Aesop Continues To Inspire
Why are we driven to use non-humans in our stories? Why do we create characters based on inanimate objects? Why do we feel the need to personify, or, anthropomorphize ideals and abstractions? Why was I driven to animal cartoons? Why did public TV nature shows become an influence? Why did the struggle between life and death fascinate me as a six-year-old? Why would popular shows such as “Wild America” foster in me the need to tell stories?
My answers came during the formative junior high years, when, isolated from the rest of my classmates for having interests they did not share, and thus, bullied, I found refuge in a collection of Aesop tales in the school library. Yet, the significance of the fables never rang more true than when I spent hours reading the volume each time in my junior high’s library. I was so enthused by these fables on complex human ideas; I immediately created a booklet of my own, penning and illustrating notebook paper before binding the little pages with a stapler.
Now, I was already familiar with the great philosopher of animal fables showcasing human folly. For voracious readers, we will see the same stories pop up, over and over, ‘The Fox and the Grapes’, ‘Dog in the Manger’, ‘Spider to the Fly’, and the ‘Crow who needed to quench his thirst’ as well as ‘The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs’. There was also ‘The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ and ‘The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf’, or what many know as ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’. We understand these tales because they tackle moral issues: greed, lust, desire, humility, and arrogance.
Last, but certainly not least, Aesop’s influences continue to surprise me. For several years, I’ve been listening to different East Asian and some South Asian music. Years ago, it was Japanese pop tunes. Nowadays, it’s Korean-pop. While watching a Korean news program, they ended the segment with two music videos. I fell in love with the song called Oops! By G.NA and featuring Ilhoon of BTOB.
Since the news showed the video in the middle and most of the end, my curiosity was piqued and I jumped to YouTube.com to watch it in its entirety.
It is a wonderful song, G.NA is a fun vocalist to listen to, and Ilhoon, the rapper, is fast and furious. While watching the video, I learned from other YouTube commentators that it is the story about a young handsome man who has a silver tiger cat. When he leaves her for the day, the cat crawls under his bed sheets and emerges as a woman (G.NA)!
After luxuriating in her human form, she eventually puts on new clothes and goes clubbing. Her owner is there, and their eyes meet. She sidles up to him, and they touch noses, before she flits home, leaving him dazed and confused.
Once back in the house, she gets back into the nightclothes she first emerged as a human before the owner comes home.
Can’t tell who is more surprised, but, she grins at him like a minx, and he is more than thrilled to find the mysterious girl from the club in his house. The next morning, he’s in bed and his hand is seen stroking the cat.
Wow, this reminds me of an Aesop fable! I thought.
When I shared the video and my comment, one of my Facebook friends sent back that “C, you are special”. But who could blame me? I flipped through my modern edition of Aesop, and found the story I compared to the K-Pop video. It was “Venus and the Cat”!
Another YouTube commentator ‘liked’ my comment and told me she/he enjoyed Aesop fables too. Is it any wonder many of us enjoy anthropomorphic stories? In the act, we create new tales that are updates of ancient myths and weave new lessons for new generations.
In conclusion, I cannot choose a single Aesop favorite, or 10 favorites. I will, however, choose a particular tale that probably has more adaptations and incarnations than many of the other fables, and that is “City Mouse, Country Mouse”, or, originally known as “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse”. Why this fable? Well, Aesop’s use of animals as symbols appears to have made huge impressions on its readers, or the stories would not have lasted for thousands of years.
A country cousin leaves his rural home to visit his slicker city kin. Mayhem ensues, with the country mouse rushing back to a world that, though no less dangerous, is familiar and makes sense. This appears to run rampant in the amount of ‘fish out of water’ themes prevalent in many films and books. Please do yourself a favor, and read “City Mouse, Country Mouse” in any adaptation. As with this and many other Aesopic tales, you will appreciate its message more with each reading and/or retelling.