Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
152. THE MERCHANT, THE DONKEY AND THE SALT
Perry 180 (Babrius
A merchant who owned a donkey heard that salt was cheaper by the seashore,
so he decided to go into the salt business. He went and loaded his donkey
with salt and then headed back home. At a certain moment, the donkey accidentally
lost his footing and fell straight into a stream. This caused the salt
to dissolve, making his load lighter. The donkey was thus able to rise
easily to his feet and enjoy a less taxing journey home. The merchant
sold what was left of the salt and led the donkey back again to load him
with an even greater cargo than before. As the donkey made his way with
difficulty back to the stream where he had fallen before, he sank to his
knees on purpose this time. Then, after his cargo had dissolved in the
water, he leaped nimbly to his feet, delighted to have turned the situation
to his advantage, or so he thought. The merchant realized what was happening
and decided that the next time he would bring back home a big load of
porous sponges. On their way back across the stream, the wicked donkey
fell down on purpose as before. This time the sponges grew heavy with
water and the cargo expanded. As a result, the donkey had to carry a burden
that was twice as heavy as it had been to begin with.
Note: An epimythium probably added by a later editor reads: 'It often
happens that the same things which brought us luck can also get us into
trouble.' Aelian, Characteristics of Animals 7.42, tells this same story
about a mule who tries to trick Thales,
one of the legendary seven sages of Greece.
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.