from AESOPOCRYPHA








AESOP AT THE ZOO

One day Aesop went to the zoo to do some research. In general, he preferred to observe animals in the wild, yet sometimes this proved impossible. This was the case today: Aesop wanted to write about a tiger, and tigers were not native to his region. Of course, there were always paintings to consult, but those Aesop had seen made the tiger look like a mangy dog with stripes and he felt convinced that it was of a more noble cast. Besides, Aesop wanted to verify for himself the curious anecdote that the ancients told about the tiger: that it attracted other animals with its sweet smelling breath and then devoured them.

As Aesop pushed through the turnstiles he found his path blocked almost at once by a multitude of people. A long straggling queue stretched across his path, leading, on the left, to a Lyons Maid Ice Cream van, around which young and old alike had gathered in a writhing mass, like wasps around a jam pot. Beyond the queue to his right, a group of children holding large pink cornets were playing on the grass. Skipping round in a circle, with what they must have taken for menacing expressions on their faces, they chanted: 'Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!' Aesop was not overly fond of children. He had always resented being referred to as a children's writer, and whenever he saw kids at play he could not help feeling they were partly to blame for this. He moved on.

At a juncture in the path Aesop stopped in front of a menu of the zoo's attractions. Birds, reptiles and amphibians were indicated to the left; sea lions, gibbons and fun fair straight on; big cats and cafeteria to the right. Aesop took the small path which descended in the direction of the big cats. After a few minutes he arrived at a row of cramped musty smelling cages. They looked too small to house anything much bigger than a tomcat, let alone an animal the size of a tiger. Nevertheless, Aesop peered hopefully behind the rusty bars of the first cage: it was empty, save for a blue perspex log thrown haphazardly across its centre, and a trail of sun-baked excrement leading off to what looked like a stagnant pond in one corner. In front of the thick iron bars of the next cage was a large sign in red, reading DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS. Inside, there was again nothing. A third cage finished off the block. In this, a small lion cub lay dozing next to its mother, while she warded off flies and insects with her tail. Disappointed, Aesop continued his descent.

The base of the hill levelled out into a broad park boarded by trees, and it was here that the cafeteria stood. Hoping to get sone information Aesop stepped inside. The room was dark, and there was no one serving at the counter, but at one of the tables sat three uniformed girls drinking tea. Each of them wore an identical sweatshirt on which was depicted a grinning chimpanzee in a tartan suit holding an oversized mug of tea. Aesop approached them and asked politely if they knew where he might find the tigers. The girls giggled. One of them twisted her head sideways and winked knowingly at her friends. 'Tigers, is it?' she said, 'you want to ask the zoo keeper mister.' At this point they all burst out giggling again. Crestfallen, Aesop made his exit.

Outside there were no zoo keepers to be seen. Aesop began to climb back up the hill towards the lions. When he arrived at the cages, the lioness and her cub were still there, just as before: the cub lay dozing next to its mother while she warded off flies and insects with her tail. Yet passing the subsequent cage Aesop spotted a small typed notice he had missed before. It was taped onto the bars at waist height, below the sign he had seen previously, and read: 'The management regret to inform the public that Sheeba, loved by all for her courage and resilience during her seven year sojourn at the zoo, breathed her last on April 4th of this year. Whilst the management lament her departure, it trusts that she will find peace in the great fun-park in the sky.' Aesop stepped backwards, turned, and left.

Arriving once more at the turnstiles, Aesop paused by the now deserted ice cream van and took stock of his surroundings. Lyons Maid, tea girls, and bars, he thought. Oh my.





AN INCONSPICUOUS PURLOINING

Two local boys walk into a shop to buy viands. As Killcow (for thus folk call him) turns his back, our boys nick a lump of offal and thrust it into a pouch. On looking round, Killcow fails to miss it, for so full of food is his shop that this loss of a bit of offal is wholly inconspicuous to him. Killcow asks our boys for two obols - a fair outlay - and bids both good day.

What folk don't know, folk don't miss.





AESOP' S DREAM

'I had a dream,' Aesop announced to his wife Posea, as they lay in bed one morning. Posea rolled over. 'In my dream,' continued Aesop, 'a critic told me I didn't exist, that I was just a name appended to any product of a predominantly oral tradition.' 'What happened next?' asked Posea. 'That was it,' said Aesop. 'What do you think?'

'I'm no expert,' said Posea eventually, 'but it strikes me that the dream might be a kind of warning. Perhaps the dream is trying to tell you that you're in danger of, how shall I put it, in danger of ceasing to exist as far as the external world is concerned. I mean, if you're dreaming about your writing, you might be becoming a little obsessed with it, don't you think?' 'But what can I do about it?' 'Well,' said Posea, 'you can make me breakfast in bed for a start.'





DO IT YOURSELF FABLE (1)

A ________ once asked Zeus for ________, because she was miserable without them. But the god not only refused her request, but also cropped her_______.

MORAL: be satisfied with what you have.

Traditionally, a camel asked Zeus for horns and as a result had her ears cropped. Equally, a lizard might ask for wings and as a result have its legs cropped.

Other combinations are possible:

                 mole, eyes, tail
                 lioness, spots, mane
                 soldier ant, arms, wings
                 llama, antlers, hump
                 sow, wings, snout
                 cod, eyebrows, eyelids.

And no doubt others too...





ALL IS NOT LOST

One day a hungry lion cornered the unfortunate Aesop in the hills. Recognising the renowned fabulist, the lion asked Aesop to tell a story before making a meal of him. Aesop began: One day a hungry lion cornered the unfortunate Aesop in the hills. Recognising the renowned fabulist, the lion asked Aesop to tell a story before making a meal of him. Aesop began: One day a hungry lion cornered the unfortunate Aesop in the hills. Recognising the renowned fabulist, the lion asked Aesop to tell a story before making a meal of him. Aesop began: One day a hungry lion cornered the unfortunate Aesop in the hills. Recognising the renowned fabulist, the lion asked Aesop to tell a story before making a meal of him. Aesop began: One day...

Aesop paused, for the lion had gracefully departed. He took out his notebook and wrote: A true writer owes his existence to his work just as much as his work owes its existence to him. The relationship, forged by necessity, is reciprocal, and if either party should weaken all is lost.


        Philip Terry 2005