My next book will be a collection of fables, each of which illustrates a logical fallacy–that is, a common mistake in thinking. I have written ten so far, which means that I’m either 50% or 75% finished, depending on how many I include in this volume. The stories have names like “The Poisoned Well,” “Doc Post Hoc,” “The Man of Straw,” and “The Fifty-Fifty Fountain.”
Here is one fable for your enjoyment.
Little Red Herring
There once was a bad old wolf with a taste for children. He dressed in a fine brown suit and a fine brown hat, with a monocle on one eye and a golden watch chain on his vest. This mean old wolf stalked the well-trodden paths of the forest looking for little boys and girls to gobble up.
Once he found a little girl named Rosie Red Herring—her friends just called her Red—walking on the wooded path.
“Where are you coming from, my child?” said the old wolf.
“From my grandmother’s house, sir,” said the child.
“And where are you going?”
Little Red Herring thought for a moment and said, “I’m going to a tea party with four friends, all of them fatter and tastier than myself.”
The wolf licked his lips and said, “Well, then, let me accompany you, my dear! There are many old villains in this forest who would gladly snatch up a little treat like yourself if they saw you. I’ll guide you safely to your tea party and four tasty—I mean friendly friends.”
And so the big wolf and Little Red Herring strolled through the forest arm in arm, until they reached the place where Little Red Herring said the tea party was to take place. It was a clearing in the forest and with a cave in the hill on the other side.
“My friends have not yet arrived,” said the child. “I will go see what’s keeping them. Do you go over there”—pointing to the cave—“and fetch the table, the tablecloth, and all the tea things from inside the cave.”
Accordingly Little Red Herring left the wolf and disappeared into the forest. The stupid wolf went up to the cave on the other side of the clearing, but found not things for a tea party, but a bear inside! The bear woke up and chased the wolf halfway through the forest before it finally gave up its pursuit. The wolf, breathing hard and scared half to death, cursed his bad luck and wished that he had never laid eyes on Little Red Herring. He found himself in a part of the forest he had never been in before, and he had no idea where he should go,
For those who follow a Little Red Herring
Soon find themselves lost and erring.
From the Appendix:
“Little Red Herring” illustrates the Red Herring Fallacy. One commits this fallacy whenever one changes the subject of a debate or conversation, leading others away from their true quarry, the answer to the original question, with related but ultimately irrelevant arguments and objections. Similarly, Little Red Herring leads the wolf astray with the promise of children fatter and tastier than herself.
© Travis Lambert 2015
Some musical accompaniment: