The Lost Country

Fall 2013 • Vol. 2, No. 2

issn 2326-5310 (online)

Translation: Mini Fables

By L. A. Nicholas

This work was published in the Fall 2013 issue of The Lost Country. You may purchase a copy of this issue from us or, if you prefer, from Amazon.

From El Emperador de la China y otros cuentos, by Marco Denevi. Buenos Aires: Librería Huemul, 1970.

A Fairy Tale

“Once there was a featherless biped1…” the Nightingale recounted.

“Enough with the fairy tales!” the Goose interrupted. “Featherless bipeds don’t exist. Let’s talk about reality. Let’s talk about us. Listen to this: once there was a goose…”

Just then, in the distance, the hunter’s shotgun came into view.

The Guardian of the Kingdom

The Monkey said, “Who could be better to watch for approaching enemies than the Giraffe?”

So they named her guardian of the kingdom.

By nightfall, all the Monkeys were dead, poisoned by the scorpions, bitten by the vipers, devoured by the chinch bugs, assassinated by the spiders, eaten up by the fleas.

Meanwhile, the Giraffe continued to watch the distant horizon.

The Wolves

“Wolf! Wolf!” cried the Shepherd the first night.

Everyone heard his cries, but they remained snug in their houses, thinking, “It’s no business of mine.” And the Wolf ate up the Shepherd’s sheep.

“Wolf! Wolf!” the Shepherd cried again the second night. But, accustomed to the cries, everyone kept sleeping. And the Wolf ate up the Shepherd.

The third night, no one shouted, “Wolf! Wolf!”

And that night they all had a Wolf in their houses.

Evil Spreads

Apparently for no reason (except the chain around his neck all day and an occasional whipping), one night the Dog said, “That’s it!”

And he changed into a Wolf.

Upon seeing a wild animal among its tender flowers, the garden, having caught the contagion, or perhaps to defend itself against the Wolf, changed into a jungle.

The Wolf, licking his chops, thought, “Now that despot, that bully, that Man will see. I’ll wait for him here, and as soon as he comes into view, I’ll sink my teeth into him.”

At dawn he heard footsteps and prepared for the attach. But what came into view was the Orangutan.

A Time for Everything

All the animals devoutly attended the Lion’s funeral services. All of them, even the Snails. But the Snails arrived last.

“What’s the hurry?” they said on the road to anyone who went faster than they did.

When they finally arrived, they made a big show, crying, offering condolences left and right, asking everyone how such a terrible misfortune had occurred.

Until the Lion smashed them to a pulp with a ferocious swipe of his paw.

“I won’t tolerate waterworks at my coronation ceremony,” said the new King of the Jungle.

Immolation for the Sake of Beauty

The Hedgehog was ugly and he knew it. That is why he lived in out-of-the-way places, in the shadowy underbrush, never speaking to anyone, always solitary and taciturn, always gloomy, he who in reality had a lively disposition and enjoyed the company of others. He dared go out only in the wee hours of the night, and then if he heard footsteps he would quickly bristle his quills and roll into a ball to hide his embarrassment.

One time someone found this prickly sphere, this enormous pincushion. Instead of sprinkling it with water or blowing smoke on it (as zoology books advise), the person took a string of pearls, a cluster of grapes, precious stones, or perhaps false ones, little bells, two or three sequins, several fireflies, a gold charm, some flowers made of mother of pearl and velvet, artificial butterflies, a piece of coral, a feather, and a button, and threaded them onto each one of the hedgehog’s quills, transforming him from an unpleasant creature into a fabulous animal.

Everyone came to gaze on him. Depending on who beheld him, he might resemble the crown of a Byzantine emperor, a fragment from the tail of the Roc bird2,or, if the fireflies were lit up, the lantern of a gondola decked out for the festival of the Bucentaur or, should an envious person look on him, a buffoon.

The Hedgehog heard the cries, the exclamations, the applause, and wept with happiness. But he dared not move, for fear of disturbing that fabulous raiment. Thus he remained throughout the whole summer. By the time the first cold weather arrived, he had died of hunger and thirst. But he remained beautiful.

The Truth About the Canary

In its wild state, it was green and did not sing. Domesticated, imprisoned in a cage, it has turned yellow and warbles like a soprano.

If anyone should attribute these changes to its sadness at being cooped up and longing for its freedom--what a lie!

I know that the great coward used be green and mute so that no one could find it among the foliage, and now it is yellow so that it will blend in with the walls and the gold bars of the cage. And it sings as a way to play on the sympathy of its owner.

I, the Cat, know it.

  1. This is what Plato called Man. (Author's Note)

  2. Fabled bird of the Arabian Nights. (Author's Note)