A children’s story… for all ages.
Versión en español: https://jorgeolalla.com/quien-le-puso-el-cascabel-al-gato/
This is a fable about mice like many other fables about mice. For some reason these animals, which in real life cause us so much fear, in storybooks they are insurmountable at expressing the stories and teachings for mankind. This particular storybook is inspired by a fable and by a personal experience. The owner of a company where I worked always I responded to my claims saying, «That can not be true, those are stories you’re telling!«
So came the idea to write this like a fairy tale.
My love and gratitude to Patricia, my wife; and to Andrés, Adriana, Anita and Macarena, my children, who drove me with love, acceptance, to be reborn and to write.
Jorge Olalla Mayor
Surely you’ve heard the phrase: Who will bell the cat?
This is the proverbial question posed in a famous fable written by Jean La Fontaine (1621 – 1695)
A fable is a short-form literary composition in which the characters are animals or inanimate objects that have human characteristics. Essentially, they offer moralizing or didactic content and always
present a moral.
The first part of this story, which you will read below, is inspired by Aesop’s fable.
The second part offers the continuation and outcome of the story, which never before had been told: Who put bell the cat?
Jean de la Fontaine writes the moral this fable:
«So I’ve seen it happen more than once – and I do not speak and rats, but of humans: Who has not been beaten down by disillusionment? Behind deliberations,
beautiful words, big ideas… clean, is nothing”
Jean de La Fontaine (1621 – 1695)
Who put the Bell on the Cat?
Once upon a time, not long ago, in a small reign called Mousewood Forest… Spring had arrived and its inhabitants, all mice, and all were taking part in the harvest, finally enjoying renewed peace and a hard day’s work!
The preceding seasons had been horrible as a pair of rats, who had been hired to care for the treasury of the kingdom, took it upon themselves to steal from it instead to the point of leaving the coffers almost empty.
This affected the self-esteem of all the hard-working village mice as well as the mood of the mouse king, who did not cease blaming his mouse subjects for not realizing what was happening under his nose.
Fortunately, the harvest was a success, and for the tiny villagers, their confidence started to recover, so too did the mood of the great mouse king of Mousewood Forest.
Soon thereafter, just as the village mice of Mousewood Forest were preparing the next plantation, the mouse king decided to call on his faithful delegate mouse. As usual, the mice figured the king would be sending news or instructions.
The delegate mouse scurried from the village all the way to the Mousewood Forest Castle where the mouse king waited for him impatiently.
Great was the surprise the delegate mouse got when he entered the castle’s Grand Hall and saw that sitting next to the mouse king was a large, fat cat.
The delegate mouse could not understand what His Majesty was doing with a cat! And a cat like that?!
The mouse king immediately began to speak «Delegate, I introduce thee to our new director, just hired. He will advise us on the best way to sell our harvest so that our business shall grow.»
While the mouse king spoke, the delegate mouse watched dumbfounded as the cat watched him with a smile. For a moment he thought this fat cat was savoring him.
The mouse king then told the delegated mouse the counselor cat would, once a week, pay a visit to the village to meet with them and initiate “changes”
“Changes necessary to carry out the counselor cat’s ambitious project; which he hath presented,” concluded the mouse king.
In the first meeting with the village mice, the fat cat decided lowering the salaries of all the mice while hiking up their mandatory tribute to the mouse king. He did not accept opinions and definitely no complaints.
That day the village mice felt a chill down their backs. The fear struck them all.
The fat cat started to show up now up to three four times a week without notice, threatening the entire village, charging taxes and eating one or two mice each visit.
To make matters worse the fat cat met daily with the mouse king and informed him of the serious problems he was finding each time he visited the village and how he was solving them one by one, so as to grow faster.
Out of desperation, the delegate mouse decided to go to castle and directly request an expedited hearing with the great mouse king.
Once with the mouse king, he gave account to all the horrors that were happening in the village and begged for him to fire the counselor. The mouse king, however, did not believe him.
“Nonsense, your information is. This most appreciated counselor cat, mine advisor, has helped me in a short time much more than all thou hast in years!
Thanks to him I now receive twice the amount of tributes!»
Thou art jealous and know not how to recognize those who help thee! We need to hear other voices that advise us on how grow!”
Declared the great mouse king.
Before leaving, the delegate mouse also received the royal order by the mouse king of apologizing to the fat cat at once and to stop complaining with lies and exaggerations, he was now officially put at the cat’s humble service.
When the delegate mouse returned, all the village mice were anxiously waiting in the barn, hoping to hear good news and instructions to end this nightmare.
The delegate mouse entered the barn, pale and panting. A new chill took over the barn and the mice sensed nothing good was coming.
And so it was. Their despair reached its limit.
Suddenly one of the village mice shyly asked to have a word.
«Dear mice-folk of Mousewood Forest! If our king does not listen to us then we must think of a way stop this horrible nightmare on our own!»
«Yeeeeeesssss!» the village mice shouted back followed by a great buzz of conversation that began to take over the barn. After a few minutes, a weak voice rose from between the murmurs:
«I have an idea!» said an old mouse.
There was silence and all eyes turned to old mouse who humbly said, «Let’s put a bell on the cat so we know when he is approaching and we can hide.»
«That is a really good idea! Hurrah!” They all shouted. Amid much enthusiasm the delegate mouse called the barn to order and waited for the hush to ask something very important: “And who will bell the cat?”
Then total silence seized control of the barn.
