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Podcast title Friday Fables
Website URL http://barryjnorthern.blogspot...
Description Friday Fables is a weekly podcast, giving you original, modern fables in the ancient tradition. Each Friday our fables help we humans to see ourselves through the speculative lens of a different animal.
Updated Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:55:18 PDT
Image Friday Fables
Category Arts

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Link to this podcast Friday Fables


1. FFS01 - The Fable of the Spider
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The Fable of the Spider
by Barry J. Northern
Why not listen along to the Fable of the Spider as you read? Just click the play button below or download the MP3

Two orb-spiders burst from their silky cocoon. They beheld a riot of shapes and colours. Earthy browns led up bowed plant-spires to a blue expanse where the great webs sparkled.

One spider turned to his brother and said. "Look at those webs. How fat the spiders who live in those towers are. How good it is for them to live such a life."

His brother replied. "Oh, to build a web like that."

A great shadow passed over the two spiders, blocking out the sky. A feathered monster shrieked upon them, and it was then each learnt there were also horrors in the world. Many of their brothers and sisters were taken, but the brothers survived, though one with only seven legs.

A great shadow passed over the two spiders

After weaving many webs, Eight spoke to Seven. "It is time for us to part, for it is the way of our kind to live alone in our webs. It is time to build your own. Now take my advice. Seek out a dark corner as I have done, away from the monsters in the sky. Also, don't exert yourself, and you won't need to feed so often."

But Seven had only one thought. He said farewell to his brother, and set off for the webs in the sky.

He climbed towards the fat spiders to see their beautiful homes, aching to be among their splendour, the brightest object in his world. Though he struggled without his right-back leg, each time he slid down, he climbed up again. Though he had to hide from feathered monsters, he did not shrink back to the shadows. And so, by evening, he was among the webs in the sky.

He stared about as if in a dream, uncaring of his footing, and trod upon a thick, non-sticky prey-line. The fattest spider of them all belied its slothful aspect and was upon him in an instant, fangs raised. Seven shrank back, and called out to it.

"Sir! Forgive me. I only wished to see your beautiful web!"

The fat spider settled down. "A youngling. It has been so long since I last saw one." It was then Seven saw all the fat spider's eyes save one were cloudy with age, though the one that remained shone with vitality. "You are lucky you trod upon my prey-line, for a youngling like you would make a fine meal for most of my fellows. You admire my web then, youngling?"

"Yes, sir. My brother told me to build my own web. I so wish I could build one as magnificent as this."

"It is good for you to dream, youngling. What else did your brother tell you?"

"Not to exert myself, sir."

"Did he?"

"Yes, sir. And to build a small web in a dark corner on account of my missing leg, sir."

"Ah. Now there we have it you see. Tell me. Do you know of any other creature in our world that has eight legs?"

Seven thought for a moment, and then replied that he did not.

Every web is a gift to Our Lord El'Araned

"Well, youngling, that is because Our Lord El'Araned made only one creature in his own image – us. So you see, even though you have lost one leg, you still have one more than the juicy-ones, three more than the furry beasts in the canopies, and five more than the feathered monsters. So my advice to you is this. Follow your dreams. Build a web as big and as high as you can, for then you will catch many juicy-ones and grow quickly. Also, as you get bigger, always build as big and as high as you can. Never say to yourself 'this web will do', for every web is a gift to Our Lord El'Araned."

The fat spider let Seven spin his first line there, it caught the breeze and soon found purchase. This is how Seven took his first step towards his dreams.

Two summers passed, and Eight crawled from his hole to watch his sons and daughters burst out into the world. He chuckled at their delighted amazement, knowing it would not last, for the world was a cold, hard place.

He looked up into the sky for the first time in years, and beheld the great webs there, turned to his wife, and said. "Look at those fat spiders, showing off their wealth. I wager they laugh to see us down here, crawling about in the mud. Oh to be high-born. Life isn't fair." Then he shouted after his sons and daughters. "Don't climb up there! Quick! Get inside before the feathered monsters come to gobble you up!" Many came back, but one youngling's heart soared when he beheld the webs in the sky.

It took the youngling two full days to climb up, and once there he called out to the fattest spider. "Hey, mister! My dad says you're rich because you are high born, and that life isn't fair. How come your web is so big?"

The fat spider crawled over, and spoke to the youngling. "Look at me well. I achieved all this with only seven legs, how much easier will it be for you? You can stare up at us in jealousy , or you can work hard and build webs in the sky.
The choice is yours."
Friday Fables is now distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license, which means you can share it, but not sell it, and while you are free to modify it, you must share it on the same license, just as we have with the music kindly provided by magnatune.com.

Artist: David Modica
Album: Timeless

2. FF Metacast One
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Friday Fables Metacast OneA brief audio update on what's happening with Friday Fables.

... look out for the Spider and the Peacock coming down your feed

3. The Fable of the Slow-worm
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The Fable of the Slow-worm
by Barry J. Northern
Why not listen along to the Fable of the Slow-worm as you read? Just click the play button below or download the MP3

A slow-worm had searched in vain all night for slugs, but come morning he was forced to settle under rocky shadows by the threat of the rising sun.

As the morning waxed and warmed the rocks above his head, he felt less cold, but the sun's comfort could not sooth his stomach's hollow ache.

Then he saw a slug. A long, old slug with a ridged back and orange side-stripes. The best kind. It was moving slowly, no doubt caught out by the day's sudden heat. Did he dare risk it? His belly answered yes.

After feasting, the slow-worm felt fat and happy. Not since the days of his youth had he been out in the light like this. He'd forgotten the beautiful blue of the starless sky. He'd also forgotten to be wary of the flying shriekers. A sudden downthrust of air was his only warning before a shadow descended upon him, followed by a taloned foot.

He looked up at twin towers of red wrinkled skin and beheld the curve of a grey-feathered belly. He called out. “Hey there! You're a pigeon!”

"Yeah, so what if I am, hey, hang on a minute, since when could worms talk?"

"Sir, I am not a worm. I eat worms like you do."

"You look like a worm to me."

"Pigeons don't eat my kind."

The pigeon brought his beady eye to face his prey. “Well, I'm one very hungry pigeon, mate. I reckon you might be worth a try.” The bird's weight had shifted forward and compressed the slow-worm's neck, squeezing out all protest. “You see, my dear old Pa, he said to me, 'Fletch me boy, you gotta learn to take what you can get'.” Fletch straightened up, puffing out his chest.

The weight shifted off Fletch's toes, relieving the poor slow-worm somewhat. He took a desperate gasp. "Urgh."”There ahead: a hole in the grass, a good burrowing hole. Safety was but a few inches away. "Urgh."”

What was that?” Fletch bent down to quiz the slow-worm again, but his shifting weight once again precluded a reply. “Sorry, mate, I thought you said something. As I was saying. When I was a young squab, it took me a while to learn that there were pickings to be had around these parts. Oh the things I could tell you about the tasty morsels I've had since I found these little parks among the boxy cliffs. I ain't seen a worm quite like you before though, son. I reckon you might be worth a nibble. Question is, how fast will you slither away if I let you go?

