James Thurber
"The Shrike and the Chipmunks"


Once upon a time there were two chipmunks, a male and a female.  The male chipmunk thought that arranging nuts in artistic patters was more fun that just piling them up to see how many you could pile up.  The female was all for piling up as many as you could. She told her husband that if he gave up making designs with the nuts there would be room in their large cave for a great many more and he would soon become the wealthiest chipmunk in the woods.  But he would not let her interfere with his designs, so she flew into a rage and left him..  "The shrike will get you," she said, "because you are helpless and cannot look after yourself."  To be sure, the female chipmunk had not been gone three nights before the male had to dress for a banquet and could not find his studs or shirt or suspenders.  So he couldn’t go to the banquet, but that was just as well, because all the chipmunks who did go were attached and killed by a weasel.

The next day the shrike began hanging around outside the chipmunk’s cave, waiting to catch him.  The shrike couldn’t get in because the doorway was clogged up with soiled laundry and dirty dishes.  "He will come out for a walk after breakfast and I will get him then," thought the shrike.  But the chipmunk slept all day and did not get up and have breakfast until after dark.  Then he came out for a breath of fresh air before beginning work on a new design.  The shrike swooped down to snatch the chipmunk, but could not see very well on account of the dark, so he batted his head against an alder branch and was killed.

A few days later the female chipmunk returned and saw the awful mess the house was in.  She went to the bed and shook her husband.  "What would you do without me?" she demanded. "Just go on living, I guess," he said.  "You wouldn’t last five days," she told him.  She swept the house and did the dishes and sent out the laundry, and then she made the chipmunk get up and wash and dress.  "You can’t be healthy in you lie in bed all day and never get any exercise," she told him.  So she took him for a walk in the bright sunlight and they were both caught and killed by the shrike’s brother, a shrike named Stoop.
 


Moral: Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy and wealthy and dead.


From: James Thurber, Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (New York, 1940), pp. 21-22. Reproduced under fair use for use in by students in this course only.