Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aesop joins the KKK

I little while back, I wrote a post about a children's story that I thought was one of the most abysmally depressing fairy tales I had ever read. This week, when I prepared my lesson plan, I pulled out the next story on my curriculum map: The Fashionable Crow.

As with "The Flying Turtle", I was unfamiliar with this particular story, so I gave it a quick glance so I knew what to write about in my lesson plans. After looking at a few of the pages, I realized the story deserved a thorough read-though. Then I took pictures of every page because I knew I had to share.

The Fashionable Crow
an Aesop fable

Once upon a time, God decided to throw a party. All the birds in the world were invited because God had announced he would be choosing which bird was the absolute prettiest.

As the birds were arguing about which would be God's favorite, a crow overheard the plans for the party. He asked if he could attend, and the other birds told him he shouldn't bother coming. They agreed that he didn't have a chance at winning because he was too ugly, too black, and too dirty.

No, really.

The birds headed to the pond to bathe and get ready for the party. Since he was just told that he is dirty, the crow followed them to the pond to get cleaned up. The birds (having been raised in Alabama at the turn of the nineteenth century) told the crow he could not bathe with them because he was too black and dirty.

After the other birds had all left, the crow spent two hours trying to scrub away his blackness, but he was disappointed to find that he could not wash himself white.

The crow then discovered that he could cover himself with all the beautiful feathers that were left behind in the pond, and no one would recognize him. He adorned himself with the other feathers and set off for the party.

When he arrived at the party, no one recognized him, including God. The birds were in awe of his beauty and God declared him the most beautiful bird in the world.

Upon further investigation of this stunning new bird, the other birds realized that he was actually covered in their old feathers. They proceeded to take back what they discarded in the pond just a few hours before and found the black crow hiding beneath the rainbow of feathers.

The birds angrily stormed away, leaving the black crow to shamefully reflect on his blackness.

The moral of this story:

Although the moral of the story is fantastic (and much needed in a culture so obsessed with the ideals of Western beauty), I'm fairly certain that wasn't the best way to get the point across. At the end of the tale, the crow is left weeping about his inferiority and blackness rather than embracing and celebrating his differences.

In the end, I opted to skip over this particular Aesop's fable in favor of one that I wasn't morally opposed to reading aloud. When I decided I was going to post this story on my blog, I did a quick google search in hopes of pulling up a video I could link to, but I had a really hard time finding one. As someone who has spent the last seven months illegally watching TV on megavideo, I knew there had to be a cartoon of an Aesop's fable somewhere online. After half an hour of searching, I finally decided to take a peek at wikipedia.

Here's a link to the Perry Index, all 725 fables credited to Aesop. To save you some time, I'll tell you what's not on there. "The Fashionable Crow."

The only places I can find mention of this story are on Chinese and Korean educational websites, and they all credit the story as having been around for thousands of years. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that since I can't find mention of this fable anywhere else on the whole internet, someone in Asia just made it up and tacked a famous fairy tale-writer's name on it to give it credibility.

Classy. And ridiculously racist.


  1. Hi Nikki... while reading this, I remembered a version including swans. Did a quick Google and I believe the original is called "The Crow and the Swan" --

  2. ah this is horrific! yeah this would make me so uncomfortable to have to try and teach