Story Time!

August 14, 2007 | 94 comments
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The day before the cliff swallows return to traditional nesting sites in canyons near where I live in southern Utah, the sky hangs quiet, with only a few ravens, hawks, and eagles spiraling through. The next day, whoosh! Swallows arrive reeling in their folklorico like revelers at an unseen party spilling onto a quiet street.

I don’t know why cliff swallows leave tropical wintering grounds to craft their mud, grass, and saliva chambers in Utah canyons, but Utah is a better place because they do. Certainly they bring sparkle to my garden and wanderings.

There’s a wonderful Korean folktale featuring swallows. Once upon a time, Older Brother and Younger Brother lived according to their fortunes as dictated by birth order. Upon their parents’ deaths, Older Brother received the family’s rich estate. Younger Brother inherited only a hardscrabble farm. Older Brother had little to do with Younger Brother, leaving him to strive with poverty.

Swallows built a nest beneath Younger Brother’s eaves. One day, Younger Brother discovered a snake raiding the nest. He chased away the snake but found the nest empty. The snake had eaten all the birds. Or had it? On the ground Younger Brother found a baby swallow that had fallen from the nest and broken its wing. Younger Brother bound up the swallow’s injured wing. He returned it to its nest and gave his children charge of the injured bird. Under their care, the swallow’s wing healed. When autumn arrived, the bird flew south with the rest of its kind.

The next spring, Younger Brother noticed a lone swallow perched on his roof. It flew over and dropped a seed at his feet. Younger Brother said to his wife, “The swallow has given us a pumpkin seed!” They planted it and looked forward to harvesting its pumpkins.

The plant grew quickly. Soon, three pumpkins larger than any Younger Brother had ever seen plumped on the vine. At harvest, Younger Brother tried to cut one open, but it was so big no knife could pierce it. He fetched his axe and sank it into the first pumpkin’s shell. It split with a loud crack. A fountain of gold and silver erupted from inside along with rare and valuable jewels and clothing of the sort the well-off wear. Filled with wonder, Younger Brother and his wife broke open the second pumpkin. Sacks of rice fell out and filled their yard. Then Younger Brother cut into the third pumpkin. Tiny carpenters tumbled out and built an elegant house upon Younger Brother’s poor fields.

Older Brother heard of Younger Brother’s good fortune and came to see it with his own eyes. He found a house rivaling his own sitting on Younger Brother’s land. Younger Brother himself emerged from it to greet him, wearing fine clothing.

Older Brother scowled. “What underhanded thing have you done to acquire such riches?” he asked.

Younger Brother told Older Brother everything: how the snake raided the swallows’ nest, how one baby bird fell and broke its wing, how he bound up the wing, how he and his family cared for the bird. He told how the following spring a swallow brought them a pumpkin seed, which they planted, and how all their newfound riches had sprung from the seed’s gigantic fruits. As Older Brother listened, he thought, “I’ll get even more wealth for myself this way.”

The next spring, Older Brother and his wife watched for swallows to build a nest beneath their eaves. A pair did, and from their eggs hatched three swallow chicks.

Older Brother waited impatiently for a snake to eat the swallows, but no snake came. He caught one and brought it to the nest, but it escaped without eating any of the birds. Losing patience, he took one of the chicks from the nest and injured its wings with his bare hands. He splinted and bandaged the injured wing, saying, “Next spring, you must bring me one of your magic pumpkin seeds.” He returned the bird to the nest and paid it no more attention. The bird recovered and in the fall flew away with the other swallows.

Older Brother and his wife sat in their fine house all winter, waiting anxiously for spring’s arrival. Indeed, at first warmth, a swallow arrived calling, “Thweet thweet!” Older Brother rushed out to meet it. It dropped a pumpkin seed at his feet and flew off.

