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Fables in Europe
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  1. The Donkey in the Lion's Skin
  2. The She-Goats and Their Beards
  3. The Old Lion
  4. The Boy Bathing
  5. The Quack Frog
  6. The Swollen Fox
  7. The Mouse, the Frog and the Hawk
  8. The Boy and the Nettles
  9. The Peasant and the Apple-Tree
  10. The Jackdaw and the Pigeons
  11. Jupiter and the Tortoise
  12. The Dog in the Manger
  13. The Two Bags
  14. The Oxen and the Axletrees
  15. The Boy and the Hazelnuts
  16. The Frogs Asking for a King
  17. The Olive-Tree and the Fig-Tree
  18. The Lion and the Boar
  19. The Walnut-Tree
  20. The Man and the Lion

The Donkey in the Lion's Skin

A donkey found a lion's skin, and dressed himself up in it. Then he went about frightening everyone he met, for they all took him to be a lion, men and beasts alike, and took to their heels when they saw him coming. Elated by the success of his trick, he loudly brayed in triumph. The fox heard him, and recognised him at once for the donkey he was, and said to him, "Oho, my friend, it's you, is it? I, too, should have been afraid if I hadn't heard your voice."

The She-Goats and Their Beards

Jupiter granted beards to the she-goats at their own request, much to the disgust of the he-goats, who considered this to be an unwarrantable invasion of their rights and dignities. So they sent a deputation to him to protest against his action. He, however, advised them not to raise any objections.

"What's in a tuft of hair?" said he. "Let them have it if they want it. They can never be a match for you in strength."

The Old Lion

A lion, feeble with age and no longer able to procure food for himself by force, determined to do so by cunning. Betaking himself to a cave, he lay down inside and feigned to be sick: and whenever any of the other animals entered to inquire after his health, he sprang on them and devoured them.

Many lost their lives in this way, till one day a fox called at the cave, and, having a suspicion of the truth, addressed the lion from outside instead of going in, and asked him how he did.

The lion replied that he was in a very bad way: "But," said he, "why do you stand outside? Please come in."

"I should have done so," answered the fox, "if I hadn't noticed that all the footprints point towards the cave and none the other way."

The Boy Bathing

A boy was bathing in a river and got out of his depth, and was in great danger of being drowned. A man who was passing along a road heard his cries for help, and went to the riverside and began to scold him for being so careless as to get into deep water, but made no attempt to help him.

"Oh," cried the boy, "please help me first and scold me afterwards."

Give assistance, not advice, in a crisis.

The Quack Frog

Once on a time a frog came forth from his home in the marshes and proclaimed to all the world that he was a learned physician, skilled in drugs and able to cure all diseases. Among the crowd was a fox, who called out, "You a doctor! Why, how can you set up to heal others when you cannot even cure your own lame legs and blotched and wrinkled skin?"

Physician, heal yourself.

The Swollen Fox

A hungry fox found in a hollow tree a quantity of bread and meat, which some shepherds had placed there against their return. Delighted with his find he slipped in through the narrow aperture and greedily devoured it all. But when he tried to get out again he found himself so swollen after his big meal that he could not squeeze through the hole, and fell to whining and groaning over his misfortune. Another Fox, happening to pass that way, came and asked him what the matter was; and, on learning the state of the case, said, "Well, my friend, I see nothing for it but for you to stay where you are till you shrink to your former size; you'll get out then easily enough."

The Mouse, the Frog and the Hawk

A mouse and a frog struck up a friendship, They were not well mated, though, for the mouse lived entirely on land, while the frog was equally at home on land or in the water. In order that they might never be separated, the frog tied himself and the mouse together by the leg with a piece of thread. As long as they kept on dry land all went fairly well, bu when they came to the edge of a pool, the frog jumped in - taking the mouse with him - and began swimming about and croaking with pleasure. The unhappy mouse, however, was soon drowned, and floated about on the surface in the wake of the frog. There he was spied by a hawk, who pounced down on him and seized him in his talons. The frog was unable to loose the knot which bound him to the mouse, and thus was carried off along with him and eaten by the hawk.

The Boy and the Nettles

A boy was gathering berries from a hedge when his hand was stung by a nettle. Smarting with the pain, he ran to tell his mother, and said to her between his sobs, "I only touched it ever so lightly, mother."

"That's just why you got stung, my son," she said; "if you had grasped it firmly, it wouldn't have hurt you in the least."

The Peasant and the Apple-Tree

A peasant had an apple-tree growing in his garden. The tree bore no fruit, but merely served to provide a shelter from the heat for the sparrows and grasshoppers which sat and chirped in its branches. Disappointed at its barrenness he determined to cut it down, and went and fetched his axe for the purpose. But when the sparrows and the grasshoppers saw what he was about to do, they begged him to spare it, and said to him, "If you destroy the tree we shall have to seek shelter elsewhere, and you will no longer have our merry chirping to enliven your work in the garden."

He, however, refused to listen to them, and set to work with a will to cut through the trunk. A few strokes showed that it was hollow inside and contained a swarm of bees and a large store of honey. Delighted with his find he threw down his axe, saying, "The old tree is worth keeping after all."

