What I Did for Love — A Fable About Dental Health

What I Did for Love — A Fable About Dental Health

Marc Chagall, 1929

Our two pigeons may be reunited, but here is a glimpse of the darker side of how far astray we might go in Love when under Folly’s spell, especially if the object of our desire is part of the in crowd and we are not.

Sevigné, whose attributes serve as a model to the Graces and in whom all that is beautiful flourishes; in your indifference, might you be favorably inclined toward the innocent game of a fable? Might I, without annoying you, offer this tale of a Lion beaten by Love?

Love is a strange master. Happy are those who may know it only by the telling and not by its blows. When I speak to you, if the truth offends, at least you should be able to tolerate the fable. I take comfort in that, as I offer it at your feet, with ardor and gratitude.

From the time when beasts could speak, the lions, among others, have sought admission to our alliance. Why not? Their kind was as worthy as we, endowed with courage, intelligence and stately bearing.

Here is how things went.

A Lion of high breeding passing a certain pasture encountered a friendly shepherdess. He asked for her hand in marriage. Her father would have much preferred a less fearsome son-in-law. To give his daughter seemed quite harsh, to refuse unsafe. Even if he denied the request, who knew if one fine morning he’d wake to find his daughter had married in secret. After all, though his daughter was a proud one, she was impetuous too, and had fallen in love with other handsome rogues.

So the father, not daring to openly turn our lover away, said this:

My daughter is delicate. Your claws might hurt her when you want to caress her. Allow us to cut your nails. And for your teeth, let us file them at the same time. Your kisses will be less brutish and for you more delectable. If she does not have to worry about being injured, my daughter will respond better to your attentions.

The Lion consented to all. His soul was so blinded.

Without teeth, or claws, there he was — dismantled. They let loose the dogs. The Lion put up little fight.

Love, love, when we are in your clutches we can well say: Adieu prudence!

The backstory of this fable is that Jean de LaFontaine had a thing for Madame de Sevigné, which was not reciprocated, as he would have liked. She was the consummate hostess among the glitterati of her time. Most everyone at her parties was dripping with titles, though she had none of her own (a shepherdess at core). LaFontaine was a mere scribbler in her crowd, though a lion among his peers. He was tolerated for his wit and charm. He might enjoy a dalliance with her, but he would never be allowed to join their entitled alliance. So he’s tweaking his beloved Madame for her airs, but ultimately he is exposing his own great longing for love and acceptance; as he files away his own teeth and clips his claws down to the quick to try to be what Madame de S might want.

What won’t we give to be accepted into a group that doesn’t want us, especially if an unreciprocated love is at stake? — only to be stripped of our dignity and left to the proverbial dogs. This is what Brené Brown describes in a conversation with Krista Tippett as the difference between fitting in and belonging. Unrequited love is beautiful in concept, but in practice destructive. We gut our core, if we try to fit in, instead of finding belonging, first inside ourselves and then among others.

The Beautiful South’s song, I’ll Sail This Ship Alone also popped into my mind when I read this fable. A man begging for his love to take him back:

If I write the perfect love song …

If I write the perfect letter …

If I burned myself alive.

Dear World, I love you. Please love me. At least notice me.

I want to plunge into love with everything I am, feel the extreme heat of love’s flame licking at my skin. I love crazy love. But I don’t really want to burn myself alive.

After all, how can we love, if we’ve crippled our inner Lion?

What are these Fableogs?

Fable en Français



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