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James Thurber

"The rabbits that caused all the trouble"

Cartoon version of Thurberīs fable

thurber2.jpg (4993 Byte) What is a fable? In a fable animals always are the main characters. And this fact has a certain reason. The author wants to explain some particular circumstances of the human world. Normally an animal story is written for kids, because they love animals who can speak and can easily be identified with. But for adults fables still have a deeper meaning, because they also understand the background of the fable. The author mostly writes fables for a hidden criticism, as he cannot always say directly what he really means. So animals play the role of humans and do almost exactly the same.

left: James Thurber (1894 - 1961)

The fable "The rabbits that caused all the trouble" by James Thurber is about rabbits and wolves who live side by side. But there are some problems. The wolves have prejudices against the rabbits and so the rabbits are often blamed by the wolves if there is any disaster. The rabbits decide to escape to a desert island, but they do not do it because the other animals promise to help. But they do not help and so the rabbits are locked in a dark cave by the wolves. The moral tells that you should run, not walk, to the nearest desert island. But what does this fable really express and why was it written?

In "The rabbits that caused all the trouble" the author perhaps let the rabbits play the role of the Jews in Nazi Germany or of the Red Indians in 19th century America. Here the wolves are the majority and the rabbits the minority. The wolves are like the Nazis or even the "Whites" and the rabbits are like the Jews or the Red Indians. Minorities are often attacked by majorities and then the minorities can only escape because there are prejudices by the majority and there will always be an argument or a fight about something. It can become very complicated for minorities if they stay.

This story is a typical scapegoat story. The wolves look for scapegoats and find them in the characters of the rabbits. It is a very absurd story for us, because we know that rabbits do not cause earthquakes, floods or anything like that. Never! The author presents the characters of the animals in a rather unusual way. Wolves have fear and show respect for the rabbits.

All together the story is very exaggerated, a little bit ironic because of the characters and there are repetitions like "…and it is well known that…". Those repetitions give relief to the story. Finally the other animals are defeated with their own arms. Because of the sentence: "This is no world for escapists…".

And the moral means:

- Donīt let yourself be influenced by the other people!!!

- Form your own opinion!!!

- Stick to your first decision!!!

- Rely only yourself!!!

We think that fables are a good possibility to criticize a person in an indirect way. So the person is not exposed and can think about that story. The other readers think about the story, too, and can decide, if they can identify with the main characters or not. Perhaps they will change something in their lives. And, of course, the author cannot get into trouble because of his special way of criticism.

by Katharina & Sandra, 10th grade, November 2002           Cartoon version of Thurberīs fable>>

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