A small detour by Kafka? What, no ?
Okay, before the title I hadn’t thought about it – and then Kafka, in the month of Christmas and Wonders, it’s not too much in the mind.
I’ll save it for later – even though I live in the middle of Kafka’s crazy world.
No, I’m still lost in my imaginary bestiary – my brain is a kind of strange Noah’s Ark, where countless animals cross paths, each with their own stories.
Yesterday I was in my goat stories – and this allowed me to dive back into those old things I love so much – my books, to share with you a little treasure completely forgotten.
I don’t know if you know France and, above all, the real France, that of the villages. Offensively French – yes, I saw how you talked about some of our presidential candidates.
So in France, in the mountains of the Pyrenees – which are a kind of natural border with Spain – bears have been reintroduced for more than ten years. They feel good in our mountains, and they thrive: we now have a population of 42 bears, young and healthy.
The bear is an intelligent animal and does not get too tired hunting.
Going shopping in the village seems more efficient to him.
– yes yes, I’m coming, I’m coming – I’m far from Altair? Not at all.
So here are our bears that start to enter the small villages of our mountains.
And what does the mayor do?
He dives into his archives. And he finds: the solution.
The locals were not happy, it must be said.
The solution comes straight from the jurisprudence of the Middle Ages and it is easy to bring down walls.
It consists of putting a sign at the entrances of the village explaining that it is forbidden for bears to “walk in the village “.
This is very serious – and you can currently see these signs in some of the villages in the Pyrenees.
And here are my books – part of them: one of my teachers of medieval civilization had given me some incredible titles, which I hastened to buy, of course. These are the reports of animal trials in the Middle Ages.
You know that France was a “very Christian nation” and therefore it meant that man was to be the shepherd of creation: therefore the judge of the peace of the animals, creatures of God.
That’s it, isn’t it? You saw me coming with my weird stories for my weird theatre.
There are lawsuits that are completely unbelievable. It was about the stray dog who had, by chance, chewed on a chicken, and the rooster, the worthy father of the chicken in question. The pig who had allowed himself to make himself comfortable in the fishmonger’s house. The bear, who of course had no education whatsoever and stole everything he could find. The cat, who shamelessly destroyed the work of the cheese makers. The geese, who had woken up the nice parishioners by cackling like turkeys. The goats, who had devoured the rope of the well. And by the way, the chicken thieves were judged. All these beautiful people in the same cell.
I’ve always wondered what a cell could be like where the bear, the dog, the pig, the thief, the cat, the geese and so on were waiting together. I think it must have been… folkloric.
Hearing reports all note the unwillingness of the animals to acknowledge their misdeeds. Some even allowed themselves to growl.
So they were sentenced to some sort of community service. The bear was asked to leave or to agree to partner with an artist and take rides with him on celebrations.
One reads nowadays the Roman de Renard thinking that they are pure inventions.
We watch Disney movies and think it’s so cute, these animals who are endowed with reason – more or less.
But we’ve all forgotten that for centuries we really considered them as living beings capable of being accountable to the community of life that was: the village.
The stray dog was tied up at the entrance to the village and had to bark at the slightest suspicious noise.
The cat was sent to hunt rats in the barns.
The pig was asked to clean the garbage.
Geese helped the dog to guard precious goods.
The goats were sent to mow and clean the woods.
The bear was used for general entertainment.
The thief…. was the worst off, especially if he could not speak well. The thief, we don’t trust him – he is a man, we know each other.
If, with these tons of short & true stories, we can’t find a way to invent a children’s show that is absolutely brilliant, funny and surprising, it’s to the despair of humans.
At the same time – we know each other as humans – I wonder if I shouldn’t despair?
But for example, those incredible puppets invented for the Carnival of the Animals – don’t you think they would be great to reuse for a show like that?
I remember writing a whole series of ultra-short sketches based on unbelievable trials (it was for a Belgian production company): it’s very easy to do, it gives very lively little shows, which can be stacked one on top of the other, so as to accommodate an audience of young children – who don’t like to sit for too long – and to offer not one but a whole range of shows on the theme: real animal trials.
And once that’s done, we can ask the children to participate, to invent trials for the animals in their lives, to invent a general interest sentence, to draw that – in short, we can get them to participate as much as possible – and the following December, to stage the best of their stories.
And for the Virtual Reality way: let the children play – I think that proposing to the children to be in the cell with the animals can be an excellent idea.
Especially if the children, as a group, are able to grab the key to the cell so that the whole little world can escape judgment.
Featured Image : Illumination: animal fighting