Aesop’s Fables, by George Fyler Townsend
The Wolf and the Lamb
The Bat and the Weasels
A BAT who fell upon the ground and was caught by a Weasel pleaded to be spared his life. The Weasel refused, saying that he was by nature the enemy of all birds. The Bat assured him that he was not a bird, but a mouse, and thus was set free. Shortly afterwards the Bat again fell to the ground and was caught by another Weasel, whom he likewise entreated not to eat him. The Weasel said that he had a special hostility to mice. The Bat assured him that he was not a mouse, but a bat, and thus a second time escaped.
It is wise to turn circumstances to good account.
The Ass and the Grasshopper
AN ASS having heard some Grasshoppers chirping, was highly enchanted; and, desiring to possess the same charms of melody, demanded what sort of food they lived on to give them such beautiful voices. They replied, “The dew.” The Ass resolved that he would live only upon dew, and in a short time died of hunger.
The Lion and the Mouse
A LION was awakened from sleep by a Mouse running over his face. Rising up angrily, he caught him and was about to kill him, when the Mouse piteously entreated, saying: “If you would only spare my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness.” The Lion laughed and let him go. It happened shortly after this that the Lion was caught by some hunters, who bound him by strong ropes to the ground. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came gnawed the rope with his teeth, and set him free, exclaim
“You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you, expecting to receive from me any repayment of your favor; I now you know that it is possible for even a Mouse to con benefits on a Lion.”
The Charcoal-Burner and the Fuller
A CHARCOAL-BURNER carried on his trade in his own house. One day he met a friend, a Fuller, and entreated him to come and live with him, saying that they should be far better neighbors and that their housekeeping expenses would be lessened. The Fuller replied, “The arrangement is impossible as far as I am concerned, for whatever I should whiten, you would immediately blacken again with your charcoal.”
Like will draw like.
The Father and His Sons
A FATHER had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion; and for this purpose he one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the faggot into the hands of each of them in succession, and ordered them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength, and were not able to do it. He next opened the faggot, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons’ hands, upon which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: “My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this faggot, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”
The Boy Hunting Locusts
A BOY was hunting for locusts. He had caught a goodly number, when he saw a Scorpion, and mistaking him for a locust, reached out his hand to take him. The Scorpion, showing his sting, said: If you had but touched me, my friend, you would have lost me, and all your locusts too!”
The Cock and the Jewel
A COCK, scratching for food for himself and his hens, found a precious stone and exclaimed: “If your owner had found thee, and not I, he would have taken thee up, and have set thee in thy first estate; but I have found thee for no purpose. I would rather have one barleycorn than all the jewels in the world.”
The Kingdom of the Lion
THE BEASTS of the field and forest had a Lion as their king. He was neither wrathful, cruel, nor tyrannical, but just and gentle as a king could be. During his reign he made a royal proclamation for a general assembly of all the birds and beasts, and drew up conditions for a universal league, in which the Wolf and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace and amity. The Hare said, “Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side of the strong.” And after the Hare said this, he ran for his life.
The Wolf and the Crane
A WOLF who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for a large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone. When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed: “Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the mouth and jaws of a wolf.”
In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains.
The Fisherman Piping
A FISHERMAN skilled in music took his flute and his nets to the seashore. Standing on a projecting rock, he played several tunes in the hope that the fish, attracted by his melody, would of their own accord dance into his net, which he had placed below. At last, having long waited in vain, he laid aside his flute, and casting his net into the sea, made an excellent haul of fish. When he saw them leaping about in the net upon the rock he said: “O you most perverse creatures, when I piped you would not dance, but now that I have ceased you do so merrily.”
Hercules and the Wagoner
A CARTER was driving a wagon along a country lane, when the wheels sank down deep into a rut. The rustic driver, stupefied and aghast, stood looking at the wagon, and did nothing but utter loud cries to Hercules to come and help him. Hercules, it is said, appeared and thus addressed him: “Put your shoulders to the wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks, and never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help yourself, or depend upon it you will henceforth pray in vain.”
Self-help is the best help.
The Ants and the Grasshopper
THE ANTS were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, “Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?’ He replied, “I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in singing.” They then said in derision: “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”
The Traveler and His Dog
A TRAVELER about to set out on a journey saw his Dog stand at the door stretching himself. He asked him sharply: “Why do you stand there gaping? Everything is ready but you, so come with me instantly.” The Dog, wagging his tail, replied: “O, master! I am quite ready; it is you for whom I am waiting.”
The loiterer often blames delay on his more active friend.
The Dog and the Shadow
A DOG, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away.
The Mole and His Mother
A MOLE, a creature blind from birth, once said to his Mother: “I am sure than I can see, Mother!” In the desire to prove to him his mistake, his Mother placed before him a few grains of frankincense, and asked, “What is it?’ The young Mole said, “It is a pebble.” His Mother exclaimed: “My son, I am afraid that you are not only blind, but that you have lost your sense of smell.
The Herdsman and the Lost Bull
A HERDSMAN tending his flock in a forest lost a Bull-calf from the fold. After a long and fruitless search, he made a vow that, if he could only discover the thief who had stolen the Calf, he would offer a lamb in sacrifice to Hermes, Pan, and the Guardian Deities of the forest. Not long afterwards, as he ascended a small hillock, he saw at its foot a Lion feeding on the Calf. Terrified at the sight, he lifted his eyes and his hands to heaven, and said: “Just now I vowed to offer a lamb to the Guardian Deities of the forest if I could only find out who had robbed me; but now that I have discovered the thief, I would willingly add a full-grown Bull to the Calf I have lost, if I may only secure my own escape from him in safety.”
The Hare and the Tortoise
A HARE one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The Hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.
Slow but steady wins the race.
The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble
THE POMEGRANATE and Apple-Tree disputed as to which was the most beautiful. When their strife was at its height, a Bramble from the neighboring hedge lifted up its voice, and said in a boastful tone: “Pray, my dear friends, in my presence at least cease from such vain disputings.”
The Farmer and the Stork
A FARMER placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught a number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them he trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in the net and was earnestly beseeching the Farmer to spare his life. “Pray save me, Master,” he said, “and let me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity. Besides, I am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I love and slave for my father and mother. Look too, at my feathers — they are not the least like those of a Crane.” The Farmer laughed aloud and said, “It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company.”
Birds of a feather flock together.
The Farmer and the Snake
ONE WINTER a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. “Oh,” cried the Farmer with his last breath, “I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.”
The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.
The Fawn and His Mother
A YOUNG FAWN once said to his Mother, “You are larger than a dog, and swifter, and more used to running, and you have your horns as a defense; why, then, O Mother! do the hounds frighten you so?” She smiled, and said: “I know full well, my son, that all you say is true. I have the advantages you mention, but when I hear even the bark of a single dog I feel ready to faint, and fly away as fast as I can.”
No arguments will give courage to the coward.
The Bear and the Fox
A BEAR boasted very much of his philanthropy, saying that of all animals he was the most tender in his regard for man, for he had such respect for him that he would not even touch his dead body. A Fox hearing these words said with a smile to the Bear, “Oh! that you would eat the dead and not the living.”
The Swallow and the Crow
THE SWALLOW and the Crow had a contention about their plumage. The Crow put an end to the dispute by saying, “Your feathers are all very well in the spring, but mine protect me against the winter.”
Fair weather friends are not worth much.
The Mountain in Labor
A MOUNTAIN was once greatly agitated. Loud groans and noises were heard, and crowds of people came from all parts to see what was the matter. While they were assembled in anxious expectation of some terrible calamity, out came a Mouse.
