The fable dates back to the writings of ancient Greece, which featured the prolific works of Aesop, and even to the Old Testament, which features the fable of the serpent. What all fables have in common is the use of animals, creatures of myth, or natural forces which are given traits of humans for a brief time. The action of the fable expresses some sort of lesson, and fables often end with these lessons restated as a short sentence. One of the most famed fable tellers of the twentieth century is Dr. Seuss, whose wide range of animated books featuring a wide variety of characters has taught moral lessons to generations of young readers. In the case of “The Legend of the Pink Dolphin,” which is geared more toward adult readers because of the nature of the content, is suitable for analysis from the paradigms of the psychology of hope, tale types and story motive. These three ways of looking at a fable provide a wealth of interpretive meaning in this short tale.
Story motive refers to the desires and ideas that motivate the characters in a story. While the plot and all of its subsidiary events are important for the story, the story’s motive drives everything ahead of it – and if you think about it, the idea that the characters’ collective and individual motives drive everything makes fiction a realistic representation of true life. In this story, Rosita and the man each have separate motives. Rosita is eighteen years old and is at the point in life where she would normally start considering marriage. In fact, she may be a little on the old side, which may explain why her father is so willing to meet with the fisherman with whom Rosita has been spending all of her nights. While she is obviously curious about sex and wants to have it with this enigmatic man, she also wants love – and the man knows this, which is why he tells her he wants to be with her forever. Her motive is to find a husband move out of her father’s house – and her father’s control.
In contrast, the man’s motive is to seduce a young, innocent girl and take her heart and soul, according to the legend of the “Bufeo Colorado.” This pink dolphin could only morph into the form of a man when the sun is down. While he states that his motive is to share his love with her, he only wants to sleep with her, gradually taking all of her love. Ultimately, he takes everything away from her, by impregnating her with a baby dolphin – and she dies in childbirth.
Looking at this story from the perspective of tale types is also an instructive way to analyze this fable. The purpose of a fable is to establish a simple moral lesson in a very short tale. The vast majority of fables are told with more of a juvenile audience in mind; if one looks at the fables of Aesop, for example, all of them are suitable for children to read, while the tale of the seduction of Rosita is a bit more mature in content. For example, if one looks at Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” one looks at content that is suitable to all ages – and that expresses a lesson that is equally universal. In this story, the ants spend the entire summer storing up food so that they will not starve during the long winter. In contrast, the grasshopper ends up singing all summer, and has nothing stored up when the cold weather comes. When the grasshopper realizes that he will likely starve if he does not get some help, he goes to the ants, but they will not share; instead, they berate the grasshopper for having been lazy all summer while they were working.
Because of the purpose of a fable, many elements are left out that would normally be part of a meaningful story. There is very little depth to the plot, for example – there is really no context for the relationship that blossoms with extreme rapidity between Rosita and this mysterious fisherman. Elements such as imagery and figurative language only receive scant attention in this fable as well – there simply isn’t the room to accommodate them. And so the plot happens quickly, which is one thing when you’re comparing the food storage habits of ants and grasshoppers, and quite another when you’re dealing with the seduction of a young woman.
The psychology of hope can be seen as the driving force in the plot. Rosita has a number of hopes that jump into existence within the first few moments of her viewing the mysterious fisherman: of true love, of independence from her father, of sexual fulfillment, and of a whirlwind romance – all at once. These factors are what drive her to jump into the fisherman’s arms so quickly. She is told that the fisherman has the same hopes for her, but the fact that the fisherman is only available at night first makes him look like a mere scoundrel. Later, though, his true nature appears; indeed, he can only be human at night.
There is some room for metaphorical interpretation at this point in the story, as the notion of the unfaithful man living a double life, or the man who acts one way in public toward his wife, and acts a different way when they are alone, is a common motif in much of literature – and is a common motif in many relationships. However, the focus of this analytical perspective is on her hopes and how her moments with him build those hopes.
“The Legend of the Pink Dolphin” is a cautionary tale for women of all ages. While the literal moral advises readers to stay away from pink dolphins, or to avoid falling in love with men who are only available at night, the more sophisticated motive is to avoid situations that seem too good to be true – because they usually are. Too many men only have sexual conquest as a motive when they promise much more, even if they are not as malicious as the pink dolphin turned out to be. Young women like Rosita, who would be reading or hearing this fable for the first time, might indeed be nodding their heads ruefully as they experience the tale, having heard from friends or relatives about the nefarious ways of men, as even the completely mortal and natural types have wily ways all their own.