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DRAFT OF 09-30-91
Charles B. Kramer, Esq.
NY and IL Bars
(212) 254-5093 [email protected]
Aesop's Fables Translated by George Fyler Townsend
The Wolf and the Lamb
WOLF, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to
lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the
Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him. He thus addressed him:
"Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me." "Indeed," bleated
the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born." Then
said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture." "No, good sir," replied
the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass." Again said the Wolf,
"You drink of my well." "No," exclaimed the Lamb, "I never yet
drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink
to me." Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying,
"Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute every
one of my imputations." The tyrant will always find a pretext for
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
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 st 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
The Vain Jackdaw
JUPITER DETERMINED, it is said, to create a sovereign over the
birds, and made proclamation that on a certain day they should
all present themselves before him, when he would himself choose
the most beautiful 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
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
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
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 e 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
They are not wise who give to themselves the credit due to
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
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
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
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
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."
The Swan and the Goose
A CERTAIN rich man bought in the market a Goose and a Swan. He
fed the one for his table and kept the other for the sake of its
song. When the time came for killing the Goose, the cook went to
get him at night, when it was dark, and he was not able to
distinguish one bird from the other. By mistake he caught the
Swan instead of the Goose. The Swan, threatened with death,
burst forth into song and thus made himself known by his voice,
and preserved his life by his melody.
The Swollen Fox
A VERY HUNGRY FOX, seeing some bread and meat left by shepherds
in the hollow of an oak, crept into the hole and made a hearty
meal. When he finished, he was so full that he was not able to
get out, and began to groan and lament his fate. Another Fox
passing by heard his cries, and coming up, inquired the cause of
his complaining. On learning what had happened, he said to him,
"Ah, you will have to remain there, my friend, until you become
such as you were when you crept in, and then you will easily get
The Fox and the Woodcutter
A FOX, running before the hounds, came across a Woodcutter
felling an oak and begged him to show him a safe hiding-place.
The Woodcutter advised him to take shelter in his own hut, so the
Fox crept in and hid himself in a corner. The huntsman soon came
up with his hounds and inquired of the Woodcutter if he had seen
the Fox. He declared that he had not seen him, and yet pointed,
all the time he was speaking, to the hut where the Fox lay
hidden. The huntsman took no notice of the signs, but believing
his word, hastened forward in the chase. As soon as they were
well away, the Fox departed without taking any notice of the
Woodcutter: whereon he called to him and reproached him, saying,
"You ungrateful fellow, you owe your life to me, and yet you
leave me without a word of thanks." The Fox replied, "Indeed, I
should have thanked you fervently if your deeds had been as good
as your words, and if your hands had not been traitors to your
The Birdcatcher, the Partridge, and the Cock
A BIRDCATCHER was about to sit down to a dinner of herbs when a
friend unexpectedly came in. The bird-trap was quite empty, as
he had caught nothing, and he had to kill a pied Partridge, which
he had tamed for a decoy. The bird entreated earnestly for his
life: "What would you do without me when next you spread your
nets? Who would chirp you to sleep, or call for you the covey of
answering birds?' The Birdcatcher spared his life, and determined
to pick out a fine young Cock just attaining to his comb. But
the Cock expostulated in piteous tones from his perch: "If you
kill me, who will announce to you the appearance of the dawn?
Who will wake you to your daily tasks or tell you when it is time
to visit the bird-trap in the morning?' He replied, "What you say
is true. You are a capital bird at telling the time of day. But
my friend and I must have our dinners."
Necessity knows no law.
The Monkey and the Fishermen
A MONKEY perched upon a lofty tree saw some Fishermen casting
their nets into a river, and narrowly watched their proceedings.
The Fishermen after a while gave up fishing, and on going home to
dinner left their nets upon the bank. The Monkey, who is the
most imitative of animals, descended from the treetop and
endeavored to do as they had done. Having handled the net, he
threw it into the river, but became tangled in the meshes and
drowned. With his last breath he said to himself, "I am rightly
served; for what business had I who had never handled a net to
try and catch fish?'
The Flea and the Wrestler
A FLEA settled upon the bare foot of a Wrestler and bit him,
causing the man to call loudly upon Hercules for help. When the
Flea a second time hopped upon his foot, he groaned and said, "O
Hercules! if you will not help me against a Flea, how can I hope
for your assistance against greater antagonists?'
The Two Frogs
TWO FROGS dwelt in the same pool. When the pool dried up under
the summer's heat, they left it and set out together for another
home. As they went along they chanced to pass a deep well, amply
supplied with water, and when they saw it, one of the Frogs said
to the other, "Let us descend and make our abode in this well: it
will furnish us with shelter and food." The other replied with
greater caution, "But suppose the water should fail us. How can
we get out again from so great a depth?'
Do nothing without a regard to the consequences.
The Cat and the Mice
A CERTAIN HOUSE was overrun with Mice. A Cat, discovering this,
made her way into it and began to catch and eat them one by one.
Fearing for their lives, the Mice kept themselves close in their
holes. The Cat was no longer able to get at them and perceived
that she must tempt them forth by some device. For this purpose
she jumped upon a peg, and suspending herself from it, pretended
to be dead. One of the Mice, peeping stealthily out, saw her and
said, "Ah, my good madam, even though you should turn into a
meal-bag, we will not come near you."
The Lion, the Bear, and the Fox
A LION and a Bear seized a Kid at the same moment, and fought
fiercely for its possession. When they had fearfully lacerated
each other and were faint from the long combat, they lay down
exhausted with fatigue. A Fox, who had gone round them at a
distance several times, saw them both stretched on the ground
with the Kid lying untouched in the middle. He ran in between
them, and seizing the Kid scampered off as fast as he could. The
Lion and the Bear saw him, but not being able to get up, said,
"Woe be to us, that we should have fought and belabored ourselves
only to serve the turn of a Fox."
It sometimes happens that one man has all the toil, and another
all the profit.
The Doe and the Lion
A DOE hard pressed by hunters sought refuge in a cave belonging
to a Lion. The Lion concealed himself on seeing her approach,
but when she was safe within the cave, sprang upon her and tore
her to pieces. "Woe is me," exclaimed the Doe, "who have escaped
from man, only to throw myself into the mouth of a wild beast?'
In avoiding one evil, care must be taken not to fall into
The Farmer and the Fox
A FARMER, who bore a grudge against a Fox for robbing his poultry
yard, caught him at last, and being determined to take an ample
revenge, tied some rope well soaked in oil to his tail, and set
it on fire. The Fox by a strange fatality rushed to the fields
of the Farmer who had captured him. It was the time of the wheat
harvest; but the Farmer reaped nothing that year and returned
home grieving sorely.
The Seagull and the Kite
A SEAGULL having bolted down too large a fish, burst its deep
gullet-bag and lay down on the shore to die. A Kite saw him and
exclaimed: "You richly deserve your fate; for a bird of the air
has no business to seek its food from the sea."
Every man should be content to mind his own business.
The Philosopher, the Ants, and Mercury
A PHILOSOPHER witnessed from the shore the shipwreck of a vessel,
of which the crew and passengers were all drowned. He inveighed
against the injustice of Providence, which would for the sake of
one criminal perchance sailing in the ship allow so many innocent
persons to perish. As he was indulging in these reflections, he
found himself surrounded by a whole army of Ants, near whose nest
he was standing. One of them climbed up and stung him, and he
immediately trampled them all to death with his foot. Mercury
presented himself, and striking the Philosopher with his wand,
said, "And are you indeed to make yourself a judge of the
dealings of Providence, who hast thyself in a similar manner
treated these poor Ants?'
The Mouse and the Bull
A BULL was bitten by a Mouse and, angered by the wound, tried to
capture him. But the Mouse reached his hole in safety. Though
the Bull dug into the walls with his horns, he tired before he
could rout out the Mouse, and crouching down, went to sleep
outside the hole. The Mouse peeped out, crept furtively up his
flank, and again biting him, retreated to his hole. The Bull
rising up, and not knowing what to do, was sadly perplexed. At
which the Mouse said, "The great do not always prevail. There
are times when the small and lowly are the strongest to do
The Lion and the Hare
A LION came across a Hare, who was fast asleep. He was just in
the act of seizing her, when a fine young Hart trotted by, and he
left the Hare to follow him. The Hare, scared by the noise,
awoke and scudded away. The Lion was unable after a long chase
to catch the Hart, and returned to feed upon the Hare. On
finding that the Hare also had run off, he said, "I am rightly
served, for having let go of the food that I had in my hand for
the chance of obtaining more."
The Peasant and the Eagle
A PEASANT found an Eagle captured in a trap, and much admiring
the bird, set him free. The Eagle did not prove ungrateful to
his deliverer, for seeing the Peasant sitting under a wall which
was not safe, he flew toward him and with his talons snatched a
bundle from his head. When the Peasant rose in pursuit, the
Eagle let the bundle fall again. Taking it up, the man returned
to the same place, to find that the wall under which he had been
sitting had fallen to pieces; and he marveled at the service
rendered him by the Eagle.
The Image of Mercury and the Carpenter
A VERY POOR MAN, a Carpenter by trade, had a wooden image of
Mercury, before which he made offerings day by day, and begged
the idol to make him rich, but in spite of his entreaties he
became poorer and poorer. At last, being very angry, he took his
image down from its pedestal and dashed it against the wall.
When its head was knocked off, out came a stream of gold, which
the Carpenter quickly picked up and said, "Well, I think thou art
altogether contradictory and unreasonable; for when I paid you
honor, I reaped no benefits: but now that I maltreat you I am
loaded with an abundance of riches."
The Bull and the Goat
A BULL, escaping from a Lion, hid in a cave which some shepherds
had recently occupied. As soon as he entered, a He-Goat left in
the cave sharply attacked him with his horns. The Bull quietly
addressed him: "Butt away as much as you will. I have no fear of
you, but of the Lion. Let that monster go away and I will soon
let you know what is the respective strength of a Goat and a
It shows an evil disposition to take advantage of a friend in
The Dancing Monkeys
A PRINCE had some Monkeys trained to dance. Being naturally
great mimics of men's actions, they showed themselves most apt
pupils, and when arrayed in their rich clothes and masks, they
danced as well as any of the courtiers. The spectacle was often
repeated with great applause, till on one occasion a courtier,
bent on mischief, took from his pocket a handful of nuts and
threw them upon the stage. The Monkeys at the sight of the nuts
forgot their dancing and became (as indeed they were) Monkeys
instead of actors. Pulling off their masks and tearing their
robes, they fought with one another for the nuts. The dancing
spectacle thus came to an end amidst the laughter and ridicule of
The Fox and the Leopard
THE FOX and the Leopard disputed which was the more beautiful of
the two. The Leopard exhibited one by one the various spots
which decorated his skin. But the Fox, interrupting him, said,
"And how much more beautiful than you am I, who am decorated, not
in body, but in mind."
The Monkeys and Their Mother
THE MONKEY, it is said, has two young ones at each birth. The
Mother fondles one and nurtures it with the greatest affection
and care, but hates and neglects the other. It happened once
that the young one which was caressed and loved was smothered by
the too great affection of the Mother, while the despised one was
nurtured and reared in spite of the neglect to which it was
The best intentions will not always ensure success.
The Oaks and Jupiter
THE OAKS presented a complaint to Jupiter, saying, "We bear for
no purpose the burden of life, as of all the trees that grow we
are the most continually in peril of the axe." Jupiter made
answer: "You have only to thank yourselves for the misfortunes to
which you are exposed: for if you did not make such excellent
pillars and posts, and prove yourselves so serviceable to the
carpenters and the farmers, the axe would not so frequently be
laid to your roots."
The Hare and the Hound
A HOUND started a Hare from his lair, but after a long run, gave
up the chase. A goat-herd seeing him stop, mocked him, saying
"The little one is the best runner of the two." The Hound
replied, "You do not see the difference between us: I was only
running for a dinner, but he for his life."
The Traveler and Fortune
A TRAVELER wearied from a long journey lay down, overcome with
fatigue, on the very brink of a deep well. Just as he was about
to fall into the water, Dame Fortune, it is said, appeared to him
and waking him from his slumber thus addressed him: "Good Sir,
pray wake up: for if you fall into the well, the blame will be
thrown on me, and I shall get an ill name among mortals; for I
find that men are sure to impute their calamities to me, however
much by their own folly they have really brought them on
Everyone is more or less master of his own fate.
The Bald Knight
A BALD KNIGHT, who wore a wig, went out to hunt. A sudden puff
of wind blew off his hat and wig, at which a loud laugh rang
forth from his companions. He pulled up his horse, and with
great glee joined in the joke by saying, "What a marvel it is
that hairs which are not mine should fly from me, when they have
forsaken even the man on whose head they grew."
The Shepherd and the Dog
A SHEPHERD penning his sheep in the fold for the night was about
to shut up a wolf with them, when his Dog perceiving the wolf
said, "Master, how can you expect the sheep to be safe if you
admit a wolf into the fold?'
A LAMP, soaked with too much oil and flaring brightly, boasted
that it gave more light than the sun. Then a sudden puff of wind
arose, and the Lamp was immediately extinguished. Its owner lit
it again, and said: "Boast no more, but henceforth be content to
give thy light in silence. Know that not even the stars need to
The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass
THE LION, the Fox and the Ass entered into an agreement to assist
each other in the chase. Having secured a large booty, the Lion
on their return from the forest asked the Ass to allot his due
portion to each of the three partners in the treaty. The Ass
carefully divided the spoil into three equal shares and modestly
requested the two others to make the first choice. The Lion,
bursting out into a great rage, devoured the Ass. Then he
requested the Fox to do him the favor to make a division. The
Fox accumulated all that they had killed into one large heap and
left to himself the smallest possible morsel. The Lion said,
"Who has taught you, my very excellent fellow, the art of
division? You are perfect to a fraction." He replied, "I learned
it from the Ass, by witnessing his fate."
Happy is the man who learns from the misfortunes of others.
The Bull, the Lioness, and the Wild-Boar Hunter
A BULL finding a lion's cub asleep gored him to death with his
horns. The Lioness came up, and bitterly lamented the death of
her whelp. A wild-boar Hunter, seeing her distress, stood at a
distance and said to her, "Think how many men there are who have
reason to lament the loss of their children, whose deaths have
been caused by you."
The Oak and the Woodcutters
THE WOODCUTTER cut down a Mountain Oak and split it in pieces,
making wedges of its own branches for dividing the trunk. The
Oak said with a sigh, "I do not care about the blows of the axe
aimed at my roots, but I do grieve at being torn in pieces by
these wedges made from my own branches."
Misfortunes springing from ourselves are the hardest to bear.
The Hen and the Golden Eggs
A COTTAGER and his wife had a Hen that laid a golden egg every
day. They supposed that the Hen must contain a great lump of
gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed it.
Having done so, they found to their surprise that the Hen
differed in no respect from their other hens. The foolish pair,
thus hoping to become rich all at once, deprived themselves of
the gain of which they were assured day by day.
The Ass and the Frogs
AN ASS, carrying a load of wood, passed through a pond. As he
was crossing through the water he lost his footing, stumbled and
fell, and not being able to rise on account of his load, groaned
heavily. Some Frogs frequenting the pool heard his lamentation,
and said, "What would you do if you had to live here always as we
do, when you make such a fuss about a mere fall into the water?"
