The Grasshopper and the Ant

Sep 02

There was an ant. It lived in a nest along with thousands, if not millions of other ants. They lived in relative peace and prosperity underground. Most, perhaps all of their time, was spent attending to the various needs of the nest. For the most part, this meant foraging for food to sustain all the nests members. Other chores consisted of building or repairing the nest and guarding the eggs and pupae that would one day hatch and develop into workers. The ant lived a collective existence, all the while, in devotion to an unseen queen that was the mother of all them all. The father had been kicked out of the nest long ago, after he served his purpose. He died quickly, a bird ate him before he died of exposure.

One day, as the ant foraged, it noticed a grasshopper, sitting peacefully on a stalk of grass.

“What are you doing?” the ant asked as it searched the ground for food.

The grasshopper looked down. “Nothing.” it replied.

“You’re not doing anything?” the ant asked in disbelief.

Mmm-nope.” the grasshopper shook his head. The ant stared incredulously, and then realized it was wasting time in casual conversation. It quickly went back to the serious business of foraging to maintain the nest.

The next day, the ant saw the grasshopper again. “Still not doing anything, eh?” the ant asked, reprovingly.

The grasshopper looked thoughtful. “Well, I thought about it. And I realized I am, in fact, doing something.”

“And what is that?” the ant scoffed.

“I’m enjoying myself.” the grasshopper replied with a grin. “But let me ask you something,” the grasshopper said, perhaps a little mischievously.

“What’s that?”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m foraging. Gathering food. You know, working. Being productive. Contributing to the community. That sort of thing.” the ant replied.

“Uh-huh.” the grasshopper didn’t seem convinced, even though this was, in fact, what the ant was doing.

“No-really!” the ant insisted. “That’s what I’m doing!”

“Okay. I didn’t say anything.”

“You don’t understand.”

The ant stomped off on its six legs. The next day it just happened to forage in the same place again. The grasshopper was still there, lazing in the sun.

“So-you don’t work or anything.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Well, what about winter, when it comes? You’ll be in deep shit, then, won’t you?”

“Mm. No, not really. I’ll head south where it’s warm. Don’t have to worry about it then.” the grasshopper replied.

“You got it all planned out don’t you?” the ant accused. It was offended by the grasshopper’s blase and effortless challenge to its own established order of things. The grasshopper didn’t reply, but smiled and kicked its legs.

The ant returned to the nest. But it just didn’t seem the same anymore. It was hard to mill about on endless tasks knowing that the grasshopper was reclined on a stalk of grass without a care in the world. The ant avoided the grasshopper for a few days, as their conversations had deeply unsettled it. But then, finally, decided that enough was enough.

The ant returned with to the grass stalk with the intention of forcing the grasshopper to contribute in some way. The grasshopper would serve as foodstuffs for the nest. But when the ant got to the grass stalk, the grasshopper was long gone. Incensed, the ant went back to the nest.

“Ants!” the ant implored. “Ants! Cease your laboring!” the ants looked up in wonder, and in fact, ceased their work, if only to hear what one of their members was saying. “Why are we doing this? Why are we working? We’re only working to sustain the nest-our efforts aren’t for any other purpose! We perform our daily chores only to ensure that there will be others to do the same long after we’re gone! Think about it!”

Many ants grumbled and returned to their labor. Many others, including many soldiers, were alarmed at the speech. The alarm resulted in two reactions: some determined that the wayward ant must be dealt with (and harshly, it would be fed to the young), the other half took to its side. Soon, the nest was in an uproar. Ants fought each other, the nursery was destroyed, the nest fell into disrepair. The queen was found to serve no real purpose, aside from generating more young to sustain the nest which only existed to sustain itself, and so she was terminated. A small committee of ants were elected to rule in her stead. The ant who instigated the rebellion against the social order was not one of these-found guilty of insubordination, it was dismembered and devoured fairly early in the days of the provisional government. However, with no queen to keep up the population, the days took their toll. Within a few weeks, only a few dozen ants were left, wandering amid the ruins of their nest in a daze.

The grasshopper bounded by and observed the state of the nest. “You can’t take the ant out of the ant, I suppose.” it sighed. With a remorse that faded into a memory, and an experience that became an anecdote it shared in conversation with other grasshoppers, the grasshopper went south for the winter to breed.

2 comments

  1. stephanie /

    everything has its purpose,even the ant queen.I think the fact of the matter is,do you want to be the ant and be miserable or would you rather be the grasshopper and be happy?

  2. Stephanie, that is certainly a valid interpretation. I was also trying to show just how destructive attacks on the structure of society can be when the parts of it that are cohesive are removed, this very often results in dissolution. The ants dismantled the apparatus of their civilization, but lacked a clear vision on what to replace it with. As a result, they doomed themselves. The grasshopper never lived in a nest, so he couldn’t understand just how destructive his influence could be (and didn’t seem too concerned when he noted it, either.) Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

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