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  1. The Fishermen
  2. The Fisherman and the Little Fish
  3. The Fawn and His Mother
  4. The Fox and the Grapes
  5. The Grasshopper and the Owl
  6. The Hawk and the Nightingale
  7. The Hawk, the Kite, and the Pigeons
  8. The Lamp
  9. The Mischievous Dog
  10. The North Wind and the Sun
  11. The Rivers and the Sea
  12. The Ill Kite
  13. The Two Men Who Were Enemies
  14. The Swan and the Goose
  15. The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
  16. The Two Frogs
  17. The Wolves and the Sheepdogs
  18. The Cobbler Turned Doctor
  19. The Crow and the Serpent
  20. The Crow and the Pitcher

The Fishermen

SOME FISHERMEN were out trawling their nets. Perceiving them to be very heavy, they danced about for joy and supposed that they had taken a large catch. When they had dragged the nets to the shore they found but few fish: the nets were full of sand and stones. The men, who had formed such high expectations, were extra downcast for them. And then one of their company, an old man, said,

"Let us cease lamenting, my mates, for, as it seems to me, sorrow is always the twin sister of joy; and it was only to be looked for that we, who just now were over-rejoiced, should next have something to make us sad."

You cannot always tell what's in the package by its cover (cf. an American proverb).

Correspondingly, we cannot always tell what's in the net by its weight alone.

The Fisherman and the Little Fish

A FISHERMAN who lived on the produce of his nets, one day caught a single small fish as the result of his day's labour. The fish, panting convulsively, thus begged for his life:

"Oh, what good can I be to you, and how little am I worth? I am not yet come to my full size. Pray spare my life, and put me back into the sea. I shall soon become a large fish fit for the tables of the rich, and then you can catch me again, and make a handsome profit of me."

The fisherman replied,

"I would be a simple fellow if I were to forego my present certain gain for the chance of a greater, but uncertain profit."

A fine fairy-tale could have taken another direction at that point -

He labours in vain who tries to please everybody (American).

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 defence; why, then, 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 Fox and the Grapes

A HUNGRY FOX tried to reach some clusters of grapes which he saw hanging from a vine that was trained on a tree. She wearied herself in vain, for the grapes hung too high up, and she could not reach them. At last she turned away, saying:

"I guess they were unripe anyhow."

Some men too, when they fail by falling short, blame circumstances or others undeservedly.

The Grasshopper and the Owl

AN OWL, used to feed at night and to sleep during the day, was greatly disturbed by the noise of a grasshopper and earnestly asked her to stop chirping. The grasshopper refused that, and chirped louder and louder the more the owl begged. When she saw that she could get no redress and that her words were despised, the owl attacked the chatterer by a stratagem.

"Since I cannot sleep," she said, "on account of your song which, believe me, is sweet as the lyre of Sir Apollo, I shall indulge myself in drinking nectar I have been given. If you do not dislike it, come to me and we will drink it together."

The grasshopper, who was thirsty, and pleased with the praise of her voice, eagerly flew up. The owl came forth from her hollow, seized her, and put her to death.

Behind much sweet talk can be a deadly sting.

The Hawk and the Nightingale

A NIGHTINGALE, sitting aloft on an oak and singing according to his wont, was seen by a hawk who, being in need of food, swooped down and seized him. The nightingale, about to lose his life, earnestly begged the hawk to let him go, saying that he was not big enough to satisfy the hunger of a hawk who, if he wanted food, ought to pursue the larger birds. The hawk, interrupting him, said:

"I should indeed have lost my senses if I should let go food ready in my hand, for the sake of pursuing birds which are not yet even within sight."

Friendly talk won't feed the hungry bird.

The Hawk, the Kite, and the Pigeons

The pigeons, terrified by the appearance of a kite, called on the hawk to defend them. He at once agreed. When they had admitted him into the cote, they found that he made more havoc and slew a larger number of them in one day than the kite could pounce on in a whole year.

Avoid a remedy that is worse than the disease.

The Lamp

A LAMP, soaked with too much oil and flaring brightly, boasted that it gave more light than the sun. Then a sudden puff of wind arose, and the lamp was at once blown out. Its owner lit it again, and said:

"Boast no more, but from now on be content to give your light in silence. Know that not even the stars need to be relit."

A little stumble may prevent a fall (cf. American).

The Mischievous Dog

A DOG used to run up quietly to the heels of everyone he met, and to bite them without notice. His master suspended a bell about his neck so that the dog might give notice of his presence wherever he went. Thinking it a mark of distinction, the dog grew proud of his bell and went tinkling it all over the marketplace. One day an old hound said to him,"

"Why do you make such an exhibition of yourself? That bell that you carry is not, believe me, any order of merit, but on the contrary a mark of disgrace, a public notice to all men to avoid you as an ill-mannered dog."

Notoriety can be mistaken for fame.

The North Wind and the Sun

THE NORTH WIND and the sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes.

The north wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the traveller wrapped his cloak around him, till at last, resigning all hope of victory, the wind called on the sun to see what he could do. The sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The traveller no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.

Grand persuasion may work better than force.

The Rivers and the Sea

THE RIVERS joined together to complain to the sea, saying,

"Why is it that when we flow into your tides so potable and sweet, you work in us such a change, and make us salty and unfit to drink?"

The sea, perceiving that they intended to throw the blame on him, said,

"Well, cease to flow into me, and then you will not be made briny."

Don't accuse if you're unsure.

The Ill Kite

A KITE, ill to death, said to his mother: "Mother! do not mourn, but at once invoke the hereafter that my life may be prolonged."

She replied,

"Alas, son! Which in the hereafter do you think will pity you? Is there one whom you have not outraged by eating the flesh from their bones on the roof-tops?"*

We should make friends in prosperity if we would have their help in adversity.

The ancient burial custom in Persia and other places was to leave corpses on flat roofs of houses to let large birds handle them. - TK

The Two Men Who Were Enemies

TWO MEN, deadly enemies to each other, were sailing in the same vessel. Determined to keep as far apart as possible, the one seated himself in the stem, and the other in the prow of the ship. A violent storm arose, and with the vessel in great danger of sinking, the one in the stern asked of the pilot which of the two ends of the ship would go down first.

The pilot answered that he supposed it would be the prow, and then the man said, "Death would not be grievous to me, if I could only see my enemy die before me."

Too much of a good thing easily turns into something bad, and too much of a bad thing almost looks like a good thing.

The Swan and the Goose

A CERTAIN rich man bought in the market a goose and a swan. He fed the one for his table and kept the other for the sake of its song. When the time came for killing the goose, the cook went to get him at night, when it was dark, and he was not able to distinguish one bird from the other. By mistake he caught the swan instead of the goose. The swan, threatened with death, burst forth into song and thus made himself known by his voice, and preserved his life by his melody.

The songs of the tongue may be dipped in the blood of the heart.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

A COUNTRY MOUSE invited a town mouse, an intimate friend, to pay him a visit and take part of his country fare. As they were on the bare ploughlands, eating there wheat-stocks and roots pulled up from the hedgerow, the town mouse said to his friend,

"You live here the life of the ants, while in my house is the horn of plenty. I am surrounded by every luxury, and if you will come with me, as I wish you would, you shall have an ample share of my dainties."

The country mouse was easily persuaded, and returned to town with his friend. On his arrival, the town mouse placed before him bread, barley, beans, dried figs, honey, raisins, and, last of all, brought a dainty piece of cheese from a basket. The country mouse, being much delighted at the sight of such good cheer, expressed his satisfaction in warm terms and lamented his own hard fate.

Just as they were beginning to eat, someone opened the door, and they both ran off squeaking, as fast as they could, to a hole so narrow that two could only find room in it by squeezing. They had scarcely begun their repast again when someone else entered to take something out of a cupboard, whereupon the two mice, more frightened than before, ran away and hid themselves. At last the country mouse, almost famished, said to his friend:

"Although you have prepared for me so dainty a feast, I must leave you to enjoy it by yourself. It is surrounded by too many dangers to please me. I prefer my bare ploughlands and roots from the hedgerow, where I can live in safety, and without fear."

When a feast is over, it is naturally easier to talk in favour of rustic living.

A shady business does not easily yield a sunny life (cf. American).

The Two Frogs

TWO FROGS were neighbours. One inhabited a deep pond, far removed from public view; the other lived in a gully containing little water, and traversed by a country road. The frog that lived in the pond warned his friend to change his residence and begged him to come and live with him, saying that he would enjoy greater safety from danger and more abundant food. The other refused, saying that he felt it so very hard to leave a place to which he had become accustomed. A few days afterwards a heavy wagon passed through the gully and crushed him to death under its wheels.

A wilful man will have his way to his own hurt.

The Wolves and the Sheepdogs

THE WOLVES once said to the sheepdogs:

"Why should you, who are like us in so many things, not be entirely of one mind with us, and live with us as brothers should? We differ from you in one point only. We live in freedom, but you bow down to and slave for men, who in return for your services flog you with whips and put collars on your necks. They make you also guard their sheep, and while they eat the mutton throw only the bones to you. If you will be persuaded by us, you will give us the sheep, and we will enjoy them in common, till we all are surfeited."

The dogs listened favourably to these proposals, and, entering the den of the wolves, they were set on and torn to pieces.

Isolation means abolishment (American).

The Cobbler Turned Doctor

A COBBLER, unable to make a living by his trade and made desperate by poverty, began to practice medicine in a town where he was not known. He sold a drug, pretending that it was an antidote to all poisons, and obtained a great name for himself by long-winded puffs and advertisements.

When the cobbler happened to fall sick himself of a serious illness, the governor of the town determined to test his skill. For this purpose he called for a cup, and while filling it with water, pretended to mix poison with the cobbler's antidote, commanding him to drink it on the promise of a reward. The cobbler, under the fear of death, confessed that he had no knowledge of medicine, and was only made famous by the stupid clamours of the crowd.

The governor then called a public assembly and addressed the citizens:

"Of what folly have you been guilty? You have not hesitated to entrust your heads to a man, whom no one could employ to make even the shoes for their feet."

Plan your work in advance, and thus let it become a fair investment in the course of time.

The Crow and the Serpent

A CROW in great want of food saw a serpent asleep in a sunny nook, and flying down, greedily seized him. The serpent, turning about, bit the crow with a mortal wound.

In the agony of death, the bird exclaimed:

"O unhappy me! who have found in that which I deemed a happy windfall the source of my destruction."

Speed does not take heed (American).

The Crow and the Pitcher

A CROW perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain.

At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, till he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life.

Necessity is one of the mothers of invention.


Fables of the European tradition, Literature  

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