by Frederick Karinthy

The Savage Beast


I READ the following news item:

“EXCITING ADVENTURE WITH A BEAR. Mr. E. F., Chief Magistrate of ... has had an exciting adventure in the snow-covered Transylvanian mountains. He was out hunting in the forest with a party, the members of which were posted far apart. The Chief Magistrate was following two beaters, who at one point turned tail with cries of terror and fled. There was a huge bear sitting in the thicket, chewing some roots. The Chief Magistrate took aim and shot the savage beast in the chest. The bear gave a roar, and rising on its hind legs walked towards the hunter. The Chief Magistrate only just managed to fire again and hit the animal for the second time, before the savage beast attacked him. There was no time to re-load the gun,


so the Chief Magistrate seized it by the barrel and struck the bear on the head with the butt?”

Being a conscientious journalist I studied the case carefully, and looked over the other papers for any further reports. In my absorption I fell asleep, but that did not prevent me from continuing my reading of the papers, among which, to my intense surprise, I found one entitled “Bruin’s Review.” I turned the pages of the primitive publication, the editor of which signed himself “B. Growler.” Then I came upon an article that attracted my attention.


“We regret to announce that Atta Troll, the well-known philosopher, has died from his wounds at the Hollow Tree Hospital. Before he died he bade a touching farewell to his grief-stricken wife, and also related to our reporter the circumstances of the terrible experience that cost him his life.

“It appears that on the fatal day Atta Troll was walking on the edge of the forest preoccupied with thoughts of the great philosophical work, ‘The Bounty of Nature,’ which he was writing, when he saw some very appetising roots under a tree. He decided to take some of the roots home to his children, and in his well-known gentle, peaceful manner he began to



chew the roots with a view to severing them. Looking up, he saw a full grown man standing a few paces away and glaring at him with bloodshot eyes. The man’s poison glands, which look like a long, rounded bar, and from which this animal is in the habit of squirting poisonous secretions upon his victims, were aimed straight at Atta Troll. Atta Troll, with the childlike faith of the philosopher in his heart, tried to disarm the savage beast with kindness and superior intelligence and began by giving him a charmingly inquiring look, but the maddened beast only snorted and squirted some of the poisonous secretion, Atta Troll thought of going away, but realised that retreat might cost him his life,


and he would be unable to finish his epoch-making work. Thus, there was nothing left for Atta Troll but to try to render the bloodthirsty beast harmless in some way, though such action was contrary to his gentle inclinations. So Atta Troll went up to the savage beast and placed a reproachful paw on his shoulder, but this made the brute even angrier, and unable to use his poison glands, he drew a piece of iron and plunged it into Atta Troll’s throat.

“The great philosopher shook his head disapprovingly, it occurred to him that he might crush the skull of the savage beast between his teeth. Then he remembered a passage in his philosophical work in which he wrote how base and despicable was the blood lust of some savage beasts which induced them to wound and kill living things, and even to eat them, as do human beings, although Mother Nature has made ample provision for all her children by producing fruits and plants, so that all could live in peace and happiness in the forest. So Atta Troll turned away in contempt, while the savage beast ran away, grinding his teeth. Atta Troll began to lick his wounds, and reflecting sadly on death he sat down on the edge of the water course, where he was later found. The sad fate of our noble friend has aroused universal sympathy, which will find expression at the funeral this afternoon.”

Having finished the article, I reflected that “savage beast” was a very relative term and could not be used without a certain amount of prejudice one way or the other.


SOURCE: Karinthy, Frederick [Frigyes]. “The Savage Beast” [translator unknown], Lilliput, vol. 18, no. 3, issue no. 105, March 1946, pp. 247-248.

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