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Aesop's Fables by Aesop

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her in the hope of hearing something that may be for their good. She,
however, gives them advice no longer, but sits moping and pondering on
the folly of her kind.


An Ass found a Lion's Skin, and dressed himself up in it. Then he went
about frightening every one he met, for they all took him to be a
lion, men and beasts alike, and took to their heels when they saw
him coming. Elated by the success of his trick, he loudly brayed in
triumph. The Fox heard him, and recognised him at once for the Ass he
was, and said to him, "Oho, my friend, it's you, is it? I, too, should
have been afraid if I hadn't heard your voice."


Jupiter granted beards to the She-Goats at their own request, much
to the disgust of the he-Goats, who considered this to be an
unwarrantable invasion of their rights and dignities. So they sent a
deputation to him to protest against his action. He, however, advised
them not to raise any objections. "What's in a tuft of hair?" said he.
"Let them have it if they want it. They can never be a match for you
in strength."


A Lion, enfeebled by age and no longer able to procure food for
himself by force, determined to do so by cunning. Betaking himself to
a cave, he lay down inside and feigned to be sick: and whenever any of
the other animals entered to inquire after his health, he sprang upon
them and devoured them. Many lost their lives in this way, till one
day a Fox called at the cave, and, having a suspicion of the truth,
addressed the Lion from outside instead of going in, and asked him how
he did. He replied that he was in a very bad way: "But," said he, "why
do you stand outside? Pray come in." "I should have done so," answered
the Fox, "if I hadn't noticed that all the footprints point towards
the cave and none the other way."


A Boy was bathing in a river and got out of his depth, and was in
great danger of being drowned. A man who was passing along a road
heard his cries for help, and went to the riverside and began to scold
him for being so careless as to get into deep water, but made no
attempt to help him. "Oh, sir," cried the Boy, "please help me first
and scold me afterwards."

Give assistance, not advice, in a crisis.


Once upon a time a Frog came forth from his home in the marshes and
proclaimed to all the world that he was a learned physician, skilled
in drugs and able to cure all diseases. Among the crowd was a Fox, who
called out, "You a doctor! Why, how can you set up to heal others when
you cannot even cure your own lame legs and blotched and wrinkled

Physician, heal thyself.


A hungry Fox found in a hollow tree a quantity of bread and meat,
which some shepherds had placed there against their return. Delighted
with his find he slipped in through the narrow aperture and greedily
devoured it all. But when he tried to get out again he found himself
so swollen after his big meal that he could not squeeze through the
hole, and fell to whining and groaning over his misfortune. Another
Fox, happening to pass that way, came and asked him what the matter
was; and, on learning the state of the case, said, "Well, my friend, I
see nothing for it but for you to stay where you are till you shrink
to your former size; you'll get out then easily enough."


A Mouse and a Frog struck up a friendship; they were not well mated,
for the Mouse lived entirely on land, while the Frog was equally
at home on land or in the water. In order that they might never be
separated, the Frog tied himself and the Mouse together by the leg
with a piece of thread. As long as they kept on dry land all went
fairly well; but, coming to the edge of a pool, the Frog jumped in,
taking the Mouse with him, and began swimming about and croaking with
pleasure. The unhappy Mouse, however, was soon drowned, and floated
about on the surface in the wake of the Frog. There he was spied by a
Hawk, who pounced down on him and seized him in his talons. The Frog
was unable to loose the knot which bound him to the Mouse, and thus
was carried off along with him and eaten by the Hawk.


A Boy was gathering berries from a hedge when his hand was stung by a
Nettle. Smarting with the pain, he ran to tell his mother, and said
to her between his sobs, "I only touched it ever so lightly, mother."
"That's just why you got stung, my son," she said; "if you had grasped
it firmly, it wouldn't have hurt you in the least."


A Peasant had an Apple-tree growing in his garden, which bore no
fruit, but merely served to provide a shelter from the heat for the
sparrows and grasshoppers which sat and chirped in its branches.
Disappointed at its barrenness he determined to cut it down, and went
and fetched his axe for the purpose. But when the sparrows and the
grasshoppers saw what he was about to do, they begged him to spare
it, and said to him, "If you destroy the tree we shall have to seek
shelter elsewhere, and you will no longer have our merry chirping to
enliven your work in the garden." He, however, refused to listen to
them, and set to work with a will to cut through the trunk. A few
strokes showed that it was hollow inside and contained a swarm of bees
and a large store of honey. Delighted with his find he threw down his
axe, saying, "The old tree is worth keeping after all."

Utility is most men's test of worth.


A Jackdaw, watching some Pigeons in a farmyard, was filled with envy
when he saw how well they were fed, and determined to disguise himself
as one of them, in order to secure a share of the good things they
enjoyed. So he painted himself white from head to foot and joined the
flock; and, so long as he was silent, they never suspected that he
was not a pigeon like themselves. But one day he was unwise enough
to start chattering, when they at once saw through his disguise and
pecked him so unmercifully that he was glad to escape and join his own
kind again. But the other jackdaws did not recognise him in his white
dress, and would not let him feed with them, but drove him away: and
so he became a homeless wanderer for his pains.


Jupiter was about to marry a wife, and determined to celebrate the
event by inviting all the animals to a banquet. They all came except
the Tortoise, who did not put in an appearance, much to Jupiter's
surprise. So when he next saw the Tortoise he asked him why he had not
been at the banquet. "I don't care for going out," said the Tortoise;
"there's no place like home." Jupiter was so much annoyed by this
reply that he decreed that from that time forth the Tortoise should
carry his house upon his back, and never be able to get away from home
even if he wished to.


A Dog was lying in a Manger on the hay which had been put there for
the cattle, and when they came and tried to eat, he growled and
snapped at them and wouldn't let them get at their food. "What a
selfish beast," said one of them to his companions; "he can't eat
himself and yet he won't let those eat who can."


Every man carries Two Bags about with him, one in front and one
behind, and both are packed full of faults. The Bag in front contains
his neighbours' faults, the one behind his own. Hence it is that men
do not see their own faults, but never fail to see those of others.


A pair of Oxen were drawing a heavily loaded waggon along the highway,
and, as they tugged and strained at the yoke, the Axletrees creaked
and groaned terribly. This was too much for the Oxen, who turned round
indignantly and said, "Hullo, you there! Why do you make such a noise
when we do all the work?"

They complain most who suffer least.


A Boy put his hand into a jar of Filberts, and grasped as many as his
fist could possibly hold. But when he tried to pull it out again, he
found he couldn't do so, for the neck of the jar was too small to
allow of the passage of so large a handful. Unwilling to lose his nuts
but unable to withdraw his hand, he burst into tears. A bystander, who
saw where the trouble lay, said to him, "Come, my boy, don't be so
greedy: be content with half the amount, and you'll be able to get
your hand out without difficulty."

Do not attempt too much at once.


Time was when the Frogs were discontented because they had no one to
rule over them: so they sent a deputation to Jupiter to ask him to
give them a King. Jupiter, despising the folly of their request, cast
a log into the pool where they lived, and said that that should be
their King. The Frogs were terrified at first by the splash, and
scuttled away into the deepest parts of the pool; but by and by, when
they saw that the log remained motionless, one by one they ventured to
the surface again, and before long, growing bolder, they began to feel
such contempt for it that they even took to sitting upon it. Thinking
that a King of that sort was an insult to their dignity, they sent to
Jupiter a second time, and begged him to take away the sluggish King
he had given them, and to give them another and a better one. Jupiter,
annoyed at being pestered in this way, sent a Stork to rule over them,
who no sooner arrived among them than he began to catch and eat the
Frogs as fast as he could.


