the third degree, but simply torn to shreds.

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

The crazy fox was so crazy that that's how she ended up! She didn't understand that she who is contented…

Those who followed her ended up the same way, not understanding that...but the tale of the crazy fox was remembered- in a short time she became a legend and remembered for ever more, respected and venerated: she had been the one who had dared attack the wolves! And no one ever came to know that the whole bloody mess and slaughter were all due to a sick wolf and a crazy fox, and a whole lot of other foxes that hadn't understood that…that's the way the world is, my dear animal friends, and believe me, there is nothing, but really nothing that we can do!

And that's how a crazy fox became a legend! Life really loves to play tricks on us!

The crazy fox, the crazy fox, and no one ever understood…will there be other sick wolves and crazy foxes, and others still that don't understand…?

You think what you believe.

I really think there will be.

The crazy fox, the crazy fox!

 

 

THE CAT THAT WASN'T SATISFIED

 

 

There was a cat that was in service for ten bookish white poodles. He lived with them in a fabulous palace.

The palace rose on one side of a lake that lapped against the palace walls, which were surrounded by twilled-trees and embellished by all sorts of flowers.

The water in the lake was crystal-clear, and schools of silver fish would dart from the water and entwine into s-shapes in the deep blue air.

The poodles pursued all the various art forms: Painting, music, poetry, theatre…meanwhile the cat worked in the kitchen, where he certainly didn't go short of food. Once the cat had finished working, he would take pleasure in playing the harp for the poodles who would applaud him enthusiastically.

One day the cat was rolling around, sunbathing on the beach by the lake, when he was approached by a wolf: "Oh look who it is! The cat who is a servant and dishwasher! You are locked up all day, serving that bunch of stupid bourgeois dogs that know nothing about the world. You see schools of fish jumping under your very nose and you don't lift a paw…you have lost your hunting instinct! You live like a dead cat, an insignificant being! You are really just a coward that looks like a cat!"

The wolf talked so much, that in the end the cat was persuaded into leaving the ten bookish poodles, and to join the wolf in trying to catch the silver fish.

The cat and the wolf prepared everything they needed. The cat lay in wait by the lakeside, with the net between his paws while the wolf held him by the tail. A huge silver fish suddenly shot out of the water straight into the net, but its weight was too much for the cat that was dragged down into the water!

The poor creature was struggling in enemy waters, swallowing more and more water. In his frenzy, the cat stumbled on a sharp rock and was wounded, but the wolf didn't lift a paw to save him. The flow pushed him into a big heap of brushwood, which the cat just managed to grab hold of and hang on for his dear life.

Seeing the state the cat was in, not even the wolf wanted to take him along, as he was just dead weight! In the end he did take him along, but on the condition that he behaved like a humble and obedient slave.

From then on the cat remained the wolf's servant, living in fear of being banished or worse still, eaten in times of dearth!!

 

 

THE FAT ROTUND PEASANT

 

A fat rotund peasant was asleep on a pile of Indian corn leaves. A mosquito was buzzing around in the stable when…zach! Quick as a flash she sucked the blood from the peasant's nose.

The mosquito started out again and…zach! She sucked more blood from his ear lobe. The peasant felt something unpleasant but rolled over his potbelly, and lay on his side.

The mosquito buzzed around again and…zach! zach! She sucked more blood from his neck. The insect started to fly again when…plaff! In a furious rage the poor devil caught it, and before squashing it, said: "If you had just sucked me once or even twice I wouldn't have noticed! But now I'm going to squash you because you want to feed solely and exclusively off my poor old hardened body."

Splaat! And a fair amount of peasant blood squirted from its little belly…

 

 

THE OX AND THE FOX

An ox was dragging a heavy plough under the burning sun, as its sweat sprinkled the dry clods of earth.

A fox that happened to be passing that way gazed at the ox and said: "What a miserable life yours is: you kill yourself with work, all for a bit of hay and a mean caress!"

The ox answered, smiling: "You are in the gang, you are! You're a brigand. One day I'll have a piece of land of my own to plough for myself. If I think of the future that awaits you, then I am a king in comparison!

The little hay that I'm given is called "safehayinpeace." If I were you I would be careful and think about your own destiny, because sooner or later the farmer will catch you in his net and hang you from one of those trees, up there on the hillside!"

 

 

THE BLIND LION AND THE MOUSE

 

 

Once upon a time there was a lion that spread terror and death all over his territory.

He would slaughter animals even when he was full up. He wouldn't allow the other animals near the food he had hunted, preferring to see it rot in the sun.

One day he was fighting a tiger, and was hit so hard in the face that he lost both eyes.

Now that the lion could no longer see he had to undergo all sorts of terrible humiliations, and as he could no longer find food for himself, he ended up in such a poor state that you could count the bones on him.

Enfeebled by hunger, he asked a little mouse for help in guiding him while hunting, in return for a part of the spoils. But the mouse got up on its little hind legs and said: "You have never had the slightest bit of common-sense or diplomacy; senseless violence has always been your only aim. Not even when your stomach was full of blood and meat did you stop killing, when this meant watching your prey dry up and rot in the sun, because you had forbidden anyone else from eating! And now…now…you didn't think about this did you? That a strong lion would need the help of a wretched little mouse!

I have been round and around in a lot of lovely carcasses belonging to many, many animals: but to tell you the truth, never in a lion's! So hurry up and kick the bucket, because I simply can't wait to experience this!"

 

 

THE STUPID RABBIT

 

A nice big, fat rotund red hen fell in love with a beautiful white rabbit. He would court her, fondle her and kiss her, and then admire her when she laid her eggs. He would chase after her across the fields, where she would flutter about with her short wings, and joyfully, but vainly try to fly up.

The hen would always lay a lot of eggs that the rabbit would gently lay out in a basket. The cocks were very annoyed, and looked on jealously.

One fine day the rabbit befriended foxes and wolves. In order to trick him, the foxes appointed him their leader, and the wolves did the same.

The rabbit celebrated the event with his new friends with eggs and more eggs at will. Every night the rabbit would make merry with his wolf and fox friends. Meanwhile the nice, big fat rotund red hen wore out her behind. When she heard about the situation she attacked the rabbit, saying: "What's all this?! Feeding my enemies with my eggs?!" Then acting on the cock's advice, she decided to lay no more eggs.

One day all the cocks and chickens had a meeting and the rabbit was chased off by their pecking. He escaped, but went to tell all to the foxes and wolves, who he asked to defend him. They thought long and hard before coming to a decision.

In the end they realised there would be no more eggs at will!….

They polished off the rabbit in just one mouthful each.

 

 

THE THREE NICE BIG ROOSTERS

 

 

There were many hens, all peacefully sitting in their places laying eggs.

Three nice big roosters that looked like turkeys were pecking away at maize like there was no tomorrow. Their combs stood on end like weathercocks and every time an egg popped out, they would sing at the top of their voices, almost as if they were counting them.

There were as many hens as there were eggs plopping out, as there was squawking from the roosters!

Who knows why the farmer had kept them there for all these years, maybe he had made a vow of some sort. They had been filling the whole farmyard with discordant music for years, deafening everyone, including the neighbours.

One day the enraged farmer charged into the poultry-yard with a huge knife, grabbed the three nasty beasts by the neck and screamed: "What is it? What is it? You don't lay eggs, and that's ok! You eat so much as to impoverish me, and that's ok! But the hens lay the eggs and your bottoms burn so much that you have to shout at the top of your voices like this?"

The hens, all sitting peacefully in their places, continued laying eggs. From then on a peaceful stillness came over the farm and the poultry-yard.

 

THE MOSQUITO AND THE GRASS SNAKE

 

 

A mosquito was out on patrol, buzzing over a pond, when she saw a very long grass snake slithering in the mud.

She approached cautiously, and said from above: "Slither along! Slither along! Go on eating slime and rotten things, there really isn't a more wretched being than you in this world! And while you roll around in the greenish slime, I fly around in the deep blue air."

The grass snake somehow managed; maybe it was a miracle from some God, to stand up completely straight in the middle of the mud and water. She glared at the mosquito and said angrily: " If you came down for just a moment, the first thing I would do would be to eat you! I may live in the stench, but I'll never be as despised and loathed as you!

On the contrary, compared to you I'm happy and don't envy you at all: you who feed off the blood of children and the young, and in return with the diseases you bring, you give them death…"

 

 

TEACHER POLECAT AND THE CAT

 

Once upon a time an old polecat was sitting on a crooked stump scratching her head with her right paw, passionately explaining hunting tricks, animal behaviour and the ways of the world to a slightly thick cat.

"When you see a rat that has stuck its little snout out of its hole, don't rush straight at him: wait and give him time to come out completely. When he is out, you'll see him there, all nice and ready to be eaten.

