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Aesop's Fables by Aesop

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A certain man had two children, a boy and a girl: and the boy was as
good-looking as the girl was plain. One day, as they were playing
together in their mother's chamber, they chanced upon a mirror and saw
their own features for the first time. The boy saw what a handsome
fellow he was, and began to boast to his Sister about his good looks:
she, on her part, was ready to cry with vexation when she was aware of
her plainness, and took his remarks as an insult to herself. Running
to her father, she told him of her Brother's conceit, and accused him
of meddling with his mother's things. He laughed and kissed them both,
and said, "My children, learn from now onwards to make a good use of
the glass. You, my boy, strive to be as good as it shows you to be
handsome; and you, my girl, resolve to make up for the plainness of
your features by the sweetness of your disposition."


A Heifer went up to an Ox, who was straining hard at the plough,
and sympathised with him in a rather patronising sort of way on the
necessity of his having to work so hard. Not long afterwards there was
a festival in the village and every one kept holiday: but, whereas the
Ox was turned loose into the pasture, the Heifer was seized and led
off to sacrifice. "Ah," said the Ox, with a grim smile, "I see now why
you were allowed to have such an idle time: it was because you were
always intended for the altar."


When the Lion reigned over the beasts of the earth he was never cruel
or tyrannical, but as gentle and just as a King ought to be. During
his reign he called a general assembly of the beasts, and drew up a
code of laws under which all were to live in perfect equality and
harmony: the wolf and the lamb, the tiger and the stag, the leopard
and the kid, the dog and the hare, all should dwell side by side in
unbroken peace and friendship. The hare said, "Oh! how I have longed
for this day when the weak take their place without fear by the side
of the strong!"


An Ass was being driven down a mountain road, and after jogging along
for a while sensibly enough he suddenly quitted the track and rushed
to the edge of a precipice. He was just about to leap over the edge
when his Driver caught hold of his tail and did his best to pull him
back: but pull as he might he couldn't get the Ass to budge from the
brink. At last he gave up, crying, "All right, then, get to the bottom
your own way; but it's the way to sudden death, as you'll find out
quick enough."


A Lion found a Hare sleeping in her form, and was just going to devour
her when he caught sight of a passing stag. Dropping the Hare, he at
once made for the bigger game; but finding, after a long chase, that
he could not overtake the stag, he abandoned the attempt and came back
for the Hare. When he reached the spot, however, he found she was
nowhere to be seen, and he had to go without his dinner. "It serves
me right," he said; "I should have been content with what I had got,
instead of hankering after a better prize."


Once upon a time the Wolves said to the Dogs, "Why should we continue
to be enemies any longer? You are very like us in most ways: the main
difference between us is one of training only. We live a life of
freedom; but you are enslaved to mankind, who beat you, and put heavy
collars round your necks, and compel you to keep watch over their
flocks and herds for them, and, to crown all, they give you nothing
but bones to eat. Don't put up with it any longer, but hand over the
flocks to us, and we will all live on the fat of the land and feast
together." The Dogs allowed themselves to be persuaded by these words,
and accompanied the Wolves into their den. But no sooner were they
well inside than the Wolves set upon them and tore them to pieces.

Traitors richly deserve their fate.


A full-grown Bull was struggling to force his huge bulk through the
narrow entrance to a cow-house where his stall was, when a young Calf
came up and said to him, "If you'll step aside a moment, I'll show you
the way to get through." The Bull turned upon him an amused look. "I
knew that way," said he, "before you were born."


A Woodman went into the forest and begged of the Trees the favour of a
handle for his Axe. The principal Trees at once agreed to so modest a
request, and unhesitatingly gave him a young ash sapling, out of which
he fashioned the handle he desired. No sooner had he done so than he
set to work to fell the noblest Trees in the wood. When they saw the
use to which he was putting their gift, they cried, "Alas! alas! We
are undone, but we are ourselves to blame. The little we gave has
cost us all: had we not sacrificed the rights of the ash, we might
ourselves have stood for ages."


There was once an Astronomer whose habit it was to go out at night and
observe the stars. One night, as he was walking about outside the town
gates, gazing up absorbed into the sky and not looking where he was
going, he fell into a dry well. As he lay there groaning, some one
passing by heard him, and, coming to the edge of the well, looked down
and, on learning what had happened, said, "If you really mean to say
that you were looking so hard at the sky that you didn't even see
where your feet were carrying you along the ground, it appears to me
that you deserve all you've got."


A Labourer's little son was bitten by a Snake and died of the wound.
The father was beside himself with grief, and in his anger against
the Snake he caught up an axe and went and stood close to the Snake's
hole, and watched for a chance of killing it. Presently the Snake came
out, and the man aimed a blow at it, but only succeeded in cutting off
the tip of its tail before it wriggled in again. He then tried to get
it to come out a second time, pretending that he wished to make up the
quarrel. But the Snake said, "I can never be your friend because of my
lost tail, nor you mine because of your lost child."

Injuries are never forgotten in the presence of those who caused


A Singing-bird was confined in a cage which hung outside a window, and
had a way of singing at night when all other birds were asleep. One
night a Bat came and clung to the bars of the cage, and asked the Bird
why she was silent by day and sang only at night. "I have a very good
reason for doing so," said the Bird: "it was once when I was singing
in the daytime that a fowler was attracted by my voice, and set his
nets for me and caught me. Since then I have never sung except by
night." But the Bat replied, "It is no use your doing that now when
you are a prisoner: if only you had done so before you were caught,
you might still have been free."

Precautions are useless after the event.


A Man who wanted to buy an Ass went to market, and, coming across
a likely-looking beast, arranged with the owner that he should be
allowed to take him home on trial to see what he was like. When he
reached home, he put him into his stable along with the other asses.
The newcomer took a look round, and immediately went and chose a place
next to the laziest and greediest beast in the stable. When the master
saw this he put a halter on him at once, and led him off and handed
him over to his owner again. The latter was a good deal surprised to
see him back so soon, and said, "Why, do you mean to say you have
tested him already?" "I don't want to put him through any more tests,"
replied the other: "I could see what sort of beast he is from the
companion he chose for himself."

A man is known by the company he keeps.


A Kid strayed from the flock and was chased by a Wolf. When he saw he
must be caught he turned round and said to the Wolf, "I know, sir,
that I can't escape being eaten by you: and so, as my life is bound to
be short, I pray you let it be as merry as may be. Will you not play
me a tune to dance to before I die?" The Wolf saw no objection to
having some music before his dinner: so he took out his pipe and began
to play, while the Kid danced before him. Before many minutes were
passed the gods who guarded the flock heard the sound and came up to
see what was going on. They no sooner clapped eyes on the Wolf than
they gave chase and drove him away. As he ran off, he turned and
said to the Kid, "It's what I thoroughly deserve: my trade is the
butcher's, and I had no business to turn piper to please you."


A Man of Athens fell into debt and was pressed for the money by his
creditor; but he had no means of paying at the time, so he begged for
delay. But the creditor refused and said he must pay at once. Then the
Debtor fetched a Sow--the only one he had--and took her to market
to offer her for sale. It happened that his creditor was there too.
Presently a buyer came along and asked if the Sow produced good
litters. "Yes," said the Debtor, "very fine ones; and the remarkable
thing is that she produces females at the Mysteries and males at the
Panathenea." (Festivals these were: and the Athenians always sacrifice
a sow at one, and a boar at the other; while at the Dionysia they
sacrifice a kid.) At that the creditor, who was standing by, put in,
"Don't be surprised, sir; why, still better, at the Dionysia this Sow
has kids!"