Now Fletch made the mistake of moving his foot down to the slow-worm's tail in order that he might peck at him without fully letting go. The slow-worm felt a twinge at his tail's base. It was that muscle; the muscle his mother had always told him to ignore. It clenched and he felt a back-bone shatter. Sharp pain become numb fear as his grey-scaled skin sphinctered blood's flow to a trickle from a wound where his beautiful tail had been. Instinct drove him down into the hole, where he hid until long after Fletch's protests had died on the wind.

The tail grew back, of course, although it was never quite as fine as it once had been. While it rained, slugs were easily found, but a dry spell soon begat a hungry night, and once again the hollow-bellied slow-worm spied a daytime meal crawling across the lawn. But he did not venture out to fetch it. Nor did he venture out upon seeing another following its slimy wake an hour later.

Once bitten, twice shy.

The Fable of the Slow-worm by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Hosted by The Internet Archive
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, Guitarscapes, and provided by magnatune.com

4. The Fable of the Tarsier
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The Fable of the Tarsier
by Barry J. Northern

Why not listen along to the Fable of the Tarsier as you read? Just click the play button below or download the MP3.

A tarsier sat upon his branch, chewing on a large cricket he had just caught. A warm jungle breeze rustled the leaves about him, and above, stars twinkled through the forest canopy.

He heard approaching footsteps on the branch and swivelled his head, fixing his large eyes upon a brother hurrying towards him. The younger tarsier waved his arms and chirruped. So hurried was Chirrup that Cricket-Catcher did not at first understand his words.

“... coming … quick … coming … this big.”

Cricket-Catcher smiled around a mouthful of food as he watched Chirrup extend his little arms as wide as his slight frame would allow.

“Big, eh?”

Chirrup jumped up and down and nodded. “Yes, yes. Big it is. Quick.”

“Quick too?”

“No, no quick, we must go.”

“Where? I've just caught this cricket. I'm not moving.”

This sent Chirrup into another frenzy of arm-waving and high-pitching singing. “... coming … big … snake.”

This caught Cricket-Catcher's attention. “A snake? A big snake is coming?”

Chirrup sighed and deflated. “Yes.”

“Relax. Snakes are slow.”

Cricket-Catcher spotted a Striped Tree Frog sneaking up the tree's wide bole below him. Finishing off his cricket, his mind already on his next meal, he spoke idly to Chirrup whilst eyeing the frog. “You know, those are clever little things. Tasty though. Worth catching. Can't leap as well as us. I saw one in the morning once, just before going to bed.”

“Go! We go now!”

“Yeah, yeah. Just a minute. It was pale coloured. You never see them pale like that at night. It's like they change colour to fool us. Argh! A snake!”

Cricket-Catcher had never before seen a snake as large as the one that loomed up from the shadows beyond the small frog.

“I told you!” cried Chirrup as the pair leapt upwards into the canopy where the branches were thin and the snake could not follow.

“I know. But did you see the size of that thing?”
A picture is worth a thousand words.

The Fable of the Tarsier by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive.
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, Guitarscapes, and provided by magnatune.com

5. The Fable of the Pigeon
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The Fable of the Pigeon
by Barry J. Northern

A young pigeon, not long out of the nest, squabbled among his fellows around the legs of one of the wingless giants who sat upon the strange wooden bush at this time every day.

His father stayed close to him. “Look Fletch, this here giant is dropping bits of giant food already, good as grain that stuff. Oh, he'll fling us his scraps at the end, but you wanna watch out for anything you can get.” His father laughed at the older pigeons at the front of the crowd, fighting for scraps. “Look at em go. That's the way!”

“But, Dad?”

“Yes, my son?”

“Can't I just have grain mash? You've still got crop milk. I like it with a bit of crop milk.”

“Look son, I told you already, you're off the milk now. It'll dry up soon anyhow.”

“What about Mum?”

“She's got your brother to worry about. Look, you're not a squab any more.” His beady red eye darted ahead of a sharp-turned neck. “Look out! He's dropping scraps! Go on, get in there my son.”

Fletch, wanting to impress his father, pushed his way in. Everyone said Fletch was big for his age, and he was pleased that he had weight enough to force through the crowd of adults and defend his own patch. There were grains among the fluffy giant-food. He picked at them, they were delicious but few. He tried one of the giant's fluffy grains. “Ergh!” He spat it out. In his moment of disgust he lost his place and was forced to the back of the crowd.

“What happened, boy?”

“Those fluffy grains are horrible, Dad. There were hardly any proper grains, you know, like the ones you and Mum give me.”

“Son, if you live long enough to have squabs of your own, you'll wanna rear em on the best pickings. But you gotta learn to take what you can get now, lad. You're on your own.” And with that he flew into the mêlée and pecked at the floor with gusto.

Fletch flew around the green square of woodland for a while, not daring to venture into the giant's cliffs that surrounded it. He searched for good grain, but found little, and after several days he was so hungry that the next time the giant sat upon his wooden bush, Fletch was the first at his feet.

“Beggars can't be choosers.”

The Fable of the Pigeon by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, Guitarscapes, track 5 Reality Check, and provided by magnatune.com

6. The Fable of the Elephant
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The Fable of the Elephant
by Barry J. Northern

A young elephant trailed behind the herd, trying not to be noticed. She wanted to play with the young ones, as she always had done, but Mother had told her that this year she was old enough to help with mothering duties.

The first of the new calves had been born the previous night. It had been a wonderful time, all the women of the herd celebrated, but Kijana now feared she would soon be set to some task or other.

The fear of impending duty grew within her until she could no longer bear it.

"Mother!" she called out. "I'm just off to the water-hole. I won't be long."

Mother turned around, her trunk swaying, ears flapping. "All right, dear."

Kijana had expected an argument. It seemed there were some advantages to being a little older, she thought, and stomped off to the water-hole alone. She was still young enough to feel nervous about leaving the herd behind, but felt emboldened when a pair of impala skittered away from her shadow.

Now it was Kijana's plan to escape the herd to avoid mothering duties, so she had decided to take the longest route to the furthest water-hole. She would make some excuse about needing a wash, for the water at the local hole was hardly deep enough for that. She chuckled at her own cleverness.

At the water-hole, however, she found she really was in need of a bath, for the it was further away than she had realised, and the day was hot.

After she had spent a long time washing, which was not one of her favourite duties, the sun had already begun to set, and she could barely see her herd's distant dust-cloud. She knew it was time to return, though she would gladly have rested longer.

On the way back she saw a she-lion stalking a herd of zebra. The herd was large, and Kijana feared that the she-lion might decide that a young, lone elephant was easier prey, so Kijana gave the lion, and the herd, a wide berth.

