‘The Eagle and the Owl’ by J. W. L. Gleim (1719–1803)
King Eagle once had an owl as his minister.
“Dear old man,” he asked him, “What is your opinion;
do we tolerate the nightingale who can do nothing than sing?”
“I advise to kill anyone who can do nothing else!”
This blood advice, carried out, was followed by dull groaning,
and in the country one could only hear ravens cawing!
The message of the philanthropic pig
It had once become unbearable for a free-range pig at home. Everyone just ate and drank and scolded ‘those up there’, i.e. the farmers in this case.
“Can’t we be thankful,” he dared to ask, “to be provided with food and drink by humans every day?”
The conspecifics thought they had misheard and stopped in unison in front of the feeding troughs. Suddenly one of the relatives spoke up.
“Damn! Be thankful for these crumbs? You must be chestnuts!”
Then, belching, he devoted himself to the opulent crumbs again, and the others had also recovered from the shock. So the philanthropic pig decided to go out into the world to—well, let’s say to broaden his horizons, and would neither rest nor relax until he found an animal that didn’t resent man.
He soon heard a beeping which identified itself with pretty much anything over the course of its lecture. But as he got closer it turned out to be the voice of a she-vole. The philanthropic pig listened in fascination and watched the vole like a person in front of the television. Only when a fox grabbed at the vole did our pig regain consciousness.
“My reddish friend!”, he spoke to the fox, “Let’s have a chat!”
The fox had not noticed the pig and was so surprised that the vole managed to jump out of his mouth. He gritted his teeth as he saw her slipping away but immediately put on a mask of politeness.
“Greetings, dear little pig! What can I help you with?”
“So tell me what you think of people.”
The interviewee made a face.
“Well, what are we supposed to think of these insidious trappers! This is the scum of the animated world! Where should I start there? All they have in mind is discord and falsehood. Even when they pretend to be kind they secretly hatch sinister plans! They represent a serious threat to all life! You would have to wipe them out, finish them off, and then peace would finally reign…”
He had talked himself into such a rage that he didn’t even notice how the philanthropic pig continued on his way.
The next animal he encountered was a clamoring she-goat.
“My horned friend,” it interrupted her nagging, “do you have anything positive to say about people?”
“About these always dissatisfied and nagging contemporaries who are never content with anything and who always have something to complain about?”
And so the philanthropic pig left her behind. It wasn’t long before it saw a donkey standing around.
“My grey friend,” the pig asked him, “do you have a good word for people?”
“For these lazy folks? Let me think for a moment… no!”
Not far away stood a cow.
“My dairy friend,” she was addressed by the philanthropic pig, “how do you feel about people?”
The cattle raised her head and asked the ingenious counter-question.
“People which are so stupid there?”
The philanthropic pig kept walking but none of the animals seemed particularly fond of man.
Dog. “Those callous creatures that bite the weaker and lick the hand of the strongest?”
Snake. “That ruthless rabble that only sprays poison as soon as it opens its mouth?”
Wolf. “Those voracious vultures that can never get enough to eat?”
Magpie. “That envious entity that begrudges anyone anything?”
Hare. “Those fearful fellows that run away from every challenge in life?”
Cuckoo. “Those perilous parasites who prefer to settle in the nest?”
Depressed by the animal world’s general contempt for humanity the philanthropic pig ran into the forest and began to weep bitterly. His squeaking called the moon into action who, feeling disturbed in its holiday rest, turned on the light to confront the culprit.
“For Heaven’s sake! Who the heck is disrespecting my well-deserved tranquility?!
“Oh dear moon,” sobbed the philanthropic pig, “I went out into the world as a herald of philanthropy to meet like-minded animals but no one wants to overcome their inner misanthropy apparently.”
The old celestial body took pity on the pig’s fate.
“I am not authorized to divulge the secrets of the universe but let me tell you, my friend, the path is the goal.”
With these words he turned off the light again and the philanthropic pig was groping in the dark.
A herd of wild boar came along; as the leader became aware of him he stopped abruptly and asked,
“Friend or foe?”
“Everyone’s friend!” replied the philanthropic pig in a voice of conviction.
The wild boar eyed it suspiciously.
“There may be something piggy about you but you’re not one of us! What are you looking for here?”
“I’m trying to find like-minded animals.”
“Indeed! And what do you have in mind?”
“The love for humans.”
The whole herd flinched at the last word. Then the boar spoke.
“Those mean greencoats who shoot everything that comes their way? Get away from us because you’re out of your mind!”
Shortly thereafter, a voice sounded from the oak tree under which our pig was left alone.
“Damned black coats! Do you always have to undertake your night walks through my territory?!”
The philanthropic felt addressed because the pack was already out of earshot.
“Excuse me, dear tree!”
“I’m an owl, you simpleton!”
“You must mistake me with some…”
The owl didn’t let him finish.
“Yes, yes! I got well enough what you are! I’ll drive this obsession out of you!”
He immediately gave an epic lecture on the depravity of the human race in a historical context (or something like that). What felt like an eternity later, he summed it up.
“And now you know that we who deviate from the human norm in any way have always been killed, imprisoned, domesticated and castrated. You probably don’t know the story of the chimpanzee who got locked up in a zoo, threw stones at the people there as a thank you and as a result lost his… you-know-yet, right?”
The philanthropic pig shook his head.
“Well, now you know. So we have every reason to despise them even if it’s certainly a waste of energy!”
At this very point the philanthropic pig dared to dig deeper.
“Accordingly, everything speaks in favor of trying affection for a change.”
The owl reacted indignantly.
“Now, which animal is widely regarded as wise, the owls or the pigs?!”
The strange representative of the latter did not give up.
“Will you, in your boundless wisdom, not at least give it a try?”
The philanthropic pig thought it wise to say goodbye.
“In the event,” the owl told him, “that your obsession should, contrary to expectations, catch on and ministerial posts should be distributed–I will be available of course.”
The philanthropic pig was puzzled.
“Ministerial posts? What do you mean by that?”
“Well, if your revolution should be crowned with success, the power of the eagle in the air and that of the lion on land comes to an end, a new system of rule takes the place of the old one, then you will need the wise advice of this very owl!”
“But I don’t wish for a revolution at all!” replied the philanthropic pig.
“Are you implying that you don’t care about fame and glory at all, that you—dare I put it—preach philanthropy for its own sake?!”
“If you want to call it that way, yes.”
“Incredible! And with such a weirdo I’m wasting my valuable time!”
The owl flew away and one could hear him swearing through the forest for a long time.
The philanthropic pig was so tired after all this that he went home, stretched out on all fours and started snoring. He dreamed of a world where animals and humans lived in harmony with each other (that sounds cheesy, I know, but what else can you expect from a philanthropic pig). When it woke up the farmer came to lead it to the slaughterhouse along with two other pigs. He was amazed that one of the three stayed perfectly still while the other two made a riot. Once he heard a short grunt before he… Well, we don’t want to go into the details here. One of the witnesses to this execution was that megalomaniac vole who in a way owed her life to the philanthropic pig. That’s how she heard his message.
“Forgive the people because we often don’t know what we’re doing either!”
From then on, she dedicated her life to spreading this message–with success: many animals accepted it in their hearts and thus found inner contentment. The others absorbed them with their minds, set up a new system of government and became ministers or the like. But that is another fable and requires a narrator who knows what he is doing.