Fables by Aesop

The Dog and the Shadow

A Dog, with a piece of stolen meat between his teeth, was one day crossing a river by means of a plank, when he caught sight of another dog in the water carrying a far larger piece of meat. He opened his jaws to snap at the greater morsel, when the meat dropped in the stream and was lost even in the reflection.

The Dying Lion

A Lion, brought to the extremity of weakness by old age and disease, lay dying in the sunlight. Those whom he had oppressed in his strength now came round about him to revenge themselves for past injuries. The Boar ripped the flank of the King of Beasts with his tusks. The Bull came and gored the Lion's sides with his horns. Finally, the Ass drew near, and after carefully seeing that there was no danger, let fly with his heels in the Lion's face. Then, with a dying groan, the mighty creature exclaimed: "How much worse it is than a thousand deaths to be spurned by so base a creature!"

The Mountain in Labour

A Mountain was heard to produce dreadful sounds, as though it were labouring to bring forth something enormous. The people came and stood about waiting to see what wonderful thing would be produced from this labour. After they had waited till they were tired, out crept a Mouse.

Hercules and the Waggoner

A Waggoner was driving his team through a muddy lane when the wheels stuck fast in the clay, and the Horses could get no farther. The Man immediately dropped on his knees, and, crying bitterly, besought Hercules to come and help him. "Get up and stir thyself, thou lazy fellow!" replied Hercules. "Whip thy Horses, and put thy shoulder to the wheel. If thou art in need of my help, when thou thyself hast laboured, then shalt thou have it."

The Frogs that Asked for a King

The Frogs, who lived an easy, happy life in the ponds, once prayed to Jupiter that he should give them a King. Jupiter was amused by this prayer, and cast a log into the water, saying: "There, then, is a King for you." The Frogs, frightened by the great splash, regarded their King with alarm, until at last, seeing that he did not stir, some of them jumped upon his back and began to be merry there, amused at such a foolish King. However, King Log did not satisfy their ideas for very long, and so once again they petitioned Jupiter to send them a King, a real King who would rule over them, and not lie helpless in the water. Then Jupiter sent the Frogs a Stork, who caught them by their legs, tossed them in the air, and gobbled them up whenever he was hungry. All in a hurry the Frogs besought Jupiter to take away King Stork and restore them to their former happy condition. "No, no," answered Jupiter; "a King that did you no hurt did not please you; make the best of him you now have, lest a worse come in his place!"

The Gnat and the Lion

A lively and insolent Gnat was bold enough to attack a Lion, which he so maddened by stinging the most sensitive parts of his nose, eyes and ears that the beast roared with anguish and tore himself with his claws. In vain were the Lion's efforts to rid himself of his insignificant tormentor; again and again the insect returned and stung the furious King of Beasts, till at last the Lion fell exhausted on the ground. The triumphant Gnat, sounding his tiny trumpet, hovered over the spot exulting in his victory. But it happened that in his circling flight he got himself caught in the web of a Spider, which, fine and delicate as it was, yet had power enough to hold the tiny insect a prisoner. All the Gnat's efforts to escape only held him the more tightly and firmly a prisoner, and he who had conquered the Lion became in his turn the prey of the Spider.

The Wolf and the Stork

A Wolf ate his food so greedily that a bone stuck in his throat. This caused him such great pain that he ran hither and thither, promising to reward handsomely anyone who would remove the cause of his torture. A Stork, moved with pity by the Wolf's cry of pain, and tempted also by the reward, undertook the dangerous operation. When he had removed the bone, the Wolf moved away, but the Stork called out and reminded him of the promised reward. "Reward!" exclaimed the Wolf. "Pray, you greedy fellow, what reward can you expect? You dared to put your head in my mouth, and instead of biting it off, I let you take it out again unharmed. Get away with you! And do not again place yourself in my power."

The Frog who Wanted to Be as Big as an Ox

A vain Frog, surrounded by her children, looked up and saw an Ox grazing near by. "I can be as big as the Ox," she said, and began to blow herself out. "Am I as big now?" she inquired. "Oh, no; not nearly so big!" said the little frogs. "Now?" she asked, blowing herself out still more. "No, not nearly so big!" answered her children. "But now?" she inquired eagerly, and blew herself out still more. "No, not even now," they said; "and if you try till you burst yourself you will never be so big." But the Frog would not listen, and attempting to make herself bigger still, burst her skin and died.

The Dog in the Manger

A Dog lay in a manger which was full of hay. An Ox, being hungry, came near, and was about to eat when the Dog started up, and, with angry snarls, would not let the Ox approach. "Surly brute," said the Ox; "you cannot eat the hay yourself, and you will let no one else have any."

The Bundle of Faggots

An honest Man had the unhappiness to have a quarrelsome family of children. One day he called them before him, and bade them try to break a bundle of faggots. All tried, and all failed. "Now," said he, "unbind the bundle and take every stick by itself, and see if you cannot break them." They did his bidding, and snapped all the sticks one by one with the greatest possible ease. "This, my children," said the Father at last, "is a true emblem of your condition. Keep together and you are safe, divide and you are undone."

The Fox Without a Tail

A Fox was once caught in a trap by his tail, and in order to get free was obliged to leave it behind. He knew that his fellows would make fun of his tailless condition, so he made up his mind to induce them all to part with their tails. At the next assemblage of Foxes he made a speech on the uselessness of tails in general, and the inconvenience of a Fox's tail in particular, declaring that never in his whole life had he felt so comfortable as now in his tailless freedom. When he sat down, a sly old Fox rose, and, waving his brush, said, with a sneer, that if he had lost his tail, he would be convinced by the last speaker's arguments, but until such an accident occurred he fully intended to vote in favour of tails.

The Blind Man and the Paralytic

A blind man finding himself stopped in a rough and difficult road, met with a paralytic and begged his assistance. "How can I help you," replied the paralytic, "when I can scarcely move myself along?" But, regarding the blind man, he added: "However, you appear to have good legs and a broad back, and, if you will lift me and carry me, I will guide you safely through this difficulty, which is more than each one can surmount for himself. You shall walk for me, and I will see for you." "With all my heart," rejoined the blind man; and, taking the paralytic on his shoulders, the two went cheerfully forward in a wise partnership which triumphed over all difficulties.