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Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

Perry 180 (Babrius 111)

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.

Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
NOTE: New cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.