Men often bear little grievances with less courage than they do
The Crow and the Raven
A CROW was jealous of the Raven, because he was considered a bird
of good omen and always attracted the attention of men, who noted
by his flight the good or evil course of future events. Seeing
some travelers approaching, the Crow flew up into a tree, and
perching herself on one of the branches, cawed as loudly as she
could. The travelers turned towards the sound and wondered what
it foreboded, when one of them said to his companion, "Let us
proceed on our journey, my friend, for it is only the caw of a
crow, and her cry, you know, is no omen."
Those who assume a character which does not belong to them, only
make themselves ridiculous.
The Trees and the Axe
A MAN came into a forest and asked the Trees to provide him a
handle for his axe. The Trees consented to his request and gave
him a young ash-tree. No sooner had the man fitted a new handle
to his axe from it, than he began to use it and quickly felled
with his strokes the noblest giants of the forest. An old oak,
lamenting when too late the destruction of his companions, said
to a neighboring cedar, "The first step has lost us all. If we
had not given up the rights of the ash, we might yet have
retained our own privileges and have stood for ages."
The Crab and the Fox
A CRAB, forsaking the seashore, chose a neighboring green meadow
as its feeding ground. A Fox came across him, and being very
hungry ate him up. Just as he was on the point of being eaten,
the Crab said, "I well deserve my fate, for what business had I
on the land, when by my nature and habits I am only adapted for
Contentment with our lot is an element of happiness.
The Woman and Her Hen
A WOMAN possessed a Hen that gave her an egg every day. She
often pondered how she might obtain two eggs daily instead of
one, and at last, to gain her purpose, determined to give the Hen
a double allowance of barley. From that day the Hen became fat
and sleek, and never once laid another egg.
The Ass and the Old Shepherd
A SHEPHERD, watching his Ass feeding in a meadow, was alarmed all
of a sudden by the cries of the enemy. He appealed to the Ass to
fly with him, lest they should both be captured, but the animal
lazily replied, "Why should I, pray? Do you think it likely the
conqueror will place on me two sets of panniers?' "No," rejoined
the Shepherd. "Then," said the Ass, "as long as I carry the
panniers, what matters it to me whom I serve?'
In a change of government the poor change nothing beyond the name
of their master.
The Kites and the Swans
TEE KITES of olden times, as well as the Swans, had the privilege
of song. But having heard the neigh of the horse, they were so
enchanted with the sound, that they tried to imitate it; and, in
trying to neigh, they forgot how to sing.
The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of
The Wolves and the Sheepdogs
THE WOLVES thus addressed the Sheepdogs: "Why should you, who are
like us in so many things, not be entirely of one mind with us,
and live with us as brothers should? We differ from you in one
point only. We live in freedom, but you bow down to and slave
for men, who in return for your services flog you with whips and
put collars on your necks. They make you also guard their sheep,
and while they eat the mutton throw only the bones to you. If
you will be persuaded by us, you will give us the sheep, and we
will enjoy them in common, till we all are surfeited." The Dogs
listened favorably to these proposals, and, entering the den of
the Wolves, they were set upon and torn to pieces.
The Hares and the Foxes
THE HARES waged war with the Eagles, and called upon the Foxes to
help them. They replied, "We would willingly have helped you, if
we had not known who you were, and with whom you were fighting."
Count the cost before you commit yourselves.
The Bowman and Lion
A VERY SKILLFUL BOWMAN went to the mountains in search of game,
but all the beasts of the forest fled at his approach. The Lion
alone challenged him to combat. The Bowman immediately shot out
an arrow and said to the Lion: "I send thee my messenger, that
from him thou mayest learn what I myself shall be when I assail
thee." The wounded Lion rushed away in great fear, and when a Fox
who had seen it all happen told him to be of good courage and not
to back off at the first attack he replied: "You counsel me in
vain; for if he sends so fearful a messenger, how shall I abide
the attack of the man himself?'
Be on guard against men who can strike from a distance.
WHEN MAN first saw the Camel, he was so frightened at his vast
size that he ran away. After a time, perceiving the meekness and
gentleness of the beast's temper, he summoned courage enough to
approach him. Soon afterwards, observing that he was an animal
altogether deficient in spirit, he assumed such boldness as to
put a bridle in his mouth, and to let a child drive him.
Use serves to overcome dread.
The Wasp and the Snake
A WASP seated himself upon the head of a Snake and, striking him
unceasingly with his stings, wounded him to death. The Snake,
being in great torment and not knowing how to rid himself of his
enemy, saw a wagon heavily laden with wood, and went and
purposely placed his head under the wheels, saying, "At least my
enemy and I shall perish together."
The Dog and the Hare
A HOUND having started a Hare on the hillside pursued her for
some distance, at one time biting her with his teeth as if he
would take her life, and at another fawning upon her, as if in
play with another dog. The Hare said to him, "I wish you would
act sincerely by me, and show yourself in your true colors. If
you are a friend, why do you bite me so hard? If an enemy, why do
you fawn on me?'
No one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust or
The Bull and the Calf
A BULL was striving with all his might to squeeze himself through
a narrow passage which led to his stall. A young Calf came up,
and offered to go before and show him the way by which he could
manage to pass. "Save yourself the trouble," said the Bull; "I
knew that way long before you were born."
The Stag, the Wolf, and the Sheep
A STAG asked a Sheep to lend him a measure of wheat, and said
that the Wolf would be his surety. The Sheep, fearing some fraud
was intended, excused herself, saying, "The Wolf is accustomed to
seize what he wants and to run off; and you, too, can quickly
outstrip me in your rapid flight. How then shall I be able to
find you, when the day of payment comes?'
Two blacks do not make one white.
The Peacock and the Crane
A PEACOCK spreading its gorgeous tail mocked a Crane that passed
by, ridiculing the ashen hue of its plumage and saying, "I am
robed, like a king, in gold and purple and all the colors of the
rainbow; while you have not a bit of color on your wings."
"True," replied the Crane; "but I soar to the heights of heaven
and lift up my voice to the stars, while you walk below, like a
cock, among the birds of the dunghill."
Fine feathers don't make fine birds.
The Fox and the Hedgehog
A FOX swimming across a rapid river was carried by the force of
the current into a very deep ravine, where he lay for a long time
very much bruised, sick, and unable to move. A swarm of hungry
blood-sucking flies settled upon him. A Hedgehog, passing by,
saw his anguish and inquired if he should drive away the flies
that were tormenting him. "By no means," replied the Fox; "pray
do not molest them." "How is this?' said the Hedgehog; "do you
not want to be rid of them?' "No," returned the Fox, "for these
flies which you see are full of blood, and sting me but little,
and if you rid me of these which are already satiated, others
more hungry will come in their place, and will drink up all the
blood I have left."
The Eagle, the Cat, and the Wild Sow
AN EAGLE made her nest at the top of a lofty oak; a Cat, having
found a convenient hole, moved into the middle of the trunk; and
a Wild Sow, with her young, took shelter in a hollow at its foot.
The Cat cunningly resolved to destroy this chance-made colony.
To carry out her design, she climbed to the nest of the Eagle,
and said, "Destruction is preparing for you, and for me too,
unfortunately. The Wild Sow, whom you see daily digging up the
earth, wishes to uproot the oak, so she may on its fall seize our
families as food for her young." Having thus frightened the Eagle
out of her senses, she crept down to the cave of the Sow, and
said, "Your children are in great danger; for as soon as you go
out with your litter to find food, the Eagle is prepared to
pounce upon one of your little pigs." Having instilled these
fears into the Sow, she went and pretended to hide herself in the
hollow of the tree. When night came she went forth with silent
foot and obtained food for herself and her kittens, but feigning
to be afraid, she kept a lookout all through the day. Meanwhile,
the Eagle, full of fear of the Sow, sat still on the branches,
and the Sow, terrified by the Eagle, did not dare to go out from
her cave. And thus they both, along with their families,
perished from hunger, and afforded ample provision for the Cat
and her kittens.
The Thief and the Innkeeper
A THIEF hired a room in a tavern and stayed a while in the hope
of stealing something which should enable him to pay his
reckoning. When he had waited some days in vain, he saw the
Innkeeper dressed in a new and handsome coat and sitting before
his door. The Thief sat down beside him and talked with him. As
the conversation began to flag, the Thief yawned terribly and at
the same time howled like a wolf. The Innkeeper said, "Why do
you howl so fearfully?' "I will tell you," said the Thief, "but
first let me ask you to hold my clothes, or I shall tear them to
pieces. I know not, sir, when I got this habit of yawning, nor
whether these attacks of howling were inflicted on me as a
judgment for my crimes, or for any other cause; but this I do
know, that when I yawn for the third time, I actually turn into a
wolf and attack men." With this speech he commenced a second fit
of yawning and again howled like a wolf, as he had at first. The
Innkeeper. hearing his tale and believing what he said, became
greatly alarmed and, rising from his seat, attempted to run away.
The Thief laid hold of his coat and entreated him to stop,
saying, "Pray wait, sir, and hold my clothes, or I shall tear
them to pieces in my fury, when I turn into a wolf." At the same
moment he yawned the third time and set up a terrible howl. The
Innkeeper, frightened lest he should be attacked, left his new
coat in the Thief's hand and ran as fast as he could into the inn
for safety. The Thief made off with the coat and did not return
again to the inn.
Every tale is not to be believed.
A MULE, frolicsome from lack of work and from too much corn,
galloped about in a very extravagant manner, and said to himself:
"My father surely was a high-mettled racer, and I am his own
child in speed and spirit." On the next day, being driven a long
journey, and feeling very wearied, he exclaimed in a disconsolate
tone: "I must have made a mistake; my father, after all, could
have been only an ass."
The Hart and the Vine
A HART, hard pressed in the chase, hid himself beneath the large
leaves of a Vine. The huntsmen, in their haste, overshot the
place of his concealment. Supposing all danger to have passed,
the Hart began to nibble the tendrils of the Vine. One of the
huntsmen, attracted by the rustling of the leaves, looked back,
and seeing the Hart, shot an arrow from his bow and struck it.
The Hart, at the point of death, groaned: "I am rightly served,
for I should not have maltreated the Vine that saved me."
The Serpent and the Eagle
A SERPENT and an Eagle were struggling with each other in deadly
conflict. The Serpent had the advantage, and was about to
strangle the bird. A countryman saw them, and running up, loosed
the coil of the Serpent and let the Eagle go free. The Serpent,
irritated at the escape of his prey, injected his poison into the
drinking horn of the countryman. The rustic, ignorant of his
danger, was about to drink, when the Eagle struck his hand with
his wing, and, seizing the drinking horn in his talons, carried
The Crow and the Pitcher
A CROW perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find
water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he
discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he
could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think
of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last
he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them
one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the
water within his reach and thus saved his life.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
The Two Frogs
TWO FROGS were neighbors. One inhabited a deep pond, far removed
from public view; the other lived in a gully containing little
water, and traversed by a country road. The Frog that lived in
the pond warned his friend to change his residence and entreated
him to come and live with him, saying that he would enjoy greater
safety from danger and more abundant food. The other refused,
saying that he felt it so very hard to leave a place to which he
had become accustomed. A few days afterwards a heavy wagon
passed through the gully and crushed him to death under its
A willful man will have his way to his own hurt.
The Wolf and the Fox
AT ONE TIME a very large and strong Wolf was born among the
wolves, who exceeded all his fellow-wolves in strength, size, and
swiftness, so that they unanimously decided to call him "Lion."
The Wolf, with a lack of sense proportioned to his enormous size,
thought that they gave him this name in earnest, and, leaving his
own race, consorted exclusively with the lions. An old sly Fox,
seeing this, said, "May I never make myself so ridiculous as you
do in your pride and self-conceit; for even though you have the
size of a lion among wolves, in a herd of lions you are
definitely a wolf."
A WALNUT TREE standing by the roadside bore an abundant crop of
fruit. For the sake of the nuts, the passers-by broke its
branches with stones and sticks. The Walnut-Tree piteously
exclaimed, "O wretched me! that those whom I cheer with my fruit
should repay me with these painful requitals!"
The Gnat and the Lion
A GNAT came and said to a Lion, "I do not in the least fear you,
nor are you stronger than I am. For in what does your strength
consist? You can scratch with your claws and bite with your teeth
an a woman in her quarrels. I repeat that I am altogether more
powerful than you; and if you doubt it, let us fight and see who
will conquer." The Gnat, having sounded his horn, fastened
himself upon the Lion and stung him on the nostrils and the parts
of the face devoid of hair. While trying to crush him, the Lion
tore himself with his claws, until he punished himself severely.
The Gnat thus prevailed over the Lion, and, buzzing about in a
song of triumph, flew away. But shortly afterwards he became
entangled in the meshes of a cobweb and was eaten by a spider.
He greatly lamented his fate, saying, "Woe is me! that I, who can
wage war successfully with the hugest beasts, should perish
myself from this spider, the most inconsiderable of insects!"
The Monkey and the Dolphin
A SAILOR, bound on a long voyage, took with him a Monkey to amuse
him while on shipboard. As he sailed off the coast of Greece, a
violent tempest arose in which the ship was wrecked and he, his
Monkey, and all the crew were obliged to swim for their lives. A
Dolphin saw the Monkey contending with the waves, and supposing
him to be a man (whom he is always said to befriend), came and
placed himself under him, to convey him on his back in safety to
the shore. When the Dolphin arrived with his burden in sight of
land not far from Athens, he asked the Monkey if he were an
Athenian. The latter replied that he was, and that he was
descended from one of the most noble families in that city. The
Dolphin then inquired if he knew the Piraeus (the famous harbor
of Athens). Supposing that a man was meant, the Monkey answered
that he knew him very well and that he was an intimate friend.
The Dolphin, indignant at these falsehoods, dipped the Monkey
under the water and drowned him.
The Jackdaw and the Doves
A JACKDAW, seeing some Doves in a cote abundantly provided with
food, painted himself white and joined them in order to share
their plentiful maintenance. The Doves, as long as he was
silent, supposed him to be one of themselves and admitted him to
their cote. But when one day he forgot himself and began to
chatter, they discovered his true character and drove him forth,
pecking him with their beaks. Failing to obtain food among the
Doves, he returned to the Jackdaws. They too, not recognizing
him on account of his color. expelled him from living with them.
So desiring two ends, he obtained neither.
The Horse and the Stag
AT ONE TIME the Horse had the plain entirely to himself. Then a
Stag intruded into his domain and shared his pasture. The Horse,
desiring to revenge himself on the stranger, asked a man if he
were willing to help him in punishing the Stag. The man replied
that if the Horse would receive a bit in his mouth and agree to
carry him, he would contrive effective weapons against the Stag.
The Horse consented and allowed the man to mount him. From that
hour he found that instead of obtaining revenge on the Stag, he
had enslaved himself to the service of man.
