Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Moral of the Story

I grew up on fairy tales and fables. I loved those stories, of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the Lion and the Mouse, the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs. But I have to wonder about exactly what some of them were trying to teach.

Everyone knows the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  In the race, the hare takes off and leaves the tortoise in the dust. The hare gets so far ahead, he decides to show off my taking a nap just before the finish line. In the meantime, the tortoise plods along and manages to slip over the line before the hare realizes what’s happened. The moral is supposed to be “slow and steady win the race” but it seems to me the real moral is “don’t get cocky.”

Then there’s the Princess and the Pea. In this story, a girl shows up on the castle doorstep in a foreign kingdom, claiming to be a princess, and catches the prince’s eye. To test her, the queen puts her in a bed with seven mattresses stacked atop one another, but with a pea hidden beneath the lowest mattress. In the morning, the queen asks how she slept. The princess replies that she didn’t sleep a wink, because something poked her through the bed. Ta da, proof she’s a real princess, and the queen gives her blessing for the prince to marry her.

So what lesson do we take away? That truly high-class people are spoiled rotten? That royalty should feel free to impose on others' hospitality and then complain about it? That the queen hated her son and wanted to punish him by sticking him with a whiny wife?

I happen to have my own undercover princess. Roxy certainly doesn't look like a princess, and she’s as tough as an overcooked steak. She once tangled with a porcupine and then ran two miles back to the car for a trip to the vet with nary a whimper. And yet, every chance she gets, she sleeps on pillows. Not just one, but as many pillows as she can scrape together in a pile whenever our backs are turned. So in spite of the fact that she has no pedigree, no history, and no certain breed, I’m pretty sure she’s actually a lost princess in disguise. But at least she doesn’t whine about it.

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