The following is in response to Marie De France’s “The Rooster and the Gem.”
The point of this fable is that there is a certain ‘sour-grapes’ attitude that individuals portray if they don’t get what it is that they are in want of or if something doesn’t go according to their initial wishes—like the rooster not being able to enrich the beauty of the gem with gold—then they will recant their initial want or wishes. As Mary Lou Martin put it, “…they do not value good and honor at all but instead take the worst and scorn the best.” The meaning of this fable is very similar to Aesop’s “The Fox and the Grapes” in which—if memory serves me correctly—a fox is unable, after many failed attempts, to reach a patch of grapes in which case he declares that he didn’t want them in the first place, that they were sour.
I like the way that De France makes the gem a character and I admire the way she does it—the rooster not only talks about the gem, he/she talks to the gem and refers to it as you. Simply and effectively, De France adds an extra layer of magic realism to this fable by personifying the gem as a living thing.
Though I posit that Mary Lou Martin’s translation of this fable is accurate, I wish she had attempted to be more lyrical for this piece of flash prose doesn’t flow in the nursery rhyme fashion that Aesop’s fables are usually translated. I could mirror the message in this fable and say that I never enjoyed this fable in the first place because it isn’t as rhythmic as I would like, but I won’t.