NABOKV-L post 0017133, Wed, 1 Oct 2008 19:57:33 +0100

Re: Nabokov's famous formulation about literature ...
Victor: I didn¹t mean that a footnote about the Aesop ³Cry Wolf² connection
might or might not be needed ‹ after all, the tale itself is neatly
encapsulated in the quoted text ‹ rather, I was querying whether it was
necessary for the author himself to cross-reference the quote in some way to
its source, viz., Nabokov on literary theory. It¹s really up to the novelist
how much to reveal! Some allusions are best left as ³gems for the
(re-)reader to uncover² -- with or without the help of later scholarly
annotation. Mr Islam seemed to take an unNabokovian path in expecting the
short story to serve as a Ph D thesis explaining VN¹s theory of the origins
of story telling.

I do agree that it¹s hard to pin down ur-sources for widely-spread, almost
universal, morsels of folkloric morality! Especially so when the original
written Aesopica did not survive. Aesop himself (herself?!) seems a rather
tenuous ³individual,² more a collective oral tradition like Homer, and tales
were undoubtedly added pseudonymically over the centuries. The moral itself
(persistent liars will be hung by their own petards, or even more painfully
by their testicles), as you show with the Chinese Emperor version, can be
expressed in a variety of colourful anecdotes. One thing has always puzzled
me: the quintessential Aesop fable has anthropomorphic animals in ALL the
roles. A neat ploy, JM, to grab the children¹s attentions? But here we have
a human shepherd boy interacting with fellow humans. Aesop, one fancies,
would have had a dishonest rooster guarding the chickens? The later date for
the fable suggests La Fontaine (1621 ­ 1694) the great French fabulist who
regularly included humans in his tales (e.g., The Sculptor and the Statue).
Interestingly, La Fontaine cites not only Aesop but also the Indian sage
Pilpay among his inspirers.

JM: I may be misreading your point about needing ³at least two consecutive
lies to believe in what they were told.² To recap the yarn: on the boy¹s
first ³Cry wolf² the farmers have no reason to doubt him until the truth
emerges, viz., false alarm. Real wolves are alurking, and it would be folly
to ignore the warning cry. They also fall for the second ³Cry wolf² but are
beginning to form an opinion that the boy is an inveterate liar. (Victor
reports versions where it takes more than two incidents before the boy¹s
unreliabilty sinks in.) The third ³Cry wolf² exhausts their patience, and is
assumed to be false. It¹s the boy-liar who suffers on the rare occasion when
he¹s not lying. The farmers also suffer for not believing him ‹ so I detect
the added moral that folks should try to be more discerning when judging
warnings and, more generally, judging the truth of all assertions.

Stan Kelly-Bootle

On 30/09/2008 05:09, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

> Victor Fet: I agree with Stan that such folkloric references hardly needs a
> footnote, they are part and parcel of our culture. However, Wikipedia says
> that ³The Boy Who Cried Wolf, also known as The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf, is
> a fable attributed to Aesop but in fact written in 1673 ...
> JM: We are invited to imagine how tv-deprived peoples needed at least two
> consecutive lies to believe in what they were told...Perhaps that's why
> children always ask to hear the same story over and over again and complain if
> they find any alteration in the telling.
> Btw, there's a nuance in VN's use of this fable that develops still further
> the image about art as "shimmering go-between"* and way beyond the fabled
> wolf. In his lectures at Cornell, VN refers not only to the ³tall story²
> about a boy crying wolf ( as in GRGW) but he also mentions: ³the magic of art
> is manifested in the dream about the wolf, in the shadow of the invented wolf"
> (1955, 347).
> ..............................................................................
> ...........................................................................
> * ³between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is
> a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of
> literature."
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