Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thurber Tonight: Fables for Our Time, "The Little Girl and the Wolf" and "The Hen and the Heavens"


We began our holiday-season Thurber odyssey last night with a first helping of "The Pet Department." Owing to a scheduling confusion, tonight we being our look at the Fables for Our Time with not one but two of the original fables, published in Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940). (The volume of Further Fables for Our Time appeared in 1956.)

Wikipedia observes that Thurber's fables "usually conformed to the fable genre to the extent that they were short, featured anthropomorphic animals as main characters, and ended with a moral as a tagline," and after what I think of as the archetypal Thurber fable, "The Little Girl and the Wolf," we've got one of the all-animal ones, on a famliiar theme, "The Hen and the Heavens." (We've already made the acquaintance of "The Very Proper Gander" in a post that suggested "the teabaggers would know how to deal with him.")

I see that Wikipeda proposes as the "most famous" of Thurber's fables one with an all-human cast, "The Unicorn in the Garden." We already have that on our schedule.
-- Ken

The Little Girl and the Wolf

ONE AFTERNOON a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.


The Hen and the Heavens

ONCE UPON A TIME a little red hen was picking up stones and worms and seeds in a barnyard when something fell on her head. "The heavens are falling down!" she shouted, and she began to run, still shouting, "The heavens are falling down!" All the hens that she met and all the roosters and turkeys and ducks laughed at her, smugly, the way you laugh at one who is terrified when you aren't. "What did you say?" they chortled. "The heavens are falling down!" cried the little red hen. Finally a very pompous rooster said to her, "Don't be silly, my dear, it was only a pea that fell on your head." And he laughed and laughed and everybody else except the little red hen laughed. Then suddenly with an awful roar great chunks of crystallized cloud and huge blocks of icy blue sky began to drop on everybody from above, and everybody was killed, the laughing rooster and the little red hen and everybody else in the barnyard, for the heavens actually were falling down.

Moral: It wouldn't surprise me a bit if they did.

COMING UP SUNDAY: "My Fifty Years with James Thurber" (by James Thurber)

THURBER TONIGHT: Check out the series to date


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At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

applause! Applause!!!

At 3:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonight arriving at the Vancouver airport I felt a kinship to Thurber's story, The Day the Dam Broke (maybe not exact title), when many passengers broke into an open run to catch their plane and I found myself giving into the urge to run with them, all in the same direction of course. It was quite a fun outtake of the Thurber life updated for our times.

- L.P.

At 4:26 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

"The Day the Dam Broke" is exactly right, L.P. -- from the sort-of-autobiographical My Life and Hard Times, which I'm hoping we're going to get to in "Thurber Tonight."

That's something indeed, to partake of that particular experience! Thanks for sharing it.


At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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