Morals from the Beastly World

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Authors
Garnett, William
Issue Date
1958
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Book, Whole
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Seven short stories, presented on a total of 133 pages. A pencilled note on the front endpaper seems to suggest that this book was limited to a run of 2000. The flyleaf's proclamation is true. The protagonists of these fables are not disguised human beings but real animals whose beastliness is all their own. They are animals looking out for themselves in a tough world. The first story, The Little Birds who Knew too Much (7), shows how the sparrows and other birds drive out the bullfinches who supposedly have eaten too many tree buds. The bullfinches' self-explanations, though to a reader highly plausible, only elicit more violent and suppressive reactions from the other birds. The bullfinches leave under pressure, and the rest of the birds are left to fight a losing battle against the man and his many means against them. A spirited horse tells off her accomodating uncle and spites everyone around her, until a dirty gypsy boy communicates well with her. The King of the Tigers declares all four-footed meat off limits. Feast-days, black-markets, and human villages allow them, though, plenty of good old meat, and they soon revert to their old ways. A rat outdodges the fate predicted for him by the owl, but is then eaten by a cat. Fate can wait. The stories are remarkable for the narrator's insertion of himself into the animals. I have enjoyed the four I have read.
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Rupert Hart-Davis
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