Utility is most men's test of worth.

The Jackdaw and the Pigeons

A jackdaw, watching some pigeons in a farmyard, was filled with envy when he saw how well they were fed, and determined to disguise himself as one of them, in order to secure a share of the good things they enjoyed. So he painted himself white from head to foot and joined the flock; and, so long as he was silent, they never suspected that he was not a pigeon like themselves. But one day he was unwise enough to start chattering, when they at once saw through his disguise and pecked him so unmercifully that he was glad to escape and join his own kind again. But the other jackdaws did not recognise him in his white dress, and would not let him feed with them, but drove him away: and so he became a homeless wanderer for his pains.

Jupiter and the Tortoise

Jupiter was about to marry a wife, and determined to celebrate the event by inviting all the animals to a banquet. They all came except the tortoise, who did not put in an appearance, much to Jupiter's surprise. So when he next saw the tortoise he asked him why he had not been at the banquet.

"I don't care for going out," said the tortoise; "there's no place like home."

Jupiter was so much annoyed by this reply that he decreed that from that time forth the tortoise should carry his house on his back, and never be able to get away from home even if he wished to.

The Dog in the Manger

A dog was lying in a manger on the hay that had been put there for the cattle, and when they came and tried to eat, he growled and snapped at them and wouldn't let them get at their food.

"What a selfish beast," said one of them to his companions; "he can't eat himself and yet he won't let those eat who can."

The Two Bags

Every man carries two bags about with him, one in front and one behind, and both are packed full of faults. The bag in front contains his neighbours' faults, the one behind his own. Hence it is that men do not see their own faults, but never fail to see those of others.

The Oxen and the Axletrees

A pair of oxen were drawing a heavily loaded waggon along the highway, and, as they tugged and strained at the yoke, the Axletrees creaked and groaned terribly. This was too much for the oxen, who turned round indignantly and said, "Hullo, you there! Why do you make such a noise when we do all the work?"

They complain most who suffer least.

The Boy and the Hazelnuts

A boy put his hand into a jar of hazelnuts, and grasped as many as his fist could possibly hold. But when he tried to pull it out again, he found he couldn't do so, for the neck of the jar was too small to allow of the passage of so large a handful. Unwilling to lose his nuts but unable to withdraw his hand, he burst into tears.

A bystander, who saw where the trouble lay, said to him, "Come, my boy, don't be so greedy: be content with half the amount, and you'll be able to get your hand out without difficulty."

Do not attempt too much at once.

The Frogs Asking For A King

Time was when the frogs were discontented because they had no one to rule over them: so they sent a deputation to Jupiter to ask him to give them a king. Jupiter, despising the folly of their request, cast a log into the pool where they lived, and said that that should be their King. The frogs were terrified at first by the splash, and scuttled away into the deepest parts of the pool; but by and by, when they saw that the log remained motionless, one by one they ventured to the surface again, and before long, growing bolder, they began to feel such contempt for it that they even took to sitting on it. Thinking that a king of that sort was an insult to their dignity, they sent to Jupiter a second time, and begged him to take away the sluggish King he had given them, and to give them another and a better one. Jupiter, annoyed at being pestered in this way, sent a stork to rule over them, who no sooner arrived among them than he began to catch and eat the Frogs as fast as he could.

The Olive-Tree and the Fig-Tree

An olive-tree taunted a fig-tree with the loss of her leaves at a certain season of the year.

"You," she said, "lose your leaves every autumn, and are bare till the spring: whereas I, as you see, remain green and flourishing all the year round."

Soon afterwards there came a heavy fall of snow, which settled on the leaves of the olive so that she bent and broke under the weight; but the flakes fell harmlessly through the bare branches of the fig, which survived to bear many another crop.

The Lion and the Boar

One hot and thirsty day in the height of summer a lion and a boar came down to a little spring at the same moment to drink. In a trice they were quarrelling as to who should drink first. The quarrel soon became a fight and they attacked one another with the utmost fury. Before long, stopping for a moment to take breath, they saw some vultures seated on a rock above evidently waiting for one of them to be killed, when they would fly down and feed on the carcase. The sight sobered them at once, and they made up their quarrel, saying, "We had much better be friends than fight and be eaten by vultures."

The Walnut-Tree

A walnut-tree, which grew by the roadside, bore every year a plentiful crop of nuts. Everyone who passed by pelted its branches with sticks and stones in order to bring down the fruit, and the tree suffered severely.

"It is hard," it cried, "that the very persons who enjoy my fruit should thus reward me with insults and blows."

The Man and the Lion

A Man and a lion were companions on a journey, and in the course of conversation they began to boast about their prowess, and each claimed to be superior to the other in strength and courage. They were still arguing with some heat when they came to a cross-road where there was a statue of a Man strangling a lion.

"There!" said the man triumphantly. "Look at that! Doesn't that prove to you that we are stronger than you?"

"Not so fast," said the lion: "that is only your view of the case. If we lions could make statues, you may be sure that in most of them you would see the Man underneath."

There are two sides to many issues.



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