You must read his next move, then rush towards his hole so that he can't dive back in…"

Then the polecat would tell all the stories about the past, what to do, and how if she was born again, she would do this and that…" If I were born again…but we can't! We can't be! And it's quite right too! And… to tell you the truth, I didn't have a happy childhood you know…"

Teacher polecat had taught the cat a lot of tricks. The cat would often let her mind wander, but would also learn a bit. In the end the Student cat became tired of always being stuck in that same place, and suggested that they go and sit together on the rocks by the stream.

"Whaaat?"

"The stream! Where the water flows rapidly…"

"Can't you see that I'm old and… and…how can I go there with these old paws of mine? These old paws no longer bear the weight of my body. But, of course you don't know this.

Rather, listen to the lesson and don't let your mind wander. Listen, so…" And this, and that…

Suddenly a half-witted hunter jumped out of a bush and wildly fired three and five and seven gunshots at the polecat and the cat. The poor creatures fled, and it was a miracle that they managed to save their hides.

"See, Auntie polecat, if you had listened to me, we would have avoided that ordeal! We almost died riddled with lead! You tell me to do this and that, and that you know, know and know! What do you know? We almost died right here!"

"We didn't die here, but we could have been killed out there by the stream… and another thing my dear cat niece! I know what has been, not what comes later. That's the way it is, damn it!…if it wasn't, we would already know everything about life and the free and happy world…no longer about conspiracies and despair…damn it! Come, come, and don't let your mind wander- Let's get on with the lesson now…"

 

 

THE UNGRATEFUL HEN

 

 

Once upon a time in the countryside, a hen had laid an egg right in the middle of a swamp, when suddenly she was spotted by a…no, no! One really can't start the fable like this.

Once upon a time there was an unhappy hen under a bridge…nooo. No!

Once upon a time there was hen that was blind in one eye; she got such a shock from a fox that she turned all yellow…no, no!

This is better: Once upon a time there was a polecat that crept into a hen house and boorishly dived into the middle of a batch of hens. He grabbed a white one and positioned her properly with his paws, like a man on a cross. He was just about to open his mouth and bite her right between the eyes…when the hen opened her beak and made a proposition: "No, no wait, please don't eat me, I beg you! I will lay eggs for you, eggs forever more…"

"How could I not eat you? A polecat that doesn't eat a hen?"

"But…I'll give you an egg a day, forever more!"

"An egg a day? Hang on, let me think about it…you mean that you're saying…you're saying that you don't want to be eaten, and that in exchange you would give me an egg a day?"

"Yes, an egg a day, oh yes! So much the better for me and for you! You'll see that it's in your interest! So much the better for you, and for me. Let's do it this way, like the peasant's do; they aren't stupid you know, and they even feed me! Whilst you wouldn't have to give me anything and…and I would still give you the egg…so please spare me- I'm scared of dying!"

"If that’s all it is, you needn't be afraid as I'm going to eat you alive, and I promise you that you won't feel a thing. But hang on…hang on. Ah! I understand, It's in your interest not…not to be eaten, and to lay me…to give me an egg a day and…and…it's in my interest as well. If I eat you, you'll be dead, but if I don't eat you, you'll be alive and you'll lay…"

"Spare me, please spare me, it's in your interest!"

"But…hang on, hang on! Are you crazy? Are you really crazy?" said the polecat. "There is even the saying, which is true and says: "Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow." While you want me to give up a hen today for an egg tomorrow? You foolish thing, you really know nothing about life!"

"Come, why not do like the peasants do…they even give food to have eggs! And if the peasants do it, then…!"

"You mean, the peasants give…food…really? Oh alright then!" the polecat agreed. "But beware: I want eggs for the rest of my life! And…and I'll only eat you when you die of old age: alright?"

"Wha…wha…wha-at do you mean? Wha-at am I to do when I'm old and I can't make eggs any longer?!"

"Hey, you'll steal them! You'll steal them from the hen house! And now just shut up! Don't start again, or I'll eat you here and now! I must be crazy! This deal really is pro-fit-abl-eee for you!! Really profitable! If some big animal had made the proposition to me, even I would have laid eggs, even if I'm a polecat! And by Jove! I would have stuck a hen's bottom to my behind! And just remember that agreements are made to be kept!"

In the end the hen was forced to accept these monstrous terms, and the polecat went off on his way. After that the hen had to promptly deliver the eggs to the polecat every day, for a whole year.

But one day while she was making her way along the road a fox surprised her! " Oh God, oh God! Out of the frying pan and into the fire!" the poor creature exclaimed. But for her good fortune, she was a kindly, but oh so kindly fox!

"Where are you going, my sweet hen? Aren't you afraid of going into the woods?"

"Cooock-a dooodle-dooo! Cooock-a-dooodle-dooo!"

the hen shrilled, quivering. "I'm going to see the polecat!"

"The polecat? Are you crazy? He'll only eat you! He'll nibble away your breast and then do a nice job of cleaning your bones!"

"I'm taking the polecat his eggs; I take them every day! It's been a year now!" And she explained the whole ugly affair.

"I'll see to it!" said the fox. "It's exploitation! It would have been better if you had been eaten! Just look at what that polecat is getting up to! And then… they say that foxes…!"

The fox was furious and stormed off to see the polecat.

"You have the heart of a stinking rat that has the plague! It would have been fairer if you had eaten her! Her bottom is worn out from laying eggs for you."

"Eh?"

"Worn out, worn out."

"What is it you want? We made a deal! It was her that wanted it this way. How should I have known that they existed…all I do is dive into a hen house!"

"A deal is a deal when it's fair! It doesn't matter who proposes it! And it seems to me that you have done well up till now. So that's enough! Enough now! And beware: I am a fox!"

"Okay, okay, calm down, just calm down. Alright, tell the hen not to bring her eggs anymore…listen, but can I eat her when she dies of old age?"

"Whaaat? That's disgusting!"

"That was part of the agreement!"

"Eh?…oh well, yes then! But, hey! Only when she really has died of old age!"

The polecat acknowledged the fox with a bow, and the fox left.

The hen jumped for joy when she heard how things had gone, flailing in the air; she even tried to fly! She smothered the fox with kisses and even wanted to give the fox her feathers! But the fox wanted nothing in return and only took one feather as a keepsake. After that they no longer saw each other for a whole year. However the hen no longer took eggs to the polecat, and had a lot of chicks!

But one day a weasel who had heard the story, which by now was being told all over the place, grabbed hold of the hen and lay her out like a man on a cross and…

The hen searched the whole wood for the fox, and found her! In a fluster she told the fox how a weasel had grabbed her and laid her down like a man on a cross, with two paws on her wings…and the other two on her paws…an egg a day…and how she had been forced to accept the same terms again…"What you gave to the polecat when…you will give the same to me!"

"Ah, so that's what she said? And tell me, who am I?"

"You are the fox! the fox!" she laughed and fluttered around.

"Say it out loud!"

"The foox! the fooox! The foooox!"

"Am I a fox?"

"Yeeess!"

"And you! You took egg after egg to that loathsome polecat for a whole year, and me? And me? I who am an honest fox never even got a sniff of one! Now honour the agreement you made! You only look for your friends when you need them! I'm a fox, and now I'll act like a fox! The fooox! So from now on, every time you come into the woods you'll bring an egg for me as well!"

"But…but…do you think I…what can I do? Hoow…hoow, how can I bring two eggs a day when only one comes out? I only have one bo…"

"Hey, no nonsense; you'll just have to steal it from the hen house."

"But… but what if the farmer catches me?!"

"That's your fuc… your little problem!"

 

 

THE CAT THAT USED TO BE RICH

 

Once upon a time there was a very rich cat, that was a friend of a very poor cat.

The very rich cat lived in a glittering, majestic palace. The rooms were all embellished with delightful Chinese silk tapestries on the walls, and the ceilings with precious frescoes.

A vast garden surrounded the house, full of the most wonderful and rare flowers in the world. Various lakes of all shapes and sizes shimmered among the brilliant green lawns- of course there were swans as well.

The cat owned numerous horses and carriages, and he had a lot of peasant monkeys serving him. They would till the fields, sow and prune.

He was friends with all the animals. Birds would dance around him adoringly, making a din with their chirping; sometimes they would even lift up his tail in amusement. He would often throw banquets, to which he invited all the rich cats in the country, and naturally his friend, the poor cat. The little birds flitted around joyfully, and chirped so euphorically, that on seeing them all together in those spacious resplendent rooms, their beaks swelled up. The rich cat and the poor cat admired them, smiled and played with them.

The dinners were sumptuous, and the poor cat was always served the most exquisite dishes and the biggest portions.

But one cursed day…the rich cat lost…all his ships in a storm! The sea swallowed them all up! Every last one! Not one single ship was saved. All his wealth went up in smoke, and all of a sudden he was poor!

All his servants had to leave him as they had families.

He went to live all alone in a crumbling down house that was decorated with holes and yet more holes in the walls! Big fat rats with very sharp teeth inhabited almost every hole.

The cat that used to be rich had become ill from distress, and not being used to hunting rats that looked like wild beasts, he had to ask his friend the poor cat for help. He begged for his help, in the name of the great friendship that they had always shared.

