A Guide to the Microfables

Now that this project has really gotten going (over 200 drabbles at the site so far!), I've written this guide to what's going on. :-)

Adding new stories. I'm trying to add at least a few new stories every day. That's a virtue of microfables: it doesn't take too much time to do that! Then, when summer comes, I hope to be able to prepare some OER books and teaching materials based on what I've accumulated, plus stories I can write this summer. If you want to get the new stories by email, there's a subscription link in the sidebar.

Focus on fables and parables. My main focus is on wisdom tales from different traditions. I need to write up an essay on just what that means, along with some thoughts about the ways in which these types of stories are similar to but also different from modern literary fiction. Aesop's fables are my academic specialty, and I've been working on this genre for a long time! I'm also very interested in Nasruddin stories and Sufi traditions of the Middle East, along with Indian story traditions, including the Jatakas, Panchatantra, and other Indian folktales.

An epic experiment. In conjunction with the course on Epics of India which I'm teaching this semester, I'm retelling episodes from the Indian epics in the form of these tiny stories; right now, I'm working on the Ramayana. Unlike the fables and parables, these epic stories fit into a larger overall narrative. (As a long-term experiment, I'm wondering if I could do versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata told as a long series of short episodes; this experiment is a first test to see how practical that might be.)

African American folktales. Last summer, I worked on Brer Rabbit and African American folktales all summer long. I'm not sure yet how many of those stories will be amenable to the 100-word format, but that is a big goal for me. I probably won't start working on the African and African American materials until this summer, but I am really excited to do that. (Here is my Brer Rabbit site.)

Randomizing Widgets. I like making randomizers (this whole project started out as a Nasruddin randomizer!), so as I create new subcollections here, I make randomizers for them. You can browse the randomizers and use them at your own website or blog. They will work anywhere that javascript is allowed, and if you need a trick to make them display inside an LMS like Canvas, just let me know, and I can show you how to do that.

Twitter. I'm trying to remember to post a new story every day at Twitter, and here's a view of the stories I've posted at Twitter so far.

Okay.... I think that's all! I'll keep this post pinned to the front page, and I'll update it with any new news. :-)

Ganesha and the Cat

One day little Ganesha found a cat in the woods. He grabbed her tail, and then he let the cat go and chased her. The poor cat ran straight into a mud puddle.
Ganesha laughed at the cat covered with mud. He then went home to tell his mother Parvati what had happened, but when he got there, he saw she too was covered with mud!
"Who did this?" asked Ganesha.
"You did," Parvati explained. "I am all life, and all life is me."
Ganesha bowed his head. "I will treat all life with respect from now on," he vowed.


Inspired byStories of Lord Ganesha
Notes: You can read more about the goddess Parvati, Ganesha's mother, at Wikipedia.

The Donkey and the Tiger-Skin

There was a laundryman who had a donkey. One day, the laundryman found a tiger-skin in the jungle. He put the tiger-skin on the donkey. This scared the farmers, and the donkey was able to graze in the barley-fields at night. The donkey got fat, eating his fill every night.
But one night, the donkey heard the bray of a she-donkey, and he could not resist; he also started to bray!
The farmers realized this was not a tiger, but a donkey, so they beat the poor creature and drove him away from the fields.


Inspired by: The Panchatantra, translated by Arthur Ryder.
Notes: This also appears as a Jataka tale: A Dressed-Up Donkey.



Ganesha's Race around the World

Shiva and Parvati had two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. The gods brought a divine fruit for the wisest son. Who would it be? Shiva told the boys to race around the world three times. "Who wins the race gets the fruit!"
Kartikeya was confident; the peacock was his vehicle, and he himself was strong and fast. Ganesha was slow and fat, and his vehicle was a little mouse.
Kartikeya zoomed away at top speed.
Ganesha, however, walked three times around his parents. "You are my world," he said.
Ganesha won the prize, and even Kartikeya had to admire his wisdom.


Inspired byStories of Lord Ganesha
Notes: This is how Ganesha won his divine title of vighnaharta, obstacle-remover. There is currently a television show in India called Vighnaharta Ganesh.



The Fox and the Dragon

A fox digging in the ground found herself in a dragon's den filled with golden treasure.
"I beg your pardon," she said to the dragon. "I ended up here by accident, and I'll be on my way. Before I go, though, I'd like to know just what you plan to do with all this treasure?"
"I have no use for the treasure," said the dragon. "But it is my fate to spend my life here guarding the treasure, night and day." "
Then you are a wretched creature indeed," replied the fox. "You possess a treasure, but I envy you not."


Inspired by: Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists by Roger L'Estrange, 475.
Notes: This is Perry 518.

Here is an illustration from a 17th-century edition of Phaedrus:



Ganesha the Bachelor

Because of his strange appearance, Ganesha could not find a bride. No one wanted to marry him.
This made Ganesha jealous! In his anger, he ordered the rats to dig holes in the road wherever a god was on his way to get married. The rats dug so many holes and the holes were so deep that none of the gods could reach their brides.
To appease Ganesha, Brahma created two beautiful brides for him: Riddi (wealth) and Siddhi (perfection).
Ganesha was married at last, and he no longer troubled the other gods as they journeyed to their own weddings.


Inspired byStories of Lord Ganesha
Notes: You can read about Ganesha's consorts at Wikipedia.

The Men in the Kingdom of the Monkeys

Two friends, one truthful and one a liar, wandered into the Kingdom of the Monkeys. Monkeys captured them and brought them to their king.
"Behold my court!" said the Monkey-King. "Aren't we a magnificent sight?"
"The splendor of your court is dazzling," said the liar. "I've never seen anything so magnificent."
The Monkey-King beamed with pleasure. "And what do you say?" he inquired, turning to the other man.
"Why, you're nothing but a monkey, and so are all your courtiers," he replied.
The Monkey-King shrieked with rage. "Kill him!" he shouted.
Telling the truth is not always the safest course.


Inspired by: Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists by Roger L'Estrange, 413.
Notes: This is Perry 569.

Here is an illustration from Steinhowel's Aesop:



The Lion's Army

There was a mighty war between the beasts and the birds, and the lion had taken command of the army of beasts, with tigers and bears, leopards and wolves, and all sorts of fierce warriors in his ranks.
The donkeys and rabbits wanted to enlist too.
The tigers and bears and other warriors scoffed, but the lion accepted them gladly. "The donkeys will be my trumpeters," he said, "and the rabbits will be my couriers."
The greatest commanders know how to make the best use of all their soldiers, based on the strengths of each and every one.


Inspired by: Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists by Roger L'Estrange, 346.
Notes: This fable is not part of the classical Aesop tradition; find out more here.

Here is an illustration by Billinghurst: