Fables and humans

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By FERNANDO NOGUEIRA DA COSTA*

Fables give lessons to men and women that we should not underestimate

Intelligent and talking animals teach human animals how we should behave in different situations throughout our lives. The fables written about them are short narratives followed by a moral that has existed since Greek Antiquity.

For example, Aesop told: a horse luxuriously adorned with silk and gold met a loaded donkey on the way and, full of arrogance, asked him to turn aside and give way. The poor donkey remained silent and bore the insult.

A few days later, the horse injured its leg and began to limp. His owner removed his valuable harness and placed a saddle on him to be used as a pack animal. The donkey found the horse carrying dung and said to him: “Where is your arrogance now? Why don’t you ask me to go astray, like you did before?”

The social moral is: no one should despise the less favored just because they are well fed, well dressed or have honors and privileges. Fortunes and positions can change – and past pride only serves to bring shame and insult in the present.

An issue of our time – the rise of neo-fascism from the weapons-oriented extreme right – can be illustrated by the fable of The wolf and the lamb.

In a stream, a wolf was drinking water when a lamb came further down and started drinking too. The wolf looked with bloodthirsty eyes and bared his teeth, saying: “How dare you steal the water we drink from?”

The lamb humbly replied: “I am below where you drink, I could not dirty your water.” The wolf, even angrier, continued: “Why are you insulting my intelligence like your father did years ago?”

The lamb replied: “There is a mistake, I was born only three months ago, so I did not exist yet and I am not to blame for what my father said.” The wolf replied: “You are to blame for the damage done by grazing in my field.”

The lamb said, “That’s not possible, as I don’t have teeth yet.” Without further arguments, the wolf jumped on the lamb and devoured it.

The following moral is deduced. Anyone who is willing to use physical force and hurt others does not respond to any type of logic or argumentation, but to the opposite force.

We also learn from another fable, The wind and the sun: “sympathy is a sign of strength. With aggression we can never persuade another person.”

The Wind and the Sun were arguing about which one was stronger, when a walker appeared wearing a warm coat. They agreed in a friendly way: whoever managed to make the traveler take off his cloak would be considered the strongest. After the test, without a doubt, the Wind sympathetically admitted that the Sun was stronger…

The famous fable The Lion and the Mouse, with the return of a favor from this little animal to that big animal, teaches: “no one should be underestimated and all acts of kindness are important”.

In reality, when we are in difficult situations, we need to use our imagination and find a way to solve the problem. It was the case of The crow and the jug. The thirsty bird found a jug with some water, but its beak was too short.

He decided to pick up stones and, one by one, placed them into the jar. As he did so, the water level rose and finally he was within reach of his beak. Thus, he managed to quench his thirst and save his life.

The fable The rooster and the pearl narrates: he, while scratching around in the yard, ended up finding a precious pearl. Then he said to him: – “Beautiful and precious stone, shining with the sun or the moon, even though you are in a dirty place, if a human found you, he would imprison you in a jewel, but you are no good to me. , because a crumb, a worm or a grain is more important to serve as sustenance.” Having said this, he left her and continued scratching in search of some food.

Therefore, morality is the value of things being subjective. Something for some is very important and valuable, for others it may be completely useless!

The unbridled race for social status based on Instagrammable appearance, if successful, often leads only to snobbery. This is the typical behavior of those who despise socializing with those who are humble, generally copying the customs of those considered to be from “high society” because they have wealth or from “high culture” because they have social prestige. This feeling of superiority, in relation to others, seeks to overcome, inadequately, some atavistic inferiority complex.

The dog and the mask shows wisdom. Looking for a bone to chew, a dog found a beautiful mask. The dog sniffed her and, recognizing her, turned away disdainfully. – “The face is beautiful, but it has no core…”

Just like the mask, many people have beauty but appear to be empty inside. They have no mental and/or cultural substance.

Those who think they are “smart”, and always invent ways to take advantage of a situation, end up becoming victims of their own tricks.

It was the case of a donkey: it was crossing a river carrying salt. As he slipped and fell into the water, the salt dissolved and made his load lighter.

Happy with this discovery, the donkey thought: if he fell into the river again, while carrying weight, the load would also be lighter. Then, while carrying sponges, he slipped on purpose. The sponges absorbed the water and the donkey could no longer get up and ended up drowning!

A large bull was grazing near the water. Seeing him, the frog felt envious. The frog began to eat a lot and inflate himself when asking the others if he was as big as the bull. They responded negatively.

The frog tried again, inflating itself with more force, but realized it was still a long way from being equal to the bull. On the third attempt, it inflated so intensely that it ended up exploding because of its greed to be big...

Again, the moral is the fact that we compete and compare ourselves with others, instead of accepting ourselves, always ends up hurting us. Whoever compares loses!

Greed is our downfall if we risk what is safe for something illusory and apparently better. This was discovered by a dog, when he was carrying a piece of meat in his mouth and, as he passed through a stream, he saw in the mirror of the water the shadow of the larger meat. He released that between his teeth to try to catch the view in the water. The stream carried away the true flesh and its shadow. In the end, the dog ended up with nothing.

Although all these fables give the impression of preaching conformity or inertia, this is contradicted by the famous The fox and the grapes. A fox approached a vine and saw it was loaded with delicious grapes. With his mouth watering, the fox wanted to eat the grapes and, to do so, he began to make efforts to climb up to them.

However, the grapes were at an unreachable height. The Fox then said: – “These grapes are very sour. I don’t want to pick them now, because I don’t like unripe grapes…” With that, she left.

The moral pointed out by Aesop is: sometimes, when we can't have something, we tend to devalue it. It's simply so we don't admit our failure.

Persistence and effort increase our capabilities and the probability of winning. Negligence and overconfidence, on the contrary, harm us.

This is demonstrated by the following fable. A tortoise and a hare were arguing about which was faster between the two. So they set a day and a place for a race. The hare, trusting in his natural quickness, did not rush to run, he lay down on the path and slept. But the tortoise, aware of his slowness, did not stop walking and thus overtook the sleeping hare and reached the goal, obtaining victory.

Work ethics are taught. The cicada spent the summer singing, while the ant gathered its grains. When winter came, the cicada came to the ant's house to ask for something to eat. The ant then asked her: – What did you do all summer? – During the summer, I sang – said the cicada. – So now, dance!

We have to make an effort from an early age, so that we can reap the fruits of our study and work later. If we don't do this, we will become dependent on other people's help. This is human wisdom spread through fables since the beginning.

*Fernando Nogueira da Costa He is a full professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Brazil of banks (EDUSP). [https://amzn.to/3r9xVNh]


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