Fable listing


Fables 2

The Fox and the Monkey
The Ass and the Lap-Dog
The Fir-Tree and the Bramble
The Frogs' Complaint against the Sun
The Dog, the Cock, and the Fox
The Gnat and the Bull
The Bear and the Travellers
The Slave and the Lion
The Flea and the Man
The Bee and Jupiter
The Oak and the Reeds
The blind Man and the Cub
The Boy and the Snails
The Apes and the two Travellers
The Ass and his Burdens
The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf
The Fox and the Goat
The Fisherman and the Sprat
The boasting Traveller
The Crab and his Mother
The Ass and his Shadow
The Farmer and his Sons
The Dog and the Cook
The Monkey as King
The Thieves and the Cook
The Farmer and Fortune
Jupiter and the Monkey
Father and Sons
The Lamp
The Owl and the Birds

The Fox and the Monkey

A Fox and a Monkey were on the road together, and fell into a dispute
as to which of the two was the better born. They kept it up for some
time, till they came to a place where the road passed through a
cemetery full of monuments, when the Monkey stopped and looked about
him and gave a great sigh. "Why do you sigh?" said the Fox. The Monkey
pointed to the tombs and replied, "All the monuments that you see here
were put up in honour of my forefathers, who in their day were eminent
men." The Fox was speechless for a moment, but quickly recovering he
said, "Oh! don't stop at any lie, sir; you're quite safe: I'm sure
none of your ancestors will rise up and expose you."

    Boasters brag most when they cannot be detected.

The Ass and the Lap-Dog

There was once a man who had an Ass and a Lap-dog. The Ass was housed
in the stable with plenty of oats and hay to eat and was as well off
as an ass could be. The little Dog was made a great pet of by his
master, who fondled him and often let him lie in his lap; and if he
went out to dinner, he would bring back a tit-bit or two to give him
when he ran to meet him on his return. The Ass had, it is true, a good
deal of work to do, carting or grinding the corn, or carrying the
burdens of the farm: and ere long he became very jealous, contrasting
his own life of labour with the ease and idleness of the Lap-dog. At last
one day he broke his halter, and frisking into the house just as
his master sat down to dinner, he pranced and capered about, mimicking
the frolics of the little favourite, upsetting the table and smashing
the crockery with his clumsy efforts. Not content with that, he even
tried to jump on his master's lap, as he had so often seen the dog
allowed to do. At that the servants, seeing the danger their master
was in, belaboured the silly Ass with sticks and cudgels, and drove
him back to his stable half dead with his beating. "Alas!" he cried,
"all this I have brought on myself. Why could I not be satisfied with
my natural and honourable position, without wishing to imitate the
ridiculous antics of that useless little Lap-dog?"

The Fir-Tree and the Bramble

A Fir-tree was boasting to a Bramble, and said, somewhat
contemptuously, "You poor creature, you are of no use whatever. Now,
look at me: I am useful for all sorts of things, particularly when men
build houses; they can't do without me then." But the Bramble replied,
"Ah, that's all very well: but you wait till they come with axes and saws
to cut you down, and then you'll wish you were a Bramble and not a Fir."

    Better poverty without a care than wealth with its many obligations.

The Frogs' Complaint against the Sun

Once upon a time the Sun was about to take to himself a wife.
The Frogs in terror all raised their voices to the skies, and Jupiter,
disturbed by the noise, asked them what they were croaking about.
They replied, "The Sun is bad enough even while he is single, drying up our
marshes with his heat as he does. But what will become of us if he
marries and begets other Suns?"

The Dog, the Cock, and the Fox

A Dog and a Cock became great friends, and agreed to travel together.
At nightfall the Cock flew up into the branches of a tree to roost,
while the Dog curled himself up inside the trunk, which was hollow.
At break of day the Cock woke up and crew, as usual. A Fox heard, and,
wishing to make a breakfast of him, came and stood under the tree and
begged him to come down. "I should so like," said he, "to make the
acquaintance of one who has such a beautiful voice." The Cock replied,
"Would you just wake my porter who sleeps at the foot of the tree?
He'll open the door and let you in." The Fox accordingly rapped on the
trunk, when out rushed the Dog and tore him in pieces.