The poor cat patiently heard him out and answered sweetly: "It's your fault if I can't help you, you got me accustomed to being rich! In fact I have always been rich and without a care in the world (thanks to you!). As you well know…hang on…let me explain…as you well know, I also lived in ease and comfort, and am certainly no longer used to hunting for big, fat rats with sharp teeth. I prefer to play with the little birds that think I'm rich, with a fake smile on my face… they don't notice that every now and then I eat one of them, chewing it with my mouth closed!"

 

THE LITTLE RABBIT THAT WANTED TO FLY

 

On seeing the tiny little birds hurling across the sky and almost touching the clouds, the little white rabbit felt extremely miserable.

He saw himself as ugly and clumsy, with those long ears that he almost trampled on with his paws.

The poor thing cried and moaned; this had gone on for almost a month, all because he wanted to fly. His mother pampered him and told him that this was his nature, and there was nothing he could do, that the universe is a beautiful place because all its sons are different.

"Just think how horrible it would be if we were all birds, or cows or chimpanzees" she would tell him. But to no avail, the little rabbit wanted to fly at all costs.

One day Death was passing by, and heard the rabbit bawling; Death went up to him smiling, and gave him a lovely pair of wings. The rabbit couldn't stop laughing for joy, put the wings on quickly and started to fly.

Death scratched his head, laughed and said: " You, little rabbit, are a nice little bundle today and you have just given me the chance to take you away!"

Indeed, after a couple of unstable flutters, the rabbit lost his wings and crashed to the ground with a loud thud.

 

 

THE POLECAT AND SATIETY

 

Once upon a time there was a polecat that was so very, very hungry, that all her eyes could see were roosters and hens everywhere. She roamed desperately for three days under the burning sun, without finding a thing. All she found was a porcupine that only filled her belly with spines.

All of a sudden she heard the jabbering of roosters and ran towards them, quick as a missile, but fell and ended up in a bramble bush where she got more pricks. Then worn out, she got back up, and in a flash caught four roosters and two hens.

First she killed them, biting them in the head before you could count from one to three. She furiously ate the first four and then the last two very, very slowly. The polecat's stomach blew up just like a balloon- for she had four roosters and two nice big hens inside her!

She couldn't even walk anymore, and stood motionless for ages, wheezing under a bush.

She felt like she was about to explode! And she thought that Death would really come and take her away this time!

A whistling fox that happened to be passing by saw the mess the polecat was in!

"What on earth has happened to you, my poor polecat?! What's wrong? You almost frighten me! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! The poor old polecat really is dying! What have you been up to? Come on! Tell me what happened! Come on, be brave and talk!"

" I…Ooooh…oh my God, what have I done? I ate fouu-uurr roosters and two hee-eens! Poor old me, I was so hungry! But now mydearfriendthepolecat, I can tell you that satiety is muchworseworseworse than hunger even when your insides are all tangled-up! You can even exp-loo-de! Who knows if I'm really going to explode…"

"Dear God! The poor old polecat." But in the meantime the fox was thinking to herself: "Who knows if she's telling the truth!!"

 

 

THE HEN, THE WORM AND THE ROOSTER

 

The hen had found a nice fat, pink worm between the bushes and the mud. Before eating it, she was happily rolling it around with her beak and yellow claws.

A white rooster speckled with red, whose comb was red hot from the sun realised from her behaviour, that she had a small treasure between her claws.

He approached, and when he saw the tasty morsel he asked the hen: "What are you rolling about? Oh, a worm? How revolting! What sort of rubbish is this? Aren't you ashamed? And at your age too…! Don't tell me that you intend to eat that rubbish! A classy hen like you would never do that! Never! Even if it meant starving to death."

The hen was convinced by the rooster's words and left, ashamed of what she had been about to do.

As soon as her back was turned, the rooster swallowed the worm as quick as a flash…and it really was a tasty morsel.

"Hens will be hens. They really are beautiful things!" he cock-a-doodled-doed, licking the tip of his beak with his slender tongue.

 

 

THE STUPID FLY

 

One day a fly decided to imitate the spider and build a cobweb, partly because she was tired of looking for food, and partly because she wanted to be an artist.

She had no thread, but thought that she could use something else instead.

Not having any knowledge of the interweaving of the web, she took advantage of the spiders' absence to study the web from close up. The fly then flew off to hover on the telephone wires. From there she started to memorise the interweaving, patiently counting them out on her little paws.

Meanwhile a little girl arrived and started to stroke the buttons on the electric fan with her tiny fingers…so in a flash the fly ended up caught right in the middle of the web!

The poor little creature felt she was lost, all twisted up in the web; she was soon going to be gobbled up!

The spider came close, saw the fly and exclaimed: "Stupid flies really are the tastiest; it's a real pity that there aren't more of them!"

 

THE FOX AND HIS STRANGE ANIMAL FRIEND

 

 

A smiling fox was walking with his friend, a strange animal that was unknown to everyone; no one had seen one like that before. He wasn't ugly; on the contrary he was rather handsome. All the hens stopped laying eggs and came running along; they were curious, and stuck their pointy-heads out of the hedge to spy on him.

The rabbits did the same, shooting out of their holes like rockets.

They stood there with their beaks and mouths open in shock, and all wanted to get to know him.

A one hundred year old tortoise that was licking up dew drops from the blades of grass, and that had wrinkles hanging from her neck, saw the scene and said: "You stupid hens and rabbits, why do you all want to die like idiots? Stay away from the fox and that strange animal! Don't be taken in by his phoney charm. Even though I don't know him, have never seen him and don't even know where he comes from, what I do know and I know I'm not wrong here, is that whoever is a friend of the foxes cannot be good!"

 

 

 

THE KILLER CAT

 

 

Once upon a time there was a cat that was behind a bush, where she strangled all of her seven kittens one by one, and put them to one side.

An old fox that happened to be passing was scandalised when she saw the scene, and being kind-hearted she covered her eyes with her bald paws.

After a bit she plucked up courage to scold the cat, and ask her the reason for this killing.

"I have gone mad!" the cat answered quickly.

"What, what?"
"I have gone mad!"

"All right, so you have gone mad" the fox sentenced, "But I don't understand why you put your madness in action against your own children, and not against yourself! What's all this? Do we only think of ourselves even when it comes to madness now?! There's a ravine up there, why don't you go and throw yourself from there? If you like killing so much, why don't you kill yourself?"

"What are you talking about: I'm mad I said! Mad, not stupid!"

 

 

DEATH, WHO EXPLAINED TO THE OLD MAN WHO

DIDN'T KNOW…….

 

 

There was an old man who was more than one hundred years old and bent over with age, who didn't want to die; he would get angry and curse and offend Death.

Death was very annoyed about this, and went to the old man and said angrily: "What are you crying for, when today I had to carry a child who was only a few days old away from his mother?! What are you crying for? Can't you see that old age has gnawed away your face and that your nose is full of holes!? You're pitiful, and yet you still want life!?"

"I don't want to die! I don't want to die! I'm scared!"

"You stupid fellow! You don't know what Death is, do you? Eh? Do you? When you die you make space for those who are already dead, in other words those who haven't yet been born. So when you die, it will be as if you were never born!"

"Ne..ver…bo...rn?" stuttered the old man.

"When you hadn't yet been born, you were dead! Did you know that? No you didn't, did you? And then…"

The old man died just as Death was explaining:"…the old man isn't dead. He was never born." So the old man never understood what Death was.

 

 

THE SEWER RAT, THE COUNTRY RAT AND THE ATTIC

RAT

 

 

Once upon a time there was a very young sewer rat that was suffering from a nasty attack: a tic of the eyes, a lot of coughing and restlessness, fear and open mouth.

He had already had this horrible muddle on him for a year, when they all started calling him Tic Rat.

"It's stress!" sentenced an old rat that knew a bit about rato-topical medicine. "It's the stress! Stress is the cause of so many problems and illnesses and deaths from insanity. You Tic Rat, have this muddled up muddle all over you. Just yesterday I was studying a treatise called: "Rats are done for: Detergents, contraceptive plastic and supermarket bags." It's a very interesting book! Meanwhile Tic Rat was dribbling from the mouth.

Uncle Rat went on talking in a learned way. "Doctor Big Rat, who is the author of the book says…wait…I'll just get the book and read the introduction…wait… here it is…listen:

"Man's well-being has had a disastrous effect on our system of life! Man's transformation of things for his own temporary well-being has damaged and upset the balance of the ecosystem of all the other living creatures in this world which is round. This round world is flooded with all sorts of liquid and solid poisons. Contraceptive plastic is the most dangerous of all for our species, and because it is small, it's often swallowed by guileless rats causing instant death from suffocation.

This sort of problem didn't exist in the beginning, when men and rats lived together in caves, pile dwellings or huts. I myself had a rat son that died from contraceptive plastic suffocation. It is from this sad experience that I wouldn't even wish on the cats, that my treatise: "The rats are done for: Detergents, contraceptive plastic and supermarket bags" was born.