A Man who had lost all his hair took to wearing a wig, and one day
he went out hunting. It was blowing rather hard at the time, and he
hadn't gone far before a gust of wind caught his hat and carried it
off, and his wig too, much to the amusement of the hunt. But he quite
entered into the joke, and said, "Ah, well! the hair that wig is made
of didn't stick to the head on which it grew; so it's no wonder it
won't stick to mine."


A Herdsman was tending his cattle when he missed a young Bull, one of
the finest of the herd. He went at once to look for him, but, meeting
with no success in his search, he made a vow that, if he should
discover the thief, he would sacrifice a calf to Jupiter. Continuing
his search, he entered a thicket, where he presently espied a lion
devouring the lost Bull. Terrified with fear, he raised his hands to
heaven and cried, "Great Jupiter, I vowed I would sacrifice a calf
to thee if I should discover the thief: but now a full-grown Bull
I promise thee if only I myself escape unhurt from his clutches."


One morning a Mule, who had too much to eat and too little to do,
began to think himself a very fine fellow indeed, and frisked about
saying, "My father was undoubtedly a high-spirited horse and I take
after him entirely." But very soon afterwards he was put into the
harness and compelled to go a very long way with a heavy load behind
him. At the end of the day, exhausted by his unusual exertions, he
said dejectedly to himself, "I must have been mistaken about my
father; he can only have been an ass after all."


A Hound, roaming in the forest, spied a lion, and being well used
to lesser game, gave chase, thinking he would make a fine quarry.
Presently the lion perceived that he was being pursued; so, stopping
short, he rounded on his pursuer and gave a loud roar. The Hound
immediately turned tail and fled. A Fox, seeing him running away,
jeered at him and said, "Ho! ho! There goes the coward who chased a
lion and ran away the moment he roared!"


A Man had two Daughters, one of whom he gave in marriage to a
gardener, and the other to a potter. After a time he thought he
would go and see how they were getting on; and first he went to the
gardener's wife. He asked her how she was, and how things were going
with herself and her husband. She replied that on the whole they were
doing very well: "But," she continued, "I do wish we could have some
good heavy rain: the garden wants it badly." Then he went on to the
potter's wife and made the same inquiries of her. She replied that she
and her husband had nothing to complain of: "But," she went on, "I do
wish we could have some nice dry weather, to dry the pottery." Her
Father looked at her with a humorous expression on his face. "You want
dry weather," he said, "and your sister wants rain. I was going to ask
in my prayers that your wishes should be granted; but now it strikes
me I had better not refer to the subject."


A Thief hired a room at an inn, and stayed there some days on the
look-out for something to steal. No opportunity, however, presented
itself, till one day, when there was a festival to be celebrated, the
Innkeeper appeared in a fine new coat and sat down before the door of
the inn for an airing. The Thief no sooner set eyes upon the coat than
he longed to get possession of it. There was no business doing, so he
went and took a seat by the side of the Innkeeper, and began talking
to him. They conversed together for some time, and then the Thief
suddenly yawned and howled like a wolf. The Innkeeper asked him in
some concern what ailed him. The Thief replied, "I will tell you about
myself, sir, but first I must beg you to take charge of my clothes
for me, for I intend to leave them with you. Why I have these fits
of yawning I cannot tell: maybe they are sent as a punishment for my
misdeeds; but, whatever the reason, the facts are that when I have
yawned three times I become a ravening wolf and fly at men's throats."
As he finished speaking he yawned a second time and howled again as
before. The Innkeeper, believing every word he said, and terrified
at the prospect of being confronted with a wolf, got up hastily and
started to run indoors; but the Thief caught him by the coat and tried
to stop him, crying, "Stay, sir, stay, and take charge of my clothes,
or else I shall never see them again." As he spoke he opened his mouth
and began to yawn for the third time. The Innkeeper, mad with the fear
of being eaten by a wolf, slipped out of his coat, which remained in
the other's hands, and bolted into the inn and locked the door behind
him; and the Thief then quietly stole off with his spoil.


A Wild Ass, who was wandering idly about, one day came upon a Pack-Ass
lying at full length in a sunny spot and thoroughly enjoying himself.
Going up to him, he said, "What a lucky beast you are! Your sleek coat
shows how well you live: how I envy you!" Not long after the Wild Ass
saw his acquaintance again, but this time he was carrying a heavy
load, and his driver was following behind and beating him with a thick
stick. "Ah, my friend," said the Wild Ass, "I don't envy you any more:
for I see you pay dear for your comforts."

Advantages that are dearly bought are doubtful blessings.


A Gardener had an Ass which had a very hard time of it, what with
scanty food, heavy loads, and constant beating. The Ass therefore
begged Jupiter to take him away from the Gardener and hand him over
to another master. So Jupiter sent Mercury to the Gardener to bid
him sell the Ass to a Potter, which he did. But the Ass was as
discontented as ever, for he had to work harder than before: so he
begged Jupiter for relief a second time, and Jupiter very obligingly
arranged that he should be sold to a Tanner. But when the Ass saw what
his new master's trade was, he cried in despair, "Why wasn't I content
to serve either of my former masters, hard as I had to work and badly
as I was treated? for they would have buried me decently, but now I
shall come in the end to the tanning-vat."

Servants don't know a good master till they have served a worse.


A Wild Ass saw a Pack-Ass jogging along under a heavy load, and
taunted him with the condition of slavery in which he lived, in these
words: "What a vile lot is yours compared with mine! I am free as the
air, and never do a stroke of work; and, as for fodder, I have only to
go to the hills and there I find far more than enough for my needs.
But you! you depend on your master for food, and he makes you carry
heavy loads every day and beats you unmercifully." At that moment a
Lion appeared on the scene, and made no attempt to molest the Pack-Ass
owing to the presence of the driver; but he fell upon the Wild Ass,
who had no one to protect him, and without more ado made a meal of

It is no use being your own master unless you can stand up for


Ants were once men and made their living by tilling the soil. But, not
content with the results of their own work, they were always casting
longing eyes upon the crops and fruits of their neighbours, which they
stole, whenever they got the chance, and added to their own store. At
last their covetousness made Jupiter so angry that he changed them
into Ants. But, though their forms were changed, their nature remained
the same: and so, to this day, they go about among the cornfields and
gather the fruits of others' labour, and store them up for their own

You may punish a thief, but his bent remains.


Two Frogs lived together in a marsh. But one hot summer the marsh
dried up, and they left it to look for another place to live in: for
frogs like damp places if they can get them. By and by they came to a
deep well, and one of them looked down into it, and said to the other,
"This looks a nice cool place: let us jump in and settle here." But
the other, who had a wiser head on his shoulders, replied, "Not so
fast, my friend: supposing this well dried up like the marsh, how
should we get out again?"

Think twice before you act.


A Crab once left the sea-shore and went and settled in a meadow some
way inland, which looked very nice and green and seemed likely to be a
good place to feed in. But a hungry Fox came along and spied the Crab
and caught him. Just as he was going to be eaten up, the Crab said,
"This is just what I deserve; for I had no business to leave my
natural home by the sea and settle here as though I belonged to the

Be content with your lot.


