Two Eastern Fables - Page 5 of 6

by Dr. José Rizal

(London, 1889)

English version

The Philippine banana tree is more natural than the persimmon-seed and the rice-cake in the Japanese tale.  Perhaps because there is no banana tree in Japan, the people have been obliged to adapt these modifications.  It seems too foolish or too wise to exchange a piece of toasted rice-cake for a persimmon-seed.  Besides, the toasted rice-cake shows more of a refined civilization than a mere banana tree.  Further, the phrases At once it (the persimmon-seed) sprung up, and soon become a tree so high…  The tree was full of persimmons, may more fitly be applied to a banana tree than a persimmon-seed.  Further, people often pull up a banana trees, as the heroes of our story do, plant them and get fruit (or the heart which brings the fruits) in three or four days.  The case is unnatural for a persimmon-seed.  So we think that the Tagal version is more natural.

But the crab had no means of climbing the tree.  This phrase would be more correct in the case of a tortoise; we think the crab with its pincers and feet would climb as well as a monkey; at least, the crab climbs very well on any stone, wall, etc.  This impossibility of climbing, more natural in a tortoise, suggests the supposition that the crab was not in the original tale.  

In what follows, the two fables nearly agree till we come to where the crab escapes into his hole.

In the Philippine tale, the revenge of the tortoise, although a little childish, shows a very primitive and peculiar way, With pointed periwinkles, while in the Japanese there are traces of a more advanced state of society, like the war between the crabs and monkeys.  The council of war, held in the hole of the crabs is very remarkable.  The rice-mortar, the pounder, the bee and the egg, helping the exasperated crabs, give us an idea of the free imagination of the Japanese people.  Not only the animated beings, but the inanimate things too, speak and give advice, feel and move like the others.

First, the requested that peace be made with the crabs; and thus they induced the king of the monkeys to enter their hole unattended…

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