31 MAY 1957, Page 36

Fables for the Times

SPECTATOR COMPETITION No. 378 Report by Harry Hedgerow

THERE should be ample opportunities in this modern world for a new yEsop, for competitors were at no loss for subjects for their fables.These varied from the Suez crisis to weekend competitions, the most popular perhaps being the question of the relations between the British lion, the American eagle and the Russian bear. Gloria Prince's monkey leaders who were not deterred from threatening the stability of their bomb-damaged dwelling until their followers hanged them might almost be considered a subversive tale; D. M. Sayers invented a ruthlessly lethal story about the perils of social climbing; and J. P. Comyn, in one entry, neatly deal with the hard-heartedness of the Inland Revenue, and, in a second try, with the unreliability of racing 'certainties' which have only horse sense to guide them.

J. A. Lindon tried to bowl the setter over by a determined frontal attack with his fable of the Fine Green Cabbage and the Horrible Spiky Hedgerow which never awarded that vegetable a prize. 'One might as well be a Cabbage as a Competitor,' was his pessimistic moral.

Lord Dunsany's story of the boastful Frog and Dog and the even more foolish Man seemed al- most too like a true prophecy to be comfortable. When the two animals have shown what they can do in the way of wonders, Man comes along : ' "That's nothing to what I can do," he ex- claimed. "I can blow myself up." And he did so.'

Alone among the fabulists, D. R. Peddy turned a satiric eye on modern dancing. He produced two rock 'n' roll characters, 'hound dawgs,' who fell in with 'a coupla cats.' And James S. Fidgen deserves commendation for his rhymed `Fable d'Esope d'apres La Fontaine.'

So we come to the prizewinners. I recommend a first prize of two guineas to Dorothy Halliday and a guinea each to R. Kennard Davis, Adrienne Gascoigne, T. E. Hendrie and J. E. Cherry. Grouped close behind them in order of merit are G. H. Baxter, G. J. Blundell, Blissard, P. W. R. Foot and Nancy Gunter.



The Standard and the Jaguar

A little Standard found itself alongside a big Jaguar in a traffic hold-up.

'Don't breathe on my polish, you dirty little thing,' said the Jaguar, 'and don't fidget so.' said the man. everything-but


The Birds renewed their annual songs, and the critics assembled to discuss them.

'Sheer Victorian sentimentality!' sneered the Fox of the Nightingale's performance.

`Too saccharine; altogether vieux lett!' was the hyena's verdict on the Blackbird.

`Crude unrealistic optimism! He might almost be- lieve in a Deity!' snarled the Jackal of the Lark.

Then the Cuckoo began his maddening, repetitive call. and the beasts, secretly puzzled but outwardly magisterial, voiced their admiration. 'What penetrat- ing pessimism!' they exclaimed; 'How magnificently meaningless! The same theme, repeated over and over again, without progress or purpose or signifi- cance! Existence itself, mirrored in consummate Art!'

But the Donkey, who was older and therefore less sophisticated, wondered. Surely the song must mean something! Quietly he approached the bird. 'Tell me,' he asked, 'why do you go on saying "Cuckoo"?'

`I am expressing my opinion of my audience,' re- plied the fowl, with a wink.


The Electric Hare

An electric hare was once coursing, and as he sped he thought to himself : 'How superior I am to the live hare. In time his strength fails and he falls a prey to the greyhounds; whereas I can out- strip the fastest hound; I feel no fatigue; I can run without rest for any length of time.' As he pondered thus, the electricity was cut and he came to a sudden halt.

Moral : Do not pride yourself on attributes which are really extrinsic. `I'm very sorry,' said the Standard, 'but we're hurrying home to put the kettle on for tea.' `Good gracious,' said the Jaguar, 'we're going .to the Big House, and my family will have an expensive tea in the Duke's conservatory. My chauffeurs .will have theirs while the family are shown round, the house by a guide. They'll buy me an, expensive ticket for the Car Park. Your chauffeur is very shabby. And why doesn't he clean you?' `That's my Owner,' said the Standard. 'He doesn't always have time to clean me.' At the Big House gates the Standard caught, up the Jaguar again. 'Car Park full!' called out the gate- keeper standing in front of the Jaguar, and queueing only for tea.'

The Standard hurried past him. `Good afternoon, your Grace,' `We're doing well today.'

Moral : Money can buy nearly not quite.


.' The tombassionate Countryman

A certain Rustick travelled to a large Town, which ' • lay by the Sea. While he walked idly on the Beach, he espied a young Maiden lying there, all but naked. The Robbers (thihks he) have script this poor Creature and left her for dead.

Filled with compassion the good Fellow takes her up, and begins to warm her in his Bosom; but the ungrateful'Shrew smote him a great Buffet on the Ear and fled, uttering dreadful Cries.

Then the People of that Place (many also naked, like the Girl),came round him, beat him sorely and haled him before the Justice, who would hear nothing of his Reasons, but cry'd Pish, and cast him into a Dungeon.

So after many Days he came again to his own Village, and kaid : '1 will never leave it again; for in the great Cities there is neither Shame nor Virtue nor Gratitude.'


There was once a Competitor who, in all good faith, submitted an entry for a Certain Competition. The Setter, in his final judgement, pronounced harshly upon the Competitor's entry, educational attainment and literary standard.

Two weeks passed and the Competitor was himself invited to set a Competition—alas, the Setter now became a competitor. When the report of this Com- petition was published, the Brilliant Entry (for such it was) from the Setter now turned Competitor was unmentioned.

Moral: The Spectator sees most of the game.



The Car and the Roller

The Touring Car and the Road Roller were de- bating their merits. 'Strong as you are,' said the Car, 'you just pace about like a prisoner in his cell, while I skim swiftly whithersoever I choose.' But,' replied the Roller, 'what is there to show for your effort but so many hundred miles covered? Every yard that I move is useful work.' Some days later, the Car, while passing near the same place, skidded on a bad patch of road and fell into a ditch. When he called for help, the Roller rumbled up and easily pulled him out. 'Thank you, cousin Roller,' he said. 'I admit there are some things that you can do better than I.' Then, as he sped away, he added, 'But I should not have skidded if you had done properly the work of which you are so vain.'