Aesop's Fables Translated by George Fyler Townsend

Fables 1-30


The Wolf and the Lamb

WOLF, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf’s right to eat him. He thus addressed him:

“ Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me.” “Indeed,” bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, “I was not then born.” Then said the Wolf, “You feed in my pasture.” “No, good sir,” replied the Lamb, “I have not yet tasted grass.” Again said the Wolf, “ You drink of my well.” “No,” exclaimed the Lamb, “I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother’s milk is both food and drink to me.” Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, “ Well! I won’t remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my imputations.” The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.


The Bat and the Weasels

A BAT who fell upon the ground and was caught by a Weasel pleaded to be spared his life. The Weasel refused, saying that he was by nature the enemy of all birds. The Bat assured him that he was not a bird, but a mouse, and thus was set free. Shortly afterwards the Bat again fell to the ground and was caught by another Weasel, whom he likewise entreated not to eat him. The Weasel said that he had a special hostility to mice. The Bat assured him that he was not a mouse, but a bat, and thus a second time escaped.

It is wise to turn circumstances to good account.


The Ass and the Grasshopper

AN ASS having heard some Grasshoppers chirping, was highly enchanted; and, desiring to possess the same charms of melody, demanded what sort of food they lived on to give them such beautiful voices. They replied, “The dew.” The Ass resolved that he would live only upon dew, and in a short time died of hunger.


The Lion and the Mouse

A LION was awakened from sleep by a Mouse running over his face. Rising up in anger, he caught him and was about to kill him, when the Mouse piteously entreated, saying: “If you would only spare my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness.” The Lion laughed and let him go. It happened shortly after this that the Lion was caught by some hunters, who bound him by strong ropes to the ground. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came up, and gnawed the rope with his teeth, and setting him free, exclaimed: “You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you, not expecting to receive from me any repayment of your favor; but now you know that it is possible for even a Mouse to confer benefits on a Lion.”



The Charcoal-Burner and the Fuller

A CHARCOAL-BURNER carried on his trade in his own house. One day he met a friend, a Fuller, and entreated him to come and live with him, saying that they should be far better neighbors and that their housekeeping expenses would be lessened. The Fuller replied, “The arrangement is impossible as far as I am concerned, for whatever I should whiten, you would immediately blacken again with your charcoal.”

Like will draw like.


The Father and His Sons

A FATHER had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion; and for this purpose he one day told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the faggot into the hands of each of them in succession, and ordered them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their strength, and were not able to do it. He next opened the faggot, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons’ hands, upon which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: “My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this faggot, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”


The Boy Hunting Locusts

A BOY was hunting for locusts. He had caught a goodly number, when he saw a Scorpion, and mistaking him for a locust, reached out his hand to take him. The Scorpion, showing his sting, said:

If you had but touched me, my friend, you would have lost me, and all your locusts too!”


The Cock and the Jewel

A COCK, scratching for food for himself and his hens, found a precious stone and exclaimed: “If your owner had found thee, and not I, he would have taken thee up, and have set thee in thy first estate; but I have found thee for no purpose. I would rather have one barleycorn than all the jewels in the world.”


The Kingdom of the Lion

THE BEASTS of the field and forest had a Lion as their king. He was neither wrathful, cruel, nor tyrannical, but just and gentle as a king could be. During his reign he made a royal proclamation for a general assembly of all the birds and beasts, and drew up conditions for a universal league, in which the Wolf and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag, the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace and amity. The Hare said, “Oh, how I have longed to see this day, in which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side of the strong.” And after the Hare said this, he ran for his life.


The Wolf and the Crane

A WOLF who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for a large sum, to put her head into his mouth and draw out the bone.  When the Crane had extracted the bone and demanded the promised payment, the Wolf, grinning and grinding his teeth, exclaimed:

“ Why, you have surely already had a sufficient recompense, in having been permitted to draw out your head in safety from the mouth and jaws of a wolf.”

In serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains.


The Fisherman Piping

A FISHERMAN skilled in music took his flute and his nets to the seashore. Standing on a projecting rock, he played several tunes in the hope that the fish, attracted by his melody, would of their own accord dance into his net, which he had placed below.  At last, having long waited in vain, he laid aside his flute, and casting his net into the sea, made an excellent haul of fish.

When he saw them leaping about in the net upon the rock he said:

“ O you most perverse creatures, when I piped you would not dance, but now that I have ceased you do so merrily.”


Hercules and the Wagoner

A CARTER was driving a wagon along a country lane, when the wheels sank down deep into a rut. The rustic driver, stupefied and aghast, stood looking at the wagon, and did nothing but utter loud cries to Hercules to come and help him. Hercules, it is said, appeared and thus addressed him: “Put your shoulders to the wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks, and never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help yourself, or depend upon it you will henceforth pray in vain.”

Self-help is the best help.


The Ants and the Grasshopper

THE ANTS were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, “Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?’ He replied, “I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in singing.” They then said in derision: “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”


The Traveler and His Dog

A TRAVELER about to set out on a journey saw his Dog stand at the door stretching himself. He asked him sharply: “Why do you stand there gaping? Everything is ready but you, so come with me instantly.” The Dog, wagging his tail, replied: “O, master! I am quite ready; it is you for whom I am waiting.”

The loiterer often blames delay on his more active friend.


