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Originally published in Writer Unboxed.Add a Comment
Flowers are in full bloom. The sheep are waiting for completion of the lion and the lamb.
Jean de La Fontaine’s verse fables turned traditional folktales into some of the greatest, and best-loved, poetic works in the French language. His versions of stories such as ‘The Wolf in Shepherd’s Clothing’ and ‘The Lion and the Fly’ are witty and sophisticated, satirizing human nature in miniature dramas in which the outcome is unpredictable. The behaviour of both animals and humans is usually centred on deception and cooperation (or the lack of it), as they cheat and fight each other, arguing about life and death, in an astonishing variety of narrative styles. To get a flavour of the fables, here are two taken from Selected Fables by Jean de La Fontaine, translated by Christopher Betts.
The Wolf in Shepherd’s Clothing
A wolf had hunted sheep from local fields,
but found the hunt was giving lower yields.
He thought to take a leaf from Reynard’s book:
disguise himself by changing what he wore.
He donned a smock, and took a stick for crook;
the shepherd’s bagpipes too he bore.
The better to accomplish his design,
he would have wished, had he been able,
to place upon his hat this label:
‘My name is Billy and these sheep are mine.’
His alterations now complete,
he held the stick with two front feet;
then pseudo-Billy gently stepped
towards the flock, and while he crept,
upon the grass the real Billy slept.
His dog as well was sound asleep,
his bagpipes too, and almost all the sheep.
The fraudster let them slumber where they lay.
By altering his voice to suit his dress,
he meant to lure the sheep away
and take them to his stronghold in the wood,
which seemed to him essential to success.
It didn’t do him any good.
He couldn’t imitate the shepherd’s speech;
the forest echoed with his wolfish screech.
His secret was at once undone:
his howling woke them, every one,
the lad, his dog, and all his flock.
The wolf was in a sorry plight:
amidst the uproar, hampered by his smock,
he could not run away, nor could he fight.
Some detail always catches rascals out.
He who is a wolf in fact
like a wolf is bound to act:
of that there ’s not the slightest doubt.
The Fisherman and the Little Fish
A little fish will bigger grow
if Heaven lets it live; but even so
to set one free, and wait until it’s fat,
then try again: I see no sense in that;
I doubt that it will let itself be caught.
An angler at the river’s edge one day
had hooked a carp. ‘A tiddler still,’ he thought,
but then reflected, looking at his prey:
‘Well, every little helps to make a meal,
perhaps a banquet; in the creel
is where you’ll go, to start my store.’
As best it could, the fish replied:
‘What kind of meal d’you think that I’ll provide?
I’d make you half a mouthful, not much more.
I’ll grow much bigger if you throw me back;
then catch me later on; I’d fill a sack.
A full-grown carp’s a fish that you can sell;
some greedy businessman will pay you well.
But now, you’d need a hundred fish
the size that I am now, to fill a single dish.
Besides, what sort of dish? Hardly a feast.’
‘No feast? quite so,’ replied the man;
‘it’s something, though, at least.
You prate as well as parsons can,
my little friend; but though you talk a lot
this evening it’s the frying-pan for you.’
A bird in the hand, as they say, is worth two
in the bush; the first one is certain, the others are not.
Jean de La Fontaine (1621-95) followed a career as a poet after early training for the law and the Church. He came under the wing of Louis XIV’s Finance Minister, Nicolas Fouquet, and later enjoyed the patronage of the Duchess of Orléans and Mme de La Sablière. His Fables were widely admired, and he was already regarded in his lifetime as one of the greatest poets of his age. Christopher Betts was Senior Lecturer in the French Department at Warwick University. In 2009 he published an acclaimed translation of Perrault’s The Complete Fairy Tales with OUP.
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Image credit: Both images are from Gustave Doré’s engravings, which are included in the edition, and are in the public domain.
Felt like it was time for a nice animal idiom.
“Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:
One would use this idiom to describe a person or thing appearing to be good but is, well, not so much. There seems to be a few different ideas about it’s origin, but here is what Wikipedia has to say about it.
Getting into sheep shape after missing a day!
So now I’m even borrowing from my own darn self. Redrew this from a sketch I did a few years ago.
Why not pour yourself a nice hot chocolate and stop on by here and check out what my fellow HoHoDooDa doodlers are doing.
So, I seem to be continuing on a bedtime theme here. It’s wishful thinking, no doubt. This chilly weather puts me in a mood to kick off my cloven sheep slippers and curl up in bed with a good book.
Ah, but I have sketches to catch up on! Missed another two days. Oh for shame! But wait, that’s right, there are no rules. No harm done!
Anyhoo, stop on over here and let’s see how the other SkADaMo participants have been doing.
“Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail”
Ah idioms. Ya gotta love ‘em!
So, hey, take a skip over here and check out the other SkADaMo participants and what they’re up to.
This is the latest post in our regular OUPblog column SciWhys. Every month OUP editor and author Jonathan Crowe will be answering your science questions. Got a burning question about science that you’d like answered? Just email it to us, and Jonathan will answer what he can. Today: how do organisms evolve?
The world around us has been in a state of constant change for millions of years: mountains have been thrust skywards as the plates that make up the Earth’s surface crash against each other; huge glaciers have sculpted valleys into the landscape; arid deserts have replaced fertile grasslands as rain patterns have changed. But the living organisms that populate this world are just as dynamic: as environments have changed, so too has the plethora of creatures inhabiting them. But how do creatures change to keep step with the world in which they live? The answer lies in the process of evolution.
