The cricket’s winter fables

The ant and the grasshopper. T-shirt design by toe2254

Aesopus has left to us only a corrupt and pedestrian version of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, asserts Poly in her beautiful post entitled The cricket and the plebs. According to the apocryphal original published by her, the cricket wanted to gather reserves for the winter just like the ant did. But there was his marvelous talent which did not let him rest and kept commanding to him like the daimon to Socrates in Phaidon 60e: Μουσικὴν ποίει – Make music! And the cricket could not but make music, hoping that those listening enchanted to his art in the summer will take care of him in the winter. It did not happen so. The doors of the granaries were closed in his face, everybody turned away of him, and the cricket died in misery and abandoned by all – just like Socrates.

Design of Steve Morrison from the series of illustrations made with the use
of Greek motifs to the fable of the ant and the cricket

The story of Poly reminded me of another version of the fable. The beautiful Spanish film Los lunes al sol – Mondays in the sun (2002) is about five unemployed workers who were recently laid off together with thousands of their colleagues during the cutback of the Galician ship building industry. To us who are accustomed to the gloomy atmosphere and the images of ruin in Eastern European documentary films, it was particularly unusual and staggering that this film did not only present the hopelessness of the situation and the tragedies stemming from it, but again and again also the force of solidarity that is able to keep people on the surface even in the most difficult situations.

A memorable moment of the film is when Santa, the lead of the film substitutes for a night for the teenager daughter of his friend who works as a baby-sitter at a rich family, but wants to go out with her boyfriend. Santa reads to the child the story of the ant and the cricket.

La cigarra y la hormiga. Bueno, vamos a ver. Érase una vez un país en el que vivían una cigarra y una hormiga. La hormiga era hacendosa y trabajadora y la cigarra no. Le gustaba cantar y dormir, mientras la hormiga hacía sus labores. Pasó el tiempo, la hormiga trabajó y trabajó todo el verano, ahorró cuanto pudo, y cuando llegó el invierno, la cigarra se moría de hambre y de frío, mientras la hormiga, tenía de todo… ¡Qué hija de puta, la hormiga!
La cigarra llamó a la puerta de la hormiga, que le dijo: Cigarrita, cigarrita, si hubieras trabajado como yo, ahora no pasarías hambre y frío… ¡¡y no le abrió la puerta!!
¿Quien ha escrito esto? Porque esto no es así. Esto no es así. La hormiga esta es una hija de la gran puta y una especuladora. Y además, aquí lo que no dice es por qué unos nacen cigarras y otros hormigas, porque si naces cigarra estás jodido, y eso aquí no lo pone, ¿eh? ¡eso aquí no lo pone!
The ant and the cricket. Well, let's go. There was once a country where there lived an ant and a cricket. The ant was diligent and hardworking, but the cricket no. He only liked to sing and to sleep while the ant did its work. Time passed, and the ant just worked all over the summer, he saved as much as he could, and when winter came, the cricket was starving and having cold, while the ant had everything… What a son of a bitch, the ant!
The cricket knocked on the door of the ant who told him: My dear cricket, if you had worked like me, now you would not go hungry and having cold – and he did not open the door!
Who wrote this? Because this is not like this. This is not like this. The ant is a huge son of a bitch and a profiteer. And besides they do not say anything about why some are born as crickets and others as ants. And neither why you are always screwed if you were born as a cricket. They do not say it here, eh, they do not say it!

This Sunday in the downtown church the popular priest was expounding the story of the Good Samaritan. His leitmotif was that nowadays you cannot know what kind of people you encounter, and that whoever appears to be in need usually only wants to dupe you. Along this motif he finally arrived to the conclusion that in the parable it was most probably the priest and the Levite who took the correct action. I wanted to gave news about this radical turn of the exegesis, but I myself did not know where to begin it. This last version of the story of the ant and the cricket now provided the textus to it.

The ant and the grasshopper/cricket. Against idleness. The child’s illuminated fable-book, 1847

18 comentarios:

Inoa Ferrer Reynés dijo...

