Manny's Reviews > Freaky Fables

Freaky Fables by J.B. Handelsman
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Mar 06, 09

bookshelves: strongly-recommended, well-i-think-its-funny
Read in January, 1979, read count: 50

This book is a collection of cartoons that originally appeared in Punch during the 70s. Most of them are satirical adaptations of stories from Aesop's Fables, hence the title. I find them hysterically funny, and have read the book so many times I pretty much know it by heart. It is a complete mystery to me that it isn't better known.

Here is a sample, which combines the original Aesop story with references to Muhammad Ali and Shakespeare (Handelsman is nothing if not eclectic). I will transpose to dramatic form for convenience.


FIRST COCK: I demand a return match in Philadelphia!


[SECOND COCK is strutting around the barnyard, surrounded by his admiring harem of HENS:]

SECOND COCK: He didn't take no dive/I knocked him out in five!

FIRST HEN: Take me!

SECOND HEN: I'm yours!

THIRD HEN: Forever!


[An EAGLE swoops down and carries off SECOND COCK:]

SECOND COCK [well off the ground:]: I got plenty of endurance/But I don't carry no insurance.

EAGLE: Shut up.


[FIRST COCK has reappeared, looking much the worse for wear:]

FIRST COCK: Don't fret, girls! Joe Loser is still here!

FIRST HEN: Why, you crumb! Don't you know that love is not love, that alters when it alteration finds?

SECOND HEN: Or bends with the remover to remove?

THIRD HEN: Oh no, it is an ever-fixéd fight/That stares on tempests and is never Shakespeare!


[The HENS have clearly thought better of it, because they are now surrounding FIRST COCK:]

FIRST HEN: However...

SECOND HEN: We have to be chicken about it...

THIRD HEN: But we'll hate ourselves in the morning.

FIRST HEN: Make a note, Edna.


[Every story comes with a moral. Here, it is presented as a Brechtian subtitle held up by FIRST COCK:]

FIRST COCK [via subtitle:]: Moral. He who comes latest/Is always the greatest.


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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Manny I do know about the second collection - but alas, it's not nearly as good. The first volume is just magnificent! We even have one of the originals, "The Lovebirds"...

Manny It's not 100% correct - the illustration used for the cover, but not the cover itself. I hope the librarian death squad won't come and seek me out for this...

Manny Oh, I'm glad that there's a precedent. As you say, it seemed much better than nothing, but some people are so literal about applying rules...

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