The little rabbit caught my fancy as soon as they put it down in the kitchen: its sweet, silly little head, its frightened look and smooth, soft hair appealed to me. I felt that peculiar tender and protective love so well known to young lovers who have had to do with kittenish little women. I don’t want anything from you, you frightened little white rabbit. All I want is to caress your white fur—to stroke it tenderly, so it will please you. I’d like to take you in my lap and stroke your head to reassure you, and make you feel at ease and safe, so you will understand that you have no cause for being frightened, nothing to be scared of, for I am here, taking care of you, protecting you.
This is what I felt, warmly and altogether unselfishly. I melted in this protective, selfless and devoted affection, and reached out for the little white rabbit, meaning to stroke it. Yet the little rabbit—frightened as the wee beast was—flattened itself against the floor in terror, then darted out from under my hand, and slipped under the kitchen-cabinet.
“Come, come, you little fool,” I said to it, wagging my head. “What a sweet, silly, frightened little rabbit you are! So you believe I am out to hurt you, to catch you, to seize you greedily, and slay and eat you, because I am stronger than you? But can’t you understand that I’m not going to do anything of the sort? Of course, I’m stronger than you and could do all these things to you. But don’t you see, that’s just what I don’t want to do to you. On the contrary, I mean to be kind and tender to you. I want to fondle you, I want to forget myself, forget about my rights, my desires and pleasures for your sake, want to stroke your back, so as to soothe your thumping little heart and make you feel at ease. I want to caress the delicate, charming, sensitive, timid little being that is you.”
I was thinking these thoughts, moved to the depths of my soul, and started nudging the little rabbit with a poker, trying to make it come out from under the kitchen-cabinet, so that I might stroke it. At first the little beast would shrink back to avoid the poker, its nostrils quivering in nervous alarm; suddenly, it made a jump and, scuttling across the kitchen floor, hid in a corner.
I followed it and crouched down beside it warily. “What a pity,” I said. “So that’s the sort of silly-billy you are. Why, bless my soul, you’re shaking more violently and look more scared than you did just now! It’s not surprising, of course, considering your biased and narrow intellect, which suggests to you that the doggedness I have been following you with can only lie in the greed of the ferocious beast of prey, and which is incapable of comprehending the loftier moral sense and altruism of one who is stronger than yourself. Well, now I really must lay hold of you and stroke your back! I couldn’t abandon you right now—not with you entertaining such notions about me, with this image of myself as a blood sucking tiger impressed on your mind. I have got to make you realize how utterly wrong you’ve been to think that my motive in trying to seize you is to bite through your throat, and not, as it really is, only to fondle you unselfishly, to make fife more pleasant for you, expecting neither gratitude nor compensation for doing so.”
Cautiously I stretched my hand out and was already touching its neck with my fingers, when with a desperate jump it wrenched itself free, emitted a choking whine, and, with sprawling legs, panting, and frightened to death, disappeared under the stove.
I caught my breath and felt a rush of blood to my head. Here I was faced with what seemed to be unparalleled stupidity. What was I to do? Give up? But if I did so it would believe it had been right in supposing that I had intended to eat it or slay it, and that, having grown tired, I had abandoned my intention for the time being.
I lay down on my stomach before the stove and peeped under it. There it was, cowering, hunched up, with unspeakable terror gleaming in its dark eyes as its glance met mine. Now I got annoyed in earnest. “You ass,” I said, exasperated. “Can’t you believe in anything that’s beautiful and sweet? Can’t you believe in selflessness, in tenderness? Can’t you believe in charity that expects no gratitude? How shall I bring it home to you, you unhappy creature, that the way you look at things is absolutely despicable and mean? Of course, your foolish and wicked little head is teeming with base and brutal and immoral notions about biting and beating, about the malevolence with which the strong destroy the weak. Oh, you miserable little brute! Now, will you believe me that there is such a thing as harmony, heart-felt, lachrymose emotion, which at the sight of weakness, poverty and helplessness overpowers the soul? I am going to prove to you that there is such a thing, if only because of your confounded pigheadedness!”
This time I made a sudden and angry snatch at it, straining, every muscle and turning purple, my tongue hanging out. I stumbled, fell, and followed it on all fours under the table and behind the tub. I banged my head against the door-post, tore my jacket, and gnashed my teeth. Once I managed to grab the creature’s ears, but it tore itself from my grip, panting and loudly squeaking, bit my hand, and took refuge in the larder, behind the log pile.
There it is now. And I'll have to scatter the whole pile if I am to find it. But, by Jove, I will. I will, if it’s the last thing I do! I’ll pull it down, and I’ll catch the beast, grab its ears, snatch it up in the air, swing it about, dash it against the wall and smash its skull! The stupid, stubborn, asinine head that will not understand that all I want is to stroke it.
SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes. I Am Fond of Animals (Szeretem az állatot), translated by István Farkas, in Grave and Gay: Selections from His Work, selected by István Kerékgyárto, afterword by Károly Szalay, binding and jacket by István Bányai, 2nd ed., (Budapest: Corvina Press, 1973), pp. 221-223.
See also alternate translation: Bunny.
“Frigyes Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker” by Miklós Vajda
Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English
Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto
Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
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