Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Fox and the Crow - An adaptation for EBS Radio's Morning Special (최수진의 모닝스페셜)

For the past few years I've had the pleasure of being a regular guest on EBS radio and this season they very kindly asked me to not only do the news on a Friday, but also join the host Choi Suejin on Sundays to talk about movies, but also to introduce my own adaptations of famous fairy tales and fables. 

You can listen every Sunday morning to 최수진의 모닝스페셜 from 8am to 10am and hear me read them aloud or instead you can use your eyes and peruse them here... And so here's the first tale I adapted, one of Aesop's most famous fables...

Many people agree that one of the world’s most fabulous foods is cheese. Soft or hard, fresh or matured, pale white, bright orange or blue veined. Whether it smells of the pasture where those dairy cows grazed or stinks to high heaven like a pair of wet socks that have been left in your gym bag for weeks on end, there’s no denying that this most marvelous of culinary creations attracts one and all to the dinner table.

Many many years ago a farmer and his family sat down for breakfast. A meal of bread, sausage, fruit and hot coffee, along with the farmer’s very own goats cheese. A meal that may have cost pennies, but was fit for a king or even a crow…

For it was just as the family were about to sit down to enjoy their breakfast that a big black crow flew through the window, snatched up the cheese with her beak and quick as a flash was out of the house and up the apple tree at the end of the farmer’s field.

The farmer and his family were startled, but they had cheese to spare, so after locking their window firmly so that no more thieving birds could intrude they sat down and ate, wondering how such a bird would dare to raid their breakfast table.

Meanwhile, up in the apple tree, the crow was very proud of herself. She hadn’t eaten for a good two days despite searching the shrubs and bushes for rats and mice, and the local pond for frogs. And so, in desperation she had committed her lightning fast crime and would have laughed with glee if not for the cheese held fast in her beak.

The commotion in the farmhouse and the flight to the apple tree had caught the eye of a trespasser - a certain Mr. Fox who would take a bite of whatever and whoever he could get a hold of. Whilst he wasn’t much taken by the skinny crow, he rather liked the look of the cheese she was holding, and so he slowly, slyly made his way to the foot of the apple tree.

“Good morning, my lady,” the fox called to the crow and bowed his head in the most polite of manners. 

The crow did not deign to answer him, just peered at him with her beady eyes. She’d heard about foxes from her mother and knew that whenever those red ruffians were about there was bound to be trouble.

The fox, undeterred, continued to talk to the crow:

“What a fine specimen you are! My word, I’ve not seen a finer crow in all my years. Her feathers shine in the sunlight, glinting like black gold… And her wings are more magnificent than any hawk or eagle. As for her form, why she is like an avian goddess, I would not be surprised if she was corvid royalty or the like.”

It was the first time that the crow had ever heard such poetic words spoken about her. In her short life her only interactions with other animals were to be told to “shove off” or “leave me alone” or “stop that squawking”, but this fine fox seemed absolutely smitten. She felt even prouder - a fine piece of cheese and a collection of compliments all in one morning.

But the fox did not stop there:

“I must declare that this beautiful bird is perfection personified and I only wish I could hear her voice. With such a fine form, she surely must also be the most talented of songbirds. Oh deary me, what I would give for one song from the beak of this beauty. Why, if I heard it I would fall to my knees and declare her the queen of birds.”

The crow was overcome with emotion - “the queen of birds”, could it be true? With just one tune she would prove her worth and gain a title suited to her magnificence. Plus it would be rude not to give such a fine fellow the gift of song he sorely sought.

And so, she lifted her head, opened her beak wide and let out the most outrageously ugly caw. A clamor of squawks and squeaks and squeals came forth as she sang with all her heart. Her moment of glory, her moment in the sun. Images of adoring admirers surrounding her as she performed ran through her head. She would organize a concert in the clearing in the forest. There would be hundreds, no thousands of woodland creatures all aching to hear her voice… And they would bring gifts, the finest mice and rats and frogs and worms, and she’d never have to steal again. Fame at last.

The fox, on the other hand, was busy chewing. He’d caught the cheese in his open mouth, and was enjoying his hard won breakfast. He gulped the cheese down, licked his lips and bowed deeply to the crow.

“You’ve got quite the voice,” said Fox, “but, just between you and me, it’s nothing compared to Freddie Mercury, you’re no queen at all, unless…. I tell you what, I’ll give you a royal title - the queen of fools!”

And with that the fox laughed loudly and went on his way and the crow learnt an important lesson. 

Back at the house, the farmer and his family, mid-breakfast, were suddenly startled by the atrocious song of the crow. 

“Sounds like the stupid bird choked on our cheese,” said the farmer, “Serves her right for stealing off our plates.”

“Never mind her,” said his wife, “I’m more worried about our chickens. I heard from next door there’s a fox on the prowl in this neck of the woods.”

“Not to worry, dear. I’ve a gift for him and that thieving crow.” Replied the farmer, as he finished his final slice of sausage. And with that he stood, picked up his gun and went out to the field to do a little pest control.