Don’t make much ado about nothing.
The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion
THE ASS and the Fox, having entered into partnership together for their mutual protection, went out into the forest to hunt. They had not proceeded far when they met a Lion. The Fox, seeing imminent danger, approached the Lion and promised to contrive for him the capture of the Ass if the Lion would pledge his word not to harm the Fox. Then, upon assuring the Ass that he would not be injured, the Fox led him to a deep pit and arranged that he should fall into it. The Lion, seeing that the Ass was secured, immediately clutched the Fox, and attacked the Ass at his leisure.
The Tortoise and the Eagle
A TORTOISE, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly. An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. “I will give you,” she said, “all the riches of the Red Sea.” “I will teach you to fly then,” said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds suddenly he let her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain, dashing her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: “I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?’
If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.
The Flies and the Honey-Pot
A NUMBER of Flies were attracted to a jar of honey which had been overturned in a housekeeper’s room, and placing their feet in it, ate greedily. Their feet, however, became so smeared with the honey that they could not use their wings, nor release themselves, and were suffocated. Just as they were expiring, they exclaimed, “O foolish creatures that we are, for the sake of a little pleasure we have destroyed ourselves.”
Pleasure bought with pains, hurts.
The Man and the Lion
A MAN and a Lion traveled together through the forest. They soon began to boast of their respective superiority to each other in strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a statue carved in stone, which represented “a Lion strangled by a Man.” The traveler pointed to it and said: “See there! How strong we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts.” The Lion replied: “This statue was made by one of you men. If we Lions knew how to erect statues, you would see the Man placed under the paw of the Lion.”
One story is good, till another is told.
The Farmer and the Cranes
SOME CRANES made their feeding grounds on some plowlands newly sown with wheat. For a long time the Farmer, brandishing an empty sling, chased them away by the terror he inspired; but when the birds found that the sling was only swung in the air, they ceased to take any notice of it and would not move. The Farmer, on seeing this, charged his sling with stones, and killed a great number. The remaining birds at once forsook his fields, crying to each other, “It is time for us to be off to Liliput: for this man is no longer content to scare us, but begins to show us in earnest what he can do.”
If words suffice not, blows must follow.
The Dog in the Manger
A DOG lay in a manger, and by his growling and snapping prevented the oxen from eating the hay which had been placed for them. “What a selfish Dog!” said one of them to his companions; “he cannot eat the hay himself, and yet refuses to allow those to eat who can.”
The Fox and the Goat
A FOX one day fell into a deep well and could find no means of escape. A Goat, overcome with thirst, came to the same well, and seeing the Fox, inquired if the water was good. Concealing his sad plight under a merry guise, the Fox indulged in a lavish praise of the water, saying it was excellent beyond measure, and encouraging him to descend. The Goat, mindful only of his thirst, thoughtlessly jumped down, but just as he drank, the Fox informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested a scheme for their common escape. “If,” said he, “you will place your forefeet upon the wall and bend your head, I will run up your back and escape, and will help you out afterwards.” The Goat readily assented and the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying himself with the Goat’s horns, he safely reached the mouth of the well and made off as fast as he could. When the Goat upbraided him for breaking his promise, he turned around and cried out, “You foolish old fellow! If you had as many brains in your head as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself to dangers from which you had no means of escape.”
Look before you leap.
The Bear and the Two Travelers
TWO MEN were traveling together, when a Bear suddenly met them on their path. One of them climbed up quickly into a tree and concealed himself in the branches. The other, seeing that he must be attacked, fell flat on the ground, and when the Bear came up and felt him with his snout, and smelt him all over, he held his breath, and feigned the appearance of death as much as he could. The Bear soon left him, for it is said he will not touch a dead body. When he was quite gone, the other Traveler descended from the tree, and jocularly inquired of his friend what it was the Bear had whispered in his ear. “He gave me this advice,” his companion replied. “Never travel with a friend who deserts you at the approach of danger.”
Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.
The Oxen and the Axle-Trees
A HEAVY WAGON was being dragged along a country lane by a team of Oxen. The Axle-trees groaned and creaked terribly; whereupon the Oxen, turning round, thus addressed the wheels: “Hullo there! why do you make so much noise? We bear all the labor, and we, not you, ought to cry out.”
Those who suffer most cry out the least.
The Thirsty Pigeon
A PIGEON, oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water painted on a signboard. Not supposing it to be only a picture, she flew towards it with a loud whir and unwittingly dashed against the signboard, jarring herself terribly. Having broken her wings by the blow, she fell to the ground, and was caught by one of the bystanders.
Zeal should not outrun discretion.
The Raven and the Swan
A RAVEN saw a Swan and desired to secure for himself the same beautiful plumage. Supposing that the Swan’s splendid white color arose from his washing in the water in which he swam, the Raven left the altars in the neighborhood where he picked up his living, and took up residence in the lakes and pools. But cleansing his feathers as often as he would, he could not change their color, while through want of food he perished.
Change of habit cannot alter Nature.
The Goat and the Goatherd
A GOATHERD had sought to bring back a stray goat to his flock. He whistled and sounded his horn in vain; the straggler paid no attention to the summons. At last the Goatherd threw a stone, and breaking its horn, begged the Goat not to tell his master. The Goat replied, “Why, you silly fellow, the horn will speak though I be silent.”
Do not attempt to hide things which cannot be hid.
A MISER sold all that he had and bought a lump of gold, which he buried in a hole in the ground by the side of an old wall and went to look at daily. One of his workmen observed his frequent visits to the spot and decided to watch his movements. He soon discovered the secret of the hidden treasure, and digging down, came to the lump of gold, and stole it. The Miser, on his next visit, found the hole empty and began to tear his hair and to make loud lamentations. A neighbor, seeing him overcome with grief and learning the cause, said, “Pray do not grieve so; but go and take a stone, and place it in the hole, and fancy that the gold is still lying there. It will do you quite the same service; for when the gold was there, you had it not, as you did not make the slightest use of it.”
The Sick Lion
A LION, unable from old age and infirmities to provide himself with food by force, resolved to do so by artifice. He returned to his den, and lying down there, pretended to be sick, taking care that his sickness should be publicly known. The beasts expressed their sorrow, and came one by one to his den, where the Lion devoured them. After many of the beasts had thus disappeared, the Fox discovered the trick and presenting himself to the Lion, stood on the outside of the cave, at a respectful distance, and asked him how he was. “I am very middling,” replied the Lion, “but why do you stand without? Pray enter within to talk with me.” “No, thank you,” said the Fox. “I notice that there are many prints of feet entering your cave, but I see no trace of any returning.”
He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others.
The Horse and Groom
A GROOM used to spend whole days in currycombing and rubbing down his Horse, but at the same time stole his oats and sold them for his own profit. “Alas!” said the Horse, “if you really wish me to be in good condition, you should groom me less, and feed me more.”
The Ass and the Lapdog
A MAN had an Ass, and a Maltese Lapdog, a very great beauty. The Ass was left in a stable and had plenty of oats and hay to eat, just as any other Ass would. The Lapdog knew many tricks and was a great favorite with his master, who often fondled him and seldom went out to dine without bringing him home some tidbit to eat. The Ass, on the contrary, had much work to do in grinding the corn-mill and in carrying wood from the forest or burdens from the farm. He often lamented his own hard fate and contrasted it with the luxury and idleness of the Lapdog, till at last one day he broke his cords and halter, and galloped into his master’s house, kicking up his heels without measure, and frisking and fawning as well as he could. He next tried to jump about his master as he had seen the Lapdog do, but he broke the table and smashed all the dishes upon it to atoms. He then attempted to lick his master, and jumped upon his back. The servants, hearing the strange hubbub and perceiving the danger of their master, quickly relieved him, and drove out the Ass to his stable with kicks and clubs and cuffs. The Ass, as he returned to his stall beaten nearly to death, thus lamented: “I have brought it all on myself! Why could I not have been contented to labor with my companions, and not wish to be idle all the day like that useless little Lapdog!”