Detergents are especially dangerous and harmful for new-born rats, I would like to specify, and I will specify this very important point. It is my duty to specify this! If I didn't specifically specify this, it would specifically mean the hasty end of a species in a specific context which I am specifically going to analyse with the specific precision that… "

Uncle Rat shut the book and placed it in a hole in the sewer he used as a drawer. He then looked at Tic Rat, who was at that very moment being taken by convulsions, and went on: "It's all quite clear! There is no doubt about it! The author of this text is a clever sewer-ratologist…but what's wrong with you Tic Rat? Oh God, oh God! Yours is almost schizophrenia! It's stress! The sewers aren't what they used to be in my day, when all sorts of natural stuff used to flow past! Rats die every day and no one knows how or why! You see them all nice and strong in the evening, and the next day they are all horrible and dead! It really is sad! When rats struggle for a living it means that the world is about to die! My daughter-in-law gives birth to nine or ten little rats at a time…they are so tiny and beautiful, pink all over, and they touch their snouts that are so small that they almost don't have one with their tiny little paws. Then when she is suckling them, along comes Death and carries them away! Then the poor thing just has more; it's almost as if she wants to fight against Death with all these births…"

The young rat kept on being nervy, coughing and jerking his mouth open and quickly ticking his eyes. He would dribble occasionally, and suddenly decided to say something neurotically: " I don't think I can heal this way when the other day I felt slightly better so I decided to have a swim in the sewer water and I slowly got in when I was hit head on by a lot of green foam and a big bag trapped me without me being able to breathe when luckily Peel Rat who was on the wall saw me and dived in and tore the big bag off me and massaged my chest and little paws and when I finally came round I don't know how but he took me back to my den…today is the first day that I have put my little whiskers outside the door."

"You are right. The water and everything else in here tastes of poison. Stress! It's written all over you my son! Your eyes are spinning round so fast that you almost scare me."

"Uncle Rat" said Tic Rat with such great effort that his snout was soaked with sweat and his tiny little paws were shaking frantically, "I really do feel so terribly ill that at times I think I would be better off dead. I can't sleep at night! I jump around in my bed and see myself trapped in big plastic nets, I struggle as hard as I can and gnaw away furiously, but I still can't get out!…"

While they were there talking, Postman Rat arrived with a nice yellow envelope between his paws; he started to mumble from afar: "Tic Rat, Tic Rat! There's a letter for you from the country! From the country!"

"Oh, thank you Postman Rat." Tic Rat opened the envelope with his gnawed-down nails, fished out the letter and read it out aloud:" Radish Rat here. I'm writing to you from inside a potato. I'm so lonely, so very lonely that the only person lonelier than me is the number "one". I would really love you to come and visit me. The other night I was sleeping in a pumpkin when you came to me in a dream. Come soon. I have many nice things and a few bad things to tell you. I await you. A little lick from your faithful friend Radish Rat. P.S: a little scratch with a little lick to all the rats in the sewer, and an extra one for Miss Always-in-trouble Rat."

"Yeeesss! Hurrah! Hurrah!" Tic Rat shouted, shaking all over.

"Uncle Rat! I'm going to the country; I'd surely die tomorrow if I stayed here!" He bid him farewell pinching him with his chewed- down nails, and dived into his den to pack his bags.

No matter how hard he looked, he couldn't find his best cat-fur travel bag anywhere. Who knows where it had gone...

He pulled a small bag made of transparent plastic out of a drawer in his den (that is from a hole), and filled it with a black bird's head, half a yellow chicken claw, some rabbit intestines and a red toy, which was a broken telephone receiver; this was his good-luck charm.

He tied the bag with an elastic band, wound it round some barbed wire, and set off.

He climbed up the cement sewer wall to the manhole, stuck his head out…and jerked it back in again just seconds before being squashed by a motorcycle!

"Oh, what an ordeal! I wonder if I really should go."

His continued to twitch and cough as hard as he could.

"I'm so scared that even…my tail is shaking!"

He was just about to climb back down into the sewer, when his little brain said: "Radish Rat…the country-side… sun and flowers…the moon…" So he poked his head out of the manhole again, and quickly dived under a high wall which he brushed along so closely that it looked as if he was stuck to it with glue.

The screeching of car tyres and the glare of their headlights…if Tic Rat hadn't found so many cracks in the walls he would surely have died.

From under the wall he could see a dead rat in the middle of the road, squashed on the asphalt. It was almost as if…as if they had spread red jam to draw the outline of a little rat. Tic Rat shuddered, coughed and dribbled.

He stopped and stuck out his neck, almost as if he wanted to stretch out his eyes to see who the poor unfortunate on the ground was.

On seeing the state it was in, he decided not to.

A fleeting tear ran from his tiny little eyes, and he wiped it under his small sweaty trembling belly.

He decided to make the countryside in good time, but it was dark before he knew it, so he pushed his little paws even faster. Finally he was there! He took good care in finding Radish Rat's den.

He put down the bag with the presents in it and began to shout out at the top of his voice: "Where are you Radish Rat!? I can't see you! Come and get me, I'm over here in the red grass!"

Radish Rat emerged from his den (an old tyre) and quickly said: "Shhh..hush! There are cats and dogs ready to gobble us up. Keep your voice down Tic Rat. Now get into my den."

Radish Rat and Tic Rat rubbed whiskers and licked each other affectionately.

"Oh Tic Rat! At last you are here with me! But…but what's wrong? You're coughing with your mouth open?"

"Well yes, just a bit. But I'm already feeling better out here in the country. I've brought you lots of nice things from the sewer, look, look at these."

"Oh thank you Tic Rat. Sewer products really are very nourishing!"

"Yes they still are, even now that…there is still a lot of delicious stuff. Here: a bird's black head. Go on taste it! Half a yellow chicken's claw. Taste it, taste it! Some rabbit's intestines…taste them!

Radish Rat tasted some: "Delicious. This dead black bird's head is great. How did it die?"

"Dunno! I found it in the sewer. Who knows!"

"We can get these other things here in the country as well…but…what's this?"

"My lucky charm. It's a toy, a broken telephone receiver. What Man does with it, I really don't know. There are so many of them and in all different colours: red like this one, or yellow, green and blue. Our baby rats love climbing up inside them… I hope you like it…"

"Oh you really are a dear Tic Rat! To think that you even bring me toys! Did you know that even out here in the country we find a lot of them? Why, only yesterday I found…"

Tic Rat had a sudden attack- the ticking of his eyes increased, he coughed so much and was restless and open- mouthed. He even dribbled a little.

Radish Rat was frightened.

After a bit Tic Rat calmed down. He slowly recovered. Then he finally became himself again.

And he started to say: "It's the stress! Life in the sewer is driving me crazy…I can't tell you…Doctor Big Rat has even written a book: " Rats are done for: Detergents, contraceptive plastic and supermarket bags. One of Doctor Big Rat's son rats died…he died after swallowing a thingey made of contraceptive plastic. That's why Big Rat wrote the book."

Radish Rat immediately understood exactly what Tic Rat was talking about.

He no longer wanted to live in what he had stopped calling countryside, but now called "Refuse-dump land."

He understood, yes he understood, but on seeing his friend in that state he didn't say anything. He sighed, twitching his whiskers to hide his disappointment. He had invited his friend to the country with the intent of then being put up in the sewer, where he thought there was a better life. He began to sneeze and shoot out big drops of saliva like there was no tomorrow! Radish Rat himself was ill as well, allergic to the dust and chalk. He sometimes turned half-reddish… and who knows what the blood in that tiny body of his got up to.

"What's up Radish?"

"Nothing, just a bit of cold from yesterday, when I was nibbling a nice big carrot this big, and a nice potato that big…I'll go out and get you some straw so you can lie down and have a nice sleep. No sooner said than done, he was back with a whole lot of straw.

"Your den really is nice and roomy," said Tic Rat.

"What's it made out of?"

"It's made …it's made out of…the bark of a tree. It's very warm in winter and nice and cool in summer. I really am very happy living in here, you know?"

The two rats bid each other goodnight and slept peacefully until morning.

Tic Rat and Radish Rat woke up and were about to leave the den, when they were frightened by the sound of a siren followed by the horribly loud noise of a tractor; this frightened them again, and when this was followed by the sound of gunshots they almost fainted!

Tic Rat started to twitch and foam at the mouth, when Radish Rat put his little paws around him to reassure him, telling him that the hunters had gone, and convinced him to go outside to get some fresh air.

Out they went into the middle of the grass, but while they were tottering about they were overcome by the strong, strong stench of green poison, and were so terrified that they scuttled back to take refuge in the den.

"God, the country is even more disgusting than the sewer!" Tic Rat cried out despairingly.

Radish Rat sneezed, blushed and felt mortified.

He thought: "My God, forgive me for what I have just done! What a muddled up muddle, bringing Tic Rat out here when he is already so ill."

Just as he had finished thinking…an even louder noise and a whole lot of rocks and cement, plaster, lime and old wood was dumped on the tyre, which was Radish Rat's den.

