Reading time: 6 minutes. Word count: 1200 words.
Fable #436 THE FROGS AND THE SUN
When Aesop saw crowds of people thronging to the wedding party
of his neighbour, a thief, he immediately told them the following story:
'Once upon a time, the Sun wanted to get married but the frogs raised a cry of protest up to the heavens. Jupiter, disturbed by their shouting, asked the reason for their complaint, and one of the swamp's inhabitants explained, "Already one Sun is enough to burn up all the ponds, condemning us to a miserable death in our parched abode. What is going to happen to us when he will have sons of his own?"'
Note: In this case, English offers a pun -- sun/son -- that is not possible in Latin or Greek.
Fable #7 AESOP AND THE RUNAWAY SLAVE
A slave who was running away from his cruel master happened
to meet Aesop, who knew him as a neighbour. 'What's got you so excited?' asked
Aesop. 'Father Aesop -- a name you well deserve since you are like a father
to me -- I'm going to be perfectly frank, since you can be safely trusted with
my troubles. There's plenty of whipping and not enough food. I'm constantly
sent on errands out to the farm without any provisions for the journey. If the
master dines at home, I have to wait on him all night long; if he is invited
somewhere else, I have to lie outside in the gutter until dawn. I should have
earned my freedom by now, but my hairs have gone gray and I'm still slaving
away. If I had done anything to deserve this, I would stop complaining and suffer
my fate in silence. But the fact is that I never get enough to eat and my cruel
master is always after me. For these reasons, along with others that it would
take too long to tell you, I've decided to go wherever my feet will lead me.'
'Well,' said Aesop, 'listen to what I say: if you must endure such hardship without having done anything wrong, as you say, then what is going to happen to you now that you really are guilty of something?' With these words of advice, Aesop scared the slave into giving up his plans of escape.
Fable #29 THE HEDGEHOG, THE FOX AND THE TICKS
Aesop was defending a demagogue at Samos who was on trial for
his life when he told this story:
'A fox was crossing a river but she got swept by the current into a gully. A long time passed and she couldn't get out. Meanwhile, there were ticks swarming all over the fox's body, making her quite miserable. A hedgehog wandered by and happened to see the fox. He took pity on her and asked if he should remove the ticks, but the fox refused. The hedgehog asked the reason why, and the fox replied, "These ticks have taken their fill of me and are barely sucking my blood at this point, but if you take these ticks away, others will come and those hungry new ticks will drink up all the blood I have left!"
And the same is true for you, people of Samos: this man will do you no harm since he is already wealthy, but if you condemn him to death, others will come who do not have any money, and they will rob you blind!'
Fable #158 AESOP AND THE HOOLIGAN
Success has been the ruin of many a man.
There was a hooligan who struck Aesop with a stone. Aesop said, 'Well done!' and he even gave the boy a coin. Then he added, 'Confound it, that's all the cash I've got, but I'll show you more where that came from. Look, the man coming this way is a wealthy and important person; if you can hit him with a stone the same way you hit me, you'll get the reward you deserve.' The hooligan was convinced and did as Aesop told him, but his hope for a reward brought his reckless daring to ruin: he was arrested and paid the price for his crime on the cross.
Note: Crucifixion was a form of punishment regularly used by the Romans.
Fable #317 AESOP AND THE SOOTHSAYERS
consider someone with real life experience to be more reliable than a soothsayer,
but they cannot say why: my little fable will be the first to provide an explanation.
There was a farmer who had a flock of sheep, and those sheep gave birth to lambs with human heads. Alarmed by this omen the farmer hurried off, deeply upset, to consult the soothsayers. One soothsayer told him that the birth of lambs with human heads indicated a matter of life and death for him as the 'head' of the household, and a sacrifice would be required to ward off the danger. Another soothsayer insisted that this was instead a sign that the man's wife had been unfaithful to him, and that she had passed off other men's sons as his own; this evil omen could only be averted by an even greater sacrifice. To make a long story short, the soothsayers argued about their interpretations with one another, heightening the man's anxiety with more and more causes for alarm.
Aesop also happened to be there, that old man who was nobody's fool: there was no way that nature could play tricks on him! 'If you want to expiate this omen,' said Aesop, 'I suggest you supply your shepherds with wives!'
Fable #537 AESOP AND THE BOW
When a certain man of Athens saw Aesop playing with marbles
amidst a crowd of boys, he stood there and laughed at Aesop as if Aesop were
crazy. As soon as he realized what was going on, Aesop -- who was an old man
far more inclined to laugh at others than to be laughed at himself -- took an
unstrung bow and placed it in the middle of the road. 'Okay, you know-it-all,'
he said, 'explain the meaning of what I just did.' All the people gathered round.
The man racked his brains for a long time but he could not manage to answer
Aesop's question. Eventually he gave up. Having won this battle of wits, Aesop
then explained, 'If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly
break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.'
In the same way the mind must be given some amusement from time to time, so that you will find yourself able to think more clearly afterwards.
Fable #557 AESOP AND THE SHIPBUILDERS
Aesop the storyteller had nothing in particular to do, so he
strolled into the workshop of some shipbuilders. The workers began to taunt
Aesop, provoking him to speak, so Aesop replied with this old story.
'Once upon a time,' said Aesop, 'there was only Chaos and Water. God then wanted to make a new element emerge, Gaia, the Earth. So he ordered the Earth to swallow the sea in three gulps. Earth did as she was ordered: the first gulp caused the mountains to appear, and the second gulp caused the plains to be revealed. And if she decides to take a third gulp,' said Aesop, 'that will be the end of all you shipbuilders and your entire profession!'
This story shows that people are asking for trouble if they make fun of someone who is better than they are.
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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