Monday, January 1, 2007

Talking animals

Old school friends from Grafton sent me a photo of wallabies on their lawn. And I promptly took the liberty of transforming their photo into an imaginary conversation.

The great French author Victor Hugo wrote a lengthy poem about an encounter between the philosopher Kant and a talking donkey. It's a known fact—n’est-ce pas?—that donkeys are wise. The tale I like best concerns a little country girl named Bernadette who ran into a friendly talking donkey with whom she struck up a lengthy conversation. Back home in the village, Bernadette related joyfully to her parents and neighbors the story of her encounter with the talking donkey, but nobody believed her tale. Offended by their suggestion that she might have invented this story of a talking donkey, Bernadette said that she would lead everybody out into the country to meet up with her donkey friend, so that they should see for themselves that her story was authentic. They soon came upon the animal, and Bernadette begged it to say a few words, to prove to everybody that it could speak. But the donkey remained stubbornly silent, in spite of Bernadette’s continued pleading. Bernadette’s parents and the bystanders then scolded the little girl, saying that she was crazy to imagine that animals could speak. They were irritated that Bernadette had led them all out into the country on such a senseless mission: to meet up with a talking donkey.

Left all alone with the donkey, Bernadette was heartbroken, and she in turn scolded the animal: “You’ve let me down, and made a fool of me in front of everybody in the village. I thought we were friends, but I now see that you’re a nasty donkey, and you must surely hate me.

No, not at all,” replied the donkey. “You’re an exceptional little girl, Bernadette, and I love you very much. And we shall carry on talking to each other whenever you wish. But there was no point in my saying anything whatsoever to your parents and the village people. They are stupid folk, who would never be prepared to imagine that a donkey might be capable of talking. So, why should I waste time in trying to communicate with them?

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