Older Brother and his wife planted the seed. The vine that sprang from the seed produced three pumpkins, just as Younger Brother had described. When the pumpkins ripened, Older Brother cut one open. A horde of filthy beggars rushed out and began eating everything in Older Brother’s ancestral home.

Astounded, Older Brother cried, “This is all wrong! Our riches must be in the other pumpkins.” But when he and his wife cut open the next pumpkin, reeking slime poured out, burying the house’s beautiful grounds. Wading through the slime, Older Brother and his wife cut open the third pumpkin. Out swaggered an army of midget ogres swinging clubs. They rushed upon Older Brother’s beautiful house and bashed it to splinters. Then they turned their clubs upon Older Brother and his wife. They gave them a sound pummeling and threw them onto the heap of rubble that had once been the ancestral home.

Younger Brother heard of Older Brother’s misfortune. He and his wife hurried to help. Searching through the rubble, they found Older Brother and his wife, senseless and bleeding. Tenderly, Younger Brother and his wife carried Older Brother and his wife out of the filth and rubbish. Older Brother opened his eyes and saw his brother’s face. “When you needed my help, I turned my back,” he said. “I see now that I have been wrong, Younger Brother. I have been wrong about everything.”

“Never mind, Older Brother,” Younger Brother said. “Don’t talk. Save your strength. Come live with us; there’s room for all.”

Based on a tale retold by Suzanne Crowder Han

http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/Exhibit/Archive/grandfathershouse/kids/tale6.htm

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94 Responses to Story Time!

  1. Bob on August 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Patricia, I am not going to say anything about your story….but it sure brings back memories…

  2. Skilled on August 15, 2007 at 1:22 am

    Do the swallows have large talons?

  3. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 10:42 am

    You mean, large enough to carry a pumpkin seed with? No, but (unlike some swifts) they do have feet big enough to perch with and their mouths are on the wide side–probably big enough to carry a pumpkin seed.

  4. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I would love to see a horde of midget ogres swinging clubs.

  5. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Was it an African, or European swallow? (He! He! He!)

  6. Steve Evans on August 15, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Adam, say no more.

  7. Steve Evans on August 15, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Sorry, wrong link.

  8. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Was it even a swallow? Could it have been, say, a kestrel or a jay of some kind? Was the pumpkin seed even a pumpkin seed? Might it have been a gourd or melon seed, or even the seed of some especially large pepper?

    What!?! Are we deconstructing folktales now?!?

    The science is in the metaphors–the relational elements of the story. the quality of our science abides in the quality of our relations with the world(s) around us.

    (Was it really a snake that ate the birds? Could it have been a cat, maybe? Are ogres indigenous to Korea? Do they make their own clubs or do they trade for them with other peoples? If they trade for them, what do ogres have that other people want and are willing to trade for? Did the miniature carpenters provide the miniature ogres with their clubs? Just how much slime can one pumpkin hold?)

  9. a random John on August 15, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Steve, are you sure your first link was wrong?

  10. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Sorry PG! My question was really a rememberance of Monty Python!

  11. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Ah, well, with a few exceptions, I’m largely Monty Python illiterate. (Can I say that I’m proud to be?) Anyway, from what I know of Monty Python, the deconstruction’s still there, explicitly implicit.

  12. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Steve, are you confusing ogres swinging clubs with trolls? ‘Cause if so, you’re threadjacking my post, man.

  13. Steve Evans on August 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    PGK, it was a beautiful story, and I’m sorry if I disrupted the flow of the comments. In all seriousness, you’re a gifted storyteller.

  14. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    A crocodile apology, SE.

  15. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    “Explicitly implicit”. Wow! That’s good! I wish I had thought of it myself!

    (The ogres actually migrated from China around 3000bc, having been kicked out by the abominable snowmen of Tibet. While the ogres were considerably more numerous than the ABT’s – as they were called – due to the superior strength and heighth and snowball prowess of the ABT’s, they needed to move elsewhere. Rumor now has it that they built a boat, found a glowing stone and set sail, landing in Alaska and being eaten by the Eskimos!)

