Play #41: The Mayor and the Gnat: A Fable (after Jean de la Fontaine)

The play is set at mid-morning in the plushy office of the Mayor of some great weary city.  The Mayor is sitting at his desk, perspiring profusely.  There is a tap at the door and, not waiting to be admitted, a gnat flies in and addresses the gigantic Mayor in the following manner:

GNAT: Good morning, your portly Worship!

MAYOR (swatting ineffectually at the gnat):  Go away,
pesky no-bug!”

GNAT:  I think not, your Sweatiness.  I enjoy hovering in the moist jungle air you generate!

MAYOR:  Who do you represent, you black fly of Beelzebub?

GNAT (contemptuously):  Gnat, your Worship, not Fly.

MAYOR: Okay, bloody GNAT then!

GNAT:  I represent all the people, your Lardship, and I have come to feast lavishly upon your Bulkiness, you scrumptious Peking Duck of a politician!

And having clearly announced its intentions, the Gnat buzzes the Mayor mercilessly—stinging him twenty, forty, a hundred times until he is as red as a pomegranate.  The Mayor roars his protests.  His outraged cries shake the whole building.  So frantic is he, he begins to scratch and claw at himself, finally collapsing onto the office broadloom, almost insensible from exhaustion and pain.

GNAT:  Well, I can see my work here is done!

As the gnat leaves the Mayor’s office, eager to spread the word to his fellow gnats of his David and Goliath triumph, he flies right into a huge spiderweb blocking the entrance to the council chamber, where he is summarily eaten by an eight-legged alderman. 


What can we learn from this?  Well, La Fontaine says the fable teaches us not to judge an opponent from his size.  He also attaches a second moral—“you may pass through great danger safely but be killed by a little thing” (though I think a spidery alderman is no little thing!).  To this I would add a third moral—or at least a cautionary note: if you’re the Mayor, get the city to buy you a better security system—one with the optional anti-gnat features.