An Olive-tree taunted a Fig-tree with the loss of her leaves at a
certain season of the year. "You," she said, "lose your leaves every
autumn, and are bare till the spring: whereas I, as you see, remain
green and flourishing all the year round." Soon afterwards there came
a heavy fall of snow, which settled on the leaves of the Olive so that
she bent and broke under the weight; but the flakes fell harmlessly
through the bare branches of the Fig, which survived to bear many
another crop.


One hot and thirsty day in the height of summer a Lion and a Boar came
down to a little spring at the same moment to drink. In a trice they
were quarrelling as to who should drink first. The quarrel soon became
a fight and they attacked one another with the utmost fury. Presently,
stopping for a moment to take breath, they saw some vultures seated on
a rock above evidently waiting for one of them to be killed, when they
would fly down and feed upon the carcase. The sight sobered them at
once, and they made up their quarrel, saying, "We had much better be
friends than fight and be eaten by vultures."


A Walnut-tree, which grew by the roadside, bore every year a plentiful
crop of nuts. Every one who passed by pelted its branches with sticks
and stones, in order to bring down the fruit, and the tree suffered
severely. "It is hard," it cried, "that the very persons who enjoy my
fruit should thus reward me with insults and blows."


A Man and a Lion were companions on a journey, and in the course of
conversation they began to boast about their prowess, and each claimed
to be superior to the other in strength and courage. They were still
arguing with some heat when they came to a cross-road where there
was a statue of a Man strangling a Lion. "There!" said the Man
triumphantly, "look at that! Doesn't that prove to you that we are
stronger than you?" "Not so fast, my friend," said the Lion: "that is
only your view of the case. If we Lions could make statues, you may be
sure that in most of them you would see the Man underneath."

There are two sides to every question.


A Tortoise, discontented with his lowly life, and envious of the birds
he saw disporting themselves in the air, begged an Eagle to teach him
to fly. The Eagle protested that it was idle for him to try, as nature
had not provided him with wings; but the Tortoise pressed him with
entreaties and promises of treasure, insisting that it could only be
a question of learning the craft of the air. So at length the Eagle
consented to do the best he could for him, and picked him up in his
talons. Soaring with him to a great height in the sky he then let him
go, and the wretched Tortoise fell headlong and was dashed to pieces
on a rock.


A Kid climbed up on to the roof of an outhouse, attracted by the
grass and other things that grew in the thatch; and as he stood there
browsing away, he caught sight of a Wolf passing below, and jeered at
him because he couldn't reach him. The Wolf only looked up and said,
"I hear you, my young friend; but it is not you who mock me, but the
roof on which you are standing."


A fox once fell into a trap, and after a struggle managed to get free,
but with the loss of his brush. He was then so much ashamed of his
appearance that he thought life was not worth living unless he could
persuade the other Foxes to part with their tails also, and thus
divert attention from his own loss. So he called a meeting of all the
Foxes, and advised them to cut off their tails: "They're ugly things
anyhow," he said, "and besides they're heavy, and it's tiresome to be
always carrying them about with you." But one of the other Foxes said,
"My friend, if you hadn't lost your own tail, you wouldn't be so keen
on getting us to cut off ours."


Jupiter announced that he intended to appoint a king over the birds,
and named a day on which they were to appear before his throne, when
he would select the most beautiful of them all to be their ruler.
Wishing to look their best on the occasion they repaired to the banks
of a stream, where they busied themselves in washing and preening
their feathers. The Jackdaw was there along with the rest, and
realised that, with his ugly plumage, he would have no chance of being
chosen as he was: so he waited till they were all gone, and then
picked up the most gaudy of the feathers they had dropped, and
fastened them about his own body, with the result that he looked gayer
than any of them. When the appointed day came, the birds assembled
before Jupiter's throne; and, after passing them in review, he was
about to make the Jackdaw king, when all the rest set upon the
king-elect, stripped him of his borrowed plumes, and exposed him for
the Jackdaw that he was.


A Traveller was about to start on a journey, and said to his Dog, who
was stretching himself by the door, "Come, what are you yawning for?
Hurry up and get ready: I mean you to go with me." But the Dog merely
wagged his tail and said quietly, "I'm ready, master: it's you I'm
waiting for."


A Shipwrecked Man cast up on the beach fell asleep after his struggle
with the waves. When he woke up, he bitterly reproached the Sea for
its treachery in enticing men with its smooth and smiling surface,
and then, when they were well embarked, turning in fury upon them and
sending both ship and sailors to destruction. The Sea arose in the
form of a woman, and replied, "Lay not the blame on me, O sailor, but
on the Winds. By nature I am as calm and safe as the land itself: but
the Winds fall upon me with their gusts and gales, and lash me into a
fury that is not natural to me."


A Wild Boar was engaged in whetting his tusks upon the trunk of a tree
in the forest when a Fox came by and, seeing what he was at, said to
him, "Why are you doing that, pray? The huntsmen are not out to-day,
and there are no other dangers at hand that I can see." "True, my
friend," replied the Boar, "but the instant my life is in danger I
shall need to use my tusks. There'll be no time to sharpen them then."


Mercury was very anxious to know in what estimation he was held by
mankind; so he disguised himself as a man and walked into a Sculptor's
studio, where there were a number of statues finished and ready for
sale. Seeing a statue of Jupiter among the rest, he inquired the price
of it. "A crown," said the Sculptor. "Is that all?" said he, laughing;
"and" (pointing to one of Juno) "how much is that one?" "That," was
the reply, "is half a crown." "And how much might you be wanting for
that one over there, now?" he continued, pointing to a statue of
himself. "That one?" said the Sculptor; "Oh, I'll throw him in for
nothing if you'll buy the other two."


A Hind said to her Fawn, who was now well grown and strong, "My son,
Nature has given you a powerful body and a stout pair of horns, and I
can't think why you are such a coward as to run away from the hounds."
Just then they both heard the sound of a pack in full cry, but at a
considerable distance. "You stay where you are," said the Hind; "never
mind me": and with that she ran off as fast as her legs could carry


A Fox who had never seen a Lion one day met one, and was so terrified
at the sight of him that he was ready to die with fear. After a time
he met him again, and was still rather frightened, but not nearly so
much as he had been when he met him first. But when he saw him for the
third time he was so far from being afraid that he went up to him and
began to talk to him as if he had known him all his life.


A Man once caught an Eagle, and after clipping his wings turned him
loose among the fowls in his hen-house, where he moped in a corner,
looking very dejected and forlorn. After a while his Captor was glad
enough to sell him to a neighbour, who took him home and let his wings
grow again. As soon as he had recovered the use of them, the Eagle
flew out and caught a hare, which he brought home and presented to his
benefactor. A fox observed this, and said to the Eagle, "Don't waste
your gifts on him! Go and give them to the man who first caught you;
make _him_ your friend, and then perhaps he won't catch you and clip
your wings a second time."


A Blacksmith had a little Dog, which used to sleep when his master was
at work, but was very wide awake indeed when it was time for meals.
One day his master pretended to be disgusted at this, and when he had
thrown him a bone as usual, he said, "What on earth is the good of a
lazy cur like you? When I am hammering away at my anvil, you just curl
up and go to sleep: but no sooner do I stop for a mouthful of food
than you wake up and wag your tail to be fed."

Those who will not work deserve to starve.


A thirsty Stag went down to a pool to drink. As he bent over the
surface he saw his own reflection in the water, and was struck with
admiration for his fine spreading antlers, but at the same time he
felt nothing but disgust for the weakness and slenderness of his legs.
While he stood there looking at himself, he was seen and attacked by
a Lion; but in the chase which ensued, he soon drew away from his
pursuer, and kept his lead as long as the ground over which he ran was
open and free of trees. But coming presently to a wood, he was caught
by his antlers in the branches, and fell a victim to the teeth and
claws of his enemy. "Woe is me!" he cried with his last breath; "I
despised my legs, which might have saved my life: but I gloried in my
horns, and they have proved my ruin."

