The Lazy Bee

The Lazy BeeA while back I blogged about an Ursula K. Le Guin story that injects ants with human consciousness and modern human values, and opined that I would like to see a story that didn’t see eusocialism as oppressive — I think we can learn from these little citizens. I have since (while doing immersion tasks on Duolingo) found exactly that story in the form of a fable by author Horacio Quiroga, which seems to be a testament to the responsibilities of an individual to her community above personal will. The ending seems dead serious, but the story seems to have an ironic bent, too, in its didacticism against intelligence (even as cleverness and learning saves the bee heroine).

This story is closer than the Le Guin, at least, to understanding the eusocial colony of insects. I particularly like the use of “sister” as greeting among bees in the hive, since they would be sisters, as well as carrying the flavor of fellow travelers in the early 20th Century, when the fable was written. I have not read enough Quiroga to know his intent but the era and the location make it more likely that he was sympathetic to socialism, having seen the hell foreign capitalists wrought on his continent.

It seems to be published as a picture book, in both Spanish and English, but minus it’s classic status I seriously doubt any publisher would do a children’s book with such a message against personal exceptionalism and individualism. Unwavering faith in these principles seem to cross all religious and political factions. The fable now would have to take the turn of Lionni’s Frederick, where the other bees come to love the lazy bee for her imaginative flights. For the record, I absolutely love Frederick and can barely read it without tearing up. But sometimes I feel only one side of the story is every told, and that such fables not only prevent us understanding the natural world, but from fully understanding ourselves.

What other fables about ants and bees (or other eusocial organisms) that seem to deal with the role of an individual in a society are out there?

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