Once upon a time, a Japanese decided to learn Esperanto. The name of this wise young man was Takata. At first glance, Takata acted as did thousands of his countrymen, and I would not mention so typical a matter if my cousin Hematope had not reported to me the strange circumstances under which he became an Esperantist. Hematope, a serious sea-magpie, swore to me that all the details of this story are true. So, dear children, please listen to them.
When Takata announced his intention to learn the International Language, his right leg protested:
"I'm a good Japanese leg. It is enough for me to be Japanese."
Takata was astonished:
"Beloved leg, all my members and organs are rejoicing in the thought that they will soon be acquainted with the wide world."
"Yes, my brain, my eyes, my mouth, my nose, my stomach, my arms, and especially my heart, can only profit from the experiences of their foreign counterparts."
"I don't like that sort of cosmopolitanism."
"So ask your twin, my left leg."
"Oh, no, a leftist's opinion is highly suspicious. For me, only my love for the fatherland is of importance. Remember that it was you who educated me that way."
"I'm not dreaming. Seven years ago you joined the army. Have you forgotten the daily marching in the barracks courtyard? 'Hup, two! Hup, two!' the sergeant used to chant. What a beautiful voice the sergeant had! I'm sorry that the training ended. And the music, oh, what exciting music!"
"My dear leg, remember that after the war I often took you to concerts, at which you were able to enjoy real, universal musical art. You must not compare that shouting outside the barracks with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony or Wagner's immortal operas."
"Say what you will, but I refuse to learn Esperanto!"
"You will learn Esperanto!"
"I won't learn Esperanto!"
What is to be done when a stubborn leg just will not learn Esperanto? Takata threatened, flattered, struck, tricked. All in vain. During the following days the right leg behaved normally and did its duty. It worked, walked, strolled, wandered, leaped and danced in harmony with the left leg. But whenever Takata made known his intention to go to the Esperanto class, the rebellious leg stiffened up and played dead. The poor pupil had to drag it around like a heavy wooden stick, and this truly made study of the International Language difficult for him. The more deserving, then, was his attainment of the Higher Certificate after one year.
When Takata participated for the first time in a getting-acquainted evening at a World Esperanto Congress, many Esperantists were astonished at seeing the young man hop on one foot, hop, hop! Some of them believed that this was a new advertising method, and an American delegate proposed the adoption of this Japanese technique: if all the Esperantists in the world were to hop on one foot, hop, hop! the newspapermen would tell the public about our important affair more often than they now do.
Takata's explanation of the reason for his hopping gave birth to general disenchantment. The bystanders observed the curious leg with suspicion, and showered the Japanese with all sorts of advice: drop a heavy rock on the stupid foot, dip the malicious member in boiling water, amputate it ...
Ai! Takata protested, it was his leg and he hadn't learned Esperanto to become a cripple. And then a young German girl came over to the Japanese and whispered:
"Come with me. My husband is sitting there in the corner, and he wants to talk with you."
Takata bowed politely to the German, who said:
"Hi. My name is Teo. I just overheard the conversation about your difficulties. Please sit down by me. I too have problems with my right leg."
Teo raised his pantsleg. A metal prosthesis appeared. Both young people looked at each other in silence. The German grinned:
"The war ..."
Takata murmured, shrugging his shoulders:
"Yes, the war. I too had to be in it. Luckily, I came back with both legs."
"I came back alive Š with almost all my members. For long weeks, on my hospital bed, I cried out with pain. After a surgeon cleverly knitted together the torn-up flesh, I decided to cry out my love for peace, and, to convince as many people in the world as possible of how abominable war really is, I learned Esperanto."
"A noble task, but a difficult one. When the deaf refuse to hear ..."
Teo gave his wife a loving look and declared:
"We've already converted many of the deaf, haven't we, Erika?"
She nodded, smiling.
"We're incurable optimists."
The German merrily slapped the Japanese on his right thigh.
"Come on, friend. Let's go drink a glass together, to the prosperity of peace and international friendship."
Arm in arm, with Erika in the middle, the trio slowly left the room.
Teo limped because of his prosthesis. Takata, on the other hand, walked quite normally.
Which all goes to show, I think, that even a simple human leg is sometimes capable of learning wisdom.