  16. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Interesting theory, Jacob, but it doesn’t explain how they turned up in a pumpkin in Korea.

  17. Steve Evans on August 15, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    PGK, what a mean thing to say! What made you say that???

  18. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    One of the boats was swallowed by a wail, but got shot out of the upper nostril (I don’t remember what the technical term for them is), and were caught by – you guessed it – a swallow. They promised the swallow that they would obey it’s commandments if it wouldn’t drop or eat them. They worked as nestbuilders for several years, and they also became the guardians of the egg. Unforturnately, do to being too small against some animals, they were trained in arts of assasination – which included beating with clubs, by the way – and were sent on many important animal eliminations. The swallow promised to release them from their oath & covenant if they would enter into a pumpkin and beat up the Older Brother, which of course they did. They disappeared after this incident.

  19. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Sorry! that would be a whale – an animal, not wail – an exclamation of woe.

  20. William Morris on August 15, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    For his punishment, Steve has been assigned a 40-page essay* on the differences between ogres and trolls. All sources must be unavailable on the Internet. And there must be at least 14 primary and 23 secondary sources and 5 citations or more per page.

    *Plus 10 pages of illustrations, done with his own hand.

  21. Kaimi Wenger on August 15, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    William,

    Steve has been blogging long enough to have lots of illustrations of trolls.

    And at least a few of those illustrations meet your other requirement . . . “done with his own hand” . . .

  22. Bob on August 15, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to speak of many things, of shoes, and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and Kings…”

  23. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Steve # 17: I apologize. You’re a gifted commentator.

    And the flow of comments haven’t been disrupted, they’ve been completely demolished. It’s as if a horde of tiny ogres wielding clubs got to post …

  24. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I have many more droll and meretricious things to say, but I will refrain in respect for the mortal remains of PGK’s thread.

  25. Ray on August 15, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    PGK, my sympathies on the blatant demolition of a beautiful post. It really is a marvelous morality tale.

    Having said that . . .

    Jacob, thanks for the Monty Python reference. Along with The Princess Bride and Spaceballs, referencing Monty Python is the height of culture.

    Steve and Adam, thanks for a good laugh – even though it meant destroying a beautiful post.

    The story needs a few administrators who are on the lookout for trolls and can hit the Smite Button before the destruction takes place.

    PGK, my sympathies on the blatant demolition of a beautiful post. It really is a marvelous morality tale.

    :-)

  26. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I apologize for helping completely demolish the flow of comments. I just felt that the history of the underappreciated-club-weilding-assasin-mini-ogres needed to be told. Too many times our myths ignore intriguing side characters in an effort to get a point across.

  27. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    #23 should say “commentor,” not “commentator.” “Commentator” reminds me of the old joke about the pretty young potato that fell in love with the sports commentator Howard Cosell.

    Adam, #24–An untimely death has befallen; now we’re at the wake. Raise a mug!

  28. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    That being said – I loved your post for the message it teaches, too. :-)

  29. Kaimi Wenger on August 15, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Then one day, Older Blogger chopped open the pumpkin, and a horde of tiny ogres wielding clubs descended on her post, reducing it to nothing more than a smoldering threadjack . . .

  30. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    #s 25 and 28–Don’t worry, I don’t blame you–I blame the Monty Python bunch, who’ve taken perfectly lovely creatures like penguins, bunnies, and (apparently) swallows and forced them into unnatural contexts. Besides the “Smite button” we a SPARACS (Society for the Prevention of Absurd References to Animals in Comedic Skits).

  31. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    What’s interesting is the psychology of the older brother. I can maybe see thinking you’ll get a reward once the pumpkin seeds are dropped and opening the first pumpkin, despite your bad behavior, though being a reader of fairy tales myself I wouldn’t have touched even the first one with a ten-foot pole. And I can maybe even see opening the second pumpkin on the notion that the first one is just a fluke. But why on earth would you open the third pumpkin?