They were both choking and close to death!

They somehow managed to get out and dived straight into the first thing they found: a drawer full of little white polystyrene balls. This was then picked up and put on a tricycle by a big man with a fat belly and a bushy moustache on his snout. He was with another man, small, old and thin with no hair on his head, who really was a bald dwarf only fit to be thrown out.

"Come on, let's get a move on," said the bald dwarf only fit to be thrown out, for he was in charge.

The tricycle set off.

Tic Rat and Radish Rat ended up swallowing at least twenty-seven polystyrene balls; it was never discovered who ate the most! Radish Rat fainted and Tic Rat first slobbered and then fainted.

The tricycle travelled a long way and the two unconscious rats were tossed about with the box and the polystyrene balls.

The bald dwarf only fit to be thrown out braked suddenly, and ordered the fat man to take the box up to the attic. Then… the tricycle set off again.

It was here that Attic Rat lived. He was a painfully thin rat, and very old as well. He had been living there alone for seven years, and had never worked out why he was there all- alone, and had been for seven years.

He didn't think there were any other rats in the world. He had never seen any (he didn't even know what he looked like himself), and thought he was the only rat around- he didn't even know he was a rat.

He was skeleton-like as he only ever ate the odd spider, dry fly or piece of wood, and who knows what they got up to in his stomach. There was a lot of food in his attic: whole crates full in fact! Whole crates full of food in jars and tins. But how could Attic Rat ever get at this food? So Attic Rat never really got…anything… only flies and spiders and bits of wood, and who knows what they got up to in his stomach. Dunno! Dunno! Maybe his…insides knew…

Radish Rat and Tic Rat both came round in the bottom of the crate, where they started to groan, sneeze and sweat. Their loud sneezing threw the polystyrene balls up in the air and scared Attic Rat to death.

"Who can that be?" he asked himself.

Tic Rat was first out of the crate, heaving himself up onto the edge where he balanced himself precariously, looking around stuttering and shaking from head to toe. Then it was Radish Rat's turn to emerge from amongst the polystyrene balls with a sneeze, which blew about twenty of them up in the air. Exhausted the two of them stepped down onto the attic floor, where they looked around more dead than alive. Radish Rat was mortified and didn't say a word to Tic Rat, and Tic Rat was mortified and…didn't say a word to Radish Rat.

Attic Rat was so scared that he hid, and glancing sideways with his little eye he looked them up and down and thought: "They are so ugly! The only nice thing about them are their tails and whiskers, just like mine."

In order to see them better Attic Rat crept a bit further out…" Oh, look there Tic Rat- it's a rat! And it's…a scared rat! It's backing off…he's wetting himself! What a fool! A rat that's scared of other rats!"

Tic Rat hardly knew what was going on any longer.

Radish Rat: "What are you up to? Are you scared? My god, he's as thin as a rake. Are…you from here? Were you born here?"

Attic Rat plucked up courage and spoke a bit: "I live here, was born here and…there's never anything to eat here!"

"You were born here and live here and…and there's never anything to eat here? What are you saying? Oh, I understand; worn-out are you…you're a bit ill as well, well we're all suffering from either this or that. Yes, I get it, you're worn out…muddled-up-muddle…It's stress! Tell me, why were you so scared? We are rats, you're a rat…just like us, same kind…we're all rats here, and the whole world is inhabited by other rats."

A month went by in which they told each other all about themselves…became friends…but went hungry!

One day Attic Rat shouted: "Come, come! Three dried flies and a long-dead spider…" But the attic door was suddenly brutally yanked open, and in came some men who angrily started to take everything that was there downstairs, as if they were savages. In no time at all the entire attic was empty.

The three little rats had fled immediately and taken refuge on the back of a beam.

From down below came the noise of a lot of machines all clanking away in the same place, the house began to shake and then the attic to creak.

The shattering of glass and dust everywhere….

In no time the house became a pile of rubble, stones and glass, wood and plastic with the poor rats inside. Seeing the situation they were in, the rats jumped into a tin can and were saved by the skin of their teeth! In a flash everything was dumped in a pit, a place that not long before had been full of trees.

Days and days went by and since luck exists, Tic Rat, Radish Rat and Attic Rat found themselves curled up in a hole in a piece of tree-trunk and…

Oh my dear rats! This fable is so very long! My fingers are all blistered from holding the pen, my eyes are stinging and my head can't wait to hit the pillow…this is what I'll do- I'll finish it off in a flash, without even a comma or a full stop, dashes or semicolons: and you, children, please read this bit all in one go and then…and then you will burst and don't complaaaiiin!

It was a beautiful morning and a little boy with a rucksack full of bread and cheese was heading for a faraway wood to pick mushrooms strawberries and cyclamens when he saw all the trees that had been chopped down to make room for the pit so he stopped to look at the destruction and all that dead greenery and cried a bit and dropped his rucksack and decided to count the chopped down tree trunks of which he counted over one hundred so he decided to fix the space the dead trees all lined up on the floor like dead people took up in his mind then he counted the empty spaces and worked out that more than two thousand trees had been chopped down and while he grieved over the trees for a bit longer Tic Rat Radish Rat and Attic rat sniffed and realised that there could be something tasty in the rucksack and were so hungry that they dived in and ravenously ate so much bread and cheese and the little boy picked up the rucksack and walked off towards the woods when the three little rats popped their eyes out of the bag and Radish Rat cried out that they were in the woods and leaping down they quickly tottered off and chased each other and hid and decided to do exactly I don’t know what but maybe to live there and hope to be happy ever after goodnight I'm tired I'm tired and oh how nice it is to close your eyes and sink your head into the pillow and children give your teacher a kiss from me if she reads you this horrible fable

and that’s it

Pasta and beans with it?

 

 

THE SHEPHERD LAD

 

Once upon a time there was a hunchbacked shepherd lad who had ten decrepit sheep, and struggled terribly to make a living. The little wool he had paid for the grazing, and the bit of milk that he struggled to squeeze from the sheep's udders was made into cheese he exchanged for the few things he lived on.

One day the sheep were grazing in a narrow gorge where the grass was taller and greener, when an eagle spotted them and took them off one by one and then ate them one by one!

The poor shepherd lad cried over them for a whole day, and had already tied a rope around a forked olive branch with his head already in the noose that was to wring his neck, when he thought…that this wasn't right. In a furious rage, he suddenly slipped his head from the gallows howling out: "If I was to kill myself the eagle would only laugh at me! But no!"

He disguised himself as a sheep, and went back to the narrow gorge where the grass was taller and greener with a large net in his hands; he was in such a fury that he really started to browse the grass! The eagle spotted the strange-looking sheep and hovered in the air before touching the ground to seize the sheep in its talons- the shepherd lad cast the net and caught it like a blackbird.

Very slowly, he freed one of its wings and furiously chopped it off; he then did the same with the other wing. The eagle was freed and he slapped it around before dragging it off into a narrow, narrow hen-house where there lived but one big Cock who was showing off his magnificent shiny comb.

The eagle, sunken-eyed and humiliated, stared at the shepherd lad and said: " What's got into you? I'm an eagle and must behave like one- that's nature's law."

"And I'm a shepherd lad; I'm after milk! That’s nature. Milk! Milk! And I want milk from you now, just like my ten little sheep that you took away used to make. I'll not free you until I get my milk."

The poor eagle had to undergo the Cock's arrogance and bullying and died wretched, closed in the hen-house without ever being able to…

 

THE OLD WOMAN,THE CHILD,THE FLY AND

THE MOSQUITO

 

 

An old woman and a little boy were sleeping blissfully in a nice big bed. A big fat ugly mosquito plunged from a nail holding up a painting and…scoured the old dear, scoured the boy…and sucked the little one's blood.

A fly that was half-asleep was awoken by the loud buzzing, and on observing the scene could not help saying: "Why suck the blood from the poor little one who still has to grow, and not from the old dear who has already grown up?" The mosquito answered: "What are you saying? What questions! The little one's blood is pure, sweet and digestible!"

He leant back on the nail again before starting out on another attack and…zzzzzz…zzzzzz..and zach! zach! The mosquito sucked more blood from the child.

"Stop! Stop! You'll ruin him like that! Why are you ruining him?!"

"Because the child's tender."

"Why are you doing this? Have you no pity for the little wretch?"

"Good God! Don't you understand, don't you get it? He's te-nd-er, the ch-iii-lld is!"

 

 

THE FOX AND THE DOG

 

And… once again, like many times before- Once upon a time! And there was a fox that lived in a wood and was such a terror that he made the trees and plants' leaves stand on end from what he did and got up to! The tiny animals trembled everyday and all day long! All day long they would tremble, the little animals, from the fear of being eaten.

No one knew how he did it: he would jump here and there like a crazy cat, building long, long dens that would run for kilometres, starting under the roots of the trees, and would tear through the trunks until they reached the highest branches!

