Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
Fable #187 THE LION AND THE MAN DISPUTING
man and a lion were arguing about who was best, with each one seeking evidence
in support of his claim. They came to a tombstone on which a man was shown in
the act of strangling a lion, and the man offered this picture as evidence.
The lion then replied, 'It was a man who painted this; if a lion had painted
it, you would instead see a lion strangling a man. But let's look at some real
The lion then brought the man to the amphitheatre and showed him so he could see with his own eyes just how a lion strangles a man. The lion then concluded, 'A pretty picture is not proof: facts are the only real evidence!'
When the evidence is fairly weighed, a colourfully painted lie is quickly refuted by the facts.
Fable #202 THE OAK TREE AND THE REED
story about a reed and an oak, urging us not to rely on strength.
A reed got into an argument with an oak tree. The oak tree marvelled at her own strength, boasting that she could stand her own in a battle against the winds. Meanwhile, she condemned the reed for being weak, since he was naturally inclined to yield to every breeze. The wind then began to blow very fiercely. The oak tree was torn up by her roots and toppled over, while the reed was left bent but unharmed.
Those who adapt to the times will emerge unscathed.
Fable #200 THE FIR TREE AND THE BRAMBLE BUSH
The fir tree and the bramble bush were quarrelling with one
another. The fir tree sang her own praises at length. 'I am beautiful and attractively
tall. I grow straight up, a neighbour to the clouds. I am the hall's roof and
the ship's keel. How can you compare yourself, you mere thorn, to such a tree
The bramble bush then said to the tree, 'Just remember the axes which are always chopping away at you! Then even you can understand that it is better to be a bramble bush.'
A famous man has more glory than lesser people, but he is also exposed to greater dangers.
Fable #193 THE CRANE AND THE PEACOCK
peacock kept waving his golden feathers back and forth while he argued with
the grey-winged crane. The crane finally exclaimed, 'You may make fun of the
colour of my wings, but I can rise on them up to the stars and high into the
sky. You, on the other hand, can only flap those gilded feathers of yours down
there on the ground, just like a rooster. You are never seen soaring up high
in the sky!'
I would prefer to be admired while dressed in my well-worn clothes than to live without honour, no matter how fine my clothes might be.
Fable #195 THE SOW AND THE LIONESS
The story goes that a sow who had delivered a whole litter
of piglets loudly accosted a lioness, 'How many children do you breed?' asked
'I breed only one,' said the lioness, 'but he is very well bred!'
The fable shows that a single man who is remarkable for physical strength and bravery and wisdom is mightier than many weak and foolish people.
Fable #199 THE WASP AND THE BUTTERFLY
A butterfly noticed a wasp flying by and exclaimed, 'What an
unfair turn of events this is! In our previous lifetimes, when we inhabited
the bodies from whose mortal remains we received our souls, I was the one who
spoke eloquently in times of peace and fought bravely in war, and I was first
among my fellows in all of the arts! Yet look at me now, an utter frivolity,
crumbling into ashes as I flutter here and there. You, on the other hand, were
formerly a mule, a beast of burden, yet now you stab and wound anyone you want
with your sting.'
The wasp then uttered words that are worth repeating: 'It does not matter what we used to be: the important thing is what we are now!'
Note: This fable derives from the ancient belief that wasps would spring from the carcass of a dead mule or horse (e.g. Aelian, Characteristics of Animals 1.28), while a spirit or 'psyche' would take shape in the form of a butterfly (Aristotle, History of Animals 551a)
Fable #237 THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE
hare laughed at the tortoise's feet but the tortoise declared, 'I will beat
you in a race!' The hare replied, 'Those are just words. Race with me, and you'll
see! Who will mark out the track and serve as our umpire?' 'The fox,' replied
the tortoise, 'since she is honest and highly intelligent.' When the time for
the race had been decided upon, the tortoise did not delay, but immediately
took off down the race course. The hare, however, lay down to take a nap, confident
in the speed of his feet. Then, when the hare eventually made his way to the
finish line, he found that the tortoise had already won.
The story shows that many people have good natural abilities which are ruined by idleness; on the other hand, sobriety, zeal and perseverance can prevail over indolence.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Laura Gibbs, translator. Aesop's Fables (2003). Weblink.
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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