Loon Laughter: Ecological Fables & Nature Tales
Aird, Paul L
. Fitzhenry & Whiteside . Markham, Ontario
Paul Leet Aird
PR9199.3.A346 L66 1999 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
Paul Leet Aird
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The preface gives a good overview of the tradition of fables but makes three points clear about the thirty-three stories that follow. First, Aird claims that here the animals represent not humans but themselves. Secondly, the plants and animals here are Canadian plants and animals. Thirdly, the book's perspective is ecological. MacDonald died in 1989, and so his line-drawings are used here to complement Aird's stories. I am pleasantly surprised by the fable-quality of these fables, starting with the very first (1). A blow-fly arrogantly analyses what parts of pollution can harm it and finally mentions to the inquiring and respectful frog that he is far enough away and so cannot harm it. The frog takes one jump, sticks out his tongue, and eats it! A good fable like this may reach well beyond its animal characters, pace Aird's claim above that the animals represent only themselves. Concrete Thinking (37-39) is another good case in point. A highway cuts across the trek frogs need to make from breeding to living ground. The median between traffic directions blocks their passage, and they eventually cause a huge accident. The human response is to build a wall around the pond so that the frogs cannot again endanger the highway. Some holes in the concrete median would have done the trick nicely. In Mountain King (41) a hunter finally finds the largest bighorn sheep on the mountain and is ready to shoot him. The sheep moves back into a crevice. The hunter shouts for him to come out and even fires a shot to scare him out. The shot causes an avalanche that sweeps past the sheep but engulfs the hunter. The Ploughers (53) is a short and conclusive discussion between horse and farmer on whether their relationship is that of slave and master or two equals. The horse effectively establishes the latter. Some of the non-fable items here have a haunting sadness about them, as when the lead bison jump over the cliff to their death (3). In The Trilliums and the Bear (69), the bear over a few years depletes the field of trilliums; he creates his own disappointment. There is also frequently a touch of hope for the future, as when a dying oak loses all its acorns into water but one, and that one lands eventually on a small island (31). MacDonald's drawings are worthy of the book: strong and evocative. Among the best are: the woods and fields on 4 and the geese on 34. At the end are a set of loon laughter activities and biographies of the fabulist, artist, and editor. Good book!