Aesop's Fables Translated by George Fyler Townsend
The Wolf and the Lamb
WOLF, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not
lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to
Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him. He thus addressed him:
"Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me." "Indeed,"
the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born."
said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture." "No,
good sir," replied
the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass." Again said
"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,
"Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute
one of my imputations." The tyrant will always find a pretext
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
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
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
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 angrily, he caught him and was about to kill him,
the Mouse piteously entreated, saying: "If you would only
my life, I would be sure to repay your kindness." The Lion
laughed and let him go. It happened shortly after this that
Lion was caught by some hunters, who bound him by st ropes to
ground. The Mouse, recognizing his roar, came gnawed the rope
with his teeth, and set him free, exclaim
"You ridiculed the idea of my ever being able to help you,
expecting to receive from me any repayment of your favor; I
you know that it is possible for even a Mouse to con benefits
The Charcoal-Burner and the Fuller
A CHARCOAL-BURNER carried on his trade in his own house. One
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
for whatever I should whiten, you would immediately blacken
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,
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.
then addressed them in these words: "My sons, if you are
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
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,
all your locusts too!"
The Cock and the Jewel
A COCK, scratching for food for himself and his hens, found
precious stone and exclaimed: "If your owner had found
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.
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
and the Lamb, the Panther and the Kid, the Tiger and the Stag,
the Dog and the Hare, should live together in perfect peace
amity. The Hare said, "Oh, how I have longed to see this
which the weak shall take their place with impunity by the side
of the strong." And after the Hare said this, he ran for
The Wolf and the Crane
A WOLF who had a bone stuck in his throat hired a Crane, for
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,
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
escape injury for your pains.
The Fisherman Piping
A FISHERMAN skilled in music took his flute and his nets to
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,
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
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
loud cries to Hercules to come and help him. Hercules, it is
said, appeared and thus addressed him: "Put your shoulders
wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks, and never more pray to
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
him, "Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?'
replied, "I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in
singing." They then said in derision: "If you were
to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in
The Traveler and His Dog
A TRAVELER about to set out on a journey saw his Dog stand at
door stretching himself. He asked him sharply: "Why do
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
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.
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:
am sure than I can see, Mother!" In the desire to prove
his mistake, his Mother placed before him a few grains of
frankincense, and asked, "What is it?' The young Mole said,
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,
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
Guardian Deities of the forest if I could only find out who
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
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
wind, I will beat you in a race." The Hare, believing her
assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal;
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
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
Slow but steady wins the race.
The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble
THE POMEGRANATE and Apple-Tree disputed as to which was the
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
such vain disputings."
The Farmer and the Stork
A FARMER placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught
number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them
trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in the net and was
earnestly beseeching the Farmer to spare his life. "Pray
me, Master," he said, "and let me go free this once.
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
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.
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,
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
and swifter, and more used to running, and you have your horns
a defense; why, then, O Mother! do the hounds frighten you so?"
She smiled, and said: "I know full well, my son, that all
is true. I have the advantages you mention, but when I hear
the bark of a single dog I feel ready to faint, and fly away
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
animals he was the most tender in his regard for man, for he
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
all very well in the spring, but mine protect me against the
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
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
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
him the capture of the Ass if the Lion would pledge his word
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
should fall into it. The Lion, seeing that the Ass was secured,
immediately clutched the Fox, and attacked the Ass at his
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
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
with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on
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
overturned in a housekeeper's room, and placing their feet in
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
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
began to boast of their respective superiority to each other
strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a
statue carved in stone, which represented "a Lion strangled
Man." The traveler pointed to it and said: "See there!
we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts."
Lion replied: "This statue was made by one of you men.
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
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
number. The remaining birds at once forsook his fields, crying
to each other, "It is time for us to be off to Liliput:
man is no longer content to scare us, but begins to show us
earnest what he can do."
If words suffice not, blows must follow.
The Dog in the Manger
A DOG lay in a manger, and by his growling and snapping prevented
the oxen from eating the hay which had been placed for them.
"What a selfish Dog!" said one of them to his companions;
cannot eat the hay himself, and yet refuses to allow those to
The Fox and the Goat
A FOX one day fell into a deep well and could find no means
escape. A Goat, overcome with thirst, came to the same well,
seeing the Fox, inquired if the water was good. Concealing his
sad plight under a merry guise, the Fox indulged in a lavish
praise of the water, saying it was excellent beyond measure,
encouraging him to descend. The Goat, mindful only of his
thirst, thoughtlessly jumped down, but just as he drank, the
informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested
scheme for their common escape. "If," said he, "you
your forefeet upon the wall and bend your head, I will run up
your back and escape, and will help you out afterwards."
readily assented and the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying
himself with the Goat's horns, he safely reached the mouth of
well and made off as fast as he could. When the Goat upbraided
him for breaking his promise, he turned around and cried out,
"You foolish old fellow! If you had as many brains in your
as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down
before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself
dangers from which you had no means of escape."
Look before you leap.
The Bear and the Two Travelers
TWO MEN were traveling together, when a Bear suddenly met them
their path. One of them climbed up quickly into a tree and
concealed himself in the branches. The other, seeing that he
must be attacked, fell flat on the ground, and when the Bear
up and felt him with his snout, and smelt him all over, he held
his breath, and feigned the appearance of death as much as he
could. The Bear soon left him, for it is said he will not touch
a dead body. When he was quite gone, the other Traveler
descended from the tree, and jocularly inquired of his friend
what it was the Bear had whispered in his ear. "He gave
advice," his companion replied. "Never travel with
a friend who
deserts you at the approach of danger."
Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.
The Oxen and the Axle-Trees
A HEAVY WAGON was being dragged along a country lane by a team
Oxen. The Axle-trees groaned and creaked terribly; whereupon
Oxen, turning round, thus addressed the wheels: "Hullo
do you make so much noise? We bear all the labor, and we, not
you, ought to cry out."
Those who suffer most cry out the least.
The Thirsty Pigeon
A PIGEON, oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water
painted on a signboard. Not supposing it to be only a picture,
she flew towards it with a loud whir and unwittingly dashed
against the signboard, jarring herself terribly. Having broken
her wings by the blow, she fell to the ground, and was caught
one of the bystanders.
Zeal should not outrun discretion.
The Raven and the Swan
A RAVEN saw a Swan and desired to secure for himself the same
beautiful plumage. Supposing that the Swan's splendid white
color arose from his washing in the water in which he swam,
Raven left the altars in the neighborhood where he picked up
living, and took up residence in the lakes and pools. But
cleansing his feathers as often as he would, he could not change
their color, while through want of food he perished.
Change of habit cannot alter Nature.
The Goat and the Goatherd
A GOATHERD had sought to bring back a stray goat to his flock.
He whistled and sounded his horn in vain; the straggler paid
attention to the summons. At last the Goatherd threw a stone,
and breaking its horn, begged the Goat not to tell his master.
The Goat replied, "Why, you silly fellow, the horn will
though I be silent."
Do not attempt to hide things which cannot be hid.