“It is better to bend than to break” – Fable

Informant: “So the story goes like this… There was a palm tree and some reeds. And the palm tree was very cocky, and said to the reeds: “Why do you bend in the winds like that? You need to stand straight and tall! Look at me, I don’t bow down to anyone!” The reeds could care less, so they just swayed back and forth in the wind without caring. So the palm tree was like, “Hmph. I’ll show them.” And one day a storm came, and the winds were all like WHOOO and WUUUUSH [makes large hand gestures]. The reeds were being blown left and right, but the palm tree was like, “I’m not going to give in to some stupid wind!” And it continued to stand very straight and tall. In the end, the winds snapped the palm tree in half.”

Me: “What is the meaning of the story to you?”

Informant: “Well, it’s about compromising with people, rather than severing relationships or getting into a huge argument. Sure you have to stand your ground sometimes I guess, but from time to time it’s okay to let them have their way.”

Analysis: This is a variation of a fable in Aesop’s fables. In the original fable, it is an oak tree and some reeds. Perhaps the fact that the informant grew up in Southern California attributed to the fact that her version of the fable contains a palm tree instead.

The proverb warns against unnecessary stubbornness as well.

This fable is unusual because it does not contain any animal figures, and rather personifies plants.

Annotation: There is actually an overlap with a Chinese proverb that concludes: “A tree that is unbending will break.”