A much-respected Russian scholar has compared the latest goings-on in Russian politics to a French folk tale. I believe it can be found in Henri Pourrat’s collection Le Trésor des contes. (I hope I understood the comparison correctly.) Its title is “The Man who put up Such a Good Defence” in Mary Mian’s translation.
A villager needed a pot to melt lard. He didn’t want to buy one so he took one of his neighbor’s. Then a hungry cat broke the vessel in two. The peasant put the halves back together and brought the pot back. The neighbor noticed the pot was broken and asked for payment.
Our villager refused to pay and his neighbor took the matter to court. The pot-breaker went to the city to see a lawyer, who advised one of the three lines of defense: Claim the pot was broken when borrowed, or claim it was whole when returned, or deny having taken it. Impressed by the lawyer’s wise counsel, the peasant paid him more than he would have paid the neighbor.
When summoned before the judge, the man argued his case:
“Firstly, the pot was broken when I took it. Secondly, it was in good condition when I returned it. Thirdly, and finally, I never ever took the pot from my neighbor.”
For the rest of his life – the story goes – the villager would accuse lawyers and judges of injustice.