The Kid and the Wolf
A KID, returning without protection from the pasture, was pursued
by a Wolf. Seeing he could not escape, he turned round, and
said: "I know, friend Wolf, that I must be your prey, but before
I die I would ask of you one favor you will play me a tune to
which I may dance." The Wolf complied, and while he was piping
and the Kid was dancing, some hounds hearing the sound ran up and
began chasing the Wolf. Turning to the Kid, he said, "It is just
what I deserve; for I, who am only a butcher, should not have
turned piper to please you."
A WIZARD, sitting in the marketplace, was telling the fortunes of
the passers-by when a person ran up in great haste, and
announced to him that the doors of his house had been broken open
and that all his goods were being stolen. He sighed heavily and
hastened away as fast as he could run. A neighbor saw him
running and said, "Oh! you fellow there! you say you can foretell
the fortunes of others; how is it you did not foresee your own?'
The Fox and the Monkey
A FOX and a Monkey were traveling together on the same road. As
they journeyed, they passed through a cemetery full of monuments.
"All these monuments which you see," said the Monkey, "are
erected in honor of my ancestors, who were in their day freedmen
and citizens of great renown." The Fox replied, "You have chosen
a most appropriate subject for your falsehoods, as I am sure none
of your ancestors will be able to contradict you."
A false tale often betrays itself.
The Thief and the Housedog
A THIEF came in the night to break into a house. He brought with
him several slices of meat in order to pacify the Housedog, so
that he would not alarm his master by barking. As the Thief
threw him the pieces of meat, the Dog said, "If you think to stop
my mouth, you will be greatly mistaken. This sudden kindness at
your hands will only make me more watchful, lest under these
unexpected favors to myself, you have some private ends to
accomplish for your own benefit, and for my master's injury."
The Man, the Horse, the Ox, and the Dog
A HORSE, Ox, and Dog, driven to great straits by the cold, sought
shelter and protection from Man. He received them kindly,
lighted a fire, and warmed them. He let the Horse make free with
his oats, gave the Ox an abundance of hay, and fed the Dog with
meat from his own table. Grateful for these favors, the animals
determined to repay him to the best of their ability. For this
purpose, they divided the term of his life between them, and each
endowed one portion of it with the qualities which chiefly
characterized himself. The Horse chose his earliest years and
gave them his own attributes: hence every man is in his youth
impetuous, headstrong, and obstinate in maintaining his own
opinion. The Ox took under his patronage the next term of life,
and therefore man in his middle age is fond of work, devoted to
labor, and resolute to amass wealth and to husband his resources.
The end of life was reserved for the Dog, wherefore the old man
is often snappish, irritable, hard to please, and selfish,
tolerant only of his own household, but averse to strangers and
to all who do not administer to his comfort or to his
The Apes and the Two Travelers
TWO MEN, one who always spoke the truth and the other who told
nothing but lies, were traveling together and by chance came to
the land of Apes. One of the Apes, who had raised himself to be
king, commanded them to be seized and brought before him, that he
might know what was said of him among men. He ordered at the
same time that all the Apes be arranged in a long row on his
right hand and on his left, and that a throne be placed for him,
as was the custom among men. After these preparations he
signified that the two men should be brought before him, and
greeted them with this salutation: "What sort of a king do I seem
to you to be, O strangers?' The Lying Traveler replied, "You seem
to me a most mighty king." "And what is your estimate of those
you see around me?' "These," he made answer, "are worthy
companions of yourself, fit at least to be ambassadors and
leaders of armies." The Ape and all his court, gratified with the
lie, commanded that a handsome present be given to the flatterer.
On this the truthful Traveler thought to himself, "If so great a
reward be given for a lie, with what gift may not I be rewarded,
if, according to my custom, I tell the truth?' The Ape quickly
turned to him. "And pray how do I and these my friends around me
seem to you?' "Thou art," he said, "a most excellent Ape, and all
these thy companions after thy example are excellent Apes too."
The King of the Apes, enraged at hearing these truths, gave him
over to the teeth and claws of his companions.
The Wolf and the Shepherd
A WOLF followed a flock of sheep for a long time and did not
attempt to injure one of them. The Shepherd at first stood on
his guard against him, as against an enemy, and kept a strict
watch over his movements. But when the Wolf, day after day, kept
in the company of the sheep and did not make the slightest effort
to seize them, the Shepherd began to look upon him as a guardian
of his flock rather than as a plotter of evil against it; and
when occasion called him one day into the city, he left the sheep
entirely in his charge. The Wolf, now that he had the
opportunity, fell upon the sheep, and destroyed the greater part
of the flock. When the Shepherd returned to find his flock
destroyed, he exclaimed: "I have been rightly served; why did I
trust my sheep to a Wolf?'
The Hares and the Lions
THE HARES harangued the assembly, and argued that all should be
equal. The Lions made this reply: "Your words, O Hares! are
good; but they lack both claws and teeth such as we have."
The Lark and Her Young Ones
A LARK had made her nest in the early spring on the young green
wheat. The brood had almost grown to their full strength and
attained the use of their wings and the full plumage of their
feathers, when the owner of the field, looking over his ripe
crop, said, "The time has come when I must ask all my neighbors
to help me with my harvest." One of the young Larks heard his
speech and related it to his mother, inquiring of her to what
place they should move for safety. "There is no occasion to move
yet, my son," she replied; "the man who only sends to his friends
to help him with his harvest is not really in earnest." The owner
of the field came again a few days later and saw the wheat
shedding the grain from excess of ripeness. He said, "I will
come myself tomorrow with my laborers, and with as many reapers
as I can hire, and will get in the harvest." The Lark on hearing
these words said to her brood, "It is time now to be off, my
little ones, for the man is in earnest this time; he no longer
trusts his friends, but will reap the field himself."
Self-help is the best help.
The Fox and the Lion
WHEN A FOX who had never yet seen a Lion, fell in with him by
chance for the first time in the forest, he was so frightened
that he nearly died with fear. On meeting him for the second
time, he was still much alarmed, but not to the same extent as at
first. On seeing him the third time, he so increased in boldness
that he went up to him and commenced a familiar conversation with
Acquaintance softens prejudices.
The Weasel and the Mice
A WEASEL, inactive from age and infirmities, was not able to
catch mice as he once did. He therefore rolled himself in flour
and lay down in a dark corner. A Mouse, supposing him to be
food, leaped upon him, and was instantly caught and squeezed to
death. Another perished in a similar manner, and then a third,
and still others after them. A very old Mouse, who had escaped
many a trap and snare, observed from a safe distance the trick of
his crafty foe and said, "Ah! you that lie there, may you prosper
just in the same proportion as you are what you pretend to be!"
The Boy Bathing
A BOY bathing in a river was in danger of being drowned. He
called out to a passing traveler for help, but instead of holding
out a helping hand, the man stood by unconcernedly, and scolded
the boy for his imprudence. "Oh, sir!" cried the youth, "pray
help me now and scold me afterwards."
Counsel without help is useless.
The Ass and the Wolf
AN ASS feeding in a meadow saw a Wolf approaching to seize him,
and immediately pretended to be lame. The Wolf, coming up,
inquired the cause of his lameness. The Ass replied that passing
through a hedge he had trod with his foot upon a sharp thorn. He
requested that the Wolf pull it out, lest when he ate him it
should injure his throat. The Wolf consented and lifted up the
foot, and was giving his whole mind to the discovery of the
thorn, when the Ass, with his heels, kicked his teeth into his
mouth and galloped away. The Wolf, being thus fearfully mauled,
said, "I am rightly served, for why did I attempt the art of
healing, when my father only taught me the trade of a butcher?'
The Seller of Images
A CERTAIN MAN made a wooden image of Mercury and offered it for
sale. When no one appeared willing to buy it, in order to
attract purchasers, he cried out that he had the statue to sell
of a benefactor who bestowed wealth and helped to heap up riches.
One of the bystanders said to him, "My good fellow, why do you
sell him, being such a one as you describe, when you may yourself
enjoy the good things he has to give?' "Why," he replied, "I am
in need of immediate help, and he is wont to give his good gifts
The Fox and the Grapes
A FAMISHED FOX saw some clusters of ripe black grapes hanging
from a trellised vine. She resorted to all her tricks to get at
them, but wearied herself in vain, for she could not reach them.
At last she turned away, hiding her disappointment and saying:
"The Grapes are sour, and not ripe as I thought."
The Man and His Wife
A MAN had a Wife who made herself hated by all the members of his
household. Wishing to find out if she had the same effect on the
persons in her father's house, he made some excuse to send her
home on a visit to her father. After a short time she returned,
and when he inquired how she had got on and how the servants had
treated her, she replied, "The herdsmen and shepherds cast on me
looks of aversion." He said, "O Wife, if you were disliked by
those who go out early in the morning with their flocks and
return late in the evening, what must have been felt towards you
by those with whom you passed the whole day!"
Straws show how the wind blows.
The Peacock and Juno
THE PEACOCK made complaint to Juno that, while the nightingale
pleased every ear with his song, he himself no sooner opened his
mouth than he became a laughingstock to all who heard him. The
Goddess, to console him, said, "But you far excel in beauty and
in size. The splendor of the emerald shines in your neck and you
unfold a tail gorgeous with painted plumage." "But for what
purpose have I," said the bird, "this dumb beauty so long as I am
surpassed in song?' "The lot of each," replied Juno, "has been
assigned by the will of the Fates--to thee, beauty; to the eagle,
strength; to the nightingale, song; to the raven, favorable,
and to the crow, unfavorable auguries. These are all contented
with the endowments allotted to them."
The Hawk and the Nightingale
A NIGHTINGALE, sitting aloft upon an oak and singing according to
his wont, was seen by a Hawk who, being in need of food, swooped
down and seized him. The Nightingale, about to lose his life,
earnestly begged the Hawk to let him go, saying that he was not
big enough to satisfy the hunger of a Hawk who, if he wanted
food, ought to pursue the larger birds. The Hawk, interrupting
him, said: "I should indeed have lost my senses if I should let
go food ready in my hand, for the sake of pursuing birds which
are not yet even within sight."
The Dog, the Cock, and the Fox
A DOG and a Cock being great friends, agreed to travel together.
At nightfall they took shelter in a thick wood. The Cock flying
up, perched himself on the branches of a tree, while the Dog
found a bed beneath in the hollow trunk. When the morning
dawned, the Cock, as usual, crowed very loudly several times. A
Fox heard the sound, and wishing to make a breakfast on him, came
and stood under the branches, saying how earnestly he desired to
make the acquaintance of the owner of so magnificent a voice.
The Cock, suspecting his civilities, said: "Sir, I wish you would
do me the favor of going around to the hollow trunk below me, and
waking my porter, so that he may open the door and let you in."
When the Fox approached the tree, the Dog sprang out and caught
him, and tore him to pieces.
The Wolf and the Goat
A WOLF saw a Goat feeding at the summit of a steep precipice,
where he had no chance of reaching her. He called to her and
earnestly begged her to come lower down, lest she fall by some
mishap; and he added that the meadows lay where he was standing,
and that the herbage was most tender. She replied, "No, my
friend, it is not for the pasture that you invite me, but for
yourself, who are in want of food."
The Lion and the Bull
A LION, greatly desiring to capture a Bull, and yet afraid to
attack him on account of his great size, resorted to a trick to
ensure his destruction. He approached the Bull and said, "I have
slain a fine sheep, my friend; and if you will come home and
partake of him with me, I shall be delighted to have your
company." The Lion said this in the hope that, as the Bull was in
the act of reclining to eat, he might attack him to advantage,
and make his meal on him. The Bull, on approaching the Lion's
den, saw the huge spits and giant caldrons, and no sign whatever
of the sheep, and, without saying a word, quietly took his
departure. The Lion inquired why he went off so abruptly without
a word of salutation to his host, who had not given him any cause
for offense. "I have reasons enough," said the Bull. "I see no
indication whatever of your having slaughtered a sheep, while I
do see very plainly every preparation for your dining on a bull."
The Goat and the Ass
A MAN once kept a Goat and an Ass. The Goat, envying the Ass on
account of his greater abundance of food, said, "How shamefully
you are treated: at one time grinding in the mill, and at another
carrying heavy burdens"; and he further advised him to pretend to
be epileptic and fall into a ditch and so obtain rest. The Ass
listened to his words, and falling into a ditch, was very much
bruised. His master, sending for a leech, asked his advice. He
bade him pour upon the wounds the lungs of a Goat. They at once
killed the Goat, and so healed the Ass.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
A COUNTRY MOUSE invited a Town Mouse, an intimate friend, to pay
him a visit and partake of his country fare. As they were on the
bare plowlands, eating there wheat-stocks and roots pulled up
from the hedgerow, the Town Mouse said to his friend, "You live
here the life of the ants, while in my house is the horn of
plenty. I am surrounded by every luxury, and if you will come
with me, as I wish you would, you shall have an ample share of my
dainties." The Country Mouse was easily persuaded, and returned
to town with his friend. On his arrival, the Town Mouse placed
before him bread, barley, beans, dried figs, honey, raisins, and,
last of all, brought a dainty piece of cheese from a basket. The
Country Mouse, being much delighted at the sight of such good
cheer, expressed his satisfaction in warm terms and lamented his
own hard fate. Just as they were beginning to eat, someone
opened the door, and they both ran off squeaking, as fast as they
could, to a hole so narrow that two could only find room in it by
squeezing. They had scarcely begun their repast again when
someone else entered to take something out of a cupboard,
whereupon the two Mice, more frightened than before, ran away and
hid themselves. At last the Country Mouse, almost famished, said
to his friend: "Although you have prepared for me so dainty a
feast, I must leave you to enjoy it by yourself. It is
surrounded by too many dangers to please me. I prefer my bare
plowlands and roots from the hedgerow, where I can live in
safety, and without fear."
The Wolf, the Fox, and the Ape
A WOLF accused a Fox of theft, but the Fox entirely denied the
charge. An Ape undertook to adjudge the matter between them.
When each had fully stated his case the Ape announced this
sentence: "I do not think you, Wolf, ever lost what you claim;
and I do believe you, Fox, to have stolen what you so stoutly
The dishonest, if they act honestly, get no credit.
The Fly and the Draught-Mule
A FLY sat on the axle-tree of a chariot, and addressing the
Draught-Mule said, "How slow you are! Why do you not go faster?
See if I do not prick your neck with my sting." The Draught-Mule
replied, "I do not heed your threats; I only care for him who
sits above you, and who quickens my pace with his whip, or holds
me back with the reins. Away, therefore, with your insolence,
for I know well when to go fast, and when to go slow."
SOME FISHERMEN were out trawling their nets. Perceiving them to
be very heavy, they danced about for joy and supposed that they
had taken a large catch. When they had dragged the nets to the
shore they found but few fish: the nets were full of sand and
stones, and the men were beyond measure cast downso much at the
disappointment which had befallen them, but because they had
formed such very different expectations. One of their company,
an old man, said, "Let us cease lamenting, my mates, for, as it
seems to me, sorrow is always the twin sister of joy; and it was
only to be looked for that we, who just now were over-rejoiced,
should next have something to make us sad."
The Lion and the Three Bulls
THREE BULLS for a long time pastured together. A Lion lay in
ambush in the hope of making them his prey, but was afraid to
attack them while they kept together. Having at last by guileful
speeches succeeded in separating them, he attacked them without
fear as they fed alone, and feasted on them one by one at his own
Union is strength.
