September 07, 2007

Asinus asino et sus sui pulcher

In English: One donkey is beautiful to another, one pig is beautiful to another.

And now... back to the world of animal sayings! Since I had done a saying about a donkey last time, I thought I would do another donkey saying today. This saying is very charming because it depends on the fact that a donkey is a singularly unattractive creature - although the donkey remains happily oblivious to this fact, so long as he remains lovely in the eye of another donkey. So too for the much-reviled pig.

I like the fact that this saying takes us all down a peg. There's no accounting for taste, so you might as well live and let live. Let the donkeys be donkeys... even if the non-donkeys find their mutual attraction a bit laughable. It reminds me of all the great humor in the film Planet of the Apes, where the apes try very hard not to think that Charlton Heston and his fellow humans are so terribly ugly! It's all relative and depends, profoundly, on where you stand and what your particular species might be.

There are a number of fables about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and the one I like best is a medieval fable by Odo of Cheriton about the toad and his son. I've cited this fable in a previous post some months ago, but it is so charming, I think I will cite it again today:
Contigit quod animalia celebraverunt concilium. Bufo misit illuc filium suum. Sed oblitus sotulares suos novos, quaesiuit Bufo aliquod animal velox, qui posset ad concilium accelerare; videbatur sibi quod Lepus bene curreret. Vocavit eum et, mercede constituta, dixit ei quod deferret sotulares novos filio suo. Respondit Lepus: Quomodo potero discernere filium tuum in tali concilio? Dixit Bufo: Ille qui pulcherrimus est inter omnia animalia est filius meus. Dixit Lepus: Numquid Columba uel Pavo est filius tuus? Respondit: Nequaquam, quoniam Columba habet nigras carnes, Pavo turpes pedes. Dixit Lepus: Qualis est igitur filius tuus? Et dixit Bufo: Qui tale habet caput quale est meum, talem ventrem, tales tibias, tales pedes, ille pulcher filius meus. Illi deferas sotulares. Venit Lepus cum sotularibus et narravit Leoni et ceteris bestiis qualiter Bufo pre ceteris filium suum commendavit. Et ait Leo: Si quis amat Ranam, Ranam putat esse Dianam.

It once happened that the animals were holding a council. The toad sent his son there, but his son forgot his new shoes, so the toad sought some fast animal who could hurry to the council. It seemed to the toad that the rabbit could run quickly so he summoned the rabbit and, having a reward had been agreed upon, he told the rabbit to take the new shoes to his son. The rabbit replied, "How will I be able to recognize your son in such a council?" The toad said, "The one who is the most beautiful among all the animals is my son." The rabbit said, "So is the dove or the peacock your son?" The toad replied, "Not at all! The dove has black flesh and the peacock has ugly feet." The rabbit said, "What is your son like then?" And the toad said, "The one who has a head like mine and a belly like mine, and legs and feet like mine, that good-looking creature is my son. You should take the shoes to him." The rabbit came with the shoes and told the lion and the other beasts that the toad had praised his son more highly than all the others. And the lion said, "If someone loves a frog, he thinks that frog is the goddess of love."
The lion, of course, is making fun of that toad and his love for his son, just as in today's proverb the donkey and the pig are objects of ridicule. I'm all for the toad and the donkey and the pig, though, because they seem quite well-adjusted and happy, if you ask me!So, hoping you are feeling beautiful in the eyes of your fellow creatures (no matter what the world at large might think), here is today's proverb read out loud:

331. Asinus asino et sus sui pulcher.

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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