What is worth most is often valued least.


A Dog was crossing a plank bridge over a stream with a piece of meat
in his mouth, when he happened to see his own reflection in the water.
He thought it was another dog with a piece of meat twice as big; so
he let go his own, and flew at the other dog to get the larger piece.
But, of course, all that happened was that he got neither; for one was
only a shadow, and the other was carried away by the current.


When Jupiter was creating man, he told Mercury to make an infusion of
lies, and to add a little of it to the other ingredients which went to
the making of the Tradesmen. Mercury did so, and introduced an equal
amount into each in turn--the tallow-chandler, and the greengrocer,
and the haberdasher, and all, till he came to the horse-dealer, who
was last on the list, when, finding that he had a quantity of the
infusion still left, he put it all into him. This is why all Tradesmen
lie more or less, but they none of them lie like a horse-dealer.


There was war between the Mice and the Weasels, in which the Mice
always got the worst of it, numbers of them being killed and eaten by
the Weasels. So they called a council of war, in which an old Mouse
got up and said, "It's no wonder we are always beaten, for we have no
generals to plan our battles and direct our movements in the field."
Acting on his advice, they chose the biggest Mice to be their leaders,
and these, in order to be distinguished from the rank and file,
provided themselves with helmets bearing large plumes of straw. They
then led out the Mice to battle, confident of victory: but they were
defeated as usual, and were soon scampering as fast as they could to
their holes. All made their way to safety without difficulty except
the leaders, who were so hampered by the badges of their rank that
they could not get into their holes, and fell easy victims to their

Greatness carries its own penalties.


The Peacock was greatly discontented because he had not a beautiful
voice like the nightingale, and he went and complained to Juno about
it. "The nightingale's song," said he, "is the envy of all the birds;
but whenever I utter a sound I become a laughing-stock." The goddess
tried to console him by saying, "You have not, it is true, the power
of song, but then you far excel all the rest in beauty: your neck
flashes like the emerald and your splendid tail is a marvel of
gorgeous colour." But the Peacock was not appeased. "What is the use,"
said he, "of being beautiful, with a voice like mine?" Then Juno
replied, with a shade of sternness in her tones, "Fate has allotted to
all their destined gifts: to yourself beauty, to the eagle strength,
to the nightingale song, and so on to all the rest in their degree;
but you alone are dissatisfied with your portion. Make, then, no more
complaints. For, if your present wish were granted, you would quickly
find cause for fresh discontent."


A Bear was once bragging about his generous feelings, and saying how
refined he was compared with other animals. (There is, in fact, a
tradition that a Bear will never touch a dead body.) A Fox, who heard
him talking in this strain, smiled and said, "My friend, when you are
hungry, I only wish you _would_ confine your attention to the dead and
leave the living alone."

A hypocrite deceives no one but himself.


An old Peasant was sitting in a meadow watching his Ass, which was
grazing close by, when all of a sudden he caught sight of armed men
stealthily approaching. He jumped up in a moment, and begged the Ass
to fly with him as fast as he could, "Or else," said he, "we shall
both be captured by the enemy." But the Ass just looked round lazily
and said, "And if so, do you think they'll make me carry heavier loads
than I have to now?" "No," said his master. "Oh, well, then," said the
Ass, "I don't mind if they do take me, for I shan't be any worse off."


Two little Frogs were playing about at the edge of a pool when an Ox
came down to the water to drink, and by accident trod on one of them
and crushed the life out of him. When the old Frog missed him, she
asked his brother where he was. "He is dead, mother," said the little
Frog; "an enormous big creature with four legs came to our pool this
morning and trampled him down in the mud." "Enormous, was he? Was he
as big as this?" said the Frog, puffing herself out to look as big
as possible. "Oh! yes, _much_ bigger," was the answer. The Frog puffed
herself out still more. "Was he as big as this?" said she. "Oh! yes,
yes, mother, _MUCH_ bigger," said the little Frog. And yet again she
puffed and puffed herself out till she was almost as round as a ball.
"As big as...?" she began--but then she burst.


A poor Man had a wooden Image of a god, to which he used to pray daily
for riches. He did this for a long time, but remained as poor as ever,
till one day he caught up the Image in disgust and hurled it with all
his strength against the wall. The force of the blow split open the
head and a quantity of gold coins fell out upon the floor. The Man
gathered them up greedily, and said, "O you old fraud, you! When I
honoured you, you did me no good whatever: but no sooner do I treat
you to insults and violence than you make a rich man of me!"


A Waggoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load
behind them, when the wheels of his waggon sank so deep in the mire
that no efforts of his horses could move them. As he stood there,
looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals upon Hercules
for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, "Put your
shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may
call on Hercules to assist you. If you won't lift a finger to help
yourself, you can't expect Hercules or any one else to come to your

Heaven helps those who help themselves.


A Pomegranate and an Apple-tree were disputing about the quality of
their fruits, and each claimed that its own was the better of the two.
High words passed between them, and a violent quarrel was imminent,
when a Bramble impudently poked its head out of a neighbouring hedge
and said, "There, that's enough, my friends; don't let us quarrel."


A Lion and a Bear were fighting for possession of a kid, which they
had both seized at the same moment. The battle was long and fierce,
and at length both of them were exhausted, and lay upon the ground
severely wounded and gasping for breath. A Fox had all the time been
prowling round and watching the fight: and when he saw the combatants
lying there too weak to move, he slipped in and seized the kid, and
ran off with it. They looked on helplessly, and one said to the other,
"Here we've been mauling each other all this while, and no one the
better for it except the Fox!"


A Man once bought an Ethiopian slave, who had a black skin like all
Ethiopians; but his new master thought his colour was due to his
late owner's having neglected him, and that all he wanted was a good
scrubbing. So he set to work with plenty of soap and hot water, and
rubbed away at him with a will, but all to no purpose: his skin
remained as black as ever, while the poor wretch all but died from the
cold he caught.


Two Soldiers travelling together were set upon by a Robber. One of
them ran away, but the other stood his ground, and laid about him so
lustily with his sword that the Robber was fain to fly and leave
him in peace. When the coast was clear the timid one ran back, and,
flourishing his weapon, cried in a threatening voice, "Where is he?
Let me get at him, and I'll soon let him know whom he's got to deal
with." But the other replied, "You are a little late, my friend: I
only wish you had backed me up just now, even if you had done no more
than speak, for I should have been encouraged, believing your words to
be true. As it is, calm yourself, and put up your sword: there is no
further use for it. You may delude others into thinking you're as
brave as a lion: but I know that, at the first sign of danger, you run
away like a hare."


A Lion and a Wild Ass went out hunting together: the latter was to run
down the prey by his superior speed, and the former would then come
up and despatch it. They met with great success; and when it came to
sharing the spoil the Lion divided it all into three equal portions.
"I will take the first," said he, "because I am King of the beasts; I
will also take the second, because, as your partner, I am entitled to
half of what remains; and as for the third--well, unless you give it
up to me and take yourself off pretty quick, the third, believe me,
will make you feel very sorry for yourself!"

Might makes right.


A Man and a Satyr became friends, and determined to live together. All
went well for a while, until one day in winter-time the Satyr saw the
Man blowing on his hands. "Why do you do that?" he asked. "To warm
my hands," said the Man. That same day, when they sat down to supper
together, they each had a steaming hot bowl of porridge, and the Man
raised his bowl to his mouth and blew on it. "Why do you do that?"
asked the Satyr. "To cool my porridge," said the Man. The Satyr got up
from the table. "Good-bye," said he, "I'm going: I can't be friends
with a man who blows hot and cold with the same breath."


