Monday, April 10, 2006

Les Trois Cornes

Les Trois Cornes is said to be inspired by a story told by the legendary M. Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) who was mentor to many of the great names of French literature of his time. He was one of the first artists of his day to embrace the work of and defend the Impressionists, a true writer of the modern era. The story is told within the framework of a supposed letter to an young poet who has refused a job at a top Paris circular. I translate the story that gave the fromage Les Trois Cornes a name for your pleasure here.


What? Grignoire! You, young poet, have been offered a post to write a column in a good Paris paper and you have the gall to refuse? See here sad boy! Take a look at your sorry state of existence, the holes in your shoes. You look like you're about to starve! Look at where your determination to write your pretty rhymes is going to take you. Look at what little you have to show for yourself after 10 long years of service to Apollo! Aren't you ashamed? Write your column, silly boy! Write the column! Your life will improve!

No, you don't want to do it? You prefer to stay free to the very end. Alright then, listen here, to the story of the goat of M. Seguin.

M. Seguin never had much luck with goats. He always lost them the same way - they chewed their cord, ran up into the mountains, and were eaten there by the big bad wolf. Neither the loving care of the master nor fear of the wolf ever stopped them. It seemed to him that the goats would pay any price to prance in the fresh air, free. M. Seguin, who couldn't understand this nature in his goats, was completely stumped. "I've had it!" - he cried, "Goats get restless on my farm, I'll never be able to keep them!"

This didn't stop him from trying, however. One after the next they dissapeared the same way, and after losing six goats he got a seventh - only this time, he took the care to buy a really young one, in hopes that it would get used to him and his farm before it wanted to get away.

And oh what a beauty this kid was! With her beard like a petty officer, her eyes big and green, shiny black boot-like hooves, her striped horns and pretty white fur that curled up around the edges! Such a lovely little kid!

M. Seguin had a little patch surrounded by delicious hawthorn which is where he put his new goat. He attached her by a chord to a post, making sure to leave lots of rope to let her wander just so far, and from time to time, he checked on her to make sure she was alright. The little goat seemed so content to graze on the herbs in her little patch that M. Seguin was simply delighted. "At last!" he exclaimed, "I've got one that isn't bored here!" Unfortunately he was wrong, the goat was getting restless.

One day, the little goat, while gazing up to the mountain, said "Oh it must be so very nice up there in the mountains! How I long to have the chance to prance around freely in the fog without this scratchy rope so tight around my neck! It's fine for a cow or a donkey to be all closed up in a pen, but goats, they need to be free."

From that moment on, the goat was clutched with ennui. She lost interest in the herbs, she lost weight, she didn't give any milk. It was pitiful to see her all the day long laying as far as she could from the post, the rope stretched taut, her muzzle stretched out toward the mountain, sadly bleating.

M. Seguin knew that something was wrong, but he couldn't say what. One day as he came to take care of the goat, she bleated to him in his language: "Look at me, Mr. Seguin. I am languishing here at the end of this rope. Won't you let me go up into the mountain?"

"My God!" cried M. Seguin. "Not again!" This time he tried to talk some sense into the goat, and sat down next to her. "What? You want to leave me, Blanquette?"
"Yes, M. Seguin" she replied.
"Are you missing certain greens, my dear?"
"Oh no, M. Seguin!"
"Can I lengthen your rope?"
"No, it's not that."
"Then what can I do? What do you want?"
"I want to go into the mountain, M. Seguin."
"But my sad one, you don't know that there is a ferocious wolf up there. What will you do when he comes?"
"I'll pierce him with my horns, Mr. Seguin."
"The wolf doesn't care about your horns, my Blanquette. He's devoured creatures with much bigger horns than yours, my dear. Do you remember poor old Renaude, the massive mother of all goats that was here last year? She battled with the wolf all night long, and in the morning, he ate her."
"Oh poor Renaude!" Blanquette paused. "That doesn't mean anything, M. Seguin. Please let me go up to the mountain!"

M. Seguin was at a loss for words. Yet another one of his cherished goats was going to be devoured by the wolf. He put some thought into the love he felt for his dear Blanquette and said - "Good, now I know and I am determined to save you, despite that terrible force that's pulling you to the mountain. I know you'll try and chew your chord, so I'm closing you up into a pen, so you will stay with me forever!"

With that, M. Seguin put the litle goat into a pen in the dark stable, and closed the door with two turns of the key. Unfortunately, he forgot the little window, through which the little goat squirmed through and escaped.

What? You're laughing, Grignoire?
You think this is funny? You know very well that you too are a goat, against good M. Seguin. We'll see if you're laughing in a little while!

The little goat felt like she was walking into paradise once she got to the mountain. Never had the old pines looked so beautiful. The forest gave her a royal welcome as well, with ancient chestnut trees stopping to caress her gently all along her procession into the woods. The yellow flowers joyously swayed in the wind to make a welcoming path as she marched into the sunny fields, in fact the whole mountain celebrated her arrival.

