An Inuit Fable, THE OWL AND THE LEMMING*

Posted by jlubans on June 21, 2020

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Caption: The Owl, head faked.

AN Owl saw a Lemming feeding just outside of his burrow.
Accordingly, the Owl flew down from the tree and perched at the entrance to the burrow, and then said to the Lemming: "Two dog-teams are coming this way!"
This frightened the Lemming so badly that he came up close to his burrow, pretending that he would rather be eaten by the Owl than caught by the dogs.
He said, "I am very fat and you can have a good meal. Take me! But if you wish to celebrate before eating me, I will sing while you dance."
The Owl agreed to this; he drew himself up and the Lemming began to sing while the Owl danced.
When dancing, the Owl looked up to the sky and quite forgot about the Lemming.
While he was moving about, he spread his legs far apart, and instantly the Lemming ran between them into his burrow.
The Owl called to him to come out again, saying that the dog-teams had both passed by and were gone.
But the Lemming's wife told her husband not to go out but to throw dirt in the Owl's face. And that was what he did.
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This instructive fable from our Northern Brothers suggests it’s best to be clever and humble than to be proud and arrogant.
Because of his prideful celebration, the Owl loses out on lunch.
And so it can be at work. We may be so full of ourselves on achieving a goal that we begin to lose the determination, team spirit and creativity that got us there.
We take our success for granted and our continued good fortune a given.
Instead of remaining en garde and humble
we slip, slide along into complacency – we plateau, we “rest on our laurels”.
All it takes is one small change in our circumstances, our “dynamics” – be it a new team member, a new customer or a new boss – and we can find ourselves back, like Sisyphus, where we started minus all of our momentum.

*Source: Fable From “The Eskimo in Baffin Land”, by Franz Boas included in Cooper, Frederic Taber, 1864-1937. “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land.”

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© Copyright John Lubans 2020

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