The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Ant and the Grasshopper is one of the best and most well-known Aesop’s fables.
As you probably know, in this story the grasshopper spends the warmer months of the year singing and idling while the ant works non-stop to store up food for winter. Then the winter season arrives and the grasshopper has no food to eat and ask the ant for food. Instead of being helped, it is asked why it had sung and played all summer. The ants refuses to give it food and it of course dies.
To me the main lesson is:
You need to work hard in order to have a future.
This seems to ring a basic truth in us. It’s obvious, right? Our societies seem to be based on this very premise!
But is it only I who thinks that the ant’s morals are off? That the story is just wrong?
The story seems to indicate that idleness and rest should be looked down upon. It doesn’t seem like a right: people must work. And in fact many people do, too much, and work themselves to death.
The arts are badly viewed by the most conservative. As a result, children who have gift for the arts are instead encouraged to forget that and get ‘a real job’.
Worst of all, this story gives off the idea that if someone is in a bad situation it was a direct result of their actions, i.e. their choice. Bad luck can’t explain what is happening to them.
And by the way, ants are hoarders. And they’re sons of bitches because they refuse to share with those in need.
So I have an alternative story to share with you, one that is more suitable to our current society.
The Ant and the Grasshopper — 21st Century Version
Once upon a time, there was an ants’ nest in summer. One ant in particular, the subject of this story, was very excited because it was harvest season and she needed to get all the food she needed for winter!
This ant was very young and it was her first summer working. She needed to prove herself to the rest of the nest and therefore she worked really, really hard, day in, day out.
However, one day she heard a beautiful song and she was mesmerised. She dropped her load and went after the sound. She came to a clearing in the forest and saw… a grasshopper. A beautiful, brightly coloured, grasshopper, playing a guitar, and singing! And what a beautiful song it was! The song notes went up and down, his voice was crystal clear and the high-pitch at the end went on forever…
How, just how, she never noticed this wonderful being before?
— Err… hi there? You… you sing so well!
— Hello, my dear little ant. Thank you so much for your compliment! You know, it doesn’t come naturally, I have to rehearse a lot!
— Really? Why haven’t I heard you before singing in the forest?
— Well, it’s easy! I travel a lot. I’m usually on tour all around the forest — and it’s a big forest out there, did you know?
— Actually, no, not really… I don’t travel much. I have to carry food to the nest and I never have time to have fun…
— What? No time to have fun? Do you mean you work all day, every day?
— Sure! Isn’t that what everybody does?
— Well… no, not quite. I don’t know anybody else who does that apart from you. Well, there’s the squirrel, he’s always burying nuts here and there but he never bothers to mark where the spots, so I guess that he always does it for fun, too!
— You are telling me… that we ants are the only animals in the forest who work like this every summer?
— Yes! Look, my dear ant… in the summer the days are long, the forest is nice and warm… and I say: seize the day! But I’m not worried about the future as you are, because I don’t just sing. Everywhere I go, the other animals enjoy my performances and give me food and shelter in return. I have met many wonderful animals this way. Well, except the frog, he says he likes my singing but then he always tries to eat me — every single time! Vicious animal, I tell you…
The ant suddenly felt very uncomfortable and excused herself hurriedly.
— Look, it’s late, I have to go now!
The ant left but as she was going back to the nest she had the epiphany: this work is terrible. Working every day without rest, without a bit of fun, is just no way to live! She didn’t wish to die in winter… but the grasshopper was right: the summer seemed to be perfect to have some fun too, and not just work!
And so when the ant finished taking that load to the nest, she decided, there and then, to work and still have some fun.
— I’ll take a rest here and there! And I’ll stop by to listen to the grasshopper’s beautiful songs at least once a day!
And so it was, for the rest of the summer. Every day the ant would take a break to go listen to the grasshopper singing. Most times they weren’t alone and the ant met many other animals who also stopped by to listen — so far she only met animals that she could carry, that is, after they were dead!
And then one day winter finally arrived. First it started raining and, not long afterwards, it started snowing.
The ant felt very warm and comfortable in the nest with all her fellow ants. The pantry was stocked full of food! She wasn’t feeling too well, though, because now she missed the grasshopper and all her new friends! She felt lonely and in a bad mood.
But she had an idea! She went outside, found the grasshopper huddling in a corner, shivering, and asked:
— Are you alright? You don’t seem too well.
— Oh, I’m okay my dear little ant, I’ll do fine during winter. I have fewer friends coming over, but I’m sure they’ll come. Eventually. I’m not too concerned.
— Well, I have an idea! I’m not having fun at all in the ants’ nest. So why don’t you come to our nest and spend the winter with us?
— Oh no, I don’t think I can… I don’t wish to impose…
— Look, you can entertain us all with your lovely singing and in return we can give you shelter and food in return. The winter is going to be very harsh… And you’ll make millions of new friends…
— Now where did I leave my guitar? — asked the grasshopper.
After that, the ant the grasshopper became best friends. The grasshopper never went hungry again in winter. Ants are not considered by all the other animals as sons of bitches. Although technically they are still hoarders…