Remember the Gruffalo!

I was on a flight yesterday and a mother across the aisle from me was distracting her child with that excellent illustrated book, The Gruffalo. And as one does, I thought back to the Stratagems of the Warring States, another good book for distracting children (and adults).

荊宣王問群臣曰:「吾聞北方之畏昭奚恤也,果誠何如?」群臣莫對。江一對曰:「虎求百 獸而食之,得狐。狐曰:『子無敢食我也。天帝使我長百獸,今子食我,是逆天帝命也。子 以我為不信,吾為子先行,子隨我後,觀百獸之見我而敢不走乎?』虎以為然,故遂與之 行。獸見之皆走。虎不知獸畏己而走也,以為畏狐也。今王之地方五千里,帶甲百萬,而 專屬之昭奚恤;故北方之畏奚恤也,其實畏王之甲兵也,猶百獸之畏虎也。」

《戰國策 · 楚一》

Xuan, king of Jing, said to his ministers: “I’ve heard that the Northerners fear my minister Zhao Xixie. Can this be true?” All were silent. Only Jiang Yi replied: “A tiger went out in search of animals to eat. He caught a fox, and the fox said, ‘Don’t even think about eating me! The Emperor of Heaven has named me chief of all the animals, so if you eat me, you will be violating the orders of the Emperor of Heaven. In case you don’t believe me, just walk behind me and watch to see if the other animals don’t flee at my approach. ‘ The tiger agreed and followed the fox, who started walking. And sure enough, all the other animals fled before him. The tiger didn’t understand that the fleeing animals were afraid of himself, he thought they were fleeing on account of the fox. Your majesty’s domain is five thousand miles square, with a million troops, and Zhao Xixie is its commander-in-chief; it is not Zhao Xixie that those Northerners fear, but your Majesty’s men in arms, just as the animals feared the tiger.”

Zhanguo ce, Chu, book 1