From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.


ONCE THERE WAS a small island in the middle of a great river, and on this little island lived a tribe of monkeys. At first they lived very happily, for the island produced fruit in abundance. But as time went on, the monkeys multiplied faster than the fruit did, so that the whole tribe was hungry and miserable.

Now, one day it happened that the monkeys saw a boat full of intrepid explorers drifting down the river. They had never seen a boat before, and they were filled with wonder; but they were clever monkeys, and soon grasped the purpose of the thing.

“Behold,” said one especially bright young monkey: “those odd but obviously intelligent bald monkeys have hit on the simple and obvious solution to our food problem. If we were to build such a floating island as they have, we could all float downstream to a place of abundance, where we need never be hungry again.”

All the monkeys agreed that this was a capital idea—all but one, that is. She was an old grump who had never had a good idea in her life, and she never had a kind word for anybody.

“It’ll never work,” she said in a loud and grating screech. “No one can build a floating island.”

Here the chief of the monkeys spoke up. He was a wise and kindly monkey, always ready to acknowledge and reward a good idea when he heard one.

“On the contrary,” said the chief, “we have just seen it done: the bald monkeys have done it, and done it successfully. I decree, therefore, that a floating island shall be built, and that all monkeys of the tribe shall contribute to the building of it.”

All the monkeys cheered—all except the old grump.

“You’re all fools!” she screeched. “You’ll all drown in the river. No one can build a floating island.”

The others ignored her, for they had become accustomed to her outbursts and had learned to ignore them.

Immediately the whole tribe set to work. Some used sharp rocks to cut down small saplings; some cut the saplings into equal lengths; some gathered strong vines to lash them together. Everyone worked merrily—everyone, that is, except the old grump, who refused to have anything to do with the project. “You’ll all drown,” she told anyone who would listen, and anyone who would not listen as well. “No one can build a floating island.” The other monkeys began to find her quite annoying, but the wise and kindly chief advised them merely to ignore her and keep working. Success, he said, would be the best retort.

With all the monkeys working, a large raft quickly took shape; and when they pushed it into the water and saw that it floated, the whole tribe cried out with a triumphant cheer.

“And now,” said the chief when the cheering had died down, “we have but to float to our new home, where there will be fruit in abundance for all.” Then he turned to the old grump. “But you, old one, shall not accompany us. Since you took no part in the effort of the whole tribe, you shall not share in its success.”

The monkeys all nodded and murmured their approval at the chief’s wise and just decision.

“For the rest of us, let us leap to our floating island and float to the land of plenty!”

With a mighty cheer, all the monkeys leapt at once to the raft they had constructed. Immediately it broke apart and sank under their weight, and the monkeys were carried away by the swift current and never heard from again.

The old grump, however, had the island to herself, with all the fruit she could want, and she lived out the rest of her days in peace and plenty.

MORAL: There’s a reason why so many grumps are old.