Karl Wiener

The gnat and the elephant

 
       Which of you doesnt know the funny game, where the children sit in a circle and one of them whispers some words in his neighbours ear? The message gets passed around, each child whispering what he thought he had heard. The last child then reveals what he takes for the original message. However, because the message had passed very quickly and in a low voice from one ear to the next, the game results in funny misunderstandings.
       Frequently life seems to echo that game, but this doesnt always come to an amusing end. A friend trusts you with a secret that nobody else should know. But what is a secret, if there isnt at least one confidant to tell and to exchange a conspiratorial glance? And because you have been sworn to discretion, that secret passes from ear to ear without necessarily being relayed truthfully. Therefore, everyone has to add his own opinion, before telling the message to the next confidant. In this way rumours arise and, now and then, a mountain is made out of a molehill, or as the following story proves, a mighty elephant is made out of a  gnat.
       A swarm of tiny gnats had chosen a marsh close to a dark forest as their home. The little insects were so small, that a single gnat by itself wouldnt have been seen. But when they swarmed together they felt very powerful. Nevertheless, they were very much in fear of the forest. The gnats usually play in the bright sunlight, and although they had lived for generations at the edge of the forest, not one of them had ever dared to venture into the darkness. The sounds they heard coming out of the undergrowth made them anxious, but nevertheless they all wanted to know what happens there in the forest. One of the gnats was particularly quick of hearing, it was said it could even hear a flea cough. Perhaps it was also a very courageous gnat for it offered to discover the secrets of the dark forest and set out straight away for the adventure in uncertainty.       
       We dont know anything of the brave gnats dangerous adventures. The fellow gnats outside of the forest waited anxiously and full of curiosity for their scouts return. The longer they had to wait the more stories they made up about the sounds they heard coming from within the forest. The call of a night bird looking for its prey or the rustle of a hedgehog strolling along in the moonlight made them shiver and they whispered to each other and speculated on the daring of their comrade, who bravely faced all kinds of danger. One day they heard snuffling and snapping sounds from beyond the trees and they gathered hoping to greet the return of their hero. But it was a wild boar that broke out of the woods. That couldnt be their hero. It seems that all their whispering had made a mighty elephant out of the tiny gnat. As a result of their euphoric expectations, they didnt notice the lonely gnat that crept out of the forest on sore feet and joined in the swarm.

 

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Published on e-Stories.org on 01/20/2008.

 

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