A carter was driving a wagon along a country lane, when the wheels
sank down deep into a rut. The rustic driver, stupefied and aghast, stood
looking at the wagon, and did nothing but utter loud cries to Hercules
to come and help him. Hercules, it is said, appeared and thus addressed
him: “Put your shoulders to the wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks,
and never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help
yourself, or depend upon it you will henceforth pray in
Self-help is the best help.
The Ants and the Grasshopper
The ants were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected
in the summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and
earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, “Why did
you not treasure up food during the summer?’ He replied, “I had not leisure
enough. I passed the days in singing.” They then said in derision: “If
you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless
to bed in the winter.”
A traveler about to set out on a journey saw his Dog stand at the
door stretching himself. He asked him sharply: “Why do you stand there
gaping? Everything is ready but you, so come with me instantly.” The Dog,
wagging his tail, replied: “O, master! I am quite ready; it is you for
whom I am waiting.”
The loiterer often blames delay on his more active
A Dog, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in
his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another
Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go
of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece
from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because
it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it
A Mole, a creature blind from birth, once said to his Mother:
“I am sure than I can see, Mother!” In the desire to prove to him his
mistake, his Mother placed before him a few grains of frankincense, and
asked, “What is it?’ The young Mole said, “It is a pebble.” His Mother
exclaimed: “My son, I am afraid that you are not only blind, but that
you have lost your sense of smell.
The Herdsman and the Lost Bull
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 Hermes, 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
The Hare and the Tortoise
A Hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise,
who replied, laughing: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you
in a race.” The Hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible,
assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the
course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started
together. The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a
slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying
down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as
fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably
dozing after her fatigue.
Slow but steady wins the race.
The Pomegranate, Apple-Tree, and Bramble
The Pomegranate and Apple-Tree disputed as to which was the most
beautiful. When their strife was at its height, a Bramble from the neighboring
hedge lifted up its voice, and said in a boastful tone: “Pray, my dear
friends, in my presence at least cease from such vain
A Farmer placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught a number
of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them he trapped a Stork
that had fractured his leg in the net and was earnestly beseeching the
Farmer to spare his life. “Pray save me, Master,” he said, “and let me
go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity. Besides, I
am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I
love and slave for my father and mother. Look too, at my feathers– they
are not the least like those of a Crane.” The Farmer laughed aloud and
said, “It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with
these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their
Birds of a feather flock together.
One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold.
He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The
Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts,
bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. “Oh,” cried the
Farmer with his last breath, “I am rightly served for pitying a
The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.
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 defense;
why, then, O 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.
A Bear boasted very much of his philanthropy, saying that of all
animals he was the most tender in his regard for man, for he had such respect
for him that he would not even touch his dead body. A Fox hearing these
words said with a smile to the Bear, “Oh! that you would eat the dead and
not the living.”
The Swallow and the Crow had a contention about their plumage.
The Crow put an end to the dispute by saying, “Your feathers are all very
well in the spring, but mine protect me against the
Fair weather friends are not worth much.
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.
The Ass, the Fox, and the Lion
The Ass and the Fox, having entered into partnership together for their mutual protection, went out into the forest to hunt. They had not proceeded far when they met a Lion. The Fox, seeing imminent danger, approached the Lion and promised to contrive for him the capture of the Ass if the Lion would pledge his word not to harm the Fox. Then, upon assuring the Ass that he would not be injured, the Fox led him to a deep pit and arranged that he should fall into it. The Lion, seeing that the Ass was secured, immediately clutched the Fox, and attacked the Ass at his leisure.