A certain man made a wooden Image of Mercury, and exposed it for sale
in the market. As no one offered to buy it, however, he thought he
would try to attract a purchaser by proclaiming the virtues of the
Image. So he cried up and down the market, "A god for sale! a god for
sale! One who'll bring you luck and keep you lucky!" Presently one of
the bystanders stopped him and said, "If your god is all you make
him out to be, how is it you don't keep him and make the most of him
yourself?" "I'll tell you why," replied he; "he brings gain, it is
true, but he takes his time about it; whereas I want money at once."


An Eagle sat perched on a lofty rock, keeping a sharp look-out for
prey. A huntsman, concealed in a cleft of the mountain and on the
watch for game, spied him there and shot an Arrow at him. The shaft
struck him full in the breast and pierced him through and through. As
he lay in the agonies of death, he turned his eyes upon the Arrow.
"Ah! cruel fate!" he cried, "that I should perish thus: but oh! fate
more cruel still, that the Arrow which kills me should be winged with
an Eagle's feathers!"


A Rich Man took up his residence next door to a Tanner, and found the
smell of the tan-yard so extremely unpleasant that he told him he must
go. The Tanner delayed his departure, and the Rich Man had to speak
to him several times about it; and every time the Tanner said he was
making arrangements to move very shortly. This went on for some time,
till at last the Rich Man got so used to the smell that he ceased to
mind it, and troubled the Tanner with his objections no more.


A hungry Wolf was prowling about in search of food. By and by,
attracted by the cries of a Child, he came to a cottage. As he
crouched beneath the window, he heard the Mother say to the Child,
"Stop crying, do! or I'll throw you to the Wolf." Thinking she really
meant what she said, he waited there a long time in the expectation of
satisfying his hunger. In the evening he heard the Mother fondling her
Child and saying, "If the naughty Wolf comes, he shan't get my little
one: Daddy will kill him." The Wolf got up in much disgust and walked
away: "As for the people in that house," said he to himself, "you
can't believe a word they say."


An old Woman picked up an empty Wine-jar which had once contained a
rare and costly wine, and which still retained some traces of its
exquisite bouquet. She raised it to her nose and sniffed at it again
and again. "Ah," she cried, "how delicious must have been the liquid
which has left behind so ravishing a smell."


A Lioness and a Vixen were talking together about their young, as
mothers will, and saying how healthy and well-grown they were, and
what beautiful coats they had, and how they were the image of their
parents. "My litter of cubs is a joy to see," said the Fox; and then
she added, rather maliciously, "But I notice you never have more than
one." "No," said the Lioness grimly, "but that one's a lion."

Quality, not quantity.


A Viper entered a carpenter's shop, and went from one to another of
the tools, begging for something to eat. Among the rest, he addressed
himself to the File, and asked for the favour of a meal. The File
replied in a tone of pitying contempt, "What a simpleton you must be
if you imagine you will get anything from me, who invariably take from
every one and never give anything in return."

The covetous are poor givers.


A Cat pounced on a Cock, and cast about for some good excuse for
making a meal off him, for Cats don't as a rule eat Cocks, and she
knew she ought not to. At last she said, "You make a great nuisance of
yourself at night by crowing and keeping people awake: so I am going
to make an end of you." But the Cock defended himself by saying that
he crowed in order that men might wake up and set about the day's work
in good time, and that they really couldn't very well do without him.
"That may be," said the Cat, "but whether they can or not, I'm not
going without my dinner"; and she killed and ate him.

The want of a good excuse never kept a villain from crime.


A Hare was one day making fun of a Tortoise for being so slow upon his
feet. "Wait a bit," said the Tortoise; "I'll run a race with you, and
I'll wager that I win." "Oh, well," replied the Hare, who was much
amused at the idea, "let's try and see"; and it was soon agreed that
the fox should set a course for them, and be the judge. When the time
came both started off together, but the Hare was soon so far ahead
that he thought he might as well have a rest: so down he lay and fell
fast asleep. Meanwhile the Tortoise kept plodding on, and in time
reached the goal. At last the Hare woke up with a start, and dashed on
at his fastest, but only to find that the Tortoise had already won the

Slow and steady wins the race.


A Soldier gave his Horse a plentiful supply of oats in time of war,
and tended him with the utmost care, for he wished him to be strong to
endure the hardships of the field, and swift to bear his master, when
need arose, out of the reach of danger. But when the war was over he
employed him on all sorts of drudgery, bestowing but little attention
upon him, and giving him, moreover, nothing but chaff to eat. The time
came when war broke out again, and the Soldier saddled and bridled his
Horse, and, having put on his heavy coat of mail, mounted him to ride
off and take the field. But the poor half-starved beast sank down
under his weight, and said to his rider, "You will have to go into
battle on foot this time. Thanks to hard work and bad food, you have
turned me from a Horse into an ass; and you cannot in a moment turn me
back again into a Horse."


Once upon a time the Oxen determined to be revenged upon the Butchers
for the havoc they wrought in their ranks, and plotted to put them to
death on a given day. They were all gathered together discussing how
best to carry out the plan, and the more violent of them were engaged
in sharpening their horns for the fray, when an old Ox got up upon his
feet and said, "My brothers, you have good reason, I know, to hate
these Butchers, but, at any rate, they understand their trade and do
what they have to do without causing unnecessary pain. But if we kill
them, others, who have no experience, will be set to slaughter us, and
will by their bungling inflict great sufferings upon us. For you may
be sure that, even though all the Butchers perish, mankind will never
go without their beef."


A wolf stole a lamb from the flock, and was carrying it off to devour
it at his leisure when he met a Lion, who took his prey away from him
and walked off with it. He dared not resist, but when the Lion had
gone some distance he said, "It is most unjust of you to take what's
mine away from me like that." The Lion laughed and called out in
reply, "It was justly yours, no doubt! The gift of a friend, perhaps,


A Stag once asked a Sheep to lend him a measure of wheat, saying that
his friend the Wolf would be his surety. The Sheep, however, was
afraid that they meant to cheat her; so she excused herself, saying,
"The Wolf is in the habit of seizing what he wants and running off
with it without paying, and you, too, can run much faster than I. So
how shall I be able to come up with either of you when the debt falls

Two blacks do not make a white.


Three Bulls were grazing in a meadow, and were watched by a Lion, who
longed to capture and devour them, but who felt that he was no match
for the three so long as they kept together. So he began by false
whispers and malicious hints to foment jealousies and distrust among
them. This stratagem succeeded so well that ere long the Bulls grew
cold and unfriendly, and finally avoided each other and fed each one
by himself apart. No sooner did the Lion see this than he fell upon
them one by one and killed them in turn.

The quarrels of friends are the opportunities of foes.


A Young Man, who fancied himself something of a horseman, mounted
a Horse which had not been properly broken in, and was exceedingly
difficult to control. No sooner did the Horse feel his weight in the
saddle than he bolted, and nothing would stop him. A friend of the
Rider's met him in the road in his headlong career, and called out,
"Where are you off to in such a hurry?" To which he, pointing to the
Horse, replied, "I've no idea: ask him."


A Goat was straying in a vineyard, and began to browse on the tender
shoots of a Vine which bore several fine bunches of grapes. "What have
I done to you," said the Vine, "that you should harm me thus? Isn't
there grass enough for you to feed on? All the same, even if you eat
up every leaf I have, and leave me quite bare, I shall produce
wine enough to pour over you when you are led to the altar to be


Two Pots, one of earthenware and the other of brass, were carried away
down a river in flood. The Brazen Pot urged his companion to keep
close by his side, and he would protect him. The other thanked him,
but begged him not to come near him on any account: "For that," he
said, "is just what I am most afraid of. One touch from you and I
should be broken in pieces."

Equals make the best friends.


A Hound who had served his master well for years, and had run down
many a quarry in his time, began to lose his strength and speed owing
to age. One day, when out hunting, his master started a powerful wild
boar and set the Hound at him. The latter seized the beast by the ear,
but his teeth were gone and he could not retain his hold; so the
boar escaped. His master began to scold him severely, but the Hound
interrupted him with these words: "My will is as strong as ever,
master, but my body is old and feeble. You ought to honour me for what
I have been instead of abusing me for what I am."


A Nobleman announced his intention of giving a public entertainment in
the theatre, and offered splendid prizes to all who had any novelty
to exhibit at the performance. The announcement attracted a crowd of
conjurers, jugglers, and acrobats, and among the rest a Clown, very
popular with the crowd, who let it be known that he was going to
give an entirely new turn. When the day of the performance came,
the theatre was filled from top to bottom some time before the
entertainment began. Several performers exhibited their tricks, and
then the popular favourite came on empty-handed and alone. At once
there was a hush of expectation: and he, letting his head fall upon
his breast, imitated the squeak of a pig to such perfection that the
audience insisted on his producing the animal, which, they said, he
must have somewhere concealed about his person. He, however, convinced
them that there was no pig there, and then the applause was deafening.
Among the spectators was a Countryman, who disparaged the Clown's
performance and announced that he would give a much superior
exhibition of the same trick on the following day. Again the theatre
was filled to overflowing, and again the Clown gave his imitation
amidst the cheers of the crowd. The Countryman, meanwhile, before
going on the stage, had secreted a young porker under his smock; and
when the spectators derisively bade him do better if he could, he gave
it a pinch in the ear and made it squeal loudly. But they all with one
voice shouted out that the Clown's imitation was much more true to
life. Thereupon he produced the pig from under his smock and said
sarcastically, "There, that shows what sort of judges you are!"


A Lark nested in a field of corn, and was rearing her brood under
cover of the ripening grain. One day, before the young were fully
fledged, the Farmer came to look at the crop, and, finding it
yellowing fast, he said, "I must send round word to my neighbours to
come and help me reap this field." One of the young Larks overheard
him, and was very much frightened, and asked her mother whether they
hadn't better move house at once. "There's no hurry," replied she;
"a man who looks to his friends for help will take his time about a
thing." In a few days the Farmer came by again, and saw that the grain
was overripe and falling out of the ears upon the ground. "I must put
it off no longer," he said; "This very day I'll hire the men and set
them to work at once." The Lark heard him and said to her young,
"Come, my children, we must be off: he talks no more of his friends
now, but is going to take things in hand himself."

Self-help is the best help.


A Lion and an Ass set up as partners and went a-hunting together. In
course of time they came to a cave in which there were a number of
wild goats. The Lion took up his stand at the mouth of the cave, and
waited for them to come out; while the Ass went inside and brayed for
all he was worth in order to frighten them out into the open. The Lion
struck them down one by one as they appeared; and when the cave was
empty the Ass came out and said, "Well, I scared them pretty well,
didn't I?" "I should think you did," said the Lion: "why, if I hadn't
known you were an Ass, I should have turned and run myself."


A Prophet sat in the market-place and told the fortunes of all who
cared to engage his services. Suddenly there came running up one who
told him that his house had been broken into by thieves, and that they
had made off with everything they could lay hands on. He was up in a
moment, and rushed off, tearing his hair and calling down curses on
the miscreants. The bystanders were much amused, and one of them said,
"Our friend professes to know what is going to happen to others,
but it seems he's not clever enough to perceive what's in store for


A young Hound started a Hare, and, when he caught her up, would at one
moment snap at her with his teeth as though he were about to kill her,
while at another he would let go his hold and frisk about her, as if
he were playing with another dog. At last the Hare said, "I wish you
would show yourself in your true colours! If you are my friend, why do
you bite me? If you are my enemy, why do you play with me?"

He is no friend who plays double.


A Lion was lying asleep at the mouth of his den when a Mouse ran over
his back and tickled him so that he woke up with a start and began
looking about everywhere to see what it was that had disturbed him. A
Fox, who was looking on, thought he would have a joke at the expense
of the Lion; so he said, "Well, this is the first time I've seen a
Lion afraid of a Mouse." "Afraid of a Mouse?" said the Lion testily:
"not I! It's his bad manners I can't stand."


A Trumpeter marched into battle in the van of the army and put courage
into his comrades by his warlike tunes. Being captured by the enemy,
he begged for his life, and said, "Do not put me to death; I have
killed no one: indeed, I have no weapons, but carry with me only my
trumpet here." But his captors replied, "That is only the more reason
why we should take your life; for, though you do not fight yourself,
you stir up others to do so."


A Wolf once got a bone stuck in his throat. So he went to a Crane and
begged her to put her long bill down his throat and pull it out. "I'll
make it worth your while," he added. The Crane did as she was asked,
and got the bone out quite easily. The Wolf thanked her warmly, and
was just turning away, when she cried, "What about that fee of mine?"
"Well, what about it?" snapped the Wolf, baring his teeth as he spoke;
"you can go about boasting that you once put your head into a Wolf's
mouth and didn't get it bitten off. What more do you want?"


An Eagle built her nest at the top of a high tree; a Cat with her
family occupied a hollow in the trunk half-way down; and a Wild Sow
and her young took up their quarters at the foot. They might have got
on very well as neighbours had it not been for the evil cunning of the
Cat. Climbing up to the Eagle's nest she said to the Eagle, "You and I
are in the greatest possible danger. That dreadful creature, the Sow,
who is always to be seen grubbing away at the foot of the tree, means
to uproot it, that she may devour your family and mine at her ease."
Having thus driven the Eagle almost out of her senses with terror, the
Cat climbed down the tree, and said to the Sow, "I must warn you
against that dreadful bird, the Eagle. She is only waiting her chance
to fly down and carry off one of your little pigs when you take them
out, to feed her brood with." She succeeded in frightening the Sow as
much as the Eagle. Then she returned to her hole in the trunk, from
which, feigning to be afraid, she never came forth by day. Only by
night did she creep out unseen to procure food for her kittens. The
Eagle, meanwhile was afraid to stir from her nest, and the Sow dared
not leave her home among the roots: so that in time both they and
their families perished of hunger, and their dead bodies supplied the
Cat with ample food for her growing family.


A Wolf was worried and badly bitten by dogs, and lay a long time for
dead. By and by he began to revive, and, feeling very hungry, called
out to a passing Sheep and said, "Would you kindly bring me some water
from the stream close by? I can manage about meat, if only I could
get something to drink." But this Sheep was no fool. "I can quite
understand", said he, "that if I brought you the water, you would have
no difficulty about the meat. Good-morning."


A Tunny-fish was chased by a Dolphin and splashed through the water at
a great rate, but the Dolphin gradually gained upon him, and was just
about to seize him when the force of his flight carried the Tunny on
to a sandbank. In the heat of the chase the Dolphin followed him, and
there they both lay out of the water, gasping for dear life. When the
Tunny saw that his enemy was doomed like himself, he said, "I don't
mind having to die now: for I see that he who is the cause of my death
is about to share the same fate."


The citizens of a certain city were debating about the best material
to use in the fortifications which were about to be erected for the
greater security of the town. A Carpenter got up and advised the use
of wood, which he said was readily procurable and easily worked. A
Stone-mason objected to wood on the ground that it was so inflammable,
and recommended stones instead. Then a Tanner got on his legs and
said, "In my opinion there's nothing like leather."

Every man for himself.


