Sunday, May 19, 2013


(This entry is placed right after Genius In Fabulis to observe the continuity of the fable theme.

This entertaining entry centers around a remarkable literary short story that reads like an authentic classical fable, and even has the same title as a fable by Aesop, albeit completely differs in content. This one belongs to the Russian/Soviet writer L. Panteleev (pen name of Alexei Ivanovich Yeremeyev, 1908-1987), and this is how it goes, offered to the reader in my true to the Russian original English translation. I have deliberately avoided taking artistic liberties with the text, in order to convey the authentic author’s style rather than to impress the reader with the translator’s aesthetic embellishments:

Two Frogs.
Once upon a time there lived two frogs. They were friends, and lived in the same ditch. Only one of them was brave, strong, and cheerful, while the other was neither this nor that: she was pusillanimous, lazy, and a sleepyhead.
And yet they lived together, these frogs.
Then one night they went out for a walk.
Now, they are walking along a forest path, and suddenly they see a house there, and by the house there is a cellar. And the smell is so delicious from it: it smells of mold, dampness, moss, mushrooms: everything that frogs like.
So they got themselves into the cellar and started playing and hopping around there. They hopped and they hopped and accidentally fell into a pot with sour cream.
And they started drowning.
But of course they don’t want to drown.
Then they began to scramble, and they began to swim. But this clay pot had very tall slippery walls. There was no way for the frogs to get out of there.
The lazy frog swam a little, scrambled a little, and she thinks:
“There is no way out from here, anyway. Why should I scramble in vain? That’s only suffering for nothing. I’d better drown right away.”
That’s what she thought, stopped scrambling--- and drowned.
But the other frog-- she was different. She thinks:
“No, friends, it’s never too late to drown. I can do it any time. Let me scramble and swim some more. Who knows, maybe something will come out of it.”
Only-- no, nothing comes out of it. Swim as much as you like, you cannot swim too far. The pot is small, its walls are slippery-- no way can our frog get out of the sour cream.
Still, she doesn’t give up, doesn’t lose heart.
“It’s all right,-- she thinks,-- as long as I have the strength, I shall scramble. I’m still alive, it means I must stay alive. And then--- whatever happens then!”
Now, with her last strength fights our brave frog with her frog’s death. Here now she is losing her memory. Here now she is drowning. Here now she is being pulled down to the bottom. Still she is not giving up. Just works and works with her feet. Moves her feet and thinks:
“No! I am not giving up! You are kidding me, frog’s death…”
And then, suddenly, what’s this? Our frog feels something firm under her feet, this is no longer sour cream, but something solid, reliable, like the ground. Surprised, the frog looked down and saw that there was no sour cream in the pot anymore; she was now standing on a lump of butter.
“What’s this?-- thinks the frog.-- Where did this butter come from?”
Surprised was she, but then she figured it out: that’s how she herself churned solid butter out of liquid sour cream, by beating it with her feet.
“Well,-- she thinks,-- this means that I did a good thing not to drown right away.”
She thought about it, jumped out of the pot, rested, and hopped back home into the forest.
And the other frog was left in the pot.
And never would she, poor thing, see the world, or jump, or croak.
Well! To tell you the truth, you, frog, have only yourself to blame. Do not lose heart! Do not die before you are dead!

Well, here it is. Perhaps it is a bit too long. Aesop would surely have cut it to a small fraction of its present length. Only he did not write it, nor did La Fontaine, nor did Krylov, for that matter. Yet, its message, both formally, meeting the strict definition of fable, and morally-- Don’t you ever give up!-- is truly “fabulous.” No wonder then, that I have chosen to introduce it to my reader for his or her cultural and moral edification, if for nothing else…
(No matter how much I tried, I’ve been unable to trace the origin of this fable earlier than Panteleev’s little gem. I am therefore tempted to conclude that this wonderful piece indeed belongs to his creative fancy.)

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