Fairy Tale Friday: A Tale for the Recession

April 9, 2010 at 12:10 am 2 comments

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

One wouldn’t expect to find sound advice for surviving a recession in the pages of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Sure, most of these stories have practical morals (don’t talk to strangers, etc), but these morals are usually within the context of stories that are distinctly of another age, featuring wells and nixies and all sorts of other old-fashioned things. The recession, in contrast, seems frightfully modern.

Or at least, it did to me. Then I read “The Fox and the Cat,” a Grimm fairy tale that I had never heard of. If you haven’t heard of it either, here’s the basic story:

A cat met a fox in the forest. The cat had a great deal of respect for the fox, and so she greeted him cheerfully, inquiring about his health in a friendly way. “How are you, Mr. Fox?” she asked. “How are you getting on in these hard times?”

The fox, unfortunately, took offence at her greeting. Whether he was upset that the cat had implied that the hard times might have an effect on him, or that she dared to speak to him at all, we may never know; but what is certain is that the fox was a very arrogant sort of fox, and he debated even replying to her rude inquiries.

Finally, he responded. “You fool,” he sneered at the cat. “How dare you ask how I am getting on? Don’t you know that I am cleverest animal in this whole forest?  Don’t you know anything?

“I know one thing,” said the cat quietly and modestly. “I know to jump in a tree and hide when the hounds are after me.”

The fox looked the cat up and down with disdain. “I feel sorry for you, then,” he scoffed. “I am the master of hundreds of skills, and I have a sackful of cunning besides.” Wishing to show off a bit, he extended this offer: “Come with me, and I’ll show you how real animals get away from the hounds.”

As if on cue, four hounds and a hunter burst through the trees, heading straight for the cat and the fox. The cat immediately sprang into a tree, where she was hidden by leaves and branches. Once safe, she cried out to the fox, “Open your sack of cunning, Mr. Fox!”

But it was too late for the fox; the dogs had caught him and were holding him fast. “Oh Mr. Fox,” said the cat sadly. “Your hundred arts were of no help at all. If only you could have climbed like me, you could have been safe.”

And there ya go. Taken in a modern context, this tale has one main moral: Don’t be a jerk.

But seriously, when times are tough, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that. The way to survive is not to continually brag about how great you are; don’t, for example, send out inflated cover letter after cover letter proclaiming yourself to be the best thing since sliced bread. Don’t walk around thinking you’re invincible. And certainly don’t look down on your co-workers, if you’re so lucky as to still be employed.

Because who knows? One day you could find yourself being held by the hounds of unemployment, because while you were bragging about your infallibility, they were keeping their heads down (or in the trees, as it were) and modestly doing their jobs.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale you want us to discuss for Fairy Tale Friday? Tell us about it in the comments!

– KT


Entry filed under: Fairy Tale Friday. Tags: , , .

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman Weekly Geeks: MIA, so TBR

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  April 9, 2010 at 5:28 am

    Great post! I love the story and your application of it to the current economic situation.

    • 2. KT  |  April 11, 2010 at 8:24 am

      Ha, thanks. I was pretty bitter about the fox, but the cat is pretty awesome. Even though the Grimms describe her as modest, she reads as pretty angry to me! Sitting in a tree yelling, “OPEN YOUR SACK OF CUNNING, MR FOX!” seems incredibly snarky ;)


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