A FOX caught in a trap escaped, but in so doing lost his tail. Thereafter, feeling his life a burden from the shame and ridicule to which he was exposed, he schemed to convince all the other Foxes that being tailless was much more attractive, thus making up for his own deprivation. He assembled a good many Foxes and publicly advised them to cut off their tails, saying that they would not only look much better without them, but that they would get rid of the weight of the brush, which was a very great inconvenience. One of them interrupting him said,
"If you had not yourself lost your tail, my friend, you would not thus counsel us."
❋ The tailless stand out from the crowd or will be overlooked.
❋ This tale satirises those who offer advice to their neighbours not out of benevolence but from self-interest.
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 Sir Transporter, 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."
❋ Great things declared are sham when the real need is to escape.
A CERTAIN HUNTER, having snared a hare, placed it on his shoulders and set out homewards. On his way he met a man on horseback who begged the hare of him, under the pretence of purchasing it. However, when the horseman got the hare, he rode off as fast as he could. The hunter ran after him, as if he was sure of overtaking him, but the horseman increased more and more the distance between them. The hunter, sorely against his will, called out to him and said,
"Get along with you! for I will now make you a present of the hare."
❋ One has to take advantage of the time to rest too.
❋ There is a time of calm approaching, when that works best.
A HUNTER, not very bold, was searching for the tracks of a lion. He asked a man felling oaks in the forest if he had seen any marks of his footsteps or knew where his lair was.
"I will," said the man, "at once show you the lion himself."
The hunter, turning very pale and chattering with his teeth from fear, replied,
"No, thank you. I did not ask that; it is his track only I am in search of, not the lion himself."
❋ The hero is brave in deeds as well as words.
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.
AN OWL, in her wisdom, counselled the birds that when the acorn first began to sprout, to pull it all up out of the ground and not allow it to grow. She said acorns would produce mistletoe, from which an irremediable poison, the bird-lime, would be extracted and by which they would be captured. The owl next advised them to pluck up the seed of the flax, which men had sown, as it was a plant which boded no good to them. And, lastly, the owl, seeing an archer approach, predicted that this man, being on foot, would contrive darts armed with feathers which would fly faster than the wings of the birds themselves. The birds gave no credence to these warning words, but considered the owl to be beside herself and said that she was mad. But afterwards, finding her words were true, they wondered at her knowledge and deemed her to be the wisest of birds. Hence it is that when she appears they look to her as knowing all things, while she no longer gives them advice, but in solitude laments their past folly.
❋ Those who are much ahead of others risk being called insane.
THE PEACOCK made complaint to Lady Success that, while the nightingale pleased every ear with his song, he himself no sooner opened his mouth than he became a laughingstock to all who heard him. Lady Success, to console him, said,
"But you far excel in beauty and in size. The splendour of the emerald shines in your neck and you unfold a tail gorgeous with painted plumage."
"But for what purpose have I," said the bird, "this dumb beauty so long as I am surpassed in song?"
"The lot of each," replied Lady Success, "has been assigned - to you, beauty; to the eagle, strength; to the nightingale, song; to the raven, favourable, and to the crow, unfavourable auguries. These are all contented with the endowments allotted to them."
❋ The shallow purpose of consoling a laughingstock in a quite demanding situation may be termed "doing what is necessary".
A PEACOCK spreading its gorgeous tail mocked a crane that passed by, ridiculing the ashen hue of its plumage and saying,
"I am robed, like a king, in gold and purple and all the colours of the rainbow; while you have not a bit of colour on your wings."
"True," replied the crane; "but I soar to the heights of heaven and lift up my voice to the stars, while you walk below, like a cock, among the birds of the dunghill."
❋ Fine feathers don't make fine birds.
A PEASANT had in his garden an apple-tree which bore no fruit but only served as a harbour for the sparrows and grasshoppers. He resolved to cut it down, and taking his axe in his hand, made a bold stroke at its roots. The grasshoppers and sparrows begged him not to cut down the tree that sheltered them, but to spare it, and they would sing to him and lighten his labours. He paid no attention to their request, but gave the tree a second and a third blow with his axe. When he reached the hollow of the tree, he found a hive full of honey. Having tasted the honeycomb, he threw down his axe, and looking on the tree as sacred, took great care of it.
❋ Self-interest alone moves some men.
A HEAVY WAGON was being dragged along a country lane by a team of oxen. The axle-trees groaned and creaked terribly; whereupon the oxen, turning round, thus addressed the wheels:
"Hullo there! why do you make so much noise? We bear all the labour, and we, not you, ought to cry out."
❋ Maybe those who suffer most cry out the least.
