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

Perry 176 (Babrius 143)

A farmer picked up a viper that was half-dead from the cold. When the farmer had warmed the viper, the viper uncoiled and grabbed hold of the man's hand and with a fatal bite, he killed the man who had wanted to save him. As he was dying, the man spoke some words that are well worth remembering: 'Well, I got what I deserve for having shown kindness to a scoundrel!'

Note: The farmer's self-rebuke is typical of the Aesopic fable tradition: the point of the story is not the viper's wicked decision to bite the man, but the man's own foolish decision to have picked up the viper in the first place. Compare the Roman proverb, 'you're nurturing a snake in your bosom' (Petronius, Satyricon 77).

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.