Monday, September 12, 2005

The Fox and The Goat

My students are writing fables this week, which brings me to Aesop. There are some nice collections on the web, but I have been pouring over my beautiful edition of Jacob Lawrence’s illustrated fables.

The illustrations, all black and white, are complex and stunning. Harder to read than most of Lawrence’s work, they show his intense engagement with the moral of each fable and his acute observation of the gestures therein. I read from the publisher (the Unversity of Washiington, where Lawrence spent the latter part of his teaching career) that “he first sketched out the scenarious using humans” only turning them into animals later.

You can find how little we know about Aesop at Wikipedia; lots of sites collect the fables (since they’re in the public domain) but the University of Massachusetts site is particularly elegant and fun, with student-illustrated fables.

I’ve given you an imagine from this website: Lawrence’s drawing for “The Council of Mice” (also known as “Belling the Cat”) but another fable really struck me this time, and not only because of the hurricane and its sorry, costly aftermath (though partly because of that): “The Fox and the Goat.” Here it is:
One day a fox fell into a deep well from which he could not escape. Just as he was about to give up hope, a goat came by to quench his thirst.
Seeing the fox in the well, the goat exclaimed, “What in the world are you doing in that well, old fox?”
“Haven’t you heard news of the great drought? As soon as I heard, I jumped down here where the water is cool and plentiful. It is delicious too, and I have drunk so much I can hardly move.”
When the goat heard this, he jumped into the well, and the fox immediately jumped onto the goat’s back and up his horns, scrambling to safety.
Moral: It is not safe to trust the advice of a man in difficulties.

No comments: