In a dream world, everything is a lot easier that in “reality”; but its problems are very much the same as the ones we face in our everyday life. Likewise, it is difficult not to lose the ability for telling right from wrong, for loving and forgiving. Even more difficult it is to realize that it is your choice between the good and the evil that defines your future as well as the future of the whole country – even if this choice does not seem meaningful to you…
Artist — Nataliya Kolpakova
Artist — Nataliya Kolpakova
A. A. Fedotov
BLACK PYGMY TIGER
Translator – Margarita V. Balamakova
In a dream world, everything is a lot easier that in “reality”; but its problems are very much the same as the ones we face in our everyday life. Likewise, it is difficult not to lose the ability for telling right from wrong, for loving and forgiving. Even more difficult it is to realize that it is your choice between the good and the evil that defines your future as well as the future of the whole country – even if this choice does not seem meaningful to you…
© A. A. Fedotov, 2012
Yesterday night I had a visitor – Motya, a black cat, the “Lord of All Entrance Hall”, owned by all and so loved by all.
— Mew, — said he and that — as an ultimatum – meant, “If you don’t give me – right now! immediately! – a nice piece of ham or – even better – bacon, you will lose your name as a good person and if you don’t pour me a full (I mean – full!) saucer of milk you will irrevocably turn into a hopeless scoundrel.”
— They behave like people, — decided I — or, rather, — They behave as people. This difference can only be sensed by those, who can tell “like” from “as”.
— I am taking my hat off, My Lord, — wheedled I while pouring the milk and cutting the bacon. And then I recalled verses by Donald Bisset, a great English fairy-tale writer of the last century: “I am good Mr. Cappie wearing three hats. As soon as I spot an acquaintance, I hurry to take them off. And – trust me – I am very happy to take all my three hats off in turn. Hooray, hooray, I am happy to take them off in turn!”
These are nice lines that correspond to my mood. I would be ready to take ten hats off to a wonderful fairy-tale writer of the 21st century, professor, Doctor of Historical Sciences from Ivanovo – Aleksey Fedotov, whose manuscript of a new fairy tale I have read. And it is not because he is talented, and not because he is a good person, and not because he is a fairy-tale writer (there are many) – but because he is a fairy-tale writer for big children, whom we stay as long as we live. If we wrathily discard ‘Snow White with her dwarfs’ and other things alike which have been turned inside out and vulgarly eroticized, then at the bottom line we will have a very small number of fairy tales for adults: Jonathan Swift, Jean de La Fontaine (whose works are sometimes called fables though this is not correct and even absolutely incorrect), Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Nikolai Leskov and his The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea, by all means, Sasha Chorny, who told us his nice Soldiers’ Tales, strange as it may seem – Sergey Klytchkov, whose three novels are actually one big charming fairy tale, a delight for an exhausted heart of a big child, and – probably — Fazil Iskander, who in the 20th century wrote his Rabbits and Boa Constrictors, a story comparable to none that took part in “old, very old times in a southern, very southern country – in short – in Africa…”
I know that many citizens and citizenesses will subject my lemmata to obstruction a la (quoting from memory) “Engels treated Hegel like a rabid dog” and they will not fail to declare that I most impudently skipped Nikolai Gogol, absolutely intentionally forgot about Mikhail Bulgakov, and – what is most unpleasant – did not appreciate Seumas MacManus and Joseph Jacobs. In excuse, I can only humbly mumble that the first two of those mentioned are so great that their names should be tabooed for anyone venturing so far as to imagine himself being capable of writing a preface to a fairy tale; while the last two — though being good – never made it into the fine fabric of the Russian mentality which is why they are only known to philologists and not to all of them. So please do throw too large stones or even fine pebbles (hurts anyway!) at me, who would be sentenced to penal servitude by admirers of C. S. Lewis, and by those of J. R. R. Tolkien (no doubt) – to quartering right on Durin’s grave in Moria. Actually, I am not going — here or anywhere else — to address the history of fairy tales for adults. All I am going to do is to place a certain landmark: another author joined the wonderful literati of the 21st century. To his books (not only fairy tales), I predict a long and happy life under the kind Sun in our marvelous world, this multi-dimensional space with enough room for Black Pygmy Tiger, for Winged Lion, for the degraded cat named Foolish Animal, and for many more as well as for much more…
I sink into the world of the “Tiger” (wishing the same to you) and I hear the expected and unavoidable “Mew!!!” My friend is amazingly polite. He always thanks for the treat. Strange creatures they are – those Black Pygmy Tigers. They behave like people. They behave as people! Take Motya the cat for example… “You are the best of cats! I will shake your paw for you have taken my hat off…”
Mikhail Smirnov, journalist,
President of Nasha Rodina Publishers
I have never exactly ‘made’ a story. With me the process is much more like bird-watching than like either talking or building. I see pictures. Keep quiet and watch and they will begin joining themselves up. If you were very lucky (I have never been as lucky as all that) a whole set might join themselves so consistently that there you had a complete story: without doing anything yourself. But more often (in my experience always) there are gaps. Then at last you have to do some deliberate inventing, have to contrive reasons why these characters should be in these various places doing these various things.
Let the pictures tell you their own moral. For the moral inherent in them will rise from whatever spiritual roots you have succeeded in striking during the whole course of your life. But if they don’t show you any moral, don’t put one in. For the moral you put in is likely to be a platitude, or even a falsehood. The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.
C. S. Lewis
Animal Land was inhabited by all sorts of dwellers – talking animals and fictive beings. However, people were scarce – for the demands to them were too high: it was considered that a human should be perfect in everything – honest, noble, kind, and brave. If not – please visit a local police office and exchange your passport to the one for a goblin – those could be of any kind.
Still, the country was big enough for everyone. One cannot say that the life of its inhabitants was trouble-free – the simple and fair laws became burdensome after the local administrators interpreted their rules of application; the citizens would often quarrel, too. At the same time, criminality was hardly recorded – as opposed to the neighboring countries of Goblinland and Leprechaunia, immigrants from which acquired their residence permits only after numerous loyalty checks. There was no hunger; everybody had accommodation and job.
The Tsar of Animal Land was Winged Lion. Being wise and noble, he cared for every subject of His so everyone would be able to realize his or her talents. His first consideration was freedom as the biggest value for a living creature so there should be a chance for everyone to show their worth while His interference was only appropriate in extreme cases. However, it so happened that a special talent to take top positions rested mainly with leprechauns and goblins, so among the five governors of the country’s provinces there were two leprechauns, two goblins, and only one wise old tiger. The people in his province prospered without noticing it. They thought they would solve all the problems better and so repined against authorities.
As for the rest of the governors, they would adopt local regulations for general laws right upon taking their positions. For example, Winged Lion awarded everyone the right to labor and they would treat it – “for the good of the population” – as the right to work for 12 hours a day having only one day off. Of course, they would like it to be a 16-hour working day and the day off would only be different for its eight hours of work. But the most cunning leprechaun said that Tsar would interfere in that case. Or, Winged Lion guaranteed all His subjects the right to accommodation. Four provinces treated that as the right to carry all the burden of maintenance. Special companies were established for the better arrangement – without them, it was not possible to repair a house or to heat it in winter. All the profit was to cover the “local needs”.
It goes without saying that Tsar knew it all. He was able to meet with any citizen of the country at any given time: the person should only express this strong wish and mentally call for Tsar. In no time, from nowhere, Tsar could appear right in front of him. However, He would not respond to shallow and selfish requests. He valued the hearts and the minds of His subjects rather than their houses being one- or four-storied or their having two or eight meals a day. By the way, most unhappy were those living in six-storied houses and having ten daily meals. Their reasons for being unhappy were as follows: they simply could not digest so much food; also, being on one floor of their house they would worry about a possible robbery on another, though robbery was extremely rare in Animal Land.
However, those people, animals, and fictive beings who never grumbled but managed all difficulties always supported one another and felt subtle but real help from Winged Lion. Everything they did would turn out nicely as if by itself: having the simplest food, they enjoyed it as a feast; a most humble dwelling was a lot cozier than any palace. Those living next to them watched them and also wanted to become better.
Once Governor Tiger asked Winged Lion why He had allowed leprechauns and goblins to oppress 4/5 of the country’s population.
— They allow it by themselves, — sadly said Tsar. – They like abiding by the laws that their governors establish because they dare to write them on paper only after the citizens of their province place the false law in their hearts. At first, it seems easier to live by the laws of goblins and leprechauns but later, everyone, who has recognized them as truth, finds himself in awful slavery. Still, things are not too bad as of now. It will all turn worse when 2/3 of the subjects require my exile and sincerely believe that their life will get easier without me; the rest will pretend they agree or don’t care. The few, who will stay true, I will take with me in my exile.
— How is this possible? – grievingly asked Tiger, who at once sensed it was not only possible but will take place not long from now. – In that case, is there any hope for this country?
— There is always hope: I will come back from exile in case at least one dweller of this country who has chosen life without me will want to learn to enjoy living not because his desires are satisfied but because he will act according to his heart’s wish – though his life will be harder in that case. Then – with time – he will grow bigger than he used to be and he will change; together, the country will change so that I – once again – will be able to come here and to bring peace and joy to its people… Do not be afraid, my good friend, this will not happen during your lifetime. You are so noble and strong that for your sole sake I would not desert my Animal Land!
Governor Tiger was advanced in years by then. He only lived three years after that conversation.
THE CAT, WHO WANTED TO BE A TIGER
Governor Tiger had his deputy – Black Cat. He was a very good cat at the beginning of his work. He liked to help the dwellers of the province and considered their problems carefully. He monitored schools and hospitals and saw to it that those elderly, who could not work anymore, experienced no need in anything. Black Cat’s job, too, was to ensure a limit of eight hours per working day and two days off and no problems with accommodation for anyone. Also, he liked Winged Lion and Governor Tiger and would turn to them for advice and acted as they recommended him to. There was not a single case of his failure in anything.
Black Cat was married. His wife – Yellow Cat – was so proud of her ‘important’ husband but she did not share his troubles. She would squeamishly twist her lips on learning that Deputy Governor personally assisted in repairing a house for an elderly Helobious Muskrat or that he himself escorted home a degraded cat named Foolish Animal who wallowed in the street. “It is not up to your position!” – said his wife to him, — “Deputy Governor is such an important person and you have turned into a free aid for all!” “I remember reading somewhere that the one, who wants to be the Number One, should serve everyone”, — objected her husband.
Yellow Cat did not favor books about things like that. She generally disliked the way things worked in their province where Governor himself was only waiting to help someone. Quite some difference from the neighboring provinces! She was very impressed by the festive reception at Governor Leprechaun’s which her husband had to attend as instructed by Tiger, and he took her with him. What a marvelous palace and so much grandeur about the dignitaries and – what a goose she looked as compared to their wives! Leprechaun had 18 Deputies (seven of whom were First Deputies) and the least important of them – Fox Dodger – was 18 times as rich as Black Cat, who was the only Deputy to Governor Tiger. His wife – Fox Alice – was wearing jewels while Yellow Cat could only afford studs. And their residence was not a tiny little one-storey house of five rooms but a six-floor mansion of forty rooms. After the talk with Alice, Yellow Cat had tears in her eyes.
— You poor little thing, — said the new acquaintance with false compassion, — some of my husband’s servants have a better life than you do. Why does that old Tiger oppress his Deputy, all the more so that he is the only one!
The thing is that Governor Tiger never even thought of oppressing Black Cat. His own house was twice as small, and he allowed himself a smaller salary, “Does an old lonely tiger need much? No match for a young married cat!” — the old one used to say.
Yellow Cat knew this only too well and it somehow made her offence even bitterer. She started urging her husband to visit the neighboring provinces over and over again. The governors sensed Black Cat’s interest and began to invite him on any pretext. Every time they found something to strike his wife’s imagination. Black Cat himself – as he met with governing leprechauns and goblins as well as with their numerous deputies – started thinking that probably there was something wrong in what they did — Black Cat and Governor Tiger – somehow they were too naive and too simple. Over here, it was very different – any servant of smallest rank was able to puff up a huge problem out of a trifle, which would be solved easily in their own province. As time flew, Black Cat learned to see things through the eyes of his new friends.
The worst thing was that Dragon Zi, one of the six First Deputies to Governor Goblin, who addicted Cat to drinking, also taught him to be displeased with things out of his control – those that he was not able to alter however hard he tried. Black Cat became unhappy about the fact that he was born a cat, not a tiger, and about his mode of life.
Deputy Governor became haughty and arrogant; he stopped helping the people of his province and little by little started to follow the neighboring provinces’ example while doing his job. He demanded a new job title from Tiger – “First and Only Deputy Governor” – and asked Winged Lion to help him become a tiger. “This is not possible, — the latter said smiling, — but you can become a lot better than many tigers if you overcome the crisis that hit you.”
Black Cat waived Tsar aside: since recently, he considered him senile, and Tiger was a dotard, according to him. What a difference from Governor Leprechaun or even Dragon Zi, a Deputy Governor! Black Cat started valuing the numerous awards given to him by the four Governors for his visits a whole lot more than the single order awarded by Winged Lion for his 15 years of flawless service. He was even ashamed of this award.
Appealing to him were the words of Dragon Zi, who told him that the country was a perfect mess, and that Tsar was spoiling everything, and that it would be great to change the form of government and to elect Ancient Serpent (who at that time was the country’s only prisoner) as President. Under this new order of state structure, Black Cat could count on special favors. And – who knows – maybe Ancient Serpent would be able to do for him what Winged Lion was not able to and turn Cat him into a tiger…And it only took so little – to tell Governor Tiger that he shared those thoughts…
This is exactly what Black Cat did: he told Tiger all of it and added a lot of offending words of his own; Tiger’s heart failed, and he died all of a sudden. Hardened in his heart, Cat was not at all upset and did not hesitate to proclaim himself the new Governor of the province. However, Tsar, who arrived for the funeral of Tiger, said that he would appoint another Governor. Then the peeved Cat declared that he did not recognize this Tsar and demanded to gather all the people of the country for them to decide about their own future. “Well, if this is what you really want, — sadly said Winged Lion, — in three-month time after the funeral of Tiger we will hold this meeting.” And Cat, feeling pompous for he dared to talk so baldly with Tsar, all of a sudden sensed he was losing something important and dear about himself and that this very something would be extremely hard to get back.
THE EXILED TSAR
The capital of Animal Land was crowded: citizens of all provinces came over to decide about their country’s future. Many were puzzled: is their life not good with Winged Lion? Does He not know their needs and desires and does He not come to help as soon as a necessity arises? However, the majority of them were ‘intoxicated’ with the perspective of becoming free citizens instead of the subjects of Tsar: isn’t freedom the ultimate dream?
In the main square, a platform appeared — with a huge table and seats for all Governors and their Deputies. They constituted a new, provisional government for the transition period. At the head of the table, in his white wig and a camisole bedangled with numerous orders, solemnly sat Black Cat, who was elected Prime Minister. Cat did not suspect that the cunning leprechauns, goblins and dragons did that for one sole reason: they were terribly scared of Winged Lion and unable to hurt Him in any way. Delivering such a wound in the heart of Winged Lion so He would deliberately agree for exile was only possible for the one, whom He loved, and who used to love Him too.
Winged Lion was not even offered a chair. He was magnificently standing opposite the table, and those seated at it looked queachy pygmies compared to Him. Tsar was sadly looking at His people, specifically at Cat.
Old Leprechaun, too, in his white wig and a camisole, half-rising from his chair announced that the floor was given to His Excellency Prime Minister Black Cat.
Cat started talking about every monarchy oppressing the freedom of people, hindering their way to progress and development; he also said that universal love was an infantile fairy tale that was believed in by many thus stealing their best years of life from themselves and that presidential republic was the best form of government. The definitive pace of developments was natural selection when the fittest for life would be able to move aside those unnecessary. This flow of events was obstructed by Tsar’s direct communication with any of His subjects which often accented not business qualities but biased things like kindness, justice, and honesty which only existed in one’s imagination – as proved by great philosopher Hun Potz.
As Black Cat was talking about this all, the eyes of Winged Lion were filling with tears – so much pity He had for His friend, whose heart became possessed by the evil.
— Enough, — He stopped Cat in a lordly manner. – Tell me, — addressed Tsar to His people, — do you really want me to leave you and to go to exile as this self-appointed government offers?
— We do, — cried the crowd.
— And are you ready to take all the responsibility for the choice you are making now in such a way that your children and grandchildren might have to pay for it?
— We are ready! – howled the bores, fauns, hyppos, and crocodiles standing in the front rows.
— You know that my first priority is your freedom but you have to realize how hard it will be to reverse it all later…
— We do not want to realize anything; we do want to move forward – to our radiant future, — stopped Him Prime Minister, whose heart was tearing apart at the moment.
— Please be aware, my dear Black Cat, that you are the one to give happiness back to these people like you have just stolen it from me! – solemnly said Tsar. And He turned to the crowd and declared, — Let this happen! Tsar goes to exile! Is there anyone wanting to go with Him?
Everybody was silent. All of a sudden a tattered goblin elbowed his way through the crowd:
— I used to be a human but I hated to abide by the rules. I thought I was losing the joy of life. And I preferred to stop being a human but to become a goblin. However, deep in my heart I have always loved you, My Lord! I am following you to exile.
— You will not regret this, my son. And — you are not a goblin anymore – you are a human again.
All those present in the square were horror-stricken on seeing how the goblin’s face distorted by vice and suffering turned into a face of a handsome young man. Everybody at the table shrunk, the old leprechaun was so frightened that he lost his wig. For some reason, Black Cat remained calm:
— Well, is there anybody else besides this pitiful loser, who doesn’t even need himself, wanting to go to exile? By the way – nice trick. How do you do this? – he addressed Tsar.
These words calmed the crowd down as well as those at the table. Oh yes, this is one of those tricks of Winged Lion. How good it is to be as cold-minded as Mr. Prime Minister! The old leprechaun returned the wig where it belonged, observed the crowd as he maliciously squinted and asked:
— So I take it there are no volunteers to follow the so-called Tsar to his exile?
And those willing did appear. They were two girls, whom Winged Lion raised in his home after their parents died. They fearlessly went through the hatred-breathing crowd and stood next to Him.
— I knew it, my kids, — said He with tears of joy in His eyes.
However, nobody else was brave enough to step out. As for the goblin – it was pretty easy for him to do it, while for the girls – it did take them courage; after that to stand next to Tsar, one had to be a real hero – so much hatred there was in the air. Many hesitated thus cordially hating those who made decisions without hesitation.
— Nobody else wants to follow you; at once I felt pity for you for I used to love you, always, — suddenly said Black Cat to Winged Lion. – These people needed me to acquire their freedom but they will be able to live without me, there are so many wise men besides me. Looks to me, I have to follow you in memory of our friendship, so you don’t perish in exile in such a good-for-nothing company.
On hearing these words, Yellow Cat, who was ecstatically admiring her husband’s triumph, fainted in horror. All those present in the square strained like a string. Only the most cunning of those at the table remained calm.
— There is some love left in your heart; but it is not love that makes you say this – it is your desire to show off and make a noble face. This is why you cannot so far go where we are going – you are not ready yet, — objected Winged Lion. — But I also know that you would stick to your words and would follow me to exile and share all the hardships without even knowing where I head for. So you have a chance to become the one, who will make these people happy. And you will have a special protection at all times. You will only have to struggle with one enemy – yourself.
— Where are you going? – asked Black Cat dejectedly.
— I am going to Great Emperor’s where joy never ends – to the country, compared to which any motherland feels strangle. And only three others will join me…
The whole square howled. There were lots of legends about Great Emperor; everybody knew that Tsar’s utmost desire was to head for his land. So it looked as if they hadn’t exiled Him but had freed Him of His everyday duties to serve their needs and problems.
Meanwhile, Winged Lion ordered the goblin standing next to Him and the girls to get seated on His back. He then straightened His mighty wings and took off, with every second going farther and farther from the people, who wanted to live without Him.
RELEASING ANCIENT SERPENT
While Black Cat – like all the rest in the square – stared after Winged Lion, who was leaving, — with a sad feeling of irreparable loss, those at the table triumphed. To a large extent, they could not care less as to where Tsar was flying to; all that mattered was – no tsars any more. And – for sure — they were not going to need this crazy cat here with his unexpected dashing between extremes. However, he had to do one more thing, for today was his day.
— Your Excellency, — addressed him Leprechaun as he crooked and held a certain paper, — in honor of people’s liberation from the tsarism and its oppression, I think we need to grant amnesty to political offenders.
— Oh, do we have them? – Prime Minister got surprised.
— How come you forget about Ancient Serpent?
— Oh, this one…
Mo more had Black Cat this desire to ask the magician to turn him into a tiger. With every minute to pass he repented more and more for causing Winged Lion to leave the country. No more seemed it fair to him that the only prisoner, whom Tsar insisted on keeping behind bars, should be elected President; he was also hesitant about whether the prisoner should be freed at all. The cunning Leprechaun sensed that and managed to present the issue so as to corner Black Cat – can any leader of democratic reforms be against political amnesty on the day of people’s liberation?
— All right then. Set him free, — said Prime Minister with tiredness in a voice.
— Would you please sign this Act of the Provisional Government, — said Leprechaun as he obligingly stretched out a paper.
Black Cat signed the paper.
— While the people are still here, would you announce the election, — Dragon Zi came up to him.
— Oh I clean forget… I am so exhausted – you speak, — said Prime Minister to Leprechaun.
— It’s a very special day today as we all got freedom, — solemnly declared the latter. – And we will hold fair and just election of our President, this will take place in a weeks’ time in this very square. A special commission will be established for correct voice count – with Fox Dodger as its Head. The election will be considered valid with any number of citizens participating. While we have not established democratic procedures, the right to nominate a candidate for the presidency for the first time is granted solely to Governors. So runs our transitional electoral law, here it is – in this scroll, — and to prove it he demonstrated a huge roll of toilet paper all covered with some tiny characters, the same roll of toilet paper that was approved a day earlier, i.e. personally signed and stamped by Black Cat, who drank too much and thought it was a joke.
There was too much shock for the crowd for one day. And they dispersed excitedly discussing the quick changes, which they turned out to witness. Many felt uneasy as what happened started to look worrisome rather than joyous.
— Your Excellency, will you yourself tell the prisoner of regime about his release? –Leprechaun asked Prime Minister.
— No, I guess you will very well manage it without me, I will go and see my wife, I saw her faint… — and Black Cat went into the crowd looking for Yellow Cat.
All the members of the provisional government were looking at him in undisguised contempt. “Just to think of it – this idiot managed to do what we couldn’t even dream of!” – said Minister of Science — theromorph Hun Potz, who yesterday signed with Black Cat a decree on awarding him the title of academician.
— If he is an idiot, why did you take the diploma he had signed? – not without malice asked Dragon Zi.
— As of the time of signing the diploma, he was the legitimate power which is why his decisions on awarding highest degrees and academic titles during this period do not depend on his own intellect, — answered the theromorph unabashedly. – But I sincerely hope the he will stop being a legitimate power before long…
…All the members of the provisional government except for Prime Minister, who was hustling about his wife (she fainted because she had such a charismatic husband, who at the same time was so unpredictable and unguided), headed for the jail where Ancient Serpent suffered. He suffered basically because there was no way for him to show his worth as his accommodation and food in the dungeon were by far better than those of Winged Lion, Tsar personally saw to it. Those walls were sealed with the blessing of Winged Lion, and Serpent was deprived of any chance to use magic or interact with anyone to cause harm indirectly. Everything necessary for life was delivered to him through intricate mechanisms.
Ancient Serpent looked in distrust at those, who dared to come to see him after his many decades of loneliness.
— Winged Lion is setting me free? Why? – was his first question.
— He is not in this country anymore. He felt he was not necessary here so he emigrated, — answered Leprechaun for them all.
— Who of you managed to come through these doors? Nobody can do that without falling in a dead faint except he has permission from Tsar.
— We have come through due to this paper, — said Leprechaun and showed him the amnesty act.
— Who is this Black Cat? – asked Ancient Serpent. – Is he among you?
Leprechaun briefly told him about what kind of person the current Prime Minister was.
— What insanity! – cried Ancient Serpent in horror. — Winged Lion endowed some stupid cat with His power! This is just Him: so much irrationality and so much grandeur at the same time!
— He did not endow him with anything, please calm down, My Lord, — Leprechaun was about to start explaining but the released prisoner interrupted him at once:
— Are you another idiot? Don’t you see that with the paper only bearing the signature of the Cat, you are able to come by the door, which I could not do using all my spells? You did not pay attention to Winged Lion’s words about the special protection for Black Cat and about the sole enemy he had to fight being himself? What is he becomes another Winged Lion?
— He will not for he tied himself up into a knot – way too much, — said Leprechaun softly. – He will hardly be one of us but he is easy to turn into our weapon without even knowing it. So far he is just falling down.
— Well, we have to wait and see, — said Ancient Serpent thoughtfully. And he cautiously exited through the door, coming by which he had lost all hope.
By the door, there was a luxurious carriage waiting to take him to the palace of the provisional government stationed in the home of Governor Leprechaun.
BLACK CAT AND YELLOW CAT
Finally, Black Cat managed to find his wife in the crowd. Yellow Cat sat on the ground and cried bitterly.
— What happened, my dear? – caringly asked her husband.
— You are one hopeless idiot! — murmured she in response and kept sobbing. – You managed to oppose both Winged Lion and the new power! What will come of us?
— Nothing special. Everything will be alright. Now – as you heard – an honest election will be held, I am most likely to be a candidate for President. I don’t think I will stay out of job in case I am not elected. All the more so, my work will be a lot more interesting than before: back then, I worked for pleasure while now I will have to work for survival. This is one of the great achievements of democracy: it does not allow one to relax but requires staying at the limit of one’s vitality and opportunity not for the sake of ephemerality but for survival. Is it not what you have been dreaming about when nodding approvingly as you listened to my conversations with philosopher Hun Potz, Dragon Zi, and Fox?
— You fool! – lamented Yellow Cat loudly. – My dreams were about our prosperous life – like them, and about a mansion and servants and my diamonds – like Fox Alice has – and not studs like I have to wear! But I have never dreamt and could never even have it in my worst night dream that your abnormal brain will bear a cretinistic thought about the changes aiming not at a better life for us but at a worse life because some cretinistic tetterous cat, who imagined himself a tiger, was having too good a life according to his stupid idea – so he could not feel a taste for life! What taste for life are we talking about – you need to be taken to the veterinary clinic and be locked there in a ward for crazy animals till the end of your worthless life! Oh poor me! Oh unfortunate me! How did I manage to spoil my life with this marriage! What wonderful cats were romancing me! White Cat was so handsome and intelligent; Red Cat is now having a three-storied mansion and his wife is sparkling in her gold. As for me – I married this black monster!
It was not quite pleasant to Black Cat to hear all this, especially with half the crowd still being there; a few muskrat beavers were watching the hysterics of Prime Minister’s wife with interest. He was however used to his wife being the one of concern and the only thing left to him was to put up with it. So the Cat just patted her on the head and told her to calm down and to go home with him.
— What are you talking about – I cannot walk! – resented Yellow Cat. – Don’t you see that because of you, scoundrel, I have no strength left and you do not own a carriage even now that you are Prime Minister! Look at you – a one-time Minister! Go find a carriage!
Black Cat calmly explained to his wife that true, he did not own a carriage; moreover, he was strongly against this philistinism in a free society. After all — in case she remembered – even Winged Lion and Governor Tiger could do without a carriage as they did not find it appropriate for someone to carry your precious self (automobiles were not yet shipped to Animal Land). The carriages of government officials – according to the administrative codes adopted by leprechauns and goblins – were usually drawn by animals having committed a certain offence as that was their punishment. Although, Winged Lion proposed an amendment, according to which this kind of punishment could not exceed two weeks. But thanks to the efforts of leprechauns and goblins as Governors and of their numerous deputies and assistants, there were lots of those, who volunteered to do the job for a meager salary. And that was their free choice, with which Tsar could not do anything except often saying how bad it was to ride in a carriage.
— They lived in a totally different world. And your new friends have another opinion!
— They are not my friends! – disagreed Black Cat. – Again and again disappointment hits me. And I am not riding in a carriage even if I become President!
— And how about now? How are you going to take me home?
— Let me think, — laughed Prime Minister, who learned during the many years of his married life to tell his wife’s true being unwell from false. – Two options to choose from. First – I will carry you in my arms. I used to be able to do it – long time ago, before our marriage. But now – probably because of the bad life with me – your weight has exceeded mine. Still, I am a cat but not an ant – this means I cannot lift a weight bigger than my own. Option two: I will go home and get a hand cart, which I use for transporting fertilizers to our vegetable garden, and take you home in it. You choose.
Yellow Cat knew that her husband could very well go and get the cart, in which he carried manure and peat. So she grumbled she was feeling better and dragged herself home hanging heavily on Black Cat, whom she all the way cursed and insulted in every known manner, while he only chuckled.
BLACK CAT AND ANCIENT SERPENT
Ancient Serpent entered the conference room of the provisional government. He felt that his former power was growing in him with every minute – the one that Winged Lion had deprived him of. The surrounding leprechauns, goblins, dragons, and theromorphs started sensing the dread arising from their Lord.
— And so, where is this Black Cat? – hissed Ancient Serpent. – I need to understand what to expect of him as – if I get this right – he represents the only danger to us.
— We’ll find him in no time, My Lord, — said Leprechaun obligingly.
At once, a special messenger was sent to the capital residence of Prime Minister. It was quite a small house of two rooms; in the yard there was a tiny vegetable garden, where Cat liked to work when he had some free time. Winged Lion presented it to Black Cat ten years ago for Him and Governor Tiger to have a place to stay during their visits to the capital. This little structure could in no way be compared to the palaces housing the capital office of other governors. However, they were all located close by, so in no more than half an hour Prime Minister, light on his feet, was in the conference room of the provisional government.
— Glad to see you, — hissed Ancient Serpent as he looked Black Cat straight into the eyes intently. As usual, he was trying to look inside the interlocutor to see his thoughts and desires, and to settle fear, hopelessness and despair in his soul. However, this time he failed – the cat was closed for him with the protection granted by Winged Lion.
— Me too, — calmly said Prime Minister. – Have you heard already that these guys want to make you President?
Ancient Serpent was a little taken aback by the directness of Black Cat but he followed his down-to-earth tone of his.
— Yes, of course, I have. But you know it seems to me that during my imprisonment in that jail for political offenders I have been so much behind events – so what kind of President can I make? You will probably fit better: but for you, we all would have continued to rust under Tsar’s pressure and wouldn’t even think of democracy.
— Actually, no one was rusting except for you – every one of them lived like a bourgeois, — Black Cat (who took several shot glasses of valerian before leaving his home) waived his paw at the horror-stricken members of the provisional government. – My life was alright too, I just wanted some changes, some fresh winds, you know…
— Oh I do promise them to you! So – do you want to be President?
— I will run as a candidate and then it will be up to the people to decide. I used to read somewhere that people have the kind of power they deserve.
— You read some wrong books, — shrunk Ancient Serpent. – You’d rather read something more true to life: on liberal values and democratic rights…
— We have Hun Potz for it, as for me – I only know about this from his retelling.
On hearing this, Ancient Serpent fairly livened up.
— Is it because of Hun Potz and his stories that you decided to turn upside down the whole world where you used to live?
— Well, actually…I don’t know how it happened this way.
Ancient Serpent finally spotted something in Black Cat’s heart to hook him on.
— I see something in you… Did you really want me to make you a tiger?
Black Cat’s soul experienced minute-long turmoil; during this minute everybody in the room tensed up. It felt like in another minute the whole room would explode.
— Well, no, — finally said Black Cat. – I asked Winged Lion for it but He said that only I could make myself a tiger and that I would not look like one.
Ancient Serpent realized during this minute that he would not be able to turn this very cat into a tiger. In spite of all his unique abilities to do magic, he generally could not alter the quiddity of things. He could only make others believe that they saw the new image of the person in question that he had created so that the person perceived himself as that final image. But even this was not possible in case of Winged Lion’s protection. That is why Ancient Serpent decided to make Black Cat a laughing stock for everybody so no one could even think later that he could bring salvation.
— You have made a tiger of yourself! – pronounced Ancient Serpent.
— How come?
— Of course you have: who of all cats could change the current regime and become the head of the provisional government? You sure are a tiger! But there is one little obstacle…
— What is it?
— The thing is that according to the most-super-scientific tractate of academician Hun Potz, in this case the word ‘tiger’ should be accompanied by ‘pygmy’. Do you agree to be entitled Black Pygmy Tiger?
— Well, I don’t know… Generally speaking, I don’t object to it, — murmured Black Cat condusedly.
— Perfect! Over here, we all are the legitimate power and you are its Head. All we need is to sign the act of the provisional government.
— Well, let them prepare it, — said Prime Minister perplexedly.
— Everything is ready. Here is the act, — theromorph Hun Potz gave him a roll of toilet paper all covered with tiny little letters. He managed to compose the act and to take it down in some three minutes: so acute became his abilities in the presence of his master.
— Why the toilet paper again? So silly, — said Black Cat discontentedly.
— This is actually not toilet paper, this is a kind of a scroll, — said Ancient Serpent as his eyes were shining. He would probably be roaring with laughter now in case he was able to laugh. – It’s just that your imperfect industry cannot manufacture scrolls so we have to use what looks like them. And all important papers should be executed on scrolls – there is a direct instruction on that in another tractate of academician Hun Potz. Papers of little significance – like a decision on my amnesty – can be written on plain paper but those truly important documents like this or the electoral law… They will simply become invalid if written otherwise than on scrolls!
And Black Cat — persuaded by these reasons — signed the act thus becoming Black Pygmy Tiger.
— You please write those tractates that I mentioned or else this jerk will want to check it, — said Ancient Serpent to the theromorph some time after the door closed behind Black Pygmy Tiger. And he added addressing all:
— Looks like our rule is coming for a long time!
And he eyes sparkled with malicious exultation.
At first all Governors of Animal Land provinces wanted Ancient Serpent to be their candidate for President. But he instructed them to arrange for a competitor — Black Pygmy Tiger, so three of them must nominate one candidacy and two – the other.
Election was a new matter for Animal Land; the single copy of the electoral law about how to hold it was written on a roll of toilet paper, and nobody had ever seen it since it was demonstrated to people in the square. That explains why there was no actual need to hold it, all the more so — Ancient Serpent made it quite clear that his legitimacy arouse of a totally different source rather than the liking of the crowd.
However, to him the election had a lot more significance than just a formal proof of the public recognition of his power; he attached some symbolic and mystical meaning to it. Ancient Serpent wanted every dweller of the country to make a voluntary choice between him and his regime, and what had been left of the former Animal Land represented by Black Pygmy Tiger. This was necessary for him to acquire the power over life and consciousness of the people to the full extent.
That is why before the election, a huge information campaign was held. Every animal-lander received a newspaper covering the two candidates, who ran for presidency.
As many as three pages were allowed for Black Pygmy Tiger. The text was compiled by theromorph Hun Potz. If Prime Minister chose to be exasperated by this text, i.e. it was not for but against him, he would need a lot of art to prove it. At the same time, the text conveyed a message that Black Pygmy Tiger brought to ruin all those loving and trusting him. Without noticing it, he betrayed Winged Lion, caused the death of Governor Tiger and was torturing his wife. He found it interesting to go through various challenges and for the sake of this interest he would be risking the future of the whole country in case he became President, while Ancient Serpent was the guarantor of the former power’s succession and its heir. If somebody was missing the times of Winged Lion, he should make his choice in favor of our current Prime Minister. Doing this, one should realize that it was not going to be what it used to, and the new name of Black Cat which he voluntarily accepted was another proof to that.
As for Ancient Serpent, he was depicted on the last page, and the comment ran, “Aren’t you scared to be my enemy? Think before you vote!” He put a huge load of magic into the picture and the words so that everyone felt alarmist fear on seeing them. No one of those who saw the paper – and the members of the provisional government tried hard to make every animal-lander see it – had any doubts about whom to vote for.
Black Pygmy Tiger was a symbol of instability and lack of understanding what he actually needed, he was ready to sacrifice his dearest and nearest for the sake of some ideas, which he did not quite comprehend himself. What good could he bring? Even if he could, would he protect those supporting him against the anger of Ancient Serpent?
As a result, Black Pygmy Tiger had only two votes in his favor – his own as he totally lacked fear due to the Winged Lion’s protection and Yellow Cat’s, who did not read newspapers on principle thus avoiding the epidemics of the dread relayed through them. And Ancient Serpent forbade forcing her to read the newspaper – by fear or pressure – like it was done to many other people of the country.
— If his wife turned away from him, it would be definitely good for my plans. But what if she chose her husband even in this case? – He asked his advisors. – Have you thought what could happen then? She – who always lived for her whimsies and material desires – would fight her fear for the sake of her husband? Meanwhile, the current state of things is even funny: he wants to continue wearing his wig and camisole and she still hopes to get wealth and glory.
Ancient Serpent was elected President of Animal Land and the results of the election made him very happy. To strengthen his triumph, he called for Black Pygmy Tiger and in the presence of all members of a newly formed government thanked him for not only releasing him from prison but also for the opportunity of taking part in a practically fair election. And though there was three times as much campaigning for Black Pygmy Tiger, the people still made their choice like this and nothing else. Ancient Serpent would like his electoral competitor to be among the members of his government but as he had not hoped to win so he had promised all the government positions to those, who had supported him. The only position to offer was the one of Minister of Public Toilets Supervision but they were to be discontinued soon….
— Then this entire country will turn one public toilet, and its Minister will have enormous power, — taunted Black Pygmy Tiger.
— What a clever one you are! – exclaimed Ancient Serpent. – What wonderful advice: to treat the whole country as a public toilet! Even I couldn’t think of it! So it’s settled: you are appointed a presidential counselor. With this advice, you have earned your salary for the first two years – you are granted a two-year leave, during which you and your wife will not lack anything. And then we will see…
And the look of President became so wolfish that one could understand: in two years’ time, Black Pygmy Tiger should expect nothing good.
WHAT ANCIENT SERPENT DID TO ANIMAL LAND
Soon after the election, the country started to experience changes. It’s not that they occurred overnight. Every single day something happened and caused a radical change in this used-to-be beautiful country.
Native animal-landers had to get used to a totally different life. Before, they knew there was Tsar, who cared for them to have food and drinks, clothing and accommodation, and all the misunderstandings and quarrels were settled by Him without formal judicature. There were few police officers, who basically did the paperwork for those coming from other countries; occasionally, they had to interfere and deal with people’s conflicts but this was rare. Criminality was hardly known; the biggest accident was a little fight between two intoxicated companions. While under Winged Lion, Animal Land did not know any theft, robbery, murder, or raping.
Now, nobody cared if the talking animals were fed or dying of hunger. The former small pay for accommodation was raised little by little but on a regular basis — every two months — and in a year’s time it became quite substantial. In a year and a half nearly none of common citizens could afford new clothing. Then appeared a whole lot of police officers, prosecutors, and judges. We need to say that they were doing their jobs: criminality did not only appear in Animal Land but flourished due to massive immigration from Goblinland, Leprechaunia, and Beastland. On the outside, Ancient Serpent did not approve of it: vice versa — during his first year of presidency, he built over ten prisons. To tell the truth, those were filled mainly with miserable talking animals having stolen — because of hunger – some food from a store opened by a non-resident leprechaun or troll, or having stopped paying the rent.
Before, animal-landers were very virtuous. But according to the instruction of President, Minister Hun Potz started television in the country. He took special care to promote a TV project called The Hole. Its idea was to bring ten and a half absolutely immoral animals of all breeds from Goblinland and Beastland that were losing their ability to speak and were turning into dumb animals. They were provided with luxurious accommodation, free food, and their only task was to copulate, and the more incompatible the breeds were the happier Hun Potz became. All this beastliness was videorecorded around the clock and the broadcast of the ugliest moments was country-wide. And it was presented in such a way: love can cross the intraspecies borders and if, for example, an ox and a mouse fell in love with each other, they should surrender to their feelings and avoid all taboos and it did not matter if the mouse died because of it…
Animal Land never knew prostitution. And now by promising posh and carefree life pander-goblins ensnared beautiful cats and foxes into most scary brothels of Goblinland where those miserable creatures died in half a year on the average; and death was an escape compared to the nightmare they had to go through.
Besides, after two years of this kind of life accompanied by a constant TV propaganda, many young females of Animal Land refused to have children – some because they did not want to doom them to suffering, others – because they did not want any obstacles on their way to high life. Ancient Serpent and his government encouraged this in every way: sterilization was free of charge plus those doing it got some quite definite and substantial privileges. As academician Hun Potz used to say in private, his goal was to downsize the former animal-landers to no more than 30% within thirty years’ time.
Under Winged Lion, very few of animal-landers consumed alcohol or smoked. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule – like a cat named Foolish Animal – but they were scarce. According to the order of Ancient Serpent, alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine were announced social goods, whose prices were regulated by the government so they were easily accessible. Along with that, the native animal-landers, who developed some kind of addiction, were made a laughing stock in order to instill inadequacy in the people living in Animal Land. TV would over and over again show a video clip, in which Foolish Animal having no money even for cheapest cigarettes took a piece of his own dry scat in his mouth and swore that at least the taste of it was practically the same as his usual tobacco brand. After this, he received a year-long coupon for free booze and smoke, and he appeared on TV declaring that at last he got a wonderful life.
Ancient Serpent also saw to it that a civil society formed in Animal Land. The term had the following meaning. Besides the branchy network of state-run uniformed services, there appeared as large and branchy network of non-government power services with armed soldiers and even units to use in case of redistribution of property or spheres of influence. According to academician theromorph Hun Potz, this proved the high level of culture and public spirit of new animal-landers, who were able to solve most complicated issued without the interference of the state. Accompanying victims were considered just outgivings unavoidable in such a vague project as building a new world of freedom and flourishing.
By the end of the third year of Ancient Serpent’s rule, it seemed that Animal Land would soon perish and the days were numbered.
WHAT BECAME OF BLACK PYGMY TIGER
Over the years, Black Pygmy Tiger severely changed. He was carrying with him – nearly at all times – a flask with valeriana mixed with water and would take a sip every now and then. During the first two years, he received a good salary so Prime Minister did not feel the poverty of his people. However, he saw that things were not done like he would want them to. Black Pygmy Tiger tried to see Ancient Serpent but was denied a meeting. He then tried to write to him and got a mocking answer saying that another stupid piece of advice like that and the counselor would be fired – naturally, without pay. His powerlessness prompted more and more drinking.
Yellow Cat grievingly recalled the time when her husband was always at work constantly helping someone. Back then, they did not lack anything. Moreover, Yellow Cat had all she wanted except she was not able to treasure it or at least notice. Right now she had difficult times. She used to bug her husband all day long and did not know the limit; now he would get drunk and start telling her all sorts of bad things. Drunken Black Pygmy Tiger was good at finding something to say about every drawback of his wife. He compared her to her friends and said he was sorry to have chosen her while missing those other beautiful ones. He accused her of being unable to master the house; he took away all the money and spent it on booze while Yellow Cat did not have enough to pay even for the simplest food, forget the jewelry or outfits. When she tried to voice it, her husband shouted at her – “don’t you — bad sort — dare counting another person’s money in another person’s pocket”. Black Pygmy Tiger would constantly reproach his wife for not working.
He developed a liking to TV and especially to the Hole project. The longer this kind of life lasted, the more it was appealing to the former Black Cat. He thought all was good around him and it served the talking animals right and it was them, who chose this lifestyle.
With great pleasure Ancient Serpent watched the daily weakening of the protection given by Winged Lion to the one, whom he, Winged Lion, used to call “Animal Land’s hope of deliverance”.
In two years’ time, President discharged Black Pygmy Tiger from the counselor’s position though cautious Hun Potz advised him against it.
— It’s not a way to act, — said the theromorph. – Right now he is not limited in anything, he is constantly in the altered state of consciousness, and things look right to him. But once he feels how bad the life of others is and – god save – becomes sober, won’t he want to change? Won’t it be dangerous?
— Nonsense! – waved him aside Ancient Serpent. – I don’t pay a pound for a penny worth. He came up to the point of no return. But you are right; we shouldn’t take his booze away from him. Neither should we take his shelter away as well as his TV or else he can start thinking.
And Black Pygmy Tiger was deprived of his salary but — according to the Act on Cat-stock prepared by Hun Potz – was provided with unlimited and free alcohol. And this was it. This Act ran that those cats, who were drunk to the premises and lost interest to anything else, should be provided with state support of free alcohol and paid rent. Their wives – in cases they could not work – got the title of “schnook cats” and the right to live on handouts. For the Act not to become too much of a burden for the public purse, the list of cat-stock attached to the Act only included Black Pygmy Tiger and Foolish Animal.
So Yellow Cat, who used to be proud and arrogant, turned into a schnook cat. She had to beg help from those, whom her husband used to help. To her great surprise, there were people, who started helping her a little even though they were in need themselves. Step by step, Yellow Cat finally learned what it meant to be grateful and how much joy little things could bring. She was ashamed of her past. At night, before going to bed, she wept as she asked pardon from Winged Lion:
— What a fool I was! How could I behave like that! My dear Winged Lion, if you can hear me – please forgive me! So much would I want to get back that life of mine but I would not be the same!
Being in the palace of Great Emperor, Winged Lion heard her cry and was crying himself – with joy. He knew that if Yellow Cat got back what she had lost, she would again became her previous self – arrogant, proud, and displeased with everything. But the fact of her heart being open for gratitude and repentance instilled a hope in Winged Lion – the hope that Black Pygmy Tiger was able to change too which meant that not all was yet lost for his beloved Animal Land. “Strange was the choice of Great Emperor, — thought Winged Lion. – How could he make the future of the whole nation depend on such a true cat-stock – as Hun Potz aptly called him!”
As for Black Pygmy Tiger, he had been heavily drinking for a whole month by then while hardly eating anything as he was penniless — but for Yellow Cat, who equally shared between the two of them what she managed to get by begging. The protection given by Winged Lion vanished. For Black Pygmy Tiger, the time came to make his last and ultimate choice, depending on which was his own life and the future of Animal Land.
Ancient Serpent made a decision to finish Black Pygmy Tiger so that no one stood in his way to the unlimited power over Animal Land. He called for Vinal Serpents, who were transparent creatures entering a person’s brain that was prepared for this by alcohol or drugs; in the brain, they produced the images that they needed, scaring the brain’s owner and often bringing him to suicide. Those Vinal Serpents were hardly likely to be seen by anyone, the majority of animal-landers thought them non-existent. It was them who got Ancient Serpent’s errand to attack the former Black Cat.
It was Black Pygmy Tiger’s first day without drinking. In the middle of the night, he awoke from the awful music sounding in his head. Terrible faces floated before his dimmed eyes. “Drunk to the premises!” – he thought and tried to go back to sleep. But his phantoms were becoming more persistent and frightening.
One after another came the events of his life and every bad act of Black Pygmy Tiger was known to Vinal Serpents, who had been watching him since he first tried alcohol; now they undertook an open attack on him – as instructed by their master.
With his mind’s eye, the sick cat saw Governor Tiger telling him he could not be forgiven, and Winged Lion stating there was no Black Cat any more and Black Pygmy Tiger was his enemy, and a dimmed blinking image of Great Emperor vaticinating there was no sense in a life like this… Right next came Ancient Serpent hissing that it would only take some poison to make everything be alright. The following image was a picture of a palace where Black Pygmy Tiger would live in clover with lots of servants and all sorts of honors…
The unhealthy cat overcame this all and firmly said, “No!” Then in his mind, he had a kind of a documentary featuring the most terrible sufferings of animal-landers. And they all cursed Black Pygmy Tiger saying it was his fault. They all demanded punishment for him…
However, the sick cat produced a different reaction from what Ancient Serpent expected of him. All of a sudden he felt is if the shell casting his soul burst. For the first time over recent years, deep in his heart he felt sincere repentance and desire to fix all the evil he had done. And then he saw Vinal Serpents.
On noticing that, the Head of them said it was all useless now that he saw them, and there was no point in repentance, Winged Lion would not forgive him anyway, he had no protection anymore otherwise he would not see Vinal Serpents. He would just spend the rest of his days in a veterinary clinic, and that was it… Or, if he wanted to prove his loyalty to Winged Lion he should immediately reject the name of Black Pygmy Tiger and come out of the house. Waiting for him in the yard were those who wanted to shoot him for his still remembering Black Pygmy Tiger…
— Yes, I am Black Cat again! – declared the one, who had been Black Pygmy Tiger a minute ago. – And I am prepared to die for my friend Winged Lion!
With these words, he jumped outside. But there – in the mist of the night – he did not see any murderers but felt Winged Lion being close to him again — with his protection. And Vinal Serpents stepped away from him…
… Black Cat spent a whole week in bed suffering from burning ague and his wife was hardily nursing him…She would give him water and broth and a little wine during the first three days – according to the advice of Foolish Animal, who thought himself a friend of Black Cat and a great specialist in treating this kind of ailments. On the forth day, her husband started looking himself again, was able to have some food and said he was not having a drop of alcohol anymore. On the fifth day, he asked Yellow Cat to forgive him. He said that instead of being his little tiny tiger doing nothing and being spoilt she only had mishaps and troubles because of his career, of which she had been dreaming for so long. But it was all going to change soon.
Ancient Serpent was very angry: Black Pygmy Tiger did not just evade dying but became Black Cat again and got back the protection of Winged Lion. Meanwhile, his three-year presidency term was about to end.
BLACK CAT AND HIS NEW JOB
As he got sober and was recovering from his illness, Black Cat realized that his wife and he were in utter financial need. Yellow Cat nearly forgot what a good life was like but hoped that they would be well off again as soon as her husband recovered.
However, it was not so easy. Ancient Serpent tried hard to prevent Black Cat from any employment so he had to live by occasional earnings, which were hardly enough for the cat family to buy food and pay rent; as soon as Black Cat stopped drinking, he lost his cat-stock privilege. He had to work day and night for a token payment but he did not get cast down. In this, he saw not only the beginning of his own betterment but also his connection with the future of Animal Land and its people.
So far he had no idea on how to fix what he had done to the country. To begin with, Black Cat decided to make the life of Yellow Cat better. She was unhappy with her husband working day and night without any visible effect in terms of financial stability; however, she did not voice it. After all, she did not have to beg any more and she was never hungry these days; in their home, there was always simple inexpensive food so the cat would even share some with the hungry next-door kittens – to the discontent of his wife.
— We do not have things to eat ourselves! – said she petulantly. — We are poor and it is us who needs help! We have not produced those kittens so why should I give them my last food?
— Not the last one, — softly corrected her the cat. – And when you were a true beggar, you were helped – remember, you told me about it. And now – if not the excess we have but still there is something to support those in a desperate state.
Yellow Cat was hurt but did not know what to say in return. True — to her great surprise – quite poor (to her mind) talking animals helped her many times being grateful for what Black Cat had done to them before.
— See, — concluded he as he waited for his wife to calm down, — nothing good we have done ever vanishes. But nothing evil, unfortunately, does either… — here he gave a bitter sigh. – That is why we need to hurry to do good things till we have this chance.
At first, the neighbors and those, with whom he was doing his simple job and – later – more and more animal-landers started noticing the changes about Black Cat. He could not help them as he used to when being Deputy Governor but everybody knew his not-long-ago desperate state and his current complicated position. That is why even the smallest help he was able to render was taken as something special. In Animal Land, they nearly forgot how to support those in need. We also need to say that it is for a reason that Yellow Cat was surprised when being helped. Animal-landers were becoming cruel-hearted, and ungrateful while justifying this with the hard life they were having. And now Black Cat was giving them an example of how one could help those having a harder life – even in his own difficult situation.
This happened at the same time as Ancient Serpent’s presidential term was coming to an end. Rumors appeared that Winged Lion might probably come back to the country. Most definitely, President did not like this. However, he was not able to do any harm to the cat directly as he had had Winged Lion’s protection back. So it was decided to act in a different way.
Once a knock came on Black Cat’s door. On opening it he saw some strange — and very grave — animal.
— I am Mr. Muskrat Beaver, — he introduced himself. – I have important things to tell you.
The cat treated this kind of cross-breed animals with suspicion. He did not trust them as he considered them to inherit the vices of their parents, who rebelled against natural order of things.
— Do you think that children are responsible for their parents’ mistakes? – Muskrat Beaver caught his look. – Trust me, I do not share their attitude towards this kind of experiments, and not only that – I have decided against having a family of my own so not to allow new innocent sufferers in this world…
Muskrat Beaver kept one thing behind: the main reason for him having no family was an addiction to experiments that were a lot worse than the one resulting in his birth. So Black Cat felt some compassion towards him though the very combination of “Mister” and “Muskrat Beaver” looked extremely funny to him. That did not matter much but how could one blame anyone for the acts of someone other?
— I represent a transnational corporation in this country. We follow your political and public activities with interest. Knowing about your current situation, which is quite desperate, the top management of our company would like to offer some support for you to have a chance not to misapply your strength to useless unqualified work. I am authorized to offer you cooperation.
— What is going to be like?
— We would be interested in your opinion about the reasons for today’s crisis in the country and about possible ways out. This is just analysis that might be published abroad as a book. This is also an opportunity for you to formulate your vision of the issue as you are sure to be thinking about it. We are prepared to pay nicely for this job, — and Muskrat Beaver named the sum that Black Cat could not even dream of even as Prime Minister.
— Are you expecting any problems with President? — asked he as he started thinking about how to use the funds better.
— I don’t think so – he respects our international status, we are totally independent of the local government.
— Whom will I report to?
— To no one, naturally. Only once a month you will hand to me what you have managed to write and will receive the sum that has been announced.
— So it is not the end pay but a monthly one, — the cat was about to say out loud but he restrained himself and only said he agreed but was interested in the person at the head of the corporation.
— Is that so important to you? – smiled Muskrat Beaver. — I do not know more than you do. I am also having a contract with one representative from Beastland. I only know that the board chair of the corporation is extremely influential but that is all. I do know that they always pay in due time and do not ask for more than has been agreed upon. Is that not enough?
— That’s quite enough, you are right, — agreed Black Cat and signed the contract without further thinking.
Muskrat Beaver was not telling lies: he did not know anything about the decision-makers of the corporation, which had its branches in 50 countries. He was at the bottom of the pyramid headed by Ancient Serpent. Why would the country totally under his control need a representative, who would really represent something? And it goes without saying that the decision to support Black Cat was not triggered by compassion. In three months’ time, Ancient Serpent’s presidential term was going to be over so he wanted to know what on Black Cat’s mind was as he again considered him the main threat to his power.
Thanks to the devised trick with the work for the corporation, there was no need to spy or think of some other arts: knowing Black Cat, one could be absolutely sure that he would write everything about himself in a most detailed and scrupulous manner. There was also a hope that on becoming rich for the first time in his life, the cat would get attached to amenities and would not care about the needs of animal-landers.
THE CASTIGATING CAT
After his meeting with Muskrat Beaver, Black Cat had quite some money, which he could use to please any caprice of his wife and to help hundreds of needy animal-landers. The cat decided to act like he always used to. During one day, he bought everything needed in their household over a month and a few inexpensive presents for Yellow Cat; the rest of the funds he used for the assistance to the citizens, who were in the most desperate state.
The hundreds of blessings that Black Cat heard over the day were balanced by the many a curse from Yellow Cat when she knew how much money she had missed. On a second thought, she calmed down: at least, her life was not bad at the moment considering that her husband had bought her some presents for the first time in recent years.
The cat got used to paying no attention to the yelling of his wife: he would have gone mad had he listened to everything she was saying. Right now, he only worried about the best way to do the job, the advance pay for which he had spent.
Holding a pen, Black Cat sat over a stack of white paper and got deep in thought. The country was really perishing before his eyes. He knew that firsthand: over the past years, he was close to common people and knew specific pains of hundreds of families. Alcohol and drug addiction, prostitution, theft, robbery, raping, and murder became routine cases in the country that never knew any of those before. And who is to blame? Of course, Ancient Serpent and his appointed government.
Passionately, the cat started describing all those horrors taking place in Animal Land, depredations of the powers that be and of immigrants from other countries protected by them. He vividly covered broken people, downtrodden lives, and stolen happiness. What was the way out? The answer to this question was harder still.
Black Cat realized only too well that an election under the current regime was nothing but a fiction: stuck in his memory was the roll of toilet paper, on which he had signed the electoral law. If not election then what option is there to change the existing criminal power? A revolution may be? But it was just what Ancient Serpent needed – in order to use armed force ‘rightfully’ and to kill many animal-landers.
The cat was choking with his inability to find a way out of the situation. Then it occurred to him that he should not blame Ancient Serpent and his satellites. Was it not him, who had reposed power in their hands? Was it not him, who had caused the death of Governor Tiger and the voluntary exile of Winged Lion? So maybe it was inside him – and not outside — that he should search for the reason of sorrows hitting Animal Land?
This evening, dozens of talking animals came to visit Black Cat and to thank him for his help once again; he addressed them with the following words:
— What kind of gratitude can there be for me? It’s me to blame for what is happening to the country. However, nothing is going to change just because I admit it. People have the kind of power they deserve. Naïve Animal Land once allowed me to choose for it. But today, its people are not naïve anymore. We had to face a lot of bad things, to learn a true grief and to understand that there are things a lot worse than death. The reason for it all is not just my mistake, or Ancient Serpent’s outrage and his government. If every single one of you seeks an insight into your heart, you too will see something in it that caused all the evil. We all have to repent the errors we have committed over these years. And not just repent but alter our lives as we ruthlessly remove from them all that leads us to the evil. We need to seek forgiveness from Winged Lion for the way we treated Him in the square back then and to ask Him to come back. This is the only chance to bring back happiness to our native land.
The animal-landers listened to him in confusion. Nearly nobody took Black Cat’s words seriously. They did not dare to object to him of course but they thought that it was all due to his abrupt abstinence and the self-castigation that usually follows it. However, two of the crowd approached the cat. Those were the ones, whom he did not only help but really saved them – a young fox, who was to be a slave of old Leprechaun thus paying off her parents’ debts, and an elderly leopard, whom Black Cat bought out of the debtor’s prison.
— I do not remember Winged Lion but I see you, who saved me, and I trust you, — said the Fox. If you say we need to ask Winged Lion for forgiveness then I am ready to do this. I am still young and I haven’t done yet anything special really. But in my heart, I have envied my older friends, who managed to become rich leprechauns’ owned women. And only being at the edge of this abyss, I have changed my mind and I want to go back to calm and pure life – with all my heart. I do not need wealth – clear conscience and freedom are a lot dearer than any gold to me.
— The girl worded it well, – said Leopard, — there is nothing like freedom. But I did not value it. I used to serve in Winged Lion’s police and later – for a short time – I was in Ancient Serpent’s service. But this “short time” was enough to shade my conscience forever with the indelible shame for the numerous bad things I did. I have already been punished for this – all my family died and but for you, Mr. Black Cat, I would have rotten in the debtor’s prison. As opposed to Fox, I do have things to be sorry for but I do hope that I have changed. With all my heart, I dream of Winged Lion being our Tsar again and I pray Him for it.
Following Fox and Leopard, some others – humbly or bravely – started to name the things that burdened them for many years. On doing this, they felt amazing freedom and renovation. Few of those coming to Black Cat’s that day stayed away from the general impulse to repent but preferred to leave quietly. In their hearts, they envied those who stayed as their burden felt much harder to tolerate.
At this very moment Winged Lion saw it all — together with Great Emperor; there were tears in his eyes.
— May I go back to Animal Land yet? – asked he.
— Yes, you may but so far under cover for no one to see you, — answered Great Emperor. — There is a long way for them to manage on their own; as of now, you will have the power to help everyone in Animal Land who appeals for your assistance.
And welled over with joy, Winged Lion flew to His beloved country.
Over the past month, hundreds of animal-landers visited Black Cat as they wanted to repent and to ask Winged Lion to come back. Winged Lion was already in the country but he was invisible to all. Everyone addressing Him received the protection that earlier only Black Cat used to have.
Ancient Serpent was furious.
— All is going down and I see it! – shouted he to theromorph Hun Potz. – Do something to make the cat and all his visitors be considered crazy and asocial!
— We are doing all we can, — answered the minister. – But there is something preventing us from inflicting real harm. Our planted killers depart in horror and cannot find words to describe their visions – so frightened they are. Our attempts of economic damage fail as well – they only need little and share this between them. One more thing: it looks like all their possessions grow on their own and become plentiful… The television and newspaper addresses are becoming less and less effective…
— I feel a close presence of Winged Lion, — said President with anxiety. – I can’t see Him so far but he is definitely here. At a distance, he would not be able to protect so many of them at a time. I only wish Black Cat committed a mistake so we could discredit him… See Muskrat Beaver: let him double the allowance for this month but do it in the presence of Yellow Cat. She may make her husband spend the money on some trifles – then we at least will be able to say that he is no difference from our officials and that he is hen-pecked, too. Being in the hardest situation, the people will at least get irritated and will start distrusting him. We will also have a look at his report for this month.
… Muskrat Beaver came to Black Cat’s and waited for the moment when they were together with Yellow Cat.
— I am here to pay you wages. Is your report ready?
— Here it is, — said the cat with some guilt in his voice and offered him a folder. To the initial description of the country’s sorrows, he only added his vision of a way out in people’s repentance and change. – I do not know whether you will be satisfied with that…
— I am not authorized to assess your work, — contradicted Muskrat Beaver. – Here is your honorarium – you have honestly earned it. And – keep thinking for another month: you may probably come up with something else, which – too – will be paid for. Oh, I keep forgetting to ask – why do you live in a hut like this? Well, today’s payment alone is enough for you to buy a mansion in the center of the capital and to live there well off for several years.
With these words, he intently looked at Yellow Cat, then he gave Black Cat a big envelope with money and left.
A mighty fight arouse in Yellow Cat’s heart. On one hand, she was dying to get a mansion in the capital downtown, on the other – she realized that it was bad timing for desires like that. She saw what was going around her husband and considered it necessary to support him however hard it was for her.
— Will you please buy food for half a year’s time and spend the rest as you find due, — said she and ran out of the room to cry about the mansion that she nearly thought hers without even seeing it.
Black Cat was deeply moved by his wife’s behavior. “Could she have changed forever?!” – thought he. Next to him, stood invisible Winged Lion and smiled: “Hardly likely. As far as she is concerned, one act like this is enough for a lifetime.”
With the money received, Black Cat was able to do so many real things to save scores of animal-landers that other hundreds of them actually felt the changes, which were happening, and repented and asked Winged Lion to return to the country.
Ancient Serpent was even more furious.
— No more money for this filthy cat! Though – does it mean anything now… And look at this Yellow Cat – just to think of her pretending big-hearted! My only consolation is that she may be still hoping for her husband to make it to President this way and she will get even more… Though – hardly likely. We need new ideas, — said he to Hun Potz.
THEROMORPH AND HIS PROVOCATION
The popularity of Black Cat was constantly growing. Winged Lion was invisibly present in the country and spread his protection over those appealing to Him thus making them stay away from any harm. Animal-landers became more daring; their meetings with Black Cat moved to the capital square; then he went to the capitals of other provinces – always being surrounded by numerous talking animals. They asked him questions about various events of their lives.
Theromorph Hun Potz decided to use this opportunity and made his planted agents ask the sort of questions, any answer to which would either make Black Cat short of gravitas or allow to announce him a political offender.
Barely making it through the crowd, Old Fox came up to Black Cat and said that his granddaughter had been sold to a brothel in Goblinland. There were scores of brave people ready to bear arms against bad guys and to save her. All they needed was Cat’s approval to give them strength to carry the plan out.
Black Cat got deep in thought. He had been thinking about how to save female animal-landers from this slavery abroad but he did not like this method. On approving of it, it was only too easy for him to get a name of a terrorist and an international criminal (which was exactly the hope of the theromorph, who had sent Old Fox over). On the other hand, saying “Let it stay this way – we need to put up with it” was against his heart’s desire and very different from what he was expected to. So he said out loud:
— I sympathize with you but this is a complicated problem, the solution to which differs from what you offer. We need to save not just your granddaughter but all others in a similar situation. However, we will be only able to do it after the return of Winged Lion. His strength will be sufficient to save all those suffering abroad as slaves. Our own strength is tiny so far. If we select the path you offered, we will be announced criminals and executed.
Next time, some young Falcon approached Black Cat.
— I am a sniper, — said he. – One word of yours and I will shoot Ancient Serpent. I know of a place with a wonderful view of his residence; he will be an easy target.
Black Cat knew that Ancient Serpent could not be shot or wiped out in any other way. Even if that were possible, how could one try and make something good using methods of terror? Did he have to tell the people about the invulnerability of President as this could frighten many of them? Without the truth, victory is not possible.