Think about her joy, Grignoire! No more prickly rope, nothing more to prevent her from running free! It's there that the herbs were growing right up to her horns. And what glorious herb it was! Delicious, fine, lacy and made from a thousand plants. This was a far cry from the stumpy Hawthorn at the end of her rope at the farm. The flowers! Bulbous blossoms with violet stems, all kinds, brimming with sweet nectar.

She was giddy with happiness and leapt high in the air, among the scrub and the brush, one moment looking out from a glorious peak, the next lolling in a rocky canyon, here, there, everywhere! You might have said that M. Seguin had ten goats running through the mountains instead of one.

Pretty Blanquette was afraid of nothing! She leapt over torrential currents spraying clouds of watery mist. Completely soaked, she spread out on a sunny rock to dry. At a certain moment she saw through a break in the rocks, the farm of M. Seguin far down below, with a faint image of the dark circle of trampled sorry ground surrounding the post that once imprisoned her. Tears streamed down her delicate muzzle as she laughed with joy. "but it's so small." she wondered. "How could that place have held me?"

The poor thing. High up on her perch, she thought she was bigger than the world. In all, it was a grand day for our little Blanquette. In hopping from left to right, she ran across a herd of chamois deer chewing in a patch of wild vine, and made quite a sensation. She was given a place of honor among the vines to chew, and all of the males were gallant with her. In fact, this will rest between us, Grignoire, but one of the chamois had the luck for a turn in the vine with our lovely Blanquette. The two amoureux spent a heavenly hour or two in the forest, and if you really want to know what happened, you'll have to check with those sources unseen that dwell in the moss there.

Suddenly, a cold wind blew over the mountains. The vista turned a rosy purple - and then, it was night. "Already!" said the little goat, a little bit suprised. Down below, the fields were drowned in heavy fog, and all she could see of M. Seguin's farm was the roof of his farmhouse with a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney. She heard the bells of a troop returning to bed down for the night and felt a little sad in her heart. A swallow returning home made a flapping with his wings. She began to shiver.

Then there was a terrible howl echoing in the mountain! She thought of the wolf. All day long she didn't think of him but now... At the same time a horn sounded from way down in the valley. It was M. Seguin making one last effort to save her!

The wolf howled, owiooo!
The trumpet called: Come back my little Blanquette!

Blanquette wanted to return but she remembered that lonely post, the rope, the horrible darkness of the pen. Even though she was afraid she felt that it would be better to stay where she was. The horn finally ceased.

Suddenly she froze in fear as she heard footsteps behind her in the leaves. She made out in the darkness two straight ears, and two glittering eyes. Huge, still, crouching on his haunches, he watched the delicate little goat. He could already taste his dinner. Knowing that he was going to eat her, he took his time, and just watched her. When she turned to see him he let out a horrible laugh. "Ah, M. Seguin has sent me another little goat", he growled, licking his chops.

Little Blanquette didn't know what to do. She remembered the story of the poor old goat Renaude, who battled all night long just to be eaten in the morning, and she thought that perhaps it would be better after all to be eaten right away. Then she lowered her horns to protect herself, like the brave little kid she was. She could never hope to kill the wolf. Goats don't kill wolves. But only to see if she could hold him off until dawn as her dear friend Renaude had done.

The beast advanced, and engaged in a dance with the little goat's horns. Oh the poor little Blanquette, she fought with a clean and brave heart. More than ten times, and I'm telling the truth, the wolf was forced to retreat and take his breath. Each time she fell back into the herb and the little gourmande recharged with some fresh greens and then went right back into battle. This went on all night, and from time to time the little kid glanced up at the twinkling stars and said "Oh if only I can last 'till daylight!" One by one the stars extinguished in the sky and she kept returning with her horns, and the wolf with his teeth.

A gleam appeared in the horizon, and the rooster's call rose from the farmland below. "Finally!" called Blanquette, having lasted all the night. She streched out on a patch of grass, her pretty white fur stained with blood. With that, the wolf pounced and ate her.

Adieu, Gringoire! The story you have heard is true. If you come to Provence, everyone will tell you the tale of M. Seguin's goat who battled all night with the evil wolf, who ate her at daybreak.

You understand me, Grignoire.


Moral of the story, my friends? Gee I'm not sure but if I ever get offered a post at a big city Magazine, I'll be sure to take it. Danger from the big bad wolf does lurk in the shadows when we embark on creative projects. Reflecting on this story, I suppose if Mr. Seguin had bought his seven goats at once and hired a young boy with some dogs to take them for a stroll in the mountain (and encourage them, play their muse, and maybe help edit) each day, he wouldn't have lost them all and they would have grown in number and today his progeny would have a huge chevre milk cooperative from which he could produce tons of AOC cheese each year. One day at a time, one day at a time, ma Blanquette. 2,000 polished words a day is all I am asking from this majestic wonderland. One thing is for sure, I have fought long and hard to get out that little stable window. I must march proudly into the flowered field and leap the torrential currents as much as my livelihood will allow. Every single day.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another moral is that Grignoires wife is comparing to the seventh sheep who could let go the taste of freedom which eventually led him to die a painful death. She Says that because he chose to decline his job offer because the thought of freedom sounds better, will eventually lead him to his death as he will die from starvation

11:56 PM, January 18, 2010  

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