Many organisms are uniquely suited to their environment: polar bears have layers of fur and fat to insulate them from the bitter Arctic cold; camels have hooves with broad leathery pads to enable them to walk on desert sand. These so-called adaptations – characteristics that tailor a creature to its environment – do not develop overnight: a giraffe that is moved to a savannah with unusually tall trees won’t suddenly grow a longer neck to be able to reach the far-away leaves. Instead, adaptations develop over many generations. This process of gradual change to make you better suited to your environment is called what’s called evolution.
So how does this change actually happen? In previous posts I’ve explored how the information in our genomes acts as the recipe for the cells, tissues and organs from which we’re constructed. If we are somehow changing to suit our environment, then our genes must be changing too. But there isn’t some mysterious process through which our genes ‘know’ how to change: if an organism finds its environment turning cold, its genome won’t magically change so that it now includes a new recipe for the growth of extra fur to keep it warm. Instead, the raw ‘fuel’ for genetic change is an entirely random process: the process of gene mutation.
In my last post, I considered how gene mutation alters the DNA sequence of a gene, and so alters the information stored by that gene. If you change a recipe when cooking, the end product will be different. And so it is with our genome: if the information stored in our genome – the recipe for our existence – changes, then we must change in some way too.
I mentioned above how the process of mutation is random. A mutation may be introduced when an incorrect DNA ‘letter’ is inserted into a growing chain as a chromosome is being copied: instead of manufacturing a stretch of DNA with the sequence ATTGCCT, an error may occur at the second position, to give AATGCCT. But it’s just as likely that an error could have been introduced at the sixth position instead of the second, with ATTGCCT becoming ATTGCGT. Such mutations are entirely down to chance.
And this is where we encounter something of a paradox. Though the mutations that occur in our genes to fuel the process of evolution do so at random, evolution itself is anything but random. So how can we reconcile this seeming conflict?
To answer this question, let’s imagine a population of sheep, all of whom have a woolly coat of similar thickness. Quite by chance, a gene in one of the sheep in the population picks up a mutation so that offspring of that sheep develop a slightly thicker coat. However, the thick-coated sheep is in a minority: most of the population carry the normal, non-mutated gene, and so have coats of normal thickness. Now, the sheep population live in a fairly temperaAdd a Comment
By Christine and Christopher Russell, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: August 24, 2011
Authors Christine and Christopher Russell are a husband and wife team writing children’s books together. The Warrior Sheep Go West is their second book, following closely on the hooves of The Quest of the Warrior Sheep (February 2011). Christopher Russell had a successful career in British television drama before becoming a children’s novelist and Christine has always been closely involved in his work.
We’re often asked how we collaborate, if we ever have disagreements and if so, how we settle them.
Well the initial ideas, wherever they have sprung from, are developed on the hoof. Sitting at a desk at this early stage sends us to sleep so we plot the storylines and invent characters whilst we’re walking, usually on the beach or the cliffs near our home. There’s nothing like a howling gale to keep the brain spinning. Then we take turns at writing chapters. Whichever one of us is the bravest or keenest dives in first and hands the results to the other. And that’s when the fur sometimes flies. But disagreements are usually resolved during heated but short debates – or maybe that should read explosions – and then one or other of us goes back to the drawing board and tries again. We don’t always wait until we’re both happy with a chapter. Sometimes it’s better to plough on regardless then go back and revise bit by bit.
The one thing we never do is sit side by side at a desk working. Christopher needs peace and quiet. And he writes longhand! Yep. He’s Mr Biro. Well, you can chew the end of a pen but it’s not easy to chew a laptop. Christine works straight onto the keyboard and revises a million times per page.
It’s unusual for two people to write together. And even more unusual if they’re married to each other. But we’re used to being under each other’s feet the whole time. Until recently Christopher was the sole writer. He produced scripts for a number of major television series in the UK. Christine helped at initial ideas stage and with plotting and then later in the process with script editing.
The same applied for the first four novels Christopher wrote for children. But then we got the idea for the Warrior Sheep Series and decided to have a go at actually writing together. It just seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. And it seems to be working: we’re having fun and we love the thought that our efforts are making people laugh.
I've been away for a while... Right now I'm getting back into Illustrator due to an increase in demand for that at the office... I'm a little rusty... Here's a fiddly little sheep drawing in some Vectors with a splash of photoshop after the fact.
Hope you dig.
Click here to read my full review. Add a Comment
Just posted a comic in Writer Unboxed about author platforms and sheep, plus a winning Non-Denominational Spring Festival Lagomorph cartoon caption winner, PLUS my exciting two-book contract news for those who hadn't heard. :-)Add a Comment
5 stars “The wolf is dead!” No sooner have thr Three ittle Pigs atarted celebrating the death of the Big Bad Wolf than a sheep decides to apply to be the wolf’s replacement. He’s barely slipped on the wolf’s skin when he starts to change before his friends’ very eyesa—becoming perhaps a bit more than [...]Add a Comment
The illustrated adventures of three friends, which will be updated regularly. Go here to read and follow: bearandwhitefox
5 Stars The Shepherd Girl of Bethlehem: A Nativity Story Carey Morning Alan Marks 32 Pages Ages: 4 + …………………….. Inside Jacket: The shepherd’s young daughter helped with the sheep every single day. How she longed to help through the night as well; but her father said it was too dark and she needed sleep. [...]Add a Comment
Ethel was always a little bit different than the other sheep.Add a Comment