The birds could barely lay their eggs before the fox had eaten them. One day he took ten and started to brood them, just for fun: but the game didn't last long! Who knows what fun it would have been if it had lasted: the little birds would have had a fox for a mother, who then would have eaten them!

Even the wolves feared him, because in fights he would claw their eyes.

In the wood there lived a beaten dog that had been driven away by the shepherds. He was envious to the bone, and maybe this was one of the reasons why he had been driven away. He would roam here and there in the wood without even catching a mosquito. The sly fox already knew him well, as a long, long time before he had followed the flocks hoping to taste the odd lamb, and here he had seen the dog scrapping it with the other dogs, because he would cause damage to both the shepherds and the sheep. So much damage, in fact, that one-day they got him and …I'll let you imagine what they did to him.

The fox's main den, for however big it was, was always full of food and everyone knew this. God only knows how many times the beaten dog with his slightly droopy and mangy ears had lain in wait, hoping to see the fox to ask him for some food! Sometimes he would only catch a fleeting glance of him, as if he came and went with the wind.

One day the dog managed to catch a marmot, and a nice big marmot too, but in the end he was so exhausted by the chase that he sat down wheezing on a cyclamen thicket. And whom should he find just there? The fox!

"Oh…God, oh God…good morning fox."

"Good morning…what a lovely marmot!"

"Uhm…er yes: yes, my dead marmot is nice, yes. But I'm all sweaty: God it was such an effort to catch it! First it dived in here to go there, and I was there. Then it saw me, and it went this way to go that way, and I was there. Then it went over to go under…anyway, anyway…what I didn't do to get that blessed marmot…do you like it?"

"Yes, it's lovely."

"Well, if you like the dead marmot and you think it's so lovely, then I'll give it to you!"

The fox just stood there for a while, as if he'd been hit on the head. He didn't say anything for a bit, but thought, and then thought again and finally answered in his fox's voice: "Sometimes people who are wicked and wretched are cunning, so very cunning that they offer you what little they have in order to surprise you, and they convince you that you are in paradise…but then day after day they arrogate the right to demand everything from you! And, and what if they meet a fox that only takes, but gives nothing in return? But…there! I was almost forgetting: I'm a fox! I'm a fox and I thank you!"

In order to work all this out, the beaten dog looked at her and swivelled his eyes round, while the fox… grabbed the marmot and flew into the woods just like a helicopter!

 

 

THE OLD OWL

 

That morning the woods were cold and covered in grains of ice; these grains were giving off steam, as they were trying to turn into water as quickly as they could.

An old owl was quickly toddling home to his den after having hooted all night. It was still dark and he was carrying a lantern.

"I really have got old, oh for my youth, how time flies! Life doesn't even give you time to build a nest like you want! Well…it went like it went and it's no use complaining. Oh, all the things that I've seen and done…brr…brrrr…It's freezing. Come, come now my old man, I'm old now, I've made it. Don't make a fuss: just count the years you have left and shut up." This is what the old owl mumbled.

Suddenly two big teardrops rolled from his eyes, as his little brain was stacked-high with images of all his friends who had died young, killed by hunters. He picked a dried leaf off the ground and wiped his eyes. He didn't blow his nose, so this was how he heard the wailing of a small great tit just there by. He quickly ran and spotted it.

The great tit was shaking all over, standing among piles of broken dried eggs. The old owl laid the lantern on the ground and wrapped his wings around the little creature. Then he fixed his eyes on the greenery of the tree and spotted the nest: "The cuckoo! He was born a cuckoo and you were born a great tit. You a great tit, him a cuckoo. What a lot of cuckoos…there are in this wood! And...I'm an owl, and then there are the foxes and wolves and rabbits and frogs and geese… a bit of everything, a bit of everything! Oh I'm forgetting, I'm forgetting the hunters!"

He grasped the lantern with his beak and started to totter off. The old owl looked up at the sky and said: "See? You see? There are no more stars in the sky: they come out at night and go to bed during the day. I wonder, I really wonder what the stars' beds are like!"

The great tit was cold and trembled, keeping her eyes shut as the lantern's rays were strange and frightened her. "Don't be scared, don't be scared: the lantern's rays are good."

The owl got home to his den and quickly shut himself inside.

He placed the lantern in a corner and lovingly laid down the titmouse on the straw mattress. The owl then left the den to catch worms here and there, then patiently cut them into small pieces with his beak and fed them to the little bird.

The great tit ate, warmed herself up and fell asleep. The old owl caressed the bird for a long, long time.

The old owl had never had a son, as his owl wife had never been able to lay eggs: who knows, maybe she had had an illness. Only once had she laid an egg, but in the end all that had come out of it was a fly.

The old owl put his head in his wings. Who knows what he was thinking about, maybe it really was about the egg with the fly. Why, that day there had been a procession in his den, and many were the inquisitive birds that turned up. Some had even thought that the devil had been in the egg, and that he had turned himself into a fly in order to buzz away.

The days went by and the great tit was recovering well, what with all the worms she was eating!

Meanwhile the old owl spent whole days perched on a big branch outside his den, scratching his head, thinking and reasoning: it wouldn't be long before the titmouse grew up and flew away. She couldn’t stay there; what was she doing with an old owl?

The old owl wanted the great tit to fly away in the end. It was only right, it was the law of the woods. But he didn't want…how could he? That was the law of the woods as well.

She was a titmouse, and she would have to brood the cuckoo's egg unawares with her own. Her children would end up the same way, thrown down from the nest by the cuckoo. She would then bring up a cuckoo, mistaking it for one of her own children, just like her mother had before her.

What was she doing with an old owl? Who knows, maybe he could be her nest-watchman! Or even drive the cuckoo away! Oh if only…he knew which was the cuckoo egg, so he could throw it down before it hatched and…

The old owl's little whitish head, with its frolicsome twinkling eyes looked as if it was smoking.

He understood, he understood that it would have been pointless to tell the great tit everything, to tell her her story in the hope that she…but she was born a titmouse! She was a titmouse, and then there was the cuckoo!

Then he thought that there weren't many old owls like him, and that…but, enough! These were the woods!

The titmouse ate such a lot of food; she was crazy for chopped worms…but the day came when the law of the woods took her away and the old owl never wanted to tell her her story: for she was a great tit!

And when he saw her on the wing for the last time, he wished that all that ever hatched from cuckoo's eggs were flies.

 

CARETAKER POLECAT AND THE SEVEN LICE

 

 

And one day, it was an afternoon, when Caretaker polecat was sitting outside her den scratching her head, nearly flaying herself, because she had heard that some of the pupils at her school had started keeping bad company.

She had even argued with the teachers, in particular with Cretin Crocodile, the Headmaster. They couldn't muster any real enthusiasm in the students for the school, which was just made up of rule upon rule.

And that morning during break, she had gathered all the pupils in the long corridor and started giving them a good lecture from the top of a broken tree trunk. But someone had claimed that what she was doing didn't mean anything, because of this and this and that and that…

Caretaker Polecat was thinking over what she had said that morning, and what else she could have said, while she scolded herself by pinching her tail with her paws, because maybe her speech hadn't been that convincing and…she suddenly got up and cried out: "I need seven lice! An example is what's needed! An example gives you more than an explanation based on theory after theory and rule upon rule. Very well, but…but where am I going to find seven lice?"

Quack Quack Goose was passing by.

"Quack Quack Goose! Quack Quack Goose! Come here, come here. You couldn't tell me where I might find seven lice, could you?"

"Seven lice? Seven lice? And what do you need seven lice for? An omelette?"

Caretaker Polecat barely moved her head, so it looked as if she was saying yes.

" Oh gosh! Caretaker Polecat really is going to make an omelette with seven lice! Anyway, listen, Beggar Cat lives over there on the other side of the pond, and she can give you as many lice as you want."

Caretaker Polecat raced over to Beggar Cat's, who on hearing her request exclaimed: "What? Seven lice? Only seven? But I can really give you heaps!"

"Seven, I only need seven; what do you think, that I really want to make an omelette with them? I only need seven, you are quite welcome to the rest! What do you think? That I've come here to delouse you? You don't fool me! With the state you are in, it would take a month or more to delouse you properly: you have more lice on you than fur my lousy one!"

Caretaker Polecat chose seven nice fat lice, wrapped them up well in a leaf and bid Beggar Cat good bye.

Early the following morning, Caretaker Polecat took herself off to school, where she gathered all the pupils together in the long corridor again. The experiment was under way…

With her paws she threw three little heaps of flour onto a wide tree trunk, just like the farmer does when he is sowing seeds. She then managed to make the first louse walk right through the flour, from one side to the other. "What do you think has happened to the louse?" the polecat asked the pupils. "It has got dirty!" they all shouted back.

"The second one is less dirty"

"Look at how much flour the other one has brought with it! Maybe it wants to bake bread for its family!"

"Oh heavens! Look at that other one there!"

And so all the lice were covered with flour, some more, some less and some completely.

