February 20, 2007

Simia in pelle leonis

In English: A monkey in the lion's skin.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb about the donkey in the lion skin. This proverb expresses a similar idea - the unworthy creature, the monkey, who wears the noble lion's skin - but in this case, there is no story to go with the saying. At least, there is no extant fable that has survived about the monkey in the lion's skin. Still, that's no reason why you cannot make one up! In the absence of a story about the monkey in a lion's skin, I thought I would offer this Aesop's fable about the kingdom of the monkeys and the monkey king:
There were two men travelling together: one was a liar and the other always told the truth. Their journey led them to the land of the monkeys. There was a whole crowd of monkeys there and one of them noticed the travellers. The monkey who was clearly their leader ordered that the men be detained. Since he wanted to know what the men thought of him, he commanded all rest of the monkeys to stand before him in a long line to his right and to his left, while a seat was prepared for him to sit on (this monkey had once seen the emperor, so he was ordering his monkeys to line up for him in the same way). The men were then told to come forward into the midst of the monkeys. The chief monkey said, 'Who am I?' The liar said, 'You are the emperor!' Then the monkey asked, 'And those whom you see standing before me: who are they?' The man answered, 'They are your noble companions, your chancellors, your officials and the commanders of your armies!' Because these lies flattered the monkey and his troops, he ordered that the man be showered with presents. All the monkeys were fooled by his flattery. Meanwhile, the man who always told the truth thought to himself, 'If that liar received such rewards for telling lies, then surely I will receive an even greater reward for telling the truth.' The chief monkey said to the second man, 'Now you tell me who I am, and who are these whom you see standing before me?' And the man who always loved the truth and never lied said to the monkey, 'You are simply a monkey, and all of these similar simians are monkeys as well!' The chief monkey immediately ordered the monkeys to attack the man with their teeth and claws because he had spoken the truth.
You can also read some Latin versions of this fable online, too, and look at some early illustrations.It's not exactly the monkey in a lion's skin, but it is the monkey in the king's robes - and one who insists on his right to wear them!Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud:

389. Simia in pelle leonis.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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