The Gnat and the Bull

A Gnat alighted on one of the horns of a Bull, and
remained sitting there for a considerable time. When it
had rested sufficiently and was about to fly away,
it said to the Bull, "Do you mind if I go now?" The Bull
merely raised his eyes and remarked, without interest,
"It's all  one to me; I didn't notice when you came,
and I shan't know when you go away."

    We may often be of more consequence in our own eyes than in the eyes
    of our neighbours.

The Bear and the Travellers

Two Travellers were on the road together, when a Bear suddenly
appeared on the scene. Before he observed them, one made for a tree at
the side of the road, and climbed up into the branches and hid there.
The other was not so nimble as his companion; and, as he could not
escape, he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead.
The Bear came up and sniffed all round him, but he kept perfectly still
and held his breath: for they say that a bear will not touch a dead
body. The Bear took him for a corpse, and went away. When the coast
was clear, the Traveller in the tree came down, and asked the other
what it was the Bear had whispered to him when he put his mouth to
his ear. The other replied, "He told me never again to travel with a friend
who deserts you at the first sign of danger."

    Misfortune tests the sincerity of friendship.

The Slave and the Lion

A Slave ran away from his master, by whom he had been most cruelly
treated, and, in order to avoid capture, betook himself into the
desert. As he wandered about in search of food and shelter, he came to
a cave, which he entered and found to be unoccupied. Really, however,
it was a Lion's den, and almost immediately, to the horror of the
wretched fugitive, the Lion himself appeared. The man gave himself
up for lost: but, to his utter astonishment, the Lion, instead of
springing upon him and devouring him, came and fawned upon him,
at the same time whining and lifting up his paw. Observing it to be much
swollen and inflamed, he examined it and found a large thorn embedded
in the ball of the foot. He accordingly removed it and dressed
the wound as well as he could: and in course of time it healed up
completely. The Lion's gratitude was unbounded; he looked upon the man
as his friend, and they shared the cave for some time together. A day
came, however, when the Slave began to long for the society of his
fellow-men, and he bade farewell to the Lion and returned to the town.
Here he was presently recognised and carried off in chains to his
former master, who resolved to make an example of him, and ordered
that he should be thrown to the beasts at the next public spectacle in
the theatre. On the fatal day the beasts were loosed into the arena,
and among the rest a Lion of huge bulk and ferocious aspect; and then
the wretched Slave was cast in among them. What was the amazement of
the spectators, when the Lion after one glance bounded up to him and
lay down at his feet with every expression of affection and delight!
It was his old friend of the cave! The audience clamoured that
the Slave's life should be spared: and the governor of the town,
marvelling at such gratitude and fidelity in a beast, decreed that
both should receive their liberty.

The Flea and the Man

A Flea bit a Man, and bit him again, and again, till he could stand it
no longer, but made a thorough search for it, and at last succeeded
in catching it. Holding it between his finger and thumb, he said—or
rather shouted, so angry was he--"Who are you, pray, you wretched
little creature, that you make so free with my person?" The Flea,
terrified, whimpered in a weak little voice, "Oh, sir! pray let me
go; don't kill me! I am such a little thing that I can't do you much
harm." But the Man laughed and said, "I am going to kill you now,
at once: whatever is bad has got to be destroyed, no matter how slight
the harm it does."

    Do not waste your pity on a scamp.

The Bee and Jupiter

A Queen Bee from Hymettus flew up to Olympus with some fresh honey
from the hive as a present to Jupiter, who was so pleased with the
gift that he promised to give her anything she liked to ask for. She said
she would be very grateful if he would give stings to the bees,
to kill people who robbed them of their honey. Jupiter was greatly
displeased with this request, for he loved mankind: but he had given
his word, so he said that stings they should have. The stings he gave
them, however, were of such a kind that whenever a bee stings a man
the sting is left in the wound and the bee dies.

