The Kukkurrik Fables
Prospect Park Books
Oscar Mandel’s original fables appear in two “dimensions”: as prose narratives under the title Gobble-Up Stories, and as the mini-dramas called The Kukkurrik Fables. There are, however, interesting and substantial differences between these two versions other than the difference in literary genre. Kukkurrik is the cock-a-doodle-do character in one of the fables — in both versions.
THREE REVOLTING ANIMALS
NARRATOR. A rat, a skunk, and a porcupine were bemoaning their evil destiny.
SKUNK. I have lost my appetite for life…
NARRATOR. Said the skunk.
SKUNK. I am hated and shunned. My name is used for petty ridicule. Fame, honor and affection are forever denied me. Why, last week, when I waved a friendly tail at a little impertinent monkey, he put out his tongue and flung me an obscene grimace.
NARRATOR. The porcupine joined in.
PORCUPINE. And I? Though I lack your beauty, master skunk, I am an honest family man, a decent provider, in my ribcage beats a simple heart. And yet for every quill on my body the world has stung me with a barb of derision. Yesterday I gave a kindly greeting to a gazelle, who tittered in reply, ‘A genteel porcupine! I’ve seen everything now!’ and ran laughing into the woods.
NARRATOR. Said the rat in his turn…
RAT. They may laugh at you or avoid you, but they do not loathe you as they loathe me, the rat, whom they call plague, vicious killer, lover of sewage. My intellect and my agility only excite their horror. Last month I nodded at a rabbit—
SKUNK (sarcastically). Everybody loves a bunny!
RAT. I nodded at a rabbit, and he screamed ‘A rat! A disgusting rat!’ as only a rabbit can scream when he sets his mind to it.
NARRATOR. Putting their heads together, the three unhappy creatures decided to complain to the lion, who was king of the animals. They arrived at court as the monarch was dining, and were greeted by a jackal, who was the king’s majordomo.
JACKAL. You may watch his majesty at his repast, and present your petition after dessert. You are not among his favorites, but his majesty gives a hearing to even the lowest.
NARRATOR. The lion was sitting at table with an enormous bib under his beard.
LION (roaring). What’s after soup, stoopid?
NARRATOR. The majordomo lifted several silver covers.
JACKAL. Your majesty, here is a homely but excellent rabbit stew, a superb émincé de gazelle, and singe en brochette, the chef’s specialty.
LION. Singe en brochette?What’s that?
JACKAL. Monkey on a spit.
LION. Hand it over!
NARRATOR. After the lion had finished eating, and as he was wiping the grease off his whiskers, the jackal told him…
JACKAL. Your majesty, here are three of your citizens, the skunk, the porcupine and the rat, who say they wish to file a claim.
LION. A claim? What kind of a claim? Step forward, don’t dawdle, speak up and have done.
NARRATOR. The three animals had watched the lion’s dinner with wide open eyes and mouths. The rat, who was indeed no fool, cried out…
RAT. A misunderstanding, your highness! Not a claim, your majesty, but acclaim, oh king, enthusiastic acclaim!
NARRATOR. And he led his friends in a round of applause for the king. This done, they bowed to the ground and left the supreme presence as hastily as their legs would move.
LION. Revolting beggars. I was glad to see them go before the cognac.
NARRATOR. Our three citizens ran and ran until they arrived in a far-away field.
PORCUPINE. Oh God, I feel faint when I think of that sweet gazelle, that droll monkey, and that cuddlesome bunny.
SKUNK (whispering). Turned into main courses.
RAT. Yes, but turned into main courses, my friends, because they were not repulsive enough.
NARRATOR. And from that time, not one of them ever complained of his fate again.