A Bull gave chase to a Mouse which had bitten him in the nose: but the
Mouse was too quick for him and slipped into a hole in a wall. The
Bull charged furiously into the wall again and again until he was
tired out, and sank down on the ground exhausted with his efforts.
When all was quiet, the Mouse darted out and bit him again. Beside
himself with rage he started to his feet, but by that time the Mouse
was back in his hole again, and he could do nothing but bellow and
fume in helpless anger. Presently he heard a shrill little voice say
from inside the wall, "You big fellows don't always have it your own
way, you see: sometimes we little ones come off best."

The battle is not always to the strong.


A Hound started a Hare from her form, and pursued her for some
distance; but as she gradually gained upon him, he gave up the chase.
A rustic who had seen the race met the Hound as he was returning, and
taunted him with his defeat. "The little one was too much for you,"
said he. "Ah, well," said the Hound, "don't forget it's one thing to
be running for your dinner, but quite another to be running for your


A Town Mouse and a Country Mouse were acquaintances, and the Country
Mouse one day invited his friend to come and see him at his home in
the fields. The Town Mouse came, and they sat down to a dinner of
barleycorns and roots, the latter of which had a distinctly earthy
flavour. The fare was not much to the taste of the guest, and
presently he broke out with "My poor dear friend, you live here no
better than the ants. Now, you should just see how I fare! My larder
is a regular horn of plenty. You must come and stay with me, and
I promise you you shall live on the fat of the land." So when he
returned to town he took the Country Mouse with him, and showed him
into a larder containing flour and oatmeal and figs and honey and
dates. The Country Mouse had never seen anything like it, and sat down
to enjoy the luxuries his friend provided: but before they had well
begun, the door of the larder opened and some one came in. The two
Mice scampered off and hid themselves in a narrow and exceedingly
uncomfortable hole. Presently, when all was quiet, they ventured out
again; but some one else came in, and off they scuttled again. This
was too much for the visitor. "Good-bye," said he, "I'm off. You live
in the lap of luxury, I can see, but you are surrounded by dangers;
whereas at home I can enjoy my simple dinner of roots and corn in


A Lion saw a fine fat Bull pasturing among a herd of cattle and cast
about for some means of getting him into his clutches; so he sent him
word that he was sacrificing a sheep, and asked if he would do him the
honour of dining with him. The Bull accepted the invitation, but, on
arriving at the Lion's den, he saw a great array of saucepans and
spits, but no sign of a sheep; so he turned on his heel and walked
quietly away. The Lion called after him in an injured tone to ask the
reason, and the Bull turned round and said, "I have reason enough.
When I saw all your preparations it struck me at once that the victim
was to be a Bull and not a sheep."

The net is spread in vain in sight of the bird.


A Wolf charged a Fox with theft, which he denied, and the case was
brought before an Ape to be tried. When he had heard the evidence on
both sides, the Ape gave judgment as follows: "I do not think," he
said, "that you, O Wolf, ever lost what you claim; but all the same I
believe that you, Fox, are guilty of the theft, in spite of all your

The dishonest get no credit, even if they act honestly.


There were two Cocks in the same farmyard, and they fought to decide
who should be master. When the fight was over, the beaten one went and
hid himself in a dark corner; while the victor flew up on to the roof
of the stables and crowed lustily. But an Eagle espied him from high
up in the sky, and swooped down and carried him off. Forthwith the
other Cock came out of his corner and ruled the roost without a rival.

Pride comes before a fall.


A Man caught a Jackdaw and tied a piece of string to one of its legs,
and then gave it to his children for a pet. But the Jackdaw didn't at
all like having to live with people; so, after a while, when he seemed
to have become fairly tame and they didn't watch him so closely, he
slipped away and flew back to his old haunts. Unfortunately, the
string was still on his leg, and before long it got entangled in the
branches of a tree and the Jackdaw couldn't get free, try as he would.
He saw it was all up with him, and cried in despair, "Alas, in gaining
my freedom I have lost my life."


A Farmer was greatly annoyed by a Fox, which came prowling about his
yard at night and carried off his fowls. So he set a trap for him and
caught him; and in order to be revenged upon him, he tied a bunch of
tow to his tail and set fire to it and let him go. As ill-luck would
have it, however, the Fox made straight for the fields where the corn
was standing ripe and ready for cutting. It quickly caught fire and
was all burnt up, and the Farmer lost all his harvest.

Revenge is a two-edged sword.


A Cat fell in love with a handsome young man, and begged the goddess
Venus to change her into a woman. Venus was very gracious about it,
and changed her at once into a beautiful maiden, whom the young man
fell in love with at first sight and shortly afterwards married. One
day Venus thought she would like to see whether the Cat had changed
her habits as well as her form; so she let a mouse run loose in the
room where they were. Forgetting everything, the young woman had no
sooner seen the mouse than up she jumped and was after it like a shot:
at which the goddess was so disgusted that she changed her back again
into a Cat.


A Crow was filled with envy on seeing the beautiful white plumage of a
Swan, and thought it was due to the water in which the Swan constantly
bathed and swam. So he left the neighbourhood of the altars, where he
got his living by picking up bits of the meat offered in sacrifice,
and went and lived among the pools and streams. But though he bathed
and washed his feathers many times a day, he didn't make them any
whiter, and at last died of hunger into the bargain.

You may change your habits, but not your nature.


A Stag, blind of one eye, was grazing close to the sea-shore and kept
his sound eye turned towards the land, so as to be able to perceive
the approach of the hounds, while the blind eye he turned towards the
sea, never suspecting that any danger would threaten him from that
quarter. As it fell out, however, some sailors, coasting along the
shore, spied him and shot an arrow at him, by which he was mortally
wounded. As he lay dying, he said to himself, "Wretch that I am! I
bethought me of the dangers of the land, whence none assailed me: but
I feared no peril from the sea, yet thence has come my ruin."

Misfortune often assails us from an unexpected quarter.


A Fly sat on one of the shafts of a cart and said to the Mule who was
pulling it, "How slow you are! Do mend your pace, or I shall have to
use my sting as a goad." The Mule was not in the least disturbed.
"Behind me, in the cart," said he, "sits my master. He holds the
reins, and flicks me with his whip, and him I obey, but I don't want
any of your impertinence. _I_ know when I may dawdle and when I may


A Cock, scratching the ground for something to eat, turned up a Jewel
that had by chance been dropped there. "Ho!" said he, "a fine thing
you are, no doubt, and, had your owner found you, great would his joy
have been. But for me! give me a single grain of corn before all the
jewels in the world."


A Wolf hung about near a flock of sheep for a long time, but made no
attempt to molest them. The Shepherd at first kept a sharp eye on him,
for he naturally thought he meant mischief: but as time went by and
the Wolf showed no inclination to meddle with the flock, he began to
look upon him more as a protector than as an enemy: and when one day
some errand took him to the city, he felt no uneasiness at leaving
the Wolf with the sheep. But as soon as his back was turned the
Wolf attacked them and killed the greater number. When the Shepherd
returned and saw the havoc he had wrought, he cried, "It serves me
right for trusting my flock to a Wolf."


A Farmer set some traps in a field which he had lately sown with corn,
in order to catch the cranes which came to pick up the seed. When he
returned to look at his traps he found several cranes caught, and
among them a Stork, which begged to be let go, and said, "You ought
not to kill me: I am not a crane, but a Stork, as you can easily see
by my feathers, and I am the most honest and harmless of birds." But
the Farmer replied, "It's nothing to me what you are: I find you among
these cranes, who ruin my crops, and, like them, you shall suffer."

If you choose bad companions no one will believe that you are
anything but bad yourself.