A Grasshopper sat chirping in the branches of a tree. A Fox heard her,
and, thinking what a dainty morsel she would make, he tried to get her
down by a trick. Standing below in full view of her, he praised her
song in the most flattering terms, and begged her to descend, saying
he would like to make the acquaintance of the owner of so beautiful a
voice. But she was not to be taken in, and replied, "You are very much
mistaken, my dear sir, if you imagine I am going to come down: I keep
well out of the way of you and your kind ever since the day when I saw
numbers of grasshoppers' wings strewn about the entrance to a fox's


A Farmer had just sown a field of wheat, and was keeping a careful
watch over it, for numbers of Rooks and starlings kept continually
settling on it and eating up the grain. Along with him went his Boy,
carrying a sling: and whenever the Farmer asked for the sling the
starlings understood what he said and warned the Rooks and they were
off in a moment. So the Farmer hit on a trick. "My lad," said he, "we
must get the better of these birds somehow. After this, when I want
the sling, I won't say 'sling,' but just 'humph!' and you must then
hand me the sling quickly." Presently back came the whole flock.
"Humph!" said the Farmer; but the starlings took no notice, and he
had time to sling several stones among them, hitting one on the head,
another in the legs, and another in the wing, before they got out of
range. As they made all haste away they met some cranes, who asked
them what the matter was. "Matter?" said one of the Rooks; "it's those
rascals, men, that are the matter. Don't you go near them. They have
a way of saying one thing and meaning another which has just been the
death of several of our poor friends."


An Ass and a Dog were on their travels together, and, as they went
along, they found a sealed packet lying on the ground. The Ass picked
it up, broke the seal, and found it contained some writing, which he
proceeded to read out aloud to the Dog. As he read on it turned out
to be all about grass and barley and hay--in short, all the kinds of
fodder that Asses are fond of. The Dog was a good deal bored with
listening to all this, till at last his impatience got the better of
him, and he cried, "Just skip a few pages, friend, and see if there
isn't something about meat and bones." The Ass glanced all through the
packet, but found nothing of the sort, and said so. Then the Dog said
in disgust, "Oh, throw it away, do: what's the good of a thing like


A certain man put an Image on the back of his Ass to take it to one of
the temples of the town. As they went along the road all the people
they met uncovered and bowed their heads out of reverence for the
Image; but the Ass thought they were doing it out of respect for
himself, and began to give himself airs accordingly. At last he became
so conceited that he imagined he could do as he liked, and, by way of
protest against the load he was carrying, he came to a full stop and
flatly declined to proceed any further. His driver, finding him so
obstinate, hit him hard and long with his stick, saying the while,
"Oh, you dunder-headed idiot, do you suppose it's come to this, that
men pay worship to an Ass?"

Rude shocks await those who take to themselves the credit that is
due to others.


An Athenian and a Theban were on the road together, and passed the
time in conversation, as is the way of travellers. After discussing
a variety of subjects they began to talk about heroes, a topic that
tends to be more fertile than edifying. Each of them was lavish in his
praises of the heroes of his own city, until eventually the Theban
asserted that Hercules was the greatest hero who had ever lived on
earth, and now occupied a foremost place among the gods; while the
Athenian insisted that Theseus was far superior, for his fortune had
been in every way supremely blessed, whereas Hercules had at one time
been forced to act as a servant. And he gained his point, for he was a
very glib fellow, like all Athenians; so that the Theban, who was no
match for him in talking, cried at last in some disgust, "All right,
have your way; I only hope that, when our heroes are angry with us,
Athens may suffer from the anger of Hercules, and Thebes only from
that of Theseus."


A Goatherd was one day gathering his flock to return to the fold, when
one of his goats strayed and refused to join the rest. He tried for a
long time to get her to return by calling and whistling to her, but
the Goat took no notice of him at all; so at last he threw a stone at
her and broke one of her horns. In dismay, he begged her not to tell
his master: but she replied, "You silly fellow, my horn would cry
aloud even if I held my tongue."

It's no use trying to hide what can't be hidden.


Once upon a time the Sheep complained to the shepherd about the
difference in his treatment of themselves and his Dog. "Your conduct,"
said they, "is very strange and, we think, very unfair. We provide you
with wool and lambs and milk and you give us nothing but grass, and
even that we have to find for ourselves: but you get nothing at all
from the Dog, and yet you feed him with tit-bits from your own table."
Their remarks were overheard by the Dog, who spoke up at once and
said, "Yes, and quite right, too: where would you be if it wasn't for
me? Thieves would steal you! Wolves would eat you! Indeed, if I didn't
keep constant watch over you, you would be too terrified even to
graze!" The Sheep were obliged to acknowledge that he spoke the truth,
and never again made a grievance of the regard in which he was held by
his master.


A Shepherd found a Wolf's Cub straying in the pastures, and took him
home and reared him along with his dogs. When the Cub grew to his full
size, if ever a wolf stole a sheep from the flock, he used to join the
dogs in hunting him down. It sometimes happened that the dogs failed
to come up with the thief, and, abandoning the pursuit, returned home.
The Wolf would on such occasions continue the chase by himself, and
when he overtook the culprit, would stop and share the feast with him,
and then return to the Shepherd. But if some time passed without a
sheep being carried off by the wolves, he would steal one himself
and share his plunder with the dogs. The Shepherd's suspicions were
aroused, and one day he caught him in the act; and, fastening a rope
round his neck, hung him on the nearest tree.

What's bred in the bone is sure to come out in the flesh.


The Lion, for all his size and strength, and his sharp teeth and
claws, is a coward in one thing: he can't bear the sound of a cock
crowing, and runs away whenever he hears it. He complained bitterly
to Jupiter for making him like that; but Jupiter said it wasn't his
fault: he had done the best he could for him, and, considering this
was his only failing, he ought to be well content. The Lion, however,
wouldn't be comforted, and was so ashamed of his timidity that he
wished he might die. In this state of mind, he met the Elephant and
had a talk with him. He noticed that the great beast cocked up his
ears all the time, as if he were listening for something, and he asked
him why he did so. Just then a gnat came humming by, and the Elephant
said, "Do you see that wretched little buzzing insect? I'm terribly
afraid of its getting into my ear: if it once gets in, I'm dead and
done for." The Lion's spirits rose at once when he heard this: "For,"
he said to himself, "if the Elephant, huge as he is, is afraid of a
gnat, I needn't be so much ashamed of being afraid of a cock, who is
ten thousand times bigger than a gnat."


A Pig found his way into a meadow where a flock of Sheep were grazing.
The shepherd caught him, and was proceeding to carry him off to the
butcher's when he set up a loud squealing and struggled to get free.
The Sheep rebuked him for making such a to-do, and said to him, "The
shepherd catches us regularly and drags us off just like that, and we
don't make any fuss." "No, I dare say not," replied the Pig, "but my
case and yours are altogether different: he only wants you for wool,
but he wants me for bacon."


A Gardner's Dog fell into a deep well, from which his master used to
draw water for the plants in his garden with a rope and a bucket.
Failing to get the Dog out by means of these, the Gardener went down
into the well himself in order to fetch him up. But the Dog thought he
had come to make sure of drowning him; so he bit his master as soon as
he came within reach, and hurt him a good deal, with the result that
he left the Dog to his fate and climbed out of the well, remarking,
"It serves me quite right for trying to save so determined a suicide."


Once upon a time all the Rivers combined to protest against the action
of the Sea in making their waters salt. "When we come to you," said
they to the Sea, "we are sweet and drinkable: but when once we have
mingled with you, our waters become as briny and unpalatable as your
own." The Sea replied shortly, "Keep away from me and you'll remain


A Lion fell deeply in love with the daughter of a cottager and wanted
to marry her; but her father was unwilling to give her to so fearsome
a husband, and yet didn't want to offend the Lion; so he hit upon the
following expedient. He went to the Lion and said, "I think you will
make a very good husband for my daughter: but I cannot consent to your
union unless you let me draw your teeth and pare your nails, for my
daughter is terribly afraid of them." The Lion was so much in love
that he readily agreed that this should be done. When once, however,
he was thus disarmed, the Cottager was afraid of him no longer, but
drove him away with his club.


A Thief found his way into an apiary when the Bee-keeper was away,
and stole all the honey. When the Keeper returned and found the hives
empty, he was very much upset and stood staring at them for some time.
Before long the bees came back from gathering honey, and, finding
their hives overturned and the Keeper standing by, they made for him
with their stings. At this he fell into a passion and cried, "You
ungrateful scoundrels, you let the thief who stole my honey get off
scot-free, and then you go and sting me who have always taken such
care of you!"

When you hit back make sure you have got the right man.


A Wolf on his rambles came to a field of oats, but, not being able to
eat them, he was passing on his way when a Horse came along. "Look,"
said the Wolf, "here's a fine field of oats. For your sake I have
left it untouched, and I shall greatly enjoy the sound of your teeth
munching the ripe grain." But the Horse replied, "If wolves could eat
oats, my fine friend, you would hardly have indulged your ears at the
cost of your belly."

There is no virtue in giving to others what is useless to oneself.


A Bat, a Bramble, and a Seagull went into partnership and determined
to go on a trading voyage together. The Bat borrowed a sum of money
for his venture; the Bramble laid in a stock of clothes of various
kinds; and the Seagull took a quantity of lead: and so they set out.
By and by a great storm came on, and their boat with all the cargo
went to the bottom, but the three travellers managed to reach land.
Ever since then the Seagull flies to and fro over the sea, and every
now and then dives below the surface, looking for the lead he's lost;
while the Bat is so afraid of meeting his creditors that he hides away
by day and only comes out at night to feed; and the Bramble catches
hold of the clothes of every one who passes by, hoping some day to
recognise and recover the lost garments.

All men are more concerned to recover what they lose than to
acquire what they lack.


A Dog was lying in the sun before a farmyard gate when a Wolf pounced
upon him and was just going to eat him up; but he begged for his life
and said, "You see how thin I am and what a wretched meal I should
make you now: but if you will only wait a few days my master is going
to give a feast. All the rich scraps and pickings will fall to me and
I shall get nice and fat: then will be the time for you to eat me."
The Wolf thought this was a very good plan and went away. Some time
afterwards he came to the farmyard again, and found the Dog lying out
of reach on the stable roof. "Come down," he called, "and be eaten:
you remember our agreement?" But the Dog said coolly, "My friend, if
ever you catch me lying down by the gate there again, don't you wait
for any feast."

Once bitten, twice shy.


A Wasp settled on the head of a Snake, and not only stung him several
times, but clung obstinately to the head of his victim. Maddened with
pain the Snake tried every means he could think of to get rid of
the creature, but without success. At last he became desperate, and
crying, "Kill you I will, even at the cost of my own life," he laid
his head with the Wasp on it under the wheel of a passing waggon, and
they both perished together.


An Eagle was chasing a hare, which was running for dear life and was
at her wits' end to know where to turn for help. Presently she espied
a Beetle, and begged it to aid her. So when the Eagle came up
the Beetle warned her not to touch the hare, which was under its
protection. But the Eagle never noticed the Beetle because it was so
small, seized the hare and ate her up. The Beetle never forgot this,
and used to keep an eye on the Eagle's nest, and whenever the Eagle
laid an egg it climbed up and rolled it out of the nest and broke it.
At last the Eagle got so worried over the loss of her eggs that she
went up to Jupiter, who is the special protector of Eagles, and begged
him to give her a safe place to nest in: so he let her lay her eggs in
his lap. But the Beetle noticed this and made a ball of dirt the size
of an Eagle's egg, and flew up and deposited it in Jupiter's lap. When
Jupiter saw the dirt, he stood up to shake it out of his robe, and,
forgetting about the eggs, he shook them out too, and they were broken
just as before. Ever since then, they say, Eagles never lay their eggs
at the season when Beetles are about.

The weak will sometimes find ways to avenge an insult, even upon
the strong.


A Fowler was setting his nets for little birds when a Lark came up
to him and asked him what he was doing. "I am engaged in founding a
city," said he, and with that he withdrew to a short distance and
concealed himself. The Lark examined the nets with great curiosity,
and presently, catching sight of the bait, hopped on to them in order
to secure it, and became entangled in the meshes. The Fowler then ran
up quickly and captured her. "What a fool I was!" said she: "but at
any rate, if that's the kind of city you are founding, it'll be a long
time before you find fools enough to fill it."


A Fisherman who could play the flute went down one day to the
sea-shore with his nets and his flute; and, taking his stand on a
projecting rock, began to play a tune, thinking that the music would
bring the fish jumping out of the sea. He went on playing for some
time, but not a fish appeared: so at last he threw down his flute and
cast his net into the sea, and made a great haul of fish. When they
were landed and he saw them leaping about on the shore, he cried, "You
rascals! you wouldn't dance when I piped: but now I've stopped, you
can do nothing else!"


A Man once caught a Weasel, which was always sneaking about the house,
and was just going to drown it in a tub of water, when it begged hard
for its life, and said to him, "Surely you haven't the heart to put me
to death? Think how useful I have been in clearing your house of the
mice and lizards which used to infest it, and show your gratitude by
sparing my life." "You have not been altogether useless, I grant you,"
said the Man: "but who killed the fowls? Who stole the meat? No, no!
You do much more harm than good, and die you shall."


A Ploughman yoked his Ox and his Ass together, and set to work to
plough his field. It was a poor makeshift of a team, but it was the
best he could do, as he had but a single Ox. At the end of the day,
when the beasts were loosed from the yoke, the Ass said to the Ox,
"Well, we've had a hard day: which of us is to carry the master home?"
The Ox looked surprised at the question. "Why," said he, "you, to be
sure, as usual."


Demades the orator was once speaking in the Assembly at Athens; but
the people were very inattentive to what he was saying, so he stopped
and said, "Gentlemen, I should like to tell you one of AEsop's fables."
This made every one listen intently. Then Demades began: "Demeter, a
Swallow, and an Eel were once travelling together, and came to a river
without a bridge: the Swallow flew over it, and the Eel swam across";
and then he stopped. "What happened to Demeter?" cried several people
in the audience. "Demeter," he replied, "is very angry with you for
listening to fables when you ought to be minding public business."


When people go on a voyage they often take with them lap-dogs or
monkeys as pets to wile away the time. Thus it fell out that a man
returning to Athens from the East had a pet Monkey on board with him.
As they neared the coast of Attica a great storm burst upon them, and
the ship capsized. All on board were thrown into the water, and tried
to save themselves by swimming, the Monkey among the rest. A Dolphin
saw him, and, supposing him to be a man, took him on his back and
began swimming towards the shore. When they got near the Piraeus, which
is the port of Athens, the Dolphin asked the Monkey if he was an
Athenian. The Monkey replied that he was, and added that he came of
a very distinguished family. "Then, of course, you know the Piraeus,"
continued the Dolphin. The Monkey thought he was referring to some
high official or other, and replied, "Oh, yes, he's a very old friend
of mine." At that, detecting his hypocrisy, the Dolphin was so
disgusted that he dived below the surface, and the unfortunate Monkey
was quickly drowned.


A hungry Crow spied a Snake lying asleep in a sunny spot, and, picking
it up in his claws, he was carrying it off to a place where he could
make a meal of it without being disturbed, when the Snake reared its
head and bit him. It was a poisonous Snake, and the bite was fatal,
and the dying Crow said, "What a cruel fate is mine! I thought I had
made a lucky find, and it has cost me my life!"


Some Dogs once found a lion's skin, and were worrying it with their
teeth. Just then a Fox came by, and said, "You think yourselves very
brave, no doubt; but if that were a live lion you'd find his claws a
good deal sharper than your teeth."


