Two Eastern Fables - Page 6 of 6

by Dr. José Rizal

(London, 1889)

English version

It seems to us that all this part interpalated by some not very clever story-teller, perhaps in order to gratify the natural wish for revenge.  Then, if the monkeys were the stronger and the crabs the weaker, which desired that peace be made, this could not have induced the king to come unattended, as he is not constrained by a more powerful foe; but the crabs would go to the monkeys to ask for peace and to offer conditions.  The same way may be said of the egg which burst under the ashes only in order to burn the monkey’s arm.  This part may have been added long after the wandering people came to Japan; moreover, the hibashi only exists in cold climates.  The way how the tale ends is rather complicated than natural, while in the Philippine version it is plainer and shows a more delicate observation of character and feeling.  The mischievous monkey lays a very wicked dilemma before the tortoise, pretending to be generous; either to die by being pounded in a mortar or to be drowned.  The artful but not wicked tortoise, knowing the real intention and malignity of the monkey, beats him with the same weapons and chooses the mortar.  The monkey, continuing his wickedness till the last, refuses what he promised and throws the tortoise into the water.  The interest is maintained till the very conclusion.  In both versions there is great deal of morality : it is the eternal fight between the weak and the powerful.  In the Philippine version we find more philosophy, more plainness in form, while in the Japanese there is more civilization, and so to speak, more diplomatic usage.

After this short analysis we may give it as our opinion that this Japanese tale had its origin from South country from where would come also the Philippine version.  The last is evidently more nearer to the primitive form (if not the primitive form itself), than the Japanese.  The Japanese version is much changed and added to, perhaps by other peoples and other civilizations it has met with.  This tale may perhaps to be considered as one of the oldest tales in the Far East.  The differences between both versions show that one is not a copy of the other, and they must have existed in both countries long before the Europeans came to that part of the world.  The fact that this tale is known everywhere in the Philippines, in every island, province, village and dialect, proves that it must be the inheritance of an extinct civilization, common to all races which ever lived in that region.

In conclusion, we would give expression to a wish that Oriental scholars who make a study of the Malay Archipelago may tell us if there are tales of this kind known there in connection with the versions we have been placing before our readers.

Learn this Filipino word:

walâ sa balahibo