laughter, singing rang
again, all the sounds of the
earth were like music
Adapted from James Thurber’s Further Fable, “The Bears and the Monkeys.”
I have used this fable of Mr. Thurber’s before.
I will most likely use again and if I don’t use it again, I will read it again and most likely often.
The fable is an analogy on the red scare of the McCarthy era when folks were afraid to think for themselves and wake up to find out they were accused of being a communist.
It was better to let someone else do the thinking for you than risk being labeled being part of the red threat or a pinko commie sympathiser.
So they thinking went according to the monkeys.
When I first read this probably 50 years ago when I was a kid, I think I was able to grasp the meaning that folks do not want anyone telling them what to.
Maybe I was thinking along the lines of Mr. Lincoln’s “as I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”
I thought the story noble in its’ irony.
I read it today not in with humor but with horror.
I read it today and feel that the irony now goes over most folks heads.
I read the line, “By sparing you the burden of electing your leaders, we save you from the dangers of choice. No more secret ballots, everything open and aboveboard.” and I hear folks yelling, “YESSIR, THAT’S IT!”.
As Mr. Twain wrote in Huckleberry Finn, “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
BOY Howdy 😦
I still somehow have hope.
Maybe its more I want to refuse to be hope-less.
But I do hope that one day folks will break the chains of their new freedom and found their way back to the deep forest and begin playing leap-bear again and stealing honey and buns from the nearby cottages. And folk’s laughter and gaiety will ring through the forest, and birds that had ceased singing begin singing again, and all the sounds of the earth will be like music.
The Bears and the Monkeys.
In a deep forest there lived many bears. They spent the winter sleeping, and the summer playing leap-bear and stealing honey and buns from nearby cottages. One day a fast-talking monkey named Glib showed up and told them that their way of life was bad for bears. “You are prisoners of pastime,” he said, “addicted to leap-bear, and slaves of honey and buns.”
The bears were impressed and frightened as Glib went on talking. “Your forebears have done this to you,” he said. Glib was so glib, glibber than the glibbest monkey they had ever seen before, that the bears believed he must know more than they knew, or than anybody else. But when he left, to tell other species what was the matter with them, the bears reverted to their fun and games and their theft of buns and honey.
Their decadence made them bright of eye, light of heart, and quick of paw, and they had a wonderful time, living as bears had always lived, until one day two of Glib’s successors appeared, named Monkey Say and Monkey Do. They were even glibber than Glib, and they brought many presents and smiled all the time. “We have come to liberate you from freedom,” they said. “This is the New Liberation, twice as good as the old, since there are two of us.”
So each bear was made to wear a collar, and the collars were linked together with chains, and Monkey Do put a ring in the lead bear’s nose, and a chain on the lead bear’s ring. “Now you are free to do what I tell you to do,” said Monkey Do.
“Now you are free to say what I want you to say,” said Monkey Say. “By sparing you the burden of electing your leaders, we save you from the dangers of choice. No more secret ballots, everything open and aboveboard.” For a long time the bears submitted to the New Liberation, and chanted the slogan the monkeys had taught them: “Why stand on your own two feet when you can stand on ours?”
Then one day they broke the chains of their new freedom and found their way back to the deep forest and began playing leap-bear again and stealing honey and buns from the nearby cottages. And their laughter and gaiety rang through the forest, and birds that had ceased singing began singing again, and all the sounds of the earth were like music.
MORAL: It is better to have the ring of freedom in your ears than in your nose.
Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated by James Thurber, New York, Harpers, 1940.