Monday, June 02, 2014

Who Needs History?

[“El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle] stopped to speak to a group of smart young bucks and does sitting under the elder bloom.

“’We want to find Loosestrife,’ said Rabscuttle.  ‘Can you tell us where his burrow is?’

“’I never heard of him,’ answered one of the bucks.  ‘Are you sure he’s in this warren?’

“’Unless he’s dead,’ said Rabscuttle.  ‘But surely you must have heard of Captain Loosestrife?  He was an officer of the Owsla in the fighting.’

“’What fighting?’ asked another buck.

“’The fighting against King Darzin,’ replied Rabscuttle.

“’Here, do me a favor, old fellow, will you? said the buck.  ‘That fighting – I wasn’t born when it finished.’

“’But surely you know the Owsla captains who were?’ said Rabscuttle.

“’I wouldn’t be seen dead with them,’ said the buck.  ‘What, that white-whiskered old bunch?  What do we want to know about them?’

“’What they did,’ said Rabscuttle.

“’That war lark, old fellow?’ said the first buck.  ‘That’s all finished now.  That’s got nothing to do with us.’

“’If this Loosestrife fought King What’s-His-Name, that’s his business,’ said one of the does.  It’s not our business is it?’

“’It was all a very wicked thing,’ said another doe.  ‘Shameful, really.  If nobody fought in wars, there wouldn’t be any, would there?  But you can’t get old rabbits to see that.’

“’My father was in it,’ said the second buck.  ‘He gets on about it sometimes.  I always go out quick.  “They did this and then we did that” and all that caper.  Makes you curl up, honest.  Poor old geezer, you’d think he’d want to forget about it.  I reckon he makes half of it up.  And where did it get him, tell me that?’

“El-ahrairah went along the hedgerow to the wood and sat alone under a nut bush, looking out across the fields.  As the light began to fail, he suddenly realized that Lord Frith was close beside him, among the leaves.

“’Are you angry, El-ahrairah?’ asked Lord Frith.

“’No, my lord,’ replied El-ahrairah, ‘I am not angry.  But I have learned that with creatures one loves, suffering is not the only thing for which one may pity them.  A rabbit who does not know when a gift has made him safe is poorer than a slug, even though he may think otherwise himself.’”

“El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inlé,” Watership Down

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