Painting of the lonely toucan from the Mexican folktale.

The Fable of the Lonely Toucan (Mexican Folktale)

The Fable of the Lonely Toucan is a folktale from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It was written by the once-esteemed fabulist Juan Artola Miranda. It was quite popular, for a time, until Artola fell from grace.

It’s a dark tale about the hidden self-interest hidden beneath most friendships. I’ll explain the moral at the end.

The Fable

A long time ago, a long way from here, there lived a toucan named Toco. Toco was a kind-hearted bird who greeted everyone with a warm smile and a cheerful chirp. He would offer fruits from his beak to all the creatures of the jungle, be they small or large, weak or strong.

On the other side of the jungle lived a cold and calculating crocodile named Coco. He was rude to every animal except for one, a jaguar named Jairo. Coco would catch fish for Jairo and offer him sips from the lagoon, and in return, Jairo would drop down treats from the trees above. They also shared a love of philosophy and would argue deep into the night.

The other animals of the jungle envied Jairo’s relationship with Coco. They longed to befriend Coco, hoping to receive his protection and share the bounties of the lagoon. They would bring him gifts and try to win him over, seeking his favour.

Despite his kindness, Toco struggled to make true friends in the jungle. The other animals appreciated his generosity but never sought to forge a deeper connection. They took Toco’s friendship for granted, knowing he would always be there with a kind word and a treat.

One day, feeling disheartened, Toco approached Coco at the edge of the lagoon. “Coco,” Toco lamented, “I am friendly and generous to everyone, yet I have no close friends. How is it that you, who are cold to all but Jairo, have every creature in the jungle trying to befriend you?”

Coco looked at Toco, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “Toco,” he replied, “you are kind to everyone because you believe it is the right thing to do. If being a good creature is your only goal, you do not need friends. You have already succeeded.”

Toco hesitated before admitting, “I do want to be a good creature, Coco, but I also desire the warmth of true friendship.”

Coco thought for a moment. “There is no reason for the creatures of the jungle to form a bond with you. They have nothing to gain by becoming your friend, as you already give them everything you have.”

The Meaning & the Moral

The moral of the story is somewhat grim. It posits that many friendships are rooted in self-interest. Many people gravitate towards fruitful alliances, forming friendships that improve their lives.

Not all friendships are the same, of course. Still, it helps to explain the mystery of why some nice people struggle to make friends. It isn’t that they aren’t amiable. It’s that there’s too little to be gained from becoming their friend. Sometimes the solution is to become more useful, more loyal, or more discerning.

Similar Fables

If you liked The Fable of the Lonely Toucan, you might like similar folktales. Here are some of my favourites:

Or if you want to go beyond fables, you might like the disturbing true story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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