    I guess its good psychology in its way. The Elder Brother probably felt everything was ruined by that time anyway, so why not try it? You sin enough and you feel like you can’t make things worse by keeping on. Sin is powerful enough that instead of just sinning a little and stepping back from the brink most of us keep on until we’ve wrecked ourselves so badly that a thorough transformation is possible.

  32. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    “Then one day, Older Blogger chopped open the pumpkin, and a horde of tiny ogres wielding clubs descended on her post, reducing it to nothing more than a smoldering threadjack . . .”

    Gah! I’m glad I’m almost done with Times and Seasons and can go back home to A Motley Vision where I can ban you all!

  33. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Ooh! Ooh! Tell me who you want to ban, delete, and etc. Even me.

  34. William Morris on August 15, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    We don’t ban people at AMV. We sneer them into silence and then add their smoldering intellects to our totem pole of shame.

  35. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Adam, are you up to assisted self-deletion? My suffering here has become too great to bear.

  36. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    #34, William, sneering’s good, but we COULD ban if we wanted to, right?

  37. William Morris on August 15, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Ban. Put out a hit. It all leads to the desired result.

  38. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I found the use of the snake as being interesting, too. Why is it always a snake doing bad things? Does anyone have an answer for that? Connected with that, what about Christ as the (Brazen) Serpent? How is it that Christ took an animal that represented evil in the Garden, and used it for himself?

    (And yes! I am one of the threadjackers mentioned earlier, but I wanted at least one serious comment here, too.)

  39. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    William – will you hire the assasin-midget-ogres for the hit?

  40. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Jacob, your #39 just cancelled out your #38.

  41. William Morris on August 15, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Jacob:

    Not a bad idea, but I’m afraid we’ve already contracted with the monkey pirate ninjas.

  42. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    #41, Oh, no, William–you’ve dealt me the death blow! Not the reference to the monkey pirate ninjas! You–you, of all people!

    *Sniffs*

    Guess I’ll have to go start my own blog now.

    As an aside, boys sure are silly.

  43. William Morris on August 15, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Sorry — I forgot to mention that these are monkey pirate ninjas who read Kafka and Tolstoy.

  44. Ray on August 15, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Men – Can’t live with them; can’t shoot them. (but I’ve never read a law that explicitly forbids tiny club-wielding ogres who just happen to get loose – even illiterate ones)

    PGK, my sympathies on the blatant demolition of a beautiful post. It really is a marvelous morality tale. (Does that keep me safe from retribution for the first half of this comment?)

  45. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Why is it always a snake doing bad things? Does anyone have an answer for that?

    Serious, secular answer: snakes and other reptiles don’t trigger any of our favorable social cues the way mammals do. Biologically we may have an instinct to be afraid of snakes.

    Serious but speculative Mormon answer: Assume that the greater angels have species assigned to them as stewardships, say. Then assume that snakes were Satan’s stewardship before he fell, and were affected by his fall.

    Connected with that, what about Christ as the (Brazen) Serpent? How is it that Christ took an animal that represented evil in the Garden, and used it for himself?

    His work of redeeming all things. A symbol associated with evil is now associated with life.

  46. a random John on August 15, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I’ve got to say that the threadjack seems to have begun at #12, where the comments became about the comments rather than the content of the post. Steve’s points were a lighthearted aside not an attempt to divert the discussion.

    Also, for those totally lacking in culture, here is the relevant Monty Python clip.

  47. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks, Adam. Your speculative Mormon answer is interesting.

    I remember Joseph Campbell saying that the snake also illustrates regeneration (through its coming forth from its dead skin), which would work for the Brazen Serpent, but not so much for the Garden. I do like your thought in connection with the Brazen Serpent, too.

  48. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    a random John – a second relevant clip would be on the bridge of death.

