The Cat and the Mouse

I had hoped to post a new revised fairy tale each week as a new writing project this year, but that won’t be happening.  This will be my final fairy tale related post for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s a lot of work.  I could simply record myself as I reword the stories on the fly for my kids at bedtime, but to do the stories justice, I need to invest more thought than that. After making it through the story once or twice, there are nuances I want to highlight, storylines I want to recover.  It isn’t just a matter of replacing unpleasant details, but working the original moral and emphases around a more palatable storyline.
  2. Someone else could do it better.  I didn’t realize how grand a task it was to add an Anabaptist flavour to these stories.  I could do it and have fun with it, but for these to serve as a worthwhile resource, someone with more appropriate gifting in that area would be far more suited to the task.
  3. Some of the stories are un-redeemable.  As an example, here is the story of the “Cat and Mouse in Partnership”.  Rather than modify the original text, I’ll summarize.

There once was a cat and a mouse who had learned to live together.  As the winter was approaching, they decided it would be wise to make a special pot of stew that would keep until spring if they ever ran out of provisions.  For a variety of reasons, they decided it would be best to keep it somewhere other than their own house, so they hid it under the pulpit of their church.

As the winter hit, the cat told the mouse, that for safety’s sake, he shouldn’t leave the house, and whenever the mouse needed anything, the cat would happily fetch it for him.

After a while, the cat grew tired of the meager provisions they had saved up for themselves and he decided that he was going to go eat some of the stew without telling the mouse.  Instead, he told the mouse that he had heard of a new nephew that had been born and he needed to attend the christening service for it in another town.

The cat found the stew right where they had left it and proceeded to eat off the entire layer of fat that had congealed at the top.  He put the stew safely back where they put it the first time and went home.

The mouse was curious about his trip.  He asked about the church service and about the new baby nephew.  The cat said that the service was fine and that the baby had been named “Top Off”.  The mouse was confused by this odd name choice, but the cat offered no further explanation.

This happened again a month later when the cat ate half of the stew and said the new nephew’s name was “Half Gone” and another month later when he finished the stew and said the next nephew’s name was “All Done.”  Each time the mouse asked why that name had been chosen, and each time the cat shared no details.

Finally, the winter provisions were running low and the mouse thought the time was right to enjoy the rations they had set aside at the church.  The cat happily accompanied the mouse to the church.  The mouse was surprised to see that the pot was empty, but it all became clear after he saw that the cat was not surprised.

“Of course, Top Off, Half Done and All Gone were not names of christened nephews, but were the status of our stew.  Why would you do such a thing?”

Then, the cat ate the mouse, and such is the way of the world.

—-

It’s a terrible ending to the story.  We can see this as a warning to any weaker party who enters into an agreement with a stronger party thinking that it will be even, when it cannot be so.  This could be a parable about marriage, about wives not allowing their husbands full and total control of everything.  Those are valid and practical lessons to be learned, but there has to be a better way to do it than to tell stories where the good guy gets literally devoured in the end.

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