The Ruricolist is now available in print.

Fable of the Hyena and the Comedian

A spotted hyena, having escaped the zoo, walked the streets that night terrified and disconsolate. (He was small, so those who saw him took him for a dog.) He wandered until he heard, from a large building, the sounds of laughter. What could be causing so much terror – what could be frightening so many?

The hyena, approaching the source of the noise, saw through a window that the threat was only a single man. But the man had a terrible voice, as powerful as the trumpeting of the elephants at the zoo. The voice carried through the whole hall and out through the half-open window, into the alley where the hyena watched. It was a terrible and evil voice, full of mockery and cruelty.

The hyena did not know why the people did not destroy him. Perhaps (with that voice) he was too strong for them; but the hyena had nothing to lose. He burst through the window, leaped onto the stage, and before the creature could blast him with that terrible voice – the hyena tore out his throat.

The crowd stayed silent until the hyena had dragged the carcass off the stage and out of the building. Then they started whooping and gasping and murmuring, and the hyena was pleased to have caused so much joy, and to have freed so many.

Later, in the shelter of a storm drain, as he ate his prize, he reflected that he had found his purpose. There must be more of these creatures, and he was the only one swift enough to destroy them.

Moral: Never laugh in front of someone who does not get the Joke.