The Fowler and the Viper
A FOWLER, taking his bird-lime and his twigs, went out to catch
birds. Seeing a thrush sitting upon a tree, he wished to take
it, and fitting his twigs to a proper length, watched intently,
having his whole thoughts directed towards the sky. While thus
looking upwards, he unknowingly trod upon a Viper asleep just
before his feet. The Viper, turning about, stung him, and
falling into a swoon, the man said to himself, "Woe is me! that
while I purposed to hunt another, I am myself fallen unawares
into the snares of death."
The Horse and the Ass
A HORSE, proud of his fine trappings, met an Ass on the highway.
The Ass, being heavily laden, moved slowly out of the way.
"Hardly," said the Horse, "can I resist kicking you with my
heels." The Ass held his peace, and made only a silent appeal to
the justice of the gods. Not long afterwards the Horse, having
become broken-winded, was sent by his owner to the farm. The
Ass, seeing him drawing a dungcart, thus derided him: "Where, O
boaster, are now all thy gay trappings, thou who are thyself
reduced to the condition you so lately treated with contempt?'
The Fox and the Mask
A FOX entered the house of an actor and, rummaging through all
his properties, came upon a Mask, an admirable imitation of a
human head. He placed his paws on it and said, "What a beautiful
head! Yet it is of no value, as it entirely lacks brains."
The Geese and the Cranes
THE GEESE and the Cranes were feeding in the same meadow, when a
birdcatcher came to ensnare them in his nets. The Cranes, being
light of wing, fled away at his approach; while the Geese, being
slower of flight and heavier in their bodies, were captured.
The Blind Man and the Whelp
A BLIND MAN was accustomed to distinguishing different animals by
touching them with his hands. The whelp of a Wolf was brought
him, with a request that he would feel it, and say what it was.
He felt it, and being in doubt, said: "I do not quite know
whether it is the cub of a Fox, or the whelp of a Wolf, but this
I know full well. It would not be safe to admit him to the
Evil tendencies are shown in early life.
The Dogs and the Fox
SOME DOGS, finding the skin of a lion, began to tear it in pieces
with their teeth. A Fox, seeing them, said, "If this lion were
alive, you would soon find out that his claws were stronger than
It is easy to kick a man that is down.
The Cobbler Turned Doctor
A COBBLER unable to make a living by his trade and made desperate
by poverty, began to practice medicine in a town in which he was
not known. He sold a drug, pretending that it was an antidote to
all poisons, and obtained a great name for himself by long-winded
puffs and advertisements. When the Cobbler happened to fall sick
himself of a serious illness, the Governor of the town determined
to test his skill. For this purpose he called for a cup, and
while filling it with water, pretended to mix poison with the
Cobbler's antidote, commanding him to drink it on the promise of
a reward. The Cobbler, under the fear of death, confessed that
he had no knowledge of medicine, and was only made famous by the
stupid clamors of the crowd. The Governor then called a public
assembly and addressed the citizens: "Of what folly have you been
guilty? You have not hesitated to entrust your heads to a man,
whom no one could employ to make even the shoes for their feet."
The Wolf and the Horse
A WOLF coming out of a field of oats met a Horse and thus
addressed him: "I would advise you to go into that field. It is
full of fine oats, which I have left untouched for you, as you
are a friend whom I would love to hear enjoying good eating." The
Horse replied, "If oats had been the food of wolves, you would
never have indulged your ears at the cost of your belly."
Men of evil reputation, when they perform a good deed, fail to
get credit for it.
The Brother and the Sister
A FATHER had one son and one daughter, the former remarkable for
his good looks, the latter for her extraordinary ugliness. While
they were playing one day as children, they happened by chance to
look together into a mirror that was placed on their mother's
chair. The boy congratulated himself on his good looks; the girl
grew angry, and could not bear the self-praises of her Brother,
interpreting all he said (and how could she do otherwise?) into
reflection on herself. She ran off to her father. to be avenged
on her Brother, and spitefully accused him of having, as a boy,
made use of that which belonged only to girls. The father
embraced them both, and bestowing his kisses and affection
impartially on each, said, "I wish you both would look into the
mirror every day: you, my son, that you may not spoil your beauty
by evil conduct; and you, my daughter, that you may make up for
your lack of beauty by your virtues."
The Wasps, the Partridges, and the Farmer
THE WASPS and the Partridges, overcome with thirst, came to a
Farmer and besought him to give them some water to drink. They
promised amply to repay him the favor which they asked. The
Partridges declared that they would dig around his vines and make
them produce finer grapes. The Wasps said that they would keep
guard and drive off thieves with their stings. But the Farmer
interrupted them, saying: "I have already two oxen, who, without
making any promises, do all these things. It is surely better
for me to give the water to them than to you."
The Crow and Mercury
A CROW caught in a snare prayed to Apollo to release him, making
a vow to offer some frankincense at his shrine. But when rescued
from his danger, he forgot his promise. Shortly afterwards,
again caught in a snare, he passed by Apollo and made the same
promise to offer frankincense to Mercury. Mercury soon appeared
and said to him, "O thou most base fellow? how can I believe
thee, who hast disowned and wronged thy former patron?'
The North Wind and the Sun
THE NORTH WIND and the Sun disputed as to which was the most
powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who
could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind
first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener
his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him,
until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called
upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out
with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays
than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly
overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in
Persuasion is better than Force.
The Two Men Who Were Enemies
TWO MEN, deadly enemies to each other, were sailing in the same
vessel. Determined to keep as far apart as possible, the one
seated himself in the stem, and the other in the prow of the
ship. A violent storm arose, and with the vessel in great danger
of sinking, the one in the stern inquired of the pilot which of
the two ends of the ship would go down first. On his replying
that he supposed it would be the prow, the Man said, "Death would
not be grievous to me, if I could only see my Enemy die before
The Gamecocks and the Partridge
A MAN had two Gamecocks in his poultry-yard. One day by chance
he found a tame Partridge for sale. He purchased it and brought
it home to be reared with his Gamecocks. When the Partridge was
put into the poultry-yard, they struck at it and followed it
about, so that the Partridge became grievously troubled and
supposed that he was thus evilly treated because he was a
stranger. Not long afterwards he saw the Cocks fighting together
and not separating before one had well beaten the other. He then
said to himself, "I shall no longer distress myself at being
struck at by these Gamecocks, when I see that they cannot even
refrain from quarreling with each other."
The Quack Frog
A FROG once upon a time came forth from his home in the marsh and
proclaimed to all the beasts that he was a learned physician,
skilled in the use of drugs and able to heal all diseases. A Fox
asked him, "How can you pretend to prescribe for others, when you
are unable to heal your own lame gait and wrinkled skin?'
The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox
A LION, growing old, lay sick in his cave. All the beasts came
to visit their king, except the Fox. The Wolf therefore,
thinking that he had a capital opportunity, accused the Fox to
the Lion of not paying any respect to him who had the rule over
them all and of not coming to visit him. At that very moment the
Fox came in and heard these last words of the Wolf. The Lion
roaring out in a rage against him, the Fox sought an opportunity
to defend himself and said, "And who of all those who have come
to you have benefited you so much as I, who have traveled from
place to place in every direction, and have sought and learnt
from the physicians the means of healing you?' The Lion commanded
him immediately to tell him the cure, when he replied, "You must
flay a wolf alive and wrap his skin yet warm around you." The
Wolf was at once taken and flayed; whereon the Fox, turning to
him, said with a smile, "You should have moved your master not to
ill, but to good, will."
The Dog's House
IN THE WINTERTIME, a Dog curled up in as small a space as
possible on account of the cold, determined to make himself a
house. However when the summer returned again, he lay asleep
stretched at his full length and appeared to himself to be of a
great size. Now he considered that it would be neither an easy
nor a necessary work to make himself such a house as would
The Wolf and the Lion
ROAMING BY the mountainside at sundown, a Wolf saw his own shadow
become greatly extended and magnified, and he said to himself,
"Why should I, being of such an immense size and extending nearly
an acre in length, be afraid of the Lion? Ought I not to be
acknowledged as King of all the collected beasts?' While he was
indulging in these proud thoughts, a Lion fell upon him and
killed him. He exclaimed with a too late repentance, "Wretched
me! this overestimation of myself is the cause of my
The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat
THE BIRDS waged war with the Beasts, and each were by turns the
conquerors. A Bat, fearing the uncertain issues of the fight,
always fought on the side which he felt was the strongest. When
peace was proclaimed, his deceitful conduct was apparent to both
combatants. Therefore being condemned by each for his treachery,
he was driven forth from the light of day, and henceforth
concealed himself in dark hiding-places, flying always alone and
The Spendthrift and the Swallow
A YOUNG MAN, a great spendthrift, had run through all his
patrimony and had but one good cloak left. One day he happened
to see a Swallow, which had appeared before its season, skimming
along a pool and twittering gaily. He supposed that summer had
come, and went and sold his cloak. Not many days later, winter
set in again with renewed frost and cold. When he found the
unfortunate Swallow lifeless on the ground, he said, "Unhappy
bird! what have you done? By thus appearing before the springtime
you have not only killed yourself, but you have wrought my
The Fox and the Lion
A FOX saw a Lion confined in a cage, and standing near him,
bitterly reviled him. The Lion said to the Fox, "It is not thou
who revilest me; but this mischance which has befallen me."
The Owl and the Birds
AN OWL, in her wisdom, counseled the Birds that when the acorn
first began to sprout, to pull it all up out of the ground and
not allow it to grow. She said acorns would produce mistletoe,
from which an irremediable poison, the bird-
lime, would be extracted and by which they would be captured.
The Owl next advised them to pluck up the seed of the flax, which
men had sown, as it was a plant which boded no good to them.
And, lastly, the Owl, seeing an archer approach, predicted that
this man, being on foot, would contrive darts armed with feathers
which would fly faster than the wings of the Birds themselves.
The Birds gave no credence to these warning words, but considered
the Owl to be beside herself and said that she was mad. But
afterwards, finding her words were true, they wondered at her
knowledge and deemed her to be the wisest of birds. Hence it is
that when she appears they look to her as knowing all things,
while she no longer gives them advice, but in solitude laments
their past folly.
The Trumpeter Taken Prisoner
A TRUMPETER, bravely leading on the soldiers, was captured by the
enemy. He cried out to his captors, "Pray spare me, and do not
take my life without cause or without inquiry. I have not slain
a single man of your troop. I have no arms, and carry nothing
but this one brass trumpet." "That is the very reason for which
you should be put to death," they said; "for, while you do not
fight yourself, your trumpet stirs all the others to battle."
The Ass in the Lion's Skin
AN ASS, having put on the Lion's skin, roamed about in the forest
and amused himself by frightening all the foolish animals he met
in his wanderings. At last coming upon a Fox, he tried to
frighten him also, but the Fox no sooner heard the sound of his
voice than he exclaimed, "I might possibly have been frightened
myself, if I had not heard your bray."
The Sparrow and the Hare
A HARE pounced upon by an eagle sobbed very much and uttered
cries like a child. A Sparrow upbraided her and said, "Where now
is thy remarkable swiftness of foot? Why were your feet so slow?"
While the Sparrow was thus speaking, a hawk suddenly seized him
and killed him. The Hare was comforted in her death, and
expiring said, "Ah! you who so lately, when you supposed yourself
safe, exulted over my calamity, have now reason to deplore a
The Flea and the Ox
A FLEA thus questioned an Ox: "What ails you, that being so huge
and strong, you submit to the wrongs you receive from men and
slave for them day by day, while I, being so small a creature,
mercilessly feed on their flesh and drink their blood without
stint?' The Ox replied: "I do not wish to be ungrateful, for I am
loved and well cared for by men, and they often pat my head and
shoulders." "Woe's me!" said the flea; "this very patting which
you like, whenever it happens to me, brings with it my inevitable
The Goods and the Ills
ALL the Goods were once driven out by the Ills from that common
share which they each had in the affairs of mankind; for the Ills
by reason of their numbers had prevailed to possess the earth.
The Goods wafted themselves to heaven and asked for a righteous
vengeance on their persecutors. They entreated Jupiter that they
might no longer be associated with the Ills, as they had nothing
in common and could not live together, but were engaged in
unceasing warfare; and that an indissoluble law might be laid
down for their future protection. Jupiter granted their request
and decreed that henceforth the Ills should visit the earth in
company with each other, but that the Goods should one by one
enter the habitations of men. Hence it arises that Ills abound,
for they come not one by one, but in troops, and by no means
singly: while the Goods proceed from Jupiter, and are given, not
alike to all, but singly, and separately; and one by one to those
who are able to discern them.
The Dove and the Crow
A DOVE shut up in a cage was boasting of the large number of
young ones which she had hatched. A Crow hearing her, said: "My
good friend, cease from this unseasonable boasting. The larger
the number of your family, the greater your cause of sorrow, in
seeing them shut up in this prison-house."
Mercury and the Workmen
A WORKMAN, felling wood by the side of a river, let his axe drop
- by accident into a deep pool. Being thus deprived of the means
of his livelihood, he sat down on the bank and lamented his hard
fate. Mercury appeared and demanded the cause of his tears.
After he told him his misfortune, Mercury plunged into the
stream, and, bringing up a golden axe, inquired if that were the
one he had lost. On his saying that it was not his, Mercury
disappeared beneath the water a second time, returned with a
silver axe in his hand, and again asked the Workman if it were
his. When the Workman said it was not, he dived into the pool
for the third time and brought up the axe that had been lost.
The Workman claimed it and expressed his joy at its recovery.
Mercury, pleased with his honesty, gave him the golden and silver
axes in addition to his own. The Workman, on his return to his
house, related to his companions all that had happened. One of
them at once resolved to try and secure the same good fortune for
himself. He ran to the river and threw his axe on purpose into
the pool at the same place, and sat down on the bank to weep.
Mercury appeared to him just as he hoped he would; and having
learned the cause of his grief, plunged into the stream and
brought up a golden axe, inquiring if he had lost it. The
Workman seized it greedily, and declared that truly it was the
very same axe that he had lost. Mercury, displeased at his
knavery, not only took away the golden axe, but refused to
recover for him the axe he had thrown into the pool.
The Eagle and the Jackdaw
AN EAGLE, flying down from his perch on a lofty rock, seized upon
a lamb and carried him aloft in his talons. A Jackdaw, who
witnessed the capture of the lamb, was stirred with envy and
determined to emulate the strength and flight of the Eagle. He
flew around with a great whir of his wings and settled upon a
large ram, with the intention of carrying him off, but his claws
became entangled in the ram's fleece and he was not able to
release himself, although he fluttered with his feathers as much
as he could. The shepherd, seeing what had happened, ran up and
caught him. He at once clipped the Jackdaw's wings, and taking
him home at night, gave him to his children. On their saying,
"Father, what kind of bird is it?' he replied, "To my certain
knowledge he is a Daw; but he would like you to think an Eagle."
