The War Of The Alligators by Horacio Quiroga, 1918
The magic trick:
A story that wants to be a fable but can’t be
Q is for Quiroga.
His famous Tales From The Jungle collection is purportedly children’s literature. And begin this story, you may be convinced. Talking alligators, you think, how cute!
Things get pretty warped pretty quickly, though.
It’s a story about war, after all. But because it’s featuring talking alligators, and because it seems to have taken on the form of a fable, you – if you’re like – will likely anticipate something clever happening; some kind of life lesson being imparted.
Instead. what you will find is a very literal war – complete with cannonballs and torpedoes.
It seems to mock the fable’s reduction of conflict into trite, clever resolution. But I don’t think that’s quite right. The story really is mocking our world’s inability to reduce its conflicts into trite, clever resolution. Trite, clever resolution sounds pretty nice right about now.
And that’s quite a trick on Quiroga’s part.
The the alligators came out of the water and said, “Let’s make another dam much bigger than the other.”
And that same afternoon and night they made another dam, with immense logs. Then they lay down to sleep, very tired, and were still sleeping the next day when the warship arrived again, and the boat approached the dike.
“Hey, alligators!” – shouted the officer.
“What’s there!” – replied the alligators.
“Take out that other dam!”
“We didn’t take it out!”
“We’re going to undo hm with cannon shots like the other!”
“Undo… if you can!”
As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.