The journey back took over half as long again as the journey out, so that when she eventually returned to the herd she was quite out of breath and ready to sleep.

"And where have you been all afternoon, young lady?" said Mother, "I wanted you to help with Abla's calf. She needs time to forage you know, she's eating for two now. I explained this to you yesterday, Kijana. That calf of hers is a thirsty one."

"I know, Mum," said Kijana. "I just wanted to have a bath."

Mother's great grey brow wrinkled. "Well, it's too late to help with anything now. You can help tomorrow."

Kijana knew the same trick would not work again, and sighed. "What exactly will I be doing, Mum?"

"Don't look so distressed, Kijana," said Mother. "I only want you to play with the pup while Abla's off foraging."

She who avoids labour works twice as hard.

Elephants are highly social creatures, though it is females who stay together in herds, while the mature bull elephants are mostly solitary. Like human children, elephant calves require constant care for many years as they grow and develop. Unlike most animals, but again like humans and primates, elephant calves are born with few natural instincts, and so need to be taught about the world around them. The whole herd -- often closely related; mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts -- is responsible for looking after the young calves. Such non-maternal care is known as allomothering, during which young females will also learn parenting skills before becoming mothers themselves.


The Fable of the Elephant by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here. Music by Daniel Berkman from the album, Calabashmoon, track 4 Two Rings, and provided by magnatune.com

7. The Fable of the Swallow
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The Fable of the Swallow
by Barry J. Northern

A large roost of swallows settled about a tree, whose thinning branches fractured the sunset. One swallow among them stood on a high branch before her brood and proclaimed the end of Summer.

"My children. It is time for us to journey towards the Sun, to our wintering grounds."

The children became excited, especially one young lad from the first brood who had been dreaming of the wintering grounds ever since an old swallow told him of the burnt fields, teaming with fat flies. More than the promise of a great feast under a strong sun, however, Firstborn desired to make nest and find a wife.

He saw a younger brother on a lower branch, and hopped down to say farewell.

"I'm going now, brother, for I cannot wait. Will you fly with me?"

Secondborn laughed. "No-one may fly as fast as you, brother. But what is the hurry? Will you not roost here tonight and wait for the flock to leave?"

"No, I want to be there as soon as possible. I'll make the finest nest you ever saw!" And with a flicker of feathers Firstborn was gone.

Secondborn rose with the flock the next morning. He enjoyed the leisurely pace and the nightly roosts. Though he caught his food on the wing and kissed his wavering reflection as he passed over lakes to slake his thirst, he still took the time to look about him at the changing landscape. He had never imagined the world so large, nor so varied. The trees and mountains, sprawling man-nests and glittering seas, all of it swelled his heart through his glistening eyes.

Another young bird took to flying with Secondborn, for she too admired the lands over which they travelled. They began to sit together when roosting more and more, and the old ones smiled and sang.

Meanwhile, Firstborn flew with relentless speed towards the wintering grounds. He fancied he could see lines in the sky drawing him forwards, and he never doubted his path. He had passed other flocks, and roosted with them on occasion, but so eager was he to reach his destination, he always set off before the rest of the roost were roused by the rising sun.

If it were a choice between taking a diversion for more plentiful fields and clearer waters, or a less desirable but shorter path, Firstborn always chose the latter. He reached the wintering grounds days before the rest of his brood. He stopped and looked around him for the first time since beginning his long flight. He felt drained of purpose. The fields were lonely, not at all as he had imagined, and though the food was plentiful, he almost felt too weak to feed.

But feed he did, and his strength soon returned, though he had not the energy nor the inclination to build a nest for several days. He had still not begun to built when Secondborn arrived with the flock. The younger brother had already married his sweetheart on the journey, and as the happy pair settled down to make nest, they congratulated Firstborn on his speed, and spoke of all the wonderful sights they had seen on the way, but Firstborn just smiled, for he had seen nothing of which they spoke.

"Success is a journey not a destination."

The Fable of the Swallow by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by David Modica from the album, Stillness and Movement, track 2 Fresh Breath, and provided by magnatune.com

8. The Fable of the Rhino and the Oxpecker
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The Fable of the Rhino and the Oxpecker
by Barry J. Northern

One morning, a black rhino looked up from the thorny bush he was stripping with his hooked lips, for he heard the distant rumble of hoofbeats.

He squinted against the savannah sun and could see only a cloud of dust with a vaguely darker kernel, for his eyesite was poor.

He set his feet to the ground and charged off to meet this new threat, for the bush was good, and the females were nearby.

An oxpecker, who had been working at a tick near Rhino's ear, flew up above his head. "Charge, my tick-infested friend, charge well. Don't worry about your wounds, for I will keep them clean for you."

Rhino called back. "Thank you little friend. I will be back as soon as I have dealt with my enemy."

Rhino charged, and soon shortened the distance between himself and the approaching blur. The hoofbeats grew louder, until soon they were as loud as his own, and the distance closed so that even Rhino could clearly see his enemy -- another male, like himself.

He called out to him. "Begone, my enemy. There is no room for you here." Then horns collided, and huge pointed heads glanced across each other forcing the pair eye-to-eye for an instant. Then the energy of their momentum was spent, and then their heavy bodies pounded the hard dirt beneath them in a slow cycle of stand-off and head-butting.

The pair fought for several minutes, but Rhino was the largest, and so, before long, his rival backed away. "You are the better beast. Perhaps one day I will match your skill." Then Rhino's enemy turned and fled.

Rhino chuckled, but it was only as he ambled back to his bush that he began to feel his injuries.

When Rhino returned, Oxpecker was waiting, perched on the thorny bush. "Are you hurt my friend?" he said, and if Rhino's ears hadn't been ringing, he might have heard the hint of hopefulness in Oxpecker's voice.

"A little. Nothing really, just a few scratches along my neck."

"Oh dear, oh dear," said the bird, fussing over him. "You feast on your bush while I fe-- er, clean your wounds."

Rhino bent his head down. "Thank you my friend."

As he ate, Rhino insensibly ignored the sharp pains caused by the duplicitous bird's eager 'ministrations' as the Redbilled Oxpecker set about earning his name.

"A good enemy is a better person than a false friend."

It is commonly held that the symbiotic relationship between the Redbilled Oxpecker and the large mammals of the African plains, such as the Black Rhino, Impala, and Wildebeest, is mutualistic, that is beneficial to both parties. Recent research has shown that the tickbird's behaviour might not reduce the tickload of such animals, and even that it only feeds on engorged ticks to get the food it really wants -- the animal's blood. This is corroborated by observations of the birds drinking and eating from small wounds on the animals, and evidence of them keeping wounds from healing and enlarging them. Such evidence suggests the relationship actuallymay be parasitic, or that perhaps the relationship itself changes to suit environmental factors.