The Fox and the Crane
A FOX invited a Crane to supper and provided nothing for his
entertainment but some soup made of pulse, which was poured out
into a broad flat stone dish. The soup fell out of the long bill
of the Crane at every mouthful, and his vexation at not being
able to eat afforded the Fox much amusement. The Crane, in his
turn, asked the Fox to sup with him, and set before her a flagon
with a long narrow mouth, so that he could easily insert his neck
and enjoy its contents at his leisure. The Fox, unable even to
taste it, met with a fitting requital, after the fashion of her
Jupiter, Neptune, Minerva, and Momus
ACCORDING to an ancient legend, the first man was made by
Jupiter, the first bull by Neptune, and the first house by
Minerva. On the completion of their labors, a dispute arose as
to which had made the most perfect work. They agreed to appoint
Momus as judge, and to abide by his decision. Momus, however,
being very envious of the handicraft of each, found fault with
all. He first blamed the work of Neptune because he had not made
the horns of the bull below his eyes, so he might better see
where to strike. He then condemned the work of Jupiter, because
he had not placed the heart of man on the outside, that everyone
might read the thoughts of the evil disposed and take precautions
against the intended mischief. And, lastly, he inveighed against
Minerva because she had not contrived iron wheels in the
foundation of her house, so its inhabitants might more easily
remove if a neighbor proved unpleasant. Jupiter, indignant at
such inveterate faultfinding, drove him from his office of judge,
and expelled him from the mansions of Olympus.
The Eagle and the Fox
AN EAGLE and a Fox formed an intimate friendship and decided to
live near each other. The Eagle built her nest in the branches
of a tall tree, while the Fox crept into the underwood and there
produced her young. Not long after they had agreed upon this
plan, the Eagle, being in want of provision for her young ones,
swooped down while the Fox was out, seized upon one of the little
cubs, and feasted herself and her brood. The Fox on her return,
discovered what had happened, but was less grieved for the death
of her young than for her inability to avenge them. A just
retribution, however, quickly fell upon the Eagle. While
hovering near an altar, on which some villagers were sacrificing
a goat, she suddenly seized a piece of the flesh, and carried it,
along with a burning cinder, to her nest. A strong breeze soon
fanned the spark into a flame, and the eaglets, as yet unfledged
and helpless, were roasted in their nest and dropped down dead at
the bottom of the tree. There, in the sight of the Eagle, the
Fox gobbled them up.
The Man and the Satyr
A MAN and a Satyr once drank together in token of a bond of
alliance being formed between them. One very cold wintry day, as
they talked, the Man put his fingers to his mouth and blew on
them. When the Satyr asked the reason for this, he told him that
he did it to warm his hands because they were so cold. Later on
in the day they sat down to eat, and the food prepared was quite
scalding. The Man raised one of the dishes a little towards his
mouth and blew in it. When the Satyr again inquired the reason,
he said that he did it to cool the meat, which was too hot. "I
can no longer consider you as a friend," said the Satyr, "a
fellow who with the same breath blows hot and cold."
The Ass and His Purchaser
A MAN wished to purchase an Ass, and agreed with its owner that
he should try out the animal before he bought him. He took the
Ass home and put him in the straw-yard with his other Asses, upon
which the new animal left all the others and at once joined the
one that was most idle and the greatest eater of them all.
Seeing this, the man put a halter on him and led him back to his
owner. On being asked how, in so short a time, he could have
made a trial of him, he answered, "I do not need a trial; I know
that he will be just the same as the one he chose for his
A man is known by the company he keeps.
The Two Bags
EVERY MAN, according to an ancient legend, is born into the world
with two bags suspended from his neck all bag in front full of
his neighbors' faults, and a large bag behind filled with his own
faults. Hence it is that men are quick to see the faults of
others, and yet are often blind to their own failings.
The Stag at the Pool
A STAG overpowered by heat came to a spring to drink. Seeing his
own shadow reflected in the water, he greatly admired the size
and variety of his horns, but felt angry with himself for having
such slender and weak feet. While he was thus contemplating
himself, a Lion appeared at the pool and crouched to spring upon
him. The Stag immediately took to flight, and exerting his
utmost speed, as long as the plain was smooth and open kept
himself easily at a safe distance from the Lion. But entering a
wood he became entangled by his horns, and the Lion quickly came
up to him and caught him. When too late, he thus reproached
himself: "Woe is me! How I have deceived myself! These feet which
would have saved me I despised, and I gloried in these antlers
which have proved my destruction."
What is most truly valuable is often underrated.
The Jackdaw and the Fox
A HALF-FAMISHED JACKDAW seated himself on a fig-tree, which had
produced some fruit entirely out of season, and waited in the
hope that the figs would ripen. A Fox seeing him sitting so long
and learning the reason of his doing so, said to him, "You are
indeed, sir, sadly deceiving yourself; you are indulging a hope
strong enough to cheat you, but which will never reward you with
The Lark Burying Her Father
THE LARK (according to an ancient legend) was created before the
earth itself, and when her father died, as there was no earth,
she could find no place of burial for him. She let him lie
uninterred for five days, and on the sixth day, not knowing what
else to do, she buried him in her own head. Hence she obtained
her crest, which is popularly said to be her father's
Youth's first duty is reverence to parents.
The Gnat and the Bull
A GNAT settled on the horn of a Bull, and sat there a long time.
Just as he was about to fly off, he made a buzzing noise, and
inquired of the Bull if he would like him to go. The Bull
replied, "I did not know you had come, and I shall not miss you
when you go away."
Some men are of more consequence in their own eyes than in the
eyes of their neighbors.
The Bitch and Her Whelps
A BITCH, ready to whelp, earnestly begged a shepherd for a place
where she might litter. When her request was granted, she
besought permission to rear her puppies in the same spot. The
shepherd again consented. But at last the Bitch, protected by
the bodyguard of her Whelps, who had now grown up and were able
to defend themselves, asserted her exclusive right to the place
and would not permit the shepherd to approach.
The Dogs and the Hides
SOME DOGS famished with hunger saw a number of cowhides steeping
in a river. Not being able to reach them, they agreed to drink
up the river, but it happened that they burst themselves with
drinking long before they reached the hides.
Attempt not impossibilities.
The Shepherd and the Sheep
A SHEPHERD driving his Sheep to a wood, saw an oak of unusual
size full of acorns, and spreading his cloak under the branches,
he climbed up into the tree and shook them down. The Sheep
eating the acorns inadvertently frayed and tore the cloak. When
the Shepherd came down and saw what was done, he said, "O you
most ungrateful creatures! You provide wool to make garments for
all other men, but you destroy the clothes of him who feeds you."
The Grasshopper and the Owl
AN OWL, accustomed to feed at night and to sleep during the day,
was greatly disturbed by the noise of a Grasshopper and earnestly
besought her to stop chirping. The Grasshopper refused to
desist, and chirped louder and louder the more the Owl entreated.
When she saw that she could get no redress and that her words
were despised, the Owl attacked the chatterer by a stratagem.
"Since I cannot sleep," she said, "on account of your song which,
believe me, is sweet as the lyre of Apollo, I shall indulge
myself in drinking some nectar which Pallas lately gave me. If
you do not dislike it, come to me and we will drink it together."
The Grasshopper, who was thirsty, and pleased with the praise of
her voice, eagerly flew up. The Owl came forth from her hollow,
seized her, and put her to death.
The Monkey and the Camel
THE BEASTS of the forest gave a splendid entertainment at which
the Monkey stood up and danced. Having vastly delighted the
assembly, he sat down amidst universal applause. The Camel,
envious of the praises bestowed on the Monkey and desiring to
divert to himself the favor of the guests, proposed to stand up
in his turn and dance for their amusement. He moved about in so
utterly ridiculous a manner that the Beasts, in a fit of
indignation, set upon him with clubs and drove him out of the
It is absurd to ape our betters.
The Peasant and the Apple-Tree
A PEASANT had in his garden an Apple-Tree which bore no fruit but
only served as a harbor for the sparrows and grasshoppers. He
resolved to cut it down, and taking his axe in his hand, made a
bold stroke at its roots. The grasshoppers and sparrows
entreated him not to cut down the tree that sheltered them, but
to spare it, and they would sing to him and lighten his labors.
He paid no attention to their request, but gave the tree a second
and a third blow with his axe. When he reached the hollow of the
tree, he found a hive full of honey. Having tasted the
honeycomb, he threw down his axe, and looking on the tree as
sacred, took great care of it.
Self-interest alone moves some men.
The Two Soldiers and the Robber
TWO SOLDIERS traveling together were set upon by a Robber. The
one fled away; the other stood his ground and defended himself
with his stout right hand. The Robber being slain, the timid
companion ran up and drew his sword, and then, throwing back his
traveling cloak said, "I'll at him, and I'll take care he shall
learn whom he has attacked." On this, he who had fought with the
Robber made answer, "I only wish that you had helped me just now,
even if it had been only with those words, for I should have been
the more encouraged, believing them to be true; but now put up
your sword in its sheath and hold your equally useless tongue,
till you can deceive others who do not know you. I, indeed, who
have experienced with what speed you run away, know right well
that no dependence can be placed on your valor."
The Trees Under the Protection of the Gods
THE GODS, according to an ancient legend, made choice of certain
trees to be under their special protection. Jupiter chose the
oak, Venus the myrtle, Apollo the laurel, Cybele the pine, and
Hercules the poplar. Minerva, wondering why they had preferred
trees not yielding fruit, inquired the reason for their choice.
Jupiter replied, "It is lest we should seem to covet the honor
for the fruit." But said Minerva, "Let anyone say what he will
the olive is more dear to me on account of its fruit." Then said
Jupiter, "My daughter, you are rightly called wise; for unless
what we do is useful, the glory of it is vain."
The Mother and the Wolf
A FAMISHED WOLF was prowling about in the morning in search of
food. As he passed the door of a cottage built in the forest, he
heard a Mother say to her child, "Be quiet, or I will throw you
out of the window, and the Wolf shall eat you." The Wolf sat all
day waiting at the door. In the evening he heard the same woman
fondling her child and saying: "You are quiet now, and if the
Wolf should come, we will kill him." The Wolf, hearing these
words, went home, gasping with cold and hunger. When he reached
his den, Mistress Wolf inquired of him why he returned wearied
and supperless, so contrary to his wont. He replied: "Why,
use I gave credence to the words of a woman!"
The Ass and the Horse
AN ASS besought a Horse to spare him a small portion of his feed.
"Yes," said the Horse; "if any remains out of what I am now
eating I will give it you for the sake of my own superior
dignity, and if you will come when I reach my own stall in the
evening, I will give you a little sack full of barley." The Ass
replied, "Thank you. But I can't think that you, who refuse me a
little matter now. will by and by confer on me a greater
Truth and the Traveler
A WAYFARING MAN, traveling in the desert, met a woman standing
alone and terribly dejected. He inquired of her, "Who art thou?"
"My name is Truth," she replied. "And for what cause," he asked,
"have you left the city to dwell alone here in the wilderness?"
She made answer, "Because in former times, falsehood was with
few, but is now with all men."
A MAN committed a murder, and was pursued by the relations of the
man whom he murdered. On his reaching the river Nile he saw a
Lion on its bank and being fearfully afraid, climbed up a tree.
He found a serpent in the upper branches of the tree, and again
being greatly alarmed, he threw himself into the river, where a
crocodile caught him and ate him. Thus the earth, the air, and
the water alike refused shelter to a murderer.
The Lion and the Fox
A FOX entered into partnership with a Lion on the pretense of
becoming his servant. Each undertook his proper duty in
accordance with his own nature and powers. The Fox discovered
and pointed out the prey; the Lion sprang on it and seized it.
The Fox soon became jealous of the Lion carrying off the Lion's
share, and said that he would no longer find out the prey, but
would capture it on his own account. The next day he attempted
to snatch a lamb from the fold, but he himself fell prey to the
huntsmen and hounds.
The Lion and the Eagle
AN EAGLE stayed his flight and entreated a Lion to make an
alliance with him to their mutual advantage. The Lion replied,
"I have no objection, but you must excuse me for requiring you to
find surety for your good faith, for how can I trust anyone as a
friend who is able to fly away from his bargain whenever he
Try before you trust.
The Hen and the Swallow
A HEN finding the eggs of a viper and carefully keeping them
warm, nourished them into life. A Swallow, observing what she
had done, said, "You silly creature! why have you hatched these
vipers which, when they shall have grown, will inflict injury on
all, beginning with yourself?'
The Buffoon and the Countryman
A RICH NOBLEMAN once opened the theaters without charge to the
people, and gave a public notice that he would handsomely reward
any person who invented a new amusement for the occasion.
Various public performers contended for the prize. Among them
came a Buffoon well known among the populace for his jokes, and
said that he had a kind of entertainment which had never been
brought out on any stage before. This report being spread about
made a great stir, and the theater was crowded in every part.
The Buffoon appeared alone upon the platform, without any
apparatus or confederates, and the very sense of expectation
caused an intense silence. He suddenly bent his head towards his
bosom and imitated the squeaking of a little pig so admirably
with his voice that the audience declared he had a porker under
his cloak, and demanded that it should be shaken out. When that
was done and nothing was found, they cheered the actor, and
loaded him with the loudest applause. A Countryman in the crowd,
observing all that has passed, said, "So help me, Hercules, he
shall not beat me at that trick!" and at once proclaimed that he
would do the same thing on the next day, though in a much more
natural way. On the morrow a still larger crowd assembled in the
theater, but now partiality for their favorite actor very
generally prevailed, and the audience came rather to ridicule the
Countryman than to see the spectacle. Both of the performers
appeared on the stage. The Buffoon grunted and squeaked away
first, and obtained, as on the preceding day, the applause and
cheers of the spectators. Next the Countryman commenced, and
pretending that he concealed a little pig beneath his clothes
(which in truth he did, but not suspected by the audience )
contrived to take hold of and to pull his ear causing the pig to
squeak. The Crowd, however, cried out with one consent that the
Buffoon had given a far more exact imitation, and clamored for
the Countryman to be kicked out of the theater. On this the
rustic produced the little pig from his cloak and showed by the
most positive proof the greatness of their mistake. "Look here,"
he said, "this shows what sort of judges you are."
The Crow and the Serpent
A CROW in great want of food saw a Serpent asleep in a sunny
nook, and flying down, greedily seized him. The Serpent, turning
about, bit the Crow with a mortal wound. In the agony of death,
the bird exclaimed: "O unhappy me! who have found in that which I
deemed a happy windfall the source of my destruction."
The Hunter and the Horseman
A CERTAIN HUNTER, having snared a hare, placed it upon his
shoulders and set out homewards. On his way he met a man on
horseback who begged the hare of him, under the pretense of
purchasing it. However, when the Horseman got the hare, he rode
off as fast as he could. The Hunter ran after him, as if he was
sure of overtaking him, but the Horseman increased more and more
the distance between them. The Hunter, sorely against his will,
called out to him and said, "Get along with you! for I will now
make you a present of the hare."
The King's Son and the Painted Lion
A KING, whose only son was fond of martial exercises, had a dream
in which he was warned that his son would be killed by a lion.
