The Conceited Peacock

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A reflective fable about Peafowl, the conceited peacock, who thinks he knows everything. Can Jerboa, a little mouse-like creature, reveal his weakness?

Submitted: September 12, 2013

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Submitted: September 12, 2013



The peacock is a truly splendid bird with its vibrant colours: blue, yellow and green; upright authoritative body; and magnificent tail of blue and brown eyes.  Taking into account all this grandeur, it is no wonder that this bird, his name is Peafowl, is one of the most highly respected and all-knowing lords of Asia.  He gives lectures on philosophy and politics; literature and science; and answers ontological questions, contemplating the meaning of life; a truly profound figure! 

Peafowl is extremely proud of his achievements; in fairness, who would not be?  He is wiser than the wisest of owls; wittier that the wittiest of cheaters; and grander than the grandest of Asian tigers.  This peacock is so sure of his knowledge and understanding, that he openly challenges anyone to a battle of intellect.  The rules of these confrontations are as follows:

The participants ask questions of their choice, simple or complex but usually the latter, until their opponent is defeated by a lack of knowledge. 

The cleverest Anglo cats; most eager American eagles; quickest Australian kangaroos; wisest Atlantic whales; and the smartest Argentinean snakes have all sought to take the challenge; they aim to prove their worth yet their attempts are always to no avail.  There was a time when Peafowl came close to defeat after a battle of a hundred or so questions; nevertheless, he was victorious in the end. 

However, his conceited traits do not stop with his academic achievements, oh no!  Peafowl thinks he is the most beautiful as well as intelligent bird in all Asia, if not the world!  His bird servants massage his intelligence with poetic compliments and his many female encounters, none of which he really cared for, worshiped the ground he walks on.

Rumours of Peafowl had spread to the long-eared jerboa, a mouse-like creature with incredibly long ears and legs.  Jerboa listened to the tales of these epic battles, logic and philosophy and mathematics and literature, between Peafowl and other creatures of the world; in fact, it was hard not to hear most things with his long ears.  He too was intrigued by this, apparently, amazing intellectual and beautiful bird; so interested, in fact, that he decided to make the long trip from the desserts of Mongolia to the greenery of Nepal.  Jerboa would find Peafowl, listen to his lectures and teachings, get to know and understand the bird and eventually challenge him to a battle of mental power.

Ensuring that his legs and feet were in good condition, Jerboa set out on his long journey.  Jumping, he was a fine long-jumper, along the desert plains; weaving in and out of the large beige rocks, camouflaged by his light brown fur; his alert furry ears keeping him aware of any predators.

Finally he reached Nepal.  It was not hard to find the pompous peacock, his voice never seemed to cease!  A continuous murmur, or more like relentless preaching, seemed to travel from tree to tree, rock to rock, animal to animal, until the whole land was talking Peafowl’s words.  Jerboa listened intently, analysing the uncompromising words and theories; it did not take long to decide the first question. 

Making his way to Peafowl’s God-like palace he entered his not so humble abode.  The entrance hall was fit for Zeus himself, fine marble flecked with gold leaf; tall statues of eminent figures such as Einstein and Shakespeare.  The peacock was sitting on what looked like a throne.  A pelican was fanning him with his large white wings.  Jerboa jumped along this splendid floor towards the lordly bird.

‘I would like to challenge you to a battle Peafowl.’

His voice was so quiet Peafowl dismissed it as trickery of the wind.  It was not until his dearest subject, the Pink Flamingo, gestured towards the little creature repeating the offer, that Peafowl took any notice of Jerboa.  ‘You! You?’ his tone was condescending, ‘Ha! I would not waste my time, such a small creature as you with those silly long ears and legs!’

Jerboa privately thought that Peafowl was not so knowledgeable after all: he had clearly not heard of the long-eared jerboa; he could use that as one of his questions!  The small mammal ignored the patronising tone and calmly repeated, ‘I would like to challenge you to a battle Peafowl.’

Peafowl lowered his head to the floor wanting to inspect this thing that interrupted his thinking.  A single beady black eye surveyed the mouse-like creature and turning his head the other eye also glanced at its dull brown fur.  Jerboa simultaneously surveyed him: the vibrant colours were undeniably stunning especially in comparison to his own shade!  Nevertheless, Jerboa must remain focussed and indifferent to Peafowl’s beauty.  So as to avoid intimidation he stared at the plain statue and considered only his own thoughts.

After a few minutes of intent examination Peafowl finally said, ‘Well long-eared mouse,’ he deliberately addressed Jerboa incorrectly not wanting to acknowledge his ignorance of the animal’s correct name, ‘If you want to challenge me I accept!  However,’ the peacock grandly displayed his huge, impressive tail, a hundred eyes were inspecting the mammal, ‘in this case, I suggest we change the rules.  I am short on time and you are so... small.  I... well….’  Peafowl looked at his subjects, ‘Well, I think it unlikely YOU could beat ME!’

‘I accept!  One question decides the winner.’

Peafowl, confident that his question would defeat the mouse instantly, quizzed Jerboa first: ‘Just because you are small I will not go easy on you,’ he paused to contemplate what he would ask, ‘Aha!  Name all of Jupiter’s moons.’

The long-eared jerboa knew the answer as he, like Peafowl, was also well read.  Proceeding with ease Jerboa listed all sixty-seven moons, ‘Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, Thebe, Io, Europa, Ganymede…’

Peafowl felt a rush of emotions: shock, outrage, confusion, fear; what if he could not answer his question!  He composed himself, hiding his feelings, and boldly said, ‘I see there is more to you than meets the eye!  Well, you may ask your question…’

Smiling, Jerboa composedly asked in a quiet tone, ‘What does it feel like to love someone?’

The bird let out of a roar of laughter, ‘You small little thing! Such a simple question!  Why love is invisible... an emotion... a truth…’

‘Ahem, excuse me Peafowl,’ the little creature said interrupting a passionate recital of abstract words, ‘I did not ask you to quote what love felt like for Blake, Shelly and Coleridge; no doubt Shakespeare was coming next,’ he said half in jest, half seriously, ‘but what it feels like for you, your subjective feelings; not those of poets, playwrights, authors and philosophers.’

The bird servants looked at each other, ruffling their feathers with concern.  A respectful smile crossed Peafowl’s neatly pointed beak, ‘Touché! You are a clever little thing whatever you are,’ the bird’s pace slowed and tone lowered in acknowledgement of the defeat, ‘Of course you know I cannot answer that question as I have no personal experience of love.  So, you are victorious! Where does this leave me?’

Unbeknown to Peafowl, Jerboa’s intended triumph was not to devalue the splendid bird but to make him aware of the error of his ways: conceitedness.  The small creature closed the battle with a sincere prophecy, ‘Peafowl,’ his tone was compassionate, ‘wisdom and knowledge may give you power but conceitedness gives you nothing.’

© Copyright 2018 C. Coleman. All rights reserved.

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