Aesop’s Fables have been a part of the way every single one of us has grown up, in some way or the other. Even if we may not have noticed it. Fables are just short stories that teach us something important. Every one is familiar with the tale of “the tortoise and the hare”, that reminded us that slow and steady can always win the race, and even “the boy who cried 'wolf'”, to warn us of the dangers of lying.
These are a few examples of the more well-known tales of Aesop, an Ancient Greek philosopher and storyteller from 5th century BC. Many of Aesop’s Fables have much to teach us even today. We’ve picked out our favorites for you.
1. The Kites and the Swans
‘The Kites of olden times, as well as the Swans, had the privilege of song. But having heard the neigh of the horse, they were so enchanted with the sound, that they tried to imitate it; and, in trying to neigh, they forgot how to sing.'
The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of present blessings.
The more we move toward what we perceive to be something we need, we lose what we have, and forget what we’ve learned, and that will always be to our detriment.
2. The Fowler and the Viper
‘A fowler, taking his bird-lime and his twigs, went out to catch birds. Seeing a thrush sitting upon a tree, he wished to take it, and fitting his twigs to a proper length, watched intently, having his whole thoughts directed towards the sky. While thus looking upwards, he unknowingly trod upon a Viper asleep just before his feet. The Viper, turning about, stung him, and falling into a swoon, the man said to himself, “Woe is me! that while I purposed to hunt another, I am myself fallen unawares into the snares of death.”’
When one aims to harm another, we become distracted by our terrible goal and open ourselves to being harmed by the things we ignore.
3. 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(cloak). The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shown out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays that 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.'
Persuasion is better than force.
Try as he might, the more the North Wind blew, the tighter the Traveler held his cloak. All the force in the world cannot make a man take his coat off and leave himself to succumb to the cold winds. We all move more quickly towards that which provides us some comfort, regardless of the efforts of others.
To enjoy the tale of The North Wind and the Sun, take a look at:
4. The Lion, the Wolf and the Fox
‘A lion, growing old, lay sick in his cave. All the beasts came to visit their king, except the Fox. The Wolf therefore, thinking that he had a capital opportunity, accused the Fox to the Lion of not paying any respect to him who had the rule over them all and of not coming to visit him. At that very moment the Fox came in and heard these last words of the Wolf. The Lion roaring out in a rage against him, the Fox sought an opportunity to defend himself and said, “And who of all those who have come to you have benefited you so much as I, who have traveled from place to place in every direction, and have sought and learnt from the physicians the means of healing you?’ The Lion commanded him immediately to tell him the cure, when he replied, “You must flay a wolf alive and wrap his skin yet warm around you.” The Wolf was at once taken and flayed; whereon the Fox, turning to him, said with a smile, “You should have moved your master not to ill, but to good, will.”’
When our goal is to spread cruelty and harm through others, we inadvertently bring that cruelty and harm into our own lives. We should always strive to make those around us want for good things, so our lives are also enriched by their goodness.
5. The Birds, the Beasts and the Bats
‘The birds waged war with the Beasts, and each were by turns the conquerors. A Bat, fearing the uncertain issues of the fight, always fought on the side which he felt was the strongest. When peace was proclaimed, his deceitful conduct was apparent to both combatants. Therefore being condemned by each for his treachery, he was driven forth from the light of day, and henceforth concealed himself in dark hiding-places, flying always alone and at night.’
Those who cannot pick their enemies can also not pick their friends, and their deceitfulness will ultimately lead to their loneliness.
To enjoy the tale of The Birds, The Beasts and the Bats, take a look at:
6. The Trumpeter Taken Prisoner
‘A trumpeter, bravely leading on the soldiers, was captured by the enemy. He cried out to his captors, “Pray spare me, and do not take my life without cause or without inquiry. I have not slain a single man of your troop. I have no arms, and carry nothing but this one brass trumpet.” “That is the very reason for which you should be put to death,” they said; “for, while you do not fight yourself, your trumpet stirs all the others to battle.”’
The man that stirs others to fight is still a soldier, even if no weapons touch his hands. Weapons are only the means by which harm is spread, when harm is the desire of the man.The desire to harm is itself more destructive than the harm actually inflicted.
