There is statue in Paris’s Sixteenth Arrondissement of a man, a crow and a fox. If anyone had asked, I might have suggested the man was perhaps Lord Ranelagh, whose gardens in London had been the inspiration for the Jardin du Ranelagh. But why was this man watching a crow and a fox? Was he protector of the crow? Was the crow taunting the fox? Were the fox and the crow symbolic figures?
Googling “what is the crow and fox statue in Ranelagh?” The answer provided was unexpected. The sculpture depicted one of Aesop’s Fables, stories with a moral from between 620 and 560 BC.
A CROW having stolen a bit of meat, perched in a tree and held it in her beak. A Fox, seeing this, longed to possess the meat himself, and by a wily stratagem succeeded. “How handsome is the Crow,” he exclaimed, in the beauty of her shape and in the fairness of her complexion! Oh, if her voice were only equal to her beauty, she would deservedly be considered the Queen of Birds!” This he said deceitfully; but the Crow, anxious to refute the reflection cast upon her voice, set up a loud caw and dropped the flesh. The Fox quickly picked it up, and thus addressed the Crow: “My good Crow, your voice is right enough, but your wit is wanting.”
The fable appears in the work of Seventeenth Century French writer Jean de La Fontaine, where the crow is holding a cheese rather than meat, and was a story learned by generations of French primary schoolchildren. French children would presumably have instantly identified the animals depicted in the Jardin du Ranelagh, but what about the human figure? With the wig and garb, he might have passed as Lord Ranelagh, but he is the fable-teller, presumably contemplating the folly of the crow.
It was a strangely troubling thought. The idea that someone would watch the folly of another and not intervene, even if only to offer a word of advice, to ask if the consequences had been considered. Perhaps there was nothing that could be done.
Perhaps those who grew up hearing the fables would have needed no such advice. Perhaps the troubling thought arises because we have forgotten such old wisdom.
As the general election approaches, there is a sense of the crow and the fox. Voters will be lured by the flattery of the political foxes. Like the man in the statue watching the folly of the crow, there may be little that can be done