Some days passed and no mouse volunteered. Everyone had an excuse; their fear had paralyzed them. Some said that in the fat cat was not so bad after all; others commented that maybe the cat would change.
Some of the village mice were in agreement when one explained that maybe they needed a strong hand to impose order and progress, and it would be best to wait a while and see if the fat cat was really as evil as it seemed in the moment. Even Critter, the delegate mouse’s assistant nervously said, “I ain’t seen or heard nothin’ and do not quite understand what this is all about!” Poor Critter could not stop shivering.
Interestingly, fear always offers some excuse for inaction.
Meanwhile, the fat cat was sweeping the town. The king listened only to him and did not tire of flattering the fat cat for his services to the mouse kingdom.
The village mice decided to meet once again and waited until the cat’s fearsome watch-rat had retired to sleep; all gathered in the barn.
The delegate mouse worriedly informed them, that nobody had yet volunteered to bell the cat. He suggested that they should all vote to elect the mouse that would do it. Mousy murmurs began and suddenly all eyes pointed back to the delegate mouse that very nervously realized that, actually, they were electing him!
«No please do not look at me like that! I’m just a simple delegate mouse delegate, thou have mercy!»
The old mouse got up and with his gentle, firm voice said, “No one better than thee, dear delegate mouse, thou have the guts to defend thy mouse-folk. Ye are our leader and we implore thee, please, to accept this challenge»
Then came a thunderous applause and everyone started hugging and thanking him already. The delegate had no choice but to accept, despite being terrified at the thought of what he might possibly do.
The village mice worked for 3 days and nights concocting the bell-collar. It was blue and it was full of bells that with the slightest movement you heard jingling.
Meanwhile the mice managed to get a small and powerful padlock that would make a perfect snap broach to the bell-collar.
The delegate mouse, out of desperation, tried once more to talk with the king, begging him to listen… but to no avail. Worse yet, the king responded shouting:
”Stop inventing lies! If thou can’t agree with my orders, then thou can be banished from my kingdom!”
Upon his return to the village, the delegate mouse had not the heart to tell everyone what happened and instead told the village mice that the king was very busy and couldn’t see him.
Without any further alternative, the following day the delegate mouse made the decision to fulfill his commitment. He asked the watch-rat to please hand a letter to the fat cat.
The letter said in it:
“Dear Sir Director Cat:
On instructions from my king, I have invited our village folk tomorrow at noon to apologize publicly to thee and deliver a gift. I hope thou shall honor me by accepting it.
I remain yours,
Delegate Mouse “
The fat cat received the letter and immediately went to see the king to inform him of this invitation.
“Well, I see that finally this delegate is showing some sanity!” responded the mouse king, “I am glad about this invitation and I ask thee, my beloved cat counselor, attend this appointment tomorrow and make sure of informing me afterwards…” yet the fat cat actually sensed something strange, but finally he thought:
«I could use me a trip out there anyway and enjoy me a couple of tasty mice.»
At the time of the appointed the fat cat arrived at the village.
The village looked empty, only the delegate mouse was there waiting at the entrance. To his side was a beautiful package gift-wrapped in thin paper and with a beautiful rose on its cover.
«Welcome illustrious cat adviser» said the delegate mouse smiling.
«Mmmmmmm ….. what it is all this? Asked the fat cat with some distrust and looking around.
«I offer my apologies mister cat counselor, for not appreciating you as you deserve everything you you have done for our king and please accept this present, that the village mice of Mousewood Forest have made for you with love and devotion.”
From afar the village mice prayed together, hidden and very nervous, not knowing what was happening back in the village. The fat cat approached the gift pack and started to slowly open it.
Once opened, the cat observed the coiled bell-collar in the box and instinctively came closer to smell it. It was at that moment that the delegate mouse quickly took one end of the collar and moved over the fat neck of the cat, to link it to the other end and fastened the lock!
The move was so surprising made by the delegate mouse, the fat cat had no chance to react. The delegate mouse gave one more jump and ran away. The fat cat, still surprised and not totally understanding what was happening, tried to take off the bell desperately. The sound of the bells was hellish for the fat cat and that’s how all the village mice realized, with great joy, that the mission was accomplished!
With each passing day, the cat tried to approach the village but as he arrived he would always find it empty. The sound of the bell was heard from far away and the mice had enough time to run off and hide. The fat cat was furious and decided, then, to stay indefinitely in the village.
The mice never returned again.
Meanwhile, the mouse king was restless in his castle. The cat had not come to visit and his anticipated tributes stop coming as well.
He finally decided to go personally to the village to see what was happening.
It had been a long time since the mouse king visited the village. When he arrived, he found the fat cat resting and eating the last of fruit left over from the harvest.
The mouse king could not believe what he was seeing, “What’s going on here?! Where is my faithful delegate? Where is everybody?” he cried the desperately.
«No one else but I, your Majesty” replied the fat cat as the mouse king approached to rebuke him.
«The mice have abandoned and I am the only one here to serve» he said in a malicious tone, and stretched out one of his fat paws.
The mouse king tried to escape but it was useless. The fat cat squeezed him with his claws and brought him towards his large open mouth… it was only then that the mouse king came to realize what was actually happening in the village, his village, of Mousewood Forest.
That was his last thought before the fat cat engulfed him.
«The ambition to obtain what’s good for one,
mars what is good for everyone «
Jorge Olalla Mayor
Translation: Andrés Olalla Gajardo