A Nightingale was sitting on a bough of an oak and singing, as her
custom was. A hungry Hawk presently spied her, and darting to the spot
seized her in his talons. He was just about to tear her in pieces when
she begged him to spare her life: "I'm not big enough," she pleaded,
"to make you a good meal: you ought to seek your prey among the bigger
birds." The Hawk eyed her with some contempt. "You must think me very
simple," said he, "if you suppose I am going to give up a certain
prize on the chance of a better of which I see at present no signs."


A Rose and an Amaranth blossomed side by side in a garden, and the
Amaranth said to her neighbour, "How I envy you your beauty and your
sweet scent! No wonder you are such a universal favourite." But the
Rose replied with a shade of sadness in her voice, "Ah, my dear
friend, I bloom but for a time: my petals soon wither and fall, and
then I die. But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut; for
they are everlasting."


One winter's day, during a severe storm, a Horse, an Ox, and a Dog
came and begged for shelter in the house of a Man. He readily admitted
them, and, as they were cold and wet, he lit a fire for their comfort:
and he put oats before the Horse, and hay before the Ox, while he fed
the Dog with the remains of his own dinner. When the storm abated, and
they were about to depart, they determined to show their gratitude in
the following way. They divided the life of Man among them, and each
endowed one part of it with the qualities which were peculiarly his
own. The Horse took youth, and hence young men are high-mettled and
impatient of restraint; the Ox took middle age, and accordingly men in
middle life are steady and hard-working; while the Dog took old age,
which is the reason why old men are so often peevish and ill-tempered,
and, like dogs, attached chiefly to those who look to their comfort,
while they are disposed to snap at those who are unfamiliar or
distasteful to them.


The Wolves sent a deputation to the Sheep with proposals for a lasting
peace between them, on condition of their giving up the sheep-dogs to
instant death. The foolish Sheep agreed to the terms; but an old Ram,
whose years had brought him wisdom, interfered and said, "How can we
expect to live at peace with you? Why, even with the dogs at hand to
protect us, we are never secure from your murderous attacks!"


The Swan is said to sing but once in its life--when it knows that it
is about to die. A certain man, who had heard of the song of the Swan,
one day saw one of these birds for sale in the market, and bought it
and took it home with him. A few days later he had some friends
to dinner, and produced the Swan, and bade it sing for their
entertainment: but the Swan remained silent. In course of time, when
it was growing old, it became aware of its approaching end and broke
into a sweet, sad song. When its owner heard it, he said angrily, "If
the creature only sings when it is about to die, what a fool I was
that day I wanted to hear its song! I ought to have wrung its neck
instead of merely inviting it to sing."


A Snake suffered a good deal from being constantly trodden upon by man
and beast, owing partly to the length of his body and partly to his
being unable to raise himself above the surface of the ground: so
he went and complained to Jupiter about the risks to which he was
exposed. But Jupiter had little sympathy for him. "I dare say," said
he, "that if you had bitten the first that trod on you, the others
would have taken more trouble to look where they put their feet."


A Wolf, who was roaming about on the plain when the sun was getting
low in the sky, was much impressed by the size of his shadow, and said
to himself, "I had no idea I was so big. Fancy my being afraid of a
lion! Why, I, not he, ought to be King of the beasts"; and, heedless
of danger, he strutted about as if there could be no doubt at all
about it. Just then a lion sprang upon him and began to devour him.
"Alas," he cried, "had I not lost sight of the facts, I shouldn't have
been ruined by my fancies."


A Ploughman loosed his oxen from the plough, and led them away to the
water to drink. While he was absent a half-starved Wolf appeared on
the scene, and went up to the plough and began chewing the leather
straps attached to the yoke. As he gnawed away desperately in the hope
of satisfying his craving for food, he somehow got entangled in the
harness, and, taking fright, struggled to get free, tugging at the
traces as if he would drag the plough along with him. Just then the
Ploughman came back, and seeing what was happening, he cried, "Ah, you
old rascal, I wish you would give up thieving for good and take to
honest work instead."


A Man once saw a ship go down with all its crew, and commented
severely on the injustice of the gods. "They care nothing for a man's
character," said he, "but let the good and the bad go to their deaths
together." There was an ant-heap close by where he was standing, and,
just as he spoke, he was bitten in the foot by an Ant. Turning in a
temper to the ant-heap he stamped upon it and crushed hundreds of
unoffending ants. Suddenly Mercury appeared, and belaboured him with
his staff, saying as he did so, "You villain, where's your nice sense
of justice now?"


A Lion watched a fat Bull feeding in a meadow, and his mouth watered
when he thought of the royal feast he would make, but he did not dare
to attack him, for he was afraid of his sharp horns. Hunger, however,
presently compelled him to do something: and as the use of force did
not promise success, he determined to resort to artifice. Going up to
the Bull in friendly fashion, he said to him, "I cannot help saying
how much I admire your magnificent figure. What a fine head! What
powerful shoulders and thighs! But, my dear friend, what in the world
makes you wear those ugly horns? You must find them as awkward as they
are unsightly. Believe me, you would do much better without them." The
Bull was foolish enough to be persuaded by this flattery to have his
horns cut off; and, having now lost his only means of defence, fell an
easy prey to the Lion.


A Man once bought a Parrot and gave it the run of his house. It
revelled in its liberty, and presently flew up on to the mantelpiece
and screamed away to its heart's content. The noise disturbed the Cat,
who was asleep on the hearthrug. Looking up at the intruder, she said,
"Who may you be, and where have you come from?" The Parrot replied,
"Your master has just bought me and brought me home with him." "You
impudent bird," said the Cat, "how dare you, a newcomer, make a noise
like that? Why, I was born here, and have lived here all my life, and
yet, if I venture to mew, they throw things at me and chase me all
over the place." "Look here, mistress," said the Parrot, "you just
hold your tongue. My voice they delight in; but yours--yours is a
perfect nuisance."


A Stag was chased by the hounds, and took refuge in a cave, where he
hoped to be safe from his pursuers. Unfortunately the cave contained a
Lion, to whom he fell an easy prey. "Unhappy that I am," he cried, "I
am saved from the power of the dogs only to fall into the clutches of
a Lion."

Out of the frying-pan into the fire.


A certain man fell ill, and, being in a very bad way, he made a vow
that he would sacrifice a hundred oxen to the gods if they would grant
him a return to health. Wishing to see how he would keep his vow, they
caused him to recover in a short time. Now, he hadn't an ox in the
world, so he made a hundred little oxen out of tallow and offered
them up on an altar, at the same time saying, "Ye gods, I call you to
witness that I have discharged my vow." The gods determined to be even
with him, so they sent him a dream, in which he was bidden to go to
the sea-shore and fetch a hundred crowns which he was to find there.
Hastening in great excitement to the shore, he fell in with a band of
robbers, who seized him and carried him off to sell as a slave: and
when they sold him a hundred crowns was the sum he fetched.

Do not promise more than you can perform.


Once upon a time a number of Dogs, who were famished with hunger, saw
some Hides steeping in a river, but couldn't get at them because the
water was too deep. So they put their heads together, and decided to
drink away at the river till it was shallow enough for them to reach
the Hides. But long before that happened they burst themselves with


A Lion, a Fox, and an Ass went out hunting together. They had soon
taken a large booty, which the Lion requested the Ass to divide
between them. The Ass divided it all into three equal parts, and
modestly begged the others to take their choice; at which the Lion,
bursting with fury, sprang upon the Ass and tore him to pieces.
Then, glaring at the Fox, he bade him make a fresh division. The Fox
gathered almost the whole in one great heap for the Lion's share,
leaving only the smallest possible morsel for himself. "My dear
friend," said the Lion, "how did you get the knack of it so well?" The
Fox replied, "Me? Oh, I took a lesson from the Ass."

Happy is he who learns from the misfortunes of others.