  49. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    Second seriuos question – has anyone noted the Younger Vs. Older Brother theme? It appears a lot in Genesis, which some scholars say is due to the breakup in the Kingdom between Rehoboam and Jeroboam (I think I’m right on those names!). What do y’all think about the Younger Vs. Older Brother dynamic?

  50. Ray on August 15, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Jacob,

    The issue of inverted inheritance rights is central to the entire Old Testament. Judeo-Christian tradition claims a disruption of the classic “eldest brother as heir” system due to the unrighteousness of the elder brother(s), thus validating its chosen people of God status. Islam rejects that claim and claims the natural birthright.

    The repudiation of the classic system of inheritance also is central to the New Testament assertion of joint-heirs, only this time it is the magnanimity of the eldest brother that allows his adopted siblings to share equally in the inheritance only He deserves by birthright.

  51. Ray on August 15, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Sorry; mistyped.

    Should have been “it is the magnanimity of the eldest brother that allows his siblings – as adopted children – to share equally in the inheritance only He deserves by birthright.”

  52. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    #31, Adam said, “What’s interesting is the psychology of the older brother. I can maybe see thinking you’ll get a reward once the pumpkin seeds are dropped and opening the first pumpkin, despite your bad behavior, though being a reader of fairy tales myself I wouldn’t have touched even the first one with a ten-foot pole. And I can maybe even see opening the second pumpkin on the notion that the first one is just a fluke. But why on earth would you open the third pumpkin?”

    I’m not sure, but I think the point of Older Brother’s making a string of horrible choices is to enable children listening to the tale to recognize places where they might possibly make better ones. That is, such tales offer children the possibility to learn from Older Brother and not commit such sins themselves. Older Brother’s presumption that he could get riches in the same way Younger Brother did and then persisting in his bad behavior even when the prospects didn’t look good is rather childish, especially if we’re talking about a greedy child.

    In Native American Coyote tales, Coyote persists in begging for inappropriate gifts or abilities up to four times, at which point everybody throws up their hands and says, “Okay, you asked for it.” Again, the point appears to teach allow children to make better choices before the disastrous occurs.

    But! I’ve certainly seen adults engage in repetitious, self-defeating behavior.

  53. Ray on August 15, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    PGK, in this thread? :-)

  54. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    #46, ARJ–Little did I know that referencing swallows in this venue would pretty much set off a threadjack from comment one. Your defence of Steve E. is charitable. Also, I’m choosing to remain totally lacking in culture and passing on your clip; Monty Pythonic humor is, um, hackneyed.

  55. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    The repudiation of the classic system of inheritance also is central to the New Testament assertion of joint-heirs, only this time it is the magnanimity of the eldest brother that allows his adopted siblings to share equally in the inheritance only He deserves by birthright.

    And, of course, the children of Israel are stripped of their exclusive inheritance and have to share it with Gentiles.

  56. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    On Monty Phython humor, I would have to disagree. The same movie that the swallow stuff comes from also has a really intellegent conversation on the dynamics of transfering and gaining political power, while at the same time being incredibly funny.

    But that’s beside the point. Your point in 52 is right on, I think. How often do we engage in behavior that we think will get us gain, only to leave us in a worse state? How often do we engage in that same behavior even after we know the consequences? That’s a scary thought!

    The good thing about the story is that it ends on redemption. The Younger takes in the Elder and administers to him in a time of need and does it without a lecture. That example leads to a change of heart in the Elder. But wait, I get ahead of myself. Does he change because of Younger’s behavior, or is it in response to the terrible thing that just happened to him?

  57. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Ray and Adam – I hadn’t thought of those implications in the scriptures. Thank you!

  58. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    #s 49 and 50, Jacob and Ray: That’s an interesting discussion and does, I think, apply. Besides all that, given that this story falls into the category of children’s tales, I think the younger brother’s role provides an entry point for children to engage and apply the story; i.e., they are more likely to identify with Younger Brother.

