Friday Fable. Abstemius's (Sir Roger L'Estrange) “A Wolf and a Porcupine.”*

Posted by jlubans on April 30, 2015

Caption: Engraving by Samuel Howitt (1756-1822)

“Your Porcupine and your Hedge-Hog, are somewhat alike, only the Former has longer and sharper Prickles than the Other; and these Prickles he can shoot and dart at an Enemy. There was a Wolf had a mind to be dealing with him, if he could but get him disarm'd first; and so he told the Porcupine in a friendly way, that it did not look well for People in a Time of Peace, to go Arm'd, as if they were in a State of War; and so advis'd him to lay his Bristles aside; for (says he) you may take them up at pleasure. Do you talk of a State of War? says the Porcupine, why, that's my present Case, and the very Reason of my standing to my Arms, so long as a Wolf is in Company.”

“No Man, or State can be safe in Peace, that is no always in readiness to encounter an Enemy in Case of War.”

And what of this fable is irrelevant today? Well, there’s the now disproved claim - made by Aristotle no less - that the porcupine can “shoot” his quills. Otherwise, all relevant. I could comment about the motives of a neighboring nation to where I am living in northern Europe, but I won’t (clever?).
What about the workplace? Well there were times when turf wars would erupt inside and outside the research library in which I worked. One notable example (replayed at many campuses) was the university’s IT (Information Technology) department’s wanting to enlarge its domain; the aggressive and self-aggrandizing IT director salivated over the library’s resources budget. So, while the IT folks might call us paranoid, (Was it Heller who said, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they’re not out to get you”?) the library’s leader was forewarned and forearmed and stymied the takeover; indeed, he turned the tables and co-opted IT! On some campuses, the library was annexed, unhappily, to IT; but, like our Porcupine, proved to have “prickles” longer and sharper than first anticipated, much to IT’s dismay and chagrin. Many of those shotgun weddings were short-lived because the two cultures were like night and day.

*Source: Abstemius' Fables translated by Sir Roger L'Estrange.

Leading from the Middle Library of the week: University of the Fraser Valley, UVF Library, Abbotsford BC., Canada
If your library lacks a copy, copies are available from ABC-Clio, the publisher.

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