    Evil wishes, like fowls, come home to roost.

The Oak and the Reeds

An Oak that grew on the bank of a river was uprooted by a severe
gale of wind, and thrown across the stream. It fell among some Reeds
growing by the water, and said to them, "How is it that you, who are
so frail and slender, have managed to weather the storm, whereas I,
with all my strength, have been torn up by the roots and hurled into
the river?" "You were stubborn," came the reply, "and fought against
the storm, which proved stronger than you: but we bow and yield to
every breeze, and thus the gale passed harmlessly over our heads."

The blind Man and the Cub

There was once a Blind Man who had so fine a sense of touch that, when
any animal was put into his hands, he could tell what it was merely by
the feel of it. One day the Cub of a Wolf was put into his hands, and
he was asked what it was. He felt it for some time, and then said,
"Indeed, I am not sure whether it is a Wolf's Cub or a Fox's: but this
I know--it would never do to trust it in a sheepfold."

    Evil tendencies are early shown.

The Boy and the Snails

A Farmer's Boy went looking for Snails, and, when he had picked up
both his hands full, he set about making a fire at which to roast
them; for he meant to eat them. When it got well alight and the Snails
began to feel the heat, they gradually withdrew more and more into
their shells with the hissing noise they always make when they do so.
When the Boy heard it, he said, "You abandoned creatures, how can you
find heart to whistle when your houses are burning?"

The Apes and the two Travellers

Two men were travelling together, one of whom never spoke the truth,
whereas the other never told a lie: and they came in the course of
their travels to the land of Apes. The King of the Apes, hearing of
their arrival, ordered them to be brought before him; and by way of
impressing them with his magnificence, he received them sitting on
a throne, while the Apes, his subjects, were ranged in long rows on
either side of him. When the Travellers came into his presence he
asked them what they thought of him as a King. The lying Traveller
said, "Sire, every one must see that you are a most noble and mighty
monarch." "And what do you think of my subjects?" continued the King.
"They," said the Traveller, "are in every way worthy of their royal
master." The Ape was so delighted with his answer that he gave him
a very handsome present. The other Traveller thought that if his
companion was rewarded so splendidly for telling a lie, he himself
would certainly receive a still greater reward for telling the truth;
so, when the Ape turned to him and said, "And what, sir, is your
opinion?" he replied, "I think you are a very fine Ape, and all your
subjects are fine Apes too." The King of the Apes was so enraged at
his reply that he ordered him to be taken away and clawed to death.

The Ass and his Burdens

A Pedlar who owned an Ass one day bought a quantity of salt, and
loaded up his beast with as much as he could bear. On the way home the
Ass stumbled as he was crossing a stream and fell into the water. The salt
got thoroughly wetted and much of it melted and drained away, so
that, when he got on his legs again, the Ass found his load had become
much less heavy. His master, however, drove him back to town and
bought more salt, which he added to what remained in the panniers,
and started out again. No sooner had they reached a stream than the Ass
lay down in it, and rose, as before, with a much lighter load. But his
master detected the trick, and turning back once more, bought a large
number of sponges, and piled them on the back of the Ass. When they
came to the stream the Ass again lay down: but this time, as the
sponges soaked up large quantities of water, he found, when he got up
on his legs, that he had a bigger burden to carry than ever.

    You may play a good card once too often.

The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf

A Shepherd's Boy was tending his flock near a village, and thought it
would be great fun to hoax the villagers by pretending that a Wolf was
attacking the sheep: so he shouted out, "Wolf! wolf!" and when the
people came running up he laughed at them for their pains. He did
this more than once, and every time the villagers found they had been
hoaxed, for there was no Wolf at all. At last a Wolf really did come,
and the Boy cried, "Wolf! wolf!" as loud as he could: but the people
were so used to hearing him call that they took no notice of his cries
for help. And so the Wolf had it all his own way, and killed off sheep
after sheep at his leisure.

    You cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.

The Fox and the Goat

A Fox fell into a well and was unable to get out again. By and by a
thirsty Goat came by, and seeing the Fox in the well asked him if the
water was good. "Good?" said the Fox, "it's the best water I ever
tasted in all my life. Come down and try it yourself." The Goat
thought of nothing but the prospect of quenching his thirst, and
jumped in at once. When he had had enough to drink, he looked about,
like the Fox, for some way of getting out, but could find none.
Presently the Fox said, "I have an idea. You stand on your hind legs,
and plant your forelegs firmly against the side of the well, and then
I'll climb on to your back, and, from there, by stepping on your
horns, I can get out. And when I'm out, I'll help you out too." The Goat
did as he was requested, and the Fox climbed on to his back and
so out of the well; and then he coolly walked away. The Goat called
loudly after him and reminded him of his promise to help him out: but
the Fox merely turned and said, "If you had as much sense in your head
as you have hair in your beard you wouldn't have got into the well
without making certain that you could get out again."

    Look before your leap.

The Fisherman and the Sprat

A Fisherman cast his net into the sea, and when he drew it up again it
contained nothing but a single Sprat that begged to be put back into
the water. "I'm only a little fish now," it said, "but I shall grow big
one day, and then if you come and catch me again I shall be of some
use to you." But the Fisherman replied, "Oh, no, I shall keep you now
I've got you: if I put you back, should I ever see you again? Not likely!"

The boasting Traveller

A Man once went abroad on his travels, and when he came home he
had wonderful tales to tell of the things he had done in foreign
countries. Among other things, he said he had taken part in a
jumping-match at Rhodes, and had done a wonderful jump which no one
could beat. "Just go to Rhodes and ask them," he said; "every one will
tell you it's true." But one of those who were listening said, "If you
can jump as well as all that, we needn't go to Rhodes to prove it.
Let's just imagine this is Rhodes for a minute: and now--jump!"

    Deeds, not words.

The Crab and his Mother

An Old Crab said to her son, "Why do you walk sideways like that, my
son? You ought to walk straight." The Young Crab replied, "Show me
how, dear mother, and I'll follow your example." The Old Crab tried,
but tried in vain, and then saw how foolish she had been to find fault
with her child.

    Example is better than precept.

The Ass and his Shadow

A certain man hired an Ass for a journey in summertime, and started
out with the owner following behind to drive the beast. By and by, in
the heat of the day, they stopped to rest, and the traveller wanted to
lie down in the Ass's Shadow; but the owner, who himself wished to be
out of the sun, wouldn't let him do that; for he said he had hired the
Ass only, and not his Shadow: the other maintained that his bargain
secured him complete control of the Ass for the time being. From words
they came to blows; and while they were belabouring each other the Ass
took to his heels and was soon out of sight.

The Farmer and his Sons

A Farmer, being at death's door, and desiring to impart to his Sons a secret
of much moment, called them round him and said, "My sons, I am
shortly about to die; I would have you know, therefore, that in my
vineyard there lies a hidden treasure. Dig, and you will find it." As soon
as their father was dead, the Sons took spade and fork and turned
up the soil of the vineyard over and over again, in their search for
the treasure which they supposed to lie buried there. They found none,
however: but the vines, after so thorough a digging, produced a crop
such as had never before been seen.

The Dog and the Cook

A rich man once invited a number of his friends and acquaintances to
a banquet. His dog thought it would be a good opportunity to invite
another Dog, a friend of his; so he went to him and said, "My master
is giving a feast: there'll be a fine spread, so come and dine with me
to-night." The Dog thus invited came, and when he saw the preparations
being made in the kitchen he said to himself, "My word, I'm in luck:
I'll take care to eat enough to-night to last me two or three days."
At the same time he wagged his tail briskly, by way of showing his
friend how delighted he was to have been asked. But just then the Cook
caught sight of him, and, in his annoyance at seeing a strange Dog in
the kitchen, caught him up by the hind legs and threw him out of the
window. He had a nasty fall, and limped away as quickly as he could,
howling dismally. Presently some other dogs met him, and said, "Well,
what sort of a dinner did you get?" To which he replied, "I had a
splendid time: the wine was so good, and I drank so much of it, that I
really don't remember how I got out of the house!"