A CONTROVERSY prevailed among the beasts of the field as to which of the animals deserved the most credit for producing the greatest number of whelps at a birth. They rushed clamorously into the presence of the Lioness and demanded of her the settlement of the dispute. “And you,” they said, “how many sons have you at a birth?’ The Lioness laughed at them, and said: “Why! I have only one; but that one is altogether a thoroughbred Lion.”
The value is in the worth, not in the number.
The Boasting Traveler
A MAN who had traveled in foreign lands boasted very much, on returning to his own country, of the many wonderful and heroic feats he had performed in the different places he had visited. Among other things, he said that when he was at Rhodes he had leaped to such a distance that no man of his day could leap anywhere near him as to that, there were in Rhodes many persons who saw him do it and whom he could call as witnesses. One of the bystanders interrupted him, saying: “Now, my good man, if this be all true there is no need of witnesses. Suppose this to be Rhodes, and leap for us.”
The Cat and the Cock
A CAT caught a Cock, and pondered how he might find a reasonable excuse for eating him. He accused him of being a nuisance to men by crowing in the nighttime and not permitting them to sleep. The Cock defended himself by saying that he did this for the benefit of men, that they might rise in time for their labors. The Cat replied, “Although you abound in specious apologies, I shall not remain supperless”; and he made a meal of him.
The Piglet, the Sheep, and the Goat
A YOUNG PIG was shut up in a fold-yard with a Goat and a Sheep. On one occasion when the shepherd laid hold of him, he grunted and squeaked and resisted violently. The Sheep and the Goat complained of his distressing cries, saying, “He often handles us, and we do not cry out.” To this the Pig replied, “Your handling and mine are very different things. He catches you only for your wool, or your milk, but he lays hold on me for my very life.”
The Boy and the Filberts
A BOY put his hand into a pitcher full of filberts. He grasped as many as he could possibly hold, but when he tried to pull out his hand, he was prevented from doing so by the neck of the pitcher. Unwilling to lose his filberts, and yet unable to withdraw his hand, he burst into tears and bitterly lamented his disappointment. A bystander said to him, “Be satisfied with half the quantity, and you will readily draw out your hand.”
Do not attempt too much at once.
The Lion in Love
A LION demanded the daughter of a woodcutter in marriage. The Father, unwilling to grant, and yet afraid to refuse his request, hit upon this expedient to rid himself of his importunities. He expressed his willingness to accept the Lion as the suitor of his daughter on one condition: that he should allow him to extract his teeth, and cut off his claws, as his daughter was fearfully afraid of both. The Lion cheerfully assented to the proposal. But when the toothless, clawless Lion returned to repeat his request, the Woodman, no longer afraid, set upon him with his club, and drove him away into the forest.
The Laborer and the Snake
A SNAKE, having made his hole close to the porch of a cottage, inflicted a mortal bite on the Cottager’s infant son. Grieving over his loss, the Father resolved to kill the Snake. The next day, when it came out of its hole for food, he took up his axe, but by swinging too hastily, missed its head and cut off only the end of its tail. After some time the Cottager, afraid that the Snake would bite him also, endeavored to make peace, and placed some bread and salt in the hole. The Snake, slightly hissing, said: “There can henceforth be no peace between us; for whenever I see you I shall remember the loss of my tail, and whenever you see me you will be thinking of the death of your son.”
No one truly forgets injuries in the presence of him who caused the injury.
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
ONCE UPON A TIME a Wolf resolved to disguise his appearance in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock deceiving the shepherd by his costume. In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure. But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to obtain meat for the next day, mistakenly caught up the Wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him instantly.
Harm seek. harm find.
The Ass and the Mule
A MULETEER set forth on a journey, driving before him an Ass and a Mule, both well laden. The Ass, as long as he traveled along the plain, carried his load with ease, but when he began to ascend the steep path of the mountain, felt his load to be more than he could bear. He entreated his companion to relieve him of a small portion, that he might carry home the rest; but the Mule paid no attention to the request. The Ass shortly afterwards fell down dead under his burden. Not knowing what else to do in so wild a region, the Muleteer placed upon the Mule the load carried by the Ass in addition to his own, and at the top of all placed the hide of the Ass, after he had skinned him. The Mule, groaning beneath his heavy burden, said to himself: “I am treated according to my deserts. If I had only been willing to assist the Ass a little in his need, I should not now be bearing, together with his burden, himself as well.”
The Frogs Asking for a King
THE FROGS, grieved at having no established Ruler, sent ambassadors to Jupiter entreating for a King. Perceiving their simplicity, he cast down a huge log into the lake. The Frogs were terrified at the splash occasioned by its fall and hid themselves in the depths of the pool. But as soon as they realized that the huge log was motionless, they swam again to the top of the water, dismissed their fears, climbed up, and began squatting on it in contempt. After some time they began to think themselves ill-treated in the appointment of so inert a Ruler, and sent a second deputation to Jupiter to pray that he would set over them another sovereign. He then gave them an Eel to govern them. When the Frogs discovered his easy good nature, they sent yet a third time to Jupiter to beg him to choose for them still another King. Jupiter, displeased with all their complaints, sent a Heron, who preyed upon the Frogs day by day till there were none left to croak upon the lake.
The Boys and the Frogs
SOME BOYS, playing near a pond, saw a number of Frogs in the water and began to pelt them with stones. They killed several of them, when one of the Frogs, lifting his head out of the water, cried out: “Pray stop, my boys: what is sport to you, is death to us.”
The Sick Stag
A SICK STAG lay down in a quiet corner of its pasture-ground. His companions came in great numbers to inquire after his health, and each one helped himself to a share of the food which had been placed for his use; so that he died, not from his sickness, but from the failure of the means of living.
Evil companions bring more hurt than profit.
The Salt Merchant and His Ass
A PEDDLER drove his Ass to the seashore to buy salt. His road home lay across a stream into which his Ass, making a false step, fell by accident and rose up again with his load considerably lighter, as the water melted the sack. The Peddler retraced his steps and refilled his panniers with a larger quantity of salt than before. When he came again to the stream, the Ass fell down on purpose in the same spot, and, regaining his feet with the weight of his load much diminished, brayed triumphantly as if he had obtained what he desired. The Peddler saw through his trick and drove him for the third time to the coast, where he bought a cargo of sponges instead of salt. The Ass, again playing the fool, fell down on purpose when he reached the stream, but the sponges became swollen with water, greatly increasing his load. And thus his trick recoiled on him, for he now carried on his back a double burden.
The Oxen and the Butchers
THE OXEN once upon a time sought to destroy the Butchers, who practiced a trade destructive to their race. They assembled on a certain day to carry out their purpose, and sharpened their horns for the contest. But one of them who was exceedingly old (for many a field had he plowed) thus spoke: “These Butchers, it is true, slaughter us, but they do so with skillful hands, and with no unnecessary pain. If we get rid of them, we shall fall into the hands of unskillful operators, and thus suffer a double death: for you may be assured, that though all the Butchers should perish, yet will men never want beef.”
Do not be in a hurry to change one evil for another.