One day, as a Fowler was sitting down to a scanty supper of herbs and
bread, a friend dropped in unexpectedly. The larder was empty; so he
went out and caught a tame Partridge, which he kept as a decoy, and
was about to wring her neck when she cried, "Surely you won't kill me?
Why, what will you do without me next time you go fowling? How will
you get the birds to come to your nets?" He let her go at this, and
went to his hen-house, where he had a plump young Cock. When the Cock
saw what he was after, he too pleaded for his life, and said, "If you
kill me, how will you know the time of night? and who will wake you up
in the morning when it is time to get to work?" The Fowler, however,
replied, "You are useful for telling the time, I know; but, for all
that, I can't send my friend supperless to bed." And therewith he
caught him and wrung his neck.


A Gnat once went up to a Lion and said, "I am not in the least afraid
of you: I don't even allow that you are a match for me in strength.
What does your strength amount to after all? That you can scratch
with your claws and bite with your teeth--just like a woman in a
temper--and nothing more. But I'm stronger than you: if you don't
believe it, let us fight and see." So saying, the Gnat sounded his
horn, and darted in and bit the Lion on the nose. When the Lion felt
the sting, in his haste to crush him he scratched his nose badly, and
made it bleed, but failed altogether to hurt the Gnat, which buzzed
off in triumph, elated by its victory. Presently, however, it got
entangled in a spider's web, and was caught and eaten by the spider,
thus falling a prey to an insignificant insect after having triumphed
over the King of the Beasts.


A Farmer was snowed up in his farmstead by a severe storm, and was
unable to go out and procure provisions for himself and his family. So
he first killed his sheep and used them for food; then, as the storm
still continued, he killed his goats; and, last of all, as the weather
showed no signs of improving, he was compelled to kill his oxen and
eat them. When his Dogs saw the various animals being killed and eaten
in turn, they said to one another, "We had better get out of this or
we shall be the next to go!"


An Eagle and a Fox became great friends and determined to live near
one another: they thought that the more they saw of each other the
better friends they would be. So the Eagle built a nest at the top of
a high tree, while the Fox settled in a thicket at the foot of it and
produced a litter of cubs. One day the Fox went out foraging for food,
and the Eagle, who also wanted food for her young, flew down into the
thicket, caught up the Fox's cubs, and carried them up into the tree
for a meal for herself and her family. When the Fox came back, and
found out what had happened, she was not so much sorry for the loss of
her cubs as furious because she couldn't get at the Eagle and pay her
out for her treachery. So she sat down not far off and cursed her. But
it wasn't long before she had her revenge. Some villagers happened to
be sacrificing a goat on a neighbouring altar, and the Eagle flew down
and carried off a piece of burning flesh to her nest. There was a
strong wind blowing, and the nest caught fire, with the result that
her fledglings fell half-roasted to the ground. Then the Fox ran to
the spot and devoured them in full sight of the Eagle.

False faith may escape human punishment, but cannot escape the


Two Men were buying meat at a Butcher's stall in the market-place,
and, while the Butcher's back was turned for a moment, one of them
snatched up a joint and hastily thrust it under the other's cloak,
where it could not be seen. When the Butcher turned round, he missed
the meat at once, and charged them with having stolen it: but the one
who had taken it said he hadn't got it, and the one who had got it
said he hadn't taken it. The Butcher felt sure they were deceiving
him, but he only said, "You may cheat me with your lying, but you
can't cheat the gods, and they won't let you off so lightly."

Prevarication often amounts to perjury.


Hercules was once travelling along a narrow road when he saw lying on
the ground in front of him what appeared to be an apple, and as he
passed he stamped upon it with his heel. To his astonishment, instead
of being crushed it doubled in size; and, on his attacking it again
and smiting it with his club, it swelled up to an enormous size and
blocked up the whole road. Upon this he dropped his club, and stood
looking at it in amazement. Just then Minerva appeared, and said to
him, "Leave it alone, my friend; that which you see before you is the
apple of discord: if you do not meddle with it, it remains small as it
was at first, but if you resort to violence it swells into the thing
you see."


A Lion had a Fox to attend on him, and whenever they went hunting the
Fox found the prey and the Lion fell upon it and killed it, and then
they divided it between them in certain proportions. But the Lion
always got a very large share, and the Fox a very small one, which
didn't please the latter at all; so he determined to set up on his own
account. He began by trying to steal a lamb from a flock of sheep: but
the shepherd saw him and set his dogs on him. The hunter was now the
hunted, and was very soon caught and despatched by the dogs.

Better servitude with safety than freedom with danger.


A certain man fell sick and took to his bed. He consulted a number of
doctors from time to time, and they all, with one exception, told him
that his life was in no immediate danger, but that his illness would
probably last a considerable time. The one who took a different view
of his case, who was also the last to be consulted, bade him prepare
for the worst: "You have not twenty-four hours to live," said he, "and
I fear I can do nothing." As it turned out, however, he was quite
wrong; for at the end of a few days the sick man quitted his bed and
took a walk abroad, looking, it is true, as pale as a ghost. In the
course of his walk he met the Doctor who had prophesied his death.
"Dear me," said the latter, "how do you do? You are fresh from the
other world, no doubt. Pray, how are our departed friends getting on
there?" "Most comfortably," replied the other, "for they have drunk
the water of oblivion, and have forgotten all the troubles of life. By
the way, just before I left, the authorities were making arrangements
to prosecute all the doctors, because they won't let sick men die in
the course of nature, but use their arts to keep them alive. They were
going to charge you along with the rest, till I assured them that you
were no doctor, but a mere impostor."


A Lion, infirm with age, lay sick in his den, and all the beasts of
the forest came to inquire after his health with the exception of the
Fox. The Wolf thought this was a good opportunity for paying off old
scores against the Fox, so he called the attention of the Lion to his
absence, and said, "You see, sire, that we have all come to see how
you are except the Fox, who hasn't come near you, and doesn't care
whether you are well or ill." Just then the Fox came in and heard the
last words of the Wolf. The Lion roared at him in deep displeasure,
but he begged to be allowed to explain his absence, and said, "Not one
of them cares for you so much as I, sire, for all the time I have
been going round to the doctors and trying to find a cure for your
illness." "And may I ask if you have found one?" said the Lion. "I
have, sire," said the Fox, "and it is this: you must flay a Wolf
and wrap yourself in his skin while it is still warm." The Lion
accordingly turned to the Wolf and struck him dead with one blow of
his paw, in order to try the Fox's prescription; but the Fox laughed
and said to himself, "That's what comes of stirring up ill-will."


When Hercules was received among the gods and was entertained at a
banquet by Jupiter, he responded courteously to the greetings of
all with the exception of Plutus, the god of wealth. When Plutus
approached him, he cast his eyes upon the ground, and turned away and
pretended not to see him. Jupiter was surprised at this conduct on his
part, and asked why, after having been so cordial with all the other
gods, he had behaved like that to Plutus. "Sire," said Hercules, "I
do not like Plutus, and I will tell you why. When we were on earth
together I always noticed that he was to be found in the company of


A Fox and a Leopard were disputing about their looks, and each claimed
to be the more handsome of the two. The Leopard said, "Look at my
smart coat; you have nothing to match that." But the Fox replied,
"Your coat may be smart, but my wits are smarter still."


A Fox, in swimming across a rapid river, was swept away by the current
and carried a long way downstream in spite of his struggles, until at
last, bruised and exhausted, he managed to scramble on to dry
ground from a backwater. As he lay there unable to move, a swarm of
horseflies settled on him and sucked his blood undisturbed, for he was
too weak even to shake them off. A Hedgehog saw him, and asked if he
should brush away the flies that were tormenting him; but the Fox
replied, "Oh, please, no, not on any account, for these flies have
sucked their fill and are taking very little from me now; but, if you
drive them off, another swarm of hungry ones will come and suck all
the blood I have left, and leave me without a drop in my veins."