7. The Sparrow and the Hare
‘A Hare pounced upon by an eagle sobbed very much and uttered cries like a child. A Sparrow upbraided her and said, "Where now is thy remarkable swiftness of foot? Why were your feet so slow?” While the Sparrow was thus speaking, a hawk suddenly seized him and killed him. The Hare was comforted in her death, and expiring said, "Ah! you who so lately, when you supposed yourself safe, exulted over my calamity, have now reason to deplore a similar misfortune."’
When we enjoy the misery of others, we often bring that same misery on to ourselves.
8. The Flea and the Ox
‘A flea thus questioned an Ox: “What ails you, that being so huge and strong, you submit to the wrongs you receive from men and slave for them day by day, while I, being so small a creature, mercilessly feed on their flesh and drink their blood without stint?’ The Ox replied: “I do not wish to be ungrateful, for I am loved and well cared for by men, and they often pat my head and shoulders.” “Woe’s me!” said the flea; “this very patting which you like, whenever it happens to me, brings with it my inevitable destruction.”’
For all our perceived greatness, we all require the help of those around us to survive and are weak to many things. It is best not to overestimate your strengths as the reward given to one may be your weakness.
9. The Goods and the Ills
‘All the Goods were once driven out by the Ills from that common share which they each had in the affairs of mankind; for the Ills by reason of their numbers had prevailed to possess the earth. The Goods wafted themselves to heaven and asked for a righteous vengeance on their persecutors. They entreated Jupiter that they might no longer be associated with the Ills, as they had nothing in common and could not live together, but were engaged in unceasing warfare; and that an indissoluble law might be laid down for their future protection. Jupiter granted their request and decreed that henceforth the Ills should visit the earth in company with each other, but that the Goods should one by one enter the habitations of men. Hence it arises that Ills abound, for they come not one by one, but in troops, and by no means singly: while the Goods proceed from Jupiter, and are given, not alike to all, but singly, and separately; and one by one to those who are able to discern them.’
Bad things come in great numbers, for they are found everywhere and in all things, while good is found in few, only to those who understand its power, as the power of a few truly good things is far greater than that of all the bad.
10. The Two Bags
‘Every man, according to an ancient legend, is born into the world with two bags suspended from his neck: all bags in front full of his neighbors’ faults, and a large bag behind filled with his own faults. Hence it is that men are quick to see the faults of others, and yet are often blind to their own failings.’
The flaws of others are right in front of us, while our own flaws tend to be hidden. It is only when we choose to see our own failings first that we can lighten the burden we carry.
11. The Gnat and the Bull
‘A gnat settled on the horn of a Bull, and sat there a long time. Just as he was about to fly off, he made a buzzing noise, and inquired of the Bull if he would like him to go. The Bull replied, “I did not know you had come, and I shall not miss you when you go away.”
Some men are of more consequence in their own eyes than in the eyes of their neighbor.’
Most of our assumptions about others feelings towards us are based entirely on our own perception. We live in peace with those around us, but create wars in our own minds, believing we are making a far greater noise than we actually are.
12. The Manslayer
‘A man committed a murder, and was pursued by the relations of the man whom he murdered. On his reaching the river Nile he saw a Lion on its bank and being fearfully afraid, climbed up a tree. He found a serpent in the upper branches of the tree, and again being greatly alarmed, he threw himself into the river, where a crocodile caught him and ate him. Thus the earth, the air, and the water alike refused shelter to a murderer.’
To take a life is to hurt the lives of all those around, and shake the foundation of the very world in which we live. When a murderer fails to show empathy, the world responds in kind.
13. The Crow and the Sheep
‘A troublesome crow seated herself on the back of a Sheep. The Sheep, much against his will, carried her backward and forward for a long time, and at last said, “If you had treated a dog in this way, you would have had your deserts from his sharp teeth.” To this the Crow replied, “I despise the weak and yield to the strong. I know whom I may bully and whom I must flatter; and I thus prolong my life to a good old age.”’
The greatest lesson a crow could ever teach you: Pick your friends well, pick your enemies better.
14. The Wolf and the Lion
‘Roaming by the mountainside at sundown, a Wolf saw his own shadow become greatly extended and magnified, and he said to himself, “Why should I, being of such an immense size and extending nearly an acre in length, be afraid of the Lion? Ought I not to be acknowledged as King of all the collected beasts?’ While he was indulging in these proud thoughts, a Lion fell upon him and killed him. He exclaimed with a too late repentance, “Wretched me! this overestimation of myself is the cause of my destruction.”’
When we build ourselves up and swell our chests with pride, arrogance and scorn for others, we make ourselves a target to those stronger than us.
15. The Ant and the Dove
‘An ant went to the bank of a river to quench its thirst, and being carried away by the rush of the stream, was on the point of drowning. A Dove sitting on a tree overhanging the water plucked a leaf and let it fall into the stream close to her. The Ant climbed onto it and floated in safety to the bank. Shortly afterwards a birdcatcher came and stood under the tree, and laid his lime-twigs [birdlime] for the Dove, which sat in the branches. The Ant, perceiving his design, stung him in the foot. In pain the birdcatcher threw down the twigs, and the noise made the Dove take wing.’
Two very important lessons to be learned from this Fable: Good comes to those who do good for others, and always repay the kindnesses given to you.
16. The Lion, Jupiter and the Elephant
‘The lion wearied Jupiter with his frequent complaints. “It is true, O Jupiter!” he said, “that I am gigantic in strength, handsome in shape, and powerful in attack. I have jaws well provided with teeth, and feet furnished with claws, and I lord it over all the beasts of the forest, and what a disgrace it is, that being such as I am, I should be frightened by the crowing of a cock.” Jupiter replied, “Why do you blame me without a cause? I have given you all the attributes which I possess myself, and your courage never fails you except in this one instance.” On hearing this the Lion groaned and lamented very much and, reproaching himself with his cowardice, wished that he might die. As these thoughts passed through his mind, he met an Elephant and came close to hold a conversation with him. After a time he observed that the Elephant shook his ears very often, and he inquired what was the matter and why his ears moved with such a tremor every now and then. Just at that moment a Gnat settled on the head of the Elephant, and he replied, “Do you see that little buzzing insect? If it enters my ear, my fate is sealed. I should die presently.” The Lion said, “Well, since so huge a beast is afraid of a tiny gnat, I will no more complain, nor wish myself dead. I find myself, even as I am, better off than the Elephant.”’
We all become overwhelmed with the problems we face and the challenges we cannot overcome, even the king of the jungle. That’s why it’s important to remember that everyone is facing a battle, and there are always those in the world that are worse off than you.
To enjoy the story of The Lion and The Elephant, take a look at:
17. The Two Dogs
‘A man had two dogs: a Hound, trained to assist him in his sports, and a Housedog, taught to watch the house. When he returned home after a good day’s sport, he always gave the Housedog a large share of his spoil. The Hound, feeling much aggrieved at this, reproached his companion, saying, “It is very hard to have all this labor, while you, who do not assist in the chase, luxuriate on the fruits of my exertions.” The Housedog replied, “Do not blame me, my friend, but find fault with the master, who has not taught me to labor, but to depend for subsistence on the labor of others.”'
Children are not to be blamed for the faults of their parents.
There’s a saying, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll never be hungry again.” Parents are the first teachers that every young creature gets, and the lessons learned in youth determines greatly how they will grow.
18. The Sick Stag
‘A sick Stag lay down in a quiet corner of its pasture-ground. His companions came in great numbers to inquire after his health, and each one helped himself to a share of the food which had been placed for his use; so that he died, not from his sickness, but from the failure of the means of living.'
Evil companions bring more hurt than profit.
It is important to be weary of who you keep around, as many seek to gain from your loss, and the ultimate sufferer will be you.
19. The Bear and the Two Travelers
‘Two Men were traveling together, when a bear suddenly met them on 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 came 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 me this advice,” his companion replied, “Never travel with a friend who deserts you at the approach of danger.”'
Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. A friend that abandons you at a time of need, however, is no friend at all.
To enjoy the tale of the Two Travelers and the Bear, watch:
20. The Man and the Lion
‘A man and a Lion traveled together through the forest. They soon began to boast of their respective superiority to each other in strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a statue carved in stone, which represented “a Lion strangled by a Man.” The traveler pointed to it and said: “See there! How strong we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts.” The Lion replied: “This statue was made by one of you men. If we 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.
It is often said that history is told by the victors. However, fate comes with many twists. It is important to remember that where once you may have been the victor, later you can just as easily become the defeated. So best not to focus on only one story!