Red-billed Oxpeckers : Vampires or Tickbirds? http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/11/2/154

The Fable of the Rhino and the Oxpecker by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, Guitarscapes, track 5 "Reality Check", and track 11 "Waterfall", and provided by magnatune.com

9. The Fable of the Rock Ptarmigan
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The Fable of the Rock Ptarmigan
by Barry J. Northern

High upon a rocky outcrop, a Rock Ptarmigan shed its last white feather and so his thoughts turned to finding a lady. Now Rock Ptarmigan men are proud of their fine feathered feet, and their thick plumage, which changes colour with the seasons, but most of all each is proud of his comb, for it is with the quality of his comb that he attracts a lady.

Rock worked his way down the outcrop towards his favourite spring, thankful that winter's touch no longer hardened the puddle from which he drank. As he bent down he regarded his comb's reflection. He thought it too small to impress or intimidate, and sighed, for he derived his greatest pleasure from the praise of others, and without it he knew he would strive for nothing beyond foraging for buds and catkins, and drinking from his favourite spring.

As Rock worked his way farther down the outcrop, he met a young man parading in front of a lady. Both were younger than he, and Rock was gratified when the man, taking one look at his comb, immediately stood aside and bowed.

“My Lord, I will continue to court this young lady's affections only by your leave.”

Rock smiled, and so flattered was he by the earnest young man's concession that he too bowed and said, “I grant you my leave, young sir.” His pride was further bolstered by the favouring look the young lady gave his comb as he passed by, and he also fancied he saw a flicker of disappointment pass across her delicate features.

Farther on down the slope, Rock spotted a less refined young man leaping around in front of a group of three women, crying, “Look at my comb, is it not the finest comb you ever saw? My ladies, which of you will be lucky enough to be mine I wonder?”

Rock smiled at the ladies' barely concealed laughter. “At least I am not as vain as that immodest youth,” he thought,and fluffed his feathers. Then he laughed at himself, for he was wise enough to realise that the very thought made him, in fact, vain of his own superior modesty.

He continued on down the mountainside, confident of finding good fighting and fine ladies to be won, and noted with amusement how his spirits had risen as he'd descended the slope. Indeed, it was a good time of year to be a fine Scottish Rock Ptarmigan.

The Fable of the Rock Ptarmigan by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian from the album, Beethoven Piano and Cello Works, track 17 Sonata in D Major op. 102 no. 2 Allegro fugato, and provided by magnatune.com

10. The Fable of the Honey Bee
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The Fable of the Honey Bee
by Barry J. Northern

A honey bee worker emerged from her brood cell and immediately set about cleaning, for her new baby sister would need the nursery soon.

The Queen Bee inspected her work. "One has not cleaned it well enough. One must try harder."

Princess was mortified, for she only desired to be worthy in her mother's eyes. From then on she vowed to work harder than any other worker bee in the hive.

Princess and her sisters were eager to see the outside world and smell the flowers, for the source of nectar and pollen must be wonderous indeed, but it is the way of honey bee workers to attend to many tasks before they are old enough to go out and forage.

Firstly, Princess nursed her new larval sister, feeding it her own jelly. She enjoyed watching her sister grow, knowing that her elder sister had done the same for her. Before long it was time to ween the new princess onto honey and pollen, and the flow of jelly turned to one of wax.

After that, Princess left the brood cell and worked hard to impress her mother. She and the others used Princess' wax to build the combs and seal new honey within its cells.

Some of her sisters became attendants to the Queen. Princess was disappointed to not have been chosen, but she worked hard, and contented herself with dreams of flowers.

One day, an old forager came home with a substance from the flowers that Princess had never seen before. She took it in her hands.

"It is sticky."

"Yes," said the old worker, "we need you to spread it around the hive entrance. It helps keep the hive clean."

"Right away!"

Princess rushed to the entrance, eager for her first glimpse at the outside world, marvelling at what other amazing things the flowers might provide. When she got to the entrance, her sisters were busy plastering the sticky stuff around, and such was the intensity of their activity, she felt compelled to join them in earnest and did not stop to glance at the bright outside.

As Princess worked she became hot, and she noticed the others around her becoming sluggish. A large entrance guard bee came up to her.

"The propolis is helping, but we need more water to cool the hive. Go out and fetch some from the leaves outside the entrance."

Princess swallowed. "But I've never been outside before."

The guard laughed. "There is nothing to it. Just remember to stay away from any stranger bees, for if you pick up their smell my brothers might not let you back in."

As Princess walked towards the entrance, she became concerned about the effects of the heat. The mortuary bees could barely lift the dead away from the hive. The feeders struggled to carry honey to the drones in their crops. Worst of all, the fanning bees' wings were flapping too slowly to cool the hive.

By the time Princess reached the entrance, her only thought was to collect water, and so on her first foray out into the world, she did not stop to look at the glorious sun in the blue sky, nor at the wide green leaves around the hive, nor the stretches of blue flowers carpeting the floor beneath her.

Thence forth, whenever Princess left the hive, first for more water, and as she grew older and flew further, for more pollen and nectar, her thoughts were always bent on the list of tasks she had yet to do. She never once stopped to enjoy the fruit her hard work had wrought.

One day, she flew further than ever before, and she began to struggle against the weight of her old body, and feel a creaking in her wings. She landed on a large rose and set about collecting nectar as she had always done. She had heard tell of the beautiful rose, but even so, as soon as her crop was full, she headed straight back.

The entrance guard bees waved her through, and when she landed a young princess came and took the nectar and pollen from her. When the worker had emptied Princess' crop she felt no lighter. She tried to move, but she found she could not.

A mortuary bee glanced her way a couple of times, and when Princess lay down, she came over.

"It is almost your time."


"You have served the hive well. We honour you. You will rest among the flowers."

"I wish to see them."

Either her voice had grown weak, or the mortuary bee ignored Princess, for she did not answer her, and walked away to find help.

As Princess lay there, she spotted a young worker hurrying out towards the entrance, and remembered the days of her youth. The hive was cold today.

Princess smiled when she saw the young worker pause for a moment on the lip of the hive. Even the sun was cold.

The young worker was still there, looking up at the sky with wonder in her eyes. The light was fading.

The young worker flew out. Princess hoped she would stop to smell the rose.

The Fable of the Honey Bee by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Eileen Hadidian and Natalie Cox from the album, Dolce Musica, tracks 17 (Star of County Down) and 12 (Lord Gallway's Lamentation), and provided by magnatune.com

11. The Fable of the Kangaroo
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The Fable of the Kangaroo
by Barry J. Northern

A young Joey peered out of his mother's pouch for the first time. His eyes were wide with wonder as he gazed out into the world, for it was far larger than he had ever imagined nestled in the warmth and safety of the pouch.

Out on the plains, some fascinating creatures were jumping around. "What are those, Mummy?"

Flyer looked down at her Joey. "Oh, my son, you are out of the pouch. I think you are too small to come out yet. Why don't you go back inside?"

"All right, Mummy," said Joey, and settled back down into the warm pouch.