— We are not terrorists, — said he out loud. – Everyone, who uses such methods, is going to end like this. All comes back in this world. We need to understand that Ancient Serpent is immune to all attempts to harm him. If we try what you offered we will only increase his strength. Only Great Emperor and Winged Lion, who received His power from him, are able to imprison Serpent so he could not rule us anymore. For this, we have to change and become worthy of Winged Lion’s rule.
Muskrat Beaver made his third visit to Black Cat, one-on-one this time, and told him that the transnational corporation, which he represented, was prepared to fully finance Cat’s presidential campaign as his chances to win were substantial if accompanied by a huge financial support.
— You don’t understand one simple thing, — smiled Black Cat. – This country is ruled by different laws. The choice is done not through pieces of toilet paper put into a box but in the hearts of animal-landers. We will have the kind of power we deserve. And it would be naïve and silly to think that a common cat like me can really rule the country. I can only achieve what I feel is my mission. But I cannot provide Animal Land with either happiness or with peace and safety. Only Winged Lion can do this and I am eagerly waiting for His appearance in the country so I could beg Him for forgiveness and return to rule.
At this moment, Winged Lion was standing behind Black Cat and was blessing him.
THE RETURN OF THE TSAR
By the end of Ancient Serpent’s presidential term, so many animal-landers received the protection of Winged Lion that Black Cat could insist on the new election to be held in the same square, where the exile of Tsar took place. Hun Potz tried to prove that it would be unworkable de jure but even Ancient Serpent did not listen to him. Animal-landers had to make their choice once again but this time nobody could stand in their way.
Once again, a large platform was built; this time only two were standing there — Black Cat and Ancient Serpent. The square seemed to be filled with all the people of Animal land, which was actually not densely populated. However, it was not possible to get through in the square and adjoining blocks – scores of thousands of animal-landers were standing there squeezed up against one another and waiting for their future to be decided.
President was the first to address the people. The magic power of his eyes weakened though he could still excite nondescript horror.
— Can it be true that you all think I was a bad ruler for this country? Can it be true that there are people, who have no fear to become my outright enemies? Can it be true that you don’t know what I do to my enemies? – hissed he.
Here Black Cat interrupted him without fear:
— Same as you do to your friends. No bullying – the time has come for everyone to make his choice. And I suggest that we should not elect new President but that we should all fall on our knees and beg Winged Lion to forgive us and to become our Tsar again.
Inexpressible noise and uproar started – it was produced by goblins and pygmy dinosaurs. But Cat ignored it and fell on his knees; he was followed by more than a half of those in the square. In their name, he appealed to Winged Lion.
The latter was standing right next to Black Cat – invisible for all but protective for those addressing Him. And when the uncoordinated plea of thousands of voices rose in the air, the animal-landers finally saw Winged Lion. Ancient Serpent saw Him too. He was forceless against this rival and could only look at him with hatred.
And Winged Lion addressed the people:
— I am happy that you have changed, my children. You had to go though numerous tries and ordeals to learn to treasure what you had. So many did not make it! How many are those enslaved in other countries? But many of the former are now in the chambers of Great Emperor and the latter became free today for thanks to your prayer I got the power to help them.
With these words, the sky seemed to be covered with a huge cloud. Those were hundreds of mighty eagles carrying on their backs former slaves from Goblinland, Beastland, and Leprechaunia who had been set free. So much joy their relatives had!
Then Winged Lion addressed those, who used to support Ancient Serpent:
— I am offering you a choice between staying here abiding by my laws or moving to those countries, whose laws you understand better.
The majority of leprechauns, goblins, mutants, dinosaurs, theromorphs, crocodiles, and rats decided to emigrate. They were allowed to take all their savings with them and even sell their homes or receive financial compensation from the state; but they had to leave the country in three days’ time as escorted by mighty eagles. Those, who decided to stay, wanted to try and alter and to begin a new life – not in constant anger and fear but in peace and joy.
— You are starting a new life, — Winged Lion addressed the animal-landers. – You will forget about hunger, need, and nasty illnesses, about crimes and fear. For this, you will also have to forget about the vices that possessed you – and this is going to be very hard. But it is necessary as there might be no third chance to start all over again.
Then Tsar turned to Ancient Serpent:
— Once again, we are having the only political offender, aren’t we?
— Can I also leave for another country? – asked Serpent.
— No, as both you and I are tied with Animal Land – and you know it. You could have left when you were President; now you will become a prisoner again. And I will set free many of those, whom you imprisoned for far-fetched crimes.
After this, Winged Lion intently looked at Black Cat, who shrunk and lowered his head at this look.
— There now, — said Tsar in a friendly tone. – Yes, you have caused many disasters in this country but you have also worked for its salvation. So I am not scolding you. Moreover, the country is different now and it needs its Prime Minister. You have had this experience, haven’t you? By the way, the presidential palace seems to be of no use now – I am not used to this kind of lodging while Yellow Cat will be happy as she has always dreamt of a palace, hasn’t she?
Winged Lion searchingly looked at Black Cat and his wife, who came out of the crowd and stood next to her husband when addressed to.
— I do not want any power, all I want is to serve the people again – just like I did when being Deputy Governor under Tiger, — said Black Cat. – That is why I don’t need the palace; I should not revel in my grandeur but be with those, whose life is hard. However, my wife should have her say as it is she, who was offered the palace…
But Yellow Cat embraced Winged Lion and cried:
— Why would we need this palace when we have peace and happiness in our hearts! Well, a three-storied house instead of our current hut would not harm but this is not the reason for being!
Tsar laughed heartily:
— I believe that a three- or even four-storied house for Prime Minister is not luxury but a sign of his status. Did you want to ask me something? — He addressed Black Cat as He saw that something was disturbing him.
— Well, I don’t know…- hesitated Cat. – If I am Prime Minister, may I wear a wig and a camisole?
— Yes, of course, — answered Winged Lion and laughed even more merrily.
— Well, if not, I am not insisting, — Black Cat got completely ill at ease.
And Tsar continued laughing. In front of Him, again were His sweet animal-landers – sincere and funny with their drawbacks — but loving and true and ready to overcome their utmost desires if necessary. And happiness settled in Animal Land again.
C. S. Lewis, a known Christian author and philosopher so explained his choice of a fairy tale for quite a number of his world-famous books, “… they seemed to demand no love interest and no close psychology. But the Form which excludes these things is the fairy tale. And the moment I thought of that I fell in love with the Form itself: its brevity, its severe restraints on description, its flexible traditionalism, its inflexible hostility to all analysis, digression, reflections and ‘gas’… [the Fantastic or Mythical] has the [same] power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies.”
I will not find better words when trying to explain why, too, I have chosen this genre. I have decided to write about what I meant in my “Black Pygmy Tiger” fairy tale because its perception by the first readers varied significantly. Its characters call for some explanation.
Winged Lion in the Guarding Angel of the country, Ancient Serpent is the demon torturing it. Their power depends on which side the people of the country take. Great Emperor is not explicated; this is an element of apothatic theology as it is not clear whether he stands for God or simply some higher Angel. Others – people, talking animals, leprechauns, and goblins – represent different kinds of people.
There is a certain parallelism with Russian history, in particular, with the 1917 abdication of the Russian emperor. Back then, there were people who thought that everything would be just perfect as soon as monarchy ceased in Russia. They replaced the people’s will with their private one thinking they knew better. In reality, it was the beginning of a new period of the country’s suffering.
Black Cat is a complicated character. At the beginning of the fairy tale he has certain traits of an honest state official, who at some point got attracted by mere gewgawry though he was naïve and believed that changes would lead to a better life. As he moves this way, Black Cat starts to consider reforms being good as such. Governor Tiger, who died of sorrow, is a symbol of all the noble there was in imperial Russia – state leaders, who truly loved their motherland and who did not survive the betrayal of those whom they trusted. Leprechauns and goblins around Black Cat show who exactly stands behind revolutions but they cannot receive the power for the take-over. For this, they need Black Cat, who used to have power and authority in the former world. Isn’t it symbolic that it is Cat, who has to set Ancient Serpent free?
Further on, the life of our characters starts resembling today’s Russia or post-war America, and many other countries. Social wrongdoings and crimes grow in numbers as animal-landers move closer to the evil; they become the slaves of Ancient Serpent.
The choice between the good and the evil is set against the choice between political leaders. In the book, this is accented by some characters’ utterances and by the electoral law being written on a roll of toilet paper (scroll). It is also shown that the choice in favor of Ancient Serpent looks easier and safer at first but then leads to a lot of suffering while choosing Winged Lion seems dangerous and impossible but turns out easy and safe.
Black Cat, who released Ancient Serpent, does not accept a change of his inner self from him – a fictitious turning into a tiger; however, he does accept a new name and with it, he goes throughout the entire reprobate period of his life.
His life and the life of Yellow Cat at this time are the same as the life of common people suffering from various things; the one, who creates history, actually has common problems too. On the other hand, depicted is the way from the good to the evil and back again, it is exemplified in a certain person; accented is the meaning of a personality for historical process. One convert helps in converting others and then facilitates changes in the life of entire country.
Two facts are important: Yellow Cat asks for a big house and Black Cat – for a wig and camisole; they prove that even upon reaching a certain degree of spiritual growth, a human does not eliminate some deficiencies of his nature. Another fact – Winged Lion does not deny them what they ask for – means that things like these are not bad in abstracto. However, as soon as the time of trial is over, this leads to other challenges…
I would like to sum it all up with the words of C. S. Lewis, “… at its best it [fairy tale] can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of ‘commenting on life’, can add to it. I am speaking, of course, about the thing itself, not my own attempts at it.”