Thursday, 13 August 2009

Saint George - 4. The Councillor

The most eloquent of the guardsmen acted as their spokesman and from his words the entire council turned an ever whiter shade of pale. In the ensuing spell of total bewilderment a turmoil erupted of disorderly and tumultuous discussions, which the king as the council's chair attempted to stem in vain. Until, eventually, the junior councillor, a bright mind who had been admitted to the council for his strong level-headedness, raised his voice and succeeded in dampening the raging feelings by the following address.
Brothers, let us be reasonable. We all must eat, and so must every animal. Being alive, not one escapes the need of having to eat. That the beast observed by our guardsmen was getting hungry after it gradually had disposed of all the fish in the pond, and that it looked out for an alternative, in this it obeyed the Law of Nature. We can't cast this in its teeth.
If we are to believe the description of it rendered to us, it appears to be a beast that may do us great harm, yea, that can turn our entire community destitute. But, as yet, it hasn't done anything of the kind at all. It never did as much as crook a hair of anybody, let alone pull one. By all means, it may as well be a benignant creature whose horrific appearance and dreadful voice are but defensive expedients. Such are the ways of the animal world. Well, even amongst men there are those who hide a too tender heart behind stern looks and a gruff attitude.
If this be our starting-point - and indeed, why shall we, at once, suppose anything more evil - we may reason along the following lines.
Over the last period, the beast apparently felt a need for stepping ashore at three consecutive Saturdays. In between it was lying low. From this, we may infer that one sheep can appease its appetite for a whole week. When we offer it a sheep at every Saturday we will not be bothered by it.
Fifty-two sheep in a year, it's something, together, we can afford easily. There are many nations having deities to whom they are obliged to sacrifice quite a lot more animals to propitiate them.
Let's see it this way. One sheep a week for disaster to be averted. We may fare even better. Suppose, in this way, the mysterious creature is won over and becomes a boon to the whole of our community. It may even be a god assuming an ever so horrible shape only to try our mettle. Who knows, by his doing an era of unprecedented happiness may dawn upon us.
Therefore, beware, lest we make him loathe us by grudging him his food or by panicking.
This speech had the intended effect. The council decided to abstain from immediate action and to prudently reconnoitre the pond's surroundings on the following morning.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2009
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

No comments:

Post a Comment