So Caretaker Polecat got up on the tree trunk and mumbled: "Did you all see that, you little idiots? There was not one louse that walked through the flour without getting floury. None of them got away with it. And the same goes for you when you keep bad company! You talk and talk and claim and think and believe…but what are you saying? What are you doing? You, you…some more and some less, but you all end up floury. You'll all get into trouble doing what you do…some more and some less, but you'll all be in trouble…"

But suddenly in charged Headmaster Cretin Crocodile, thundering his hand-bell and bawling out rule upon rule. He ordered every one into the classrooms in the big den, and to get on with the lessons based on rules upon rules with lots of other rules, in that school ruled by rules…

 

TOM'S SHEEP

 

Once upon a time there were two very white sheep that lived among a flurry of mountains; one belonged to Tom and the other was Dick's. Tom was Dick's brother, so Dick found himself being Tom's brother.

One fine day Dick fenced off a nice bit of Lucerne and clover, and gave it to his sheep.

On seeing this, Tom did the same. And so…one sheep was on this side and one on the other, separated by a wire fence. The sun was high in the sky, so high that it could go no higher, and shone throwing its rays down into the green, green grass. The sun laughed and laughed, because it already knew.

Tom's sheep stuck its mug and eyes into the fence, bleating hungrily, greedy for the grass in the other field. She stood like this for a whole day without touching a thing. On the contrary, Dick's sheep was right in the middle of the field, happily munching away at her grass.

Darkness fell when Tom's sheep made a decision. This is what she did: she dug a tunnel with her paws and stuck her head into the other field, and not being able to eat the grass, she ate the roots underneath.

The sun had sunk behind the mountains, half out and half in, and had become as red as red can be, laughing and laughing because it already knew. Already knew.

Along came Dick, who saw that in just one day his sheep had become nice and plump. He moved over a little and when he saw Tom's sheep…well, he couldn't believe what he was seeing!

Dick called for Tom at the top of his voice, and he came along running to see for himself that his sheep was bleeding from it's mug and eyes, its mouth full of roots, and that in just one day she had become ugly and reduced to a skeleton. Then Tom saw the tunnel and realised: "You have your own grass, nice and green it is too! Before craving for the other grass at least you could eat your own! Go on and eat your own, there's enough there to last you till you are old and grey. He who craves another's stuff gets taken by the devil and then bursts!"

But his sheep just didn't listen to Tom, so it lost almost all its wool, until the skin was counting the bones…

One day turned into another, as did the night and the sun up above went on laughing and laughing…because it already knew.

And one day went by, as did another and another still, when a funny little man with a long American car appeared and gave them the contract to build two apartment blocks, one facing the other. Tom took one, and Dick the other…

And the sun was there laughing and laughing, because it already knew…

 

 

THE STUPID DONKEY, THE HORSE, THE MASTER AND

THE ANT

 

 

A donkey once lived in a stable, where it had a whole lot of chaff and straw. Every day a fine white horse dressed with rich harnesses trotted outside. The donkey would cast its eyes on the horse, green with envy.

"Why was I born a donkey and him a horse?" he asked his master.

"Why was the sheikh born a sheikh with a lot of money and palaces, horses and beautiful women, while I was born to kill myself with work and all I have is a fat woman with no teeth and a stupid donkey?" his master answered quickly.

Some time went by, and the donkey repeated the question: "Why was I born a donkey and that one there a horse?"

"Why was the sea born sea and the sun born sun, the wind born wind and the frog born frog, the orange born orange and the earth born earth and the sheikh's women born women and all of them beautiful, while I was born to kill myself with work, and all I have is a fat ugly woman with no teeth and a stupid donkey and not a horse and the horse was born horse? Why? His master repeated quickly.

One day the donkey, tied to the market wall, caught a glimpse of a yellow ant that was brushing past his hoof. The ant had a breadcrumb between its pincers and was running like crazy. Observing her, he said: "Why was I born a donkey and not a horse, and you are an ugly yellow ant, and maybe even happy?"

"Of course I'm happy!"

"And…why is that?"

"Because I know I'm an ant, and not an imbecile like you!" she answered cheerfully.

 

 

THE YOUNG MERCHANT

 

 

One day a young merchant dressed as beautifully as a bridegroom was walking across the town square, when he met a man he vaguely knew, and greeted him gracefully with a slight bow. Seeing he had been greeted, this person then invited him to his home for a coffee. Seeing the other was so keen, the young merchant dressed as beautifully as a bridegroom accepted out of good manners.

"You're Dick the merchant?"

"Yes, I'm Dick the merchant."

"Well I never! Just whom should I meet today? Dick the merchant! I'm Tom, and you wont believe this, but I'm a merchant as well", and he thrust out his hand. "How do you do, Tom."

"How do you do, Dick."

Once they were inside, they sat down in two big old armchairs. Tom asked Dick the price of silk from China , and of the many spices imported from the Orient. And while he was asking many other things he remembered he had to feed the chickens in the garden, so he asked Dick to go outside with him.

The chickens were plucking here and there, looking for worms. "If I don't feed them they won't lay any eggs!" said Tom.

The chickens all cock-a-doodle-do'd together: "Maybe today we'll get something to eat at last!"

Over in the corner was an unhappy dog tied to a rusty chain. It jumped up and down like a child, bawling and asking for food.

"This dog's always hungry!" said Tom, feeding the chickens. "Good boy, good, wait and I'll give you some bread…" He opened a drawer in a broken piece of furniture under the wall, and pulled out a piece of bread that had gone green with old age, stuck it into a bucket full of water that was green with old age, soaked the bread and threw it rudely to the dog that seized it and ate it.

"Damn! This dog of mine eats so much bread! I treat her well, don't I? Oh what a lot of bread I give her!"

"Does she only eat bread?"

"Yes, yes; so much bread."

"No meat?"

"Meat? I sometimes give her a bone! She eats so much bread, she does!"

"She's only young, isn't she?"

"She's six"

"Six years old? She's so small that she looks like a puppy. She hasn't grown! God, no wonder she doesn't grow, she doesn’t get any proteins!"

"Pro…whaat?"

"Proteins."

"Prot…prot-eins?"

"Yes!"

There were a few rows of peas planted in the garden. Dick picked eight peas, and as he ate them he playfully threw the pods to the dog. The dog swallowed them ravenously, as if they were meat of the finest quality, and barked that she wanted more.

"Look Tom, your dog eats pea pods."

Meanwhile Tom was picking an orange from a tree. It was almost black with rot, and when he opened it he threw the peel to the barking dog, imitating Dick with the pea pods. The animal leapt like a lion and the peel was inside her stomach in a flash.

"God, what a state the poor dog's in!" Dick muttered very quietly. "The poor dog needs vitamins and proteins, that's why she hasn't grown. How could she have grown with a piece of green bread every God knows when? To be reduced to eating the peel of a rotten orange, when they are as acrid as poison…" And Dick wanted to see how deep the well was.

He tore a small green lemon from a little plant, and threw it to the dog. And… what did the dog do? She barely chewed it before catapulting it down into her belly.

On seeing this Tom smiled and said: "I'd bet anything that no one else in the world has a dog that eats lemons."

And he laughed like a pig, showing his rotten yellow teeth.

"Why don't you just die, Tom? It's people like you that ruin the whole world. For a penny, you would leave a child to die" uttered Dick.

"Did you say something?"

"Yes. I was just humming a bit of a song that's just come into my head. It goes like this: "Oh why, oh why don't you just die/o son of a thin rat/it's people like you/that ruin the whole world: /who for a filthy penny/would leave a child to die/And that child/you son of a thin rat/could be your son./the world carries you around/feeling ashamed on your behalf./But it can do nothing:/a long cat jumps on a wall/and a dog eats a lemon for the vitamiiinnss"…Nice, isn't it, my little tune? I even put you and your dog eating the lemon in there!"

" Yes, really lovely" said Tom. "But listen, shall we do business together or not? I know you are a trader who buys everything and sells everything. But tell me again, what's the price of silk imported from China , and of the spices from the Orient? Well then, shall we do business together?"

"I wouldn't even make half a deal with you! I'm off and in a hurry too, because I'm scared you will fleece me and take all my clothes. Why, you've reduced your dog to a state where she would even eat nails with points this long, and all this in a time bursting with abundance! What would become of me if I were to form a partnership with you? You'd strip me like a shrimp! But there is one deal I want to do with you: As I always do business everywhere I go…will you sell me your dog?"

"What? You want my dog? But…what ever for?"

"That's my own business. I'll give you five cats in exchange."

"Five cats? Are you crazy? I get rid of my dog for five cats? And who knows how much bread they would get through!"

"Well, look here: I'll give you this gold ring!"

" You've got yourself a deal! You're cunning, you are. I know why you want my dog: because she eats lemons, and you want to sell her to the circus! I accept, however. It suits me: the ring is made of gold and doesn't eat bread either."

"Come, come here you poor dog! I'll give you so much food that you'll burst. Your master is just a poor swine. I'll give you so much to eat, but on one condition: that if you were to run into your master, you are to bite his leg off. That's all I ask of you."

