The Lion, the Fox, and the Story-teller
A Lion who was the king of a great forest once said to his subjects: "I want some one among you to tell me stories one after another without ceasing. If you fail to find somebody who can so amuse me, you will all be put to death."
In the East there is a proverb which says; "The king kills when he will," so the animals were in great alarm.
The Fox said: "Fear not; I shall save you all. Tell the king the Story-teller is ready to come to court when ordered." So the animals had orders to send the Story-teller at once to the presence. The Fox bowed respectfully, and stood before the king, who said: "So you are to tell us stories without ceasing?"
"Yes, your Majesty," said the Fox.
"Then begin," said the Lion.
"But before I do so," said the Fox, "I would like to know what your
Majesty means by a story."
"Why," said the Lion, "a narrative containing some interesting event or fact."
"Just so," said the Fox, and began: "There was once a fisherman who went to sea with a huge net, and spread it far and wide. A great many fish got into it. Just as the fisherman was about to draw the net the coils snapped. A great opening was made. First one fish escaped." Then the Fox stopped.
"What then?" said the Lion.
"Then two escaped," said the Fox.
"What then?" asked the impatient Lion.
"Then three escaped," said the Fox. Thus, as often as the Lion repeated his query, the Fox increased the number by one, and said as many escaped. The Lion was vexed, and said: "Why you are telling me nothing new!"
"I wish that your majesty may not forget your royal word," said the Fox. "Each event occurred by itself, and each lot that escaped was different from the rest."
"But wherein is the wonder?" said the Lion.
"Why, your majesty, what can be more wonderful than for Fish to escape in lots, each exceeding the other by one?"
"I am bound by my word," said the Lion, "else I would see your carcass stretched on the ground."
The Fox replied in a whisper: "If tyrants that desire things impossible are not at least bound by their own word, their subjects can find nothing to bind them."
|This is part of an illustration by Harold Nelson in Talking Beasts -- it's not this story, but foxes do get around in this book and beyond|
One storytelling principle suggests it is better to let the listener draw their own conclusion to a fable, even though fables are intentionally teaching tools. This story version may add one, but the story could have been stripped down to just the unending story that you, too, could tell.
Back in 2015, before a Michigan storytelling festival that ended its long run last year, I posted another endless story and said:
For some unknown reason I've heard the type called "French Irritating Tales." They are the kind of story where it returns to the beginning lines of the story and starts all over again in an endless loop. May your storytelling be endless and Keep the Public in Public Domain!
- There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection. I have long recommended it and continue to do so. He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
- You may have noticed I'm no
longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his
offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking
specific types of stories. There's another site, FairyTalez
claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales,
folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for
phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
- Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links. Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job. In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it. Possibly searches maintained it. Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine. It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!