Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Parable of the Animals’ Moot

Laird Colyne Stewart (2003?)

There was once a gathering of animals upon a precipice overlooking the inland seas. These animals came from far and wide, though many were native to the cliffs on which they met. These beasts had gathered for a great moot, for several had issues to raise and matters to be settled.

As Lawspeaker the creatures elected the turtle, a wise old thing that had once, it was whispered, known how to fly. Now his ancient head sagged under the burden of time and his shell was thick and cracked with age. He sat on the very edge of the cliff and all others ringed about him.

To the turtle’s left there sat a group of young animals including foxes, snakes, a great many young wolves, a scattering of hares and bears, a boar or two, rams and an aardvark. To his right sat a pack of ancient wolves whose fur was long in places and missing in others. Their shoulders were stooped and theirs eyes withdrawn but much strength still resided within their lean frames. Between both groups sat many other animals of intermediate age.

Once the turtle opened the moot in his deep and slow voice, the old wolves began to voice many complaints against the young pups. These youngsters, they felt, were changing things too quickly and not showing their elders the proper respect they deserved.

To this the younger animals angrily retorted that the old timers were too set in their ways and opposed to any change, no matter how beneficial. They accused the old wolves of trying to control all aspects of life in the forest.

When the third group of animals, who were those of intermediate age, asked why the two groups could not try to get along in peace they were accused of being cliquish by both the youngsters and the old timers. They never, it was argued, took an active hand in anything but had many opinions on how things should be run.

As voices and tempers rose, the turtle tried to call for order but the others could not hear his voice. And as they argued, they clustered together before the turtle, all imploring him to take their side. For now personal resentments and agendas were blossoming amongst the moot participants and all were fighting.

Slowly, ponderously, the turtle tried to back away from the other animals but there was nowhere to go. It withdrew its head into its shell but still it could hear the angry accusations and the even angrier retorts.

Soon, the ground about the turtle began to crack. The foxes heard it first, and tried to warn the others but no one could hear them. They began to push their way through the crowd and as the cracks widened others finally saw the danger. Quickly they all rushed off the precipice, but not before it split from the cliff and fell tumbling into the sea, taking the venerable turtle with it. A terrible sound came from below, as the turtle was smashed to pieces on the rocks.

The animals all hung their heads in shame, for their obstinacy and anger and unwillingness to see another’s side had resulted in the death of an important personage of the forest. The old wolves and the young pups and those of middle years did all pledge to try to work together so that such a tragedy would never again occur.

That is why all animals must try to see both sides of an argument, for there is no telling the consequences bad feelings can generate.

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