Dick and the dog went on their way.

"Dick! Dick!" shouted Tom from his garden wall.

"I haven't told you the dogs name! It's Jessica! She's called Jessica!

On hearing her name called out Jessica ran into the middle of the road. A boy with a face so dirty that he looked like a Negro, driving a half-destroyed motorcycle that shattered the air with the noise of big saucepan lids being slammed together, shaved the dog and was about to run her over…Jessica fled, scared to death. And with Dick's chain tight around her neck and Dick as handsome and beautifully dressed as a bridegroom, she dragged him to the ground and into a stinking black puddle.

"Dick! She's called Jessica!"

Oh fuck off! Fuck you, and fuck me for ever having said hello to you in the square this morning!"

 

CLUMSY FOX AND FOX WITH NO TAIL

 

Once a fox that was a bit ugly and a bit clumsy formed a partnership with another fox friend that lived in another wood, just a bit further across.

And… why did the two foxes form this partnership?

They formed the partnership because what often happens to foxes, is this: for many days they hunted nothing and starved, and then…then all of a sudden they would catch roosters and chickens, quails and blackbirds, flies and squirrels and eggs and butterflies which didn't all fit into their stomachs. As we know foxes don't own fridges, and so an egg and a fly and a butterfly would go off and have to be thrown out.

So, under a hedge in the moonlight, the clumsy, ugly fox took a leaf and a piece of charcoal and wrote this:

"Wood of a thousand chestnut-tree stumps, twenty fifth Elmi, thirtieth short year…………………………………………………………………

We the undersigned, Clumsy Fox and Fox with no tail, by profession hunters, are here under the hedge in the wood of one thousand chestnut-tree stumps.

We have formed……………………………………………………………………………….

Clumsy Fox, born on the twelfth Elmi, thirtieth short year in the wood, and residing there in Via Cupella Storta, third gnarled log on the right. Distinguishing features: clumsy. In a state of legal separation from the goods and chattels of my family of descent……………………………………………………………………………………..

Fox with no tail, born on the fourteenth viaticum, twentieth long year in the wood and residing there in The Hunter's Slaughter-Tree Street , fifth twisted gunshot-riddled log. Distinguishing features: no tail. In a state of separation from the goods and chattels of my family of descent………………………………………………………..

Recognising each other and being sure and certain of the other's identity, and being in full possession of our faculties of scenting leeward and against the wind, and occasionally running here and there as fast as we can, sound of mind, in perfect shape with four sturdy paws, without the imposition of third party foxes, in the moonlight in the middle of the wood of one thousand chestnut-tree stumps and renouncing the presence of the witnesses, we declare as follows: to withstand the hard life in the woods where it often happens that: either one doesn't find food or one can't grab it because there are often hunters and …and to abbreviate the deed we are about to draw up here, we agree on everything we have in mind, in compliance with the above without lying or swindling…………………………………………………………………………………….

The expenses for the present deed and consequentials have not been paid, so no expenses will be charged to the contracting parties.

The present deed was written in charcoal, in cursive on seven wide chestnut-tree leaves. We have read it through and by mutual agreement we agree!………………………………………………………….

Read, approved and undersigned…………………………………………………

Clumsy Fox then signed here and Fox with no tail signed there. Both pleased, they then celebrated with eggs. Afterwards they bid each other good-bye and restlessly and happily tottered away.

The next day Fox with no tail caught a blackbird and three quails: having eaten his share, he looked for Clumsy Fox and on finding her gave her the blackbird and a quail.

"You know, I didn't catch anything because today the wood where I live was chock-a-block with hunters and…well, thanks Fox with no tail, and…well, well: what a great agreement we have come to!" said Clumsy Fox.

"Well, well, what a great agreement we have come to!" Clumsy Fox said again. And she laughed and laughed, so satisfied was she that the deal was going swimmingly for her.

At dawn Fox with no tail nabbed a fawn, divided it in two, and at midday under a burning sun went off in search of Clumsy Fox: he spotted her in a bush, and called out.

"Look here! Look what I have here for you! Fawn! Some for you and some for me."

"Oh God, oh my God, what a great agreement we have come to! I really am so unlucky, it went badly again today, those damn hunters shoot like crazy in my wood. One of them (what a scoundrel!) even killed his dog by mistake, and then took the dead dog away with him, damn it! Who knows where he buried it, for if I had known I would have given you some dead dog. A long time ago I tasted one and it was so very, very tasty.

But, but this morning I stole two ears of maize and a tomato in a field, and because I swear I'm really so very kind and always want to cut a fine figure, here's what we'll do: I don't even want to go halves, I'll just take them and give them to you." Then it so happened that Fox with no tail was so very unlucky, and that for a few days he caught nothing. In the meantime, Clumsy Fox who was hunting nearby would always manage to catch a few birds. But she would catch them on the sly, and eat them on the sly as well, without leaving so much as a bone. She would then go in search of her friend to whom, without fail she would offer two ears of maize and a few thin, crooked carrots.

"I really am unlucky, there is so much famine in my wood that this is all I could find. But you have them, go on and eat. I stole them from the farmer: they're good all the same, and you know what I'm like, I always want to cut a fine figure."

But in the end Fox with no tail, who was kind, but also sharp, worked it all out. "Tell me, what do you have inside you?" he said grinding his teeth: "You want meat from me, but then you give me maize?! Your head's not working properly! Maize is what you take to chickens my friend! To chickens! I don't lay eggs I don't, nor do I know how to say cock-a doodle-do. I'm a fox like you and I eat meat! Seeing that you've always had meat from me, then I want meat in return. And seeing what you're like, it's each man for himself from now on and you can tear up that agreement. I'll be giving my leftover meat to the worms rather than to you! Yes the worms, get it?

Let me tell you one more time: from now on it's each man for himself. And remember to tear up that agreement we came to!"

In disgust, Fox with no tail swore to himself never to sign another contract again, neither with foxes nor with others.

He then quickly took himself off to who knows what other part of the woods.

 

 

THE GOLDFISH WITH BLACK STRIPES

 

The goldfish with black stripes

which fade before the eyes,

meanders happily in the clear silvery water that flows quickly.

It plays in the foam of the water

that breaks on the rocks.

Blissful and happy, it's kissed by the sun.

It stops, watches and scans.

It slips in between the rocks, catching bubbles

and thinks it's the master of the river.

A big fish spots it

and rapidly darts to the capture.

It follows greedily but loses track.

Further ahead a fisherman is lying in wait

sitting on the grass.

He hooks them up

and throws them into a bucket.

The big fish stares at the goldfish, stunned

and thinks it's a all dream;

he no longer wants to get him down into his belly.

The oil that is boiling awaits them both,

calmly.

 

 

THE CHICKEN THAT DOESN'T KNOW THE WORLD

 

The chicken on the roof quickly sings

"Coccoccooo! Coccoccocooo! Coccoccocoooo!

She squats, and lays an egg which is no sooner out before

it rolls across the broken tiles

and crashes to the ground.

The dog pounces

and hastens

to joyfully lick and eat it up.

Everyday the chicken

does this;

and everyday the dog

joyfully licks and eats the egg;

and everyday the farmer

over to the side,

sees the scene.

He waves a ladder in the air:

the dog barks,

the chicken flutters.

Two blows to the neck! Quickly plucked and straight into tonight's soup!

The night passes and…the moon up in the sky laughs

It's daytime…the sun lights up the rooftop

And the dog waits…?…

Just for today, skin and bones instead of the

CERTAIN EGG.

 

 

THE STUPID TICKS

 

 

Lots of ticks, on the country dogs,

sucking blood like mad.

They had become big and fat,

full up to their heads with blood,

so greedy for it were they.

They had become as fat as grapes and so very, very round that they could no longer move

from one ear to the other,

and they would delight in crouching down among the hairs.

The poor dogs hardly ate,

seeing they had no owners, and struggled

to find food amongst the rubbish.

One day a dog, that had almost been sucked dry,

collapsed exhausted with debility and managed,

with great effort, to say to the ticks, in a hoarse voice:

"You have become fat through scrounging! And now?

If you had sucked less greedily

and had known how to ration your sucking,

we'd all live on.

But now you'll all die with me!

I, the "wretched dog",

have no more blood to give you!"

And the ticks continued to suck blood

without understanding a thing,

savouring their last meal on the dying dog.

Scia's 49 "modern" fables lucidly tackle the everyday problems and dilemmas which have always troubled the world, and convey a message of great humanity.The tiny microcosm that Scia creates in his book is populated by animals, personified atmospheric phenomena and sometimes even by Man himself; this recreates our very universe with all its contradictions, but is sometimes also kissed by the odd ray of hope. The author takes on a literary genre which is one of the most complex with truly surprising results. Scia's book is written in an enchanting, flowing, realistic and remarkably modern language which enables us to relive the bewitching themes which animate his characters.

 

 

Sabatino Scia was born in Naples and his work includes dialogues for the theatre/plays, short stories and poems. These forty nine fables are part of a larger collection.

 


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