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An * after a word means you can find an explanation under the fable

THE ANIMAL FOREST WAS ALL STIRRED UP, SINCE IT WAS COLD. Not just a bit cold. Very cold. The dragonfly gasped for breath because she was stiff from the cold. The sheep was always sensitive to her lack of breath and he was happy that this time, it was not caused by emotions, so he could help by offering the dragonfly a little space between the lush woollen curls of his fur. Also winter was no big deal to him. Just leave your curls a little longer and the cold will not bother you. Sometimes it seemed to him that life would be complicated if you were not a sheep, but then again, he did not quite know what complicated was, so he did not really bother.
“Hello”, heard the sheep with the dragonfly in his fur. They looked up.
“Hello”, squeaked the dragonfly a little uptight but certainly not unfriendly. You ought to welcome strangers friendly, even if you were somewhat uptight.
“Hi”, said the sheep also. He was never one of the quickest, but certainly not less friendly than the dragonfly.
“I was curious”, said the willow grouse, because it was him, “where the competition will take place”.
“The competition?” asked the sheep and the dragonfly, while thinking very hard.
“Yes, the hellish tour* ”, said the willow grouse, “the rough tour when there has been frost and on the ice of the inland waters will be competed who would be the first to have been at all 11 open spaces”. With the feathers on his feet and around his nostrils, he was totally ready for it.
“O”, said the sheep in his own way and the dragonfly chimed in.
“Yes, yes”, she said, “of course. There’s frost in the forest again!”
“Offf c-c-course”, said also the race duck, who had a tendency to stutter a bit when he was excited.
“The magnolia”, said the ladybug, who was familiar with ice, because after all, you can also move to music on it, “our rough tour starts at the open space of the magnolia”.
“Y-y-yes”, stuttered the race duck, “and the one who has his c-c-card stamped at all 11 open s-s-spaces, comes back there to f-f-finish near the magnolia”.
“Not my cup of tea”, said the centipede shivering, “I would not dare to go on thin ice. I am only just enjoying to be unknotted. One fall and I am all tangled up again”.
The polar bear came swaying by. The animals enjoyed watching his big swinging steps. It looked kind of comical and he also spoke with an odd accent, but they all were in awe of him, because nevertheless he once had finished second.
“Funny”, considered the giraffe, “this yearly fuss about the rough tour, while the frost is seldom severe enough to be able to ride it”.
“Looking forward to it, creates togetherness, whether it is ridden or not”, said the owl solemnly.
And all the animals unanimously agreed that this was well-said.

*the hellish tour…the rough tour….

My grandfather, who managed to finish in the Eleven Cities Tour of 1942

My grandfather, who managed to finish in the Eleven Cities Tour of 1942

This fable is based on the Dutch tradition of the Eleven Cities Tour, in Dutch: De Elfstedentocht. When the frost has been severe and long enough, the inland waters (canals, rivers, lakes,etc) of the northern province Friesland are frozen and one can skate from city to city. The province has 11 towns with ancient city rights and they are all addressed in this tour of about 200 kilometers. The first Eleven Cities Tour took place in 1909 and there have been only 15 tours thus far. It was never possible to have the tour each winter, but since the 1960’s, because of the upcoming industries (that use the waterways to drain their hot water) and economic interests (ice-breakers so that economic traffic on the waterways can continue), it became more and more rare that the tour could be organized. After the ever-worst tour in 1963, it was only 22 years later that a new tour could be organized. There were 2 in a row then (also one in 1986), but the last one we had was 20 years ago in 1997.
Whenever the winter gives frost in The Netherlands, people start talking about the Eleven Cities Tour, even if the frost is light and not long. It’s a collective commemoration of all heroism around this tour.
This is an impression of the worst tour ever, The Hell of ‘63

Here’s the finish of the tour of 1997, look who was second 😉

And here’s an impression of the Eleven Cities Tour of 1942 in which my grandfather, Berend de Jong, was a leisure rider who finished the whole tour. On this photo, you see him with two brothers-in-law.

Click the video to hear thi fable read aloud.
You will remain on this page, so, you can listen to the video and read the words while listening.

I’m caught by the animal stories by the Dutch author Toon Tellegen and when I gave one of his books away, I let that present be accompanied by some own writings in this style. That’s how my own fables came to be, with animals and characters of my own, but inspired by the books of Toon who set the tone. Perhaps a new parallel universe of his animal forest will develop here 🙂

A part of those fables has been published in ‘Mensaberichten’, in those days the club magazine of the society Mensa Nederland.

Thank you Marita Sporrong for working with me on this translation.

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