Afraid the dream should prove true, he built for his son a
pleasant palace and adorned its walls for his amusement with all
kinds of life-sized animals, among which was the picture of a
lion. When the young Prince saw this, his grief at being thus
confined burst out afresh, and, standing near the lion, he said:
"O you most detestable of animals! through a lying dream of my
father's, which he saw in his sleep, I am shut up on your account
in this palace as if I had been a girl: what shall I now do to
you?' With these words he stretched out his hands toward a
thorn-tree, meaning to cut a stick from its branches so that he
might beat the lion. But one of the tree's prickles pierced his
finger and caused great pain and inflammation, so that the young
Prince fell down in a fainting fit. A violent fever suddenly set
in, from which he died not many days later.
We had better bear our troubles bravely than try to escape them.
The Cat and Venus
A CAT fell in love with a handsome young man, and entreated Venus
to change her into the form of a woman. Venus consented to her
request and transformed her into a beautiful damsel, so that the
youth saw her and loved her, and took her home as his bride.
While the two were reclining in their chamber, Venus wishing to
discover if the Cat in her change of shape had also altered her
habits of life, let down a mouse in the middle of the room. The
Cat, quite forgetting her present condition, started up from the
couch and pursued the mouse, wishing to eat it. Venus was much
disappointed and again caused her to return to her former shape.
Nature exceeds nurture.
The She-Goats and Their Beards
THE SHE-GOATS having obtained a beard by request to Jupiter, the
He-Goats were sorely displeased and made complaint that the
females equaled them in dignity. "Allow them," said Jupiter, "to
enjoy an empty honor and to assume the badge of your nobler sex,
so long as they are not your equals in strength or courage."
It matters little if those who are inferior to us in merit should
be like us in outside appearances.
The Camel and the Arab
AN ARAB CAMEL-DRIVER, after completing the loading of his Camel,
asked him which he would like best, to go up hill or down. The
poor beast replied, not without a touch of reason: "Why do you
ask me? Is it that the level way through the desert is closed?"
The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass
A MILLER and his son were driving their Ass to a neighboring fair
to sell him. They had not gone far when they met with a troop of
women collected round a well, talking and laughing. "Look
there," cried one of them, "did you ever see such fellows, to be
trudging along the road on foot when they might ride?' The old
man hearing this, quickly made his son mount the Ass, and
continued to walk along merrily by his side. Presently they came
up to a group of old men in earnest debate. "There," said one of
them, "it proves what I was a-saying. What respect is shown to
old age in these days? Do you see that idle lad riding while his
old father has to walk? Get down, you young scapegrace, and let
the old man rest his weary limbs." Upon this the old man made his
son dismount, and got up himself. In this manner they had not
proceeded far when they met a company of women and children:
"Why, you lazy old fellow," cried several tongues at once, "how
can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little lad there can
hardly keep pace by the side of you?' The good-natured Miller
immediately took up his son behind him. They had now almost
reached the town. "Pray, honest friend," said a citizen, "is
that Ass your own?' "Yes," replied the old man. "O, one would
not have thought so," said the other, "by the way you load him.
Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than
he you." "Anything to please you," said the old man; "we can but
try." So, alighting with his son, they tied the legs of the Ass
together and with the help of a pole endeavored to carry him on
their shoulders over a bridge near the entrance to the town.
This entertaining sight brought the people in crowds to laugh at
it, till the Ass, not liking the noise nor the strange handling
that he was subject to, broke the cords that bound him and,
tumbling off the pole, fell into the river. Upon this, the old
man, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again,
convinced that by endeavoring to please everybody he had pleased
nobody, and lost his Ass in the bargain.
The Crow and the Sheep
A TROUBLESOME CROW seated herself on the back of a Sheep. The
Sheep, much against his will, carried her backward and forward
for a long time, and at last said, "If you had treated a dog in
this way, you would have had your deserts from his sharp teeth."
To this the Crow replied, "I despise the weak and yield to the
strong. I know whom I may bully and whom I must flatter; and I
thus prolong my life to a good old age."
The Fox and the Bramble
A FOX was mounting a hedge when he lost his footing and caught
hold of a Bramble to save himself. Having pricked and grievously
tom the soles of his feet, he accused the Bramble because, when
he had fled to her for assistance, she had used him worse than
the hedge itself. The Bramble, interrupting him, said, "But you
really must have been out of your senses to fasten yourself on
me, who am myself always accustomed to fasten upon others."
The Wolf and the Lion
A WOLF, having stolen a lamb from a fold, was carrying him off to
his lair. A Lion met him in the path, and seizing the lamb, took
it from him. Standing at a safe distance, the Wolf exclaimed,
"You have unrighteously taken that which was mine from me!" To
which the Lion jeeringly replied, "It was righteously yours, eh?
The gift of a friend?'
The Dog and the Oyster
A DOG, used to eating eggs, saw an Oyster and, opening his mouth
to its widest extent, swallowed it down with the utmost relish,
supposing it to be an egg. Soon afterwards suffering great pain
in his stomach, he said, "I deserve all this torment, for my
folly in thinking that everything round must be an egg."
They who act without sufficient thought, will often fall into
The Ant and the Dove
AN ANT went to the bank of a river to quench its thirst, and
being carried away by the rush of the stream, was on the point of
drowning. A Dove sitting on a tree overhanging the water plucked
a leaf and let it fall into the stream close to her. The Ant
climbed onto it and floated in safety to the bank. Shortly
afterwards a birdcatcher came and stood under the tree, and laid
his lime-twigs for the Dove, which sat in the branches. The Ant,
perceiving his design, stung him in the foot. In pain the
birdcatcher threw down the twigs, and the noise made the Dove
The Partridge and the Fowler
A FOWLER caught a Partridge and was about to kill it. The
Partridge earnestly begged him to spare his life, saying, "Pray,
master, permit me to live and I will entice many Partridges to
you in recompense for your mercy to me." The Fowler replied, "I
shall now with less scruple take your life, because you are
willing to save it at the cost of betraying your friends and
The Flea and the Man
A MAN, very much annoyed with a Flea, caught him at last, and
said, "Who are you who dare to feed on my limbs, and to cost me
so much trouble in catching you?' The Flea replied, "O my dear
sir, pray spare my life, and destroy me not, for I cannot
possibly do you much harm." The Man, laughing, replied, "Now you
shall certainly die by mine own hands, for no evil, whether it be
small or large, ought to be tolerated."
The Thieves and the Cock
SOME THIEVES broke into a house and found nothing but a Cock,
whom they stole, and got off as fast as they could. Upon
arriving at home they prepared to kill the Cock, who thus pleaded
for his life: "Pray spare me; I am very serviceable to men. I
wake them up in the night to their work." "That is the very
reason why we must the more kill you," they replied; "for when
you wake your neighbors, you entirely put an end to our
The safeguards of virtue are hateful to those with evil
The Dog and the Cook
A RICH MAN gave a great feast, to which he invited many friends
and acquaintances. His Dog availed himself of the occasion to
invite a stranger Dog, a friend of his, saying, "My master gives
a feast, and there is always much food remaining; come and sup
with me tonight." The Dog thus invited went at the hour
appointed, and seeing the preparations for so grand an
entertainment, said in the joy of his heart, "How glad I am that
I came! I do not often get such a chance as this. I will take
care and eat enough to last me both today and tomorrow." While he
was congratulating himself and wagging his tail to convey his
pleasure to his friend, the Cook saw him moving about among his
dishes and, seizing him by his fore and hind paws, bundled him
without ceremony out of the window. He fell with force upon the
ground and limped away, howling dreadfully. His yelling soon
attracted other street dogs, who came up to him and inquired how
he had enjoyed his supper. He replied, "Why, to tell you the
truth, I drank so much wine that I remember nothing. I do not
know how I got out of the house."
The Travelers and the Plane-Tree
TWO TRAVELERS, worn out by the heat of the summer's sun, laid
themselves down at noon under the widespreading branches of a
Plane-Tree. As they rested under its shade, one of the Travelers
said to the other, "What a singularly useless tree is the Plane!
It bears no fruit, and is not of the least service to man." The
Plane-Tree, interrupting him, said, "You ungrateful fellows! Do
you, while receiving benefits from me and resting under my shade,
dare to describe me as useless, and unprofitable?'
Some men underrate their best blessings.
The Hares and the Frogs
THE HARES, oppressed by their own exceeding timidity and weary of
the perpetual alarm to which they were exposed, with one accord
determined to put an end to themselves and their troubles by
jumping from a lofty precipice into a deep lake below. As they
scampered off in large numbers to carry out their resolve, the
Frogs lying on the banks of the lake heard the noise of their
feet and rushed helter-skelter to the deep water for safety. On
seeing the rapid disappearance of the Frogs, one of the Hares
cried out to his companions: "Stay, my friends, do not do as you
intended; for you now see that there are creatures who are still
more timid than ourselves."
The Lion, Jupiter, and the Elephant
THE LION wearied Jupiter with his frequent complaints. "It is
true, O Jupiter!" he said, "that I am gigantic in strength,
handsome in shape, and powerful in attack. I have jaws well
provided with teeth, and feet furnished with claws, and I lord it
over all the beasts of the forest, and what a disgrace it is,
that being such as I am, I should be frightened by the crowing of
a cock." Jupiter replied, "Why do you blame me without a cause? I
have given you all the attributes which I possess myself, and
your courage never fails you except in this one instance." On
hearing this the Lion groaned and lamented very much and,
reproaching himself with his cowardice, wished that he might die.
As these thoughts passed through his mind, he met an Elephant and
came close to hold a conversation with him. After a time he
observed that the Elephant shook his ears very often, and he
inquired what was the matter and why his ears moved with such a
tremor every now and then. Just at that moment a Gnat settled on
the head of the Elephant, and he replied, "Do you see that little
buzzing insect? If it enters my ear, my fate is sealed. I should
die presently." The Lion said, "Well, since so huge a beast is
afraid of a tiny gnat, I will no more complain, nor wish myself
dead. I find myself, even as I am, better off than the
The Lamb and the Wolf
A WOLF pursued a Lamb, which fled for refuge to a certain Temple.
The Wolf called out to him and said, "The Priest will slay you in
sacrifice, if he should catch you." On which the Lamb replied,
"It would be better for me to be sacrificed in the Temple than to
be eaten by you."
The Rich Man and the Tanner
A RICH MAN lived near a Tanner, and not being able to bear the
unpleasant smell of the tan-yard, he pressed his neighbor to go
away. The Tanner put off his departure from time to time, saying
that he would leave soon. But as he still continued to stay, as
time went on, the rich man became accustomed to the smell, and
feeling no manner of inconvenience, made no further complaints.
The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea
A SHIPWRECKED MAN, having been cast upon a certain shore, slept
after his buffetings with the deep. After a while he awoke, and
looking upon the Sea, loaded it with reproaches. He argued that
it enticed men with the calmness of its looks, but when it had
induced them to plow its waters, it grew rough and destroyed
them. The Sea, assuming the form of a woman, replied to him:
"Blame not me, my good sir, but the winds, for I am by my own
nature as calm and firm even as this earth; but the winds
suddenly falling on me create these waves, and lash me into
The Mules and the Robbers
TWO MULES well-laden with packs were trudging along. One carried
panniers filled with money, the other sacks weighted with grain.
The Mule carrying the treasure walked with head erect, as if
conscious of the value of his burden, and tossed up and down the
clear-toned bells fastened to his neck. His companion followed
with quiet and easy step. All of a sudden Robbers rushed upon
them from their hiding-places, and in the scuffle with their
owners, wounded with a sword the Mule carrying the treasure,
which they greedily seized while taking no notice of the grain.
The Mule which had been robbed and wounded bewailed his
misfortunes. The other replied, "I am indeed glad that I was
thought so little of, for I have lost nothing, nor am I hurt with
The Viper and the File
A LION, entering the workshop of a smith, sought from the tools
the means of satisfying his hunger. He more particularly
addressed himself to a File, and asked of him the favor of a
meal. The File replied, "You must indeed be a simple-minded
fellow if you expect to get anything from me, who am accustomed
to take from everyone, and never to give anything in return."
The Lion and the Shepherd
A LION, roaming through a forest, trod upon a thorn. Soon
afterward he came up to a Shepherd and fawned upon him, wagging
his tail as if to say, "I am a suppliant, and seek your aid." The
Shepherd boldly examined the beast, discovered the thorn, and
placing his paw upon his lap, pulled it out; thus relieved of his
pain, the Lion returned into the forest. Some time after, the
Shepherd, being imprisoned on a false accusation, was condemned
"to be cast to the Lions" as the punishment for his imputed
crime. But when the Lion was released from his cage, he
recognized the Shepherd as the man who healed him, and instead of
attacking him, approached and placed his foot upon his lap. The
King, as soon as he heard the tale, ordered the Lion to be set
free again in the forest, and the Shepherd to be pardoned and
restored to his friends.
The Camel and Jupiter
THE CAMEL, when he saw the Bull adorned with horns, envied him
and wished that he himself could obtain the same honors. He went
to Jupiter, and besought him to give him horns. Jupiter, vexed
at his request because he was not satisfied with his size and
strength of body, and desired yet more, not only refused to give
him horns, but even deprived him of a portion of his ears.
The Panther and the Shepherds
A PANTHER, by some mischance, fell into a pit. The Shepherds
discovered him, and some threw sticks at him and pelted him with
stones, while others, moved with compassion towards one about to
die even though no one should hurt him, threw in some food to
prolong his life. At night they returned home, not dreaming of
any danger, but supposing that on the morrow they would find him
dead. The Panther, however, when he had recruited his feeble
strength, freed himself with a sudden bound from the pit, and
hastened to his den with rapid steps. After a few days he came
forth and slaughtered the cattle, and, killing the Shepherds who
had attacked him, raged with angry fury. Then they who had
spared his life, fearing for their safety, surrendered to him
their flocks and begged only for their lives. To them the
Panther made this reply: "I remember alike those who sought my
life with stones, and those who gave me food
aside, therefore, your fears. I return as an enemy only to those
who injured me."
The Ass and the Charger
AN ASS congratulated a Horse on being so ungrudgingly and
carefully provided for, while he himself had scarcely enough to
eat and not even that without hard work. But when war broke out,
a heavily armed soldier mounted the Horse, and riding him to the
charge, rushed into the very midst of the enemy. The Horse was
wounded and fell dead on the battlefield. Then the Ass, seeing
all these things, changed his mind, and commiserated the Horse.
The Eagle and His Captor
AN EAGLE was once captured by a man, who immediately clipped his
wings and put him into his poultry-yard with the other birds, at
which treatment the Eagle was weighed down with grief. Later,
another neighbor purchased him and allowed his feathers to grow
again. The Eagle took flight, and pouncing upon a hare, brought
it at once as an offering to his benefactor. A Fox, seeing this,
exclaimed, "Do not cultivate the favor of this man, but of your
former owner, lest he should again hunt for you and deprive you a
second time of your wings."
The Bald Man and the Fly
A FLY bit the bare head of a Bald Man who, endeavoring to destroy
it, gave himself a heavy slap. Escaping, the Fly said mockingly,
"You who have wished to revenge, even with death, the Prick of a
tiny insect, see what you have done to yourself to add insult to
injury?' The Bald Man replied, "I can easily make peace with
myself, because I know there was no intention to hurt. But you,
an ill-favored and contemptible insect who delights in sucking
human blood, I wish that I could have killed you even if I had
incurred a heavier penalty."
