Birdlime as Metaphor

Posted by jlubans on June 18, 2012

Speaking of Aesop, several of his fables involve bird catchers and birdlime.
20120618-use at top.jpeg
Caption: The owl's good advice being ignored.
Of course, Papageno, Mozart’s bird catcher in The Magic Flute, is the most famous. His song “I Am a Happy Bird Catcher” tells us about traps, nets and bird sounds (and about Papageno’s desire for another kind of “bird”) but nothing about birdlime.
What is birdlime?
The opening lines of Aesop’s The Owl and the Other Birds gives us some clues: “Since the owl was a wise bird, she advised the other birds when the first oak tree sprouted that they should not allow it to grow. If they didn't uproot the tree at all costs, it would produce an inescapable substance, birdlime, that would bring about their death and destruction….”
20120618-too late.jpg
Caption: Too late already! As the owl prophesizes, the bird catcher gathers twigs for birdlime.

It turns out, according to one dictionary definition, birdlime is a “sticky substance, prepared from holly, mistletoe, or other plants, that is smeared on branches or twigs to capture small birds.”
Caption: A modern, snazzy retelling*.
Aesop uses the story of The Owl and the Other Birds to illustrate how ignoring wise advice often results in sad consequences. The owl foresees not only birdlime but also traps and nets made from flax to capture and kill birds. But, the birds ignore the owl to their everlasting regret. The owl in most editions of this fable now shakes his head in dismay and grumbles about the abundance of stupidity among her peers. She no longer offers advice, she only complains.
So, when was the last bit of good counsel that you failed to pick up on? I have ignored many words of wisdom and have had some of mine cold-shouldered. But, unlike Aesop’s owl, I prefer to continue offering advice – when asked – rather than complaining. And, I am less likely – usually - to ignore the wisdom of others.
*NOTE: Owl (Eule) and Birds II (Vögel II) (headpiece and in-text plate, page 14) from Tierfabeln des Aesop (Aesop's Fables) by Gerhard Marcks (German, 1889–1981) (print executed 1949-50).

« Prev itemNext item »


Posted by miriam on June 18, 2012  •  16:21:29

John...good work...makes one think about what they say/hear/do/advise/enable....
103 at Ben's house yesterday...100 here today...good thing
you got out when you did...I can't keep up the watering without you two...i'll just have to see what lives and what does not....but for sure....I'm not watering weeds anymore...kiss m

Posted by jlubans on June 18, 2012  •  17:09:51

Hellooo Miriam! Maine it is 68. Thursday we are expecting 99, a touch of Colorado.

Leave comment