The next day, Joey woke up remembering dreams of the open plains and the jumping creatures, and so he poked his head out again. The creatures were real -- he had not imagined them. "What are those, Mummy?"

Flyer looked down. "Oh, my son, you are out again."

One of those jumping creatures had a small head in its belly. Joey laughed. "They are creatures just like us aren't they?"

"Yes dear."

One of the other Joeys jumped out of its mother's pouch and sprang about around her in delighted circles.

Joey laughed again. "Look, Mummy, the other children are playing. Can I come out too?"

"Oh, my son, those children are bigger than you. You are so small. I think you should go back inside."

"But why?"

"It's not safe, my son."


"The world is not a safe place."


"You are too young to understand my son, please go back inside. You can come out when you're older."

Joey watched the other children playing around on the plains. It looked like fun, and he couldn't see anything unsafe, but he was a good boy, so he went back inside.

The next day Joey woke up remembering dreams of playing with the other children, but he also remembered what his mother had said, so he stayed inside. After a while, though, he heard the sounds of children playing. He peered out. There they were, having fun, jumping around. He watched them for a while. "Mummy?"

"Yes, my son?"

"The other children don't look bigger to me."

"I think you are still too small to go outside, dear."

"But I--"

"No arguments. You can go out when you're older. It's not

Many weeks passed, but still Flyer did not let Joey play with the other children, and she did have a reason. Once, many years ago, she had heard about a pack of dingoes that had snatched a child away. She had never seen a dingo, but she knew they were fearsome creatures, for everyone said so, and she had vowed that she would always protect her children from such foul creatures.

One day, Joey looked out and saw the children playing, and without asking his mother, he leapt out and landed on the ground at her feet. Flyer gasped, but then she saw how big her son had grown, and she felt it in the sudden absence of his weight. "Oh, my son, you are quite big now. I think you are old enough to go out. Remember this though. If you see any strange creatures, just jump back to me as fast as you can. All right?"

Joey looked up at his mother and smiled. "All right, Mummy." He looked towards the other children, but stayed where he was.

"Go on then, my son, off you go."

"But, Mummy. Is it safe?"

"Yes, my son, it is safe. You are big enough to jump now."

"But, Mummy?"


"I've never jumped before."

Mother was worried, had she kept him inside for too long? She knew in her heart that it was past time for her son to leave the pouch. "Go on, my son. Off you go and play. I won't be far away."

Joey took one tentative leap forward and stumbled. He looked back at his mother. "Mummy?"

"Go on."

Joey jumped forwards, slowly at first, but with increasing confidence as he neared the other children. When he got there, Flyer was upset to see the other children shy away from him, for they did not know who he was. She also saw that her son could not jump as well as the others, for they had been jumping for weeks and their legs were stronger.

She watched as Joey's jumps became lower and shorter, and before long he stopped playing altogether and limped back to her. The other children pointed and laughed as he climbed back into her pouch and hid.

Years later, Joey grew into a strong, young Boomer and had children of his own. He knew about dingoes, but never kept his children from enjoying the open plains, for he wanted them to grow strong and learn about the world.

Only once did he ever see a dingo -- a thin and scrawny thing -- lurking around a far off rock, looking at the court with hunger in its eyes. His children recognised the creature, for he had told them about it, and they jumped back to the court on their strong hind legs, as he had told them to do. He knew then that they were far safer and happier than he had ever been as a child. And he also knew that sometimes the only thing to fear is fear itself.

The Fable of the Kangaroo by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Jay Atwood

Male kangaroos are called bucks, boomers, jacks, or old men; females are does, flyers, or jills, and the young ones are joeys.[11] The collective noun for kangaroos is a mob, troop, or court. Kangaroos are often colloquially referred to as roos.

12. The Fable of the Magpie
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The Fable of the Magpie
by Barry J. Northern

There was once a magpie who built a nest for himself and his wife. It was a good nest, and they were happy. In their first two Springs they raised healthy clutches, and were proud each time their children left the nest. Yet Husband was not content.

"Will each year be the same as this?" he asked his wife.

"Are you not happy then, Husband?"

But he only said, "I am, my love," for he did not wish to upset his wife.

Later that day, Husband flew abroad searching for something with which to adorn his nest, for it was dull to his eyes, and he wished to improve it. He chanced upon a shiny object, and though he knew not what it was, he admired it, and so flew down to retrieve it in his beak.

Back at the nest, his wife looked up at Husband's return. "What have you there, Husband?"

He saw his own love for the shiny object reflected in her eyes. "Something to adorn our nest, my love," he said, and worked the object into the walls of their nest. He stood back to admire it, and said. "Now we can truly say our lot is improved."

Husband and Wife were pleased with their new decoration, but as time passed they grew accustomed to its beauty until they no longer noticed it.

One day, Husband flitted to the edge of the nest, and said to Wife. "I will fly abroad once more and look for something else with which to adorn our nest."

Husband soon came back with another shiny object, and for a time it made them both happy. Before long, however, they grew used to it as before, and so Husband once again flew abroad to find something else.

This continued until the next Spring, when the urge to make ready their nest for the new clutch came upon Wife. She looked around the nest, and said. "My love, our nest is beautiful, but there is no room for our clutch this year."

"Worry not, my wife. What we need is a bigger nest. I will build us one on the other side of the tree." And so Husband spent many days building a new nest, and both he and Wife spent many more days taking their possessions from one to the other, but eventually, after much toil and argument, the new nest was ready.

Wife alighted upon the edge of their new home and smiled. "Oh, Husband, it is wonderful." And for a time they were both happy raising their new clutch.

It was not long, however, before they grew used to their new home, and so Husband flew abroad again for things with which to adorn it.

By the following Spring, the house seemed too small again, and as dull as their first nest had been. As the years went by, no matter how big they built their nests, nor how many shiny objects they adorned it with, the pair were not happy for more than a few days at a time, for they were never content with what they had.

The Fable of the Magpie by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Eileen Hadidian and Natalie Cox from the album, Dolce Musica - A Contemplative Journey, track 5 "O Pastor Animarum (Arr by Eileen Hadidian)", and provided by magnatune.com

Magpies may be more like us than we once imagined: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/27/1096137168806.html

13. The Fable of the Weaver Ant
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The Fable of the Weaver Ant
by Barry J. Northern

A family of weaver ants chanced upon a fresh young mango tree one day and decided to make it their new home.

It was not long before one of the family found a good leaf to begin the work of building a nest. He sought out the edge with his feelers and began to pull. His brothers and sisters saw him at his work and joined in beside him, adding their strength to the effort of bending the leaf, which was many times bigger than they were. They spoke to each other as they worked.

"We must pull this edge up to the leaf above us."

"I will lead a group to that leaf to help receive it."

"Collect the younglings, we will soon need their silk to bind the edges."

"1 - 2 - 3 - Heave!"

"You there! Go and recruit more workers!"