Beautiful post! I love it!
Regards from Mallorca :)

Julia dijo...

Te leo y no puedo creer la interpretación del cura en el sermón que aquí contás. ¿De verdad dijo eso? Me indigna, la verdad. Parecen las discusiones sobre los pobres fingidos y la caridad en el Siglo de Oro, aquello que de manera tan compleja habla Mateo Alemán.
Gracias por acercarnos la versión de Polly sobre la fábula (lamento no poder leerla) parece esencial esa reivindicación del artista. La canción de María Elena Walsh sobre la cigarra tiene algo que ver con esto, me parece. ¿Te acordás?

Πόλυ Χατζημανωλάκη dijo...

Excellent post Tamas!!! My sincere congratulations!
I have already posted the excerpt from the Mondays in the Sun on Fb..

Beautiful, knowledgable and witty associations!!!

With my best wishes,


Studiolum dijo...

Muchas gracias, Georgina, y saludos de Budapest!

Julia: Yes, unfortunately this is exactly what the priest said. And as the parallel of Mateo Alemán’s “pretended poors” mentioned by you proves it, he could lean on a centuries long tradition of the petty bourgeoisie.

And yes, I certainly remembered the song about the cicada while writing this post. Now they figure together in the Bestiary.

Thank you, Poly, it’s entirely your merit to have brought up the paraphrases of this fable of Aesop. Looking forward to more ideas in your blog and FB… :) Best wishes, Tamás

Πόλυ Χατζημανωλάκη dijo...

Looking for a more Christian textus, I would also like to add the following lines from evangelist Luke, Chapter 12:

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not…"

"Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?..."

We should add:
"Consider the grasshoper..."

Araz dijo...

It is interesting that the same fable is known in Azerbaijan as "Dragonfly and Ant", translated from Russian version "Стрекоза и муравей" by Ivan Krylov (1769-1844). It is interesting that in this 1913 cartoon Dragonfly actually is Grasshopper. Krylov in his turn translated it from French version "La Cigale et la Fourmi" (Cicada and Ant) by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695).

My father told me an interesting fact when I was a child about another fable by entomologist Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915) written as a poetic answer to La Fontain. It points that Cicadas in fact have only a month in summer to live after several years spent in the ground. They spend this time living on nectar and celebrating the life with songs, while ants are always around, trying to steel their heavenly food and even after their death eating their bodies. Unfortunately I couldn't find this poetic answer on the Internet, but I liked it very much then.

Araz dijo...

Here is the chapter from the book by Fabre, but I couldn't find the poem yet.

Studiolum dijo...

A beautiful twist on the story’s moral (and a beautiful book in itself). Thank you very much, and also for the film (I would have not imagined it to be so early.)

Yes, I think the good priest badly needs a restocking of his texti with these and similar verses on the abundant measure or on the right hand that does not know what the left is doing. Unfortunately it seems that he arrived to his actual reduced stock by way of a long and systematic subtraction, so it will not be easy to reverse the process.

Aaoiue dijo...

Es curioso lo del grasshoper (saltamontes). Sin gafas busco en mi Esopo, y a pesar de ser la edición de la Biblioteca Gredos no tiene un buen índice. El conde Lucanor solo habla de la laboriosidad de las hormigas, siguiendo a Plinio. De Samaniego sólo tengo una selección y por lo que veo en internet el oponente de la hormiga siempre es una cigarra. Los saltamontes no cantan, sólo saltan creo. Las cigarras, que aquí en España también llamamos chicharras, producen un ruido más alto y más vibrante cuanto más calor hace. Hoy van a cantar mucho.
La verdad es que así, sin gafas, con migraña, yo diría que las cigarras vienen más ... "a cuento" con respecto a las hormigas. Hay una canción de los años 70, "Canta cigarra" (María Ostiz), de la que recuerdo la frase aquella de "no pasa nada en tu vida", bien curiosa.
Me faltan por leer el Panchatantra y las vidas de las abejas, las termitas y las hormigas, de Maeterlink, cosa que sería definitiva al menos para mí, para quien -siguiendo a Emily Dickinson- tienen toda la simpatía entomológica las abejas.