The Lion, the Mouse, and the Fox
A LION, fatigued by the heat of a summer’s day, fell fast asleep in his den. A Mouse ran over his mane and ears and woke him from his slumbers. He rose up and shook himself in great wrath, and searched every corner of his den to find the Mouse. A Fox seeing him said: “A fine Lion you are, to be frightened of a Mouse.” “’Tis not the Mouse I fear,” said the Lion; “I resent his familiarity and ill-breeding.”
Little liberties are great offenses.
ul among them to be king. The Jackdaw, knowing his own ugliness, searched through the woods and fields, and collected the feathers which had fallen from the wings of his companions, and stuck them in all parts of his body, hoping thereby to make himself the most beautiful of all. When the appointed day arrived, and the birds had assembled before Jupiter, the Jackdaw also made his appearance in his many feathered finery. But when Jupiter proposed to make him king because of the beauty of his plumage, the birds indignantly protested, and each plucked from him his own feathers, leaving the Jackdaw nothing but a Jackdaw.
The Goatherd and the Wild Goats
A GOATHERD, driving his flock from their pasture at eventide, found some Wild Goats mingled among them, and shut them up together with his own for the night. The next day it snowed very hard, so that he could not take the herd to their usual feeding places, but was obliged to keep them in the fold. He gave his own goats just sufficient food to keep them alive, but fed the strangers more abundantly in the hope of enticing them to stay with him and of making them his own. When the thaw set in, he led them all out to feed, and the Wild Goats scampered away as fast as they could to the mountains. The Goatherd scolded them for their ingratitude in leaving him, when during the storm he had taken more care of them than of his own herd. One of them, turning about, said to him: “That is the very reason why we are so cautious; for if you yesterday treated us better than the Goats you have had so long, it is plain also that if others came after us, you would in the same manner prefer them to ourselves.”
Old friends cannot with impunity be sacrificed for new ones.
The Mischievous Dog
A DOG used to run up quietly to the heels of everyone he met, and to bite them without notice. His master suspended a bell about his neck so that the Dog might give notice of his presence wherever he went. Thinking it a mark of distinction, the Dog grew proud of his bell and went tinkling it all over the marketplace. One day an old hound said to him: Why do you make such an exhibition of yourself? That bell that you carry is not, believe me, any order of merit, but on the contrary a mark of disgrace, a public notice to all men to avoid you as an ill mannered dog.”
Notoriety is often mistaken for fame.
The Fox Who Had Lost His Tail
A FOX caught in a trap escaped, but in so doing lost his tail. Thereafter, feeling his life a burden from the shame and ridicule to which he was exposed, he schemed to convince all the other Foxes that being tailless was much more attractive, thus making up for his own deprivation. He assembled a good many Foxes and publicly advised them to cut off their tails, saying that they would not only look much better without them, but that they would get rid of the weight of the brush, which was a very great inconvenience. One of them interrupting him said, “If you had not yourself lost your tail, my friend, you would not thus counsel us.”
The Boy and the Nettles
A BOY was stung by a Nettle. He ran home and told his Mother, saying, “Although it hurts me very much, I only touched it gently.” “That was just why it stung you,” said his Mother. “The next time you touch a Nettle, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you.”
Whatever you do, do with all your might.
The Man and His Two Sweethearts
A MIDDLE-AGED MAN, whose hair had begun to turn gray, courted two women at the same time. One of them was young, and the other well advanced in years. The elder woman, ashamed to be courted by a man younger than herself, made a point, whenever her admirer visited her, to pull out some portion of his black hairs. The younger, on the contrary, not wishing to become the wife of an old man, was equally zealous in removing every gray hair she could find. Thus it came to pass that between them both he very soon found that he had not a hair left on his head.
Those who seek to please everybody please nobody.
AN ASTRONOMER used to go out at night to observe the stars. One evening, as he wandered through the suburbs with his whole attention fixed on the sky, he fell accidentally into a deep well. While he lamented and bewailed his sores and bruises, and cried loudly for help, a neighbor ran to the well, and learning what had happened said: “Hark ye, old fellow, why, in striving to pry into what is in heaven, do you not manage to see what is on earth?’
The Wolves and the Sheep
“WHY SHOULD there always be this fear and slaughter between us?” said the Wolves to the Sheep. “Those evil-disposed Dogs have much to answer for. They always bark whenever we approach you and attack us before we have done any harm. If you would only dismiss them from your heels, there might soon be treaties of peace and reconciliation between us.” The Sheep, poor silly creatures, were easily beguiled and dismissed the Dogs, whereupon the Wolves destroyed the unguarded flock at their own pleasure.
The Old Woman and the Physician
AN OLD WOMAN having lost the use of her eyes, called in a Physician to heal them, and made this bargain with him in the presence of witnesses: that if he should cure her blindness, he should receive from her a sum of money; but if her infirmity remained, she should give him nothing. This agreement being made, the Physician, time after time, applied his salve to her eyes, and on every visit took something away, stealing all her property little by little. And when he had got all she had, he healed her and demanded the promised payment. The Old Woman, when she recovered her sight and saw none of her goods in her house, would give him nothing. The Physician insisted on his claim, and. as she still refused, summoned her before the Judge. The Old Woman, standing up in the Court, argued: “This man here speaks the truth in what he says; for I did promise to give him a sum of money if I should recover my sight: but if I continued blind, I was to give him nothing. Now he declares that I am healed. I on the contrary affirm that I am still blind; for when I lost the use of my eyes, I saw in my house various chattels and valuable goods: but now, though he swears I am cured of my blindness, I am not able to see a single thing in it.”
The Fighting Cocks and the Eagle
TWO GAME COCKS were fiercely fighting for the mastery of the farmyard. One at last put the other to flight. The vanquished Cock skulked away and hid himself in a quiet corner, while the conqueror, flying up to a high wall, flapped his wings and crowed exultingly with all his might. An Eagle sailing through the air pounced upon him and carried him off in his talons. The vanquished Cock immediately came out of his corner, and ruled henceforth with undisputed mastery.
Pride goes before destruction.
The Charger and the Miller
A CHARGER, feeling the infirmities of age, was sent to work in a mill instead of going out to battle. But when he was compelled to grind instead of serving in the wars, he bewailed his change of fortune and called to mind his former state, saying, “Ah! Miller, I had indeed to go campaigning before, but I was barbed from counter to tail, and a man went along to groom me; and now I cannot understand what ailed me to prefer the mill before the battle.” “Forbear,” said the Miller to him, “harping on what was of yore, for it is the common lot of mortals to sustain the ups and downs of fortune.”
The Fox and the Monkey
A MONKEY once danced in an assembly of the Beasts, and so pleased them all by his performance that they elected him their King. A Fox, envying him the honor, discovered a piece of meat lying in a trap, and leading the Monkey to the place where it was, said that she had found a store, but had not used it, she had kept it for him as treasure trove of his kingdom, and counseled him to lay hold of it. The Monkey approached carelessly and was caught in the trap; and on his accusing the Fox of purposely leading him into the snare, she replied, “O Monkey, and are you, with such a mind as yours, going to be King over the Beasts?”
The Horse and His Rider
A HORSE SOLDIER took the utmost pains with his charger. As long as the war lasted, he looked upon him as his fellow-helper in all emergencies and fed him carefully with hay and corn. But when the war was over, he only allowed him chaff to eat and made him carry heavy loads of wood, subjecting him to much slavish drudgery and ill-treatment. War was again proclaimed, however, and when the trumpet summoned him to his standard, the Soldier put on his charger its military trappings, and mounted, being clad in his heavy coat of mail. The Horse fell down straightway under the weight, no longer equal to the burden, and said to his master, “You must now go to the war on foot, for you have transformed me from a Horse into an Ass; and how can you expect that I can again turn in a moment from an Ass to a Horse?’
