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It is another week and, thankfully, we get a chance to explore a little Ancient Greek in the simplistic forms of Aesop. This week, the poetic writers brings us to a household filled with female servants who do not wish to get up early to work. The mistress of the house, using the rooster to wake the girls at dawn, tells them that as long as the rooster sings they will have to obey the call and get up from bed. Naturally, the girls kill the rooster to avoid the wake up call, unfortunately, the mistress, not knowing the time, wakes the servant girls up even earlier to do their chores. What could the moral of the story be?

Τὸ ἵδιον βοὺλευμα τὰς θεραπαίνας βλἀπτει.
Their very plan destroyed the servants.
Su mismo plan destruyó a las sirvientas.

Irony is a fantastic trope used by Aesop to convey moral legitimacy. Nothing can replace experience, suggests the writer, to teach us a life-lesson; the more ironic the experience, the better. Irony, you may have guessed, was not just a tool of humorous effect in the Ancient World, it was a tool of learning. Even today, jokes in Spanish are built in such ironies, momentos of life which are supposed to teach you something by the very pain they bring, and which others can use to learn. We will make fun of a family member for days after they had done something stupid, creating better pun lines every time the story is told. Over time, that story becomes a joke, told to successive generations who can both have a laugh and also learn from the mistakes of their ancestors. This is why I always say that Aesop is comedy, for in his puns, what we identify as morals, are hidden event that some poor soul, at some unfortunate moment, suffered the fate of the story. I can picture an actual mistress, with actual slaves, and an actual rooster.

Speaking of, the rooster is killed in this story. A bit gruesome, right? Fables, like Mythology and any other story related to myth are designed precisely to help us deal with these harsh things about life. Anyone who has ever tried to kill an animal will know that it is not an easy thing to do, or witness, for the first time. We are, most of us anyway, trapped in a world of ease and comfort from which we can learn very little. Stories, be it documentaries, film, plays, or any other art of storytelling is the only method from which we can learn what happens when certain things are done. Aesop is teaching us, with every pun, what we must not do. I think of Shakespeare and the great playwrights in the same way. “Romeo and Juliet” is not about love, is it about what young people should not do while young and when falling in love. Do not kill Paris, do not run away, do not so easily die for something so fleeting as young love, the playwright tells us. Stories, or fables, are a safe environment in which we can kill a rooster and see the consequences without actually living moment; they are the places in which cutting off your toes to fit on a show that will grant you everlasting happiness (Cinderella) will only result in painful feet, infection, and death.

These are the reasons why I love story-puns, why I do Aesop Monday, and why translate only the morals. Stories are awesome, but what you are supposed to learn from them even more so. Thus, after that two-paragraph digression we arrive at the conclusion: sometimes your plans turn against you. When nursing an awesome idea, try to think of the consequences of your actions. Don’t kill the rooster, just like you shouldn’t kill the Golden Goose. Think things through because, at the very least, you will have to get up earlier, at most…well…we will have to make up a fable about that, won’t we?

Xairete!

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