    Be shy of favours bestowed at the expense of others.

The Monkey as King

At a gathering of all the animals the Monkey danced and delighted them
so much that they made him their King. The Fox, however, was very much
disgusted at the promotion of the Monkey: so having one day found a
trap with a piece of meat in it, he took the Monkey there and said to
him, "Here is a dainty morsel I have found, sire; I did not take it
myself, because I thought it ought to be reserved for you, our King.
Will you be pleased to accept it?" The Monkey made at once for the
meat and got caught in the trap. Then he bitterly reproached the Fox
for leading him into danger; but the Fox only laughed and said, "O Monkey,
you call yourself King of the Beasts and haven't more sense than to
be taken in like that!"

The Thieves and the Cook
Some Thieves broke into a house, and found nothing worth taking except
a Cock, which they seized and carried off with them. When they were
preparing their supper, one of them caught up the Cock, and was about
to wring his neck, when he cried out for mercy and said, "Pray do not
kill me: you will find me a most useful bird, for I rouse honest men
to their work in the morning by my crowing." But the Thief replied
with some heat, "Yes, I know you do, making it still harder for us to
get a livelihood. Into the pot you go!"

The Farmer and Fortune

A Farmer was ploughing one day on his farm when he turned up a pot of
golden coins with his plough. He was overjoyed at his discovery, and
from that time forth made an offering daily at the shrine of the
Goddess of the Earth. Fortune was displeased at this, and came to him
and said, "My man, why do you give Earth the credit for the gift which
I bestowed upon you? You never thought of thanking me for your good
luck; but should you be unlucky enough to lose what you have gained
I know very well that I, Fortune, should then come in for all the blame."

    Show gratitude where gratitude is due.

Jupiter and the Monkey

Jupiter issued a proclamation to all the beasts, and offered a
prize to the one who, in his judgment, produced the most beautiful
offspring. Among the rest came the Monkey, carrying a baby monkey in
her arms, a hairless, flat-nosed little fright. When they saw it, the
gods all burst into peal on peal of laughter; but the Monkey hugged
her little one to her, and said, "Jupiter may give the prize to whomsoever
he likes: but I shall always think my baby the most beautiful of them all."

Father and Sons

A certain man had several Sons who were always quarrelling with one
another, and, try as he might, he could not get them to live together
in harmony. So he determined to convince them of their folly by the
following means. Bidding them fetch a bundle of sticks, he invited
each in turn to break it across his knee. All tried and all failed:
and then he undid the bundle, and handed them the sticks one by one,
when they had no difficulty at all in breaking them. "There, my boys,"
said he, "united you will be more than a match for your enemies: but
if you quarrel and separate, your weakness will put you at the mercy
of those who attack you."

    Union is strength.

The Lamp

A Lamp, well filled with oil, burned with a clear and steady light,
and began to swell with pride and boast that it shone more brightly
than the sun himself. Just then a puff of wind came and blew it out.
Some one struck a match and lit it again, and said, "You just keep
alight, and never mind the sun. Why, even the stars never need to be
relit as you had to be just now."

The Owl and the Birds

The Owl is a very wise bird; and once, long ago, when the first oak
sprouted in the forest, she called all the other Birds together and
said to them, "You see this tiny tree? If you take my advice, you will
destroy it now when it is small: for when it grows big, the mistletoe
will appear upon it, from which birdlime will be prepared for your
destruction." Again, when the first flax was sown, she said to them,
"Go and eat up that seed, for it is the seed of the flax, out of which
men will one day make nets to catch you." Once more, when she saw the
first archer, she warned the Birds that he was their deadly enemy, who
would wing his arrows with their own feathers and shoot them. But they
took no notice of what she said: in fact, they thought she was rather
mad, and laughed at her. When, however, everything turned out as she
had foretold, they changed their minds and conceived a great respect
for her wisdom. Hence, whenever she appears, the Birds attend upon
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.