The Belly and the Members
THE MEMBERS of the Body rebelled against the Belly, and said, “Why should we be perpetually engaged in administering to your wants, while you do nothing but take your rest, and enjoy yourself in luxury and self-indulgence?’ The Members carried out their resolve and refused their assistance to the Belly. The whole Body quickly became debilitated, and the hands, feet, mouth, and eyes, when too late, repented of their folly.
The Vine and the Goat
A VINE was luxuriant in the time of vintage with leaves and grapes. A Goat, passing by, nibbled its young tendrils and its leaves. The Vine addressed him and said: “Why do you thus injure me without a cause, and crop my leaves? Is there no young grass left? But I shall not have to wait long for my just revenge; for if you now should crop my leaves, and cut me down to my root, I shall provide the wine to pour over you when you are led as a victim to the sacrifice.”
Jupiter and the Monkey
JUPITER ISSUED a proclamation to all the beasts of the forest and promised a royal reward to the one whose offspring should be deemed the handsomest. The Monkey came with the rest and presented, with all a mother’s tenderness, a flat-nosed, hairless, ill-featured young Monkey as a candidate for the promised reward. A general laugh saluted her on the presentation of her son. She resolutely said, “I know not whether Jupiter will allot the prize to my son, but this I do know, that he is at least in the eyes of me his mother, the dearest, handsomest, and most beautiful of all.”
The Widow and Her Little Maidens
A WIDOW who was fond of cleaning had two little maidens to wait on her. She was in the habit of waking them early in the morning, at cockcrow. The maidens, aggravated by such excessive labor, resolved to kill the cock who roused their mistress so early. When they had done this, they found that they had only prepared for themselves greater troubles, for their mistress, no longer hearing the hour from the cock, woke them up to their work in the middle of the night.
The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf
A SHEPHERD-BOY, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, “Wolf! Wolf!” and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains. The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: “Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep”; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.
There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.
The Cat and the Birds
A CAT, hearing that the Birds in a certain aviary were ailing dressed himself up as a physician, and, taking his cane and a bag of instruments becoming his profession, went to call on them. He knocked at the door and inquired of the inmates how they all did, saying that if they were ill, he would be happy to prescribe for them and cure them. They replied, “We are all very well, and shall continue so, if you will only be good enough to go away, and leave us as we are.”
The Kid and the Wolf
A KID standing on the roof of a house, out of harm’s way, saw a Wolf passing by and immediately began to taunt and revile him. The Wolf, looking up, said, “Sirrah! I hear thee: yet it is not thou who mockest me, but the roof on which thou art standing.”
Time and place often give the advantage to the weak over the strong.
The Ox and the Frog
AN OX drinking at a pool trod on a brood of young frogs and crushed one of them to death. The Mother coming up, and missing one of her sons, inquired of his brothers what had become of him. “He is dead, dear Mother; for just now a very huge beast with four great feet came to the pool and crushed him to death with his cloven heel.” The Frog, puffing herself out, inquired, “if the beast was as big as that in size.” “Cease, Mother, to puff yourself out,” said her son, “and do not be angry; for you would, I assure you, sooner burst than successfully imitate the hugeness of that monster.”
The Shepherd and the Wolf
A SHEPHERD once found the whelp of a Wolf and brought it up, and after a while taught it to steal lambs from the neighboring flocks. The Wolf, having shown himself an apt pupil, said to the Shepherd, “Since you have taught me to steal, you must keep a sharp lookout, or you will lose some of your own flock.”
The Father and His Two Daughters
A MAN had two daughters, the one married to a gardener, and the other to a tile-maker. After a time he went to the daughter who had married the gardener, and inquired how she was and how all things went with her. She said, “All things are prospering with me, and I have only one wish, that there may be a heavy fall of rain, in order that the plants may be well watered.” Not long after, he went to the daughter who had married the tilemaker, and likewise inquired of her how she fared; she replied, “I want for nothing, and have only one wish, that the dry weather may continue, and the sun shine hot and bright, so that the bricks might be dried.” He said to her, “If your sister wishes for rain, and you for dry weather, with which of the two am I to join my wishes?’
The Farmer and His Sons
A FATHER, being on the point of death, wished to be sure that his sons would give the same attention to his farm as he himself had given it. He called them to his bedside and said, “My sons, there is a great treasure hid in one of my vineyards.” The sons, after his death, took their spades and mattocks and carefully dug over every portion of their land. They found no treasure, but the vines repaid their labor by an extraordinary and superabundant crop.
The Crab and Its Mother
A CRAB said to her son, “Why do you walk so one-sided, my child? It is far more becoming to go straight forward.” The young Crab replied: “Quite true, dear Mother; and if you will show me the straight way, I will promise to walk in it.” The Mother tried in vain, and submitted without remonstrance to the reproof of her child.
Example is more powerful than precept.
The Heifer and the Ox
A HEIFER saw an Ox hard at work harnessed to a plow, and tormented him with reflections on his unhappy fate in being compelled to labor. Shortly afterwards, at the harvest festival, the owner released the Ox from his yoke, but bound the Heifer with cords and led him away to the altar to be slain in honor of the occasion. The Ox saw what was being done, and said with a smile to the Heifer: “For this you were allowed to live in idleness, because you were presently to be sacrificed.”
The Swallow, the Serpent, and the Court of Justice
A SWALLOW, returning from abroad and especially fond of dwelling with men, built herself a nest in the wall of a Court of Justice and there hatched seven young birds. A Serpent gliding past the nest from its hole in the wall ate up the young unfledged nestlings. The Swallow, finding her nest empty, lamented greatly and exclaimed: “Woe to me a stranger! that in this place where all others’ rights are protected, I alone should suffer wrong.”
The Thief and His Mother
A BOY stole a lesson-book from one of his schoolfellows and took it home to his Mother. She not only abstained from beating him, but encouraged him. He next time stole a cloak and brought it to her, and she again commended him. The Youth, advanced to adulthood, proceeded to steal things of still greater value. At last he was caught in the very act, and having his hands bound behind him, was led away to the place of public execution. His Mother followed in the crowd and violently beat her breast in sorrow, whereupon the young man said, “I wish to say something to my Mother in her ear.” She came close to him, and he quickly seized her ear with his teeth and bit it off. The Mother upbraided him as an unnatural child, whereon he replied, “Ah! if you had beaten me when I first stole and brought to you that lesson-book, I should not have come to this, nor have been thus led to a disgraceful death.”
The Old Man and Death
AN OLD MAN was employed in cutting wood in the forest, and, in carrying the faggots to the city for sale one day, became very wearied with his long journey. He sat down by the wayside, and throwing down his load, besought “Death” to come. “Death” immediately appeared in answer to his summons and asked for what reason he had called him. The Old Man hurriedly replied, “That, lifting up the load, you may place it again upon my shoulders.”
The Fir-Tree and the Bramble
A FIR-TREE said boastingly to the Bramble, “You are useful for nothing at all; while I am everywhere used for roofs and houses.” The Bramble answered: ‘You poor creature, if you would only call to mind the axes and saws which are about to hew you down, you would have reason to wish that you had grown up a Bramble, not a Fir-Tree.”
Better poverty without care, than riches with.