Se suele poner a los mitos (O mito é o nada que é tudo, dijo Pessoa) por encima de los animales de las fábulas, las cuales son frontalmente moralistas y de una sola lectura apropiada para fines didácticos. Lo bonito de los mitos es que hay muchos (si no nos circunscribimos a los griegos) y que, como siempre hay un roto para un descosido, se mantienen vivos gracias a que se les reinterpreta constantemente. Y no me refiero a esas óperas actualizadas en que aparecen la soprano y el tenor sobre una Harley Davidson con unas chupas de cuero negro. En los mitos que yo conocí sobre todo a través de las Metamorfosis de Ovidio, parece que el que los mortales se conviertan en animales o en árboles o en estrellas hasta es una compensación o un consuelo ante una situación sin salida generalmente producida por la venganza u otra calamidad del estilo. En las fábulas los animales adquieren virtudes y defectos ejemplares humanos y los personifican para edificarnos. Es decir que el proceso es inverso.

Lo que a veces les pasa a los curas en las homilías es que están deprimidos y lo mezclan todo y no les sale ni una parábola, ni un mito ni una fábula, sino un churro. Ayer el de mi parroquia confundía los nombres de Marta y María, las amigas de Jesús. Error fatal.

A Julia: Decía mi abuelo y está en el ADN de la India que incluso a los pobres fingidos hay que darles una caridad, porque sea lo que sea algo no les va bien en sus vidas.

Araz dijo...

This post is an eyeopener really, thank you. Just now I notice that in Azerbaijani translation (made sometime in XIX century) it is put as "Cırcırama və qarışqa" where "cırcırama" (read as "jyrjyrama") is not a dragonfly, rather a cricket or cicada. So most probably the translator was familiar at least with the French fable. Merely because of that association with Russian "Dragonfly and ant" and corresponding illustrations I tended to think about "cırcırama" as a "dragonfly"

Effe dijo...

bellissimo post, di alto senso civile, di grande umanità dietro a un sorriso.
Due considerazioni non ragionate, solo suggestioni:
- ricordo un'isola greca di vent'anni fa, il caldo, il mare, l'ombra sotto i pini marittimi, e un concerto di cicale talmente forte da poter abbattere le mura di Gerico.
- nel mondo ci sono miliardi di formiche (alcune a due zampe), e probabilmente hanno vinto loro.

Studiolum dijo...

Grazie, Effe, ma stai esagerando. Macché grande umanità. Questo è un minimum sine qua non. E' vero che certe formiche a due gambe sempre riescono di sorprendermi col sottopassar anche questo minimum. Ma non credere che esse hanno vinto. Basta escluderle dal tuo mondo e considerarle come dei vis maior naturali, e allora la vita diventa bella, anche se difficile. Lo dico sul serio.

Aaoiue, tienes razón. El animal en cuestión debe de ser un cricket aunque las versiones tradicionales inglesas lo nombren un grasshopper, mientras en el griego (Syntipas 43) es una cicada: τέττιξ. Ahora lo corrigo en cricket también en el post.

Me gusta mucho tu interpretación del mito. Pero no sé si los antiguos tenían esta discriminación entre fábula (de animales) y mito (μύθος = fábula). Mientras para nosotros es importante este consuelo como una salida a un nivel más alto, más poético o más transcendental de una situación sin salida, parece que para ellos la fuerza compulsiva de la ley del destino inevitable dominaba la interpretación de entrambos.

En cuanto a los pobres fingidos, yo también hago como los indios solían hacer, considerando que fingido o no, el cargarse con el peso de pedir significa ya bastante desventura y bastante razón para que yo le dia.

