A tale of foxes and freedom

Singing the songs of creation to shape a free world.

One day the silver kit asked the grey one:

“Who made the light, which brightens our singing place?”

The grey one looked at it lovingly and asked the kit to sit with him, for she would tell a story from the old days when the tribe was young.

“Once there was a time, when the world was light and happiness. During the day the sun shone on the savannah, and at night the moon cast the grass in a silver sheen.

It was during that time, when there were fewer animals in the wild, that the GNUs learned to work songs of creation, deep and vocal, and they taught us and everyone their new findings, and the life of our skulk was happiness and love.

But while the GNUs spread their songs and made new songs for every idea they could imagine, others invaded the plains, and they stole away the songs and only allowed singing them their way. And they drowned out the light, and with it went the happiness and love.

And when everyone shivered in cold and darkness, and stillness and despair were drawn over the land, the others created a false light which cast small enclosures into a pale flicker, into which they allowed only those animals who were willing to wear ropes on their throats and limbs, and many animals went to them to escape the darkness, while some fell deeper still and joined the others in enslaving their former friends.

Upon seeing this, the fiercest of the GNUs, the last one of the original herd, was filled with a terrible anger to see the songs of creation turned into a tool for slavery, and he made one special song which created a spark of true light in the darkness which could not be taken away, and which exposed the falsehood in the light of the others. And whenever he sang this song, those who were near him were touched by happiness.

But the others were many and the GNU was alone, and many animals succumbed to the ropes or the ropers and could move no more on their own.

To spread the song, the GNU now searched for other animals who would sing with it, and the song spread, and with it the freedom.

It was during these days, that the GNU met our founders, who lived in golden chains in a palace of glass.

In this palace they thought themselves lucky, and though the light of the palace grew ever paler and the chains grew heavier with every passing day, they didn't leave, because they feared the utter darkness out there.

When they then saw the GNU, they asked him: "Isn't your light weaker than this whole palace?" and the GNU answered: "Not if we sing it together", and they asked "But how will we eat in the darkness?" and the GNU answered "you'll eat in the light of your songs, and plants will grow wherever you sing", and they asked "But is it a song of foxes?" and the GNU said: "You can make it so", and he began to sing, and when our founders joined in, the light became shimmering silver like the moon they still remembered from the days and nights of light, and they rejoiced in its brightness.

And whenever this light touched the glass of the palace, the glass paled and showed its true being, and where the light touched the chains, they whithered and our founders went into the darkness with the newfound light of the moon as companion, and they thanked the GNU and promised to help it, whenever they were needed.

Then they set off to learn the many songs of the world and to spread the silver light of the moon wherever they came.

This is how our founders learned to sing the light, which brightens every one of our songs, and as our skulk grew bigger, the light grew stronger and it became a little moon, which will grow with each new kit, until its light will fill the whole world again one day.”

The grey one looked around where many kits had quietly found a place, and then she laughed softly, before she got up to fetch herself a meal for the night, and the kits began to speak all at once about her story. And they spoke until the silver kit raised its voice and sung the song of moonlight1, and they joined in and the song filled their hearts with joy and the air with light, and they knew that wherever they would travel, this skulk was where their hearts felt home.

PS: This story is far less loosely based on facts than it looks. There are songs of creation, namely computer programs, which once were free and which were truly taken away and used for casting others into darkness. And there was and still is the fierce GNU with his song of light and freedom, and he did spread it to make it into GNU/Linux and found the free software community we know today. If you want to know more about the story as it happened in our world, just read the less flowery story of Richard Stallman, free hackers and the creation of GNU or listen to the free song Infinite Hands.

PPS: I originally wrote this story for Phex, a free Gnutella based p2p filesharing program which also has an anonymous sibling (i2phex). It’s an even stronger fit for Firefox, though.

PPPS: License: This text is given into the public under the GNU FDL without invariant sections and other free licenses by Arne Babenhauserheide (who has the copyright on it).

P4S: Alternate link: http://www.draketo.de/english/tale-of-foxes-and-freedom

  1. To make it perfectly clear: This moonlight is definitely not the abhorrent and patent stricken silverlight port from the mono project. The foxes sing a song of freedom. They wouldn’t accept the shackles of Microsoft after having found their freedom. Sadly the PR departments of some groups try to take over analogies and strong names. Don’t be fooled by them. The moonlight in our songs is the light coming from the moon which resonates in the voices of the kits. And that light is free as in freedom, from copyright restrictions as well as from patent restrictions – though there certainly are people who would love to patent the light of the moon. Those are the ones we need to fight to defend our freedom. 

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