Captivity

February 26, 2009
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In my travels I have seen many a strange thing. On a recent trip I visited the Far Land across the Great Waters and stayed there, in the northeast region, for two months. I observed, with amusement, perplexity, and concern, the Far Landers' way of living, which differs so much in nearly every aspect from that of our own dear land. There was one aspect in particular that prompted me to fear for their safety, for they willingly put themselves in much danger; but they disregarded my attempts to help them and thought I was rather unintelligent and had likely gone mad.

You see, the Far Landers seem to have no fear of certain wild animals that are also found here, in our own dear land, and that are capable of ripping a man to shreds in a few seconds. These animals, for the most part, are quite large and strong, have sharp teeth and claws, and can outrun any man. And yet the Far Landers do not fear them.

Rather, these animals fear the Far Landers.

The Far Landers keep these animals in their homes in large boxes made of metal bars. The boxes are constructed very sturdily, and the only way for the animal to escape is through the door. However, the door and its locks can be manipulated only by men, for the metal box is a thing of men and animals should have nothing to do with it.

When an animal is taken out of a metal box, a sort of ring made of rope is placed over its head and tightened around the neck to achieve the desired effect ' that is, the animal's compliance. Another, longer rope is attached to the first; the Far Landers can now pull the second rope to lead the animal wherever they please.

Sometimes the animals are removed from the metal boxes and placed into enclosures with walls as high as those of the Far Landers' houses. These animals are supposed to mate and produce a new generation that will join them in playing captive to the Far Landers. Soon after they are born, the young animals are separated from their parents and placed into metal boxes, their new, eternal homes.

These young animals make good companions for the Far Lander children (most families have at least one animal). That is not to say that the children know how to take care of the animals. The children often forget to feed their animals, which starve; or they fasten the ropes too tightly, which chokes the animals to death. The parents know how to take care of the animals, but they do not bother telling their children, because the children will only forget their instructions, and anyway there are too many animals for a few deaths to matter.

The older animals are under the care of the older Far Landers. This makes sense. But it does not make sense for an older Far Lander, or any human being, to believe that he is impervious to harm from an animal. I wonder if an animal can truly be tamed. Can the Great Waters be tamed? Can the wind, or fire, or sky be tamed? Underneath the surface of a cowering, sorry creature is the real wild animal that it is, the embodiment of the raw power of nature.

This side of an animal may remain hidden for a long time, and when it is revealed, it is all the more surprising. At the end of my second month in the Far Land, a man opening the door of a metal box to feed his animal was suddenly pounced upon by this animal. Needless to say, the animal tore the man apart and made a quick meal of him. The Far Landers were shocked at this terrible incident, for this animal had never shown aggression toward the man before. I did not find it shocking that a wild animal ate a man; I found shocking only that the Far Landers believed they could control even one wild animal. I think now of our own dear land, where humans live with humans, and animals are left where they are. The very thought of a wild creature living in my home! It frightens me.

Even as I tried to explain the customs of our own dear land to the Far Landers, they were devising ideas of punishment for the animal that had killed a man. Because the animal had killed out of hunger, they reasoned, it should be left to starve to death. And so it was decided that the animal should be kept outside in a metal box until it died.

That night, when all the Far Landers had gone to bed, I crept quietly out of my own bed and hurried to the field where the metal box stood. I saw that the animal was sleeping. I unlocked and opened the door and then returned to my host's house. The next morning the Far Landers found the metal box empty. I told no lies.

I was banished from the Far Land when they learned what I had done.





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