Krylov’s THE ELEPHANT IN FAVOR*

Posted by jlubans on October 17, 2018

20181017-elephan_pic_.jpg

Caption: Krylov’s tiny pug chasing the elephant. Moscow. 197
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ONCE upon a time the Elephant was high in favor at the Court of the Lion, King of beasts.
All the animals of the forest began to gossip, and many were the guesses they made as to how the Elephant had become such a favorite.
"He is not a handsome beast," the animals all agreed, "he is not even amusing.
And as for his habits, he certainly has very bad manners!"
"If he only had a brush like mine," said the Fox, proudly whisking his fine, bushy tail, "I should not have thought it so strange!"
"Or if he had big, strong claws like mine," rejoined the Bear, "it would not have been so extraordinary.
But, as we all know, the poor beast has no claws at all!"
"You don't think, do you, that his tusks got him into favor?" broke in the Ox. "Is it possible that they were mistaken for horns, like mine?"
"Do you mean to tell me," demanded the Ass, shaking his ears, "that you really none of you know what it is that has made the Elephant so popular at Court?
Why, I guessed the reason right away! If it had not been for his beautiful long ears, he would never have got into favor!"
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This was not the only time Krylov would use the elephant as a foil for pretentiousness.
His THE INQUISITIVE MAN introduced the phrase, “the elephant in the room”.
And, there’s the one on the
THE ELEPHANT AND THE PUG-DOG” (depicted).
Krylov’s technique is first to show the jealousy of the other courtiers – how could the elephant be popular when he lacks their attributes: a “fine, bushy tail”, or “big strong claws” or the Ox’s horns? Besides he is ill mannered, neither handsome nor amusing!
Case closed!
But, not to be outdone, the Ass knows exactly why. Like himself, the elephant has “beautiful long ears”, the obvious reason for King Lion’s esteem.
Of course, Krylov is mocking the Czar’s courtiers and their petty rivalries and jealousies. Doing so got him into trouble, but being the Czar’s favorite, his excommunications were brief and he returned to have the last laugh.
Let’s leave the Court and take a peek at any C-suite to see who is riding high and who is not.
Is there much difference between Krylov’s animal courtiers and the C-suite denizens? Is the level of envy and jealousy amongst all of those in or out of favor any less in the C-suite?
What then is the leader’s role? Smile and say, “It’s just office politics”? Or does the leader set the standard of never talking behind someone’s back, of never criticizing someone to others?
What would you do?

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869.
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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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