A poor man had a wooden image of a god and used to pray to it daily for riches. He did this for a long time, but remained as poor as ever, till one day he caught up the image in disgust and hurled it with all his might against the wall. The force of the blow split open the head and quite many gold coins fell out on the floor. The man gathered them up greedily, and said, "You old fraud, you! When I honoured you, you did me no good whatever, but no sooner do I treat you to insults and violence than you make a rich man of me!"
A wagoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load behind them, when the wheels of his waggon sank so deep in the mire that no efforts of his horses could move them. As he stood there, looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals on Hercules for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, "Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call on Hercules to assist you. If you won't lift a finger to help yourself, you can't expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid."
❋ Heaven helps those who help themselves - at times.
A pomegranate and an apple-tree were disputing about the quality of their fruits, and each claimed that its own was the better of the two. High words passed between them, and a violent quarrel was imminent, when a bramble impudently poked its head out of a neighbouring hedge and said, "There, that's enough, my friends; don't let us quarrel."
A lion and a bear were fighting for possession of a kid, which they had both seized at the same moment. The battle was long and fierce, and at length both of them were exhausted, and lay on the ground severely wounded and gasping for breath.
A fox had all the time been prowling round and watching the fight: and when he saw the combatants lying there too weak to move, he slipped in and seized the kid, and ran off with it.
They looked on helplessly, and one said to the other, "Here we've been mauling each other all this while, and no one the better for it except the fox!"
A man once bought a slave with black skin, but his new master thought his colour was due to his late owner's having neglected him, and that all he wanted was a good scrubbing. So he set to work with plenty of soap and hot water, and rubbed away at him with a will, but his skin remained as black as ever, while the poor slave almost died from the sores he got and and the cold he caught.
Two soldiers travelling together were set on by a robber. One of them ran away, but the other stood his ground, and laid about him so lustily with his sword that the robber was relieved to fly and leave him in peace.
When the coast was clear the timid one ran back, and, flourishing his weapon, cried in a threatening voice, "Where is he? Let me get at him, and I'll soon let him know whom he's got to deal with."
But the other replied, "You are a little late, my friend: I only wish you had backed me up just now, even if you had done no more than speak, for I should have been encouraged, believing your words to be true. As it is, calm yourself, and put up your sword: there is no further use for it. You may delude others into thinking you're as brave as a lion: but I know that, at the first sign of danger, you run away like a hare."
A lion and a wild donkey went out hunting together: the latter was to run down the prey by his superior speed, and the former would then come up and despatch it. They met with great success; and when it came to sharing the spoil the lion divided it all into three equal portions.
"I will take the first," said he, "because I am king of the beasts; I will also take the second, because, as your partner, I am entitled to half of what remains; and as for the third – well, unless you give it up to me and take yourself off pretty quick, the third, believe me, will make you feel very sorry for yourself!"
❋ Might seemingly makes right.
A man and a satyr became friends, and determined to live together. All went well for a while, until one day in winter-time the satyr saw the man blowing on his hands.
"Why do you do that?" he asked.
"To warm my hands," said the Man.
That same day, when they sat down to supper together, they each had a steaming hot bowl of porridge, and the man raised his bowl to his mouth and blew on it.
"Why do you do that?" asked the satyr.
"To cool my porridge," said the man.
The satyr got up from the table. "Good-bye," he said, "I'm leaving. I can't be friends with a man who blows hot and cold with the same breath."
A certain man made a wooden image of Mercury, and exposed it for sale in the market. As no one offered to buy it, however, he thought he would try to attract a buyer by proclaiming the virtues of the image. So he cried up and down the market, "A god for sale! a god for sale! One who'll bring you luck and keep you lucky!"
Before long one of the bystanders stopped him and said, "If your god is all you make him out to be, how is it you don't keep him and make the most of him yourself?"
"I'll tell you why," replied he; "he brings gain, it is true, but he takes his time about it; whereas I want money at once."
An eagle sat perched on a lofty rock, keeping a sharp look-out for prey. A huntsman, hidden in a cleft of the mountain and on the watch for game, spied him there and shot an arrow at him. The shaft struck him full in the breast and pierced him through and through. As he lay in the agonies of death, he turned his eyes on the arrow.
"Ah! cruel fate!" he cried, "that I should perish thus: but oh! fate more cruel still, that the arrow which kills me should be winged with an eagle's feathers!"
