The Peacelike Mongoose

by James Thurber

In cobra country a mongoose was born one day who didn't want to fight cobras or anything else. The word spread from mongoose to mongoose that there was a mongoose who didn't want to fight cobras. If he didn't want to fight anything else, it was his own business, but it was the duty of every mongoose to kill cobras or be killed by cobras.
"Why?" asked the peacelike mongoose, and the word went around that the strange new mongoose was not only pro-cobra and anti-mongoose but intellectually curious and against the ideals and traditions of mongooism.
"He is crazy," cried the young mongoose's father.
"He is sick," said his mother.
"He is a coward," shouted his brothers.
"He is a mongoosexual," whispered his sisters.
Strangers who had never laid eyes on the peacelike mongoose remembered that they had seen him crawling on his stomach, or trying on cobra hoods, or plotting the violent overthrow of Mongoosia.
"I am trying to use reason and intelligence," said the strange new mongoose.
"Reason is six-sevenths of treason," said one of his neighbors.
"Intelligence is what the enemy uses," said another.
Finally, the rumor spread that the mongoose had venom in his sting, like a cobra, and he was tried, convicted by a show of paws, and condemned to banishment.

Moral: Ashes to ashes, and clay to clay, if the enemy doesn't get you your own folks may.

(236 words)


peacelike: very peaceful, loving peace
mongoose: Mungo
cobra: very poisonous snake
intellectually: intellektuell
coward: Feigling
(to) crawl: kriechen
(to) try on: anprobieren
hood (of a cobra): Brillenzeichnung, Hautfalte am Hals
(to) plot: to plan, aushecken
overthrow (of the government): (Regierungs-)Sturz
reason: Vernunft
intelligence: Intelligenz
treason: Verrat
rumor: Gerücht
venom: (Schlangen-)Gift
sting: Stich, Biß
(to) try sb.: vor Gericht stellen
(to) convict: ab-, verurteilen
by a show of paws: durch "Pfotenzeichen"
banishment: Verbannung
clay: Ton, Erde
folks: Leute

Questions and tasks

  1. Sum up in a few sentences what the fable is about.
  2. What is the peacelike mongoose accused of (list the accusations) and what evidence are the accusations based on? (accusation Anschuldigung)
  3. Why do the other mongooses have such strong feelings about the peacelike mongoose that they finally banish him?
  4. Explain the moral of the fable.
  5. Describe a situation in the world (past or present), which could be seen as proof of the moral of the fable.