Araz: In the mirror of all the above zoological versions, now the question is from where and why Krylov adopted the dragonfly. (BTW in the Hungarian translation of Krylov we also have a cricket bot in the text and in the image…)

Araz dijo...

You probably have noticed that Russian word for dragonfly "стрекоза" has a root as "стрекотать" meaning "to chirr", which is more appropriate for cricket (or cicada?). I tend to agree that in the times of Krylov "стрекоза" was a unified word for many insects, it was later that this word become an entomological term for a dragonfly. He wouldn't name it "cicada" not familiar to common people.

As for Azerbaijani, "cırcırama" is a scientific term for cricket, dragonfly is "iynəcə".

But as it is seen even in the old Russian cartoon (it is really worthy of being in the golden fund) the "dragonfly" is not even a cricket, it looks exactly like a grasshopper playing its stereotypical violin. I would look for the reason in natural habitat area of cicadas. Do cicadas live in European Russia or Caucasus? As for why grasshopper? cricket is a plain insect hiding in dark, while grasshopper is more visible and popular.

Julia dijo...

Araz: I think I never saw a cicada, though I heard them a lot (they made the music of my childhood's summers). Have you seen any?
Crickets are more easy to see just like dragonflies.

Aa: la lección de tu abuelo me parece perfecta. Prefiero ser ilusa a calculadoramente egoista. Aunque es cierto que con la pobreza que hay por nuestras calles no se puede ser tan caritativa como uno quisiera. O tal vez sí, habría que aprender a desprenderse más de lo propio.

Tamás: no lo dije pero estaba implícito desde antes, ¡precioso post! :-)

Araz dijo...

You are right, Julia, my point was the same. Do cicadas live in my surrounding? I am not completely sure, but my answer would be "No". I have never seen (or even heard?) any live cicada in my life. I have seen many grasshoppers, less crickets. In fact grasshoppers are also chirring, mainly during long summer days, but dragonflies... never.

My Spanish is almost non-existent, but if the discussion was about giving out, I would like to share a story about my grandfather, which happened a little before he passed away, told by a relative then a young boy:

one day grandpa was washing his hands, the boy started pouring out water from a jug. He noticed that grandpa holds his hands open together, completely flat and water is splashing away. The boy thought that grandpa is getting thoughtless closer to the end of his life and said "Grandpa, you must close your hands". Then grandpa closed his hands, so water was splashing away from his fists. The boy was puzzled and said "Grandpa, you must open your hands a little bit". Grandpa did so and got a handful of water then he said something like "you will not be able to be blessed by the gifts of life if you close your hands too tight or open them too flat". He probably retaught the lesson taught there for hundreds of years. I believe there must be similar stories in other places, too.

Julia dijo...

Wonderful story, Araz!! Thank you very much.
You understood exactly what my conflict was. Now I have a new perspective and a new way to think about it...

(I hope you can understand my so called "English")

Esto ya no sé cómo decirlo en ingles: Además me encantan de por sí los conceptos ejemplares transmitidos mediante imágenes prácticas. Los colecciono y este cuento de tu abuelo será bien guardado.


Studiolum dijo...

Araz: Yes, стрекоза as being a general name for insects that стрекотают is a cunning solution for the featuring of the dragon-fly. A 19th-century Russian dictionary could be perhaps checked for the shades of стрекоза at that time. And the grasshopper may have been included in the illustrations simply because it is much more photogenic than either the cricket or the cicada.

(A cicada can be seen in the Greek article on τζιτζίκι, as cicada, τέττιξ is called in modern Greek. But I have not seen any of them in live, either. On this good page on the fable they also publish some images on how in the Renaissance the animal featuring in the fable was called and represented.)

A beautiful story, that of your grandfather. Such deep and touching stories as this one can only read in volumes of ancient Eastern wisdom, and would not imagine that they also happen nowadays (or, well, yesterdays). Thank you for it.

Anónimo dijo...

Gracias, Julia! Your English is just perfect. Thanks, Studiolum, you really join our wor(l)ds together! as Effe said once.