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Shah’s Fables in The Way of Sufi

Shah’s Fables in The Way of Sufi

When most people answer the question, “What is a fable?” they usually define it as a story with talking animals that teaches readers a lesson or moral. Although most fables do fit into this category, Idries Shah, an author of many fables, believes that there is more to a fable than just being an interesting story that teaches a lesson. In fact, Shah writes in the “Forward” of his book Reflections, “Do you imagine that fables exist only to amuse or to instruct, and are based upon fiction? The best ones are delineations of what happens in real life, in the community, and in the individual’s mental processes” (1, 2).

What Shah means is that the best fables describe life, one’s mental processes, and the surrounding community to the fullest. In “The Man, the Snake, and the Stone,” from his book Caravan of Dreams, Shaw gives insight to the way humans’ mental processes are and how they should be. The fable seems to be a tale about a curious, yet ignorant, man who desperately tries to justify his action of releasing the snake from under the stone so that the snake does not kill him. However, this fable shows the reader how selfish, inconsiderate, and unreasonable humans are with their animal “friends.”

One thing this fable demonstrates to the reader is how selfish humans are in their ways. The fable starts with the man who picks up a stone and releases a venomous snake. The snake, of course, threatens to kill the man, but the man pleas for his life because he claims he set the snake free. The man cries, “Give me one more chance. Please let us find someone else to give an opinion, so that my life may be spared” (904). The man cares nothing about how the snake has been inconvenienced. All he cares about is trying to keep the snake from killing him.

Another issue this fable addresses is how inconsiderate man is to the animals of this planet. The fable gives two examples of animals that are treated unfairly. The first example tells of a flock of sheep which have provided humans with wool for many years. Now, after all the years of helping the humans, the humans turn around and repay the favor by killing the sheep for mutton. A sheep sarcastically adds, “That is the measure of generosity of men” (904).

Importance of Community in El Tonto Del Barrio

Importance of Community in El Tonto Del Barrio

The title of Jose Armas’ story, “El Tonto Del Barrio” (or “The Barrio Dummy”), may be interpreted two different ways. The first interpretation is literal and applies to the simple-minded Romero, who with the help of his community is able to function in the real world. The second interpretation is ironic; it applies to the Harvard-bound Seferino, who though he means well is so lacking in experience that he turns Romero’s world upside down and nearly gets him committed to an institution. Many readers see the second interpretation as the more interesting, but to see the story in this light is to overlook a very important element. This element is the significant role of the community that is the setting for this story. If we consider the importance of the community, Romero is justly the title character. Romero gives the community character through his positive attitude, and he is a great role model to the children in terms of his work ethic. In return, the neighbors treat Romero with kindness, loyalty, and respect.

In a successful community, everyone must work together and help one another. Sometimes there are people in the community who seem strange to outsiders. They may even seem strange to the community members. The more peculiar residents may be ridiculed and put down, but not in Romero’s community—he is both respected and well-treated, and in return he treats members of the community with consideration. In this way Romero’s situation demands the best of his community, and in demanding their best, he makes the community stronger.

Although Romero was not quite normal, he has a mature attitude towards his job, and he always made sure his work was done thoroughly: “R…

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… everyone is taught to help anyone who needs it and to respect everyone, no matter how odd he or she seems. These values come through strongly in Armas’ story.

Overall, the reader can see that this community does band together to support Romero. Romero is a bit touched, but he manages to teach everyone in the town some important lessons. He exemplifies a work ethic that is probably stronger than any else’s in the community. Despite his affliction, Romero is always cheerful and full of vitality. Even though he is the “village idiot” by conventional definition, he is a blessing to this barrio.

Works Cited

Armas, Jose. “El Tonto Del Barrio.” Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. NY: HarperCollins, 1991. 1137-1142.

Works Consulted

Armas, Jose. Cuban Consciousness in Literature: 1923-1974. Miami, Florida: Ediciones Universal, 1978.

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