1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

If Sharks were Men December 30, 2008


“If sharks were men,” Mr. Keuner was asked by his landlady’s little girl, “would they be nicer to the little fishes?”

“Certainly,” he said. “If sharks were men, they would build enormous boxes in the ocean for the little fish, with all kinds of food inside, both vegetable and animal. They would take care that the boxes always had fresh water, and in general they would make all kinds of sanitary arrangements. If, for example, a little fish were to injure a fin, it would immediately be bandaged, so that it would not die and be lost to the sharks before its time. So that the little fish would not become melancholy, there would be big water festivals from time to time; because cheerful fish taste better than melancholy ones.

“There would, of course, also be schools in the big boxes. In these schools the little fish would learn how to swim into the sharks’ jaws. They would need to know geography, for example, so that they could find the big sharks, who lie idly around somewhere. The principal subject would, of course, be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that it would be the best and most beautiful thing in the world if a little fish sacrificed itself cheerfully and that they all had to believe the sharks, especially when the latter said they were providing for a beautiful future. The little fish would be taught that this future is assured only if they learned obedience. The little fish had to beware of all base, materialist, egotistical and Marxist inclinations, and if one of their number betrayed such inclinations they had to report it to the sharks immediately.

“If sharks were men, they would, of course, also wage wars against one another, in order to conquer other fish boxes and other little fish. The wars would be waged by their own little fish. They would teach their little fish that there was an enormous difference between themselves and the little fish belonging to the other sharks. Little fish, they would announce, are well known to be mute, but they are silent in quite different languages and hence find it impossible to understand one another. Each little fish that, in a war, killed a couple of other little fish, enemy ones, silent in their own language, would have a little order made of seaweed pinned to it and be awarded the title of hero.

“If sharks were men, there would, of course, also be art. There would be beautiful pictures, in which the sharks’ teeth would be portrayed in magnificent colors and their jaws as pure pleasure gardens, in which one could romp about splendidly. The theaters at the bottom of the sea would show heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically into the jaws of sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that to the accompaniment of its sounds, the orchestra leading the way, the little fish would stream dreamily into the sharks’ jaws, lulled by the most agreeable thoughts.

“There would also be a religion, if sharks were men. It would preach that little fish only really begin to live properly in the sharks’ stomachs.

“Furthermore, if sharks were men there would be an end to all little fish being equal, as is the case now. Some would be given important offices and be placed above the others. Those who were a little bigger would even be allowed to eat up the smaller ones. That would be altogether agreeable for the sharks, since they themselves would more often get bigger bites to eat. And the bigger little fish, occupying their posts, would ensure order among the little fish, become teachers, officers, engineers in box construction, etc.

“In short, if sharks were men, they would for the first time bring culture to the ocean.”


I came accros this brilliant piece by Bertolt Brecht and just wanted to share with you.

INFO: Bertolt Brecht (1898– 1956) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. An influential theatre practitioner of the twentieth century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production.


11 Responses to “If Sharks were Men”

  1. 😆 That’s true! 😆

    No wonder then, that sharks are associated with “free-market capitalism”! 😀

  2. Raman Says:

    It is brilliant – feels like the author is being both sarcastic and imaginative

  3. sailaja Says:

    “Those who were a little bigger would even be allowed to eat up the smaller ones.” I could not understand this as the first statement contradicts with this statement. when the culture is being brought to the ocean how come that the bigger fish would be allowed to eat up the smaller ones when in the first instance schools would be set up and awards given for the heroic small fish then how could they be eaten up? This is beyond my cognizance.

    Anyways the author’s imagination is good.

  4. swaps Says:

    The trick is little fishes understand this satire and yet they trust the sharks.

    Thanx for sharing this, Axinia.

  5. axinia Says:

    Swaps, I am not sure that the little fishes understand what is going on. At least not the majority.

    It is a bit hard, this satire, but it feels very true in many ways…

  6. swaps Says:

    Axinia, I have seen that people can understand it but they refuse to, because they cannot handle irony.
    Civilization is ‘The Trap’…. can man escape the shark in him??

    Someone said the wolf and the lamb both reside in a man, and he must nurture both.

  7. Sigrid Says:

    Great story by Brecht, from his book about stories of Herr Keuner. I have treasured this book since I was a teen, I guess it was my introduction into political thinking. I carried it with me all over the world, and some of the stories I recall again and again. This one is quite cynical, but fun to read again in English! Made me laugh! Happy New Year Axinia!

  8. axinia Says:

    Thaks, Sigird, it is intresting to find out what this book meant to you!… I wan not really familiar with Brecht before, must admit.

  9. vinayakah Says:

    really nice post Axinia!

    If one reads it more time,it can be seen that it can be deeper than it seems to be on a first look 😉

  10. axinia Says:

    thanks, dear – it is indeed very deep and meaningful!

  11. narges Says:

    if sharks were men… i say if sharks were men, then there will be no more sharks in the ocean…it is not right to value a story when its basic logic is not correct… but i know what great names do with our evaluation.

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