The Mouse, the Frog, and the Hawk
A MOUSE who always lived on the land, by an unlucky chance formed an intimate acquaintance with a Frog, who lived for the most part in the water. The Frog, one day intent on mischief, bound the foot of the Mouse tightly to his own. Thus joined together, the Frog first of all led his friend the Mouse to the meadow where they were accustomed to find their food. After this, he gradually led him towards the pool in which he lived, until reaching the very brink, he suddenly jumped in, dragging the Mouse with him. The Frog enjoyed the water amazingly, and swam croaking about, as if he had done a good deed. The unhappy Mouse was soon suffocated by the water, and his dead body floated about on the surface, tied to the foot of the Frog. A Hawk observed it, and, pouncing upon it with his talons, carried it aloft. The Frog, being still fastened to the leg of the Mouse, was also carried off a prisoner, and was eaten by the Hawk.
Harm hatch, harm catch.
The Man Bitten by a Dog
A MAN who had been bitten by a Dog went about in quest of someone who might heal him. A friend, meeting him and learning what he wanted, said, “If you would be cured, take a piece of bread, and dip it in the blood from your wound, and go and give it to the Dog that bit you.” The Man who had been bitten laughed at this advice and said, “Why? If I should do so, it would be as if I should beg every Dog in the town to bite me.”
Benefits bestowed upon the evil-disposed increase their means of injuring you.
The Two Pots
A RIVER carried down in its stream two Pots, one made of earthenware and the other of brass. The Earthen Pot said to the Brass Pot, “Pray keep at a distance and do not come near me, for if you touch me ever so slightly, I shall be broken in pieces, and besides, I by no means wish to come near you.”
Equals make the best friends.
The Wolf and the Sheep
A WOLF, sorely wounded and bitten by dogs, lay sick and maimed in his lair. Being in want of food, he called to a Sheep who was passing, and asked him to fetch some water from a stream flowing close beside him. “For,” he said, “if you will bring me drink, I will find means to provide myself with meat.” “Yes,” said the Sheep, “if I should bring you the draught, you would doubtless make me provide the meat also.”
Hypocritical speeches are easily seen through.
THE PURCHASER of a black servant was persuaded that the color of his skin arose from dirt contracted through the neglect of his former masters. On bringing him home he resorted to every means of cleaning, and subjected the man to incessant scrubbings. The servant caught a severe cold, but he never changed his color or complexion.
What’s bred in the bone will stick to the flesh.
The Fisherman and His Nets
A FISHERMAN, engaged in his calling, made a very successful cast and captured a great haul of fish. He managed by a skillful handling of his net to retain all the large fish and to draw them to the shore; but he could not prevent the smaller fish from falling back through the meshes of the net into the sea.
The Huntsman and the Fisherman
A HUNTSMAN, returning with his dogs from the field, fell in by chance with a Fisherman who was bringing home a basket well laden with fish. The Huntsman wished to have the fish, and their owner experienced an equal longing for the contents of the game-bag. They quickly agreed to exchange the produce of their day’s sport. Each was so well pleased with his bargain that they made for some time the same exchange day after day. Finally a neighbor said to them, “If you go on in this way, you will soon destroy by frequent use the pleasure of your exchange, and each will again wish to retain the fruits of his own sport.”
Abstain and enjoy.
The Old Woman and the Wine-Jar
AN OLD WOMAN found an empty jar which had lately been full of prime old wine and which still retained the fragrant smell of its former contents. She greedily placed it several times to her nose, and drawing it backwards and forwards said, “O most delicious! How nice must the Wine itself have been, when it leaves behind in the very vessel which contained it so sweet a perfume!”
The memory of a good deed lives.
The Fox and the Crow
A CROW having stolen a bit of meat, perched in a tree and held it in her beak. A Fox, seeing this, longed to possess the meat himself, and by a wily stratagem succeeded. “How handsome is the Crow,” he exclaimed, in the beauty of her shape and in the fairness of her complexion! Oh, if her voice were only equal to her beauty, she would deservedly be considered the Queen of Birds!” This he said deceitfully; but the Crow, anxious to refute the reflection cast upon her voice, set up a loud caw and dropped the flesh. The Fox quickly picked it up, and thus addressed the Crow: “My good Crow, your voice is right enough, but your wit is wanting.”
The Two Dogs
A MAN had two dogs: a Hound, trained to assist him in his sports, and a Housedog, taught to watch the house. When he returned home after a good day’s sport, he always gave the Housedog a large share of his spoil. The Hound, feeling much aggrieved at this, reproached his companion, saying, “It is very hard to have all this labor, while you, who do not assist in the chase, luxuriate on the fruits of my exertions.” The Housedog replied, “Do not blame me, my friend, but find fault with the master, who has not taught me to labor, but to depend for subsistence on the labor of others.”
Children are not to be blamed for the faults of their parents.
The Stag in the Ox-Stall
A STAG, roundly chased by the hounds and blinded by fear to the danger he was running into, took shelter in a farmyard and hid himself in a shed among the oxen. An Ox gave him this kindly warning: “O unhappy creature! why should you thus, of your own accord, incur destruction and trust yourself in the house of your enemy?’ The Stag replied: “Only allow me, friend, to stay where I am, and I will undertake to find some favorable opportunity of effecting my escape.” At the approach of the evening the herdsman came to feed his cattle, but did not see the Stag; and even the farm-bailiff with several laborers passed through the shed and failed to notice him. The Stag, congratulating himself on his safety, began to express his sincere thanks to the Oxen who had kindly helped him in the hour of need. One of them again answered him: “We indeed wish you well, but the danger is not over. There is one other yet to pass through the shed, who has as it were a hundred eyes, and until he has come and gone, your life is still in peril.” At that moment the master himself entered, and having had to complain that his oxen had not been properly fed, he went up to their racks and cried out: “Why is there such a scarcity of fodder? There is not half enough straw for them to lie on. Those lazy fellows have not even swept the cobwebs away.” While he thus examined everything in turn, he spied the tips of the antlers of the Stag peeping out of the straw. Then summoning his laborers, he ordered that the Stag should be seized and killed.
The Hawk, the Kite, and the Pigeons
THE PIGEONS, terrified by the appearance of a Kite, called upon the Hawk to defend them. He at once consented. When they had admitted him into the cote, they found that he made more havoc and slew a larger number of them in one day than the Kite could pounce upon in a whole year.
Avoid a remedy that is worse than the disease.
The Widow and the Sheep
A CERTAIN poor widow had one solitary Sheep. At shearing time, wishing to take his fleece and to avoid expense, she sheared him herself, but used the shears so unskillfully that with the fleece she sheared the flesh. The Sheep, writhing with pain, said, “Why do you hurt me so, Mistress? What weight can my blood add to the wool? If you want my flesh, there is the butcher, who will kill me in an instant; but if you want my fleece and wool, there is the shearer, who will shear and not hurt me.”
The least outlay is not always the greatest gain.
The Wild Ass and the Lion
A WILD ASS and a Lion entered into an alliance so that they might capture the beasts of the forest with greater ease. The Lion agreed to assist the Wild Ass with his strength, while the Wild Ass gave the Lion the benefit of his greater speed. When they had taken as many beasts as their necessities required, the Lion undertook to distribute the prey, and for this purpose divided it into three shares. “I will take the first share,” he said, “because I am King: and the second share, as a partner with you in the chase: and the third share (believe me) will be a source of great evil to you, unless you willingly resign it to me, and set off as fast as you can.”
Might makes right.
The Eagle and the Arrow
AN EAGLE sat on a lofty rock, watching the movements of a Hare whom he sought to make his prey. An archer, who saw the Eagle from a place of concealment, took an accurate aim and wounded him mortally. The Eagle gave one look at the arrow that had entered his heart and saw in that single glance that its feathers had been furnished by himself. “It is a double grief to me,” he exclaimed, “that I should perish by an arrow feathered from my own wings.”
