Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
247. THE LION AND THE ELEPHANT
Perry 259 (Chambry
The lion often found fault with the way he had been designed by Prometheus.
Admittedly, Prometheus had made the lion very large and handsome, supplying
him with sharp fangs in his jaw and arming him with claws on his feet;
in short he had made the lion more powerful than all the other animals.
'Yet great though I may be,' said the lion, 'I am terribly afraid of roosters!'
Prometheus replied, 'Why waste your time blaming me? You have every good
quality that I was able to create, and you are afraid of absolutely nothing,
except for roosters.' The lion kept on lamenting his condition, criticizing
himself for being a coward until finally he just wanted to die. It was
when he was in this frame of mind that the lion ran into the elephant.
The lion greeted the elephant, and stopped to converse with him. When
he saw that the elephant kept on flapping his ears, the lion inquired,
'What's the matter with you? Why do you keep on flapping your ears like
that?' As the elephant began to speak, a gnat came whizzing by and the
elephant said, 'Do you see this little thing, this little buzzing thing?
If it gets inside my ear, I'm doomed.' 'Well then,' the lion concluded,
'why should I die of shame? I am an excellent creature indeed, and in
much better shape than this elephant: roosters are more formidable than
gnats, after all!'
You see what strength a gnat must have, given that he provokes fear
in the elephant.
Note: This fable is also found in Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Cleitophon
2.21. The lion's fear of the rooster was a popular Greek and Roman legend;
see, for example, Lucretius (The
Nature of Things 4.710), who states that the rooster emits a painful
substance that gets into the lion's eyes, although for some reason this
substance does not penetrate the eyes of other creatures in the same
way. For another story about the lion's fear of the rooster, see Fable
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.