More of their brothers and sisters came and joined the bustling activity of construction. The chatter and noise of their collaboration created an atmosphere of joyous labour, and soon the leaves were bent close together. It was time for the chaining.

"Hold on to my waist, brother. I think the gap will take four of us to span."

"Reach out and grab my waist, sister, that's it, pull!"

Soon a chain of ants spanned the gap, and in this way the family could pull the leaves together so that the binding could begin.

Now one of the ants in the chain had been recruited by an eager sibling who had picked him up in his mandibles and brought him there to aid in the task without first checking if he was fit for work. The young ant had been up all night foraging for food, and was tired, and so as the chain made one last effort to bring the two leaves together he became exhausted and cried out,

"Help me! I can't hold on!"

"You must!"

"Don't let go!"

But though the young ant tried to hold on, his tired legs gave way and he let go of his sister's waist.

Despite every other ant in the group being strong and fit, once their weakened brother let go, they were unable to hold the leaves together. The leaves sprang apart, spraying the family of ants in a splash of turning bodies, thus illustrating that old proverb,

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

The Fable of the Weaver Ant by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3here.
Music by Ricahrd Savino from the album, Mertz - Bardic Sounds, track 7 "Study", and provided by magnatune.com

14. The Fable of the Glow-worm
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The Fable of the Glow-worm
by Barry J. Northern

There was once a glow-worm who emerged out into the world for the first time, and beheld the night sky. While her sisters took their places on the blades of grass to await the menfolk, she stayed gazing at the stars.

Before long Stargazer's sisters began to glow and twinkle around her in the grass. To the young glow-worm it was a pretty sight, but not as glorious as the stars above.

Now it is the way of glow-worms for the menfolk and womenfolk to each be blessed with a different gift. The menfolk may fly among the heavens, yet are dull to behold. The womenfolk glow like gems, yet are wingless, and must remain among the tall grass.

It was time for each of the womenfolk to attract a mate with her beauty, and so soon the evening air buzzed with the flapping of the menfolks' wings.

Said Stargazer; "I desire not to be like my sisters, for they live an ordinary life." And so she began to climb the tallest stem she could find, looking up at the stars all the while as if trying to reach them.

From time to time she would look back at her tail, and she began to believe it glowed more brightly than her sisters', for the higher she climbed, the smaller her sisters' lights appeared, and the larger her own glow seemed to her.

One by one Stargazer watched her sisters' lights go out, for as soon as each one was paired with a mate, she would glow no more, and would settle down to make family with him.

"Why can't I be like the stars," said she, "and burn all night, high in the sky for all to see and love?"

She came to rest at the top of the great stem and thrust her tail high and bright. Many menfolk came to her, but she turned them all away, saying, "I shall not let you dim my light, I must share it with the world."

After a time her's was the only light left among the grasses, and seeing only light-less glow-worms crawling beneath her, living ordinary lives, Stargazer believed she must be special like the stars.

The night grew cold, and Stargazer began to feel tired, but she would not dim her glow, for she sought to impress those beneath her. Before long a young man, the only glow-worm without a mate, alighted atop the great stem in front of Stargazer.

Said he; "Your light is the highest and brightest, and you are beautiful to behold. Will you make family with me?"

"I will not," said she, "for then I will glow no more and become as dull as everyone else."

"Tell me," said he, "how long do you think your beautiful glow will last?"

"For as long as the stars."

"Then what will you do come morning? For the sun outshines them all."

Stargazer felt more tired now, and her glow was already beginning to dim. She made no reply.

The young man took flight, saying. "I will return again soon. If you then choose not to accept me I will bother you no more."

At first, Stargazer scoffed, for the young man was dull, but the more tired she grew, the more his words made their effect on her. She dwelt upon what the future might bring, and when the young man returned, she had the sense at last to agree to make family with him.

Though her light went out, she loved her husband, and when her children were born she beheld that the slow-burning fire within her heart was brighter than any star. It was an invigorating light not a tiring one, and it was a light that would never dim.

The Fable of the Glow-worm by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3 here.
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, Meditative Guitar, track 1 "Lullaby", and provided by magnatune.com

15. The Fable of the Squirrel
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The Fable of the Squirrel
by Barry J. Northern

There once was a young grey squirrel who became lost in the woods and could not find his way home. He spent a hard year alone casting about for food, for he was used to the help of his family, but in time he learnt well how to eat the spring buds, and later to
find and gather the summer nuts, so that by winter he knew he would live to see the new year.

Though Grey had now learnt how to live, it was a lonely life, so when one day he met a black squirrel he became excited and desired to make friends with him.

"Hello there!" he cried, "How come you are alone in the forest?" But Black hid behind a tree and would not answer. Grey moved closer, slowly, not wanting to alarm the lone squirrel, and it was then he saw that Black was thin and starving.

Grey ran back to his horde of acorns and fetched one for Black, hoping then that they would be friends, but when he returned Black was gone.

The next day Grey spotted Black again, and this time he did not hide when Grey called out to him. Yet still, when Grey moved closer to offer Black an acorn, the lone squirrel ran away.

The next two days were the same, until the third day when at last hunger overtook Black's caution and he took the nut from Grey's paws. Grey stayed nearby, and spoke to Black.

"How come you are alone in the forest?"

But as soon as Grey spoke, Black dropped the acorn and fled, and so Grey knew he would have to be patient, for the poor squirrel was a nervous creature who must have had a much harder life than he.

The same happened the next day, and the next, but on the third day Black answered Grey's question. "I fell from my tree and was chased into the woods by a monster, and so I became lost."

"Why are you so thin?" said Grey.

"I used to eat the buds and fruits of my family's tree, but there are no trees like it in this part of the forest, and I do not know what is good to eat."

Now Grey was so happy to have someone to talk to that he resolved to lead Black around the forest and show the poor squirrel all the good things there were to eat. For many days Grey lead Black around, and after many more days they became friends.

Now one day, to Grey's delight, Black said he wished to try foraging alone, and so Grey stayed home to count the acorns in his horde. He soon found he did not have as many as he reckoned he would need for the winter. It was because he had been leading Black around the forest when he should have been gathering for himself, and so when Black returned with an acorn in his paws, he grew angry and said.

"You should give that to me, for I have been helping you when I should have been stocking my horde."

Black gave the acorn to Grey, and said. "It was a gift to you anyway, for all your help. I will bother you no more." And with that Black left.

Grey soon regretted his words, and searched about for his friend, but he never saw Black again. The birds in the trees heard him calling out apologies for his lost friend, and mocked him, singing,

"As food is eaten speedily,
But very sorely won,
So friends are made by many acts,
And lost by only one."

The Fable of the Squirrel by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3 here.
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, Meditative Guitar, track 10 "Alone", and provided by magnatune.com

16. The Fable of the Carp
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The Fable of the Carp
by Barry J. Northern

There was once a school of carp who lived in a slow river with many other water creatures. The river was a beautiful place, full of life, and there was plenty to eat for everyone among weeds, which floated in the clear water.

