Pohádky pro Dášeňku, aby tiše seděla
Vocabulary notes:
pohádka: f. ; fairy tale tiše: adv.; pokojně, klidně; quietly, calmly

This story (O psím ocásku) is from a chapter entitled „Pohádky pro Dášeňku, aby tiše seděla“ (Fairy tales for Dášeňka to have her sit calmly) within a collection of texts Dášeňka, čili život štěněte (Dášeňka or the life of a puppy) (1932). The book consists of narrated tales, paintings, and photographs. In this particular story, as well as in the whole collection, Čapek uses a narrative technique based on a fictional addressee. He adjusts his point of perspective to that of Dášeňka, a little puppy born to his fox terrier Iris to describe the world. By doing so, the author can deal with his favorite topic, i.e. the relativity of our perception and interchangeable point of view. By juxtaposing the point of view of a puppy with that of a child (to whom it is actually intended) and that of a mature narrator (the guide and interpreter of the world) the reader can have a detached view of the everyday world. Here one might want to contrast this approach with Kafka’s Investigations of a Dog.

Čapek employs the traditional pattern of a fairy tale [3 tests for the protagonist’s quest]. However, he situates the local and temporal specifications of Prague of his time. The combination of the two properties adds some appeal to the story that from the point of the plot would be rather banal and naive. Moreover, there is a twist in the narrator’s strategy: at the end we learn that he did not merely tell his story to Dášeňka to explain why people clip fox terriers’ tails, but that he uses the story to justify what he plans to do to the puppy. Such a final point makes the story relative and ambiguous in one more way: do we narrate stories to entertain and amuse the others, or do we do that because we have some hidden agenda in mind?

From the language point of view, the tale offers an interesting mixture of styles; the text is deliberately simplistic, but at the same time is rich in vocabulary and syntax for grown-ups. This strategy has an effect: the text, though they look like a typical children’s story, is read and appreciated by adult and mature readers.