A rich man settled next door to a tanner, and found the smell of the tan-yard so extremely unpleasant that he told him he must go. The tanner delayed his departure, and the rich man had to speak to him several times about it. Every time the tanner said he was making arrangements to move very shortly. This went on for some time, till at last the rich man got so used to the smell that he ceased to mind it, and no longer troubled the tanner with his objections.
A hungry wolf was prowling about in search of food. By and by, attracted by the cries of a child, he came to a cottage. As he crouched beneath the window, he heard the mother say to the child, "Stop crying, do! or I'll throw you to the wolf."
Thinking she really meant what she said, he waited there a long time in the expectation of satisfying his hunger. In the evening he heard the mother fondling her child and saying, "If the naughty wolf comes, he shan't get my little one: Daddy will kill him."
The wolf got up in much disgust and walked away: "As for the people in that house," said he to himself, "you can't believe a word they say."
An old woman picked up an empty wine-jar that had once contained a rare and costly wine, and which still retained some traces of its exquisite bouquet. She raised it to her nose and sniffed at it again and again.
"Ah," she cried, "how delicious must have been the liquid which has left behind such a ravishing smell."
A lioness and a vixen were talking together about their young, as mothers will, and saying how healthy and well-grown they were, and what beautiful coats they had, and how they were the image of their parents.
"My litter of cubs is a joy to see," said the fox; and then she added, rather maliciously, "But I notice you never have more than one."
"No," said the lioness grimly, "but that one is a lion."
❋ Quality, not quantity.
A viper entered a carpenter's shop, and went from one to another of the tools, begging for something to eat. Among the rest, he addressed himself to the File, and asked for the favour of a meal. The file replied in a tone of pitying contempt, "What a simpleton you must be if you imagine you will get anything from me, who invariably take from everyone and never give anything in return."
❋ The covetous are poor givers.
A cat pounced on a cock, and cast about for some good excuse for making a meal off him, for cats don't as a rule eat cocks, and she knew she ought not to. At last she said, "You make a great nuisance of yourself at night by crowing and keeping people awake: so I am going to make an end of you."
But the cock defended himself by saying that he crowed so that men might wake up and set about the day's work in good time, and that they really couldn't very well do without him.
"That may be," said the cat, "but whether they can or not, I'm not going without my dinner." Then she killed and ate him.
❋ The want of a good excuse never kept a hungry predator from his prey.
A hare was one day making fun of a tortoise for being so slow on his feet.
"Wait a bit," said the tortoise; "I'll run a race with you, and I'll wager that I win."
"Oh, well," replied the hare, who was much amused at the idea, "let's try and see"; and it was soon agreed that the fox should set a course for them, and be the judge.
When the time came both started off together, but the hare was soon so far ahead that he thought he might as well have a rest: so down he lay and fell fast asleep. Meanwhile the tortoise kept plodding on, and in time reached the goal. At last the hare woke up with a start, and dashed on at his fastest, but only to find that the tortoise had already won the race.
❋ Slow and steady wins the race.
A soldier gave his horse a plentiful supply of oats in time of war, and tended him with the utmost care, for he wished him to be strong to endure the hardships of the field, and swift to bear his master, when need arose, out of the reach of danger. But when the war was over he employed him on all sorts of drudgery, bestowing but little attention on him, and giving him, moreover, nothing but chaff to eat.
The time came when war broke out again, and the soldier saddled and bridled his horse, and, having put on his heavy coat of mail, mounted him to ride off and take the field.
But the poor half-starved beast sank down under his weight, and said to his rider, "You will have to go into battle on foot this time. Thanks to hard work and bad food, you have turned me from a horse into a donkey; and you cannot turn me back again into a horse in a moment."
Once time the oxen determined to be revenged on the butchers for the havoc they wrought in their ranks, and plotted to put them to death on a given day. They were all gathered together discussing how best to carry out the plan, and the more violent of them were engaged in sharpening their horns for the fray, when an old ox got up on his feet and said, "My brothers, I know you have good reason to hate these butchers. But, at any rate, they understand their trade and do what they have to do without causing unnecessary pain. And if we kill them, others, who have no experience, will be set to slaughter us, and will inflict great sufferings on us by their bungling. For you may be sure that, even though all the butchers perish, mankind will never go without their beef."
A wolf stole a lamb from the flock, and was carrying it off to devour it at his leisure when he met a lion, who took his prey away from him and walked off with it. He dared not resist, but when the lion had gone some distance he said, "It is most unjust of you to take what's mine away from me like that."
The lion laughed and called out in reply, "It was justly yours, no doubt! The gift of a friend, perhaps, eh?"