    But what I like about it is how it narratizes nature’s response to two different types of behavior directed toward it. One of the things I believe, and I don’t believe this stupidly–I understand how a grizzley bear might decide to eat the naturalist trying to protect it or a rattlesnake might bite somebody trying to move it out of harm’s way–is that our relationships with nature are totally off-kilter. And that that trouble between us and nature mirrors people’s trouble with each other. We’re still very primitive in our behavior; I see prospects for much better on both fronts–people to people and people to nature.

  59. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    PG – Good point. The ending of the story implies a connection to how we treat each other and how we treat nature. The Younger Brother takes care of his Elder exactly the same way that he treated the swallow. The Elder Brother learned that how he treated both his brother and nature were in the wrong, and he needed to change.

    Why do you think that they are more likely to identify with the Younger Brother? Not that I’m doubting, just that I’m wondering why they would.

  60. Adam Greenwood on August 15, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Young, powerless.

  61. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    And picked on by the older. (this coming from the youngest of 3 boys)

  62. Ray on August 15, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    In order to attempt to avoid a serious threadjack, I will use the initials HP to mention a story that resonates with children – specifically because, as Adam points outs, the central character is young, confused, relatively powerless and must rely on loyal friends to succeed – particularly compared to the older, focused, incredibly powerful antagonist who commands obedience through threats and intimidation.

    Also, I think a persecuted minority, surrounded by dangerous enemies, almost always will empathize with the younger brother in such a story. Even if there was no actual record of an inverted inheritance, I think such a society might create such a story.

  63. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    #s 60 and 61–yes, all that. Though I could imagine instances where some child who feels entitled might relate to Older Brother.

    Me, I know I’ve behaved at times like the older brother; I’m glad stories like this provide prospects for making breakthroughs in belief and behavior.

  64. a random John on August 15, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    re #54: Matt 7:6

  65. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    a random John – thanks for calling us swine. And we had been doing so well about the threadjacks. . .

  66. Jacob on August 15, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I also like how this story is about recieving what you give. If we treat each other (and nature) around us with respect and dignity, it will return to us. Not that the returning to us is what we’re after, but at least it can give us a little extra gumption to be better people.

  67. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 15, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    #64, ARJ: “…neither cast ye your pearls before swine…” You’re absolutely right. Best to cast the swine before you cast the pearls–that makes it harder for them to turn and rend you.

    Had to get the last word on that one.

  68. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I also like how this story is about recieving what you give. If we treat each other (and nature) around us with respect and dignity, it will return to us.

    That’s true only from the standpoint of eternity. In this life the rain falls on the good and evil alike.

  69. a random John on August 16, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    #67,

    You are also more than welcome to consider your story the pearl and me the swine. I just thought it was a bit rude for you to call attention to the fact that you refuse to watch a somewhat relevant video clip. If you’re not interested in threadjacks then don’t feed the trolls. We’re probably both at the point where it would be considerably more polite to simply remain silent.

  70. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    I think it can be partially true in this life, too, but maybe that’s just because I happen to live in America, have my own car, and have never been lacking in food or cash. Not that I’m saying that I’m a great person, but I am saying that my luck has led me to be optimistic.

  71. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    a random John – Rude??!! Come on! She’d explained that she’s not interested in Monty Python earlier in the thread, so her response to your comment is perfectly natural, and intentionaly humorous. And she was calling you (and me) the swine in 67. Lighten up!

  72. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve got all that stuff too, Jacob, and I’m no one’s paragon. In a just world I’d slave in a sweatshop packing tiny clubbish ogres into pumpkins.

    #71, ditto.

  73. a random John on August 16, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Jacob,

    I can assure you that I am as light as I can be and take none of the seriously. I do think the story is great and the resulting thread unfortunate but entertaining.

