Analects of Aesop
selected from Aesop's Fables, translated by George Fyler
The Wolf and the Lamb
The 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 his tyranny.
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 Lion and the Mouse
A Lion was awakened from sleep by a Mouse running over his face.
Rising up angrily, he caught him and was about to kill him, when
the Mouse piteously entreated, saying: "If you would only spare
my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness." The Lion
laughed and let him go. It happened shortly after this that the
Lion was caught by some hunters, who bound him by strong ropes to
the ground. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came and gnawed the
rope with his teeth, and set him free!
"You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you, never
expecting to receive from me any repayment of your favor; you now
know that it is possible for even a Mouse to confer benefits on a
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
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
And after the Hare said this, he ran for his life.
The Wolf and the Crane
A Wolf who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for a
large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone.
When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised
payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed:
"Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in
having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the
mouth and jaws of a wolf."
In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you
escape injury for your pains.
The 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 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 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 Mountain in Labor
A Mountain was once greatly agitated. Loud groans and noises were
heard, and crowds of people came from all parts to see what was
the matter. While they were assembled in anxious expectation of
some terrible calamity, out came a Mouse.
Don't make much ado about nothing.
The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion
The Ass and the Fox, having entered into partnership together for
their mutual protection, went out into the forest to hunt. They
had not proceeded far when they met a Lion. The Fox, seeing
imminent danger, approached the Lion and promised to contrive for
him the capture of the Ass if the Lion would pledge his word not
to harm the Fox. Then, upon assuring the Ass that he would not be
injured, the Fox led him to a deep pit and arranged that he
should fall into it.
The Lion, seeing that the Ass was secured, immediately clutched
the Fox, and attacked the Ass at his leisure.
The 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Old Hound
A Hound, who in the days of his youth and strength had never
yielded to any beast of the forest, encountered in his old age a
boar in the chase. He seized him boldly by the ear, but could not
retain his hold because of the decay of his teeth, so that the
boar escaped. His master, quickly coming up, was very much
disappointed, and fiercely abused the dog.
The Hound looked up and said, "It was not my fault, master: my
spirit was as good as ever, but I could not help my infirmities.
I rather deserve to be praised for what I have been, than to be
blamed for what I am."
The 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 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
He replied, "I do it advisedly; for it would never do to have to
sharpen my weapons just at the time I ought to be using them."
The 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?" Hercules, it is
said, appeared and thus addressed him: "Take care of this Flea
yourself, my man; 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 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 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 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
distress. [or, adversity is an opportunity for enemies to reveal
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 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 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.
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 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
like 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 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 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 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 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
He exclaimed with a too late repentance, "Wretched me! this
overestimation of myself is the cause of my destruction."
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
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 at night.
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 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
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 similar misfortune."
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 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 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 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 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 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
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 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 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."
... who was an ancient Greek fabulist and freed Phrygian slave
(ca620-560BC), traditionally credited with collecting (if not
authoring) the folktales and fables of that era. These fables,
initially collected by Socrates, were later compiled in a Latin
edition by Erasmus for students in schools, and the scholarly
dispute over their originality and authenticity was satirized by
Swift in The Battle of the Books.