A Crow became very jealous of a Raven, because the latter was
regarded by men as a bird of omen which foretold the future, and was
accordingly held in great respect by them. She was very anxious to
get the same sort of reputation herself; and, one day, seeing some
travellers approaching, she flew on to a branch of a tree at the
roadside and cawed as loud as she could. The travellers were in some
dismay at the sound, for they feared it might be a bad omen; till one
of them, spying the Crow, said to his companions, "It's all right,
my friends, we can go on without fear, for it's only a crow and that
means nothing."

Those who pretend to be something they are not only make
themselves ridiculous.


A Witch professed to be able to avert the anger of the gods by means
of charms, of which she alone possessed the secret; and she drove a
brisk trade, and made a fat livelihood out of it. But certain persons
accused her of black magic and carried her before the judges, and
demanded that she should be put to death for dealings with the Devil.
She was found guilty and condemned to death: and one of the judges
said to her as she was leaving the dock, "You say you can avert the
anger of the gods. How comes it, then, that you have failed to disarm
the enmity of men?"


An Old Man cut himself a bundle of faggots in a wood and started to
carry them home. He had a long way to go, and was tired out before he
had got much more than half-way. Casting his burden on the ground, he
called upon Death to come and release him from his life of toil. The
words were scarcely out of his mouth when, much to his dismay, Death
stood before him and professed his readiness to serve him. He was
almost frightened out of his wits, but he had enough presence of mind
to stammer out, "Good sir, if you'd be so kind, pray help me up with
my burden again."


A Miser sold everything he had, and melted down his hoard of gold into
a single lump, which he buried secretly in a field. Every day he went
to look at it, and would sometimes spend long hours gloating over his
treasure. One of his men noticed his frequent visits to the spot,
and one day watched him and discovered his secret. Waiting his
opportunity, he went one night and dug up the gold and stole it. Next
day the Miser visited the place as usual, and, finding his treasure
gone, fell to tearing his hair and groaning over his loss. In this
condition he was seen by one of his neighbours, who asked him what
his trouble was. The Miser told him of his misfortune; but the other
replied, "Don't take it so much to heart, my friend; put a brick into
the hole, and take a look at it every day: you won't be any worse off
than before, for even when you had your gold it was of no earthly use
to you."


A number of Foxes assembled on the bank of a river and wanted to
drink; but the current was so strong and the water looked so deep and
dangerous that they didn't dare to do so, but stood near the edge
encouraging one another not to be afraid. At last one of them, to
shame the rest, and show how brave he was, said, "I am not a bit
frightened! See, I'll step right into the water!" He had no sooner
done so than the current swept him off his feet. When the others saw
him being carried down-stream they cried, "Don't go and leave us! Come
back and show us where we too can drink with safety." But he replied,
"I'm afraid I can't yet: I want to go to the seaside, and this current
will take me there nicely. When I come back I'll show you with


There was once a Horse who used to graze in a meadow which he had all
to himself. But one day a Stag came into the meadow, and said he had
as good a right to feed there as the Horse, and moreover chose all the
best places for himself. The Horse, wishing to be revenged upon his
unwelcome visitor, went to a man and asked if he would help him to
turn out the Stag. "Yes," said the man, "I will by all means; but I
can only do so if you let me put a bridle in your mouth and mount on
your back." The Horse agreed to this, and the two together very soon
turned the Stag out of the pasture: but when that was done, the Horse
found to his dismay that in the man he had got a master for good.


In making his way through a hedge a Fox missed his footing and caught
at a Bramble to save himself from falling. Naturally, he got badly
scratched, and in disgust he cried to the Bramble, "It was your help
I wanted, and see how you have treated me! I'd sooner have fallen
outright." The Bramble, interrupting him, replied, "You must have lost
your wits, my friend, to catch at me, who am myself always catching at


A Snake, in crossing a river, was carried away by the current, but
managed to wriggle on to a bundle of thorns which was floating by, and
was thus carried at a great rate down-stream. A Fox caught sight of
it from the bank as it went whirling along, and called out, "Gad! the
passenger fits the ship!"


A Lion lay sick in his den, unable to provide himself with food. So
he said to his friend the Fox, who came to ask how he did, "My good
friend, I wish you would go to yonder wood and beguile the big Stag,
who lives there, to come to my den: I have a fancy to make my dinner
off a stag's heart and brains." The Fox went to the wood and found the
Stag and said to him, "My dear sir, you're in luck. You know the Lion,
our King: well, he's at the point of death, and has appointed you his
successor to rule over the beasts. I hope you won't forget that I was
the first to bring you the good news. And now I must be going back to
him; and, if you take my advice, you'll come too and be with him at
the last." The Stag was highly flattered, and followed the Fox to the
Lion's den, suspecting nothing. No sooner had he got inside than the
Lion sprang upon him, but he misjudged his spring, and the Stag got
away with only his ears torn, and returned as fast as he could to the
shelter of the wood. The Fox was much mortified, and the Lion, too,
was dreadfully disappointed, for he was getting very hungry in spite
of his illness. So he begged the Fox to have another try at coaxing
the Stag to his den. "It'll be almost impossible this time," said the
Fox, "but I'll try"; and off he went to the wood a second time, and
found the Stag resting and trying to recover from his fright. As soon
as he saw the Fox he cried, "You scoundrel, what do you mean by trying
to lure me to my death like that? Take yourself off, or I'll do you
to death with my horns." But the Fox was entirely shameless. "What a
coward you were," said he; "surely you didn't think the Lion meant any
harm? Why, he was only going to whisper some royal secrets into your
ear when you went off like a scared rabbit. You have rather disgusted
him, and I'm not sure he won't make the wolf King instead, unless you
come back at once and show you've got some spirit. I promise you he
won't hurt you, and I will be your faithful servant." The Stag was
foolish enough to be persuaded to return, and this time the Lion made
no mistake, but overpowered him, and feasted right royally upon his
carcase. The Fox, meanwhile, watched his chance and, when the Lion
wasn't looking, filched away the brains to reward him for his trouble.
Presently the Lion began searching for them, of course without
success: and the Fox, who was watching him, said, "I don't think it's
much use your looking for the brains: a creature who twice walked into
a Lion's den can't have got any."


A Man was engaged in digging over his vineyard, and one day on coming
to work he missed his Spade. Thinking it may have been stolen by one
of his labourers, he questioned them closely, but they one and all
denied any knowledge of it. He was not convinced by their denials, and
insisted that they should all go to the town and take oath in a temple
that they were not guilty of the theft. This was because he had no
great opinion of the simple country deities, but thought that the
thief would not pass undetected by the shrewder gods of the town. When
they got inside the gates the first thing they heard was the town
crier proclaiming a reward for information about a thief who had
stolen something from the city temple. "Well," said the Man to
himself, "it strikes me I had better go back home again. If these town
gods can't detect the thieves who steal from their own temples, it's
scarcely likely they can tell me who stole my Spade."


A Fowler caught a Partridge in his nets, and was just about to wring
its neck when it made a piteous appeal to him to spare its life and
said, "Do not kill me, but let me live and I will repay you for your
kindness by decoying other partridges into your nets." "No," said the
Fowler, "I will not spare you. I was going to kill you anyhow, and
after that treacherous speech you thoroughly deserve your fate."


A Slave, being discontented with his lot, ran away from his master. He
was soon missed by the latter, who lost no time in mounting his horse
and setting out in pursuit of the fugitive. He presently came up with
him, and the Slave, in the hope of avoiding capture, slipped into a
treadmill and hid himself there. "Aha," said his master, "that's the
very place for you, my man!"