A Horse, who had been used to carry his rider into battle, felt
himself growing old and chose to work in a mill instead. He now no
longer found himself stepping out proudly to the beating of the drums,
but was compelled to slave away all day grinding the corn. Bewailing
his hard lot, he said one day to the Miller, "Ah me! I was once a
splendid war-horse, gaily caparisoned, and attended by a groom
whose sole duty was to see to my wants. How different is my present
condition! I wish I had never given up the battlefield for the mill."
The Miller replied with asperity, "It's no use your regretting the
past. Fortune has many ups and downs: you must just take them as they


An Owl, who lived in a hollow tree, was in the habit of feeding by
night and sleeping by day; but her slumbers were greatly disturbed
by the chirping of a Grasshopper, who had taken up his abode in the
branches. She begged him repeatedly to have some consideration for her
comfort, but the Grasshopper, if anything, only chirped the louder. At
last the Owl could stand it no longer, but determined to rid
herself of the pest by means of a trick. Addressing herself to the
Grasshopper, she said in her pleasantest manner, "As I cannot sleep
for your song, which, believe me, is as sweet as the notes of Apollo's
lyre, I have a mind to taste some nectar, which Minerva gave me
the other day. Won't you come in and join me?" The Grasshopper was
flattered by the praise of his song, and his mouth, too, watered at
the mention of the delicious drink, so he said he would be delighted.
No sooner had he got inside the hollow where the Owl was sitting than
she pounced upon him and ate him up.


One fine day in winter some Ants were busy drying their store of corn,
which had got rather damp during a long spell of rain. Presently up
came a Grasshopper and begged them to spare her a few grains, "For,"
she said, "I'm simply starving." The Ants stopped work for a moment,
though this was against their principles. "May we ask," said they,
"what you were doing with yourself all last summer? Why didn't you
collect a store of food for the winter?" "The fact is," replied the
Grasshopper, "I was so busy singing that I hadn't the time." "If you
spent the summer singing," replied the Ants, "you can't do better than
spend the winter dancing." And they chuckled and went on with their


One winter a Farmer found a Viper frozen and numb with cold, and out
of pity picked it up and placed it in his bosom. The Viper was no
sooner revived by the warmth than it turned upon its benefactor and
inflicted a fatal bite upon him; and as the poor man lay dying, he
cried, "I have only got what I deserved, for taking compassion on so
villainous a creature."

Kindness is thrown away upon the evil.


Two Frogs were neighbours. One lived in a marsh, where there was
plenty of water, which frogs love: the other in a lane some distance
away, where all the water to be had was that which lay in the ruts
after rain. The Marsh Frog warned his friend and pressed him to come
and live with him in the marsh, for he would find his quarters there
far more comfortable and--what was still more important--more safe.
But the other refused, saying that he could not bring himself to move
from a place to which he had become accustomed. A few days afterwards
a heavy waggon came down the lane, and he was crushed to death under
the wheels.


A very unskilful Cobbler, finding himself unable to make a living at
his trade, gave up mending boots and took to doctoring instead. He
gave out that he had the secret of a universal antidote against all
poisons, and acquired no small reputation, thanks to his talent for
puffing himself. One day, however, he fell very ill; and the King of
the country bethought him that he would test the value of his remedy.
Calling, therefore, for a cup, he poured out a dose of the antidote,
and, under pretence of mixing poison with it, added a little water,
and commanded him to drink it. Terrified by the fear of being
poisoned, the Cobbler confessed that he knew nothing about medicine,
and that his antidote was worthless. Then the King summoned his
subjects and addressed them as follows: "What folly could be greater
than yours? Here is this Cobbler to whom no one will send his boots
to be mended, and yet you have not hesitated to entrust him with your


An Ass and a Cock were in a cattle-pen together. Presently a Lion, who
had been starving for days, came along and was just about to fall
upon the Ass and make a meal of him when the Cock, rising to his full
height and flapping his wings vigorously, uttered a tremendous crow.
Now, if there is one thing that frightens a Lion, it is the crowing of
a Cock: and this one had no sooner heard the noise than he fled.
The Ass was mightily elated at this, and thought that, if the Lion
couldn't face a Cock, he would be still less likely to stand up to an
Ass: so he ran out and pursued him. But when the two had got well out
of sight and hearing of the Cock, the Lion suddenly turned upon the
Ass and ate him up.

False confidence often leads to disaster.


The Members of the Body once rebelled against the Belly. "You," they
said to the Belly, "live in luxury and sloth, and never do a stroke of
work; while we not only have to do all the hard work there is to be
done, but are actually your slaves and have to minister to all your
wants. Now, we will do so no longer, and you can shift for yourself
for the future." They were as good as their word, and left the Belly
to starve. The result was just what might have been expected: the
whole Body soon began to fail, and the Members and all shared in the
general collapse. And then they saw too late how foolish they had


A Fly settled on the head of a Bald Man and bit him. In his eagerness
to kill it, he hit himself a smart slap. But the Fly escaped, and said
to him in derision, "You tried to kill me for just one little bite;
what will you do to yourself now, for the heavy smack you have just
given yourself?" "Oh, for that blow I bear no grudge," he replied,
"for I never intended myself any harm; but as for you, you
contemptible insect, who live by sucking human blood, I'd have borne a
good deal more than that for the satisfaction of dashing the life out
of you!"


An Ass was feeding in a meadow, and, catching sight of his enemy the
Wolf in the distance, pretended to be very lame and hobbled painfully
along. When the Wolf came up, he asked the Ass how he came to be so
lame, and the Ass replied that in going through a hedge he had trodden
on a thorn, and he begged the Wolf to pull it out with his teeth, "In
case," he said, "when you eat me, it should stick in your throat and
hurt you very much." The Wolf said he would, and told the Ass to lift
up his foot, and gave his whole mind to getting out the thorn. But the
Ass suddenly let out with his heels and fetched the Wolf a fearful
kick in the mouth, breaking his teeth; and then he galloped off at
full speed. As soon as he could speak the Wolf growled to himself,
"It serves me right: my father taught me to kill, and I ought to have
stuck to that trade instead of attempting to cure."


At a gathering of all the beasts the Monkey gave an exhibition of
dancing and entertained the company vastly. There was great applause
at the finish, which excited the envy of the Camel and made him desire
to win the favour of the assembly by the same means. So he got up from
his place and began dancing, but he cut such a ridiculous figure as he
plunged about, and made such a grotesque exhibition of his ungainly
person, that the beasts all fell upon him with ridicule and drove him


A Sick Man received a visit from his Doctor, who asked him how he was.
"Fairly well, Doctor," said he, "but I find I sweat a great deal."
"Ah," said the Doctor, "that's a good sign." On his next visit he
asked the same question, and his patient replied, "I'm much as usual,
but I've taken to having shivering fits, which leave me cold all
over." "Ah," said the Doctor, "that's a good sign too." When he came
the third time and inquired as before about his patient's health, the
Sick Man said that he felt very feverish. "A very good sign," said the
Doctor; "you are doing very nicely indeed." Afterwards a friend came
to see the invalid, and on asking him how he did, received this reply:
"My dear friend, I'm dying of good signs."


Two Travellers were walking along a bare and dusty road in the heat of
a summer's day. Coming presently to a Plane-tree, they joyfully turned
aside to shelter from the burning rays of the sun in the deep shade of
its spreading branches. As they rested, looking up into the tree, one
of them remarked to his companion, "What a useless tree the Plane is!
It bears no fruit and is of no service to man at all." The Plane-tree
interrupted him with indignation. "You ungrateful creature!" it cried:
"you come and take shelter under me from the scorching sun, and then,
in the very act of enjoying the cool shade of my foliage, you abuse me
and call me good for nothing!"

Many a service is met with ingratitude.