The Olive-Tree and the Fig-Tree
THE OLIVE-TREE ridiculed the Fig-Tree because, while she was
green all the year round, the Fig-Tree changed its leaves with
the seasons. A shower of snow fell upon them, and, finding the
Olive full of foliage, it settled upon its branches and broke
them down with its weight, at once despoiling it of its beauty
and killing the tree. But finding the Fig-Tree denuded of
leaves, the snow fell through to the ground, and did not injure
it at all.
The Eagle and the Kite
AN EAGLE, overwhelmed with sorrow, sat upon the branches of a
tree in company with a Kite. "Why," said the Kite, "do I see you
with such a rueful look?' "I seek," she replied, "a mate suitable
for me, and am not able to find one." "Take me," returned the
Kite, "I am much stronger than you are." "Why, are you able to
secure the means of living by your plunder?' "Well, I have often
caught and carried away an ostrich in my talons." The Eagle,
persuaded by these words, accepted him as her mate. Shortly
after the nuptials, the Eagle said, "Fly off and bring me back
the ostrich you promised me." The Kite, soaring aloft into the
air, brought back the shabbiest possible mouse, stinking from the
length of time it had lain about the fields. "Is this," said the
Eagle, "the faithful fulfillment of your promise to me?' The Kite
replied, "That I might attain your royal hand, there is nothing
that I would not have promised, however much I knew that I must
fail in the performance."
The Ass and His Driver
AN ASS, being driven along a high road, suddenly started off and
bolted to the brink of a deep precipice. While he was in the act
of throwing himself over, his owner seized him by the tail,
endeavoring to pull him back. When the Ass persisted in his
effort, the man let him go and said, "Conquer, but conquer to
The Thrush and the Fowler
A THRUSH was feeding on a myrtle-tree and did not move from it
because its berries were so delicious. A Fowler observed her
staying so long in one spot, and having well bird-limed his
reeds, caught her. The Thrush, being at the point of death,
exclaimed, "O foolish creature that I am! For the sake of a
little pleasant food I have deprived myself of my life."
The Rose and the Amaranth
AN AMARANTH planted in a garden near a Rose-Tree, thus addressed
it: "What a lovely flower is the Rose, a favorite alike with Gods
and with men. I envy you your beauty and your perfume." The Rose
replied, "I indeed, dear Amaranth, flourish but for a brief
season! If no cruel hand pluck me from my stem, yet I must perish
by an early doom. But thou art immortal and dost never fade, but
bloomest for ever in renewed youth."
The Frogs' Complaint Against the Sun
ONCE UPON A TIME, when the Sun announced his intention to take a
wife, the Frogs lifted up their voices in clamor to the sky.
Jupiter, disturbed by the noise of their croaking, inquired the
cause of their complaint. One of them said, "The Sun, now while
he is single, parches up the marsh, and compels us to die
miserably in our arid homes. What will be our future condition
if he should beget other suns?'
LIFE OF AESOP
THE LIFE and History of Aesop is involved, like that of Homer,
the most famous of Greek poets, in much obscurity. Sardis, the
capital of Lydia; Samos, a Greek island; Mesembria, an ancient
colony in Thrace; and Cotiaeum, the chief city of a province of
Phrygia, contend for the distinction of being the birthplace of
Aesop. Although the honor thus claimed cannot be definitely
assigned to any one of these places, yet there are a few
incidents now generally accepted by scholars as established
facts, relating to the birth, life, and death of Aesop. He is,
by an almost universal consent, allowed to have been born about
the year 620 B.C., and to have been by birth a slave. He was
owned by two masters in succession, both inhabitants of Samos,
Xanthus and Jadmon, the latter of whom gave him his liberty as a
reward for his learning and wit. One of the privileges of a
freedman in the ancient republics of Greece, was the permission
to take an active interest in public affairs; and Aesop, like the
philosophers Phaedo, Menippus, and Epictetus, in later times,
raised himself from the indignity of a servile condition to a
position of high renown. In his desire alike to instruct and to
be instructed, he travelled through many countries, and among
others came to Sardis, the capital of the famous king of Lydia,
the great patron, in that day, of learning and of learned men.
He met at the court of Croesus with Solon, Thales, and other
sages, and is related so to have pleased his royal master, by the
part he took in the conversations held with these philosophers,
that he applied to him an expression which has since passed into
a proverb, "The Phrygian has spoken better than all."
On the invitation of Croesus he fixed his residence at Sardis,
and was employed by that monarch in various difficult and
delicate affairs of State. In his discharge of these commissions
he visited the different petty republics of Greece. At one time
he is found in Corinth, and at another in Athens, endeavouring,
by the narration of some of his wise fables, to reconcile the
inhabitants of those cities to the administration of their
respective rulers Periander and Pisistratus. One of these
ambassadorial missions, undertaken at the command of Croesus, was
the occasion of his death. Having been sent to Delphi with a
large sum of gold for distribution among the citizens, he was so
provoked at their covetousness that he refused to divide the
money, and sent it back to his master. The Delphians, enraged at
this treatment, accused him of impiety, and, in spite of his
sacred character as ambassador, executed him as a public
criminal. This cruel death of Aesop was not unavenged. The
citizens of Delphi were visited with a series of calamities,
until they made a public reparation of their crime; and, "The
blood of Aesop" became a well-
known adage, bearing witness to the truth that deeds of wrong
would not pass unpunished. Neither did the great fabulist lack
posthumous honors; for a statue was erected to his memory at
Athens, the work of Lysippus, one of the most famous of Greek
sculptors. Phaedrus thus immortalizes the event:
Aesopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici,
Servumque collocarunt aeterna in basi:
Patere honoris scirent ut cuncti viam;
Nec generi tribui sed virtuti gloriam.
These few facts are all that can be relied on with any degree of
certainty, in reference to the birth, life, and death of Aesop.
They were first brought to light, after a patient search and
diligent perusal of ancient authors, by a Frenchman, M. Claude
Gaspard Bachet de Mezeriac, who declined the honor of being
tutor to Louis XIII of France, from his desire to devote himself
exclusively to literature. He published his Life of Aesop, Anno
Domini 1632. The later investigations of a host of English and
German scholars have added very little to the facts given by M.
Mezeriac. The substantial truth of his statements has been
confirmed by later criticism and inquiry. It remains to state,
that prior to this publication of M. Mezeriac, the life of Aesop
was from the pen of Maximus Planudes, a monk of Constantinople,
who was sent on an embassy to Venice by the Byzantine Emperor
Andronicus the elder, and who wrote in the early part of the
fourteenth century. His life was prefixed to all the early
editions of these fables, and was republished as late as 1727 by
Archdeacon Croxall as the introduction to his edition of Aesop.
This life by Planudes contains, however, so small an amount of
truth, and is so full of absurd pictures of the grotesque
deformity of Aesop, of wondrous apocryphal stories, of lying
legends, and gross anachronisms, that it is now universally
condemned as false, puerile, and unauthentic. l It is given up
in the present day, by general consent, as unworthy of the
1 M. Bayle thus characterises this Life of Aesop by Planudes,
"Tous les habiles gens conviennent que c'est un roman, et que les
absurdites grossieres qui l'on y trouve le rendent indigne de
Dictionnaire Historique. Art. Esope.
THE TALE, the Parable, and the Fable are all common and popular
modes of conveying instruction. Each is distinguished by its own
special characteristics. The Tale consists simply in the
narration of a story either founded on facts, or created solely
by the imagination, and not necessarily associated with the
teaching of any moral lesson. The Parable is the designed use of
language purposely intended to convey a hidden and secret
meaning other than that contained in the words themselves; and
which may or may not bear a special reference to the hearer, or
reader. The Fable partly agrees with, and partly differs from
both of these. It will contain, like the Tale, a short but real
narrative; it will seek, like the Parable, to convey a hidden
meaning, and that not so much by the use of language, as by the
skilful introduction of fictitious characters; and yet unlike to
either Tale or Parable, it will ever keep in view, as its high
prerogative, and inseparable attribute, the great purpose of
instruction, and will necessarily seek to inculcate some moral
maxim, social duty, or political truth. The true Fable, if it
rise to its high requirements, ever aims at one great end and
purpose representation of human motive, and the improvement of
human conduct, and yet it so conceals its design under the
disguise of fictitious characters, by clothing with speech the
animals of the field, the birds of the air, the trees of the
wood, or the beasts of the forest, that the reader shall receive
advice without perceiving the presence of the adviser. Thus the
superiority of the counsellor, which often renders counsel
unpalatable, is kept out of view, and the lesson comes with the
greater acceptance when the reader is led, unconsciously to
himself, to have his sympathies enlisted in behalf of what is
pure, honorable, and praiseworthy, and to have his indignation
excited against what is low, ignoble, and unworthy. The true
fabulist, therefore, discharges a most important function. He is
neither a narrator, nor an allegorist. He is a great teacher, a
corrector of morals, a censor of vice, and a commender of virtue.
In this consists the superiority of the Fable over the Tale or
the Parable. The fabulist is to create a laugh, but yet, under a
merry guise, to convey instruction. Phaedrus, the great imitator
of Aesop, plainly indicates this double purpose to be the true
office of the writer of fables.
Duplex libelli dos est: quod risum movet,
Et quod prudenti vitam consilio monet.
The continual observance of this twofold aim creates the charm,
and accounts for the universal favor, of the fables of Aesop.
"The fable," says Professor K. O. Mueller, "originated in Greece
in an intentional travestie of human affairs. The 'ainos,' as
its name denotes, is an admonition, or rather a reproof veiled,
either from fear of an excess of frankness, or from a love of fun
and jest, beneath the fiction of an occurrence happening among
beasts; and wherever we have any ancient and authentic account of
the Aesopian fables, we find it to be the same." l
The construction of a fable involves a minute attention to (1)
the narration itself; (2) the deduction of the moral; and (3) a
careful maintenance of the individual characteristics of the
fictitious personages introduced into it. The narration should
relate to one simple action, consistent with itself, and neither
be overladen with a multiplicity of details, nor distracted by a
variety of circumstances. The moral or lesson should be so
plain, and so intimately interwoven with, and so necessarily
dependent on, the narration, that every reader should be
compelled to give to it the same undeniable interpretation. The
introduction of the animals or fictitious characters should be
marked with an unexceptionable care and attention to their
natural attributes, and to the qualities attributed to them by
universal popular consent. The Fox should be always cunning, the
Hare timid, the Lion bold, the Wolf cruel, the Bull strong, the
Horse proud, and the Ass patient. Many of these fables are
characterized by the strictest observance of these rules. They
are occupied with one short narrative, from which the moral
naturally flows, and with which it is intimately associated.
"'Tis the simple manner," says Dodsley, 2 "in which the morals of
Aesop are interwoven with his fables that distinguishes him, and
gives him the preference over all other mythologists. His
'Mountain delivered of a Mouse,' produces the moral of his fable
in ridicule of pompous pretenders; and his Crow, when she drops
her cheese, lets fall, as it were by accident, the strongest
admonition against the power of flattery. There is no need of a
separate sentence to explain it; no possibility of impressing it
deeper, by that load we too often see of accumulated
reflections." 3 An equal amount of praise is due for the
consistency with which the characters of the animals,
fictitiously introduced, are marked. While they are made to
depict the motives and passions of men, they retain, in an
eminent degree, their own special features of craft or counsel,
of cowardice or courage, of generosity or rapacity.
These terms of praise, it must be confessed, cannot be bestowed
on all the fables in this collection. Many of them lack that
unity of design, that close connection of the moral with the
narrative, that wise choice in the introduction of the animals,
which constitute the charm and excellency of true Aesopian fable.
This inferiority of some to others is sufficiently accounted for
in the history of the origin and descent of these fables. The
great bulk of them are not the immediate work of Aesop. Many are
obtained from ancient authors prior to the time in which he
lived. Thus, the fable of the "Hawk and the Nightingale" is
related by Hesiod; 4 the "Eagle wounded by an Arrow, winged with
its own Feathers," by Aeschylus; 5 the "Fox avenging his wrongs
on the Eagle," by Archilochus. 6 Many of them again are of later
origin, and are to be traced to the monks of the middle ages: and
yet this collection, though thus made up of fables both earlier
and later than the era of Aesop, rightfully bears his name,
because he composed so large a number (all framed in the same
mould, and conformed to the same fashion, and stamped with the
same lineaments, image, and superscription) as to secure to
himself the right to be considered the father of Greek fables,
and the founder of this class of writing, which has ever since
borne his name, and has secured for him, through all succeeding
ages, the position of the first of moralists.7
The fables were in the first instance only narrated by Aesop, and
for a long time were handed down by the uncertain channel of oral
tradition. Socrates is mentioned by Plato 8 as having employed
his time while in prison, awaiting the return of the sacred ship
from Delphos which was to be the signal of his death, in turning
some of these fables into verse, but he thus versified only such
as he remembered. Demetrius Phalereus, a philosopher at Athens
about 300 B.C., is said to have made the first collection of
these fables. Phaedrus, a slave by birth or by subsequent
misfortunes, and admitted by Augustus to the honors of a
freedman, imitated many of these fables in Latin iambics about
the commencement of the Christian era. Aphthonius, a rhetorician
of Antioch, A.D. 315, wrote a treatise on, and converted into
Latin prose, some of these fables. This translation is the more
worthy of notice, as it illustrates a custom of common use, both
in these and in later times. The rhetoricians and philosophers
were accustomed to give the Fables of Aesop as an exercise to
their scholars, not only inviting them to discuss the moral of
the tale, but also to practice and to perfect themselves thereby
in style and rules of grammar, by making for themselves new and
various versions of the fables. Ausonius, 9 the friend of the
Emperor Valentinian, and the latest poet of eminence in the
Western Empire, has handed down some of these fables in verse,
which Julianus Titianus, a contemporary writer of no great name,
translated into prose. Avienus, also a contemporary of Ausonius,
put some of these fables into Latin elegiacs, which are given by
Nevelet (in a book we shall refer to hereafter), and are
occasionally incorporated with the editions of Phaedrus.