The Sick Kite
A KITE, sick unto death, said to his mother: “O Mother! do not mourn, but at once invoke the gods that my life may be prolonged.” She replied, “Alas! my son, which of the gods do you think will pity you? Is there one whom you have not outraged by filching from their very altars a part of the sacrifice offered up to them?’
We must make friends in prosperity if we would have their help in adversity.
The Lion and the Dolphin
A LION roaming by the seashore saw a Dolphin lift up its head out of the waves, and suggested that they contract an alliance, saying that of all the animals they ought to be the best friends, since the one was the king of beasts on the earth, and the other was the sovereign ruler of all the inhabitants of the ocean. The Dolphin gladly consented to this request. Not long afterwards the Lion had a combat with a wild bull, and called on the Dolphin to help him. The Dolphin, though quite willing to give him assistance, was unable to do so, as he could not by any means reach the land. The Lion abused him as a traitor. The Dolphin replied, “Nay, my friend, blame not me, but Nature, which, while giving me the sovereignty of the sea, has quite denied me the power of living upon the land.”
The Lion and the Boar
ON A SUMMER DAY, when the great heat induced a general thirst among the beasts, a Lion and a Boar came at the same moment to a small well to drink. They fiercely disputed which of them should drink first, and were soon engaged in the agonies of a mortal combat. When they stopped suddenly to catch their breath for a fiercer renewal of the fight, they saw some Vultures waiting in the distance to feast on the one that should fall first. They at once made up their quarrel, saying, “It is better for us to make friends, than to become the food of Crows or Vultures.”
The One-Eyed Doe
A DOE blind in one eye was accustomed to graze as near to the edge of the cliff as she possibly could, in the hope of securing her greater safety. She turned her sound eye towards the land that she might get the earliest tidings of the approach of hunter or hound, and her injured eye towards the sea, from whence she entertained no anticipation of danger. Some boatmen sailing by saw her, and taking a successful aim, mortally wounded her. Yielding up her last breath, she gasped forth this lament: “O wretched creature that I am! to take such precaution against the land, and after all to find this seashore, to which I had come for safety, so much more perilous.”
The Shepherd and the Sea
A SHEPHERD, keeping watch over his sheep near the shore, saw the Sea very calm and smooth, and longed to make a voyage with a view to commerce. He sold all his flock, invested it in a cargo of dates, and set sail. But a very great tempest came on, and the ship being in danger of sinking, he threw all his merchandise overboard, and barely escaped with his life in the empty ship. Not long afterwards when someone passed by and observed the unruffled calm of the Sea, he interrupted him and said, “It is again in want of dates, and therefore looks quiet.”
The Ass, the Cock, and the Lion
AN ASS and a Cock were in a straw-yard together when a Lion, desperate from hunger, approached the spot. He was about to spring upon the Ass, when the Cock (to the sound of whose voice the Lion, it is said, has a singular aversion) crowed loudly, and the Lion fled away as fast as he could. The Ass, observing his trepidation at the mere crowing of a Cock summoned courage to attack him, and galloped after him for that purpose. He had run no long distance, when the Lion, turning about, seized him and tore him to pieces.
False confidence often leads into danger.
The Mice and the Weasels
THE WEASELS and the Mice waged a perpetual war with each other, in which much blood was shed. The Weasels were always the victors. The Mice thought that the cause of their frequent defeats was that they had no leaders set apart from the general army to command them, and that they were exposed to dangers from lack of discipline. They therefore chose as leaders Mice that were most renowned for their family descent, strength, and counsel, as well as those most noted for their courage in the fight, so that they might be better marshaled in battle array and formed into troops, regiments, and battalions. When all this was done, and the army disciplined, and the herald Mouse had duly proclaimed war by challenging the Weasels, the newly chosen generals bound their heads with straws, that they might be more conspicuous to all their troops. Scarcely had the battle begun, when a great rout overwhelmed the Mice, who scampered off as fast as they could to their holes. The generals, not being able to get in on account of the ornaments on their heads, were all captured and eaten by the Weasels.
The more honor the more danger.
The Mice in Council
THE MICE summoned a council to decide how they might best devise means of warning themselves of the approach of their great enemy the Cat. Among the many plans suggested, the one that found most favor was the proposal to tie a bell to the neck of the Cat, so that the Mice, being warned by the sound of the tinkling, might run away and hide themselves in their holes at his approach. But when the Mice further debated who among them should thus “bell the Cat,” there was no one found to do it.
The Wolf and the Housedog
A WOLF, meeting a big well-fed Mastiff with a wooden collar about his neck asked him who it was that fed him so well and yet compelled him to drag that heavy log about wherever he went. “The master,” he replied. Then said the Wolf: “May no friend of mine ever be in such a plight; for the weight of this chain is enough to spoil the appetite.”
The Rivers and the Sea
THE RIVERS joined together to complain to the Sea, saying, “Why is it that when we flow into your tides so potable and sweet, you work in us such a change, and make us salty and unfit to drink?” The Sea, perceiving that they intended to throw the blame on him, said, “Pray cease to flow into me, and then you will not be made briny.”
The Playful Ass
AN ASS climbed up to the roof of a building, and frisking about there, broke in the tiling. The owner went up after him and quickly drove him down, beating him severely with a thick wooden cudgel. The Ass said, “Why, I saw the Monkey do this very thing yesterday, and you all laughed heartily, as if it afforded you very great amusement.”
The Three Tradesmen
A GREAT CITY was besieged, and its inhabitants were called together to consider the best means of protecting it from the enemy. A Bricklayer earnestly recommended bricks as affording the best material for an effective resistance. A Carpenter, with equal enthusiasm, proposed timber as a preferable method of defense. Upon which a Currier stood up and said, “Sirs, I differ from you altogether: there is no material for resistance equal to a covering of hides; and nothing so good as leather.”
Every man for himself.
The Master and His Dogs
A CERTAIN MAN, detained by a storm in his country house, first of all killed his sheep, and then his goats, for the maintenance of his household. The storm still continuing, he was obliged to slaughter his yoke oxen for food. On seeing this, his Dogs took counsel together, and said, “It is time for us to be off, for if the master spare not his oxen, who work for his gain, how can we expect him to spare us?’
He is not to be trusted as a friend who mistreats his own family.
The Wolf and the Shepherds
A WOLF, passing by, saw some Shepherds in a hut eating a haunch of mutton for their dinner. Approaching them, he said, “What a clamor you would raise if I were to do as you are doing!”
The Dolphins, the Whales, and the Sprat
THE DOLPHINS and Whales waged a fierce war with each other. When the battle was at its height, a Sprat lifted its head out of the waves and said that he would reconcile their differences if they would accept him as an umpire. One of the Dolphins replied, “We would far rather be destroyed in our battle with each other than admit any interference from you in our affairs.”
The Ass Carrying the Image
AN ASS once carried through the streets of a city a famous wooden Image, to be placed in one of its Temples. As he passed along, the crowd made lowly prostration before the Image. The Ass, thinking that they bowed their heads in token of respect for himself, bristled up with pride, gave himself airs, and refused to move another step. The driver, seeing him thus stop, laid his whip lustily about his shoulders and said, “O you perverse dull-head! it is not yet come to this, that men pay worship to an Ass.”
They are not wise who give to themselves the credit due to others.
