Talking Down the Thunder
Once upon a time, Thor appeared in a vision to Eric, son of Sven. The thunder god raged, “This town is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I should hurl a fireball brighter than a thousand suns, and blast this trash to ashes.”
But Eric said, “O Lord of Thunder, would you spare the town, and leave it in peace, if it hosted a hundred worthy men?”
Thor considered this and said, “Yes, Eric, I would leave the town in peace, for the sake of a hundred worthy men.”
Then Eric said, “O Lord of Thunder, would you spare the town if it hosted ninety worthy men?”
Thor said, “Yes, Eric, I would leave the town in peace, for the sake of ninety worthy men.”
Eric reduced the number to eighty, then seventy, sixty, fifty, forty, thirty and twenty; then ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three and two. Then Eric said, “O Lord of Thunder, would you spare the town if it hosted a single worthy man?”
Thor said, “Yes, Eric, I would leave the town in peace, for the sake of a single worthy man.”
Eric said, “O Lord of Thunder, I say that I myself am worthy. If you disagree, then slay me now, but spare the town.”
The Lord of Thunder rumbled with laughter. “A worthy defense,” Thor chortled, and he left in peace.
Moral: Reduce atrocity to the absurd.
Commentary: Eric follows Lot, who also tried talking down an angry thunder-god. Eric didn’t stop at ten, but de-escalated all the way down to one, that one being himself. It helped that his thunder-god had a sense of humor.
The Moral reverses Voltaire’s warning that those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. My version suggests a plan of action, accessible to satirists.