Seven centuries elapsed before the next notice is found of the
Fables of Aesop. During this long period these fables seem to
have suffered an eclipse, to have disappeared and to have been
forgotten; and it is at the commencement of the fourteenth
century, when the Byzantine emperors were the great patrons of
learning, and amidst the splendors of an Asiatic court, that we
next find honors paid to the name and memory of Aesop. Maximus
Planudes, a learned monk of Constantinople, made a collection of
about a hundred and fifty of these fables. Little is known of
his history. Planudes, however, was no mere recluse, shut up in
his monastery. He took an active part in public affairs. In
1327 A.D. he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Venice by the
Emperor Andronicus the Elder. This brought him into immediate
contact with the Western Patriarch, whose interests he henceforth
advocated with so much zeal as to bring on him suspicion and
persecution from the rulers of the Eastern Church. Planudes has
been exposed to a two-fold accusation. He is charged on the one
hand with having had before him a copy of Babrias (to whom we
shall have occasion to refer at greater length in the end of this
Preface), and to have had the bad taste "to transpose," or to
turn his poetical version into prose: and he is asserted, on the
other hand, never to have seen the Fables of Aesop at all, but to
have himself invented and made the fables which he palmed off
under the name of the famous Greek fabulist. The truth lies
between these two extremes. Planudes may have invented some few
fables, or have inserted some that were current in his day; but
there is an abundance of unanswerable internal evidence to prove
that he had an acquaintance with the veritable fables of Aesop,
although the versions he had access to were probably corrupt, as
contained in the various translations and disquisitional
exercises of the rhetoricians and philosophers. His collection
is interesting and important, not only as the parent source or
foundation of the earlier printed versions of Aesop, but as the
direct channel of attracting to these fables the attention of the
The eventual re-introduction, however, of these Fables of Aesop
to their high place in the general literature of Christendom, is
to be looked for in the West rather than in the East. The
calamities gradually thickening round the Eastern Empire, and the
fall of Constantinople, 1453 A.D. combined with other events to
promote the rapid restoration of learning in Italy; and with that
recovery of learning the revival of an interest in the Fables of
Aesop is closely identified. These fables, indeed, were among
the first writings of an earlier antiquity that attracted
attention. They took their place beside the Holy Scriptures and
the ancient classic authors, in the minds of the great students
of that day. Lorenzo Valla, one of the most famous promoters of
Italian learning, not only translated into Latin the Iliad of
Homer and the Histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, but also the
Fables of Aesop.
These fables, again, were among the books brought into an
extended circulation by the agency of the printing press. Bonus
Accursius, as early as 1475-1480, printed the collection of these
fables, made by Planudes, which, within five years afterwards,
Caxton translated into English, and printed at his press in West-
minster Abbey, 1485. 10 It must be mentioned also that the
learning of this age has left permanent traces of its influence
on these fables, ll by causing the interpolation with them of
some of those amusing stories which were so frequently introduced
into the public discourses of the great preachers of those days,
and of which specimens are yet to be found in the extant sermons
of Jean Raulin, Meffreth, and Gabriel Barlette. 12 The
publication of this era which most probably has influenced these
fables, is the "Liber Facetiarum," l3 a book consisting of a
hundred jests and stories, by the celebrated Poggio Bracciolini,
published A.D. 1471, from which the two fables of the "Miller,
his Son, and the Ass," and the "Fox and the Woodcutter," are
The knowledge of these fables rapidly spread from Italy into
Germany, and their popularity was increased by the favor and
sanction given to them by the great fathers of the Reformation,
who frequently used them as vehicles for satire and protest
against the tricks and abuses of the Romish ecclesiastics. The
zealous and renowned Camerarius, who took an active part in the
preparation of the Confession of Augsburgh, found time, amidst
his numerous avocations, to prepare a version for the students in
the university of Tubingen, in which he was a professor. Martin
Luther translated twenty of these fables, and was urged by
Melancthon to complete the whole; while Gottfried Arnold, the
celebrated Lutheran theologian, and librarian to Frederick I,
king of Prussia, mentions that the great Reformer valued the
Fables of Aesop next after the Holy Scriptures. In 1546 A.D.
the second printed edition of the collection of the Fables made
by Planudes, was issued from the printing-press of Robert
Stephens, in which were inserted some additional fables from a
MS. in the Bibliotheque du Roy at Paris.
The greatest advance, however, towards a re-introduction of the
Fables of Aesop to a place in the literature of the world, was
made in the early part of the seventeenth century. In the year
1610, a learned Swiss, Isaac Nicholas Nevelet, sent forth the
third printed edition of these fables, in a work entitled
"Mythologia Aesopica." This was a noble effort to do honor to
the great fabulist, and was the most perfect collection of
Aesopian fables ever yet published. It consisted, in addition to
the collection of fables given by Planudes and reprinted in the
various earlier editions, of one hundred and thirty-six new
fables (never before published) from MSS. in the Library of the
Vatican, of forty fables attributed to Aphthonius, and of
forty-three from Babrias. It also contained the Latin versions
of the same fables by Phaedrus, Avienus, and other authors. This
volume of Nevelet forms a complete "Corpus Fabularum
Aesopicarum;" and to his labors Aesop owes his restoration to
universal favor as one of the wise moralists and great teachers
of mankind. During the interval of three centuries which has
elapsed since the publication of this volume of Nevelet's, no
book, with the exception of the Holy Scriptures, has had a wider
circulation than Aesop's Fables. They have been translated into
the greater number of the languages both of Europe and of the
East, and have been read, and will be read, for generations,
alike by Jew, Heathen, Mohammedan, and Christian. They are, at
the present time, not only engrafted into the literature of the
civilized world, but are familiar as household words in the
common intercourse and daily conversation of the inhabitants of
This collection of Nevelet's is the great culminating point in
the history of the revival of the fame and reputation of Aesopian
Fables. It is remarkable, also, as containing in its preface the
germ of an idea, which has been since proved to have been correct
by a strange chain of circumstances. Nevelet intimates an
opinion, that a writer named Babrias would be found to be the
veritable author of the existing form of Aesopian Fables. This
intimation has since given rise to a series of inquiries, the
knowledge of which is necessary, in the present day, to a full
understanding of the true position of Aesop in connection with
the writings that bear his name.
The history of Babrias is so strange and interesting, that it
might not unfitly be enumerated among the curiosities of
literature. He is generally supposed to have been a Greek of
Asia Minor, of one of the Ionic Colonies, but the exact period in
which he lived and wrote is yet unsettled. He is placed, by one
critic, l4 as far back as the institution of the Achaian League,
B.C. 250; by another as late as the Emperor Severus, who died
A.D. 235; while others make him a contemporary with Phaedrus in
the time of Augustus. At whatever time he wrote his version of
Aesop, by some strange accident it seems to have entirely
disappeared, and to have been lost sight of. His name is
mentioned by Avienus; by Suidas, a celebrated critic, at the
close of the eleventh century, who gives in his lexicon several
isolated verses of his version of the fables; and by John
Tzetzes, a grammarian and poet of Constantinople, who lived
during the latter half of the twelfth century. Nevelet, in the
preface to the volume which we have described, points out that
the Fables of Planudes could not be the work of Aesop, as they
contain a reference in two places to "Holy monks," and give a
verse from the Epistle of St. James as an "Epimith" to one of
the fables, and suggests Babrias as their author. Francis
Vavassor, 15 a learned French jesuit, entered at greater length
on this subject, and produced further proofs from internal
evidence, from the use of the word Piraeus in describing the
harbour of Athens, a name which was not given till two hundred
years after Aesop, and from the introduction of other modern
words, that many of these fables must have been at least
committed to writing posterior to the time of Aesop, and more
boldly suggests Babrias as their author or collector. 16 These
various references to Babrias induced Dr. Plichard Bentley, at
the close of the seventeenth century, to examine more minutely
the existing versions of Aesop's Fables, and he maintained that
many of them could, with a slight change of words, be resolved
into the Scazonic l7 iambics, in which Babrias is known to have
written: and, with a greater freedom than the evidence then
justified, he put forth, in behalf of Babrias, a claim to the
exclusive authorship of these fables. Such a seemingly
extravagant theory, thus roundly asserted, excited much
opposition. Dr. Bentley l8 met with an able antagonist in a
member of the University of Oxford, the Hon. Mr. Charles Boyle,
19 afterwards Earl of Orrery. Their letters and disputations on
this subject, enlivened on both sides with much wit and learning,
will ever bear a conspicuous place in the literary history of the
seventeenth century. The arguments of Dr. Bentley were yet
further defended a few years later by Mr. Thomas Tyrwhitt, a
well-read scholar, who gave up high civil distinctions that he
might devote himself the more unreservedly to literary pursuits.
Mr. Tyrwhitt published, A.D. 1776, a Dissertation on Babrias,
and a collection of his fables in choliambic meter found in a MS.
in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Francesco de Furia, a learned
Italian, contributed further testimony to the correctness of the
supposition that Babrias had made a veritable collection of
fables by printing from a MS. contained in the Vatican library
several fables never before published. In the year 1844,
however, new and unexpected light was thrown upon this subject.
A veritable copy of Babrias was found in a manner as singular as
were the MSS. of Quinctilian's Institutes, and of Cicero's
Orations by Poggio in the monastery of St. Gall A.D. 1416. M.
Menoides, at the suggestion of M. Villemain, Minister of Public
Instruction to King Louis Philippe, had been entrusted with a
commission to search for ancient MSS., and in carrying out his
instructions he found a MS. at the convent of St. Laura, on
Mount Athos, which proved to be a copy of the long suspected and
wished-for choliambic version of Babrias. This MS. was found to
be divided into two books, the one containing a hundred and
twenty-five, and the other ninety-five fables. This discovery
attracted very general attention, not only as confirming, in a
singular manner, the conjectures so boldly made by a long chain
of critics, but as bringing to light valuable literary treasures
tending to establish the reputation, and to confirm the antiquity
and authenticity of the great mass of Aesopian Fable. The Fables
thus recovered were soon published. They found a most worthy
editor in the late distinguished Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and
a translator equally qualified for his task, in the Reverend
James Davies, M.A., sometime a scholar of Lincoln College,
Oxford, and himself a relation of their English editor. Thus,
after an eclipse of many centuries, Babrias shines out as the
earliest, and most reliable collector of veritable Aesopian
The following are the sources from which the present translation
has been prepared: Babrii Fabulae Aesopeae. George Cornewall
Lewis. Oxford, 1846.
Babrii Fabulae Aesopeae. E codice manuscripto partem secundam
edidit. George Cornewall Lewis. London: Parker, 1857.
Mythologica Aesopica. Opera et studia Isaaci Nicholai Neveleti.
Fabulae Aesopiacae, quales ante Planudem ferebantur cura et
studio Francisci de Furia. Lipsiae, 1810.
??????????????. Ex recognitione Caroli Halmii. Lipsiae, Phaedri
Fabulae Esopiae. Delphin Classics. 1822.
GEORGE FYLER TOWNSEND
1 A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, by K. O.
Mueller. Vol. i, p. l9l. London, Parker, 1858.
2 Select Fables of Aesop, and other Fabulists. In three books,
translated by Robert Dodsley, accompanied with a selection of
notes, and an Essay on Fable. Birmingham, 1864. P. 60.
3 Some of these fables had, no doubt, in the first instance, a
primary and private interpretation. On the first occasion of
their being composed they were intended to refer to some passing
event, or to some individual acts of wrong-doing. Thus, the
fables of the "Eagle and the Fox" and of the "Fox and Monkey' are
supposed to have been written by Archilochus, to avenge the
injuries done him by Lycambes. So also the fables of the
"Swollen Fox" and of the "Frogs asking a King" were spoken by
Aesop for the immediate purpose of reconciling the inhabitants of
Samos and Athens to their respective rulers, Periander and
Pisistratus; while the fable of the "Horse and Stag" was composed
to caution the inhabitants of Himera against granting a bodyguard
to Phalaris. In a similar manner, the fable from Phaedrus, the
"Marriage of the Sun," is supposed to have reference to the
contemplated union of Livia, the daughter of Drusus, with Sejanus
the favourite, and minister of Trajan. These fables, however,
though thus originating in special events, and designed at first
to meet special circumstances, are so admirably constructed as to
be fraught with lessons of general utility, and of universal
4 Hesiod. Opera et Dies, verse 202.
5 Aeschylus. Fragment of the Myrmidons. Aeschylus speaks of
this fable as existing before his day. See Scholiast on the Aves
of Aristophanes, line 808.
6 Fragment. 38, ed. Gaisford. See also Mueller's History of
the Literature of Ancient Greece, vol. i. pp. 190-193.
7 M. Bayle has well put this in his account of Aesop. "Il n'y a
point d'apparence que les fables qui portent aujourd'hui son nom
soient les memes qu'il avait faites; elles viennent bien de lui
pour la plupart, quant a la matiere et la pensee; mais les
paroles sont d'un autre." And again, "C'est donc a Hesiode, que
j'aimerais mieux attribuer la gloire de l'invention; mais sans
doute il laissa la chose tres imparfaite. Esope la perfectionne
si heureusement, qu'on l'a regarde comme le vrai pere de cette
sorte de production." M. Bayle. Dictionnaire Historique.
8 Plato in Ph2done.
9 Apologos en! misit tibi
Ab usque Rheni limite
Ausonius nomen Italum
Praeceptor Augusti tui
Quam vertit exili stylo
Pedestre concinnans opus
Fandi Titianus artifex.
Ausonii Epistola, xvi. 75-80.
10 Both these publications are in the British Museum, and are
placed in the library in cases under glass, for the inspection of
ll Fables may possibly have been not entirely unknown to the
mediaeval scholars. There are two celebrated works which might
by some be classed amongst works of this description. The one is
the "Speculum Sapientiae," attributed to St. Cyril, Archbishop
of Jerusalem, but of a considerably later origin, and existing
only in Latin. It is divided into four books, and consists of
long conversations conducted by fictitious characters under the
figures the beasts of the field and forest, and aimed at the
rebuke of particular classes of men, the boastful, the proud, the
luxurious, the wrathful, &c. None of the stories are precisely
those of Aesop, and none have the concinnity, terseness, and
unmistakable deduction of the lesson intended to be taught by
the fable, so conspicuous in the great Greek fabulist. The exact
title of the book is this: "Speculum Sapientiae, B. Cyrilli
Episcopi: alias quadripartitus apologeticus vocatus, in cujus
quidem proverbiis omnis et totius sapientiae speculum claret et
feliciter incipit." The other is a larger work in two volumes,
published in the fourteenth century by Caesar Heisterbach, a
Cistercian monk, under the title of "Dialogus Miraculorum,"
reprinted in 1851. This work consists of conversations in which
many stories are interwoven on all kinds of subjects. It has no
correspondence with the pure Aesopian fable.
12 Post-medieval Preachers, by S. Baring-Gould. Rivingtons,
13 For an account of this work see the Life of Poggio
Bracciolini, by the Rev. William Shepherd. Liverpool. 1801.
14 Professor Theodore Bergh. See Classical Museum, No. viii.
15 Vavassor's treatise, entitled "De Ludicra Dictione" was
written A.D. 1658, at the request of the celebrated M. Balzac
(though published after his death), for the purpose of showing
that the burlesque style of writing adopted by Scarron and
D'Assouci, and at that time so popular in France, had no sanction
from the ancient classic writers. Francisci Vavassoris opera
omnia. Amsterdam. 1709.
16 The claims of Babrias also found a warm advocate in the
learned Frenchman, M. Bayle, who, in his admirable dictionary,
(Dictionnaire Historique et Critique de Pierre Bayle. Paris,
1820,) gives additional arguments in confirmation of the opinions
of his learned predecessors, Nevelet and Vavassor.
17 Scazonic, or halting, iambics; a choliambic (a lame, halting
iambic) differs from the iambic Senarius in always having a
spondee or trichee for its last foot; the fifth foot, to avoid
shortness of meter, being generally an iambic. See Fables of
Babrias, translated by Rev. James Davies. Lockwood, 1860.
Preface, p. 27.
18 See Dr. Bentley's Dissertations upon the Epistles of
19 Dr. Bentley's Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris, and
Fables of Aesop examined. By the Honorable Charles Boyle.
***End of Project Gutenberg 10th Edition of Aesop's Fables***