  74. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Once, when I was trudging back to camp with a lot of tired, sun-baked archaeologists after a had day at the site, we found the wash we had to cross filled with flash flood waters. We took off our shoes, intending just to cross and get to the tasks waiting at camp, but halfway over, a mud-and-water fight broke out. Everyone got soaked and mud-caked. It was pure but necessary silliness. Once at camp, we rode out to the artesian well to get hosed off because the gunk encasing us was too much for our low-flow solar showers to handle. Someone held the hose attachment we used to pump our potable water and blasted us all clean.

    This thread has sort of been like that water fight, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But now it’s time to get hosed off and back to work. You first, arJ.

  75. Ray on August 16, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    These type of tales do a good job illuminating morality on a grand scale, but I wonder sometimes if it might be impossible in this type of mythical story to tackle the daily and mundane decisions that make up the attitudes that drive the grand decisions when they arise. Mormons can do it, perhaps, by “likening all things until ourselves,” but I just wonder about the staying power of of a story that teaches a vital lesson by describing a mythical event that takes a certain degree of higher level cognition to understand in the first place – or the ability to read. As an oral tradition, I can see it clearly, since that allows someone to break it down and discuss the moral of the story with children; in written form, it seems like it might appeal predominantly to those who get it already – kind of like preaching to the choir.

    I also am interested in what non-traditional – even negative – lessons a child could take from the story. I can think of a couple right off the bat, but the entire question goes back to the idea that we often draw lessons from mythological tales that conform to our existing perceptions. As well as sharpening our understanding of universal principles, these stories have been used throughout history to direct and manipulate and preach all kinds of messages we now would consider to be negative.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  76. Ray on August 16, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    BTW, PGK, I really liked the analogy. You have a gift.

  77. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Ray – If you treat me wrong, it’s ok to send midget-ogres to destroy your house. I like that part of the lesson.

  78. Ray on August 16, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Jacob, that’s exactly the type of conclusion I was addressing. It might sound humorous at first glance, but, outside the parameters of our own moral standards, it is a legitimate reading. From the view of an oppressed group, the ending (compassionate care of the former enemy) might be used to romanticize the destruction that occurred in order to punish the enemy for his previous actions. After all, the end justifies the means, right?

  79. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Good call Ray. There is no doubt that some of the kids will pick up off the wall lessons like that, too.

    Also – never let filthy beggars into your home – they will eat everything.

  80. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Pumpkins are bad news. Swallows too.

  81. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Only if the pumpkin is brought by a swallow. Who knows if it’s that bad when any other animal brings it?!

    The only proper way to learn is to be beaten. Spare the rod . . .
    I don’t think kids will like that lesson too much!

  82. Ray on August 16, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    I apologize, PGK, if this is not the direction you wanted, but as a Social Studies teacher by choice and inclination, I find it fascinating.

    BTW, Adam, I thought the last paragraph of #31 was brilliant. I just went back and realized I had not told you that. That concept is another one that would be worth pursuing further. Kind of a becoming humble vs. compelled to be humble thing. On that note, I have heard a very lucid argument that nothing from the outside can compel someone to be humble – that it has to come from a conscious internal choice. I find it interesting that the story doesn’t show the older brother changing his actions; rather, that is assumed because he “saw the light” and recognized the error of his ways. I could see a very compelling epilogue written in two ways: the “logical” conclusion we assume and also a more Laman and Lemuel version that would end with the brother returning to his wicked ways after the initial recognition faded.

  83. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Ray, #75: “As well as sharpening our understanding of universal principles, these stories have been used throughout history to direct and manipulate and preach all kinds of messages we now would consider to be negative.”

    The last part of your statement here is a bit on the vague side, but I think I get your point, Ray–something like, “The devil may quote scripture for his purposes.”

