Friday Fable. Aesop’s “ZEUS AND THE DONKEYS”*

Posted by jlubans on November 11, 2016

Caption: The hopeless and beleaguered donkey. Illustration by Bernard Salomon, 1547.

“The donkeys were tired of being burdened with burdens and labouring all the days of their lives, so they sent ambassadors to Zeus, asking him to release them from their toil. Zeus, wanting to show them that they had asked for something impossible, said that their suffering would come to an end on the day when they pissed a river. The donkeys took him seriously and to this day whenever donkeys see where another donkey has pissed, they come to a halt and piss in the same place.”

“The fable shows that a person cannot escape his allotted fate.”

Like the bare-arse’d Ape in this same collection of fables for children**, imagine the giggles emanating from the nurseries of the early 1900s as the little ones read of the pissing donkeys.
But, this fable claims man’s lot is forecast; there’s no questioning one’s place or destiny. To do so is the “uttermost degree of Madness and Folly, to Appeal from Providence and Nature” as Sir Roger L'Estrange put it in 1692. A century later came the American Revolution – it is appropriate that today is Veteran’s Day – which posited a different fate for humans: We are equal and we have "unalienable rights" to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". If a peasant wants to be a landowner, the opportunity is there. It is not given, but it can be earned. If the dealt hand is not what you want, well, shuffle the cards again. And, it is your business – government butt out - in how you keep or not your Faith.
Imperfect? Yes. A superior alternative? Show me.
Since Aesop’s telling of the fable of the Pissing Donkeys (a garage rock band?) he may have inspired a few more writers. There’s Wretched Willie Nelson’s, “Whiskey River” (don’t run dry), Patti Smith’s bizzaro “Pissing in the River” and not to be outdone, Julie London’s smoky “Cry Me a River”.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

**Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016
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