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

Perry 200 (Chambry 296 *)

A boy who was carrying his teacher's writing tablet stole it and brought it triumphantly home to his mother who received the stolen goods with much delight. Next, the boy stole a piece of clothing, and by degrees he became a habitual criminal. As the boy grew older and became an adult, he stole items of greater and greater value. Time passed and the man was finally caught in the act and taken off to court where he was condemned to death: woe betide the trade of the thief! His mother stood behind him, weeping as she shouted, 'My son, what has become of you?' He said to his mother, 'Come closer, mother, and I will give you a final kiss.' She went up to him, and all of a sudden he bit her nose, tugging at it with his teeth until he cut it clean off. Then he said to her, 'Mother, if only you had beaten me at the very beginning when I brought you the writing tablet, then I would not have been condemned to death!'
This is what the story tells us: if you are wise, you will tear out vice by the roots, in other words, at the very beginning of sinfulness and other wickedness, so that the severing of the root will cause the branches to wither away.

Note: In other versions of this story (included in Chambry's first edition of the Greek fables), the son bites off his mother's ear, rather than her nose.

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.