The Two Travelers and the Axe
TWO MEN were journeying together. One of them picked up an axe that lay upon the path, and said, “I have found an axe.” “Nay, my friend,” replied the other, “do not say ‘I,’ but ‘We’ have found an axe.” They had not gone far before they saw the owner of the axe pursuing them, and he who had picked up the axe said, “We are undone.” “Nay,” replied the other, “keep to your first mode of speech, my friend; what you thought right then, think right now. Say ‘I,’ not ‘We’ are undone.”
He who shares the danger ought to share the prize.
The Old Lion
A LION, worn out with years and powerless from disease, lay on the ground at the point of death. A Boar rushed upon him, and avenged with a stroke of his tusks a long-remembered injury. Shortly afterwards the Bull with his horns gored him as if he were an enemy. When the Ass saw that the huge beast could be assailed with impunity, he let drive at his forehead with his heels. The expiring Lion said, “I have reluctantly brooked the insults of the brave, but to be compelled to endure such treatment from thee, a disgrace to Nature, is indeed to die a double death.”
The Old Hound
A HOUND, who in the days of his youth and strength had never yielded to any beast of the forest, encountered in his old age a boar in the chase. He seized him boldly by the ear, but could not retain his hold because of the decay of his teeth, so that the boar escaped. His master, quickly coming up, was very much disappointed, and fiercely abused the dog. The Hound looked up and said, “It was not my fault. master: my spirit was as good as ever, but I could not help my infirmities. I rather deserve to be praised for what I have been, than to be blamed for what I am.”
The Bee and Jupiter
A BEE from Mount Hymettus, the queen of the hive, ascended to Olympus to present Jupiter some honey fresh from her combs. Jupiter, delighted with the offering of honey, promised to give whatever she should ask. She therefore besought him, saying, “Give me, I pray thee, a sting, that if any mortal shall approach to take my honey, I may kill him.” Jupiter was much displeased, for he loved the race of man, but could not refuse the request because of his promise. He thus answered the Bee: “You shall have your request, but it will be at the peril of your own life. For if you use your sting, it shall remain in the wound you make, and then you will die from the loss of it.”
Evil wishes, like chickens, come home to roost.
The Milk-Woman and Her Pail
A FARMER’S daughter was carrying her Pail of milk from the field to the farmhouse, when she fell a-musing. “The money for which this milk will be sold, will buy at least three hundred eggs. The eggs, allowing for all mishaps, will produce two hundred and fifty chickens. The chickens will become ready for the market when poultry will fetch the highest price, so that by the end of the year I shall have money enough from my share to buy a new gown. In this dress I will go to the Christmas parties, where all the young fellows will propose to me, but I will toss my head and refuse them every one.” At this moment she tossed her head in unison with her thoughts, when down fell the milk pail to the ground, and all her imaginary schemes perished in a moment.
The Seaside Travelers
SOME TRAVELERS, journeying along the seashore, climbed to the summit of a tall cliff, and looking over the sea, saw in the distance what they thought was a large ship. They waited in the hope of seeing it enter the harbor, but as the object on which they looked was driven nearer to shore by the wind, they found that it could at the most be a small boat, and not a ship. When however it reached the beach, they discovered that it was only a large faggot of sticks, and one of them said to his companions, “We have waited for no purpose, for after all there is nothing to see but a load of wood.”
Our mere anticipations of life outrun its realities.
The Brazier and His Dog
A BRAZIER had a little Dog, which was a great favorite with his master, and his constant companion. While he hammered away at his metals the Dog slept; but when, on the other hand, he went to dinner and began to eat, the Dog woke up and wagged his tail, as if he would ask for a share of his meal. His master one day, pretending to be angry and shaking his stick at him, said, “You wretched little sluggard! what shall I do to you? While I am hammering on the anvil, you sleep on the mat; and when I begin to eat after my toil, you wake up and wag your tail for food. Do you not know that labor is the source of every blessing, and that none but those who work are entitled to eat?’
The Ass and His Shadow
A TRAVELER hired an Ass to convey him to a distant place. The day being intensely hot, and the sun shining in its strength, the Traveler stopped to rest, and sought shelter from the heat under the Shadow of the Ass. As this afforded only protection for one, and as the Traveler and the owner of the Ass both claimed it, a violent dispute arose between them as to which of them had the right to the Shadow. The owner maintained that he had let the Ass only, and not his Shadow. The Traveler asserted that he had, with the hire of the Ass, hired his Shadow also. The quarrel proceeded from words to blows, and while the men fought, the Ass galloped off.
In quarreling about the shadow we often lose the substance.
The Ass and His Masters
AN ASS, belonging to an herb-seller who gave him too little food and too much work made a petition to Jupiter to be released from his present service and provided with another master. Jupiter, after warning him that he would repent his request, caused him to be sold to a tile-maker. Shortly afterwards, finding that he had heavier loads to carry and harder work in the brick-field, he petitioned for another change of master. Jupiter, telling him that it would be the last time that he could grant his request, ordained that he be sold to a tanner. The Ass found that he had fallen into worse hands, and noting his master’s occupation, said, groaning: “It would have been better for me to have been either starved by the one, or to have been overworked by the other of my former masters, than to have been bought by my present owner, who will even after I am dead tan my hide, and make me useful to him.”
The Oak and the Reeds
A VERY LARGE OAK was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.” They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.”
Stoop to conquer.
The Fisherman and the Little Fish
A FISHERMAN who lived on the produce of his nets, one day caught a single small Fish as the result of his day’s labor. The Fish, panting convulsively, thus entreated for his life: “O Sir, what good can I be to you, and how little am I worth? I am not yet come to my full size. Pray spare my life, and put me back into the sea. I shall soon become a large fish fit for the tables of the rich, and then you can catch me again, and make a handsome profit of me.” The Fisherman replied, “I should indeed be a very simple fellow if, for the chance of a greater uncertain profit, I were to forego my present certain gain.”
The Hunter and the Woodman
A HUNTER, not very bold, was searching for the tracks of a Lion. He asked a man felling oaks in the forest if he had seen any marks of his footsteps or knew where his lair was. “I will,” said the man, “at once show you the Lion himself.” The Hunter, turning very pale and chattering with his teeth from fear, replied, “No, thank you. I did not ask that; it is his track only I am in search of, not the Lion himself.”
The hero is brave in deeds as well as words.
The Wild Boar and the Fox
A WILD BOAR stood under a tree and rubbed his tusks against the trunk. A Fox passing by asked him why he thus sharpened his teeth when there was no danger threatening from either huntsman or hound. He replied, “I do it advisedly; for it would never do to have to sharpen my weapons just at the time I ought to be using them.”
The Lion in a Farmyard
A LION entered a farmyard. The Farmer, wishing to catch him, shut the gate. When the Lion found that he could not escape, he flew upon the sheep and killed them, and then attacked the oxen. The Farmer, beginning to be alarmed for his own safety, opened the gate and released the Lion. On his departure the Farmer grievously lamented the destruction of his sheep and oxen, but his wife, who had been a spectator to all that took place, said, “On my word, you are rightly served, for how could you for a moment think of shutting up a Lion along with you in your farmyard when you know that you shake in your shoes if you only hear his roar at a distance?’
Mercury and the Sculptor
MERCURY ONCE DETERMINED to learn in what esteem he was held among mortals. For this purpose he assumed the character of a man and visited in this disguise a Sculptor’s studio having looked at various statues, he demanded the price of two figures of Jupiter and Juno. When the sum at which they were valued was named, he pointed to a figure of himself, saying to the Sculptor, “You will certainly want much more for this, as it is the statue of the Messenger of the Gods, and author of all your gain.” The Sculptor replied, “Well, if you will buy these, I’ll fling you that into the bargain.”