    Supposing that by “negative” messages you mean messages restrictive of basic freedoms, or meant to channel belief or thought in directions advantageous to the teller but disadvantageous to the hearer, I have a lot to say about this very concern, too much for here and now. When I get up on my soapbox about this subject, this is the short version of what I say: Language is not a tool you pick up to complete a job and then put away when you’re done. Language does things to and for us. It is intimately connected with human consciousness and agency. It’s doesn’t just deliver morals, like some kind of ideological FedEx vehicle, knock knock knock, sign here; it creates experience.

    Good language opens up prospects and allows for the agency-invested experience: “Choose ye this day.” Bad language has as its intent narrowing prospects and convincing others to surrender up their agency: “It’s too late to turn back,” “You can’t go home again,” “This is the only way, choice, etc.”

    So if the devil were to tell the above story to promote “negative messages,” the story would play exclusively on the perceived fear and weakness of its hearer in order to channel some poor hearer in a particular direction, one the devil sees as being useful. People who use language in this way are very skilled in picking out their victim’s weaknesses and using just the right words to send said hearer down spiritual-psychological cattle chutes into corrals of restricted choice and then slaughterhouses of despair.

    Personally, I’ve had swallows bring me bright seeds of new, life-altering insight as well as provide me good company on hikes. I can’t help but see a connection between cliff swallows’ nests, strung like mud pearls at the throat of some cliff, and the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, built at about the same elevation and of similar materials, just down the canyon. The “riches” Younger Brother receives in apparent reward for his kindness don’t seem to distract him much–he doesn’t seem to take too much personally. Messages like, “If you treat me wrong, it’s ok to send midget-ogres to destroy your house” seem a little shaky, IMO–I think it’s a better story than that. But far be it from me to say what you can and can’t bring to and take away from this story!

    Just for fun, here’s another one, from my childhood:

    Once, a rooster held a family of cats in subjection, saying if they didn’t obey, he would burn them with his fiery comb. The cats believed him and labored as his servants. One day the fire in their hearth went out. The cats sent a kitten with a fist full of straws to ask the rooster if he would light them so they could rekindle their fire. Arriving at the rooster’s home, the kitten found the fowl asleep. She crept to the sleeping bird and touched the straws to his comb, but the straws would not catch fire. She blew on the straws, but still they didn’t catch fire. Finally, the kitten reached out and touched the comb with her paw. Of course, it was cold, and the kitten realized that the rooster had lied.

    BTW, I’m glad everybody likes the pumpkin-produced midget ogres wielding clubs! I did, too.

  84. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Oh, and you guys are beginning to remind me of the “Fractured Fairytales” segment of Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes. Full seasons now available on DVD.

  85. Ray on August 16, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    You are right, PGK. Boys really can be silly.

    :-)

    I loved Fractured Fairytales (and Monty Python and Mel Brooks and Ghostbusters . . .), but my wife doesn’t feel the same way. OTOH, I also like While You Were Sleeping and Steel Magnolias and Sabrina . . ., as well as Tom Clancy and Toni Morrison and Elizabeth Peters . . ., so all hope is not lost.

  86. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    PGK – great analysis. And yes, the moral I said was shakily put. A better way to have said the moral is “If I am being treated wrongly, I just need to wait for him/her to be pummeled by someone more powerful. That will set him/her straight!”

    Just one question – What did the Kitten do when it realized the Rooster had lied?

  87. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Jacob, What would YOU do?

  88. Ray on August 16, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Perfect answer, PGK – perfect.

  89. Jacob on August 16, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    I don’t think you’d want to know the answer to that one.

  90. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    You’re right–I don’t. Thanks for not sharing! ;)

  91. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I call drumstick.

  92. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Adam, would you mind ringing the final bell, please, and close comments on this thread?

  93. P. G. (Patricia) Karamesines on August 16, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Haha, drumstick! Just got it.

    Please, please close comments.

  94. Adam Greenwood on August 16, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Roger, PGK. Someday, somewhere, we’ll find comments worthy of your posts. That day is obviously not today, or yesterday, and the among those at fault I am not the least.