The carp ate well along the river bed, where their favourite food lay, and grew large. Some carp found ways to eat more than others, for they were clever and rooted deep in the mud, and so they became larger more quickly. One carp grew so large in this fashion that he crowned himself king. Even so, he still desired to grow larger, and even began to eat the other fish of the river.

Now many of the carp were jealous of King, even while they desired to be as large as he, and so they too rooted deep in the mud and ate the other fish. A few of the carp among them saw that the once clear water was growing muddy, and that there were less kinds of fish in the river than there once were, but most simply desired to grow bigger like those around them.

One carp mourned the lost beauty of the river, and so he vowed not to root in the mud lest he help dirty it, nor to eat the other kinds of fish and water creatures, for there were few now left. Yet his efforts made little difference, for all the other carp only desired to grow bigger like their neighbours. He tried to turn the others to his ways, but they would not listen to him, for he was small.

One day, King searched for food among the weeds, but found little, and after a time he crossed paths with Small. “Ah,” he said, “a little fish for me to eat.”

Small raised his fins. “No, King, you cannot eat me for I am a fish of your own kind.”

“But there are no other fish in the river,” said King, and though Small tried to escape, he could not swim as fast as King, and so King swallowed him up.

Soon only the largest carp were left swimming with King. No other fish or water creatures played among what was left of the weeds, which were barely visible in the muddy water. King lead the carp on a long swim for a new place to live, but the river only lead to the inhospitable sea, and though some had always said they could live there, they found they could not.

So they knew then, when it was too late, that they had spoiled their only good place to live. But still they continued to root in the mud and eat the weeds, for now they were large fish and could not become small again.

The Fable of the Carp by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3 here.
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, GuitarScapes, track 14 "Allegro in D Minor", and provided by
My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-c39023e5ddc790eb138a25ec5c3b5285}

17. The Fable of the Great Horned Owl
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The Fable of the Great Horned Owl
by Barry J. Northern

There once was a great horned owl who loved to hunt. He became known among the other owls for his great skill, even though his kind were hunters by nature. The other owls loved him, and so it was not long before he found himself a wife and made nest with her.

Early in spring the couple's first clutch hatched, and soon five owlets were screeching for food. It was a large family, but Mother did not worry, for her husband's skills meant there would always be plenty for her and her children to eat.

Nevertheless, before he set off for work early in the evening, she said to him.

"I shall miss hunting with you, husband, but I must stay at nest and keep our young ones warm."

"Fear not, wife, for I will soon return." And then he swooped off the branch and was lost to the shadows of the deepening night.

It was not long before Hunter returned, with food enough for the children. Mother fed her hungry owlets while Hunter flew off to find more food for her. Again he returned quickly, and she said to him.

"Have you eaten yet, Husband?"

"No, so I must get back to work."

"Will you come back and eat with me? I will wait for you."

"I may be some time yet, my love."

Now it is the way of their kind for the menfolk to be smaller than the women, so Mother was confused. "Why, husband? For your own meal you need not catch prey so large as this leveret you have brought me, and you caught that quickly enough."

"Ah but wife, my fellows have challenged me to hunt the porcupine. They are hard to catch, but they have challenged me and that is that. It will make a fine meal, but I will not be able to carry such a large catch back."

Mother was upset that Hunter would not be home to eat with his family, but she knew how much her husband enjoyed the hunt, so she wished him luck. He left in high spirits, and did not return until the sun began to rise; when his wife was already asleep.

Now Hunter enjoyed hunting with his fellows, and was proud to be known as the best hunter in the woods. Therefore he hunted long through the night displaying his skill, and accepting their challenges, and so rarely were his owlets awake upon his return, and he did not see them growing, nor did he eat with his wife.

One October morning, when the sun had almost fully risen, he returned home triumphant, bursting with news of a tricky bat he had taken when no-one else had been able. He was pleased to find his wife still awake and waiting for him, standing out on the branch facing the low spring sun.

Hunter settled next to her and said, "Why are you up so late my wife?"

"I have been waiting for you."

Then Hunter saw the empty nest, and said, "Where are the children?"

"They are children no longer, husband. Today they have flown away to make their own lives."

"But they are not old enough. I was going to teach them how to hunt like their father. Why did they not wait to say goodbye to me?"

Then Mother turned to Hunter, and said. "They knew not their father, for he was never here." She shuffled away from him on the branch. "And I no longer I have a husband." And with that she flew from their nest, leaving Hunter to enjoy the fruits of the hunt alone.

The desire to hunt left him then, and he remembered his own childhood, and something his own mother used to say came back to him.

"A family that eats together, keeps together."

The Fable of the Great Horned Owl by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive, download MP3 here.
Music "October" by The Scottish Guitar Quartet from Podsafe Audio.

18. The Fable of the Starfish
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The Fable of the Starfish
by Barry J. Northern

Two starfish clung to a rock in the shallows, enjoying the to and fro of the seawater against their tube feet. After a while, one starfish spoke to the other.

"I am hungry. Let us go and find some mussels to eat."

His friend agreed, and so they crawled down the rock and across the sand to where the mussels slept on their rock. On the way, they came to a crevice in a high reef, and Hungry said, "Let us go through this way, for it is quicker."

Friend was not sure, and with reason, for soon both starfish were stuck, and as much as they struggled, both had one arm wedged fast within the crevice.

Hungry pulled hard and left his arm behind, saying, "It matters not, for my arm will soon grow back." And off he crawled toward the mussels, enjoining his friend to follow.

"I will follow you soon, brother, for I am almost free." Friend wiggled his arm and with care was able to manoeuvre it out of the crevice without injuring himself. He soon caught up with Hungry, who was already eating mussels on the rock.

Hungry and Friend ate together for a while, but Hungry was not satisfied. "Let us go to the top of the rock, where the mussels are bigger."

Friend was content, however, saying, "No brother, I will stay here, for these smaller mussels are easier to open."

After Friend had feasted a while longer, Hungry came back down the rock, now with only three arms.

"What happened to you, brother?"

"I became stuck in a large mussel, for it was too strong for me. But fear not, brother, for my arm will soon grow back. Let us return to the shallows."

Now on the way back to the shallows, Hungry lost two more arms. One he lost to a reef crab rather than walk around it, and the other he lost to a triton shell who had been lurking in the shadows of a short cut. But each time Hungry said to Friend, "Fear not brother, for my arm will soon grow back."

Soon the two starfish clung to their rock in the shallows, enjoying the sun on their backs, and the gentle to and fro of the seawater against their tube feet, and as each one's belly was full, they drifted into sleep.

When they awoke, the sun was gone, and the to and fro of the sea was no longer gentle.

Hungry said, "A storm is coming. Let us find a hole to hide in." But the storm was already upon them, and though they tried, they could not crawl against the surging water. Hungry began to lose his hold upon the rock, and so Friend held out an arm to help.