THE OXEN once on a time sought to destroy the butchers, who practised a trade destructive to their race. They assembled on a certain day to carry out their purpose, and sharpened their horns for the contest. But one of them who was exceedingly old (for many a field had he plowed) thus spoke:
"These butchers, it is true, slaughter us, but they do so with skilful hands, and with no unnecessary pain. If we get rid of them, we shall fall into the hands of unskilful operators, and thus suffer a double death: for you may be assured, that though all the butchers should perish, yet will men never want beef."
❋ Do not be in a hurry to change one evil for another
A PHILOSOPHER witnessed from the shore the shipwreck of a vessel, of which the crew and passengers were all drowned. He inveighed against the injustice of Providence, which would for the sake of one criminal perchance sailing in the ship allow so many innocent persons to perish. As he was indulging in these reflections, he found himself surrounded by a whole army of ants, near whose nest he was standing. One of them climbed up and stung him, and he at once trampled them all to death with his foot. Sir Transporter presented himself, and striking the philosopher with his wand, said,
"And are you indeed to make yourself a judge of the dealings of Providence, who have yourself in a similar manner treated these poor ants?"
❋ Ants and persons seldom perish from refusing better things.
❋ Great things can be achieved by some who help one another.
A SERPENT and an eagle were struggling with each other in deadly conflict. The serpent had the advantage, and was about to strangle the bird. A countryman saw them, and running up, loosed the coil of the serpent and let the eagle go free. The serpent, irritated at the escape of his prey, injected his poison into the drinking horn of the countryman. The rustic, ignorant of his danger, was about to drink, when the eagle struck his hand with his wing, and, seizing the drinking horn in his talons, carried it aloft.
❋ Excellent help may be difficult to appreciate in a squeeze that is still unrecognised.
A WILD BOAR stood under a tree and rubbed his tusks against the trunk. A fox passing by asked him why he thus sharpened his teeth when there was no danger threatening from either huntsman or hound. He replied,
"I do it advisedly; for it would never do to have to sharpen my weapons just at the time I ought to be using them."
❋ In fair weather prepare for foul. [American proverb]
A WASP seated himself on the head of a snake and, striking him unceasingly with his stings, wounded him to death. The snake, being in great torment and not knowing how to rid himself of his enemy, saw a wagon heavily laden with wood, and went and purposely placed his head under the wheels, saying,
"At least my enemy and I shall perish together."
❋ Look closely at the situation to see if somebody is compromising himself, acting out conditioned responses, or excelling.
THE WASPS and the partridges, overcome with thirst, came to a farmer and besought him to give them some water to drink. They promised amply to repay him the favour which they asked. The partridges declared that they would dig around his vines and make them produce finer grapes. The wasps said that they would keep guard and drive off thieves with their stings. But the farmer interrupted them, saying:
"I have already two oxen, who, without making any promises, do all these things. It is surely better for me to give the water to them than to you."
❋ A man doesn't have to look to any tempting distractions that promise to bring the path and one-pointed applications he already has.
A VERY LARGE OAK was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some reeds, which it thus addressed:
"I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds."
"You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape."
❋ Stoop to conquer.
THE WOODCUTTER cut down a mountain Oak and split it in pieces, making wedges of its own branches for dividing the trunk. The oak said with a sigh, "I don't care about the blows of the axe aimed at my roots, but I do grieve at being torn in pieces by these wedges made from my own branches."
❋ Misfortunes springing from ourselves can be among the hardest to bear.
THE OAKS presented a complaint to Sir Success, saying,
"We bear for no purpose the burden of life, as of all the trees that grow we are the most continually in peril of the axe."
Sir Success made answer:
"You have only to thank yourselves for the misfortunes to which you are exposed: for if you did not make such excellent pillars and posts, and prove yourselves so serviceable to the carpenters and the farmers, the axe would not so frequently be laid to your roots."
❋ A sad side of shown and unguarded excellence is abuse stemming from it.
A PANTHER, by some mischance, fell into a pit. The shepherds discovered him, and some threw sticks at him and pelted him with stones, while others, moved with compassion towards one about to die even though no one should hurt him, threw in some food to prolong his life. At night they returned home, not dreaming of any danger, but supposing that on the morrow they would find him dead.
The panther, however, when he had recruited his feeble strength, freed himself with a sudden bound from the pit, and hastened to his den with rapid steps. After a few days he came forth and slaughtered the cattle, and, killing the shepherds who had attacked him, raged with angry fury. Then they who had spared his life, fearing for their safety, surrendered to him their flocks and begged only for their lives. To them the panther made this reply:
"I remember alike those who sought my life with stones, and those who gave me food. Put aside, therefore, your fears. I return as an enemy only to those who injured me."
❋ Some revelations of principles can have astounding effects.