One in a series of posts dedicated to pop-culture depictions of owls — as stand-ins for educated, highbrow humans — from 1924–1983. The series derives its title from Owl’s home in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
I encountered James Thurber’s fractured fable “The Owl Who Thought He Was God,” which first appeared in The New Yorker in April 1939, in the 1940 collection Fables For Our Time, where it was retitled The Owl Who Was God.
Long before Jerzy Kosiński’s Being There, Thurber warned about the dangers of placing too much faith in someone who merely appears to be wise… because they utter cryptic, gnomic statements.
Excerpt: “He walked very slowly, which gave him an appearance of great dignity, and he peered about him with large, staring eyes, which gave him an air of tremendous importance. ‘He’s God!’ screamed a Plymouth rock hen. And the others took up the cry ‘He’s God!’ So they followed him wherever he went and when he bumped into things they began to bump into things, too.”
Things do not end well for the animals, or the owl.