"Here, brother, take hold of me."

But when Hungry reached out, the angry waters picked him up and washed him onto the heavy pebbles, far away from the shoreline. And though he tried to crawl back to the shallows, he could not, for he only had one arm, and the others had not yet regrown.

After that, Friend travelled wide, singing his lamentation to all who would listen.

Don't be like the sea star,
Washed up upon the shore,
For one ounce of prevention,
Is worth a pound of cure.

The Fable of the Starfish by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive download the MP3 here
Music by Jeff Wahl from the album, A Light in the Darkness, track 17 "The Sea", and provided by

19. The Fable of the Blackbird
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The Fable of the Blackbird
by Barry J. Northern

A blackbird and his new wife flew across the fields searching for a good hedgerow in which to make their home. Long did they search for just the right spot, for it was their first year as yellow-beaks, and they had never before built a nest of their own.

"How about the thick ivy upon this tree my love?" said Husband.

"Too small," said Wife.

"What of this hawthorn. It looks good."

"It is too tall, what if our eggs should fall?"

They searched the hedgerows for two more days until they found a large, low holly bush. Husband's wings were tired, but he was glad to see his new wife so pleased, for she said it was perfect, and that it would be their home for the rest of their lives.

Now it was time for them to build a proper nest for their first clutch, and so, as is the way with blackbirds, Wife set about building the nest while Husband fetched the straw.

"Husband, do not take the straw from this field, for it is poor. Fly away to the yellow field yonder, for the straw there will make a perfect house, strong and warm."

Husband puffed his chest and warbled. "I will fetch the yellow straw, Wife, to make us a proud home."

All day Husband flew to the yellow field and back to collect the best straw, and as the sun grew big and low in the reddening sky, Wife yawned and said to Husband. "Away to the yellow field but once more my love, for our perfect home is almost done."

Husband flew away with a silent yawn, and aching wings. He hung his head, seeing the straw in the field beneath him, and so thought to himself. "Why must I fly yonder to the yellow field when there is straw all about?"

He landed amongst the poor straw. "Wife is right," he thought. "This straw is poor, for it feels weak beneath my feet, but I am tired and it will do. After all, our nest is almost finished."

He flew back to the nest, and there found his wife near sleep. "Here is some straw, my Love."

"It is not the yellow straw?"

"No, for I am tired."

"As am I, my love. This straw will do then." And so she stuffed the poor straw among the good.

Before many days had passed, Wife sat proudly upon their first clutch. But soon the March Winds blew, and Wife said. "It is too cold for our clutch, my love. Can you not fly and find more yellow straw?"

Now Husband was rested, and he was glad to fetch more yellow straw, but as he alighted from the edge of the nest the poor straw collapsed beneath his feet, and though they worked fast to stop it, the whole nest fell apart, scattering their first clutch within the holly bush.

Now the pair had chosen the bush well, and so not a single egg was broken, and each one lay safe within the bush. But it cost the pair much effort to fetch out the yellow straw and their eggs, and yet more hard work to collect more yellow straw from the far field, and to build a second nest, before they could carry each egg safely to it.

Now blackbirds venture not to the sea, and so, of course, they have never heard this old proverb.

"Don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar."

The Fable of the Blackbird by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive download the MP3 here
Music by Eileen Hadidian and Natalie Cox from the album, Dolce Musica - A Contemplative Journey, track 3 "The Blackbird (Irish Traditional)", and provided by

20. The Fable of the Orang-utan
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The Fable of the Orang-utan
by Barry J. Northern

Deep in the jungle, a family of young orang-utans played in the trees around their wise old father, who was content to sit and watch from his nest in the branches.

Old Man's youngest son stopped by the nest while his brothers played on. He was in high spirits, and said to his father. "Oh, this playing is fun, Father, but I might stop now."

"Why stop?" said Old Man, "The day is yet young, and the weather is fine."

"Oh, it will be fine tomorrow too. I can play then."

Old Man laughed. "Young one, there is a saying 'don't count your chickens before they are hatched', which means don't count on fine weather tomorrow before tomorrow comes. Go now and play."And so Young One laughed and swung off to join his brothers.

Now Old Man's eldest son had overheard this, and so he also stopped by the nest, and said to his father. "I have heard all your sayings, Father. I too am wise, see." And so Eldest Son swung among his brothers, dispensing advice.

Young One was about to swing onto a branch that Eldest Son saw was too thin, and so he shouted, "Look before you leap!"

Then after a time the games of the middle brothers became too rough, for they were trying to hit one another with sticks, and so Eldest Son cried out, saying,"He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword!"

Then he spotted Young One again, who had found a branch of figs, and was throwing away the small ones to get to the large.

"Waste not want not, Young One!"

Now as Eldest Son swung about the tree like this, Old Man chuckled. Eldest Son heard him, and his heart filled with pride, for it must surely mean that his father was pleased with him. And so he swung about correcting his brothers all afternoon.

Purple evening benighted the jungle, and Eldest Son thought to himself. "It will soon be bedtime, but I am grown now, why should I share a nest with my brothers?" And so he set about gathering leaves for his own nest. His brothers saw him at work, and asked him what he was doing. They were upset to learn he no longer wished to share their nest, yet they loved their brother, and though they did not understand why he wished to be apart from them, they offered to help him make his own nest, for the jungle nights draw in fast. But he would not accept their help, saying only, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."

When night came, his brothers were all asleep, and yet Eldest Son's nest was still not finished, for he was used to making bed with his brothers. Old Man came to him then and asked what he was doing.

"It is time for me to have a nest of my own, Father."

"I see. But why did you not accept your brothers' help, for you would surely be finished by now if you had."

"But, Father, do you not say, 'Too many cooks spoil the broth'?"

"Ah yes, but don't I also say, 'Many hands make light work'? Even so, I can understand why a young man would want to build his first nest himself. Why though did you begin building so late?"

"As you say, father. 'Don't put of tomorrow what you can do today'."

"Ah, but do I not also say, 'Look before you leap'?"

"But I know these things!" said Eldest Son, and then became sullen. Old Man only smiled.

"You must learn not to take my sayings so literally my son, for they are only a guide, and talk is cheap. You must find your own way in the world, and learn life's lessons as best you can. Sometimes the hard way is the only way."

"I think I will never understand, father."

"Ah, so now you can see you know less than you once thought. That is the start of wisdom, Eldest Son. But I cannot leave you now without one last saying, for as you know, I am rather fond of them." Old Man's chuckle made Eldest Son laugh.

"What is it father?"

Old Man clapped his son on the shoulder. "This is a truth I think you have learnt today, son. 'There's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.'”

The Fable of the Orang-utan by Barry J. Northern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Hosted by The Internet Archive download the MP3 here
Music by Solace from the album, The Gathering Season, track 11 "Sudan", and provided by