Introduction

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem ‘Fable’ is about a squirrel and a mountain having a conversation. The poem effectively conveys the worth of each and every small creature’s existence. The squirrel informs the mountain that everyone in the universe has a reason to exist, as Waldo wonderfully illustrates.

About The Poet

Ralph Waldo Emerson, popularly known as Waldo, was an American writer, speaker, philosopher, activist, and poet who headed the mid-nineteenth-century transcendentalist movement. Essays, First and Second Series (1841, 1844) are among Emerson’s best-known writings.  Emerson’s classic essay “Self-Reliance” is included in the First Series, in which the writer advises his audience to explore the connection with Nature and God, and to trust his own wisdom above all others.

Theme Of The Poem

The poem is about a verbal confrontation between an inanimate thing, a mountain, and a little creature, a squirrel, but it also teaches us a valuable life lesson. We should learn to appreciate everyone, no matter how insignificant they appear to us. We must also recognize that no one is infallible, and we have no right to humiliate people for their mistakes or to try to establish our superiority over them.

Lines 1-3

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel;
And the former called the latter ‘Little Prig.’

A mountain and a squirrel are seen having a fight in the opening of the poem. The mountain starts the discussion by calling the squirrel a “little prig.” A ‘prig’ is someone who acts in a righteous and superior manner to others. As a result, we observe the mountain ridiculing the squirrel for its little size and for not paying the huge mountain the unique attention and value that the great mountain demands from it. So, the two got into an argument because the mountain felt it was more important than the squirrel because of its magnitude and might. Ironically, the mountain names the squirrel a ‘prig,’ yet itself claims dominance over the squirrel.

Lines 4-9

Bun replied,
‘You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together,
To make up a year
And a sphere.

Bun, the squirrel, acknowledges that the mountain is, without a doubt, enormous. The squirrel, to be fair, has no issues with their relative sizes, but the mountain appears to be proud of its own height and power. The squirrel goes on to add that all types of objects, no matter how tiny or large, work together to create the world what it is presently. There is a purpose for everything. The equilibrium will be disrupted if something goes missing. Similarly, all of the seasons work together to create the year as a whole.

Here, we can see that the squirrel is very clever, emphasizing the notion of life in unison with all of creation. Everyone has a unique worth and function in God’s creation.

Lines 10-14

And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I’m not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry.

The squirrel was unbothered with its small size, and it seemed that it saw no shame or dishonour in occupying a little space on this planet as a small creature, living in its own manner, and fulfilling its own job as assigned by nature.

Then it turns into a one-sided debate. The squirrel confronts the mountain, claiming that being little has its own number of capabilities.

The mountain might seem huge and intimidating. However, the squirrel’s tiny size allows it to be more adaptable and nimbler (light) while moving from one spot to another. And, despite its size, the mountain is not nearly as active as the squirrel.

Lines 15-19

I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track;
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.’

The squirrel acknowledges the mountain’s advantages once more. It realizes that a wonderful road across the forest on the mountain’s back can be built for the squirrel. As a result, the squirrel gives credit to the mountain, because it deserves it. However, it cannot accept the mountain’s taunting for its little size.

The squirrel claims that everyone has a special skill, even if it is uncommon. It also thinks that everything has significance (everything is fine) and that the world’s creator has well-organized (wisely arranged) everything. No one should be underestimated or be embarrassed of it because of its size or capabilities.

The squirrel, unlike the mountain, cannot carry a forest on its back. The mountain, on the other hand, cannot break a nut like a squirrel.