A Flea once said to an Ox, "How comes it that a big strong fellow like
you is content to serve mankind, and do all their hard work for them,
while I, who am no bigger than you see, live on their bodies and drink
my fill of their blood, and never do a stroke for it all?" To which
the Ox replied, "Men are very kind to me, and so I am grateful to
them: they feed and house me well, and every now and then they show
their fondness for me by patting me on the head and neck." "They'd pat
me, too," said the Flea, "if I let them: but I take good care they
don't, or there would be nothing left of me."


The Birds were at war with the Beasts, and many battles were fought
with varying success on either side. The Bat did not throw in his lot
definitely with either party, but when things went well for the Birds
he was found fighting in their ranks; when, on the other hand, the
Beasts got the upper hand, he was to be found among the Beasts. No one
paid any attention to him while the war lasted: but when it was over,
and peace was restored, neither the Birds nor the Beasts would have
anything to do with so double-faced a traitor, and so he remains to
this day a solitary outcast from both.


A Man of middle age, whose hair was turning grey, had two Sweethearts,
an old woman and a young one. The elder of the two didn't like having
a lover who looked so much younger than herself; so, whenever he came
to see her, she used to pull the dark hairs out of his head to make
him look old. The younger, on the other hand, didn't like him to look
so much older than herself, and took every opportunity of pulling out
the grey hairs, to make him look young. Between them, they left not a
hair in his head, and he became perfectly bald.


One day a Jackdaw saw an Eagle swoop down on a lamb and carry it off
in its talons. "My word," said the Jackdaw, "I'll do that myself." So
it flew high up into the air, and then came shooting down with a
great whirring of wings on to the back of a big ram. It had no sooner
alighted than its claws got caught fast in the wool, and nothing it
could do was of any use: there it stuck, flapping away, and only
making things worse instead of better. By and by up came the Shepherd.
"Oho," he said, "so that's what you'd be doing, is it?" And he
took the Jackdaw, and clipped its wings and carried it home to his
children. It looked so odd that they didn't know what to make of it.
"What sort of bird is it, father?" they asked. "It's a Jackdaw," he
replied, "and nothing but a Jackdaw: but it wants to be taken for an

If you attempt what is beyond your power, your trouble will be
wasted and you court not only misfortune but ridicule.


A Wolf, who had just enjoyed a good meal and was in a playful mood,
caught sight of a Boy lying flat upon the ground, and, realising that
he was trying to hide, and that it was fear of himself that made him
do this, he went up to him and said, "Aha, I've found you, you see;
but if you can say three things to me, the truth of which cannot be
disputed, I will spare your life." The Boy plucked up courage and
thought for a moment, and then he said, "First, it is a pity you saw
me; secondly, I was a fool to let myself be seen; and thirdly, we all
hate wolves because they are always making unprovoked attacks upon our
flocks." The Wolf replied, "Well, what you say is true enough from
your point of view; so you may go."


A Miller, accompanied by his young Son, was driving his Ass to market
in hopes of finding a purchaser for him. On the road they met a troop
of girls, laughing and talking, who exclaimed, "Did you ever see such
a pair of fools? To be trudging along the dusty road when they might
be riding!" The Miller thought there was sense in what they said;
so he made his Son mount the Ass, and himself walked at the side.
Presently they met some of his old cronies, who greeted them and said,
"You'll spoil that Son of yours, letting him ride while you toil along
on foot! Make him walk, young lazybones! It'll do him all the good in
the world." The Miller followed their advice, and took his Son's place
on the back of the Ass while the boy trudged along behind. They had
not gone far when they overtook a party of women and children, and the
Miller heard them say, "What a selfish old man! He himself rides in
comfort, but lets his poor little boy follow as best he can on his own
legs!" So he made his Son get up behind him. Further along the road
they met some travellers, who asked the Miller whether the Ass he was
riding was his own property, or a beast hired for the occasion. He
replied that it was his own, and that he was taking it to market to
sell. "Good heavens!" said they, "with a load like that the poor beast
will be so exhausted by the time he gets there that no one will look
at him. Why, you'd do better to carry him!" "Anything to please you,"
said the old man, "we can but try." So they got off, tied the Ass's
legs together with a rope and slung him on a pole, and at last reached
the town, carrying him between them. This was so absurd a sight that
the people ran out in crowds to laugh at it, and chaffed the Father
and Son unmercifully, some even calling them lunatics. They had then
got to a bridge over the river, where the Ass, frightened by the noise
and his unusual situation, kicked and struggled till he broke the
ropes that bound him, and fell into the water and was drowned.
Whereupon the unfortunate Miller, vexed and ashamed, made the best
of his way home again, convinced that in trying to please all he had
pleased none, and had lost his Ass into the bargain.


A Stag, pursued by the huntsmen, concealed himself under cover of a
thick Vine. They lost track of him and passed by his hiding-place
without being aware that he was anywhere near. Supposing all danger to
be over, he presently began to browse on the leaves of the Vine. The
movement drew the attention of the returning huntsmen, and one of
them, supposing some animal to be hidden there, shot an arrow at a
venture into the foliage. The unlucky Stag was pierced to the heart,
and, as he expired, he said, "I deserve my fate for my treachery in
feeding upon the leaves of my protector."

Ingratitude sometimes brings its own punishment.


A Wolf was chasing a Lamb, which took refuge in a temple. The Wolf
urged it to come out of the precincts, and said, "If you don't, the
priest is sure to catch you and offer you up in sacrifice on the
altar." To which the Lamb replied, "Thanks, I think I'll stay where I
am: I'd rather be sacrificed any day than be eaten up by a Wolf."


An Archer went up into the hills to get some sport with his bow, and
all the animals fled at the sight of him with the exception of the
Lion, who stayed behind and challenged him to fight. But he shot an
arrow at the Lion and hit him, and said, "There, you see what my
messenger can do: just you wait a moment and I'll tackle you myself."
The Lion, however, when he felt the sting of the arrow, ran away as
fast as his legs could carry him. A fox, who had seen it all happen,
said to the Lion, "Come, don't be a coward: why don't you stay and
show fight?" But the Lion replied, "You won't get me to stay, not you:
why, when he sends a messenger like that before him, he must himself
be a terrible fellow to deal with."

Give a wide berth to those who can do damage at a distance.


A Wolf caught sight of a Goat browsing above him on the scanty herbage
that grew on the top of a steep rock; and being unable to get at her,
tried to induce her to come lower down. "You are risking your life up
there, madam, indeed you are," he called out: "pray take my advice and
come down here, where you will find plenty of better food." The Goat
turned a knowing eye upon him. "It's little you care whether I get
good grass or bad," said she: "what you want is to eat me."


A Stag fell sick and lay in a clearing in the forest, too weak to move
from the spot. When the news of his illness spread, a number of the
other beasts came to inquire after his health, and they one and all
nibbled a little of the grass that grew round the invalid till at last
there was not a blade within his reach. In a few days he began to
mend, but was still too feeble to get up and go in search of fodder;
and thus he perished miserably of hunger owing to the thoughtlessness
of his friends.


A certain man who had an Ass and a Mule loaded them both up one day
and set out upon a journey. So long as the road was fairly level, the
Ass got on very well: but by and by they came to a place among the
hills where the road was very rough and steep, and the Ass was at his
last gasp. So he begged the Mule to relieve him of a part of his load:
but the Mule refused. At last, from sheer weariness, the Ass stumbled
and fell down a steep place and was killed. The driver was in despair,
but he did the best he could: he added the Ass's load to the Mule's,
and he also flayed the Ass and put his skin on the top of the double
load. The Mule could only just manage the extra weight, and, as he
staggered painfully along, he said to himself, "I have only got what I
deserved: if I had been willing to help the Ass at first, I should not
now be carrying his load and his skin into the bargain."

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