A Hunter was searching in the forest for the tracks of a lion, and,
catching sight presently of a Woodman engaged in felling a tree, he
went up to him and asked him if he had noticed a lion's footprints
anywhere about, or if he knew where his den was. The Woodman answered,
"If you will come with me, I will show you the lion himself." The
Hunter turned pale with fear, and his teeth chattered as he replied,
"Oh, I'm not looking for the lion, thanks, but only for his tracks."


An Eagle swooped down upon a Serpent and seized it in his talons with
the intention of carrying it off and devouring it. But the Serpent was
too quick for him and had its coils round him in a moment; and then
there ensued a life-and-death struggle between the two. A countryman,
who was a witness of the encounter, came to the assistance of the
Eagle, and succeeded in freeing him from the Serpent and enabling him
to escape. In revenge the Serpent spat some of his poison into the
man's drinking-horn. Heated with his exertions, the man was about to
slake his thirst with a draught from the horn, when the Eagle knocked
it out of his hand, and spilled its contents upon the ground.

One good turn deserves another.


A Rogue laid a wager that he would prove the Oracle at Delphi to be
untrustworthy by procuring from it a false reply to an inquiry by
himself. So he went to the temple on the appointed day with a small
bird in his hand, which he concealed under the folds of his cloak,
and asked whether what he held in his hand were alive or dead. If the
Oracle said "dead," he meant to produce the bird alive: if the reply
was "alive," he intended to wring its neck and show it to be dead. But
the Oracle was one too many for him, for the answer he got was this:
"Stranger, whether the thing that you hold in your hand be alive
or dead is a matter that depends entirely on your own will."


A Horse, proud of his fine harness, met an Ass on the high-road. As
the Ass with his heavy burden moved slowly out of the way to let him
pass, the Horse cried out impatiently that he could hardly resist
kicking him to make him move faster. The Ass held his peace, but did
not forget the other's insolence. Not long afterwards the Horse became
broken-winded, and was sold by his owner to a farmer. One day, as he
was drawing a dung-cart, he met the Ass again, who in turn derided him
and said, "Aha! you never thought to come to this, did you, you who
were so proud! Where are all your gay trappings now?"


A Dog was chasing a Wolf, and as he ran he thought what a fine fellow
he was, and what strong legs he had, and how quickly they covered the
ground. "Now, there's this Wolf," he said to himself, "what a poor
creature he is: he's no match for me, and he knows it and so he runs
away." But the Wolf looked round just then and said, "Don't you
imagine I'm running away from you, my friend: it's your master I'm
afraid of."


When Jupiter was assigning the various gods their privileges, it so
happened that Grief was not present with the rest: but when all had
received their share, he too entered and claimed his due. Jupiter was
at a loss to know what to do, for there was nothing left for him.
However, at last he decided that to him should belong the tears that
are shed for the dead. Thus it is the same with Grief as it is with
the other gods. The more devoutly men render to him his due, the
more lavish is he of that which he has to bestow. It is not well,
therefore, to mourn long for the departed; else Grief, whose sole
pleasure is in such mourning, will be quick to send fresh cause for


The Pigeons in a certain dovecote were persecuted by a Kite, who every
now and then swooped down and carried off one of their number. So they
invited a Hawk into the dovecote to defend them against their enemy.
But they soon repented of their folly: for the Hawk killed more of
them in a day than the Kite had done in a year.


A Woman, who had lately lost her husband, used to go every day to his
grave and lament her loss. A Farmer, who was engaged in ploughing not
far from the spot, set eyes upon the Woman and desired to have her
for his wife: so he left his plough and came and sat by her side,
and began to shed tears himself. She asked him why he wept; and he
replied, "I have lately lost my wife, who was very dear to me, and
tears ease my grief." "And I," said she, "have lost my husband." And
so for a while they mourned in silence. Then he said, "Since you and I
are in like case, shall we not do well to marry and live together? I
shall take the place of your dead husband, and you, that of my dead
wife." The Woman consented to the plan, which indeed seemed reasonable
enough: and they dried their tears. Meanwhile, a thief had come
and stolen the oxen which the Farmer had left with his plough. On
discovering the theft, he beat his breast and loudly bewailed his
loss. When the Woman heard his cries, she came and said, "Why, are you
weeping still?" To which he replied, "Yes, and I mean it this time."


At the bidding of Jupiter, Prometheus set about the creation of Man
and the other animals. Jupiter, seeing that Mankind, the only rational
creatures, were far outnumbered by the irrational beasts, bade him
redress the balance by turning some of the latter into men. Prometheus
did as he was bidden, and this is the reason why some people have the
forms of men but the souls of beasts.


A Swallow was once boasting to a Crow about her birth. "I was once a
princess," said she, "the daughter of a King of Athens, but my husband
used me cruelly, and cut out my tongue for a slight fault. Then, to
protect me from further injury, I was turned by Juno into a bird."
"You chatter quite enough as it is," said the Crow. "What you would
have been like if you hadn't lost your tongue, I can't think."


A Hunter went out after game, and succeeded in catching a hare, which
he was carrying home with him when he met a man on horseback, who said
to him, "You have had some sport I see, sir," and offered to buy it.
The Hunter readily agreed; but the Horseman had no sooner got the
hare in his hands than he set spurs to his horse and went off at full
gallop. The Hunter ran after him for some little distance; but it soon
dawned upon him that he had been tricked, and he gave up trying to
overtake the Horseman, and, to save his face, called after him as loud
as he could, "All right, sir, all right, take your hare: it was meant
all along as a present."


A Goatherd was tending his goats out at pasture when he saw a number
of Wild Goats approach and mingle with his flock. At the end of the
day he drove them home and put them all into the pen together. Next
day the weather was so bad that he could not take them out as usual:
so he kept them at home in the pen, and fed them there. He only gave
his own goats enough food to keep them from starving, but he gave the
Wild Goats as much as they could eat and more; for he was very anxious
for them to stay, and he thought that if he fed them well they
wouldn't want to leave him. When the weather improved, he took them
all out to pasture again; but no sooner had they got near the hills
than the Wild Goats broke away from the flock and scampered off. The
Goatherd was very much disgusted at this, and roundly abused them for
their ingratitude. "Rascals!" he cried, "to run away like that after
the way I've treated you!" Hearing this, one of them turned round and
said, "Oh, yes, you treated us all right--too well, in fact; it was
just that that put us on our guard. If you treat newcomers like
ourselves so much better than your own flock, it's more than likely
that, if another lot of strange goats joined yours, _we_ should then
be neglected in favour of the last comers."


A Swallow, conversing with a Nightingale, advised her to quit the
leafy coverts where she made her home, and to come and live with men,
like herself, and nest under the shelter of their roofs. But the
Nightingale replied, "Time was when I too, like yourself, lived among
men: but the memory of the cruel wrongs I then suffered makes them
hateful to me, and never again will I approach their dwellings."

The scene of past sufferings revives painful memories.


A Traveller, exhausted with fatigue after a long journey, sank down at
the very brink of a deep well and presently fell asleep. He was within
an ace of falling in, when Dame Fortune appeared to him and touched
him on the shoulder, cautioning him to move further away. "Wake up,
good sir, I pray you," she said; "had you fallen into the well, the
blame would have been thrown not on your own folly but on me, Fortune."






[Illustration: THE QUACK FROG]


[Illustration: THE BLACKAMOOR]

[Illustration: THE TWO POTS]

[Illustration: VENUS AND THE CAT]


[Illustration: THE TREES AND THE AXE]


[Illustration: THE GNAT AND THE LION]

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