The Dog and the Shadow

A DOG, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away.


The Mole and His Mother

A MOLE, a creature blind from birth, once said to his Mother: “I am sure than I can see, Mother!” In the desire to prove to him his mistake, his Mother placed before him a few grains of frankincense, and asked, “What is it?’ The young Mole said, “It is a pebble.” His Mother exclaimed: “My son, I am afraid that you are not only blind, but that you have lost your sense of smell.


The Herdsman and the Lost Bull

A HERDSMAN tending his flock in a forest lost a Bull-calf from the fold. After a long and fruitless search, he made a vow that, if he could only discover the thief who had stolen the Calf, he would offer a lamb in sacrifice to Hermes, Pan, and the Guardian Deities of the forest. Not long afterwards, as he ascended a small hillock, he saw at its foot a Lion feeding on the Calf.  Terrified at the sight, he lifted his eyes and his hands to heaven, and said: “Just now I vowed to offer a lamb to the Guardian Deities of the forest if I could only find out who had robbed me; but now that I have discovered the thief, I would willingly add a full-grown Bull to the Calf I have lost, if I may only secure my own escape from him in safety.”


The Hare and the Tortoise

A HARE one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The Hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course.  The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.

Slow but steady wins the race.


The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble

THE POMEGRANATE and Apple-Tree disputed as to which was the most beautiful. When their strife was at its height, a Bramble from the neighboring hedge lifted up its voice, and said in a boastful tone: “Pray, my dear friends, in my presence at least cease from such vain disputings.”


The Farmer and the Stork

A FARMER placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught a number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them he trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in the net and was earnestly beseeching the Farmer to spare his life. “Pray save me, Master,” he said, “and let me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity. Besides, I am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I love and slave for my father and mother. Look too, at my feathers— they are not the least like those of a Crane.” The Farmer laughed aloud and said, “It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company.”

Birds of a feather flock together.


The Farmer and the Snake

ONE WINTER a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom.  The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. “Oh,” cried the Farmer with his last breath, “I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.”

The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.


The Fawn and His Mother

A YOUNG FAWN once said to his Mother, “You are larger than a dog, and swifter, and more used to running, and you have your horns as a defense; why, then, O Mother! do the hounds frighten you so?” She smiled, and said: “I know full well, my son, that all you say is true. I have the advantages you mention, but when I hear even the bark of a single dog I feel ready to faint, and fly away as fast as I can.”

No arguments will give courage to the coward.


The Bear and the Fox

A BEAR boasted very much of his philanthropy, saying that of all animals he was the most tender in his regard for man, for he had such respect for him that he would not even touch his dead body.  A Fox hearing these words said with a smile to the Bear, “Oh!  that you would eat the dead and not the living.”


The Swallow and the Crow

THE SWALLOW and the Crow had a contention about their plumage.  The Crow put an end to the dispute by saying, “Your feathers are all very well in the spring, but mine protect me against the winter.”

Fair weather friends are not worth much.


The Mountain in Labor

A MOUNTAIN was once greatly agitated. Loud groans and noises were heard, and crowds of people came from all parts to see what was the matter. While they were assembled in anxious expectation of some terrible calamity, out came a Mouse.

Don’t make much ado about nothing.


The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion

THE ASS and the Fox, having entered into partnership together for their mutual protection, went out into the forest to hunt. They had not proceeded far when they met a Lion. The Fox, seeing imminent danger, approached the Lion and promised to contrive for him the capture of the Ass if the Lion would pledge his word not to harm the Fox. Then, upon assuring the Ass that he would not be injured, the Fox led him to a deep pit and arranged that he should fall into it. The Lion, seeing that the Ass was secured, immediately clutched the Fox, and attacked the Ass at his leisure.


The Tortoise and the Eagle

A TORTOISE, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly.  An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. “I will give you,” she said, “all the riches of the Red Sea.” “I will teach you to fly then,” said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds suddenly he let her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain, dashing her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: “I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?’

If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.


The Flies and the Honey-Pot

A NUMBER of Flies were attracted to a jar of honey which had been overturned in a housekeeper’s room, and placing their feet in it, ate greedily. Their feet, however, became so smeared with the honey that they could not use their wings, nor release themselves, and were suffocated. Just as they were expiring, they exclaimed, “O foolish creatures that we are, for the sake of a little pleasure we have destroyed ourselves.”

Pleasure bought with pains, hurts.


The Man and the Lion

A MAN and a Lion traveled together through the forest. They soon began to boast of their respective superiority to each other in strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a statue carved in stone, which represented “a Lion strangled by a Man.” The traveler pointed to it and said: “See there! How strong we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts.” The Lion replied: “This statue was made by one of you men. If we Lions knew how to erect statues, you would see the Man placed under the paw of the Lion.”

One story is good, till another is told.


The Farmer and the Cranes

SOME CRANES made their feeding grounds on some plowlands newly sown with wheat. For a long time the Farmer, brandishing an empty sling, chased them away by the terror he inspired; but when the birds found that the sling was only swung in the air, they ceased to take any notice of it and would not move. The Farmer, on seeing this, charged his sling with stones, and killed a great number. The remaining birds at once forsook his fields, crying to each other, “It is time for us to be off to Liliput: for this man is no longer content to scare us, but begins to show us in earnest what he can do.”

If words suffice not, blows must follow.



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