Friday, February 08, 2008

Aesop’s Foibles #5 The Cat and the Mice

This fable tells of the eternal strife between rodents and felines.

In a cottage lived a farmer and his wife. They led a good life as the farmer’s crops were often bumper ones. They were well off so their pantry was always full of good things to eat. They stocked up on bread, cheese, legs of ham and all sorts of sweetmeats. It was virtually a Cornucopia of the best edibles one could find and because of this mice were attracted by the bountiful food situation that a whole colony of them settled in the nooks and crannies of the cottage.

It would have been a rodent’s paradise were it not for the mistresses’ cat who lorded it over the open areas of the house. An efficient mouser, he had all the resident mice fearsome for their lives because the cat knew all the tricks to lure them into the open. He caught several of them while the rest retreated into their holes. His favorite ruse was to lie idle for long spells as if dead and when the mice are put off their guard he would pounce on the unsuspecting ones. After a while the mice wised up on the cat’s guiles and never left the safety of their holes.

The intended moral of the story is the wise is not fooled by the innocence of those who have been previously found dangerous.

The story could not end happily for the mice who have wised up on the cat’s tricks.

What happened is that the survivor mice have become psychologically maimed by their bad experience with the cat and led the rest of their lives in seclusion, living miserably in dark burrows, a fate which could be worst than death. True that they did not fall for cat’s ruses anymore but the anxiety that the cat is alive and always there waiting for them to emerge from their dark burrows have made them captives of their own fears.

To lead a full life one must overcome his fears. To paraphrase one of JFK’s famous lines…”mice (man) is not made for safe havens”.

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